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When I was a freshman in high school, I came across a poem by the great Gwendolyn Brooks that seemed to capture what it felt like to be a young teenage girl. The poem, called “One wants a teller in a time like this,” read as follows:
One wants a teller in a time like this One’s not a man, one’s not a woman grown To bear enormous business all alone. One cannot walk this winding street with pride Straight-shouldered, tranquil-eyed, Knowing one knows for sure the way back home. One wonders if one has a home. One is not certain if or why or how. One wants a Teller now: Put on your rubbers and you won’t catch a coldHere’s hell, there’s heaven. Go to Sunday SchoolBe patient, time brings all good things–(and coolStrong balm to calm the burning at the brain?)Behold,Love’s true, and triumphs; and God’s actual.
What was it about this poem that I loved so much? Perhaps the acknowledgment that young people need adults in their lives who will be “tellers”—people who will remind them of things they easily may forget, reassure them of important truths, and explain how things work in a world that can seem bewildering and vast. What a relief to be guided through the tumultuous teen years by a strong, sure leader who knows you well and has your best interests very much at heart.
Friendships and peer attachments are of paramount importance to teenagers, but that doesn’t mean a parent isn’t still vital. Nothing else can replace a parent’s guidance and direction. Even as your daughter grows up, and her behavior may seem incomprehensible at times, she still needs you—perhaps more than ever.
The key to parenting teens (and children of all ages!) is balancing reasonable standards, rules, and expectations with lots of affection and positive connection. Researchers have identified four main styles of parenting—authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and uninvolved—and found that authoritative parenting has the best outcomes, consistently. This parenting style combines appropriate rules and consequences with affirming, loving rapport between parent and child. That’s why it’s important for parents of teens to be authority figures instead of trying to be “buddies”; it’s what’s best for their kids in the long run.
The 2 messages we need to send our teen daughters
On the other hand, authority without positive connection isn’t beneficial either. During the teen years, as many young people want to push the limits, it can be easy for parents to fall into a pattern of enforcing rules without enough of the connection that “softens the blow” of disciplinary restrictions and builds your relationship to stay strong for years to come. These three suggestions can help you grow closer to your teenage daughter and really connect with each other during these years.
1Take time to learn about and understand her interests
Whether you watch her favorite show with her, read her favorite book and talk about it together, or remember the names of her friends and ask about them from time to time, she will appreciate any effort you make to enter into her world and learn about what’s important to her!
2Reminisce and share stories from your teen years
Despite the technology that’s evolved greatly since your high school days, teens really haven’t changed much over the decades. Sharing stories about your high school days is a good reminder of that, for both of you. She might especially enjoy stories that relate to an experience she’s having, hilarious anecdotes, or memories that mean a lot to you.
3Make time to connect with her one-on-one
Personal attention is kids’ most valuable currency, at any age, and this doesn’t change because they are teenagers now. Even if all you do is walk the dog together or go to a drive-thru for coffee or ice cream, spending “special time” one-on-one together might just mean the world to her.
The secret to helping your daughter get through her teen years
Scripture reminds us that young people can be an example to adults: “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:12). Many teenagers are wonderfully wise, holy, and good kids, like these 8 saintly young people.