How to raise a respectful teenager

How to raise a respectful teenager

“Today I got to help a blind man find his bus stop.”

Ben and I spend time with each of our four kids as they are settling in for the night on their beds. Elijah is usually the last one since he’s up later.

“What do you mean?” Outwardly, me and Ben kept calm like this was normal bedtime conversation. Inwardly, we were all holding hands taking a bow for a job well done! Truthfully, this kind of stuff does happen to our kids growing up in the city and at school. But these stories never get old.

Elijah told us that on his routine walk from the train station to his high school, a blind man was asking anyone who would respond if he was at bus stop 42. Elijah could have done many things here - ignore him, hope someone else would help, pretend not to hear over his AirPods. Elijah asked what bus he was looking for again. The man needed to be on the other side of the street.

“What did you do?” we asked stretched out on the other side of his bed.

“I told him I would help him. He grabbed my elbow and we crossed the street.”

“Were people watching you? Were you nervous?” we were curious.

He didn’t answer our question and we’re glad.

“He got to the right bus stop.” Elijah closed up the story.

“And you got him there.” We made sure he saw his part in this.

Elijah turns 16 today - a year that typically marks a driver’s license and more freedom from parents. Elijah gained this freedom a few years ago. Because he earned our trust. As an urban teenager, he can get around this entire 7x7 miles and beyond as he has learned how to navigate bus and train, Uber and Lyft, Google Maps and on-time text responses to his parents! All this without a car to call his own. Where would we park it anyway?!

People ask us how we raise our kids. I used to ask that question too. Then I started to observe these families I wanted to emulate. Starting to observe stopped me from asking this overarching question. So much is see and do. And all of it is day in and day out. I was hopeful it was a magic potion or based on good deeds. I could wear myself out by being good. Rather, it’s a relationship that grows over time and works like a mirror embedded in a beautiful piece of artwork. Ben and I seek to abide in Christ and bear much fruit, in and out of season, in such a way that is experienced and attractive to our kids, so they choose to abide in Christ and bear much fruit, in and out of season, in such a way that is experienced and attractive to those around them.

I see a generation putting such stress and pressure around academia, and while it’s important, it’s not the prize. I see the same principle that Jesus talks about in Matthew 6:33 working here. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. When our kids are interested in the needs of others, when their days are full of joy because of time together, when they are heard and seen and loved by their family and close friends, academia seems to work out. They naturally care about their grades and respect their teachers and peers.

How do we raise respectful teenagers?

Lead by example.

What we want their lives to be about is what we want our lives to be about. We have no guarantees, but we have a Guide. So we follow God and live our best lives among our teens so they see He is our Source of life, blessing, wisdom, salvation, peace and so much more. And in a world where evil, self, anxiety seems to be center stage, leading by example are crucial moments. Consider how you’re leading:

  • Do your kids see you making time to read the Bible and pray for them? Establish time in your day to pray and read and seek God.

  • Do you spend one on one time with your kids? Plan monthly dates one on one.

  • Do you have a few dinners together at the table as a family each week? Yes, even these have to be planned. Look ahead and guard a few nights next week.

  • Are you home a few evenings a week when devices and screens are out of reach and off in order to listen and hang out with your teens? Mondays through Wednesdays, TV is off all day/night. And when it’s on, we try to watch games, shows, movies together. Phones aren’t invited to the table and each one has a designated charging place.

Follow their dreams.

What makes them smile really big? What are they picking up, tampering with, curious about, reading? When we catch a glimpse, create an experience!

  • Let them create the menu for the week

  • Invite a friend over who’s really good in the field your teen is expressing interest

  • Schedule that one-on-one date around their curiosity

  • Read what they’re reading

Respect works well when it works both ways. As parents, we lead by example in hopes they will desire to give respect and we follow their dreams so they see we respect them just as much…if not more!

I have a really fun surprise to reveal!

You already see Elijah’s heart…well, this summer, we participated in service projects in the neighborhood where he walks on the way to school. The company, Sackcloth & Ashes, were there to donate thousands of blankets to those in need. We got to talk with the founder, Bob Dalton, learn his story and passion, and share about Elijah’s days in the city. Dalton founded Sackcloth & Ashes out of his mom’s story and with every blanket purchased, one is donated to your local homeless shelter. Inspired by Elijah’s story, Bob sent Elijah a blanket for himself and one to give away on the way to school!

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We’ve got more to share with you!

Elijah has written something that will blow your mind and he’s going to document the moment he gives his blanket away! This will be sent in the weekly newsletter to subscribers. Make sure you’re on the list!

For every blanket you buy, they give a blanket to your local homeless shelter.


Forward this email to a friend raising kids.

It’s true it takes a village. Let this be an encouragement to another parent in the trenches.