You can Raise a Teen, You’ve Done it Before
Teens and toddlers are both experiencing world altering changes.
Toddlers are learning that there is a world out there that they can have opinions about.
Teens are learning that they can be any kind of person imaginable.
For both teens and tots, their parents are the parameters of their worlds, that they are learning to push against.
This helps them grow up, but it’s hard for the parents while it’s happening.
If you teen is frustrating you and you need a laugh break, I invite you to compare them to their 3 year old self. (maybe don’t laugh out loud at them, teens can be sensitive, do it later with your spouse).
22 Ways Teenagers are just supersize toddlers from http://www.babble.com/parenting/teenagers-are-basically-just-super-sized-toddlers/
1. Without insane amounts of sleep, they turn into raging monsters.
2. Their stomachs are insatiable black holes.
3. They have funny things on their faces — for toddlers it is that red ring of juice, for teenagers it is acne.
4. They throw tantrums, especially if needs #1 and #2 go unmet.
5. They don’t have anything to wear unless mom washed the pink tutu or the special blue jeans.
6. They don’t quite form complete sentences and rely heavily on grunts to communicate.
7. They don’t form grammatically correct sentences. For example: “Me tie shwoes,” or, “I was all, like, oh snap.”
8. They use words their peers understand, but which are mysteries to their parents. See #7.
9. They are so sweet (when they’re sleeping.)
10. They give the best hugs.
11. They have the best laughs.
12. Having one means mom never gets a full night of sleep.
13. Having one means mom does a lot of laundry, sometimes on demand.
14. They make mom want to scream from frustration.
15. They make mom want to cry with pride, sometimes over the smallest things.
16. Moms switch their ages to describe them: “My toddler is a total threenager,” “My teenager is 15 going on two.”
17. They make questionable fashion choices, but insist on dressing themselves.
18. They can’t find anything by themselves and rely on mom’s super-finding-power without acknowledging it as a super power and without really acknowledging mom at all.
19. They don’t want mom’s help. Except in the instances of #18.
20. They’re crazy smart. Ever tried to help a teen with their math homework? Or asked a toddler about dinosaurs?
21. They’re total escape artists. Teenagers can run so stinkin’ fast and toddlers are unusually slippery.
22. They have fantastic senses of humor, although we’re usually laughing at our toddlers and with our teens. Usually.
Parenting Teens is Like Exercising
It always works best if you’re doing it before you have to.
Parenting teens start by parenting 5 year olds well.
Start early, but remember if you haven’t started early, God’s arm is never to short to save.
Explaining Modern Addis Culture
These are how I find it. I’m new here so I could be wrong, but I hope what I’m saying fits with what you see too.
Sorry I can’t do all of the possible cultures represented in this room, but much of the cultural change we see here in Addis, has been happening around the world too.
Belief in some god controlling everything, limited use for science, can be fatalistic.
Belief that science and education can solve the worlds problems. No room for God (just the name we give to unexplained elements of science).
Belief that both God and science have no answers. Instead the answer must be found within oneself, by following your heart. The biggest crime in a post-modern world is imposing your morals and view of the world upon others. Post-modernism recognizes the failures of past worldviews but does not have any consistent answers itself.
All of these world views need to be transformed as Romans 12:2 says. It’s not that your way is right and someone else’s in wrong is that everyone’s view needs to be changed to that of Christ.
- The lines for mini-busses are an example of modern Addis culture. One day they just appeared because the world had changed enough to need something new (the old way no longer worked).
The increasing displays of couples touching (and more) in public are a further example of how Addis culture is changing (with the last 12 months). This is due to the transition of the traditional shame based Ethiopian culture to a city which is too big for shame to work. If you did something wrong in a small town or a connected neighborhood, your mom would find out and you would be in huge trouble having embarrassed yourself and your family. Now no one on the street knows your name or your mom, so there is no shame.
Westernized but reimagined
- The hat below is from a American energy drink called “Monster” it is considered very cool in Addis, but I have never seen the energy drink in this country. Instead the brand has taken on a life of its own here unrelated to the drink it was supposed to promote.
- This is a rat from a cartoon movie called “Ratatouille.” The message of the movie is that “rats are people too, and everyone loves good cooking.” But this character is used in Ethiopia to promote a pest control company, who kills rats. This is a great example of a western cultural item being repurposed.
Lest you think this is only from the West. Here is the symbol for Psy the singer of “Gangnam style” on a pair of boys pants here in Addis.
The Modern Ethiopian Family (Going Nuclear)
Fewer children (from and average of 8 a generation ago to 2-3 today).
Fewer relatives in close proximity
This leads to parenting styles needing to change. What worked for your parents when you had aunts, uncles, counsins, and older siblings also serving as parents won’t work today.
Because teens are less connected to their community it enables them to put on a face with their parents and then change to another one with their friends. Before this it was very difficult to do this because wherever you went there were people who new your parents and cared about your upbringing.
Leave it to Beaver in an MTV World
Traditionally in Ethiopia the culture has imposed morality and decency, protecting the people within it. Like a Castle.
Somewhere 10 years ago this castle was destroyed and the gates are wide open for anything to come in. You can now buy (and wear) any kind of clothes. Watch any movie or TV show. Listen to any kind of music from around the world. See anything online (some good much bad).
Today the only hope for ourselves and the teens we love is to be trained in our minds to discern what is good, godly, healthy and what is, evil, sick, and harmful. Because of this our prayer for our teens should be Philippians 1:9-11. Instead of a wall our teens become special forces warriors, able to function when surrounded by the enemy and without any walls to protect them.
Building discernment in our teens is hard work. It requires modeling and discussing why we make choices and rules for them. But it is essential, because only making rules without explaining is like trying to build a new wall. You can build walls fast enough to keep evil away.
By the Way: We could blame western culture for this (as I’ve heard some Ethiopians say, “Westernization is ruining Ethiopia.”), and we probably should blame the west, much of what they have created is very sinful. But it wouldn’t be here in Ethiopia if the equally sinful hearts of Ethiopians weren’t attracted to it (like Western hearts are). The western world was evil in the media sewage they have created. Ethiopia has chosen to drink it. I think we can all share the blame for this. You choose every time to turn on the TV, go clothes shopping, buy a movie. You choose to drink something healthy, or deadly. It’s your choice.
Do you know what your teens are doing online?
What they listen to, who they talk to?
Facebook is like Las Vegas for teens ( They think, “It’s not real,” “It doesn’t count”). But it does.
There are at least Three versions of your Teen
The parents’ angel
With their friends
Your daughter’s pictures on Facebook might be something you would never let her wear out of the house. ( from my very brief survey 1/10 girls profile picture is showing their bare stomachs) (not all girls are like this, but way too many are).
I can’t show you how bad the pictures can be on facebook because I’d feel bad for putting those images in your mind.
Facebook pictures. Teens post them with no thought to how this makes them look or what people will think of them. It’s just “cute” or “hot.” AKA I just want attention!!!!!
Teens will often have multiple facebook accounts so they can control who sees what about them.
They also will have face accounts with a name that isn’t theirs and a picture that isn’t them. They do this to have the freedom to do and say anything online mostly things they should be ashamed of.
What music is on it?
What apps do they use to talk to others?
What pictures do they have on their phones?
What have they gotten from their friends?
These are a gift not a right.
You’ll never create something your teens can’t get around. So start building discernment now.
The internet is a dangerous place. They need you involved. Even if you don’t feel capable, and don’t know what to do. Get in there and start asking questions. Your teens need your wisdom in a dangerous online world.
Summary for Internet and Phones
Fake friends are people wanting to behave badly.
You wouldn’t let your teen go out with someone you don’t know. Why is Viber different?
“All my friends are doing it,” is only a demonstration of communal ignorance.
You deserve an explanation for their internet use any time you want it.
Skip the American Dream
For the sake of you kids don’t get trapped in the cycle of the American (and probably Ethiopian dream). And don’t pressure them into the same cycle either.
The cycle is: You get a good job to earn enough money to put your kids into a good university so they can get a good job to earn enough money to put their kids into a good university, so they can get a good job to earn enough money to put their kids into a good university, so they can get a good job to earn enough money to put their kids into a good university, so they can get a good job to earn enough money to put their kids into a good university…
Have greater God sized dreams for your children (they will desperately try to live up to them).
The Fatherhood of God
If God is Our Father How Does He Parent?
Looking at God’s parenting is wonderful, because while it corrects our own failures, it also encourages us with the care of our perfect Father.
So How does God parent?
Luke 13:34 He offers protection, but they have to be willing to take it. You can only control so far.
In studying the fatherhood of God, the number of manipulative tools God rejects in his parenting is amazing. It’s as if God has disarmed Himself.
God doesn’t withhold love to keep us in line. He may remove blessings but his love for us doesn’t change.
God’s opinion of me, and his love for me are not dependent upon my behavior. They are based upon the finished work of Christ. My bad day does nothing to diminish me in God’s sight. Luke 15
Luke 11:13 God is a generous giver of good gifts. (Not just anything we want.) It’s part of his character as a giver. (He doesn’t use gifts as a bribe, or give them because of begging).
2Timothy 2:13, Isaiah 49:15. Somehow God is not embarrassed by the failing of the children who bear his name. Or if he is, he doesn’t disown us as we deserve. God is secure enough in who he is that the failings of his children don’t taint his perfection. Therefore He is consistent and patient beyond all human expectations.
Isaiah 66:13 God is a safe and comforting place for his children. We must be a safe an comforting place for our children. The world is scary enough.
If God doesn’t manipulate, withhold love, etc. from us, how does he attempt to grow us into what he wants us to be?
How does God grow and guide His Children?
Through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Wooing, showing a preferred future.
Coaching through life’s problems. (opportunities for growth)
Hebrews 12:7-13 Discipline is both a subtractive and additive effort. You remove the bad, and build in the good. It’s not just for when you did the wrong thing. It also serves to grow us through difficulties. Do you best, and be glad that our Heavenly father is perfect at it. Unlike us.
Mixing reverence and unlimited access. God is holy and to be feared. (The only one to be truly feared who can kill both body and Spirit), but he is also my Abba, who I can boldly come to at any time. Perfect closeness and parental authority combined. We tend to only do one or the other well. God is our example that both are possible to combine.