Tips on Parenting Teenagers

Dalia Mogahed on Parenting teenagers…

I often get asked for advice about how to parent rebellious teenagers by struggling parents. I’m usually like, “please let me know when you find out.”

So what I’m about to share is from the deepest part of humility. It’s hard as hell. But here are a few thoughts on the matter, things that have helped me and that I’ve observed in the lives of others.

  1. Know this: your kids are separate human beings, not a reflection of you. They are not trophies. They cannot be extensions of your ambitions, unfulfilled dreams or to make up for what you failed to achieve. They don’t exist to be your fulfillment. They are servants of God. Allow them their individual dreams, personalities, goals.
  2. Even if they don’t tell you, you are still their first and biggest example. Be a person they can respect and admire without being shamed into doing so. Work on yourself so that the kind of man or woman you wish them to grow up to be would look up to someone like you. Be a role model. Be kind, generous and patient if that’s what you’d like for them. Call your parents. Cook for your sick friend. They will do what you do, not what you say.
  3. Humans have at least three essential needs: security, belonging and purpose. They will find and fulfill these needs, or numb the unfulfillment of them, one way or another. If the home doesn’t provide a safe space to be who they are and be loved, they will find that elsewhere. If the home and the mosque isn’t a place of belonging, they will find that elsewhere. If they have no sense of purpose other than avoiding punishment, they will search for it elsewhere or numb it’s absence.
  4. Your kids will likely disappoint you on occasion, or a lot. Refer to point number one. You can do everything perfectly and you still won’t have perfect kids. It’s not your fault. Prophets had kids who rebelled. It doesn’t mean you failed. They are not an extension of you. They have agency. We are only accountable for our actions and intentions, not the way others behave, even our kids. Don’t indulge in self flagellation.
  5. If you kids are perfect, praise the Lord, not yourself. Don’t take credit. Children are a gift, like health or wealth. Those who say “it’s because of my own effort” weren’t dealt with kindly in the Quran. Don’t feel superior to another parent who is struggling anymore than you should look down on a person with less money than you. God gives to whom He pleases. It’s not a sign of your awesomeness. It’s a sign of His generosity.
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