Your Voice: Lessons learned in the trenches of parenting a teen

Your Voice: Quotes, quips, opinions and reflections from people of faith in Alabama and beyond
Shawn, Stephanie and Laura Hendricks on vacation near Destin, Florida.
Photo courtesy of Shawn Hendricks

Your Voice: Lessons learned in the trenches of parenting a teen

By Shawn Hendricks
The Alabama Baptist

Before I throw a pity party about parenting a teenager in 2023, let’s be clear: it’s always been a challenge — with or without the internet and today’s cultural challenges.

Well over 100 years ago, Mark Twain said, “When a child turns 12, he should be kept in a barrel and fed through a bung hole, until he reaches 16 … at which time you plug the bung hole.”

I can’t help but wonder what he’d say today.

No big newsflash that parenting a teenager isn’t easy — and at times crazy difficult. While that statement isn’t groundbreaking or anything new, I need to apologize to my wife.

A few weeks ago, she wanted to deploy a similar declaration on Facebook while celebrating our daughter’s 15th birthday.

Social media

I advised against it for a couple reasons. First, we have one child, so I didn’t expect we’d get much sympathy from parents whose families are closer to the size of the Brady Bunch.

Also, I didn’t want her to risk getting “mom shamed” (yea, it’s a real thing) by those who thought she was throwing her kid under the bus on her birthday.

Did I overthink it? Probably, but parenting seems particularly treacherous these days — especially with social media. I recall another parent declaring that “Snapchat is from the devil.”

Sometimes, I can’t help but agree. With that said, we eventually allowed our daughter to have an account — following many conversations about the dangers. Sigh. It’s complicated.

All that to say, I’ve learned some lessons along the way — mostly through trial and a lot of error.

No formula

First, I’ve accepted there isn’t a formula on parenting — I’ve really tried to find it. I’ve read a lot of books and articles about parenting and how kids are leaving the Church when they go off to college.

But we all are coming to the table with different stories, personalities, strengths — and plenty of weaknesses.

I get frustrated when I see memes and social media posts on parenting that declare there is only one way to handle education, sports, internet use and screen time, clothing choices, etc. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. This is where a lot of prayer, Scripture and guidance from the Holy Spirit comes in handy to help navigate each situation.

Second, I’ve learned that it’s OK to admit when you mess up. You’re going to make mistakes and say and do dumb things as a parent.

It usually seems to help when I acknowledge that I didn’t handle a particular situation well. I’ve found that during these teen years I’m doing more apologizing — while also learning where I need to stand my ground and change course in other situations.

Third, the earlier you can talk about the important things, the better. If an opportunity surfaces to address a sticky topic, don’t miss it.

Even if it’s a little awkward, or if I fumble over my words, I’ve found that it’s usually better to get something on the record about an important topic.

You can circle back if you need to clarify something. Don’t let the internet and social media be the lone voice on the issues that really matter.

Pointing to the Word

Ultimately, you have to carefully pick the hills you are going to die on. While it’s tempting to lead with “no,” it’s usually better to go with “how about this instead?”

The key is to keep pointing to the Word and praying for your family every day.

Yes, parenting can be CRAZY difficult — and it’s OK to admit that.

Letters to the Editor

My wife and I are avid readers of The Alabama Baptist paper. I’m 72, and I started reading the paper when I was in my 20s because my parents always subscribed to the paper.

I learned early on it pays to read The Alabama Baptist. There have been hundreds of encouraging articles in the paper along with keeping us abreast of newsworthy stories and news.

Keep up the excellent work you do as our editor-in-chief of The Alabama Baptist!

Dennis Stastka

Your recent work in The Alabama Baptist has been exceptional. Thank you, and congratulations to the entire team for all the hard work.

Michael Searcy
Canton, Georgia

“Football will one day end. Life will be based on much more than football … one thing that can’t be taken from me is my personal relationship with Jesus,” Kirk Cousins, quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings.

“[A lot of men] are frustrated because they know in their gut they should be leading: family, church, community and nation,” said Don Bell, pastor of Bethsaida Baptist Church in Wilcox County. “It is a great concern that [they] don’t know how to carry themselves and don’t understand manhood. But there’s nothing in our society that couldn’t be fixed if men of faith, biblical men, stand together and lead. It’s time for men to lead again and older men to bring the younger men up.”

“We believe that every child deserves a loving and supportive home environment, and we are dedicated to providing that,” said Jeremy Woods, who moved to Romania in 2015 and started the ministry Potter’s House Ministries with his wife, Magda.

“Children are exposed to things at a much earlier age now,” said Rachel Moore, director of Discovery Clubs, after-school Bible groups held in elementary schools in Birmingham and surrounding counties. “With the prevalence of social media and outside nonbiblical influences vying for their attention, we need to help instill a strong Christian foundation as early as possible before the world can influence them toward a secular mindset.”

“I write from a spiritual side because that’s a part of my life, but my hope is that people can find hope in these songs whether they are believers or nonbelievers. I’ve found true honesty is (what) connects all of us,” said singer/songwriter David Leonard. Leonard’s album “Plans” and the title single are both about trusting God no matter what.

“Seniors often are forgotten about, but those are the people who sustain the ministries,” said Nate Brooks, pastor of Greater St. John Baptist Church in Birmingham.

“I understand that playing baseball is a privilege, and not a right. My convictions in Jesus Christ will always come first,” said Dodgers pitcher Blake Treinen.

“You don’t have to look far to find a pastor who is better at reaching people than loving them,” said Mark Dance, author of  “Start to Finish: The Pastor’s Guide to Leading a Resilient Life and Ministry.” Dance is also director of pastoral wellness at GuideStone Financial Resources.

“I see missions as an opportunity for us to disciple our people and expand their worldview,” said Randy Presley, associate pastor of Luke 4:18 Fellowship in Mobile. “I want the experience to stretch them outside of their comfort zone to a place where they have to trust the Lord … to see the Lord use them.”

“What if the most difficult person in your church is actually evidence from God that you’re supposed to stay there?” said Brian Croft, founder and executive director of Practical Shepherding.

Idle moments provide time to refocus

By Pastor Bill McCall
The Baptist Church at McAdory

Have you ever had one of those moments when you lacked direction and clarity?

I think it happens to us all. When those times come, we can become frustrated, disoriented and distressed.

Those floundering moments at first seem like such a waste. We are not accomplishing anything. There’s a sense of emptiness and incompleteness.

God may be taking us through this season in life for a reason, however. Those times may come to help us refocus on what is most important.

The Pharisees in Jesus’ day wanted to hear what Jesus had to say. He had just silenced the Sadducees, which was no easy task. So the law experts of the day asked him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

Of course, they already had an opinion, but they were about to hear from the very Son of God. He was there when the law was given to Moses.

He knew the law better than anybody and took them back to the basics with His reply.

Prioritizing the Lord

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

It is here where God often takes us when we are empty and seemingly useless. This is the beginning of clarity and understanding. It is the great law that should govern everything  we do and say. It is in these moments God is bringing us back to the center.

If you find a lack of spunk and motivation, it may be that God is bringing you back to what really matters and what is really important.

Loving Him with all we have and all we are must remain top priority. It is the core reason we do anything and everything.