Friday, January 18, 2008

My Top 10 List to Parents of Teens

Here's the article I wrote based off my talk to Parents of Teens last week.

Dear Parents of Teens,

It has been a sacred privilege to serve as the Pastor of Student Ministries for the last six years here at Calvary Church. I have loved working with you and your students. I am now in the role of Executive Pastor of Ministry which means that I oversee many of the ministries of Calvary Church from Children’s to Adults. I will also be working directly with our Men’s Ministry and still preaching in the Elevation service. Josh Simpson is now our Junior High Pastor and our Pastor of Student Ministries. He will do an incredible job providing vision, direction, and organization to this ministry.
So after 15 years in youth ministry I have a few things that I have always wanted to tell parents. Some are encouraging and some are challenging. These are things I have seen and learned along the way. I hope that you will listen to them and see how they can help you in your difficult responsibility of parenting your teen. Let’s count down my Top 10 Last Words to Parents of Teens!

10. Listen to your kids.
Seriously listen. Stop talking and listen. Try to not react or respond in big ways – even facial expressions. They need to know that they can keep telling you the important events of their life, both good and bad.

9. Love them to the point of embarrassment.
They won’t like it in the moment. They will squirm and be embarrassed. They will love it deep down and they will remember it for a lifetime.

8. Take computers out of bedrooms and any other private place.
Do it now. Stop reading this article and go take them out…seriously, now. It’s just not smart to put temptations right in your kid’s face. I would take out televisions too. And don’t think that if it’s not connected to the internet that it’s safe. Do you really want them up all night playing video games? Also, they are smarter than you. It’s probably connected to the internet through your neighbor’s wi-fi or something like that. Go, now.

7. Take your kid’s small group leader to coffee and get to know them.
This person is spending tons of time talking to your kid about spiritual things and giving their views and opinions on all sorts of things. Don’t you think you should know who that person is? Yeah, we screen people, but so should you.

6. Encourage your small group leader to do extra things with your kid and give them the resources to do so.
Small group leaders are normal people who are busy. They want to serve, but they are going to get busy and end up doing the minimum requirements of just Sunday mornings. A phone call, email, or letter from you will go a long way encouraging them to spend more time with your kid and help them know what your child needs. Give them gift cards to restaurants, bowling, Boomers, coffee, or things like that to help them go have fun and model the Christian life to your students. More is usually “caught” by kids than what is “taught.”

5. Don’t put sports first in your kid’s life.
If you want your kids to not grow spiritually, then have them commit their entire lives to a sport that will take them out of church on Sundays and Wednesdays and show them that the priority for you is the sport and not their spiritual growth. They will probably never play the sport in an organized way after they are 18, but their spiritual growth could be stunted long-term. Seriously, what is more important?

4. Affirm your youth pastors.
They don’t hear it very often. They hear complaints and opinions but not a ton of affirmation. Send them cards, emails, and nice phone calls. And wouldn’t you rather open a card with a nice gift card inside?

3. Encourage your kids to live in a dorm their freshman year of college, if possible. This one is a little bit more subjective and different for some than others. But I just think that they will grow in the ways they need to become a real adult in a college dorm that is somewhat contained and supervised, but it isn’t your house. It will be hard and this can be at a Christian college if you are concerned about the crazy college life, but they need to experience the autonomy. Also, if they go to a secular school, help them get connected with the Campus Crusade or Intervarsity leader at their college. This helped me a ton when I was at UCSB my freshman year.

2. Don’t defend your kids to teachers, small group leaders, and pastors.
Just listen to them. They are trying to help your kid. They want to see them grow – not as much as you – but they do. I have never understood why parents fight back and disagree when we point out something going on in their kid’s life.


1. Make sure your kids see your spiritual life.
Let them see you reading the Bible in the living room. Let them see you praying or carrying a list of prayer requests. Let them see you sign-up for retreats or Bible studies because you value that. Let them see you spend time in solitude with the Lord or fast or practice other spiritual disciplines. When they see you put God first, they will remember it when the time comes.

Thanks again. I encourage you to email me if you have any questions about this article. But if you don’t like something in Student Ministries, email Josh now ☺


Matt Doan said...

I love this list.
I found myself nodding
and pumping my fist
at each point when
you gave this live at
last week's parent meeting.

The only one I would
have omitted would have
been #3.
I totally agree with you
about the benefit of living
in the dorms, it was an incredible experience for me...
but one of the top 10 things parents must do? Not sure.

Besides that, this is book worthy
bro. Marko sign him up!

be_a_Mary said...

i love it! such helpful advice. thanks for posting!

jibby said...

Great list Eric - Grace and Ella are lucky to have you as a dad.

drcarr said...

feak... you rock. i love your blog. keep them coming. when are you guys going to make a trip to DC?!!

Kim Tostada said...

I have to agree w/ Doan. A great list but I don't know about #3... I never had the dorm experience and I think i turned out ok :) Also, I think some parents might have extra financial burdens by that. Just some thoughts. Thanks for sharing that list.

Eric Wakeling said...

thanks carr! i'm stoked you read this.

thanks doan, karen, and jo also!

kim - you did turn out great so think about how amazing a dorm experience could have prepared you for adulthood! My main thing is to the parents who prevent their kids from living in a dorm because they are afraid to let their kids go.

Eric Wakeling said...

thanks carr! i'm stoked you read this.

thanks doan, karen, and jo also!

kim - you did turn out great so think about how amazing a dorm experience could have prepared you for adulthood! My main thing is to the parents who prevent their kids from living in a dorm because they are afraid to let their kids go.

Laura Marie said...

Hey...can you repost this in a few years? Haha...not so applicable to me now, but I think this is great insight and shows how much you love and care for students.

Kim Tostada said...

thanks Eric.. I agree some parents can't let go and that's just not healthy.. But i will say God for sure found other ways to prepare and continues to grow me into the adult He wants me to be apart from not experiencing the dorm life. I would agree for some it helps and is a great learning tool but I would say also God can do His thing and grow people apart from the dorm life :)

T. J. said...

i came upon this post from

GREAT STUFF!! I serve as a youth minister in KS and plan to post this in our youth rooms. #1 is for reals! i've been saying some of this stuff and it will be good to have parents hear it from someone else. thanks!

urntjerry said...

I'm writing from Richmond, VA.
I think you did a great job with this. In fact, I totally stole it for a parents of teen encouragement smalll group I help resource. How do you spell plagiarism?
Just kidding.

I know how to spell it.

Great work, man.

Anonymous said...


I spent 20 years as a Y.P. and just have to say I think your list is brilliant. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. I pray that parents all over the globe will have the opportunity to see this list and take your advice! (People in the church were often my greatest opponents when they found out that none of my teen children had their own computer or TV. I was "neglectful".)

May God bless you in your life and ministry. Even though I don't know you, it appears that God is using you and that you have opened your heart allowing him to do so.

Keep on keeping on!
Teri Wood