“The trouble with teenagers is they don’t listen.”

There is some truth to that. It’s also part baloney. They listen to plenty of people, the real question is are they listening to you?

When they are younger and willing to absorb the influence of dad, that is when dad needs to be laying the foundation and that starts with bonding from day 1. Hold them as an infant. Talk with them. Play with them. I know its not the most exciting thing at those ages. But there is zero doubt that dads that engage with their infant and toddler have better relationships with the kids when they are older. There are also fun studies that show that the babies are healthier and the brains develop better with more engaged fathers allowing for better cognitive function.

It’s my understanding that smart and healthy kids are a good thing.

The better your relationship is when they are young– the better the teenage years will be. 1 on 1 time is important in fostering that relationship. I’m a huge fan of taking trips together. I’m a big fan of getting outdoors and spending time on hikes, bikes, fishing, hunting, camping, etc. Having real talks means there is open communication.  There need to be an incredibly clear understanding that Dad is always available to talk and dad will listen.

Invent a code to be able to talk. Dad and each child need to have a clear understanding that you can come talk to dad about anything anytime. When the code is spoken there is a clear understanding the jokes stop and Dad will take this seriously. Dad will go somewhere with a little privacy. Dad will listen and not judge, he will not react to quick, and dad will not give a quick solution. Dad will let you speak your piece. Dad will validate the things you say. This requires real openness and trust. That is built over a lifetime and honored by the fact that it is known and past attempts have been well received.

It takes consistency and effort to establish trust and build a bond. In the example above of having a code that allows for real conversations to happen…..if you violate that code…by ignoring it…by responding aggressively…by laughing and joking….by sharing confidential information for your enjoyment….you burn that bridge immediately. You will guarantee that kid will never come back to you for an important conversation.

Remember these conversations start out as petty small things when they are young and can gradually build up to serious things. They might be upset about name calling at age 7 then having questions about puberty at 11 then coming to you at age 15 because his friend keeps asking him to try drugs and threatens to tell everyone he got high if he doesn’t. they need a serious, thoughtful, considerate father to listen. To ask questions.

Written family values has become a recurring theme in my writings. Dad and mom cannot enforce values and morals if they are not sure what they are. How can kids be expected to uphold family values if they don’t know what they are. Your job is to establish those boundaries and the single best way is to write them down. This means you and mom have talked about it and made some adjustments. This gives kiddos the opportunity to read, see, and ask questions. Then hang the thing for everyone to see.

If you have expectations and hopes for your teenager your teenager must know these things before they become teenagers. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up, not only for disappointment, but constant battles.

Lets use dating as an example. Maybe you’re a dad that want his daughter to wait till age 15 before she starts dating. And you have that expectation and want to take her out for her “first” date to show her how a gentlemen should act. It’s a cute gesture and right of passage in a lot of families.

But if she doesn’t know that ahead of time when she is 13 she is going to tell some boy yes and you’re going to get mad at her. She didn’t know. There were no expectations set. Now you 2 are fighting because you failed to be clear. Proactive parenting wins much more than reactive parenting.

Influence is a major impact on everyone’s life. There are many great stories of the positive influences of neighbors, teachers, coaches, and of course family members. Those influences can drastically improve and alter the trajectory of someone’s life. I call for Dads to be that positive influence. You can’t be influential if you’re not present and active in the family.

Influence goes both ways. There are stories of negative influences that negatively impact the trajectory of someone’s life. It’s one of Dad’s jobs to protect his children from those influences. Online, in School, media, friendships, any relationship or influence where you see something is wrong…Its dads’ job to intervene. Don’t be afraid to upset your kids when it is in their best interest.

As a young man or woman matures, they earn some freedom and independence. Little by little earning your trust. This is how kids spread their wings and really blossom into who they are to become. Now if they abuse that trust they lose some of that newfound freedom. This is the age where we need to have real lessons on how to live on your own.  I would be embarrassed to put my kid out in the real world without knowing how to function in it!!! Dishes, Laundry, General Maintenance, home care, Auto Care, Physical labor, Studying & Improving, Cooking, Cleaning, Budgeting, Earning, Spending, Social etiquette, and much much more!!! It’s your job to prepare them for the real world.

This is not the end. But it is certainly a huge shift. We are sending them out in the world. We are seeing how well we prepared them to succeed. Of course, they always have us for wisdom. We see each other and stay in contact. The love is never-ending. It’s just a new phase and the time for them to become great men and women. And if you did it right….they won’t need you anymore!

I am pretty strongly against kids moving back home. For a short period of time as a transition I think is okay. But we have too many 20- and 30-year-olds living with mom and dad and not starting their lives. Not having real responsibilities. They have a massive crutch and for them to flourish and reach their full potential you need to get rid of the crutches.

I feel the same way about parents subsidizing their kids’ lives. It’s wrong. Let them make it in the world without you. You steal their confidence because you made it too easy. You steal their drive because you made it too easy. In a very real sense, you deprive happiness from your child because you are preventing them from feeling the satisfaction, joy, and validation of making it on their own.

Teenagers are fun. They want to be adults. They are not quite ready. You can do some wild camping trips and hikes at these ages. It can be an absolute blast! The keys to a vehicle are a big moment in their lives and it really changes how much time you get with them. Create some traditions with the oldest that set the tone for the younger ones. There are bound to be struggles. There are bound to be moments of amazement and joy. Enjoy this time.