It can be difficult to know how to influence our teenagers. We give advice. They act like we’ve lost our minds. We give encouragement. They roll their eyes. Even when our teenage sons and daughters are respectful, it can feel like they’re not listening. But we all know who they are listening to. They’re all listening to their friends.
At this phase, one of our greatest opportunities to influence our kids is to have a relationship with their friends. And, it isn’t always as difficult as it sounds. Having influence with a teenager doesn’t mean you have to wear skinny jeans and know the names of pop stars. It doesn’t mean you have to throw lavish parties or have the coolest house on the block. Sometimes having influence is as simple as having them over to your home.
In her article Open Your Home on ParentCue.org, author and mom of three, Autumn Ward, talks about the benefits and the costs of spending time with her kids’ friends:
I love beautifully decorated homes with every little thing in place; a candle quietly burning, fresh flowers in a vase, soft music playing, spotless floors and bathrooms, freshly polished furniture. . . and vacuum lines on carpet.
As much as I would love to say this describes my home, it does not. I mean, I still try. I haven’t totally given up on the dream, but I learned a long time ago that hosting kids in my home does not, in any way, help my straight- out-of-HGTV dream become a reality.
The football team hanging out.
The basketball team hanging out.
The soccer team hanging out.
(We’ve had a lot of teams over the years!) The gang dropping by for a snack.
The impromptu bonfires.
The school study groups.
They’ve all left their mark on my home—literally.
The basement walls we finally painted got a layer of Dr. Pepper sprayed on them three weeks later.
The ceiling fan light fixture got shattered by a body pillow being waved in the air by one young man who was trying to fan away body odors.
The recliner no longer leans back all the way and kind of tilts to one side after a group of guys decided to see how many would fit in it. (The answer is five, in case you’re wondering.)
Oh and the handprints. The walls of the staircase going down to my basement have the handprints of just about every teen we know.
Recently, after my son’s high school graduation, I found myself staring at all those scuff marks and handprints. As I ran my hand across what would be ugly to most, I
uttered a “thank you” to God. I thanked Him for helping me open my home, because when I open my home, I open my heart. And in exchange, I received so much more than a beautifully decorated, clean house:
The sound of teens worshiping in my basement. The laughter of boys being boys.
The excitement of girls talking over one another. The huddle around the oven waiting for food. The hugs from kids I barely knew.
The title of “Mom” from kids who aren’t mine. And the “thanks Mom” from the kids who are.
In that moment, I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to care for, influence, and shape the kids who play such a role in the life of my kids—their friends.
Parents, open your home. Let your house be the hangout, the host home, the place where teens can be. Don’t wait until you think your house is “good enough.” All kids want is a place to be with the friends they want to be with.
Yes, it’s exhausting and will cost you. But I promise you, it will be worth it.
Get connected to a wider community of parents at TheParentCue.org.
By Autumn Ward