SS #120 – Let Them Go: Parenting Teens (with Toby Sumpter!!)

What does it look like to raise children – especially boys – who grow up mature and ready to leave and launch their own lives? How does that transition happen?

Moms are naturally wired for and gifted at growing and building families, so sometimes the teen years are hard on us not because our kids are difficult but because we were unprepared for the next stage of family growth, which requires us to back off and let go. We think letting go happens when they get married or when they’re 18 or 20, and we want to hold on to the family we’ve poured ourselves into for as long as we can. 

In a culture that expects irresponsibility and immaturity into the twenties, how can mothers help their children, particularly sons, become young adults as they hit 16, 17, 18?

Listen to the podcast:


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Parenting & Launching Teenagers

  • [2:44-16:50] Scholé Everyday segment
  • [17:38] Having older teens
  • [21:01] Talk about launching with teens, set expectations
  • [23:17] “You can do whatever you want.”
  • [28:18] Decisions about phones and screens
  • [34:25] Starting a real friendship
  • [37:36] Logistics of adult children at home
  • [45:54] Honor & respect their fledgling maturity
  • [54:38] Fellowship in the home is key
  • [57:16] If the trust is misused
  • [1:03:46] It’s not our job to complete our kids

Today’s Hosts and Guest

Brandy Vencel
has educated and launched one son, with three more teens in the works.

Mystie Winckler
has educated and graduated two boys, one of whom has launched and the other is ready as soon as the opportunity arises. She still home educates 2 teens and one 10-year-old.

Toby Sumpter pastors King’s Cross Church in Moscow, Idaho, where the Winckler family are members. He and his wife Jenny have been married over twenty years and they have 4 kids, one of whom has recently flown the coop. He is a co-host of the CrossPolitic Show and author of Blood-Bought World and No Mere Mortals. He holds a Master of Arts in Theological Studies with an emphasis in church history, and he teaches high school civics at Logos School.

Scholé Everyday: What We’re Reading

How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture
Plutarch: Moralia, Volume I
Why Children Matter
Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan
Mr. Standfast

How Should We Then Live?, Francis Schaeffer

Schaeffer wrote a history of culture with a very personal, conversational tone to demonstrate why Western culture is as bad off as it is.

Mr. Standfast, John Buchan

Pastor Toby is on a John Buchan jag having just read his first at Christmas; he’s also listening to the biography of Buchan during his lunch.

Moralia, volume 1, Plutarch

Brandy is expanding her Plutarch love.

Do the kids know their aim?

Talk to your kids about how they will leave, they will get married, they will launch.

The expectation of all should be that the kids will leave. It’s not unusual. It’s the goal.

Conversations are valuable and shouldn’t just begin as they suddenly reach 16. The aim of parenting is to raise adults, so that view should be kept in mind all through the parenting journey.

“You can do whatever you want.”

It’s tempting to clamp down on teens because the stakes for mistakes are much higher with teens than toddlers.

Letting toddlers off easy because it’s cute and then increasing restrictions and rules as they get older backfires, though. It’s not the pattern Scripture gives us.

Our goal is to teach the standard when they are little not so they perpetually obey us even when they are old, but that when they are old they love the standard themselves and follow it of their own accord.

We won’t know whether or not that’s happening if they don’t get opportunities to make important choices themselves while we’re still nearby if needed.

The situations and applications vary even between teens, but the principle is giving them time while still in the home to practice independence and adulthood as much as possible.

Decisions about phones and screens

All screens – iPads and computers – are kept in open family areas and not taken to bedrooms.

Conversations throughout childhood about temptations we know they’ll face as they get older are vital for preparing them for what’s ahead so they aren’t caught unawares.

The Sumpters have wanted their kids to have some time at home with a phone where they could gradually build good habits with accountability and teaching, so they got phones in high school.

Having conversations as friends

When they are teens and still in our homes, there is still certainly an authority we have and exercise, but we should be intentionally shifting our conversation and the way we relate to that of friend rather than supervisor, to advisor rather than ruler.

Especially navigating social media with teens, conversation is vital and where training and preparation take place. Discussion will help our children grow in discernment and wisdom more than a multiplication of rules.

Logistics of having adult children at home

There are many situations where having young adult children – going to college and working jobs – live at home makes sense and is advisable, but how do we handle it logistically? They aren’t really kids to put on the chore chart anymore, but they are members of the household still and would have to contribute if they lived elsewhere.

Treat an adult kid at home like a boarder. Formality might seem weird, but it can be done to keep communication and expectations clear and also help mom remember to treat him like the adult he is.

Do what it takes to have clear living arrangements that respect each person involved. Treat him like an adult, even if it seems awkward or weird.

Charging rent can even be a way of honoring our sons by respecting his ability to contribute.

Think of your teen son as a man and treat him accordingly. When you see immaturity or other concerns, talk to your husband before talking to your son to get perspective first and determine if it’s best to address as mom or let dad talk to him or just let him learn from life.

Honor & respect fledgling maturity

The temptation in our flesh is to fear when we notice what we missed as parents. When we see weakness we wish we had addressed, we need to start with faith and trust that God cares for our children more than we do and he has a plan. Then we can make parenting decisions based in faith and with love rather than fear.

Part of the honor is respecting the teen enough to have a spirited debate, but also not freaking out at random opinions they spout. Always begin with prayer and trust in God, not in your kid or yourself.

What if they prove untrustworthy?

What if you give the teens independence and trust and they get into a bad crowd or porn?

You give them counsel as the adult making decisions that they are. What would you tell a friend who came to you with this problem? Get pastoral input and help and give them accountability and help but not a bunch more rules. Treat them like an adult having issues, because that’s the real situation. Adding more house rules won’t help them grow and change and it won’t make the problem go away. They need the Word of God brought to bear on them.

Mentioned in the Episode

Plutarch: Moralia, Volume I
Why Children Matter
No Mere Mortals: Marriage for People Who Will Live Forever

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Want to talk about the ideas presented here? The conversation is happening inside Sistership.

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