'teenagers' photo (c) 2012, chiesADIbeinasco - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

“I just keep telling her, finish school before you have a baby!” my friend declared. We were talking about our teenage daughters, and she was very worried that one, especially, may find herself pregnant soon.

“And get married,” I added. “Don’t forget marriage!”

But my friend, no matter how much she may genuinely want her girls to marry well, doesn’t actually have faith that they will. You see, she made some mistakes when she was younger, and those actions have changed the course of her life. While she desperately wants her children to choose another path, she’s not confident they will.

When I was researching The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I surveyed 2,000 women. And one thing I learned was that only 40% of women who are now Christian were actually virgins on their wedding night. Most Christian women had not waited.

Thus, most Christian moms of teenage girls didn’t wait, either. And now they’re wondering, how do I encourage my daughter to do what’s right and what’s best if I didn’t do so myself? I needed boys to make me feel special and wanted; likely she will, too. And we become fatalistic, like my friend is.

Or, perhaps we moms go in the other direction, so scared that our kids will mess up that we give them no freedom, in the hopes that they will wait because they won’t have a choice.

We moms need to give ourselves a break and realize two important things:

1. God forgives us for what happened in our past, and sees us as new creations; and

2. Our children will make their own decisions

If we are trying to “make up” for what we did by clamping down on our kids, we could push them away. Or if we feel so much shame for what we did that we transfer that shame on our daughters, they can start to get the message that they are expected to mess up.

How about a new way of looking at it? No matter what you did in the past, those mistakes were yours. But they aren’t anymore. Jesus paid for them, and if we beat ourselves up about it, or beat our children up about it, it’s as if we’re saying that Jesus didn’t do enough. So these mistakes are gone.

But your daughter (or your son) is not a second chance for you to do things right. Your child is simply someone that God has given to you to raise, but who will ultimately make her own decisions. So what should our attitude be? Expect the best. Kids tend to live up to expectations, and while 60% of women did not wait until marriage, 40% did. It is not impossible. And those who do wait also have stronger marriages and better sex lives. It is best for your daughters to wait.

When my girls were 5 and 7, I was enjoying lunch with a mentor and comparing parenting notes. I talked about how wonderful parenting was then, but how I was dreading the teen years. The media portrays the teen years as so horrible, and so I figured they would be. But this man turned to me and said, “The teen years are the best we’ve ever had parenting. We’re having so much fun. They’re interesting now, and wonderful to talk to.”

And so I began to look forward to the teen years. And they have been wonderful! Yes, some kids will make serious mistakes, but God is there to forgive those mistakes, just like He forgives yours. But kids will not necessarily mess up. In fact, there’s no reason to expect that they will. Let your kids know you expect the best, but that you’re always there no matter what they do. After all, that’s what God does with us.

What do you think? Did you have difficult teen years, and do you struggle with what your children will face? Let’s talk!