As a father of three girls, as well as one boy, I had long lived in dread of the teenage years. Teenage girls had always been a mystery to me, and having witnessed some of my friends having very torrid times with their teenage daughters, I was not looking forward to ours reaching that age.

However, now that our last has just turned 13, and our eldest two are both off at University, it seems a good time to reflect that I have really enjoyed the teen years (so far: I don’t want to tempt Providence!)

And naturally I wonder about that. Why have we been so lucky – or so blessed – to have teenagers who behave in a civilised fashion, keep their Faith, and are genuinely lovely young people to spend time with? In particular, why is it that our teenagers have all wanted to spend time with their parents and siblings, in a way that is very different from many of their peers.

To throw some light on that, I also look at friends who have brought their children up in various ways, and with various results.

Our two friends who have been our great exemplars in parenting had great results with all of their children. Other friends with older children have been less lucky. Watching all of these, we reached some tentative conclusions:

1 Spending as much time with your kids as possible, while they are young (pre-teen) makes it much more likely that they will want to spend time with you as teens.

2 ‘Quality time’ is a myth. All time with kids is quality time, if you attend to them, or get them to attend to you. If you are really present to each other, that’s quality time – and it can be just as much when you are doing the dishes or tidying a room, as something more overtly fun.

3 Stay a step ahead of their peers: pre-empt the issues that will arise with their peers and get in there first. I remember the look on Ant’s face (shock followed rapidly by dawning comprehension – and some relief) when I pointed out that her mother and I, having four children, probably knew more about human sexuality than the sassy kid in her class…

4 Show them that you love them in hundreds of tiny ways, week in and week out; not in one big show of extravagance at a birthday or Christmas.

5 Give them a rigorous grounding in their Faith. Help them see that it makes sense, and be very open about the tough bits: the problems of pain, Hell etc.

6 Encourage them in pursuing their interests and talents – and ideally not in competition with each other.

7 Restrict the amount of television and other sources of popular culture, and teach them to engage critically with them.

I don’t think that’s all there is to it, but those are the main things that spring to mind. And all I can say at this stage is that by following the example of those excellent parents we were blessed to know, we have, so far, avoided all teenage trauma, and helped our girls grow in the practice and love of their Faith.

So this week’s challenge is to consider what you think the guidelines you want to follow are – and how you can implement them.

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4 Responses to Keeping Your Kids Catholic: Teenage Girls

  1. Joe Bigliogo says:

    Yep, breath down their necks and smother them with non-stop indoctrination––that'll keep them Catholic, right? All it did with me was turn me away from religion altogether. Maybe, just maybe… accept them for who they are regardless of what they believe. What they chose to believe be it Catholicism, some other belief or no religion at all is after all, their inalienable right… just as it is yours.

    ~ Proud Apostate

    • Frederick Towers says:

      If you turned away from religion altogether, what are you doing on this website? You're searching for something you never lost. Come back home Joe.

      • Joe Bigliogo says:

        How presumptuous of you. I made these comments out concern for young people like myself who have had religion forcibly imposed on them. There is no greater violation of human dignity––I know this from personal experience. Freedom of choice in matters of religion is fundamental to human rights. We do not request this, rather we claim this by right.
        As to returning "back home", that is my decision not yours so please mind your place. For me it was never home since I never believed it from the moment I was able to think about it. It is now as it has always been… nothing but myths and fables from an ignorant time and place in human history.

  2. JasonGennaro says:

    Wonderful post, Ben! I must have missed it the first time around.

    @Joe Bigliogo: Unfortunately, your comments do not speak to the content of the post. Ben never writes about indoctrination. Interestingly (and one of the things that delighted me when I read this), only one of the seven recommended conclusions is overtly religious. That is, #5. All of the others could have been written for a secular blog about raising good adults. Yet all are good and worthy to be followed.