How to Raise Perfect Teenagers (and Other Ways to Kill Yourself Trying)

by Amy Carroll

four teens in school hallPhoto Source

It’s been an interesting summer at the Carroll house. You can read anything you’d like into that word “interesting”…and you’d be right. We’ve lived the whole gamut the last few months.

The last time I wrote, I told stories of my darling little boys during the days of seer-sucker rompers and sand boxes.


Those were sweet days, but I have to confess that I love this phase of parenting, raising teenagers, much more. Lots of you will be shocked to hear it, but it’s true.

beach boys

Note: Please accept my sincerest apologies for my very preppy oldest flashing gang signs. 🙂

I really don’t believe our culture’s message, “Teenagers are terrible. Teenagers are disrespectful. Teenagers are rebellious,” that plays over and over in one form or another on TV, in movie theaters, and in music. I’m finding my boys and their friends to be passionate about God, hilarious, and loads of never-ending fun. For a girl like me who lives to laugh, this is a great season.

But it’s not without its challenges.

Several weeks ago my husband, Barry, and I were strolling hand-in-hand with our bellies full from dining out alone with the Target sign glowing behind us. (There are LOTS of benefits to this season!) We gazed across the parking lot, and a huge grin spread over Barry’s face as he watched a family with five small children clambering into their mini-van. “All those children are going to drive someday,” he snarked. “And those parents don’t even know what’s coming.”

Well now.

Barry’s right. Those parents really don’t know what’s coming, and it’s probably a good thing.

Although teenagers can be wonderful, by definition they’re deeply flawed. Flawed because they’re making more choices on their own. Flawed because the consequences of those choices get bigger by the day. Flawed because they’re trying out different personas and new sets of friends to figure out where they fit. Flawed because they’re in a steep growth pattern that’s scary by its very nature.

For mamas who used to be able to pick out their clothes, schedule their play dates and hustle them out of the store during tantrums, parenting teenagers is painful. We used to be able to at least create the illusion of near perfection in our children, but teenagers drag all the messy out in public. (Social networking exponentially magnifies this truth!)

There is no such thing as a perfect teenager…or a perfect mama for that matter, so we only have one choice. We fall on our knees and let go.

I don’t mean we check out. Our teenagers need us to be engaged parents as never before. Instead, we let go of our idea of what’s “perfect” so we can follow God and be the mom our child truly needs.

I told a friend last summer, “Raising teenagers isn’t for the faint of heart. I get more humble and less judgmental of other parents every day. It’s driving me to my knees and to total dependence on God.”

We fall to our knees, asking God to shepherd us as we shepherd our teens, and we let go.

We let go…to let natural consequences happen.

We let go…and love the friends who don’t fit into our ideal — inviting them to our house, so we can oversee. 🙂

We let go…encouraging our children’s dreams for their lives even when they don’t match our own.

We let go…in order to commit our future adults fully into God’s hands.

Raising teens is my favorite season of parenting so far. Maybe it’s because it’s so imperfect. It’s forcing this mama who wrestles with her own pursuit of perfection to just let go and watch God work.

*Wondering how to decide when to engage and when to let go with your teen? Today Amy is doing a giveaway on her blog for Lysa TerKeurst’s new book The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands. Click here to visit Amy’s blog, and leave a comment to enter.

Amy Carroll


*Please comment below with your thoughts! Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Lynn says:

    Amy, that is so incredibly true. I’m only at the beginning of the “teenage” journey and it scares the snot out of me. Prayer is the only thing that is going to get me through the next few years. Thank you for the reminder and encouragement!

  2. Brenda says:

    I love the precious photos of your boys! Adorable………you know, I did think I liked teens but I am enjoying my boys so much, I even helped with the high school track team this past season. Maybe there is a youth ministry for me in my future? God is good – and I just pray my two sons through every day 🙂

  3. Mom of many says:

    I am a single mom with a teenage daughter and two teenage sons. Life is hectic for us and we are all going in different directions at different times of the day. The dream of a morning devotion over breakfast and dinner together around the table at night is just that….a dream. I already feel that I will look back on this time many years from now and wish I had done it differently. Any advice? I so worry about who my kids are with and what they are doing all the time.

    • Melody Merritt says:

      Dear Mom of Many,
      I am a single mom also. I have 2 daughters who are 24 and 27 now. Prayer is the most important thing that you can do for your children at any age. During the teen years I found some of the best times to share with them was when we were in the car going from place to place. Sharing a verse of Scripture from my quiet time or something from my Bible Study. Ask how you can pray for them that day.

      If meal times are on the run or it is hard to get everyone together at the same time, keep a notebook to share in or a devotional, leave it out on the table with a verse to encourage your children, have them sign it each day as they read it. This is good in the mornings when each teenager may leave at different times. Try to schedule at least one night a week that you eat together and then have devotions together.

      One thing that my daughters and I did was read books together at night. We would cut the tv off and read before we went to bed. Books on missionaries and books that had character traits I would like to see in them. We read the Bible. They balked at times and we didn’t do it everyday, but we persevered.

      Look for ways to pour into your teens. Ask God to show you teachable moments and to be creative. Don’t give up, pray and persevere. I can’t tell you it is going to be easy. As a divorced single mom I felt like I always needed to do more and wondered if what I was doing was good enough. I finally realized that God had placed my daughters with me and He knew I would be a single mom. Do you have a support system in place in your life, other women and couples that pour into your life, families that you and your teens spend time with? Don’t try to do everything yourself. Please contact me to talk more. I will be praying for you and your family.

  4. Denise Cheek says:

    Hey Amy,
    I too absolutely loved the teen season in our home. Jesus and Me raised my precious girls. I just smiled when I read your blog. I was flooded with sweet memories of our time. My girls are grown with girls of their own and serving The Lord . We are so very blessed beyond anything we could ever deserve. That knee thing began so many years before the teen scene. My advice to young mommies, PRAY and PRAY and PRAY MORE. I am just thankful for this post for it brought such sweet memories and such a thankful heart for a very special time. Enjoy this very short and special season.

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