Are your teens always completing their research reports at the last minute, or not completing them at all? Do your teens complain that their school work is pointless? Did you recently begin homeschooling and do your teens miss their old school and old friends? Are they rebellious and disrespectful?
Parents wrestling with these dilemmas are fighting a moral and spiritual battle. To win such a battle, they must use moral and spiritual weapons. Fortunately, Jesus never gives us more than we can handle; He will provide parents with the means they need to help their children know and love Him and obey His Commandments. Ultimately, God alone, working with and never against the free will of teens, can change their hearts. As the head and heart of the home, however, fathers and mothers can create an environment in which God’s grace can flow more abundantly.
Therefore, the first thing to be done is to ask for the means to create a loving Christian home. Pray. Pray without ceasing. Never doubt that God hears our prayers, though His answer may not come in the way or at the time we want. If at all possible, begin going to daily Mass. Take your teens with you, saying, “This will get you up in the morning,” or “This will give us a much needed break from school work.” Convey the spiritual benefits as well. Eventually, daily Mass will become a habit, not a chore.
Not every family can attend daily Mass, but every family can pray the Rosary every day. Our Blessed Mother gave fifteen promises to those who pray the Rosary. They can be found on this website: Our Lady’s 15 Promises for Praying the Rosary
One of Mary’s promises is this: “The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary shall not perish.” Print a copy of these promises and post it on your refrigerator. Pray the Rosary out loud in the living room or main room of the house every day.
2. Good Company
Many teens go through a phase of rebellion. This is a common side effect of becoming independent. Children are becoming adults and must learn to live their own lives without depending on their parents for everything. At a time when your children are being influenced less by you and more by their peers, it is important that they have friends their own age with good Christian morals. Encourage your children to join a parish teen or pro-life group. Find a homeschool support group and join in their family activities, or start your own homeschool group. If you have only recently begun homeschooling, your teens may miss their old school friends. If at all possible, allow your children to continue spending time with their old friends. If these public or private school students are clearly having a negative moral influence on your children, be firm in limiting their time spent together. It would be better, however, to increase the number of good influences in your children’s lives and let their old friendships fade away than to forbid them to see their best friends.
3. Daily Discipline
Teens often struggle with laziness. As children, they bounced out of bed soon after sunrise, full of energy and enthusiasm. Now, if they had their way, they would play video games or spend time on Facebook or Pinterest until one in the morning and sleep until noon every day. Teens should be getting practice in setting their own schedule. However, in the “real world,” college classes often begin at 8:30am, and many jobs require being at work at 8:00am. So continue starting homeschool lessons no later than 9:00am, or whenever your family gets home from morning Mass. If, despite getting an early start, your teens still procrastinate with their school work, teach them to set goals for themselves. Have them begin with their most difficult subjects, while their minds are fresh in the morning, so the rest of the day will be easy.
Or, if they are still sluggish even after Mass and breakfast, find the best time of day for them and have them study their most difficult subject then. If your teens are still lazy about school, it might mean that you are not challenging them enough. If they simply do not care about school and say that school is pointless, you have a bigger problem. Try to find what they are passionate about and incorporate it into your lessons. If they are interested in science, plan a trip to a natural history museum. If they like history, visit an area of historical interest or participate in a reenactment. Teach your teens to set goals for themselves, both short-term and long-term goals. If they manage to finish all their work for the year before June, take them on a special trip.
4. Looking Ahead
The teen years are the time to look toward the future. Do they want to go to college? Contact colleges and find the average high school grades and SAT scores of incoming freshmen. Find what grades and scores must be achieved to qualify for scholarships. Ask your teens what kind of careers they want. Help gear their high school education toward their goals. If you are unable to motivate your teens with any goals and they still refuse to do their work, you may need to resort to “tough love.” Tell them, “Alright, if you don’t do your work, you can’t graduate. It will be hard to get a good job without a high school diploma.”
5. Limit Media
One final point is worth considering for parents dealing with rebellious or unmotivated teens: limit media. For the most part, watching TV is a waste of time. Worse, many movies and TV shows depict heroes with deplorable morals. Consider limiting TV time to one wholesome show per day. You might move the TV to an out-of-the-way place and bring it out only for family movie night. Make sure your teens are exposed to people worthy of emulation, not pop culture celebrities. Keep books and movies about the saints in your home. If, when they were younger, your teens grew up reading about and praying to the saints as their best friends, they will have no shortage of good role models. If your teens are not accustomed to reading about saints, it is not too late to start. Find an exciting book about St. Sebastian, St. Ignatius Loyola, or another “manly” saint for your son. Your daughter might like reading about one of the many intelligent, independent women saints, such as St. Catherine of Sienna or St. Teresa of Avila.
Music has a profound impact on the way teens think and act. Many songs have objectionable lyrics. If your teens are highly discerning, you may not need to limit their choice of music, but work on creating a Christian environment. This does not mean that you must forbid all music but Gregorian chant and overtly Christian bands. Classical music has been shown to stimulate intellectual development even in infants, so consider playing classical music as background music during some lessons.
The Internet has many positive uses in the homeschool. It is a powerful tool for research. Many English, math, and science tutorials are available for free. As every parent is aware, however, there is also much to be avoided on the Internet. Pornography is so prevalent that a child or teen can accidentally stumble across it. To limit the dangers of pornography, keep your teen’s computer in the living room or any room of the house that gets a lot of traffic. Many “historical” resources, online or in print, contain falsehoods and half-truths, especially when referring to the Catholic Church.
Always remember: the duty of parents is to provide for their children, both materially and spiritually. The family is the domestic church, the place where saints are born. With prayer, discipline, and perseverance, you can help your teens in their walk of faith.