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Empowering Your Teenager to Make Choices

It's simple math.

A teenager and a parent + the Never Ending Pasta Bowl + a deep conversation about choices =an amazing breakthrough.

At least, that's how it worked out for my son and me.

It's a sobering thing to be someone's parent.

That's not at all a critique, but rather a reality check of genuine humility. I love my kids beyond measure and feel the weight of my words as they're coming out of my mouth.

It's as if every sentence I choose to say is creating new choices for my kids in how they consider the world.

My teenage son and I had dinner last fall to kick off going through the book "Preparing Your Son For Every Man's Battle." It's all about the choices he'll face as he emerges into manhood, including the sifting he'll likely experience physically, spiritually, relationally and more.

20141030_175515What I thankfully realized on the front end was that the conversation wasn't just restricted to the book, and I thought since we were talking about choices, it would make sense to have a dinner that involved decisions.

Olive Garden was running their Never Ending Pasta Bowl promotion, which essentially meant we'd have access to all kinds of amazing food.

It would also mean he and I would have to decide how much other food we'd eat, from the unlimited breadsticks to the non-stop salad. There were so many options, and only so much room in our stomachs.

Every choice has consequences. Every time you say yes to one thing, you say no to several other things.

Our father-son dinner that night was full of great conversation and teachble moments about making choices, and the entire night went better than I'd hoped.

I shared with my son how our dinner conversation was something I wish my own dad had done with me growing up, but that perhaps because of that gap now our conversation was that much more intentional. He listened as I shared about how much of my own walk into manhood was full of guessing and trying to figure things out on my own. And I reminded him I would be there for him, and he is not alone in whatever he navigates.

At the end of the night? My son asked if I could write down a summary of what we talked about... because there were things he didn't want to forget .


Parenting is full of such never ending opportunities... including helping your teen see what's in front of them differently and empowering them to make good choices about their life and direction.

Practice the process of decision-making with your teenager with these 4 steps: 

  1. Invite them to dream: Help them feel the ownership of making choices by inviting them to make a wish-list of realistically wild things want to do in their future, like learning how to scuba-dive, taking a one-week bicycle trip, visiting Europe, driving a race car. The only limitation is that it has to be reasonably possible, but otherwise have fun making the list.
  2. Uncover the driving force: Move past the wishlist and begin to talk about deeper desires versus surface-level wishes. For example, we may say we want to feel comfortable in life, but what we really want is a life of significance that involves taking risks out of our comfort zone. Help your son or daughter see past their urges in order to discover their deeper aches and what’s the driving force behind their dreams. Author Henri Nouwen said, "I believe that our deepest desire is always in accordance with God's love. He has created that desire in us."
  3. Chart the course: Talk about what tangible steps might be required to pursue these dreams. What’s the timeline? What would it require you to give up or start doing? What obstacles would one expect to face?
  4. Introduce the co-pilot: Remind them that God is always with us every step of the way, and we can lean on Him through prayer. Explain how we can filter everything through God by making sure our desires line up in spirit and in truth with the Bible.


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