So, let’s just start by saying I’m not the most mechanically inclined person God ever created. But somehow that doesn’t exempt me from owning a garage filled with small engines: a snowblower, lawnmower, leaf blower, weed trimmer and the like. 

My technique for starting these machines is always the same: push the buttons, prime the engine, and pull hard on the pull-cord. Most of the time my equipment starts. 

When that fails, I pull the pull-cord harder and harder until I give up or call my friend John who fixes these kinds of thing to tell him they’re broken. 

But sometimes they don’t need repair at all. Sometimes I need to remember to adjust the choke, or try priming it again or even to leave it because I flooded it. And then . . . like magic, it starts. 

Teenagers are a bit like that. 

When they don’t respond at age 15 to the things they responded to at age 10, you just try harder. 

But saying the same things more loudly, or trying the same tactics, again and again, won’t always turn things around. 

After all, the teen years take away some of a parent’s favorite opportunities to connect, like bedtime stories and pick-ups from school. So what do you do?

You change strategies.

If you want to get through to your teenager, here are some ways to connect that are unique to the teen years:

Be Around

Sometimes parents are tempting to buy their kids affection or attention? Losing your 13-year-old? It’s easy to think you can win their heart with a new iPhone.

As a parent, never substitute a present for your presence. 

In fact, one of the greatest gifts you can give your teenager is your presence—simply being around. 

It’s the unscripted moments that will often produce the greatest conversations. A parent who’s always in the kitchen or around the house is just far more likely to have meaningful interactions with their kids. 

Parenting a teenager may actually take more time than parenting a toddler. 

Even if your kids don’t feel like talking to you, they’re glad you’re around. So be around. 

Eat Together

As your kids get older, it’s easier to let them fend for themselves at supper. 


Plan family meals. And eat them together.

Even though I led a busy church throughout my kids teen years, wrote, traveled and my wife worked, we almost always had supper together five nights a week when my kids were in high school. Why? Because we made it a priority. 

Sometimes the meals were 10 minutes long (I have sons, after all), they were an anchor point for our family. We prayed together. We talked. And still today at 24 and 20, my kids love to get together for family meals. 

Leverage Drive Time

Some of the very best conversations I’ve had (and still have) with my sons happen when we’re driving somewhere. 

Being beside each other in the car is a lot less intimidating than sitting down for a “talk.” It’s actually easier to be vulnerable and honest when you’ve got an hour on the road together with little more to do than chat than it is if you’re trying to make a conversation elsewhere. 

Whenever my kids needed a ride somewhere, I was anxious to take them. They probably never knew why, but I did. 

Take a Day with Them

Throughout high school, I’d invite my sons to take a day off school. I’d take a day off work and we’d spend the day together. 

What we did mattered way less than the fact that we just took some time to be together. 

I know it was a special time for them, but it was an equally special time for me. 

One day, all you’ll have left with your kids is a relationship. So build the relationship.

Those are some things that have helped me keep the relationship alive during the teen years.

What’s helping you? Leave a comment!