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Are You a Relentless Parent?

Raising teenagers means pursuing their heart even when they don’t demonstrate love in return.
By Brian and Angela Haynes


"Relentless" is an interesting word. It could be used in a negative way to describe a "helicopter" parent. You know, the kind of parent that is always hovering in every aspect of their teenager's life. Relentless could describe the "boa constrictor" parent. That's the parent who is constantly tightening their grip in fear that they will lose control.

But that’s not what we mean when we use the phrase "relentless parenting." Relentless parenting is based on a core value of relentless love. The kind of love that never stops, never wavers, never is cut off. It is an insistent affection full of selflessness and sacrifice and doing the hard things.

Relentless parenting is pursuing the heart of your teenager even when he decides he will not demonstrate love for you in return. It is an unrelenting pursuit, but it is healthy, not stifling. Relentless parenting is not codependent or controlling. The crucial pursuit of your teen's heart is characterized by leadership, love, and the upholding of truth. To love and parent relentlessly requires wisdom and grace that only come from God.

Our model for relentless parenting

Think about the way Jesus loves us. Consider how God persistently loves and leads His children. He is consistent, extravagant, miraculous and routine all at the same time. He is a perfect Father shepherding us toward grace and truth.

This is our model, and He is our source. We need wisdom, patience, truth, grace, love, and peace in order to parent relentlessly during the teen years. Let us encourage you not to go it alone in this journey. Though some days are difficult, we also experience joy in this journey of parenting teenagers. The joy comes from our source—Jesus.

When we think about doing anything significant, especially with spiritual ramifications, we know we can't go it alone. Jesus makes that clear even to His disciples in John 15:5: "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." Relentless parenting means consistently abiding in Christ. We need Him to parent our teens and to lovingly pursue them daily.

Stay connected to Him. Don't try this alone. You will find joy, hope, and wisdom while abiding with Christ and resting in His power beyond yourself.

Ordinary moments

Every day is important in this journey. Most days in your life are ordinary, normal, and even mundane to a degree. It is precisely in the typical days of life that we do our best relentless parenting. Deuteronomy 6:4-7 says, "Here, 0 Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." 

That's the plan. Every day in the ordinary moments, we are relentless. And, as parents of teenagers, we pursue the heart of the teen. It's crucial for them, for you, for the expanding kingdom of Jesus, and for a legacy of faith in Christ rippling into the generations.

Listening to our teens is a must. In this crazy season of life, no one other than you can create the space needed for quality time to listen to your kids. This is a leadership issue for you as the primary leader in your child’s life. Make family dinner together happen most nights each week. Fight for it. Dinner together is an opportune sounding board time in your house.

Work to create space on Sunday afternoons for being together and listening. Listen at bedtime even when all you want to do is go to bed yourself. Listen in the car when you are headed to the next thing in your busy schedule. Make room for time together. Stop tasking, put the phone down, turn off the radio, and prepare to listen. Don’t lose those moments together just because your child is now a teenager. On the contrary, pursue them more!

When our children were very young we noticed that their desire to be heard seemed to always compete with a task that we needed to complete. Whether it was cleaning the kitchen, finishing the yard work before dark, or checking the never-ending e-mails that bombard our phones, there was always something to do other than to listen to our children.  

This temptation did not change as our children grew older. We had to make a constant decision to stop tasking and listen. We are finding that our teenagers feel pursued when we stop tasking in order to listen to them. When we stop to listen, in that moment, we communicate that nothing in the world is more important than what they have to say.

Developing a proper heart connection with our teens provides the essential relational conduit for any and all influence we hope to have in their lives. Time is a precious commodity, especially for parents of teenagers. The most effective way we can pursue our teenaged sons and daughters is with our presence, and that requires time. 

Time invested now will yield tremendous dividends to the third and fourth generations. Is that worth declining the next job promotion? Is it valuable enough to take a job closer to home so you don’t lose three hours a day commuting? Would the sacrifice of living in a smaller house or driving used cars be worth the time you would gain back from “keeping up with the Joneses” rat race to invest in your son or daughter? The clock is ticking.

The teenage years will not last forever, but how we invest our time as parents during these years are crucial to the adult our teenager is becoming.

Listen to pastor Brian Haynes and his wife, Angela, explain what it means to relentlessly pursue your teen's heart on FamilyLife Today®. And order their book, Relentless Parenting.

Adapted excerpt from Relentless Parenting by Brian and Angela Haynes printed with permission from Randall House Publications, Nashville, Tennessee.


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