Fight for Your Teen’s Life
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2010 1 Jan
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Jeffrey Dean's new book, The Fight of Your Life: Why Your Teen is at Risk and What Only You Can Do About It (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, 2009).
Your teen is constantly being bombarded with destructive influences from our culture. The attacks include everything from "sexting" and online porn to "pharm parties" and drinking. Even if your teen appears to be doing well now, he or she desperately needs your help to stand against lies and live in a way that reflects the truth. You can't stop the battle being waged daily for your teen's soul, but you can fight on your teen's side.
Here's how you can fight for your teen - and win:
Get into your fighting positions. They are: "the sweeping aside motion" (leaving the past behind and establishing a battle plan for what you're going to do now and in the future to help your teen), "the gritting your teeth gesture" (being willing to do whatever it takes to help your teen, even when you're uncomfortable or scared), "the ultimate power stance" (kneeling to pray for your teen every day), "the open book motion" (learning as much as you can about today's teen culture), and "the deep breath posture" (faithfully taking one step at a time so you can fight with endurance).
Help your teen pursue God. Encourage your teen to spend time with you reading, studying, and discussing the Bible. Pray together about how to apply what you read. Developing an accurate understanding of God - based on His Word - will empower your teen to understand the errors of our culture.
Dream big for your teen. Let go of your own agenda for your teen's life and urge your teen to become all that God wants him or her to be. Ask God to help you see your teen from His perspective. Then do all you can to help your teen fulfill God's purposes for his or her life. Spend time hanging out with your teen regularly, asking open-ended questions that can lead to good conversations about your teen's dreams.
Dads: Don't underestimate your impact. You play a crucial role in your teen's life. Make sure your teen knows that you believe in him or her no matter what. Give your teen consistent assurance and guidance. Prioritize your role as a father above your job, and spend lots of time with your teen.
Moms: Fulfill your vital role. Your influence is key to shaping your teen's character. Live faithfully so you can be a strong role model for your teen. As your teen faces daily decisions, pray for him or her and point out the importance of integrity. Protect time on your family's calendar to spend together rather than allowing your teen's activities to dominate your lives.
Communicate well with your teen. Know what you want to say to your teen - and why you want to say it - before initiating conversations. Pray for the wisdom to know how best to discuss concerns with your teen. Spend significant amounts of time talking with and listening to your teen. Ask questions about his or her life, and give your full attention when you're listening. Write notes as well as having conversations.
Help your teen learn to filter media messages. Be aware of what your teen reads, watches, and listens to regularly. Instead of trying to hide the world from your teen, teach him or her to think critically about the information and filter the world's messages through God-focused lenses. Help your teen figure out how to distinguish good from evil, categorize what's helpful and what's harmful, and make decisions that lead to a faithful life. Articulate your own worldview and passionately pursue God to show your teen how it's done.
Teach your teen to honor God online. Realize that your teen is vulnerable to being corrupted by dangerous websites. Set up a system for safe Internet use by writing a family contract that establishes guidelines to follow. Place all computers in a high-traffic area of your home, limit the amount of time your teen can spend online, use a filter, and check your computer's history regularly. Ask your teen questions often about what he or she has done online lately, and encourage your teen to live as faithfully online as he or she tries to live offline.
Help your teen escape the trap of pornography. Acknowledge the prevalent danger of pornography, which traps many teens - sons and daughters alike - in addiction. Explain to your teen that pornography makes them view people merely as a means by which desires can be fulfilled, rather than the way God sees them. Encourage your teen to confess struggles and mistakes with pornography, remove the source of the pornography from your home right away, and help your teen resist future temptation.
Encourage your teen to make wise choices about dating. Let your teen know that it's just fine not to date. But if your teen really wants to date and you think that he or she is mature enough, ask your teen to articulate his or her reasons for dating, and then set up clear and specific boundaries to safeguard your teen (such as who he or she may date, where to go, and what physical acts to avoid). Stay informed about your teen's dating life, and pray regularly about it.
Talk to your teen about sex. Don't hesitate to discuss sexual issues with your teen. If you don't talk about them, your teen will search for answers elsewhere. Clearly communicate what you believe about sex and what you expect regarding your teen's sexual behavior.
Talk to your teen about drinking. Ask your teen to promise you that he or she won't drink or try drugs. Be alert to any warning signs, such as a sudden change in mood or attitude, a drop in school performance, and secrecy - and confront your teen if you notice them.
Get to know your teen's friends. Spend time with your teen's friends and get to know their parents, too. Urge your teen to constantly ask: "Do my friends push me closer to, or pull me away from, God?"
Urge your teen to bring secrets out into the open. Help your teen honestly face any secrets he or she has been keeping, identify the triggers behind the secret behaviors, and talk with you and others about them.
Encourage your teen to go public with God. Help your teen write his or her personal testimony and learn to share his or her faith with others. Ask God to use your teen to shine His light into the darkness of our world.
Adapted from The Fight of Your Life: Why Your Teen is at Risk and What Only You Can Do About It, copyright 2009 by Jeffrey Dean. Published by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, Co., www.waterbrookmultnomah.com.
Jeffrey Dean is the author of Watch This, This Is Me, and the One-Liner Wisdom books for Multnomah. The founder of Jeffrey Dean Ministries, he speaks to more than 150,000 teens each year about teen issues and culture. He lives in Nashville with his wife and family.