Excerpt taken from Hot Buttons: Internet Edition, Copyright 2012 by Nicole O'Dell. Published by Kregel Publications, a division of Kregel Inc., Grand Rapids MI. These contents may not be excerpted or distributed without expressed written permission of the publisher.

It is surprising how little power many parents exercise over the lives of their teens. In so many homes, the teens are in charge. They use manipulation tactics, bad attitudes, arguments, and even threats to get their way. They play on parents’ fears and weaknesses, and they know just when to strike and how far is too far. Parents throw their hands up in the air and surrender the fight. Their lukewarm tactics become about surviving, not thriving. They figure they only have to endure the trial of the teen years for a short time and if they can just get through this season, things will be better.

Mom, Dad, if that’s your attitude, please think about how that sounds. You’re basically saying you aren’t going to worry about what your teens do or think, and you’re just going to hope and pray that you all reach their adulthood with as few proverbial bruises as possible. I beg you to rethink the teen years. Where infancy was training for toddlerhood, and childhood was preparation for the teen years, the teen years are the foundation for adulthood. It’s during these most important years that your teenager will:

  • prepare to choose a mate
  • establish financial habits
  • develop a work ethic
  • cultivate parenting skills
  • grow into—or out of—a deeper personal relationship with God

The teen years are an extremely important preparation time! And parents, it’s time to stand up and make these years count. You don’t need to get through these years; you need to power through them. Take charge, and make a difference.

Parents need to be in charge, but I’m not advocating for a take-no-prisoners attitude in our homes. Our children need to feel love, not condemnation. They should trust that we’re an ally, not the enemy. You’re not fighting against your kids in hopes of coming out victorious over them; you’re in a battle for them.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).

Dispel the Myth of Effective Insulation.

Let’s face it. If we’re raising our kids as Christians, they’re at a huge disadvantage by the world’s standards. The world assumes that teenagers from church-going, Christ-following homes are socially underdeveloped, behind the times physically and emotionally, and uneducated in worldly matters like politics, public issues, pretty much everything in the news.

As Christian parents we try to insulate our families from negative outside influences; we keep watch over the things that enter their young minds through television, movies, language, peer pressure, and the Internet. Our goal is not to render them unsavvy, but to shield them from the wiles of the enemy. Then things that are seemingly innocuous, like social media and other forms of Internet activity, come along and swallow our families whole.

Don’t you wish we could walk with our kids through the battles of life—guarding and guiding them through each pressure-filled moment, each decision between right and wrong, each temptation? While

God-honoring parents absolutely should have high expectations and maintain a tight grip on the reins as they raise their families, we also need to prepare our kids to stand alone.

Nothing we do can fully protect our kids from facing temptations, pressure-filled moments, decisions between right and wrong. You can’t control what the world throws at them, but you can affect how prepared they are to defend themselves against the onslaught. In each and every pressure-filled moment of decision, there comes a moment just before the final decision is made, a moment when all the preparation, forethought, and wisdom we’ve been equipping our kids with comes to a head. Once the hot button is pushed, the opportunity for laying groundwork is over. They know what they know, and in the heat of the moment there’s no time for anything else. They make a choice based on all the work that came before. And our teens need to be equipped to make the right choice. For each and every hot button they face, they should be braced with some level of preparation, whatever it may be.

Teens will likely face persecution, disappointment, and even out-and-out rejection when they choose to stand for what’s right. If we’re proactive, our children can reach their teen years already armed with the tools necessary to make hard choices in the face of those afflictions—willing to withstand and endure them for the sake of Christ and for their own well-being.

Let’s Take the Mystery Out of Sin!

If you were to start a new job as a police officer, you’d have to go through a lot of training first, right? They aren’t going to just hand you a gun and give you keys to a squad car, then send you out into the community to learn as you go.

You’d be trained to recognize the signs of danger and respond to them with strength and confidence. You’d be given tools to help you remain in control in various situations. You’d understand the power of your weapons and how to use them appropriately. And you’d be trained to stand firm in the face of any kind of threat.

In Mark 14:38 we’re warned to watch and pray about temptation. Even for Christian adults, our spirits are willing to avoid temptation, but we are cautioned to be attentive because our bodies are weak. How much more so for someone who isn’t prepared for temptation? We may have raised the most well-intentioned kids on the planet—ones whose spirits are willing—but their flesh is weak. They need to be trained.

We may wish we lived in a Christian bubble, but pretending we do so ignores a huge need. It results in teens who are sent out into the world unarmed and unprepared for situations they can’t avoid. Our kids will face temptation, peer pressure, and sinful desires; it’s a fact. Why not arm them with understanding and preparation? It’s more important to prepare your children than it is to attempt to create a sterile, sin-free environment in a world that makes it impossible.

Today’s youth need to be committed to safe Internet practices before they ever approach a computer. This is achieved through the knowledge and application of God’s Word and the pursuit of His will through advanced preparation. Ephesians 6:13 says, “Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (In chapter 10, we’re going to do just that as it pertains to your teens and the Internet.)

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up (Deuteronomy 11:18-19).

Parents can help their kids achieve the level of advanced preparation they’ll need to stand by

  • helping them figure out why they should care;
  • giving them the tools they need to succeed; and
  • walking them step-by-step through the process of making good choices.

Why should they care? What’s in it for them if they stand on God’s Word in the face of peer pressure, risking friendships, popularity, good times? Our teens need to believe that the Lord has a plan for them and His ways are best. The most effective ways to instill those beliefs are to model them and teach them. A time-invested parent, who prays as much as she talks and listens as much as she prays, will have the best chance of raising a child eager and willing to say NO and mean it.

What tools do they need? Our teens and preteens need options. A busy life with wholesome things like church activities and sports—alternatives to the negatives. They need to be a part of a family that is serving the Lord, and they need to be watching parents who practice what they preach. They need to continuously grow in the knowledge of the Word and in relationship with God.

How can they walk through this? They need you to walk with them, hand in hand, step by step. Mom, Dad, Guardian—they need you to be aware of what’s going on. They need you to know them well. This requires time, communication, and Godly insight into the minds of your teens.

We Can be Confident Parents, Even in These Scary Times!

Today’s choices have such far-reaching and permanent consequences for our kids, it’s hard to trust that everything will just work out fine in the end. Some of our teens’ decisions will affect the rest of their lives. Knowing that they’re ill equipped to make those choices, it’s very difficult not to panic. It would be easier to lock them up for a few years and check in at, oh, around twenty-two.

We do have a promise to cling to, though.

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

Let’s break that down into bite-sized chunks:

Being confident of this: You can be sure that this is the way it is. It’s a promise.

He who began: Who began it? “He” did. Not you. Not your teen. God started...

A good work: The work He started is a good and righteous thing.

Will carry it on to completion: It will be finished. He didn’t start something only to see it fall to pieces because of some teenage mistakes. It will be completed. It’s a promise of God, and I choose to believe Him.

Until the day of Christ Jesus: Here’s the thing, though. Every one of us, including our teens, is a work in progress. This work, which will be completed, has a long way to go...until the day of Christ Jesus, to be exact.

The battle we fight in protecting, shielding, and preparing our teens for life’s hot-button issues isn’t as black-and-white as a physical battle in which the wins and losses can be easily quantified. We must often blindly face the battles for our kids, operating more on faith than on sight, being obedient to the call of Christ and reliant on the leading of the Holy Spirit. We have been given tools in God’s Word to prepare us to guard against the confusion of this world, however. And we’re granted partnership with the Holy Spirit, who will lead and guide us according to godly wisdom and sight. That guidance is invaluable as we prepare our kids for life’s battles.

Check Points

  • It’s time to stand up and make these years count. You don’t need to get through them; you need to power through them.
     
  • The battle we fight is not against our teens, it’s for them!
     
  • We cannot wait until our teens come face to face with peer pressure and expect them to know how to handle something they aren’t prepared for.
     
  • “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:12-13).
     
  • Today’s youth need to be committed to safe Internet practices before they ever approach a computer.
     
  • A time-invested parent, who prays as much as she talks and listens as much as she prays, has the best chance of raising a child eager and willing to say NO and mean it.

Nicole O'Dell is a mom for six; host of Teen Talk Radio and Parent Talk Radio, and the author of more than a dozen books, including the popular Scenarios for Girls interactive fiction series.

Publication date: April 16, 2013