Every time you go to the gym to work out with weights, you know you’re headed for pain.  Pumping iron hurts!  Why?  We build muscles by tearing down muscles.  All that pain eventually delivers impressive results, but it ain’t always fun.

Parenting today’s teens involves the same painful process.

As parents, we are responsible to help our children build the muscle they need to lift the heavy issues of life.  But as their virtual personal trainer, it takes a lot of discernment to help them understand how much weight they should lift.  I can tell you from my experience with kids at Heartlight, teens are quite capable of handling tough issues, but they can’t do all the heavy lifting on their own.  Teens are still trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into the world.  You get to help your teen manage their muscle-building program, and all of us go through lots of blood, sweat and tears along the way.

When your child appears weak and insecure, it’s tempting to want to step in and rescue them from the pain of failure.  Or, we become over-controlling and smother them with advice, lecturing and counsel.  In these times, we do little to help our teen build the muscle they need and, in essence, we try to manipulate what only God can do in their life.

Psalms 1:1 describes a process that a person follows when he is learning something.  First they walk, then stand, and eventually they sit.  The psalmist wrote,

Blessed is the one 

    who does not walk in step with the wicked 

or stand in the way that sinners take 

    or sit in the company of mockers, 

but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, 

    and who meditates on his law day and night. 

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, 

    which yields its fruit in season 

and whose leaf does not wither— 

whatever they do prospers.

When your child is young, you can’t demand a lot of that child because you know he doesn’t have the skills, experience, or wisdom to make the decisions on his own yet.  Your child walks in the way that you direct him, looking to you for guidance in placing each step.  But your teen is in transition now.  He is in the standing position, getting ready to take his position on life.

Remember this when you interact with your teen!  When your child is standing, you can transfer opportunities for him to build his muscles while you are still standing next to him.  But this means you need to know where he is standing as well.  What are his challenges?  Who are his friends?  What are his needs?  With open lines of communication, you will have a greater opportunity for sharing your own experiences and wisdom with your teen.

In a few years, your teen will choose where he will sit.  Which way will he be facing?  What outlook will he take on life?  What things that you have taught him will he hold onto and what will he discard?  Everything he has experienced up until this point will help him make that decision.

If your goal is to help your child grow up, then be intentional in your relationship with your child.  This doesn’t mean turning a blind eye when bad stuff happens, but it doesn’t mean holding onto the reins so tightly either.  Teens aren’t perfect.  Parents aren’t perfect either.  But when you allow your teen to exercise his freedom and to face the consequences in a safe environment, surrounded by people who love him and want him to succeed, he’ll be able to flex his muscles and grow.