Wholly Parenting, Holy Teens
- Randy Saller The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
- 2012 30 Jan
Mr. and Mrs. Smith adore their teenagers, Bill and Jackie. The Smiths and their children eat dinner together regularly, attend church together, and even pray together each evening.
When Bill graduated high school, his parents encouraged him to attend a Christian college. However, Bill decided against it and went to a secular university.
Jackie met someone at work and claimed to be in love. "I thought a lot about it and even prayed. I'm moving in with Tom," she insisted. "He's the one."
The Smiths are heartbroken. What happened?
As good as church participation and family involvement are, our teens need something more. Your teens may be teaching Sunday School, attending youth group, or going on missions trips, but they still need parents who consistently challenge and encourage them to live exclusively and unashamedly for Jesus Christ. They need parents who do not tire in elevating the Word of God above the wisdom of the world.
Role #1: Protector of Purity
"For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:" (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
Few of us would hand over a brand-new car to even a trustworthy friend without defining some strict guidelines. We protect valuable things.
How much more should we protect our teenagers' sexual purity? Teens face a steady stream of temptations that compromise their mental and sexual purity. Parents must clearly define, with their teens, a Biblical standard for movie, music, and book selections. Philippians 4:8 clearly establishes the necessary criteria: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
Parents of teens should not be concerned only about media's influence. We also are responsible for training our children to relate to real people, particularly of the opposite sex. Recently my teenage son and I developed guidelines for communication with girls. We typed and posted the difference between leading a girl on and treating her like a sister in Christ. We also have taught our teen about the characteristics of courtship and how it supports the Biblical principle of purity.
Role #2: Disciplinarian
"If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" (Hebrews 12:7)
As children get older, it is tempting to avoid conflict at any cost, even the cost of forsaking our responsibility to be disciplinarians. However, when parents decide to "just get along" with teens, the home environment becomes an incubator for rebellion.
Discipline is an expression of love. Teens must be taught that if they break curfew or talk disrespectfully, the consequence of their rebellious choices—discipline—is an expression of our love for them. The goal of Biblical discipline is not to "get even" but rather to restore what is most precious to God: relationship. Teach this foundational truth to your children early, so that they will not be easily deceived by the persuasive lie that parental discipline is rooted in a selfish need to control or to restrict freedom.
Role # 3: Caretaker of the Weak
"It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones." (Luke 17:2)
Being emotionally or physically bullied by an older sibling has become a universal rite of passage for many young people. A poignant way to convey Christ's presence in our home is by raising teenagers to walk the narrow path of protecting—not bullying—their younger siblings.
As parents, we need to explain to our teens that their emotional and physical maturity should provide a sense of safety among younger siblings, not fear. Parents, especially fathers, need to model gentleness and self-control to their children.
Role #4: Counselor
"Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out." (Proverbs 20:5)
When Dad comes home from work and asks how things are going, a teenager is likely to say "fine" and leave it at that. If parents aren't careful, these monosyllabic utterances can easily become an acceptable style of communication.
Realize that teens have a lot to say. Beneath those one-word utterances is a heart filled with both delights and disappointments. The content of a teen's heart, though, is often not visible to a teen's parents unless they take time to ask probing questions. Instead of asking, "How are you today?" ask, "What is something that made you laugh today?" Instead of asking "How was church?" ask "What did you find encouraging about the sermon today?"
I regularly schedule one-on-one time with each of my three children. When I am communicating privately with my teen, there are no outside pressures or distractions, making it easy to talk about things that deeply matter to us. This regular investment of time makes intimate conversation a realistic standard for our daily communication.
Role #5: Encourager
"Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." (1 Timothy 4:12)
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a teenager when she gave birth to our Savior. As a teen, David defeated Goliath, the Philistines' most cruel and intimidating warrior. At a young age, King Josiah, despite poor parenting, turned his heart toward God and destroyed the idols in Judah. As parents, we need to share these stories and others like them. As we share stories of teen nobility, our youth will rise to the challenge of living for God now.
Parental support is crucial. We must find ways to convey the message that being young is a blessing. When teens routinely hear parents speaking well of them, they are likely to believe what God does—that youth is a blessing and a choice time for serving Him.
Role # 6: Lover of Wisdom
"Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding." (Proverbs 4:7)
When God offered Solomon anything he wanted, Solomon asked for wisdom. As a result, God blessed him with many other things. Does your teen prize wisdom above anything, even winning the spelling bee or the gymnastics tournament?
Teaching wisdom doesn't require a disregard for academic knowledge or athletic pursuits, but we shouldn't encourage the pursuit of these things so single-mindedly that we fail to take advantage of important life lessons. For example, if two siblings are arguing and name calling, put the books down and carefully identify and address the heart issues (pride, malice, and resentment) that often result in these kinds of disputes.
If we pay little or no attention to these heart issues, our teens may come to believe that what they do is more important than who they are. When teens feel that parents are more interested in teaching subject matter (educating their minds) than developing their character (educating their souls), they are at risk for placing a higher value on external things, such as income, educational degrees, or popularity, than the inner workings of the Holy Spirit.
Role #7: Grace Giver
"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:10)
God has given all of us unmerited favor: grace. How can we make home a place where teens learn to rest in that grace? First, we need to frequently meditate on verses about God's grace. Deuteronomy 11:18 instructs us with these words: "Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes." My wife has blessed our family by placing framed Scripture verses about God's goodness throughout the house. We also display pictures and objects that remind us of God's grace. One favorite is a crown of thorns. During the Christmas season, it adorns the top of our tree, and throughout the rest of the year it hangs on our front room wall. Another object we treasure is a picture that my oldest son drew when he was little: "God in the Sunset." It is a picture of Jesus, with a radiant smile, standing beneath the sun.
In addition to thinking about God's grace, we need to model it in our relationships. My wife and I try to live by Ephesians 4:26, which warns, "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath." When parents obey this verse, teens are blessed. When Mom and Dad maintain a sense of urgency about resolving conflict, tremendous confidence is unleashed in the spirit of children, reassurance that God is active in life of the family. On the other hand, when one or both parents demonstrate chronic bitterness and unforgiveness, children hesitate to believe what parents or pastors profess about God's grace. Teens are especially sensitive to any incongruity between what we say and what we actually do.
My teenage son once commented that peers understand teens better than parents because other teens are going through the same things. I asked him a question: If he wanted to learn about flying, would he ask an inexperienced peer in his piloting class, or would he ask a seasoned pilot? He got the point. When it comes to growing up, parents are the seasoned pilots. Although we do not have a perfect understanding of what our teenagers are going through, we are far more acquainted with the complex terrain of adolescence than even their most mature friends are.
Don't leave it up to someone else to steady the lamplight of God's Holy Word near your teen's feet or to spur him on to good deeds. We, especially fathers, must continually do that until they themselves can walk according to the pattern of Jesus.
Randy Saller and his wife Amy Jo homeschool their three children in Lake Villa, Illinois. Randy is a learning disabilities specialist for a public school and a freelance writer. He has written for Turtle magazine, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, and Chicago Special Parent. For more information about the author, you may contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at http://randysaller.com.
Copyright 2010. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, Fall 2010. Used with permission. Visit them at http://www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com.