Four Ways to Honor Teens and Teach Them to Honor Others
- Drs. Gary and Greg Smalley
- Published Oct 21, 2011
We want our teens to strive towards God-honoring behavior in their lives, and one way to do this is to demonstrate honor through our relationships with them. Part of teaching teens to develop honorable characters is through how we honor them in our parent-child relationship. We can strengthen this element of our relationships with them by first, placing your teen in a highly respected position. Secondly, we need to view our teens as priceless treasures. Third, we need to recognize that to help teenagers develop honor, they must see us demonstrate this trait in our lives. Fourth, we need replace judgment with curiosity in our relationships with our teens. Let's consider each of these methods in detail.
1. Place your teenager in a highly respected position.
One time when I (Greg) was in junior high, Mom and Dad made a simple decision that would have a far greater impact on me than they realized at the time. They decided that Dad would take me along to a conference of professional athletes at which he was speaking. At one point in our time there, while we were walking through the hotel, a football landed nearby. When I turned around, my jaw dropped, and I almost fell over. Standing in front of me was my favorite football star, number 80 for the Seattle Seahawks, Steve Largent (who was later inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.)
It was like a fantasy come true. And as if that weren't exciting enough, Steve then talked and played catch with me for about an hour. Finally, to top off the perfect day, Steve gave me an autographed picture. Before I went to bed that night, I vowed to wear the number 80 if I ever got to play organized football.
Dad taking me with him to the conference and introducing me to all the players was an act of honor. He was placing me—literally, in this case—in a highly respected position. Hearing my name coming from Dad's lips when meeting Steve Largent and others communicated that he thought enough of me to use my name with them, and that I was worth their taking the time to meet me.
Early one summer morning a few years later, Mom woke me up at 5:30, just as I had begged her to do. The first day of freshman football practice had arrived, and it was terribly important for me to be first in line to get my equipment. I knew that I was about to be assigned the number that would identify me forever (or at least throughout my high-school football career). I had dreamed about this day for months, because only Steve Largent's number 80 would do. I had to get that number.
Practice started at 7:00 sharp, and I was standing in front of the equipment shed by 6:00. Fortunately, number 80 was still available, and my dream came true. Throughout my high-school days, I would be identified with the hero I had met years before because my mom and dad had chosen to put me in a position of high respect.
2. See your teenager as a priceless treasure.
A second way to communicate honor to our teens is to see and treat each of them as a priceless treasure. We honor God by recognizing that His worth is beyond any price; similarly, we honor our teenagers by considering them to be special gifts God has entrusted to us, as the Scriptures declare.
A story called Johnny Lingo's Eight-Cow Wife, by Patricia McGerr, illustrates the unlimited power of viewing and treating someone as a priceless treasure. Johnny Lingo was a young man who lived on the island of Nurabandi, not far from the island Kiniwata in the South Pacific. Johnny was one of the brightest, strongest, and richest men in the islands, but people shook their heads and smiled about a business deal he had made with a man on Kiniwata.
It was customary among the people of these islands for a man to buy his wife from her father, with the price being paid in cows. Two or three cows would buy an "average" wife, and four or five would fetch a highly satisfactory one. Yet for some reason, Johnny had paid the unheard-of price of eight cows for a wife, Sarita, who was unattractive by any standards. As one fellow explained, "It would be kindness to call her plain. She was skinny. She walked with her shoulders hunched and her head ducked. She was scared of her own shadow." Why did Johnny Lingo pay eight cows, especially for such a woman? Everyone figured Sarita's father, Sam Karoo, had taken young Johnny for a ride, and that's why the islanders smiled whenever they discussed the deal.
Patricia McGerr finally met Johnny for herself and got the chance to ask about his eight-cow purchase of Sarita. She had assumed he had done it for his own vanity and reputation—at least until she saw Sarita. "She was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen," McGerr wrote. "The lift of her shoulders, the tilt of her chin, the sparkle of her eyes all spelled a pride to which no one could deny her the right." Sarita was not the plain girl McGerr had expected, and the explanation lay with Johnny Lingo.
"Do you ever think," he said, "what it must mean to a woman to know that her husband settled on the lowest price for which she can be bought? And then later, when the women talk, they boast of what their husbands paid for them. One says four cows, another maybe six. How does she feel, the woman who was sold for one or two? This could not happen to my Sarita."
"Then you did this just to make your wife happy?" McGerr asked.
"I wanted Sarita to be happy, yes. But I wanted more than that. This is true. Many things can change a woman. Things that happen inside, things that happen outside. But the thing that matters most is what she thinks about herself. In Kiniwata, Sarita believed she was worth nothing. Now she knows she is worth more than any other woman in the islands."
"Then you wanted …"
"I wanted to marry Sarita. I loved her and no other woman."
"But," he finished softly, "I wanted an eight-cow wife."
Because Johnny Lingo considered Sarita to be worth eight cows, she began to see and present herself as an eight-cow woman. Before Johnny entered her life, Sarita was a shy, plain island girl. After he placed incredible value upon her, she was transformed into a confident, attractive woman who knew she was worth far more than any other island woman.
Today, your teenager might be feeling the way Sarita did before she met Johnny. With all the physical changes, insecurities, and peer pressure, adolescence can be a cruel stage of life. During this awkward time, however, you can give your teen the same gift Sarita received: incredible self-worth seen through the eyes of someone who considers her priceless.
We encourage you to remind your teenagers daily how valuable they are. As you start to see them as priceless, they, like Sarita, are free to feel and present themselves as "worth many cows." If possible, give them a ring, a wall plaque, or something else that will remind them daily of their high value in your eyes.
Why is it so important to view our teens as special treasures? Because "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt. 6) Whatever we highly value naturally attracts our affections, desires, and enthusiasm. Likewise, when we learn to treasure our teenagers, our positive feelings for them go up as well.
To get a better handle on what we mean by treasuring someone, imagine that you owned a priceless painting. You would make it the center of attention in your home. You would protect it by making sure it was hung securely and away from direct exposure to the sun. You would highlight it with indirect lighting and a subtle yet elegant frame. You would certainly brag about it to your friends and family because it meant so much to you. You would constantly feel grateful for the opportunity to possess something so marvelous and valuable. Just coming home from work and looking at it would raise your spirits.
Parents who treasure their teenagers respond to them in many of the same ways. When you treasure a person, you want to protect her. You'll go out of your way to see that she succeeds. You'll highlight her best points, mentioning her frequently in conversations. The thought of coming home to see her after a long day at work will give you energy.
Isn't it interesting how inanimate objects such as paintings tend to keep their value over the years, whereas living objects like teenagers often see their value drop? The decision to treat teens as priceless treasures sometimes has to be made hourly! But it pays rich dividends as we see our teens grow up to be adults who understand what it means to be honored and what it means to honor others.
Read the rest of the story next week on Crosswalk.
From The DNA of Parent-Teen Relationships
© 2006 Smalley Relationship Center.