Jump Start # 3027
Ephesians 6:4 “And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
It has never been easy raising children, especially teens. Very often, teens look like adults on the outside, but act like children on the inside. Maturity, hormones, wanting to do things their own way, fitting in, all become jumbled up on their insides. I love our teens who have already made a promise and a commitment to follow Christ. What a huge advantage they will have. They have a network of godly people who are on their side and want to see them do well.
Our times, our culture, our government makes it hard for teens to be godly. Bad examples are everywhere. And, what teens need is to have parents who are not trying to be their best friend, but rather parent them into the right moral and godly choices. And, our teens will make mistakes. You did. I did. How parents handle and deal with those mistakes can help or make matters even worse.
Here are a few suggestions when talking with your teenager:
First, timing is everything. They seem to live in a different time zone than everyone else, even though they are in the same house. How you approach talking to them is as important as what you actually say. “We need to talk” translates in teen language to “I’m in trouble, and you are going to make my life more difficult.” So, you, as a parent, must find a better approach than starting on the wrong foot and in the negative. When you are ready to talk, your teen may not be. And, if something bad has happened, calm down, cool down and put some thought and prayer into how you need to approach this subject. Teens wreck cars. They forget about others and what they were supposed to do. All of that irritates parents. Remember, your teen isn’t at the maturity level that you are.
Second, listen. That’s hard for some of us parents and the failure to listen leads to the breakdown of communication and relationships. When you say, “We need to talk,” they understand this as, you are going to do all the talking and they are going to do all the listening. You may have to lead with some questions. Try to understand why they did what they did. Do your best not to explode. Listen. “What would have been a better way of doing that?” and then let your teen answer that. “I dunno” or “nothing,” can be the extent of some teens communication with their parents. We know they can talk. They can text and talk to friends all day long, but when it comes to you, “I dunno,” and “nothing,” is all you get. I remember asking one of my kids, “What happened at school today?” They said, “nothing.” My reply was, “Nothing. You were there all day and nothing happened? Wow. I’m going to school with you tomorrow to see what nothing looks like.” That got them talking. They sure didn’t want that to happen.
Listening is hard because as parents we want to tell. But one of the huge disconnects in families is that teens feel like their parents do not understand them. The way to bridge that is by talking. Not just when they are in trouble, but all the time. Build that relationship. Ask them about Sunday sermons. Ask them where their weak points are in the Bible. The more you talk with them in the good moments, the easier it will be in the tougher moments.
Third, be willing to be unpopular. That’s hard. Your teen may vent. He may declare that you are unfair. But be that way. The alternative is to let the teen do whatever he wants so he will like you. But in the end, he still won’t like you. He needs guidance, boundaries, rules and accountability. You need to allow your teen to disagree, but it must be respectful. There’s no need for shouting, slamming doors or getting violent. There is a bigger picture. How will that person act when he is 30 years old and his boss makes him upset? How will he act when he is 40 and something at church upsets him? Learning to disagree without becoming disagreeable is a huge step in maturity.
Fourth, always stand with God. Do not apologize for the way God says things. Do not point out the imperfections of others. Our God is good. Our God is powerful. Our God deserves our honor and our heart. Building personal faith is important. There is a transition from going to church with mom and dad and wanting to go because the Lord is awesome. Those who do not have a strong faith, nor their own faith, will crash when they go away to college. Four years later, a degree in hand, and no God in their heart, off they go to chase the idols of the world. You don’t want that. So, as Deuteronomy six shows us, everywhere and everyday God becomes a part of your conversation, life and choices. Prayers, devotions and a commitment to worship services are just as regular as the sunshine. At a young age, have your child serving right along side of you.
I know several, several powerful, talented and GODLY teens. They are leaders. They engage in worship and serving where they can. They became this way because of what happened in their homes. You, as a parent, can do the same. It takes you to do it. Don’t kick the can down the road. Don’t push this off on the church or the teen devos.
God bless our parents. It’s tough. Buckle your seat belt. Put up your tray table. Hold on. But you can do it. There was a time in my life when we had four teens at the same time. What were we thinking. I used to tell people that I was going to write a book about that. The title was to be: I have four teens. The subtitle was, “And therapy is helping me.” That’s funny. The truth is, “God is helping me.” He did and He will.
Your greatest work is your children. Pray. Get advice. Don’t give up.
Those of us that are empty nesters, don’t sigh nor talk about “those parents,” or “those kids.” Get to know the teens in your congregation. Have them over. Connect. It’ll help you and you’ll help them. We are all in this together.