I have three children of different ages, they are fantastic. I love them dearly and am so thankful to God that they are as well mannered, respectful and as kind as they are. Friends with older children and teenagers often reminded my husband and I to enjoy them because they would be teenagers before we knew it – boy they were right! In the blink of an eye, our eldest is 16 and 6ft something! He towers over me but still accepts correction, our second son is almost 6ft and (almost) 15 and also still accepts correction.
Why am I telling you this? Because although relationships change, the teen years do not automatically mean rebellion and strained relationships.
We are not through the teen years (in fact our daughter aged ten hasn’t even reached that point) but I am already learning lots of lessons; I am happy to share some things that reflect my parenting style which may or may not be of use. Just recently, several people have asked me questions regarding their teenage children so in many ways these are issues that friends are facing, some are issues that also relate to us.
Firstly, long before our children hit the teen years we read Tedd Trip’s ‘Shepherding a Child’s Heart.’ I highly recommend this book to any Christian parent, I have read a multitude of parenting books and rate this as number one! If you are looking for gift ideas for parents of young children – consider this. There is another book which specifically relates to teenagers called ‘The Age of Opportunity’ by Paul Tripp and this too is a must read!
One thing I have been very aware of as they have grown is to sew or tie ‘golden threads’ from my heart to theirs… What does this look like? I purpose to smile at them, look at them when they are talking to me, take an interest even when they have been talking about something that seems so trivial for half an hour. It also means affirming their choices and encouraging them to choose wisely. I ask ‘what did you think about that?’ or ‘do you think your friend acted wisely in that situation?’ I congratulate them with ‘you did well there.’
Find shared values
It is important to take an interest in their lives, I am mindful of not frowning or looking (too) shocked when they share what happened to friends during their day. I make every effort to keep the lines of communication open and frequently offer myself to be a sounding board. Anything that adds a ‘golden thread’ to your relationship will reap massive rewards; they will seek you out for advice or just to share a part of their lives. Avoid cutting them off and setting rules that are burdensome and unattainable.
When children are very young we control them in the sense that we choose their clothes, what they read, what friends they play with, the music they listen to and so on… As they move into the teen years our roles change from controlling to coaching.
They have been counselled to make good choices, taught to live for God, to not have idols etc but there comes a time when parents will have to assess how much control they will relinquish in order to assist their young people move from childhood to adulthood.
We have found it very difficult on some levels, why should they listen to secular music when we don’t? Ok, maybe we do occasionally but again the answer lies in God’s Word.
They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
Matthew 23 v 4.
There is nothing like having a young person around the home to make us examine ourselves! Do you put burdens upon your teen that you cannot carry?
No secular music allowed but you watch unwholesome late night tv programmes?
You demand that they keep good friendships but you take counsel from ungodly women’s magazines?
You prohibit any fun on a Sunday, proclaiming it to be the Lord’s day and yet you sleep it away?
We need so much wisdom in these years:
… Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather,
bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.
Ephesians 6 v 4.
Relationships become strained when the child’s will is such that they no longer respect or agree with the parents rules or choices, obviously sin is at the root of the problem but they need to learn how to function and make choices in a world of grown-ups. I think at this point we need to become a ‘coach’ to them.
I remember once a godly Pastor told the story of how his relationship with his son became so untenable that he considered leaving the Ministry, the family home had become a battle ground. Now, my children were tiny at the time and I couldn’t imagine that ever happening to us, but realising that this just might be something that the Lord was revealing to me personally, I secured it into my mind. This man prayed to the Lord and after some considerable time he was ready to hear what the Lord was saying to him: ‘gentleness’. He had to learn to handle this boy with gentleness. The boy responded favourably and things improved dramatically.
Many fathers (and mothers) find it difficult to be gentle, thinking that straight talking is the best possible way but these children (yes, they look grown up) are at a very sensitive point in their lives. They are very apt at looking at others and comparing how their family does this or that. They become more self conscious, sometimes just more selfish! They are working through their own convictions and they may be different to yours! You can either continue to stamp your mark on them or you can allow them to make choices and see the consequences of them. The process of training isn’t over but we can’t ignore the fact that in a very short space of time they will be fully grown adults. The transition has to happen.
Understand what the will of the Lord is for your child, let your words be seasoned with grace and the truth of God’s Word. Be ready to make the most of those late night conversations; speak into their hearts and keep the lines of communication open.
Let us by God’s grace be a blessing to our young people, the enemy desires them, we need to make the gospel as desirable and as beautiful as we can – our lives should be as a beautiful fragrance to them – this is living for God. His mercies are new every day.
See that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Ephesians 5 v 15-17.