The day my daughter turned 13 I teased her playfully: “Cheryl, how will I ever survive with a teenager in the house?” “Don’t worry, Daddy,” this sweet young lady answered seriously, “I won’t change.”
Now it was my turn to be serious. “Oh, but you will,” I replied. And of course she did.
What happens to these children of ours when they reach the adolescent years? Why the independence, the difficulty of communication, the shattering of closeness? Why even the rejection of precious family values? Let’s not be too hard on them. They’re going through a natural and necessary process.
The chief developmental task of the teenage years is to become a self-sufficient adult. A wise Creator has programmed into our genetic makeup the desire to make our own decisions, to choose our own values, and to be responsible for our own actions. This process begins during adolescence. But unless parents know how to relate to this new show of independence on the part of their offspring, severe divisions can arise. And the opportunities for parents to guide in the value development of their children may be forever lost.
Fortunately, help is at hand. The God who made us established a series of laws for human behavior. They’re as sure as the laws by which the physical universe operates. If we cooperate with these laws, our parent-child relationship will probably remain warm and loving during the teenage period. We’ll also make it easier for our teenagers to continue to cherish important values.
Many of these laws are suggested in the Bible. Let’s look at a few of them.
Follow the Golden Rule
Jesus said, “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12).* Try to put yourself in your teenager’s place. How would you want to be treated in this particular situation if you and your family didn’t see eye to eye? Wouldn’t you want to be listened to carefully? Wouldn’t you want to know that they understood how you felt even if they didn’t agree with you? Wouldn’t you want to be treated with respect and not be made to feel stupid and childish? Wouldn’t you want them to work toward a solution that preserved your dignity and self-respect? So does your teenager.
Think Before You Speak
Hasty speech can do more to ruin a relationship than almost anything else. The Bible says, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19, 20).
Of course, you must sometimes discuss unacceptable behavior. But when you do, make what you say as easy to take as possible. Can your counsel be accepted without your teenager having to lose face or having that highly-prized “grown-up” feeling stripped away from him?
Resolve Your Own Anger Quickly
You’re still human. You’re not yet a saint, right? So you’ll sometimes get angry over the frustrations of parenting, and maybe say some unkind words. That’s where grace comes in. God forgives us and we must ask and grant forgiveness of each other.
“Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26). As soon as you realize you’ve done wrong, take steps to make amends. Don’t let your pride or supposed superior position keep you from saying you’re sorry and asking forgiveness. Admit that you were wrong. It will knit your hearts together. The Bible counsel is: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). What healing might come to our home relationship if this instruction was followed!
Speak the Truth in Love
Love is not just a warm, cozy feeling. It’s a decision to put the needs and welfare of the loved one ahead of your own. The Bible says we’re to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Here are the two vital elements of the parent-teen relationship. We must honestly tell each other how we feel, for without truth any relationship is only superficial.
But we must do it in a way that communicates how deeply we care. Love without truth is only sentimentalism, and truth without love is brutality. The genius of true Christian communication is to be totally honest and totally kind at the same time.
It is possible to disagree without bickering and quarreling. We often provoke a fight by our tone of voice or by the sarcasm in our words. Again the Bible speaks: “Father, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Remain calm. Seek to be fair. Show that you care by your words and your actions. We can make even those times of potential conflict a means of family growth and solidarity. “Live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16).
Accentuate the Positive
All too often we talk mostly about the bad things. We tell our teenagers what bothers us and what they’re doing wrong. We magnify their faults. But nagging rarely changes anyone. It just fractures relationships.
Jesus saw the good in people. And He brought out the best in them. So it is with us. Look for the good points in your teenager and point them out. By expressing appreciation for the positive we encourage it to flourish and the negative will often dry up and wither away.
Pray for Wisdom and Strength
Being the parent of a teenager is too important and demanding a job for mere human abilities. But God who created us all and who knows what makes us tick has promised to supply our needs.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God,…and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). So pray that god will forgive the mistakes you’ve made as a parent. Pray that He’ll give you the wisdom to relate to your teenager in harmony with His laws of human behavior. Then go t your task confident that “God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
*Scripture quotations in this tract are from the Holy bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978. International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Copyright © 1996, Published for NAD Church Ministries Department