How To Love A Teenager
Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager?
The self-consciousness. The physical self-awareness. Trying to fit in. Doing whatever it took to gain peer acceptance. Attempting to act cool but looking like a fool.
(I remember spilling soda on myself at McDonald’s in front of three girls, and I genuinely wanted to die right then and there!)
Being a teen is scary, awkward, and volatile. Unsurprisingly, they will produce tumult and stress in the home that younger children won’t. It’s a tough season of life for all involved, but moms and dads–and the Christian community as a whole, for that matter–need to reject the dread and cynicism that accompany this stage of life.
This weekend in Raleigh at my annual parenting livestream, I’m going to spend a full session on how we can more effectively love, parent, and influence our teens. Even if you don’t have a teen now or coming in the future, I would encourage you to tune in. You know parents with teenagers who need help, and God has also placed teens in your life who need wisdom and love!
So what does the Bible say about teenagers? Well … nothing! However, the Bible gives us excellent descriptions of the tendencies of youth. Here are just three things for you to consider as you raise and interact with the teens that God has placed in your life (I’ll talk about more in the livestream):
Teens don’t hunger for wisdom and correction.
Most teens think they are wiser than they actually are, and they believe their parents (and all adults, for that matter) have little practical insight to offer. It’s frustrating, yes, but I have watched far too many adults make correction bitter as they beat their teen with demeaning words.
Our call is to make wisdom attractive. You don’t do this with nasty, inflammatory confrontations. No wisdom is imparted in these moments. If you hit teens with a barrage of verbal bullets, they will either run for the bunker or come out firing themselves.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
Teens make unwise choices in their companions.
There is a great deal of material in Proverbs about friendship and the influence that others have on you and your behavior. Yet teenagers tend to be prickly and protective when it comes to discussions of their friends.
We need to approach these conversations with sensitivity and patient love. Never resort to name-calling and character assassination. Your goal should be to ask probing questions that help the teen to examine their thoughts, desires, motives, choices, and behaviors concerning friendship.
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20
Teens lack a long-term investment perspective.
Teenagers tend to live for whatever they want in the moment, and they tend to put off their responsibilities until the very last minute. We must lovingly challenge their belief that this physical moment is all that matters.
Our teenagers need us to be on site, teaching them to look at the long view of life, not with harsh condemnation and frustration, but with empathy and forbearance. They need our help to see that every choice, every action is an investment and that it is impossible to live life without planting seeds that will be the plants of life they will someday harvest.
“Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.” (Proverbs 1:29-31)
I want to conclude this devotional with the same question that I started with: do you remember what it was like to be a teenager?
Effective parents are those who can remember what it was like to live in the scary world of those adolescent years and display the mercy that they once needed themselves as a teen.
I’m deeply persuaded that this is a period of unprecedented opportunity. I would go as far as to say that the teen years are the golden age of parenting, when you can help prepare adolescents for a productive, God-honoring life as an adult.
Parenting: It’s Not What You Think It Is Livestream
Simulcast On March 6-7, 2020
Replay On-Demand Until April 30, 2021
Purchase a Streaming License for The Gospel-Centered Family bundle and get my 2020 marriage and parenting conferences together!
1. Think back to what it was like to be a teenager yourself. What were some of the most embarrassing, funny, discouraging, or regrettable moments you had?
2. How does remembering these moments generate compassion and patience for the teens that you are raising or know? What happens if you forget and act as if you never struggled?
3. As an adult, have you displayed a lack of hunger for wisdom and correction recently? Do you think you are wiser than you actually are?
4. How can you lovingly encourage your child to think about their companions? What are some specific questions you can ask?
5. What are some idols of the heart that get in the way of raising children God’s way? How does the Spirit help you fight against those? Be specific.