Living In Fear Of Teenagers
I read an article once where the author proposed that if you put the word “Teenage” before any other term, that second word automatically becomes negative.
Shall we try it? “Teenage Driver”—did it work?
Teenage Drama. Teenage Hormones. Teenage Party. Teenage Decision Making. Teenage Choices. Teens and Technology…You get the picture.
This negativity, or negative association, is everywhere—in movies, television shows, podcasts, news reports, and statistics. Sadly, you’ll even find it in some Christian books or sermon series on the family.
I don’t know how else to say it: parents seem to be living in fear of teenagers.
I was at a conference once, and a new parent was excitedly showing off their cute newborn baby to their friends. One of their older peers said, jokingly, “You think he’s cute now—just wait until he becomes a teen!”
I probably should give him the benefit of the doubt, that it was a lighthearted and innocent comment, but it made me both sad and mad. Why do we have such overwhelming cynicism about this period of time?
I’m convinced that something is fundamentally wrong with how we think about teenagers. Something is flawed when a parent’s highest goal for a season of life is survival. Is this a biblical view? And how does our perspective shape our parenting strategies during the teen years?
In 2 Timothy 2:22, Paul exhorts Timothy to “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (ESV)
This interesting little phrase calls us to be balanced in how we think about teenagers and define this time of life. On the one hand, the Bible reminds us not to be naive. There are temptations and challenges that uniquely plague young people. These cannot be disregarded.
On the other hand, Paul uses the qualifier “youthful” because each phase of life has its own set of challenges. The temptations of the child, the teen, the young adult, the middle-aged adult, and the elderly are not identical. Therefore, the temptations of the teenager are not exclusively savage and severe.
Each person who seeks to please the Lord at each “stage” of their life must watch, pray, stand fast, and fight, lest they fall into temptation. Likewise, are we not all called to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace” at every point in our Christian walk?
I am no longer the “young” parent of four teenage children, but when I was—and in the years long after they left our home—I became more and more convinced that this is a time of unbridled opportunity.
Parents, you want to approach these critical years with hope; it’s not a time to head for the bunkers and dread worst-case scenarios of total domestic chaos. Instead, this is an opportunity to jump into the battle and move toward your teenager, not run from them.
It’s an opportunity for engagement, interaction, discussion, and committed relationship. You can approach these years with a sense of purpose and calling!
So naturally, when the publisher of my first book, Age of Opportunity, approached me about creating an updated and revised edition, I was so excited to say yes! This 25th-anniversary edition features fresh, heart-focused discussion questions for each chapter, as well as a bonus “Ask Paul Tripp About Parenting Teens” Q&A chapter that will help you discover the exciting possibilities about parenting your teens!
Imagine if every Christian parent, when asked what they do, said, “I am the parent of a teenager. It is the most important job I have ever had. Everything else I do for a living is secondary. I have never had a job that is so exciting, so full of opportunities. Every day I am needed. Every day I do things that are important, worthwhile, and lasting. I wouldn’t give up this job for anything!”
By grace and with God’s help, I hope you can discover that same excitement with the help of Age of Opportunity [Revised and Updated]: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens.
Paul David Tripp
If you are not the parent of a teen, substitute “your teenager” with a teenager that God has placed in your life that you can influence and mentor.
1. Where have you recently seen or heard a negative stereotype about a teenager? Have you contributed to this cultural cynicism in some way, even if only privately? How can you encourage other parents of teenagers to be hopeful about this season?
2. Reflect on your adolescence and biological developments as a teenager. Were these years difficult for you physically, emotionally, or socially? How can remembering this help you to have sympathy for your child (or a teen in your life if you are not a parent of a teen)?
3. What recent challenge has your teenager experienced that created difficulty for your teenager and for you? Was your reaction to view this as a frustrating interruption to your comfort or as a valuable opportunity?
4. In what ways is your teenager insecure? How can you comfort and encourage your teenager in his or her insecurities and remind your teenager of his or her identity as a child of God?
5. How has your teenager rebelled recently? What motivation might have been behind the rebellion? What can you do to address the deeper motivation instead of only the surface behavior?
6. In what ways do you, as an adult, still rebel against your heavenly Father? Are you more like your rebellious teenager than you wish to admit? Consider the progress that could be made if you confessed your rebellion against God to your teenager.
7. What in your life is competing with God’s call to be an invested parent of a teenager? Where might you need to reevaluate your priorities, schedule, or finances to make the most of this God-given opportunity?