BY: STEVE McVEY
Why was Isaac twelve years old when God called Abraham to sacrifice his son? Because if he had been a teenager, it wouldn’t have been a sacrifice. Rearing teens– my four children are all out of their teens now, but there were times during those years when I thought The Great Tribulation had come upon us. I identified with one pastor who said, “When my children were very young, I had a sermon I used to preach called, Five Sure Steps For Rearing Godly Children. Then they became teenagers and I changed the title to A Few Things You Can Try Which May or May Not Work!”
Do you have teenagers? The teen years are seven of the most exciting years of a person’s life. During the teen years, youth begin to assert their own independence in ways that they haven’t tried until now. It is during these years that they are forming their own sense of self-identity. When I was a teen, many left home to “find themselves.” That desire hasn’t changed for teens.
“Who am I?” is the predominate question on the mind of teenagers of every generation. It is a normal question and one that must be answered. How can parents help a teen establish a true understanding of his identity? Several things can help:
1. Separate behavior from identity.
Take lying as an example. Will a Christian teenager ever tell a lie? As surely as the sun will rise tomorrow. (If you believe otherwise, you’re in for a wild ride!) Suppose a parent catches the teen in a lie, how are we to handle it? There are a number of factors which will be involved in our response, but one key element is to separate our child’s behavior from their identity.
For instance, never call your child “a liar.” They are not liars, but only acting like one. One friend of mine taught his children from the time that they were young that Christians are “truth-tellers” and that it is inconsistent with who we are to tell lies. That’s a good idea.
Teens are crying out to know, “Who am I? Do I have value? Am I lovable?” Don’t undermine a person’s basic identity by striking a blow at who they are. Deal instead with the behavior. “You lied to me and that stands in contradiction to everything I know to be true about you!” is a better response than calling your child a liar.
2. Allow your teen to see the authenticity of your own relationship to Christ.
Going to church every week isn’t enough. If that is the extent of spiritual exposure teens see in their parents, they will come to confuse being a Christian with acting religious. Regularly talk about Jesus Christ and His relevance to your daily lives. Let your relationship to Him be a part of everything in your family.
The question teens asked in generations past is, “Is it true?” Today, the underlying question in the minds of youth is, “What difference does it make?” Allow your teen to see the difference that Jesus makes in your home and in your own life.
3. Look for teachable moments in the life of your teen.
There will be times when you find your teen very receptive to spiritual input. Watch for those moments. Some of the best times I have had with my children were incidental moments. When my daughter broke up with her boyfriend, we talked it through and then prayed together. When my son’s friend’s parents divorced, we prayed for him. When a good friend moved away, we prayed.
Anytime your teen becomes emotionally upset over problems, there is great potential to show the relevance of Jesus to the situation. To allow your teenagers to hear you pray for them is one of the best legacies you can leave them. Don’t try to force it. Just be open to the Holy Spirit showing you those teachable moments and then respond when he does.
There are many jokes about being a teenager and having teenagers, but the truth is that in some ways it is the best years of family life together. These are the days when you are readying your children to launch out into the world to fulfill the unique plan that God has for them. Trust the Lord during these few short years to guide you in rearing your teens. He has a great plan for your children and He will assume responsibility to see that His plan is fulfilled.
Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord – Ephesians 6:4
Copyright, 2003, used by permission. Steve McVey, Grace Walk Ministries, www.gracewalk.org
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