How Do I Parent a Teenager?

This week, as we continue our marriage and family series, Pastor J.D. answers a question about how to parent teenagers.

Show Notes:

  • First, let me say how underprepared and unqualified I am for this one. I’m certainly not the expert!
  • One of my mentors said the teenage years are like the scene in Apollo 13 where they’re coming back into the earth’s atmosphere, and they’re going to lose radio contact for a while. It’s the climax of the movie, and everybody’s watching on the other end to see how they’ll end up—but it’s not clear if they’ll be burned up or if they’ll be fine. They just have to kind of wait and see! That’s how parenting a teenager can feel sometimes.
  • Every kid is different. 
    • I heard a Christian counselor say that kids are often either compliant or defiant. The strategies for working with each child and their differences could not be more different.
    • Scripture even seems to allude to that. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child according to his way.” In Hebrew, that literally means “according to his bent.” A good archer adjusts his aim based on the shape of the arrow.
  • Understand the shift from disciplining for control to empowering for responsibility.
    • In his book Biting the Hand That Feeds You, Dr. Kenneth Wilgus talks about a “planned emancipation.” You’re gradually shifting your control over your child (which is in full swing through the elementary years) to your child. It doesn’t happen all at once; it’s a gradual emancipation. If you don’t grant them that independence, they may eventually rip it away from you in rebellion.
    • John Ortberg, the Christian author and pastor, says you go from being responsible for your kids to being responsible to them.
    • Andy Stanley said you have to stop thinking of yourself as a mechanic and instead think of yourself as a farmer. A mechanic wants to diagnose and fix everything, whereas a farmer puts down the seed, takes care of it, and leaves the results to the Lord.
      • But the worst thing to do is dig up the seed and interfere with this process!
  • You can’t play the role of the Holy Spirit, as much you want to. 
    • The control you think you have is an illusion, meaning that you can’t control every aspect of your child’s life forever.
    • Jesus talked about this in his parable of the soils. Only God can truly cultivate soil. For the non-producing soil, the farmer doesn’t just go out and throw the seed down harder! Instead, he recognizes that not all soil is prepared, and that our job is to put down good soil and let the Holy Spirit prepare their hearts.
      • Veronica and I identified four guiding principles we wanted to follow if our kids ever decided to do things differently than we’d like them to:
        • Tell them the truth
        • Keep our kids from detonating “nuclear bombs” (actions with life-altering consequences)
        • Protect other kids
        • Keep the relationship open
          • One of my mentors said: I won’t play detective in my child’s life; I’ll trust God to reveal and to guide.
  • Don’t trade control for influence.
    • In one sense, the quality of my relationship with my kids is more important than the content of my teaching.
    • In the seed analogy I mentioned earlier, “rain and sun” that helps the seed to grow is the quality of the relationship not quantity of instruction that you give.

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