Biblically Parenting Your Teen

Sometimes when I post a blog series, interest flags after a few days. Last week I ran a series on parenting teens and the response was overwhelming!  In fact, one reader was critical because she was looking for more than I could give in a blog post.  Please be patient, these are blog posts (and mine are longer than normal anyway) not novellas! Because the response was so great last week I am going to continue this series into this week.

One reason teens turn from biblical Christianity is because they think their parents are hypocrites. Our children don't always hear our words, but they always see our actions. If our actions are godly, they learn to be godly. But, if our actions are of the flesh, they learn to live of the flesh.

One way parents are seen as hypocrites is when they are seen as Sunday Christians.  I guarantee you; if you tote your Bible to church on Sunday and go to Bible study but don’t live what you profess, your kids will know it and they will not respect you or the Bible you carry. 

Another thing sure to turn your teens off is if you tell them, “Do as I say not as I do” which is another form of hypocrisy.  There are plenty of Christian parents who tell their children not to smoke, while blowing smoke from their own cigarettes in the children's face. They tell them how bad it is for their health; how expensive it is; how it's sin; and all the while, they are smoking themselves.

Don’t tell your children, “Even when I am wrong I am right” because it smacks of incredible pride.  Godly parenting includes a healthy dose of humility.  If you want to earn your teens respect, admit when you are wrong and ask for their forgiveness. 

Even though teens are in a time of increasing independence, they still desire limits and boundaries.  This is no time to be an absent parent; teens want and need your influence and discipline.  You may think your teen is beyond discipline, but Scripture says a parent “hates” a child they won’t discipline (Proverbs 13:24).  Over correction or abandoning your parental role in their lives will lead your teen to be embittered toward you (Col. 3:21, Eph. 6:4).

If you wish to have an example of what tragedy can occur when parents don’t discipline or disciple their children think of King David.  He was a man who did not properly restrain and discipline his sons. When his son Amnon raped his (David’s) daughter Tamar, David was grieved (2 Samuel 13:21), but there is no indication in the Bible that he did anything about it!

Later, we read that when Adonijah, another of David’s sons, tried to steal his father’s throne. Once again, David did nothing about it (1 Kings 1:6).

Another son Absolom was more outraged about what Amnon did to Tamar than her own father was! Absolom had Amnon murdered for the rape of Tamar, and for that crime David exiled him but eventually allowed him back. Later on, Absalom led a revolt against David and his kingship, causing David to flee from Jerusalem.

Another example of absolute failure is Eli’s the priest (1 Sam. 3:13). If you recall, Eli was the father of Hophni and Phinehas who brought shame and ruin to their father and sin into the Priesthood.

These two men did not know the Lord (I Samuel 2:12) and were horrible and evil. They took meat which was to be offered as a sacrifice to God (See Leviticus 7:31-35; 8:31; II Chronicles 35:13). As priests, they committed adultery with the women who served in the house of God (I Samuel 2:22) and encouraged others to do the same (I Samuel 2:24).

Eli knew the sins his sons were involved in but he did not restrain them (I Samuel 3:13). The most he did was to tell them something akin to “stop that!”  Eli seemingly made no other effort to stop the sinful manner of living and so he ignored the Law (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). 

Of course, these two rebellious sons, Hophni and Phinehas did not listen to their father Eli (I Samuel 2:25).  They were hardened in heart and rebellious in spirit.  All three of them died. The boys because of their rebellion and wickedness, and Eli because he refused to parent and discipline them.

Parents must take seriously the instruction of Ephesians 6:4 which reads, Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

The three key words in this passage are: “exasperate,” “training” and “instruction.”  “Exasperate” means to anger or provoke.  “Training” carries the idea of disciplining or chastening, and “instruction” means to exhort someone regarding what has been taught. Put it all together and what’s Paul saying to fathers?

“Don’t exasperate or anger or provoke your kids, since that leads to them being discouraged. Instead, dads need to teach them Scripture and when they don't obey it, discipline them.”

You must learn your teen; find your child’s strengths and develop them and purpose to understand his or her deficits and correct them by teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).  Remember that the Christian walk is one of repentance for your teen as well as for you.

If you are going to parent your teens biblically you have to teach to the heart. Heart centered discipline is Gospel based discipline. Even if your teen is unregenerate you should still teach, rebuke, correct, and train in righteousness at the heart level (2 Tim 3:16).  This may mean you have to change your parenting goals.  Rather than making the goal turning out a smart, achiever who goes to college and gets a good job, make it your goal to disciple your kids heart.  Teach them what it means to glorify God by how they live their lives, and make that your overriding mantra.

Everything should be centered on loving God, glorifying God, and loving others, serving others because that glorifies God. Instead of telling the teens, “Do this because I said so” frame it biblically- and explain they must do it because it glorifies God. They are to do something because it serves others and that glorifies God.

This kind of teaching and training in righteousness helps the teen to understand that contrary to that heart diagram that has them in the center of the universe; it is not about them at all. This gives them an “others” focus, even if they don’t want it.  
So as not to be hypocritical, this has to become a part of your life too. That little question, “Does this glorify God” has to become your driving motivation and should really become the hub from which everything else grows.