Pressures and Problems of the Teenage Years

Monday I began a series on parenting teens in an ungodly culture. If you haven’t read Monday’s blog, I suggest you begin here.

To recap a little, parenting teens in this time in history is difficult is an understatement. We are facing unbelievable obstacles in raising our children to be godly in an ungodly world.

The word “Teenager” didn’t exist until around the 1920’s. It was around that time adults began to stretch out the time between childhood and adulthood, prolonging the time the chi-dult had to begin to accept real world responsibilities.

“One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” Proverbs 12:26 

The teen years are now largely marked by irresponsibility. As a culture we have given this age group adult permission to play a lot and work a little. We have encouraged them not to take this time in life seriously in any way other than doing well in school. We have to consider that teenagers are not miniature adults nor are teenagers children however our society encourages them to make adult decisions without first training them to think like adults. We have given this age bracket a bag of mixed messages and expected them to sort it out using tools they don’t have.
Our teens face tremendous peer pressure, biblically known as fear of man everywhere they go. They feel the pressure to conform and perform for their peers. They are confronted with pressures in the area of sexuality like no other generation before them. The pressure involves gender identity issues, sexting, Facebook romances, and acceptance of and participation in homosexuality.

Along with these pressures, there is the availability and promotion of teenage alcohol and drug use.

"Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world." 1 Peter 2:12 (NLT)

Clothing is often a huge problem area for parents and teens. I do not envy the parents of girls. While I don’t spend much time in the Girls or Junior department, in passing it seems that dowdy versus trashy seem to be the only option.

“Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.” Proverbs 11:22 ESV

Parents are faced with spending a lot of money for clothes that are hardly there, or are already full of holes! For the guys, the obnoxious trend of beltless pants and shorts that are too baggy and must be manually held up while walking continues despite all rational thinking.

 “Do not let your adorning be external…” 1 Peter 3:3a ESV

As parents we really want our children to be known for their character, for who they are inside not for whose name is on their pant or shirt pocket.  It is very difficult to avoid the pressure our kids put on us to buy them the newest “in” thing. 

Another area of discord among parents and teens is the friends they choose. Teens do not always choose friends wisely despite our repeated warnings and the protective barriers we set up for them.  We know that bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor 15:33) and we try and steer our kids toward godly, wholesome friends. Usually we direct our kids toward the children of our friends because we know them and how they have been brought up.  We assume they share our morals and values and won’t lead our teens astray.

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20 

And if all this isn’t enough, we have the dating dilemma.  Make no mistake; your teens are faced with the dating dilemma when they are away from your home. Even if your policy is no dating, there is no guarantee they will abide by it in practice. If your Christian child goes to public school they are surrounded by peers who are dating and probably having sex.

Dating is prompted as early as the 7th grade in many schools! I recently had a mom tell me her 4th grader was talking about a boyfriend/girlfriend pair at her school. You may soon be faced with the school dance problem, a date for prom, and the big football game. The Christian teen who does not have a pool of people to choose from for these kinds of events is lonely and often angry they can’t be like everyone else. They don’t care what 2 Cor. 6:14 says, they just want to go to homecoming like everyone else!

As I said in the previous post, it may help you to understand that like everyone else, the heart of a teen is fixed on indulging self. What the teen thinks about, believes to be true (in any given moment), and desires is what guides and directs his or her actions. Thoughts, beliefs, and desires are almost always described as “feelings” by the teen.  There is very little difference between the heart of a teen and the heart of an idolater because like the rest of us, teens worship “self” more than anything and anyone else.

If you want to help your child navigate these tumultuous waters of the teen years recognize that the issues facing you and your child are primarily heart issues. While sex, drinking, drugs, disrespect, clothing choices are problems, they are not the problem, they are symptoms of the problem which is found in the heart. 

Unfortunately, what most parents accomplish in parenting is to create kids who comply externally but are angry, bitter, resentful and Pharisaical at heart. This is the result of demanding performance (out of children of any age) without gospel discipline.

One of the most difficult situations we see in our counseling center is parents who come in just blown away by their teenager who begins spouting different beliefs about God and matters of faith. The parents will tell us that they raised their kids in the church, they went to Awana, memorized Bible verses, were in church youth group, Christian school or homeschool, had family devotions and one day seemingly out of nowhere they child begins to verbalize disagreement with all of these things in one way or another.

These are kids who would say they “got saved”  or “asked Jesus into their heart” can tell me all the “requirements” for salvation, can point to a time in their life where they prayed or walked an aisle and many would say they have been baptized too, but now they live like the unsaved.

First, as hard as it is to hear, no matter what a person says or does, no matter how they claim to have gotten saved, if there is no evidence of regeneration in that person’s life, no fruit of that salvation, you would be wise to question if there has been a true and real conversion. Due to improper presentation of the gospel, I believe we have churches full of unconverted people – including teens and people supposedly saved as teens all trying to work out a salvation they do not even possess. They give you the right answers, and they appear to have no connection with the Head, that is Christ.

They can tell you what you want to hear, however there is no life apparent. These are people who think they are regenerated, but in actuality may not be!

So many of our kids reveal through their lives that they have not ever truly made that transition from death to life (Ephesians 2:1-3). I fear many of us are delusional in our felt beliefs that our children are truly regenerated when so much of the evidence we see points elsewhere. The hard truth is that being a good Christian parent and raising them "right" guarantees nothing. No one is grandfathered into the kingdom of God, and no one chooses to enter without the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Each of our children must be drawn to God by God and then each of them must decide what they are going to do with this Jesus and the salvation He offers them.