s I waited to check out at my
favorite Christian book store,
a young mother behind me cooed to a newborn in a stroller. The baby re-
sponded with smiles and delighted gurgles. A grandmotherly type joined
us and, as grandmothers do, asked to see the baby. Of course, his mother
was only too proud to show him off. And that’s when the trouble started.
“What a sweetie!”the older woman gushed.“Enjoy him before he gets
to be a teenager.”
“Oh, please don’t tell her that!”I blurted without thinking then tried to
explain my outburst.
“Teenagers are the best part of parenting. They’re my passion!”
“Really?” the young mother said. “I’ve never heard anyone say that.”
No one? How sad. What had this young woman’s role models dem-
onstrated? That we adore our babies but like our children less and less as
we come to know them better? I longed to be a voice of hope. “Oh, yes!” I
assured her. “Don’t you wonder what your little guy is thinking? Who he’ll
grow up to be? The teenage years are when you begin to find out!”
The grandmother said something to the effect that she’d find out, all
right. “They get loud and ornery. Like two-year-olds, only bigger.”
It was my turn to check out. I didn’t get to tell them that teenagers get
loud for the same reason two-year-olds do. It’s very frustrating when you
want to do things you can’t do yet. Limitations sometimes seem to define
life for toddlers and teens!
This encounter caused me to think about stereotypes of parent-child
relationships. “Because I’m the parent” and “Because I said so” are quasi-
humorous expressions of parental authority, and the teen’s expected re-
sponse ranges from resistance to rebellion. Kids DO need parents who act
like parents, but scripture tells us not to provoke our children to wrath—
not to “lord it over” those in our charge. Our Lord is our heavenly Father.
How does He treat His children? In the New Testament, “disciples” is used
interchangeably with “beloved children.” What if parents treated their
teens in the way Jesus treated His disciples?
He was Emmanuel—God with us. Simply sharing your presence and your
time demonstrates to children that they have value . . . that they are a
priority. As children accompany their parents in life, they absorb and be-
gin to emulate the behavior their parents model. Most Christian parents
and homeschooling parents are acutely aware that far more is “caught”
than “taught,” yet we still sometimes experience a breakdown in family
relationships, especially during the teenage years.
What’s missing? Sometimes the
missing ingredient is respect—not
the respect a parent demands, but the respect we give. You can’t take
away a person’s self-worth and expect them to respond positively.
Surely no Christian parent would deliberately strip their child of dignity,
but a child’s self-worth can be fragile, particularly during the teenage
years. Teens yearn to know that they are loved unconditionally, that we
hear them and trust them (even if we have to count to ten and take a
calming breath before asking, “Why did that seem like a good idea to
you?”). Teenagers often feel full of doubt. They need to borrow our con-
fidence that they can succeed as competent, independent adults. If we
write or say things, in public or in private, that communicate a lack of trust
or respect, the security that forms the foundation of any good relation-
ship can be damaged.
This can make necessary discipline tricky unless we remember that true
discipline reinforces responsibility and independence. It is possible to
express disappointment in behavior without attacking personal worth.
We can and should establish structures to promote responsibility, but
we should do it without punishments that sting and shame. Think about
your own reactions to the people in authority over you. Would you be
more eager to please a boss who insulted and questioned you or one
who challenged you to higher standards?
So give respect, and respect “will be given unto you.” Viewing our teens
as beloved disciples, we can model better ways of listening and loving.
When necessary, “I’m sorry” can be even more powerful than “I love you.”
Within the safe haven of acceptance and mutual respect, teens can
weather their inevitable frustrations with growing maturity, and we can
enjoy the reward and privilege of discipling the next generation of godly
leaders . . . and future friends.
Lynn Dean is the author of Discover Texas, a unit-
study based Texas history curriculum for Chris-
addition to the News Around Texas blog, she also
sponsors FREE weekly writing tutorials at www.
Lynn and her husband,
Tom, homeschooled for over 16 years and led the
Greater Waco Christian Home Educators support
group for 3 years. Their two children are nowadults
who prove that homeschooling was worth every effort!
by Lynn Dean