One of the most coveted verses for parents is Ephesians 6:3 instructing children to obey them. When used in sermons or Bible lessons, every parent in the room gives a hearty amen, exchanges affirming statements with the parent beside them or gives a “did you hear that?” poke to their children. Hardly any reference is given to the verse that follows.
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Paul references this again in Colossians and follows it with a potential consequence.
“Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”
I am not sure what was happening in Paul’s time but I’ve spent enough time with teens in this generation to know the top three reasons they feel exasperated.
1. “I Can’t do anything right!” There are so many changes going on in a teens world, their body, their status (child to adult), their influx of new hormones complete with emotional surges and so much more. Teens often experience an increased awkwardness and feel “out of control” during this time. In the midst of this inner chaos, even the vaguest hint of negativity will set them off.
What can you do? Create balance. Balance correction with complement, responsibility with respect, love with leaving them alone-giving them space. Be their safe-haven-their anchor. Never compromise on what’s important but shower them with unconditional love and keep pointing them to Jesus. For yourself, be prepared to thanklessly stand strong. Your teen will eventually appreciate that you were always there.
2. “They never listen to me.” Typically when I hear this statement it is more a matter of the parent doesn’t agree with them and therefore there must be a communication error. This often happens in homes where there is little communication, or explanation as to the reasons behind a decision.
What can you do? Make sure your teen understands that you heard them. The easiest way to do this is to reiterate what they are saying and follow it with your mindset. As much as possible explain the whys behind your opposition.
3. “They treat me like a child.” This is tough territory. Teens are stuck in the middle of two worlds and it usually a tough transition compounded by their desire to rush it and the parent’s desire to take it slow. Our culture doesn’t help. Music, movies, and TV shows are all filled with promiscuity or down and out explicit sex. Parents and other authority figures are usually portrayed as clueless idiots or overbearing.
What can you do? Verbally recognize that the teen in coming into adulthood. Having this talk while they are still young will help. Establish a plan for “right of passage” and discuss this with them. As often as possible, use the life stories of others or television show depictions to point out what is wise behavior and what is unwise and the consequences that go with it. Keep pointing them to Scripture that coincides with it. Limit the promiscuous programming and establish boundaries for them that are appropriate for their age. Provide for perks or ways to increase their freedoms when they are compliant and show that they can make wise choices.
Teen years can be frustrating for all involved but if you are proactive, keep pointing them to Jesus, and love them unconditionally, you may just make it.