The second great deal for moms of teenagers is: be a godly example.
Three wise authors weigh in:
“The example of parents, for good or ill, is an influence more profound
than can be measured,” observes author Elisabeth Elliot.
Your children “will seldom learn habits which they see you despise, or
walk in paths in which you do not walk yourself,” warns J.C. Ryle.
“[She] that preaches to [her] children what [she] does not practice, is
working a work that never goes forward.”
Paul Tripp agrees that if we talk about Christ’s love and the Bible but
live selfish, angry, materialistic lives, then we are saying with our
example that God’s truth is only a façade. “Our teenagers will tend to
dismiss or despise the very Gospel we say is of paramount importance,”
he writes. “They will tend to reject the God we have so poorly
represented, and they too, will end up serving the idols of the
Everything we teach our children will stand or fall by our example.
Therefore our example must precede our instruction, less our
instruction be in vain.
So ask yourself: What does my example say to my teenagers about the
truth of God’s Word? Am I walking in paths where I want my children to
While a poor example will dishonor the gospel, the godly example of a
mother is among the most profound forces in human history.
We read in the Bible of the mother-daughter pair Lois and Eunice, who
shaped the life of Timothy. In a survey of church history we are
introduced to the influential mothers of great Christian leaders such
as Augustine, Charles Spurgeon, and John and Charles Wesley—men whose
love for the gospel resulted in thousands coming to know Christ.
The fruit of a mother’s godly example is incalculable. But if the
responsibility feels overwhelming at times, you are not alone. Hope for
imperfect mothers tomorrow.
Moms of teenagers—you’re up next. Building on our series from last week, what’s the first great deal for you? First and foremost: have faith.
As women, we are all vulnerable to fear, worry, and anxiety; and few areas tempt us more than mothering teenagers! But faith must dictate our mothering, not fear. Faith, as it says in Hebrews, is the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).
Faith toward God is the foundation of effective mothering.
Success as a mother doesn’t begin with hard work or sound principles or consistent discipline (as necessary as these are). It begins with God: His character, His faithfulness, His promises, His sovereignty. And as our understanding of these truths increases, so will our faith for mothering.
The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). Fear is sin. And as my husband has often graciously reminded me—God is not sympathetic to my unbelief. Why? Because fear, worry, and unbelief say to God that we don’t really believe He is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ps. 86:15). We are calling God a liar.
Even in the most trying situations with our teenagers, we have much more incentive to trust than to fear, much more cause for peace and joy than despair. That’s because, as Christians, we have the hope of the gospel.
The gospel should provide us with tremendous heart-strengthening, soul-encouraging hope: Jesus Christ is “mighty to save” (Isa. 63:1). This should kindle zeal to share the truth of the gospel with our teenagers.
The gospel is the good news of a saving God who is “a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). So repent from worry and put your trust in the glorious gospel.
My husband has a Charles Spurgeon quotation as his screen-saver, which we would do well to have running across the screen of our minds: “As for His failing you, never dream of it—hate the thought. The God who has been sufficient until now, should be trusted to the end.”
So let our mothering forecast be one of victory and not defeat. We have the hope of the gospel in our souls.
I want to close the week by reminding you of one of my favorite promises from God’s Word. Galatians 6:9 says: “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
This verse was a source of strength to me when I was carrying my one year old, chasing my two year old and correcting my four year old. I didn’t feel like I was bearing much fruit, but this verse provided faith for the future.
My kiddos are now five, six and nine, and the challenges are a little different. I’m dealing with arguments between my five and six year old and the heart issues of my nine year old. But I’m still holding on to this wonderful promise.
May I encourage you to hold onto this verse as you seek to faithfully sow into the lives of your little ones? The harvest won’t come today. And it won’t come tomorrow. Maybe not even next year or the year after that.
But we must be faithful to sow today. Faithful to train. Faithful to teach. Faithful to discipline. Faithful to love. Or, as it says in this passage, faithful to “do good.” And we must trust God that He will fulfill His promises, that we will reap a harvest in due season if we do not give up.
My expectations are not for today, or even tomorrow—but my hope is in God who has promised that, someday, my labors will bear fruit for Him. Even though my body is weary, my soul gains new strength from this promise.
As mom pointed out on Monday, our mothering mission is “grave and vast.” It can often seem like an overwhelming assignment. That’s because it is. We aren’t called to figure this out on our own. We need help. We need the wisdom of others. So let’s go and get it.
Search the Scriptures! Prayerfully seek mothering wisdom from the Bible. What does God’s Word have to say about parenting these little ones? We need to develop biblical convictions about our role and responsibilities.
As I’m typing this post at my computer, my eyes keep darting to my little note-card with all my “Caly Scriptures.” I keep this note-card in a prominent place to remind me of my responsibility before the Lord, and to encourage my soul with the promised fruit of obedience.
Search Out Others! My mom probably wants to hide when she hears me coming. She has been barraged with my parenting questions (sometimes the same ones over and over) for the last three years. The Lord has also blessed me with a church full of “second moms” who have much wisdom and experience.
Friends, we have to take the initiative. The “older” women in our churches would love to share their wisdom—all we have to do is ask. If necessary, let’s bang down doors and beg for help. Let’s keep these ladies busy!
Search Good Books! The Lord has also blessed us with the wisdom of others in the form of books. I was never a big reader until I became a mom. Now I read any biblical parenting book that I can get my hands on. Then I read it again.
If you don’t know where to begin, check out the four books that we recommended last week (here and here). They will get you off to a great start.
This parenting task takes work and effort. But the reward is well worth it. One of my favorite “Caly-verses” at the moment is Proverbs 29:17: “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.”
Caly has helped me see my desperate need for help, but she has brought much delight to my heart. As I was leaving her room the other night after putting her to bed, I heard her little voice say, “Mom, I love you very so much.”
If less important activities are infringing upon more important priorities, we need to make a change. But what does this look like?
Does this mean that moms with young children can’t have a life beyond warming milk bottles, reading bedtime stories, and repeating endless “no touch”es and “stop fighting”s and “sit still”s?
Of course not! But given the significant amount of time it takes to effectively teach, train, discipline, care for and encourage young children, you won’t have time for much else for a while. Motherhood is and should consume a majority of your time and attention
So how do we eliminate distractions to this primary responsibility?
Let me answer with an illustration: A while back, I decided I would use the five minutes it took for my coffee to brew each morning to check my email, blogs I enjoy, etc. Before I knew it, five minutes turned into twenty minutes and my time with the Lord was shortened or rushed.
So, I set up a boundary for myself: no email or blogs until I have my quiet time, my husband has left for work, and I’ve sent my son off to school in a peaceful manner.
This isn’t legalism. I was simply taking measures to protect the most important from the less important. I want to keep first things first.
So what structures do you need to set up in your life to keep the training of your children a priority? Maybe you only look at email over naps or get up early to work on your home business. Maybe more drastic action is necessary. You may need to put a project on hold or set aside your hobby for a season.
Whatever it takes, let me encourage you to clear away all distractions. There’s a time for every season under heaven, and the time to train your children in the ways of the Lord is now.
So how do we walk carefully through the season of mothering young children? How do we know if we’re
distracted or focused on the right things?
We need to determine biblical priorities for our season, and then consistently evaluate whether or not we are living according to those priorities.
For moms with young kids, it’s pretty simple. Three non-negotiables top the list:
1. The gospel 2. Your husband 3. Your children
Ask yourself: Am I preserving these biblical priorities as my top priorities?
Then consider other activities—from your daily Internet or cell phone habits or hobbies or pleasures like reading or television or hanging out with friends—to significant endeavors such as a home business or serving opportunity.
Does my time spent on ________ cut into my time for consistent practice of the spiritual disciplines?
Does _________ hinder me from putting my husband’s needs first?
Does my investment in ________ distract me from the teaching, training, discipline, care and encouragement of my children?
Does my level of involvement in_______ cause me to be rushed, hurried, distracted or anxious in caring for my family and training my children?
If we’re consistent at checking our facebook wall but not in prayer, or if we’re attentive to our etsy site or blog but not our children, then we need to make a change.
What eliminating distractions looks like, tomorrow.
Mothers are responsible to mold and shape lives; to raise children who, in the words of G.K. Chesterton, “require not so much to be taught anything as everything.”
“I might as well be at the controls of a moon shot,” reflected one mom, “the mission is so grave and vast.” And so it is. The training and discipline of our children in the fear the Lord is an awesome task, demanding of our full attention (see Deut 6:5-9).
That’s why, if there’s one concern I have for this generation of mothers, it is the potential for distraction.
Blogs, facebook, twitter and texting allow moms at home to stay connected with the outside world like never before; the Internet makes it possible for women to contribute skills and gifts to the church and the marketplace, while at home with their children. These are all tremendous blessings, and when used wisely, can bless and serve our families and glorify God.
The Proverbs 31 women, long before the Internet, managed a wide range of tasks for the good of her family and community. (But did you notice what time she woke up each morning?) Depending on a woman’s capacity, gifting, personal discipline, as well as the ages and number of children, there may certainly be room for other things.
But we must be watchful that these “other things” don’t distract us from our primary task of mothering. We must walk carefully through this season, with all its opportunities, and make the best use of our time with our children.
Truth is, we can’t effectively train our children on the side. We can’t discipline them here and there. We can’t teach when we’ve got a free moment. We can’t mother intermittently.
Inconsistent training is ineffective training.
If we are distracted by projects or pleasure, we may miss valuable teaching moments, opportunities to encourage, disobedience that requires discipline, or a chance to show affection. These moments, once lost, are gone forever.
So ladies, may I encourage you, as I do my own daughters, to give training and discipline your first and full attention. Walk carefully, and keep your eyes on the mothering road.
After my little adventure last week, my friend Elise sent me an e-mail with her own story that made me feel a little better. I’m not the only one after all. Thanks, Elise!
12 years ago, I took Austin to get a mommy/son picture for David for Valentine’s Day at the mall. Where were you in my life, Janelle?!! (Austin was 4 months old… it was Feb.) I put Austin in the car, threw in my purse, shut the door and all the doors, simultaneously locked shut! I did have my wallet with a AAA card… had to find someone to watch the car so I could call…
Minutes later… 4 (!!!!) firetrucks screamed into the mall with a locksmith’s truck behind them. Puzzled… I looked around wondering where the fire was, “Oh my goodness! I’m so glad we got out of the mall in time…” To my horror… they spotted me and within moments… we were surrounded! 10 men jumped out (OK… it was really 4, but seemed like 25) all virtually attacked the windows of our Honda trying to unlock it! Within moments… I was IN… AUSTIN SLEPT THROUGH THE WHOLE THING… but I was a wreck.
Be warned, not a month later… I stepped out on my front stoop to get the paper! In a towel and robe from the shower… Yep! The door closed, latched and I was LOCKED OUT of my HOUSE!!! (Yes, my hubby was working in DC and no Mother-In-Laws between here and CT!)... Austin inside in a port-a-crib. I had to run to a friend’s house, in my robe and towel to get the key. Actually, they lived in another neighborhood entirely. This good natured friend was delighted I had stopped by for a morning cup of coffee. Incredulous I exclaimed, “I’m in a robe and towel!! She simply and ever-so-sweetly asked, “Where’s Austin?”
“At home, in my locked house!!!”
Don’t think it can’t happen “again” or “worse”... that being said, I have never left, locked or lost my keys since. AND I’ll never live that down with my husband! (No matter how many kids he accidentally bumps into the running ceiling fan!)
Yes! It’s amazing they’re all still alive!
Thanks for sharing! I laughed out loud remembering!!
On Tuesday, my mom quoted Elisabeth Elliot’s mom: “Training must come before teaching. [Teaching] is impossible unless the children cooperate. And they don’t cooperate unless they are disciplined from their earliest days. This discipline lays the groundwork for teaching.”
Several years ago, Mom wrote a post illustrating this truth. I’m re-posting it today as a reminder for all of us moms. Let’s make the best use of our time to diligently train our children.
Gateway for Knowledge
by Carolyn Mahaney
Last Thursday night occasioned another one of my husband’s surprises. He’s provided a gazillion of them for me through the years. He simply told me what time to be ready and how to dress. This time my surprise was dinner at a homey, rustic restaurant followed by the play “The Miracle Worker” at a nearby theatre. It was a wonderful evening.
And if you will indulge me I’d like to say a word to my husband. (He is in Sun Valley, California at present, due to being the guest speaker at Grace Community Church this past weekend.). CJ, I hope you read this today because I simply want to tell you again how grateful I am to be your wife. Thank you for thirty years of devoted, passionate, exhilarating love. I don’t deserve you!
So back to what I was saying. We went to see “The Miracle Worker.” Most likely, you are familiar with the plot. It’s the story of Annie Sullivan’s struggle to teach the blind and deaf Helen Keller how to communicate. Initially Annie found it extremely difficult to teach Helen due to her wild and violent behavior. But then Annie had a revelatory moment. All of a sudden she realized: “Obedience is the gateway for knowledge to enter the mind.” She understood that she needed to first teach Helen to obey before she could teach her knowledge.
At this point in the play I couldn’t help but think of my daughters, Nicole and Kristin. That’s what they are doing. They are attempting to train and discipline four little boys to obey so they can impart knowledge. And not just any knowledge, but the most important knowledge of all—the message of the gospel.
So to all moms with little children I desire to encourage you today. I want to cheer you on in your efforts to discipline and train your children to obey. It’s hard, exhausting work, I know. Just watching my daughters makes me tired. But it’s worth it. Because an obedient child is a receptive child. And with a receptive child you can teach them the good news, the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. Now that’s a goal worth striving for, don’t you agree?
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22.6