If your teenager remains unresponsive to your leadership, may I encourage you to obtain the help of godly friends or pastors? My children knew that if they refused to respond to C.J. and me, we wouldn’t hesitate to ask others to counsel them. They have since told us that this was an incentive to repent. We must not be too proud to position our teenagers to receive all the help they need. And in addition to requesting counsel for our teenagers, we should seek evaluation of our parenting as well.
The mother of famous nineteenth-century pastor Charles Spurgeon was an example of a woman who aggressively sought to bring her children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Her son wrote of her:
“I cannot tell how much I owe to the solemn words of my good mother….I remember on one occasion her praying thus: ‘Now, Lord, if my children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance that they perish, and my soul must bear a swift witness against them at the day of judgment if they lay not hold of Christ.’”
May we as mothers all be able to pray as Mrs. Spurgeon prayed. May we be faithful to discipline our children and so help them avoid both the temporary and eternal consequences of sin.
But our discipline must spring from and not be separated from our tender love. In fact, the phrase “bring them up” in Ephesians 6 has a distinct relational component and could be translated “rear them tenderly.” We show loving discipline by refraining from harsh or angry correction and by not withholding our affections—regardless of the nature or frequency of our teenagers’ sins.
Bringing our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord is hard work. God never said it would be otherwise. But he has promised to provide help and assistance to all who call on His name. This promise gives us the faith and courage to discipline our teenagers with the end in view. They may not thank us for it right now. They may not thank us for a long time. But one day they will.
The book of James closes with this stunning promise: “Whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20). Let’s be ready and willing to perform this merciful service for the teenagers we love.
Biblical discipline calls for a proactive approach. We must aggressively and intentionally steer our teenagers in the ways of the Lord. Of course, action alone won’t prevent our children from sinning. It takes a work of the Holy Spirit, but action is vitally necessary.
Here are four suggestions for pro-active parenting:
1. Be unified. Unity between father and mother is essential. Now unity doesn’t mean the absence of disagreement. Differences of opinion are inevitable between couples. What is essential, however, is that we seek to resolve our differences as quickly as possible and present a united front to our teenagers. So if you and your husband are not of one mind on discipline, please seek counsel from your pastor or a trusted Christian friend.
2. Be discerning. To be active in our discipline, we must be watchful, attentive, discerning mothers. We need to study our teenagers carefully, ask them probing questions, and maintain a constant awareness of what is going on in their lives. We must be on top of sinful patterns and tendencies (e.g. laziness, self-righteousness, lust, deceit, vanity, pride, and so on). We need to learn their “hot button” temptations.
We seek to gain insight into their thoughts, temptations, and feelings so we can be poised to bring timely correction, hold our teenagers accountable, and set boundaries to protect them from ungodly influences. From there, we want to help our teenagers develop a plan to walk in godliness.
3. Be dramatic (when necessary). If our teenagers do not show evidence of steady growth in godliness or are unresponsive to our training—dramatic action may be necessary. If a teenager is veering toward worldliness, we may need to cut off ties with an ungodly friend. If he or she has been dishonest, then maybe we need to remove cell phone or Internet privileges. Proactive discipline may mean that you risk upsetting an otherwise “peaceful” situation in your home. It may initiate a conflict or a trial. But there is too much at stake not to take action. We want our teenagers to reap the sweet fruit of repentance.
4. Be clear. Dramatic action must be accompanied by explanation. Few things are more frustrating to a young person than: “because I told you so.” This response is appropriate for a small child who does not yet have the capacity to understand our decisions. However, a teenager capable of rational thinking (most of the time!) will greatly benefit from an explanation. Effective parenting involves teaching our teenagers to understand from Scripture why we’ve made particular decisions.
Our biblical charge to discipline our teenagers means that we cannot be passive parents. We must not think that we are helpless or without recourse to deal with our teenagers’ sin. Neither turning a blind eye nor remaining ignorant are acceptable options. We cannot afford to assume “this is just a phase” or “this is normal for his age.”
And we must not subscribe to the theory that allowing our teenagers to experience the world will make them stronger. Effective discipline of teenagers requires more than reactive parenting, which only swings into gear when a crisis hits.
Left to themselves, our teenagers will not naturally conform to the Word of God. The truth is that we all go our own way apart from the intervention of the Holy Spirit and the correction of godly friends. (This fact should help us guard against self-righteousness.) And if we ignore, minimize, or are at ease with the discrepancies between our teenagers’ behavior and God’s standard, there may be dire consequences.
That’s why J.C. Ryle strongly warned parents:
Beware of that miserable delusion into which some have fallen,—that parents can do nothing for their children, that you must leave them alone, wait for grace, and sit still. These persons…desire much, and have nothing. And the devil rejoices to see such reasoning, just as he always does over anything which seems to excuse indolence, or to encourage neglect of means.
We’ll consider how to take advantage of those “means” and be proactive in discipline tomorrow.
We were going to continue our “Best Deals for Moms of Teenagers” series today but then I saw these two posts and just had to pass them on to you. What great perspective for the Monday after Easter—or any Monday for that matter.
The first is from Stephen Nichols. “Easter is over” he observes, but: “Being faithful in the routines, on the Mondays after the Sundays, is important. It is as inversely important as it seems unglamorous.”
Nancy Wilson’s thoughts in her post “Abounding Works” run along the same lines. She writes, “The good news continues to be good news from one morning to the next. So, even though I’m mopping up from the feasting, the rejoicing extends from one Sunday to the next, all year long.”
Read these posts in full (they are short and sweet). Let the joy of Easter Sunday break into your unglamorous Monday; allow Christ’s death and resurrection to fill you with transcendent joy this day.
On this Good Friday we want to pass along a few ideas for reminding our families of the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection, and sharing the good news of the gospel with others.
First of all, the folks from St. Helens Bishopsgate in the UK who brought us “That’s Christmas” have two new videos “That’s Easter: Death to Life” and “That’s Easter: Life to Death.” Watch, reflect, rejoice, and share with fellow Christians and unbelieving friends and family.
Also, it’s too late to order them now (although you could consider making your own), but on Sunday the Whitacres will again be using Resurrection Eggs from Family Life Ministries to create an Easter egg hunt for our children. Each of the twelve plastic eggs contains an object (you could use Scripture references instead), and together they tell the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. I must confess we add some candy as well!
Finally, our friend Rebecca shared with us one of her Easter traditions with her daughters—Resurrection Cookies. “Not only do they help us remember what we are celebrating,” she writes, “but we find them yummy and pretty heart healthy too.”
1 cup pecans (halves or whole) 3 egg whites 1 cup sugar 1 tsp vinegar pinch of salt wooden spoon Ziploc bag Bible Tape (Packing tape works best)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place pecans in Ziploc bag and let children beat them with the wooden spoon until broken into small pieces. Read John 19:1-3 and remind them that after Jesus was arrested, He was beaten by the Roman soldiers.
2. Let each child smell (or taste) the vinegar. Pour 1 tsp into the mixing bowl. Read John 19:28-30 and explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross, He was given vinegar to drink.
3. Add the egg whites to the vinegar. Eggs represent life. Read John 10:10-11 Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life.
4. Sprinkle a little salt into each child’s hand. Let them taste it, then brush it into the bowl. Read Luke 23:27. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed Jesus’ followers as well as the bitterness of our own sin.
5. Add 1 cup sugar. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because of His great love for us. He wants us to know and belong to Him. Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16
6. Beat with mixer on high for 12-15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3. Explain that the color white represents the purity of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus.
7. Fold in the broken nuts. Drop by teaspoons onto a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper (or parchment). Read Matt. 27:57-60. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus’ body was laid.
8. Place the cookie sheet into the preheated oven. Close the door and turn the oven OFF. Give each child a piece of tape to seal the oven door. Read Matt 27:65-66. Explained that Jesus’ tomb was sealed.
9. Go to bed. Read John 16:20 and 22. Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus’ followers were very sad when the tomb was sealed.
10. On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are empty!! On the first Easter Jesus’ followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read Matt 28:1-9. HE HAS RISEN!!!
May this truth—that Jesus Christ has died for our sins and risen from the dead—ignite our souls with joy this weekend!
All parents are bound to the command in Ephesians 6:4 to “bring [our children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” While this verse is addressed to fathers, Scripture is clear that a mother’s participating is equally significant (Prov. 1:8; 6:20; 31:26; Eph. 6:1; Col. 3:20).
Pastor John MacArthur explains that the word discipline in Ephesians 6 means “enforced conformity to the heart and the life to God and His truth.” Discipline is a strong word that implies deliberate and committed action on the part of parents. It insists that we go to whatever lengths are required to deter our children from sin and instead direct them in paths of righteousness. My husband used to express his resolve to obey his command by telling our daughters, “If necessary, I will throw my body in front of you to prevent you from sinning.”
C.J.’s statement might sound extreme; however, I believe it is biblical. Given the seriousness of sin before a holy God, we as parents must seek to restrain our children from bringing reproach to God’s name and pain to others—not to mention sparing them the bitter consequences. We must make every effort to train our teenagers and redirect them toward a lifestyle that brings glory to God and that aligns with His Word.
Ultimately, our desire is for our teenagers to experience the blessings and favor that flow from a life of obedience to God.
How can we make the best use of our time by loving our teenagers? Here are two more simple ideas:
5. Encourage, Encourage, Encourage. Proverbs gives abundant proof that encouraging words refresh our teenagers’ souls: “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul” (16:24); “A good word makes him glad” (12:25) and “a gentle tongue is a tree of life” (15:4). Let’s ask ourselves: are the words our daughters hear from us primarily condemning and corrective or positive and uplifting? Do our words give them life and make them glad? While correction is necessary at times, our daughters should be the constant recipients of our encouragement.
And this encouragement can come in many forms and for many reasons. We can write a note, send a
text or e-mail, encourage them in front of someone else, or simply tell them of our love. We can point out their personality traits and unique talents we appreciate. We can draw attention to ways they have grown in their passion for God or love for others; we can remind them of God’s help in the midst of difficult situations. These are all examples of what my husband calls “Evidences of God’s Grace”—ways God is at work in our teenagers lives. We must not let a day go by without communicating these encouraging thoughts to them.
6. Make memories. One of my favorite ways to express tender love for my children was to plan special outings and find
unique ways to make memories. Today we have a whole collection of memories that we review often with fondness and laughter. Both the planned activities and the spontaneous moments can all be potential memories if we apply a little creativity. And don’t forget to throw in a surprise or two. Everybody loves surprises—even teenagers!
These ideas are a sampling of the endless ways we can express our tender love to our teenagers. Tender love liberally scatters gospel seeds in our teenagers’ lives. We can trust God to cause these seeds to take root and grow into a mature love for Him.
How can we as mothers cultivate and express tender love for our teenagers? Here are a few ideas:
1. Pray. A godly mother’s prayers have “great power” (James 5:16), and so who better to pray for our daughters than us? No one knows them the way we do. No one is more familiar with the unique temptations and pressures they face every day. No one can pray for them with keener insight or greater compassion. We should be committed to loving our teenagers by faithfully praying for them. And what’s more, we should inform them of our prayers. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “No man can do me a truer kindness in this world than to pray for me.”
2. Take an interest. Make it a point to discover your teenagers hobbies and leisure pursuits. Talk to him or her about them and learn to share in their enthusiasm. You may even go a step further and participate in their favorite activities. For example, my daughter Kristin developed a love for the art of cooking as a teenager. So I arranged for us to take some gourmet cooking classes offered by the county. This provided a meaningful experience for the two of us to share, and it was a tangible way to express my tender love for Kristin. “Taking an interest” need not require financial expense, but it does call for a heart for love and enthusiasm for the things your teenager enjoys.
3. Listen closely. Attentive listening entails an eagerness to hear everything with regard to our teenagers thoughts, feelings and experiences. It’s more than just keeping our mouths shut. Listening means making full eye contact, not looking around with a blank stare. We don’t’ interrupt, yawn, or prematurely formulate an answer. Careful listening will encourage our teens to bare their souls to us and share their innermost thoughts. So let’s make sure our teenagers know we want to hear all about it!
4. Express Affection. We should lavish affection on our teenagers from the moment they wake up until they go to bed at night. We can do this verbally by simply saying, “I love you,” throughout the day. We can express physical affection through hugs and kisses. In the midst of correction we should reaffirm our love, reminding them that we discipline them because we love them. We never want our teenagers to have a moment’s doubt about our love.
Two more ways to tenderly love your teen tomorrow….