The past few weeks Mom has covered four deals for mothers of teenagers, all adapted from our book, Girl Talk:
Example (pt. one, two, and three)
Love (pt. one, two, and three)
Discipline (pt. one, two, three and four)
Next week we want to offer counsel and encouragement to moms of rebellious or wayward teenagers. God wants to give you hope, and yes, even help you to laugh at the time to come (Pr. 31:25).
Speaking of laughter, be sure to check back later today for the Friday Funnies.
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.
The fruit of discipline tomorrow…
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.
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:
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….
Continuing our series on best deals for mothers of teenagers we turn to Titus 2:4 for a priceless nugget of mothering wisdom. It tells us to “love [our] children” tenderly. This may not appear to be a new and novel parenting tip, but J.C. Ryle insisted that this biblical principle is “one grand secret of successful training.”
This tender love he described as “a willingness to enter into childish troubles, a readiness to take part in childish joys—these are the cords by which a child may be led most easily—these are the clues you must follow if you would find the way to their heart.”
Similarly, Paul Tripp encourages us as parents to “remember what it was like to live in the scary world of the teen years.”
A simple test of the effectiveness of tender love requires only a moment of self-reflection. Don’t we all respond better to a person who takes an interest in us and expresses affection than to someone who tries to force or manipulate us to comply with their wishes?
Our teenagers are no different. Discipline, correction, and training are ineffective and even detrimental when void of tender love. But these same tools are more readily welcomed if they come with a kind and gentle hand. The biblical maxim to treat others as you would like to be treated most certainly applies here.
And wasn’t it a tender love that the Savior showed to us when He granted us salvation? He leads us with “cords of kindness” (Hos. 11:4), and “He does not deal with us according to our sins” (Ps. 103:10.
So the most important reason to show tender love is because it displays Christ’s love to our teenagers.
In difficult situations with our teenagers, a humble example is a powerful tool that breaks down barriers. A humble spirit helps us get behind the walls our teenagers may erect. It’s a doorway into their hearts, no matter how hard they have become.
From the time our children were old enough to communicate, C.J. and I asked them regularly, “If there is one thing about Daddy and mommy you could change, what would it be?” Often they said silly things like, “Give us more ice cream.” But occasionally their comments provided valuable insights into our deficiencies as parents. And although the phrasing matured over the years, we never stopped asking the question.
Why not ask your teenager the same question before the week comes to the close?
Only after we humble ourselves can we encourage our children to follow our example. Comments like “Why don’t you do what I say?” or “When will you ever learn?” will not promote godliness in our teens. But our humility will soften their hearts and inspire them to imitate our example.
And we must not hesitate to encourage them to follow our example (if it is indeed a humble, godly one!). Many parents consider that to be prideful. They simply hope their quiet example will produce the intended effect.
By the grace of God, it may. But we would be wise to emulate the apostle Paul’s more aggressive approach. In humility, he encouraged the believers to follow his example as he followed Christ. He exhorted them in 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” And again in Philippians 3:17: “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”
So let’s take our teenagers by the hand and say, “Come, follow me in to the riches of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
If you’re like me, you’re painfully aware of the imperfect example you are to your teenagers. But this is good, for it brings us back to the cross.
We are sinful mothers; however, we must not forget that the Savior died for sinners such as we. We will never be able to hold up for our teenagers a perfect example; however, we should display the humble, honest example of a woman striving after holiness, by the grace of God.
In fact, our sins provide an opportunity for the light of the gospel to shine into our relationship with our teenager. If we humble ourselves, confess our sins, and ask for our children’s forgiveness, we will be showing the power of Christ’s saving work.
I vividly remember one interaction between my two daughters—Nicole and Kristin—when they were little. I had gotten angry with Kristin and afterwards I overheard Nicole reassuring her sister from vast experience: “Don’t worry, Kristin—Mom always asks forgiveness.” I didn’t know whether to be pleased or discouraged!
While I didn’t want to believe Nicole had so many illustrations to draw from, I was relieved that her experience, though not of a perfect mom, was at least tempered by some measure of humility on my part.
Paul Tripp concurs: “Living consistently with the faith does not mean living perfectly, but living in a way that reveals that God and his Word are the most important things to you. Such a [mother] can even honor God in [her] failure, with [her] humility in confession and [her] determination to change.”
Let’s walk carefully through this season with teenage children by giving them a humble example to follow.