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.
Congrats to all of you who graduated this month!
Every May our youth ministry has “Senior Challenge Night.” On this evening the graduating seniors get a chance to publicly address their underclassmen. They get five minutes to challenge them to live their high school years for the Lord. A few of these seniors addressed the Covenant Life Church congregation and we have included their words here.
Parents, you may want to consider using these with your teens. But you don’t have to be anywhere near high school to benefit from these truths.
So many people today have categorized ‘teenage years’ as ones distinguished by rebellion and foolishness; characterized as a time to ‘find yourself,’ a time when a young person can only associate with their peers, a time of understandable disobedience of authorities, a time where we are incapable of responsibility and a time where being friends with your parents is just downright weird. This is clearly not the way that God characterizes our teenage years in the Bible. Read more.
If you were to ask me: ‘what has been your most significant means of grace over your high school years?’ I would say, without hesitating, that my parents have been the greatest means of grace in my life. Read more.
Deceitfulness is a trap that is very easy for teens to fall into, and it is this very trap that I fell into in my teen years. Read more.
Aside from our salvation, this church is one of the greatest blessings that God has given us, and I believe that it is only right to give thanks to Him for it. One of the things that He has been showing me over my past four years of high school is not to take the church for granted.Read more.
There exists a temptation for all of us, and especially us youth, to allow the phrase. ‘living in light of eternity’ to become a cliché. I want to ask all the youth a question: What could be more important than being ready for the moment you die, the moment that mist disappears? Read more.
This “show yourself a man” series would not be complete without the reminder that training our sons must be rooted in the gospel. Here are a few sweet truths we must always remember and never forget:
Let’s not forget that because of the gospel we encourage our sons “to show himself a man.”
Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ. Philippians 1:27
Let’s not forget that by the power of the gospel moms can faithfully teach and sons can humbly learn how to cultivate masculinity.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14
Let’s not forget that through the gospel we can receive forgiveness whenever mom and son sin in the process of training and growth in godly masculinity (and sin, we will!).
[God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians :13-14
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. Psalm 130:3-4
So Moms (and everyone else reading this), because we have a tendency to forget the gospel, let us begin each day preaching the gospel to our souls. This will produce happy moms who are filled with hope for their sons. And this will make all the difference as we train our sons to be godly men.
Below are three adjectives and their definitions from an on-line dictionary:
- Passive – tending not to participate actively and usually letting others make decisions
- Uncommunicative – not willing to say much or tending not to say much
- Indifferent – showing no care or concern for, or interest in, somebody or something.
Why did I choose to look up the meaning of these 3 adjectives?
If you can unscramble the following phrase you will figure out why: heT amle otulopnpai.
Did you get it? Okay. Okay. I do not want you wasting forty-five minutes trying to decipher this code – you have much more important things you should be doing – so I will just tell you. Here it is: The male population.
Now before anyone thinks we are men-bashers here at girltalk, let me explain. I am referring to a stereotypical description of the male population. A comparable list of adjectives could just as easily be drawn up for the female population. Can anyone say: manipulative, nagging, busybodies?
Women are not better than men. Neither do all men fit the stereotypical mold. I know many men whose lives, by God’s grace, defy these adjectives. They lead. They serve. They care. My husband is one of these men!
CJ and I desire to raise a son who also defies this stereotypical description of men. We want him to be an example of godly masculinity by the grace of God. That’s why we are challenging him to lead where appropriate.
Here are a few directives we give our son:
- Be the first to pray in group settings.
- Be the first to take an interest in others.
- Be the first to lead in conversation.
- Be the first to stop a conversation that is not edifying.
- Be the first to offer to serve others.
With this list, we come to the end of Chad’s “Show Yourself a Man” Plan. However, there is one more essential responsibility I have as his mom. You can read about it in the next post.
Chivalry may be disregarded in our culture, but it receives ongoing attention in our home. That’s because one way to show oneself a man is to be courteous and considerate toward women.
With a mom and three sisters, Chad gets oodles of opportunities to practice chivalrous behavior. And I must say he displays consistent courtesy toward his mom. However, he still prefers the role of “annoying little brother” over the role of a “chivalrous knight” when it comes to his three sisters. CJ and I are working on that!
Here is how we are attempting to teach Chad to show honor to a woman:
- Open her doors
- Stand when she enters the room
- Pull out her chair
- Give up your seat for her
- Carry heavy objects for her
- Retrieve dropped items for her
Most likely, Chad will be the leader and protector of his own family one day. Now is the time for him to learn how to show honor to his wife and model chivalry to his children.
“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7
Obviously we’re not requiring Chad to literally go out and kill a bear or a lion. Although, one of our readers, who is a Firearm Education and Hunter Safety Instructor for the state of MD, did email us in jest last week to invite CJ and Chad to be in her next class. She said then they could enter the lottery for a bear permit this fall.
Now, that’s a scary thought! Thankfully, the plan for any father-son hunting expeditions in our family is to stick with squirrel as the game of choice.
So, what bears or lions are we encouraging Chad to kill? In his article, “Show Yourself a Man,” Randy Stinson explains this phrase to mean: “Do something that is a challenge.” What a useful mandate for helping teenage sons cultivate masculinity! CJ and I have begun to use it with Chad. When we discern there is an obstacle Chad wants to dodge, but should tackle, we encourage him: “Son, it’s a bear you need to kill!” This “bear” or “lion” could be an area where he is not gifted or his personality is not inclined, and because of selfishness, fear, or pride, he prefers to avoid. We want to show Chad the underlying sin that hinders him, and then challenge him to attack it. See, we not only desire to help Chad grow stronger where he is already strong, but to also grow strong where he is weak.
And though there will never be any actual bear heads or lion skins mounted on the walls of our home, it is our prayer that the showcase of Chad’s teenage years will display many challenges that he conquered to the glory of God.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
I enjoy cleaning and putting things in order. (I know, there’s something wrong with me!) Chad, on the other hand, strongly dislikes these tasks. (Did I mention that my son is 13?) Now given our differing preferences, I would much rather be the one to clean up after Chad and maintain the order of his bedroom and bathroom. Chad would prefer that too. But all I have to do is think about Chad’s future wife and future employers—what his messy habits would mean for them (and what they would think of me!)—and I make him clean his room.
Actually, it’s not only Chad’s future relationships that motivate me to insist that Chad “keep his domain in order.” As Randy Stinson put it in his “Show Yourself a Man” article, “a life that is characterized by disorder is evidence of passivity.” Chad’s domain “should bear the mark of [his] masculinity as [he] subdues it and keeps it in order.”
Because I want Chad to honor his future wife and serve his future employers; because I want Chad to resist passivity and cultivate masculinity:
- I have Chad clean his room and bathroom at the start of each day.
- I make Chad hang up his towel on the rack, return clean clothing back to drawers or hangers and put dirty clothing into the hamper. (I recently discovered that everything—dirty and clean—was being put into the hamper, thus the need for specificity.)
- I require Chad to stop whatever he is doing to put something back in its proper place, if he got it out, but neglected to put it back.
- I enforce the “no trash rule”—if something is consumed out of a disposable wrapper or container, the wrapper or container must be put into the trashcan!
Lest my rules seem petty to a certain young man, I Corinthians 14:33 backs me up: For God is not a God of disorder. (NIV) Above all, I want Chad to honor God by reflecting His character. Thus, I will persevere in challenging my son to keep his domain in order.
Chad is starting to figure out what his married sisters learned a long time ago about their parents and finances: Dad is generous and Mom is____________.
I asked my 3 daughters to complete that phrase and their answers were: strategic, economical and responsible. Phew! At least it wasn’t stingy, miserly and tightfisted.
Point being, my husband and I approach finances very differently. Our children know it, and even work it to their advantage at times. My girls tell me now that whenever they wanted to borrow money growing up they would always go ask their father. That’s because, when they would go to pay it back, their dad would always say: “No need to pay it back, my love. I only wish I could have given you more.” I on the other hand, would not only keep track of what they owed, I would issue reminders of when it needed to be paid back. I was attempting to teach them to be responsible with their finances.
Though we laugh about the discrepancy between our approach to finances, we hope it will actually benefit our children. (Thankfully, our girls tell us it has!). For we want our children to learn to be both responsible and generous with their finances, since that is the standard Scripture seems to put forth as God-honoring.
So that’s why, today, when I give Chad his weekly allowance, I will remind him that 10% is for tithe, 10% is for special giving, 50% is for savings, and the remaining 30% can be spent with our oversight. And that’s why I have no doubt that if Chad wants to borrow money anytime soon, he will be asking his dad.
The righteous is generous and gives. Ps. 37:21
Whoever gathers [wealth] little by little will increase it. Pr. 13:11b
Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. Pr. 3:9-10
When I remind my son that he is thirteen now and that part and parcel with growing into manhood means more work and less play, he doesn’t jump for joy. So before I presented Chad with a plan to increase his workload, I had him reread the letter he received from Joshua Harris for his thirteenth birthday. Here’s an excerpt that Josh kindly gave me permission to post:
My encouragement to you on this important birthday is to work hard. That doesn’t sound very inspiring does it? But I mean it. The teenage years are years packed with potential—potential to grow in wisdom, to develop practical skills and abilities, to deepen your relationship with God, to study and learn. These years are the launching pad of your life. And they’re also the years that are most easily wasted. The world will tell you that these are the years to coast, to have a good time, to take it easy, to live off the faith of your parents. Don’t buy that lie. Press ahead. Push yourself. Train yourself for godliness. Even now prepare yourself to be a godly man, a godly husband and godly father. As my younger brothers, Alex and Brett like to say, use these years to “Do Hard Things.”
Now what teenage boy wouldn’t be inspired after reading that?! Well, Chad still wasn’t ecstatic about his growing responsibilities, however he was a lot more motivated than before.
So for all you moms out there who need to inform your son (or daughter) about extra chores, let Joshua Harris help you out!