Proverbs 1:8 begins, “Listen my son…” -- but what if he won’t? Is that just his problem? Do parents bear any responsibility to try to help their teen listen, or is our only responsibility to give wise counsel? If we know our teen isn’t listening to our wisdom, advice, reproof, and correction, what do we do? Galatians 6:1 certainly could apply here. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
As parents, we need to do all we can to remove stumbling blocks and barriers to good communication with our children, seeking to help restore them to obedience in listening to us as parents. Although the final responsibility is on our teens to listen, we certainly must make sure we are not failing in some areas ourselves and creating barriers to their listening.
Here are 8 barriers to good parent-teen communication and some ideas for busting them.
1. Nagging – When your wisdom and advice are constant throughout the day, with little neutral or pleasant chatter, your words begin to lose their impact. Ecclesiastes 6:11 indicates this when it states, “The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man?” Constant nagging short-circuits your ability to get your point across and tends to overwhelm and push your teen to anger or discouragement. Perhaps you could make a list of your child’s faults. Prioritize them in order of most grievous/consequential to least. Get input from other wise parents. Focus only on the ones you feel you must. Pick a top 4-5 and then plan to keep quiet about the others until the most important victories have been won.
2. Criticizing – Certainly in parenting there is always need for instruction, discipline, and training, but as parents we must be careful to not be overly critical, especially in areas that are not related to sinful behavior. If you’re struggling with major discipline areas with your teen, then be even more careful about other criticisms. Don’t worry if his shirt is wrinkled, his hair is messy, or he wore the same shorts yesterday. Avoid criticizing him in front of others. In fact, purpose to praise your teen at least 5 times each day, either in passing comments or in a specific conversation.
3. Wisdom Spray – Sometimes parents can turn on the firehose of instruction when we need to focus on just a trickle of wisdom from the garden hose. We get started on one area of weakness or failure in our child’s life, and then we begin to pile on. “And another thing…and another thing…and what really ticks me off is when you….plus you always seem to…” Don’t unload all of your frustrations about your son’s behavior all at once. Deal with the matter at hand, and leave the other issues for another day.
4. Trying to win the war all at once. Closely related to the point above, we must realize that the war against sin in our teen’s life is won one battle at a time. Certainly sin must be conquered once and for all through the Gospel’s work in his life, but the war with the flesh is ongoing and is best handled one battle at a time. Think of how God has worked in your life. The victories have come one by one, and the focus has been on a few areas of sin at a time as the Holy Spirit brought about conviction and strength to overcome. Pick some of the battles you feel your teen is most tender about. Seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in assessing which battle front to deal with next. Remember to praise and celebrate the victories along the way.
5. Negative, non-neutral atmosphere. I remember being told once in a seminar on leadership that I should sit behind my desk when talking with subordinates to subtly show my authority. I don’t necessarily agree with this ideology. (If you need a big desk to prove you’re a leader, you’ve probably done something wrong.) There may be places in your home that aren’t the best place to talk to your teen - places where he feels a negative atmosphere, places that remind him of past failures, places that subtly indicate that you are not interested in his opinion or his side of the story. Change the atmosphere. Go to a coffee shop, a fast food restaurant, or take a drive in the country. All of these are neutral locations and may open up communication in new frontiers for you and your teen.
6. One-way communication – Remember that, by definition, communication is a two-way street. Yes, your teen needs to listen to you, but as he grows older and matures toward adulthood, you need to listen to him, too. He may say things you don’t want to hear but that you need to hear. Listening to those comments will help reveal barriers. Perhaps he has seen inconsistencies in your life. Perhaps you need to ask for forgiveness. There may be an unreasonable teacher involved that you need to hear about, or a pressure he is dealing with outside the home that you need to know about. Ask questions and follow up questions. Listen, even though he may not be mature enough to talk without an angry outburst, tears, or bad language. Make sure he knows he is being heard. Don’t just listen to his words, either. Watch for those misty eyes or subtle gestures that indicate various emotions. More on gestures in the point below.
7. Gestures – Pointing fingers, snarling red faces, pounding fists, crossed arms, and more are all ways we communicate beyond our words. Your teen listens to you by watching these, too. You may say the right things and yet defeat the words with your gestures. Make sure your gestures are open, calm, reassuring, and kind as you talk.
8. Timing – The moment when you are feeling agitated, irritated, and angry at your teen may not be the best time to try to talk to him. Every bone in your body may be itching to go address the problem right then and there, and yet the timing isn’t right. Perhaps you’re too angry to address him, and it will be hard to speak the truth in love. If that’s not it, perhaps there is a ballgame on that night he wants to see, or he is in the middle of his favorite TV show. Take some time to stop and pray. Ask the Lord to work in his heart. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom regarding the right timing. Take some time to plan your words and how you will address the problem. What questions will you ask? How will you give him the benefit of the doubt? How can you offer praise with your rebuke? In the Bible we see that the prophet didn’t address King David right away regarding his grave sin; yet we know from Psalm 32 and 51 that God was at work in David’s heart before Nathan came to him. Learn to wait on the Lord and rely on his leading as to timing. You may find that God has already softened his heart before your conversation.
9. Super Authority Parent – As your teen gets older, you must learn to communicate with him more as you would other adults. This doesn’t mean to give in, give up parental authority, or be run over by your child. It does mean that you don’t treat him like an elementary student. Instead of a short, firm “No you can’t go,” try something like “I’m sorry, son, I don’t think it will work right now; is there another option?” Instead of “get your homework done at 3:30,” try “what time do you plan to do your homework tonight?” You may need to help him think through the homework plan, but you are also giving him some options. You are making the change from a sergeant to a coach. See this article for more insight. Click here.
What other barriers have you seen as a parent that you’d like to share here? We all can learn from each other. Continue to work at good communication with your teen. You can’t force him to listen and internalize everything you say, but you can work hard at tearing down barriers to your wisdom and advice whenever you can.
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The Bible reminds parents and specifically dads not to provoke their children. Ephesians 6:4 says, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." What does it mean here when it says not to provoke your child to anger? The phrase "do not provoke your children to anger" basically means not to do things that cause them to be irritated, frustrated or even enraged. We (especially dads) have to be constantly aware of our actions and our child's reaction to make sure this is not occurring. It is important to remember that anger and frustration can show itself differently in our children based on their personalities. Some may actually become enraged and yell, cuss or even fight. Others of a more introverted temperament may become withdrawn, discouraged and defeated, feeling like they can never measure up to our expectations.
We came across a great article by Pastor John MacArthur highlighting 8 ways that parents may be irritating children and not even realize it. Here are the 8 ways from Dr. MacArthur.
1) Well–meaning overprotection is a common cause of resentment in children. Parents who smother their children, overly restrict where they can go and what they can do, never trust them to do things on their own, and continually question their judgment build a barrier between themselves and their children—usually under the delusion that they are building a closer relationship. Children need careful guidance and certain restrictions, but they are individual human beings in their own right and must learn to make decisions on their own, commensurate with their age and maturity. Their wills can be guided but they cannot be controlled.
2) Another common cause of provoking children to anger is favoritism. Isaac favored Esau over Jacob and Rebekah preferred Jacob over Esau. That dual and conflicting favoritism not only caused great trouble for the immediate family but has continued to have repercussions in the conflicts between the descendants of Jacob and Esau until our present day! For parents to compare their children with each other, especially in the children’s presence, can be devastating to the child who is less talented or favored. He will tend to become discouraged, resentful, withdrawn, and bitter.
Favoritism by parents generally leads to favoritism among the children themselves, who pick up the practice from their parents. They will favor one brother or sister over the others and will often favor one parent over the other.
3) A third way parents provoke their children is by pushing achievement beyond reasonable bounds. A child can be so pressured to achieve that he is virtually destroyed. He quickly learns that nothing he does is sufficient to please his parents. No sooner does he accomplish one goal than he is challenged to accomplish something better. Fathers who fantasize their own achievements through the athletic skills of their sons, or mothers who fantasize a glamorous career through the lives of their daughters prostitute their responsibility as parents.
I once visited a young woman who was confined to a padded cell and was in a state of catatonic shock. She was a Christian and had been raised in a Christian family, but her mother had ceaselessly pushed her to be the most popular, beautiful, and successful girl in school. She became head cheerleader, homecoming queen, and later a model. But the pressure to excel became too great and she had a complete mental collapse. After she was eventually released from the hospital, she went back into the same artificial and demanding environment. When again she found she could not cope, she committed suicide. She had summed up her frustration when she told me one day, “I don’t care what it is I do, it never satisfies my mother.”
4) A fourth way children are provoked is by discouragement. A child who is never complimented or encouraged by his parents is destined for trouble. If he is always told what is wrong with him and never what is right, he will soon lose hope and become convinced that he is incapable of doing anything right. At that point he has no reason even to try. Parents can always find something that a child genuinely does well, and they should show appreciation for it. A child needs approval and encouragement in things that are good every bit as much as he needs correction in things that are not.
5) A fifth way provocation occurs is by parents’ failing to sacrifice for their children and making them feel unwanted. Children who are made to feel that they are an intrusion, that they are always in the way and interfere with the plans and happiness of the parents, cannot help becoming resentful. To such children the parents themselves will eventually become unwanted and an intrusion on the children’s plans and happiness.
6) A sixth form of provocation comes from failing to let children grow up at a normal pace. Chiding them for always acting childish, even when what they do is perfectly normal and harmless, does not contribute to their maturity but rather helps confirm them in their childishness.
7) A seventh way of angering children is that of using love as a tool of reward or punishment—granting it when a child is good and withdrawing it when he is bad. Often the practice is unconscious, but a child can sense if a parent cares for him less when is he disobedient than when he behaves. That is not how God loves and is not the way he intends human parents to love. God disciplines His children just as much out of love as He blesses them. “Those whom the Lord loves He disciplines” (Heb. 12:6). Because it is so easy to punish out of anger and resentment, parents should take special care to let their children know they love them when discipline is given.
8) An eighth way to provoke children is by physical and verbal abuse. Battered children are a growing tragedy today. Even Christian parents—fathers especially—sometimes overreact and spank their children much harder than necessary. Proper physical discipline is not a matter of exerting superior authority and strength, but of correcting in love and reasonableness. Children are also abused verbally. A parent can as easily overpower a child with words as with physical force. Putting him down with superior arguments or sarcasm can inflict serious harm, and provokes him to anger and resentment. It is amazing that we sometimes say things to our children that we would not think of saying to anyone else—for fear of ruining our reputation!
You can read more from Dr. MacArthur on this subject by clicking here. John Piper also has some great thoughts on this particular verse as well. Read that here.
We hope this article has been a blessing to you. If so, here are some other articles from Victory Academy for Boys you may find helpful as well.
Read more helpful articles from Mark Massey and the staff:
How We Help Parents at Victory Academy
10 Conversation Starters for You and Your Teen
Why We All Need Counseling
Victory Academy for Boys - A Well Kept Secret For Too Long
Does Our Family Need Victory Academy or Some Other Help Outside our Home?
If you feel that Victory Home for Boys may be of help to you in your situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We have been working with struggling teen boys and their families since 1983.
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So you found porn on your son’s smartphone or computer, now what? Here are 6 things to remember and some ideas on how to guide him through this struggle.
1. Remember that God’s grace and mercy are always greater than sin. “Where sin abounds, Grace abounds much more.” Romans 5:20. You and your son are not alone in this situation. Reminding your son that this is sinful is not enough. Reminding him that there is hope for the sinner, forgiveness and victory in Christ is the complete story.
2. Remember not to over-react. Parents and moms in particular are often outraged, disgusted and hurt when they discover their son is looking at pornography. This is normal and expected however, it is important to realize that screaming, belittling, embarrassing and/or other such tactics only serve to separate your son from one of his chief allies in this fight… you. Temper your disgust and hurt with a cooperative understanding spirit which leaves the door open to accountability and trust. If your son can trust you with talking about his struggles, you can work through this together. Some parents have even found after the initial confrontations that their son was more open to accountability and discussion when future “how ya doin with this” conversation was through texting or while driving so as to avoid awkward face to face conversation. A good verse to remember is “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. “– Galatians 6:1 (ESV)
3. Remember you may need help in this fight from a pastor or strong godly mentor. Particularly if you’re a single mom or even as a dad, you may find that helping your son find someone who he feels comfortable talking with and staying accountable with regarding his struggles is important. It may be just too awkward for him to confide in you. Your role may be more one of keeping him in touch with his godly mentor on a regular basis.
4. Remember that the real problem is a spiritual issue. Yes of course there are raging hormones, pressure from our culture, his friends and so on, but more than anything, he needs his heart to be changed and strengthened by God and his Word through the Holy Spirit. As a parent you can help in this process. You can start a Bible study with him, have prayer with him on a regular basis and help him guard his heart. (We’ll discuss resources shortly.)
Rick Thomas, Founder and President of The Counseling Solutions Group, Inc in upstate South Carolina talks about discipling a young man struggling with porn.
While I would want to disciple my children on the sin of pornography–if they were into porn, I would want to disciple them through the deeper and more insidious problems that are going on–the things that feed the porn.
I cannot over-emphasize this: our behaviors flow from our hearts and if our hearts are not shepherded toward Christ, then the kid does not have a chance.
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. – Luke 6:43-45 (ESV)
Some of the more insidious issues of the heart are the following:
Slothfulness - the child is lazy, meaning that he is using sex to satisfy himself rather than sex being a beautiful thing that God designed. Sex is not primarily for him, but for his future wife. He is lazy. He is not interested in what God says.
You will find laziness at the root of a lot of what the child does. Laziness is not a singular tributary out of the soul. Laziness will touch many things in this child’s life. Begin to carefully examine his whole life and you’ll find pockets of laziness in other places, not just how he thinks about and behaves toward sex.
Dishonoring - More than likely the child knows he is dishonoring his parents, but he does not care. He wants what he wants. Like laziness, you’ll also find this “dishonoring worldview” popping up in other areas of his life.
If his dishonoring attitude is not taken care of now, there will be many other repercussions in his future, e.g. how he thinks about and works for his future employer and how he loves and serves his future wife are just two examples.
Deceit/lying - He is lying and living in a lie. This is one of the more heinous sins. When a person lives a lie, then it is difficult to know if anything he says or does is the truth. Lying and deceit in a relationship will destroy a relationship.
One of the reasons we love God so much is because He always tells the truth. We can assuredly know where we stand with Him. You cannot ever be sure where you stand with a person who lies.
Self-righteousness - Porn is a form of self-righteousness. The self-righteous person has a greater than/better than attitude. Porn is the devaluing of women. The porn user is “using” women to satisfy his own selfish cravings.
Self-centeredness - As you might deduce, self-centeredness is the center of the porn users worldview. Whatever is in the center of his life is what defines him. This is who the son really is. Being self-centered will creep into every single facet of this person’s life.
Ignorance - Part of why he is not trusting God, choosing rather to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, is because there is something he does not understand about God. There is a level of ignorance working in his life. You can find this kind of life portrayed by the life of the fool in Proverbs.
These are merely a sample of some of the things that have been going on in the kid’s heart–things that have led to his pornography use. As the parents insightfully talk to him, they will find other sinful categories working in his heart too. They will need to carefully unpack him so the roots of porn can be eliminated.
5. Remember to set safe guards in place to help prevent more access and failures.He may promise not to fail again, but the temptation is strong. It is best to look at ways to prevent access. Furthermore, ti is best that this “access prevention” is not done as a punishment, but in the spirit of working together to solve the problem. Taking away the smartphone or computer is only a short term solution and probably isn’t the solution at all. In the long run these devices are not going away. He needs to be taught how to have access to these devices but not submit to the temptations they bring.
Probably the best solution we can recommend is to put a filter on his smartphone and computer. We recommend Covenant Eyes. (www.covenanteyes.com) This filter is affordable and works well. There are several levels of protection. You can choose what is right for your son. (It may not be a bad idea to use this for the whole family.)
6. Remember that only God can change his heart. Pray for him diligently and wait patiently on the Lord to do the heart work only he can do. Yes, you can disciple, find mentors, accountability, and add filters, but only God can change the heart.
If you feel that we can be of help here at Victory Academy for Boys, please don’t hesitate to contact us. This is a struggle that we have worked through with many many young men.
In Finally Free, Dr. Heath Lambert, a leader in the biblical counseling movement, lays out eight gospel-centered strategies for overcoming the deceitful lure of pornography. Each chapter clearly demonstrates how the gospel applies to this particular battle and how Jesus can move readers from a life of struggle to a life of purity.
Every parent knows that with the much anticipated breaks from school also come the much dreaded words we all hear. “I’m bored. There is nothing to do around here.” As most parents have experienced, if boredom is not dealt with strategically and successfully, it can quickly turn into major problems. From sleeping all day to sibling rivalry to worse. These are issues no parent enjoys facing.
Here are some suggestions to consider as you navigate the upcoming breaks.
Breaks from school don’t have to be as stressful as it may seem. Plan ahead, talk it over with your son and create breaks from school that end up as pleasant memories for everyone involved.
If we can be of help, please contact us at Victory Academy for Boys. We also invite you to learn more about our summer Adventure camp program called WildHeart. Click on the picture below to visit the website, watch the short video and learn more.
Our teens often struggle with reality. In essence, reality is what is true. Reality is what is factual. When we break it down to essential and unchanging truth, we are then talking about God's truth. God's truth is eternal and unchanging. It flinches or gives way to no one. The culture continually seeks to give our teens a false reality through lies about what is real. Lies about God. Lies about his truth. Satan is behind this strategy. He always has been, since that day in the Garden of Eden. He is good at what he does. That fact coupled with youthful ignorance and our teen's easily deceived sinful heart results in bad thinking.
Whether that false reality is related to laziness, popularity, authority, sex or a hundred other things, false beliefs about reality are nothing more than Satan's lies covered with new garb. These lies about what is real, what is true, results in bad thinking. Bad thinking results in bad actions. While our hearts can be "deceitful and desperately wicked," sometimes our hearts aren't so much the issue as the thinking. Often we want to see the two as one, and it is, sort of. The Bible tells us, "as a man thinks in his heart, so is he." It seems that there is a distinction that the heart (inner man) is where man does his "thinking." That thinking is what results in the kind of man he is. It is like the thinking results in how and what values are placed on certain things. We see this distinction when new guys are placed with us at Victory Academy for Boys. Many times the teens come through our doors ticked off and despondent toward their parents. It is easy to presume that there are heart problems, and often is the case. However, upon really talking "heart to heart" with them, many want a good relationship with their parents and even with God, but they don't really think maturely about the connections of how they are thinking and the resulting impact of living out that thinking on their relationships and the corresponding trust, freedom, and honor.
"upon really talking "heart to heart" with the guys in the Academy, many want a good relationship with their parents and even with God"
As parents we often prefer what looks to be the easy way of parenting; tell the child what to do and he does it. That is simple, but only effective as long as you stand there and wield power over him. The first-time parent learns that at some point before his little man hits 2 that this method is going to begin to show serious signs of failure. Accept it and get to the work of parenting. While obedience is foundational for the early years to help establish the understanding of authority structure and crucial for gaining experience in truth, by the time you enter the double digits, the real work is figuring out how to help the child become a good thinker.
The goals that we have in our parenting need to be wrapped around helping our children fall in love with truth, and ultimately we want them to learn to love the God of Truth. 1 John 2:15 holds an interesting command, "do not love." Similarly, Deuteronomy 6:4 commands, "you shall love." The significance of this is that we (along with our children) are commanded to think a certain way so as to result in a choice to do a certain thing, a certain deep and personal thing: love. Not only are we to love, but we are to love God, and to love Him supremely! We are to love Him differently, with an intensity that forms a grid whereby we consider (think) all else to be less-- less important, less desirable.
How do we teach ourselves, much less our children to think like this (warning, this could get convicting)? The key to thinking correctly is truth. Christ taught in John 8 that he was truth, and that abiding (living) in His truth sets us free (from sin). While smoking cigarettes may look like a good thing (millions are spent to help us come to that conclusion), truth is it isn't. It may feel great to yell and scream at your child, truth is it isn't. Harboring bitterness may seem like the best way to get even, but the truth is bitterness eats at YOU. When we really see truth as the truth, we don't fall for the lies. We have to teach our teens to think TRUTH....Biblical Truth about life.
Certainly we are in a life-long process of growing a stronger trust in truth, thus choosing more often, to respond to the compulsion to love God above all else. Do we make our walk with truth and the God of Truth compelling or repelling? Do those around us see the truth we claim making our lives and our interaction with others desirable? Considering our children, how are we making truth (His Word) central in our family. Where is truth applied to our decisions throughout our day? When it is applied is it done positively so they see the desirability of the resulting fruit of righteousness? Is the power of this truth evident in a way that they are developing a passion (intense desire) for personally "owning" (taking responsibility for) truth?
To think correctly, we must come to the right conclusions of what is right, correct, true, really what is more lovable. Before you cry "simplistic," think. What we love is a choice and what we love is what we think about. The more we see truth, the more we will see its power, and the more desirable it will be. The more we learn to love it and teach or kids love it, the more they will think about it. Adding to this, the ministry of the Holy Spirit in their lives, truth begins to take permanent hold in their daily thoughts.
Give me a little liberty to paraphrase a famous Proverb (22:7) on parenting, Train up a child in truth, and he will never forget it.
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Tucked into one of the most common Scriptures on parenting is a foundational truth that is often overlooked. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Usually we either focus on “the way he should go,” or on “when he is old he will come back to God (so don’t worry about his choices as a teenager). Sometimes we focus on the “train up” procedures themselves. Whatever our focus as we attempt to interpret and apply this verse, many of those whose children “turned out” read this verse and have feelings of smugness at their success. Others whose children didn’t “turn out” ponder this verse with feelings of guilt or shame. Those who are facing a teen in rebellion sometimes cling to this verse in the hopes that they will someday come back to God.
Rather than get hung up on how this verse makes us feel, or whether this proverb is meant to be a concrete truth or a general principle, I would like to zero in on one key element of the training spoken of in this verse, the trainer and his training. The subject of the training is elementary. It is training in righteousness. That most certainly is “the way he should go.” But what that training looks like is seldom pondered, and thus seldom practiced.
If we can understand what that training is to look like, the rest of the verse becomes much clearer. We know the subject of the training is holiness/righteousness. That certainly is “the way he should go.” The question is how do we go about the process of training? This is the only instance in Scripture where the Hebrew word hanak is translated “train up.”[i] It is usually translated “dedicate.” The literal root meaning of the word is to narrow. When used in the context of dedicating/initiating buildings it means to narrow down the use of the building to a specific use, such as a temple or palace. This is the only verse where the word is referring to an action taken on a person. It is interesting that the other places it is used it has to do with consecration, dedication, initiation. The concept found in this word is that of narrowing the child’s thinking in such a way that he chooses the right way to go. By putting this training into its historical context, it takes on a much more comprehensive and colorful meaning than the simplistic interpretations that see the training to mean to “stimulate desire,” or even to nurture, and discipline. Though “training” certainly includes those ideas, many times the power is taken from this Scripture by thinking of this training so simply. The training is often glanced over and the “promise” of a great, spiritual child is grabbed.
Looking back into this historical/cultural context we can see that a parent in Israel probably would not have taken the “training” to be simply something that just happened. This “training” is active (as opposed to passive), and required special effort from the trainer. Perhaps Solomon is using this word to cause the people to connect the job of parenting to the great amount of work and commitment it took to build the Temple. The Temple was very carefully built. It was tedious construction. A lot of sweat went into it. This same concept could be used when talking about the training of a soldier who is put through a rigorous process that results in his being equipped and dedicated to military service. That kind of training requires that the trainer, or builder have the experience of life in those things he is teaching. He must also have good stamina, the endurance to stay at it to the end. He must also have a high level of personal commitment to the end product, be that the development and commissioning of the soldier or the completion and dedication of a building. Buildings are built with sweat and effort. Soldiers are readied for battle with a great amount of sweat and effort poured into their training.
Taking this understanding of the trainer into the spiritual realm, the parent who desires to train and/or dedicate his child to live God’s way must have those same elements of spiritual experience, spiritual stamina, and spiritual commitment. These are all needed because it takes a lot of holy sweat and effort on the part of the parents to see the child grow up to serve God with all his heart. We will need to experience a walk with God that compels our children to follow along in their own spiritual journey. Time spent with God’s Word and in prayer is a priceless element in the parenting equation. How could we expect to have stamina (endurance) in our spiritual lives if we aren’t growing spiritually through the power of the Word and prayer? Our spiritual experience has a lot to do with our spiritual endurance. Our children watch us. They know what we are committed to. They know what we are passionate about. There should be no doubt in their minds that you are passionate about spiritual things. We should be so passionate about spiritual things that we are committed to the pursuit of spiritual growth in our own lives first. Our pursuit of our own spiritual growth should foster a commitment to our children’s spiritual growth. That commitment should be unwavering. There should be no TV, vacation, house, car, or job that compromises our commitment to spiritual growth. Experience, stamina, and commitment are vital elements in being prepared to train up our children.
There are late night talks and prayer. There are hours of prayer for the wellbeing of a child. A plan for instruction in righteousness takes time and energy to develop and implement. There will be many hours of comfort sacrificed for the spiritual and relational wellbeing of the children. It will take time, lots of time. Someone once said, “I have pictures of my children in my wallet where I used to have money.” It will cost financially. Ultimately it costs us. We must give of ourselves in this process of training up our children. “Training,” as a concept in Proverbs 22:6 is more about how we train than about what we train. The how is by holy sweat. The what is “the way he should go.”
[i] Gleason Archer, Jr. in Exposition of Specific Passages in the Book of Proverbs elaborates on some of these points.
Here's more that you may find helpful.
Americans live at a frantic pace. I'm an American. I'm not sure what the rest of the world is experiencing, but contemporary life here in the good ole’ U.S. of A. just doesn’t fit into Mark Twain’s lazy days of floatin’ down the Mississippi. That is a bygone era (if there ever was one). Most of us find ourselves immersed in our own very busy lives.
Have you had the same moments of reflection I've had that provoke me to wonder where it all went? What's more - how is this busy life impacting my family? What's it doing to my relationship with my wife? When am I finding time to influence my children and love them toward God? The example I am living, is it leading those I love to a stronger faith in God? As Christian parents, we have a lot of things to accomplish in this time-limited, time-pressured life. Though we often get the required tasks done, in my observations, few of us get the necessary tasks done.
After reading something like that, it's easy to walk away with a serious guilt trip. That's not my intention. As I look at my own wife and children and their multitude of needs, I become even more frustrated with the pressures of my own life. Sometimes it's like I'm watching a movie where it's plain to see something bad is going to happen. I want to yell out, “No, don’t do it, can’t you see what will happen?”
But no one listens.
The scene just keeps on rolling.
Have you ever felt this way? You can see something bad is going to happen, but you're helpless to change it? What do we do? Too often we simply plod along anyway. “The show must go on,” you know!
No, the show need not go on. If it must, perhaps it needs to without you! What must go on is much simpler than what's being pressed upon us by our culture (and well-meaning Christians). "What must go on" is that we must encourage our spouses to love and good works, to walk with God (Hebrews 10:24). We must dedicate time to our children so they can learn from us who God is and why we serve Him with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength (Deuteronomy 6).*
As a simple test of initial perceptions; have your spouse ask your children what you do and what you love. I'm humbled to think of what my children would say. They see me spend a lot of time and focus on my job and the daily details of life. I'm not sure they would initially say that I spend my time serving God. I'm afraid they would see me as a person that runs a boys' home. I hope they would say that I love God and mommy, but they might equally say that I love to take naps, watch TV, spend time at the office, hunt, fish, travel, golf, et. al.
I'm not questioning whether you or I love God. That's for another time. I'm assuming we love God. The question of the moment is two-fold.
1. Do we live like we love God more than the details, pleasures, and duties of our daily life (Deuteronomy 6:4-6)?
2. Do we take the time to communicate that to our spouses and children (Deuteronomy 6:7-9,20-25)?
If, by chance, they miss that, then they miss everything of real value, for eternity!
*For more on how to teach our children to love God with their whole being, check out the book Everyday Talk. ( www.amazon.com/Everyday-Talk-Talking-Naturally-Children/dp/097230469X )
For most parents when their children are young it is easy to have a close relationship. Hugs, prayer time, the words "I love you" all come very easily with young children. However as the teen years advance, relationships between parent and child can suffer. Whether a father and daughter who rightfully find close affection a bit more awkward or a father and son who have a growing difference in interests, or perhaps it is a mom who is struggling to allow her "little boy" to find the independence of being a young man, parent / teen relationships can be complicated at times. However as parents continue to find the need to exercise control over their teenagers with rules, standards and limitations, relationships becomes all the more important.
Loving relationships are the glue that hold families together and help smooth over the arguments, struggles and growing pains that every family faces during those teenage years. The principles of the Bible apply at home just as they do in relationships at work and church. Principles of love in 1 Cor. 13 such as thinking no evil, assuming the best, not holding grudges etc. need to be adhered to. There are many other relationship principles as well such as the principles of reconciliation found in Matthew 5 and other places. We can study principles such as "Don't let the sun go down on your anger, don't let your anger lead to sin." (Eph. 4:26) and so many more that can and should be found.
Take time to build relationships. Find common ground and utilize it. Go out for coffee or shakes (food is almost always common ground) watch sports together, learn to play a video game. Perhaps you hunt or fish, sew or bake, whatever you can find to engage in with the goal of building the relationship, do it!
Don't only spend time when there is an issue. Make "deposits" in their lives as often as you can by spending that time with them, saying "I love you" or sending them a text from across the room letting them know you're proud of them. These deposits allow you to make "withdrawals" and yet not damage the relationship when there are disagreements or discipline issues.
If rules and regulations are enforced in a teen's life without an on-going love infused relationship, rebellion will be the result.
What ways have you nurtured and enhanced the relationship with your teen lately? Why not shoot them a text right now and invited them for ice cream soon?
Download our Whitepaper on Ten Things Parents Miss by Executive Director, Mark Massey. Click Here
Wondering if your teen needs to be away from home for awhile to get help? Read Mark's helpful guide on making this difficult decision. Click Here.
Watch a video on a Victory Kind of Life to learn more about Victory Academy for Boys. Click Here.
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Around 25 years ago I heard a sermon that stuck with me through many years of dealing with struggling teens. It was from Hebrews 11, the “hall of faith” chapter. The gist of it was that People are people, God is God and Miracles are miracles. God who is God can take People who are just people and do a miracle so that when people see it all they can say is Praise God that is a miracle. This thought has encouraged me over and over as I worked with teens who were teens. Perhaps you’ll take some time to study through the thoughts below and be encouraged in your family’s situation.
Remember that No matter who you are dealing with, God is able to work in them both to “will and to do his good pleasure.” He can take your weaknesses and theirs and show his power through them and do exceedingly and abundantly above all you ask or think in order to use the situation for his purposes, bless your lives and get glory for himself.
1. People are People – Hebrews 11
2. God is God
A miracle is God doing the super natural, the unexplainable, the impossible in order to show his power and get glory for himself.
God showed his power in all these ways while on Earth:
If you have a boy who is headed away from God and toward trouble. Perhaps Victory Academy for Boys Can be part of God's miracle. Click here to find out more.
1. “I love you.” If you love someone, let them know it. Tell them and show them often. You may think they know it, and they might, but it is always nice to say it. I Corinthians 13 reminds us that we can be smart, sacrificial and sound wonderful in our speech, but if we don’t have love, we are nothing. Tell your wife, your son or daughter, call your mom and dad. Even in the struggles, an "I love you" sure can't hurt.
2. “I was wrong, forgive me.” One of my professors in college encouraged us to substitute this phrase for “I’m sorry.” In saying, “I was wrong” there is no doubt in the offended and hurt person’s mind that you know you hurt them and desire their forgiveness and restoration of the relationship. We can not be rightly related to God if we have broken and torn relationships with others. Perhaps you need to use this phrase with your teen today. Don't wait for them even if they were wrong too.
3. “Thank you.” In Luke 17 we read about those with leprosy who Jesus healed. He literally changed the rest of their lives. Things were different because of His intervention. Only one returned to say thank you. There certainly have been people who have made a difference in your life. People whose intervention changed things for the better. Do they know you are thankful? What about old friends, parents, your children, their teachers, a coach or former pastor. Make sure they know you are thankful. “Thank you” is never said too late or too much.
4. “I will .” We must say “I will” to God as he speaks to us about things he wants us to do or change, but we also need to say it to others. Jesus showed us in John 13 his willingness to wash his disciple’s feet. He then commanded us to do the same. Look for needs you can meet, and then when you see it, say, “I will.”
5. “I can.” Have you hit some brick wall in your Christian life? Do you feel defeated because of a sinful habit, or lack of prayer. Perhaps there is some difficult trial you and your teen are going through. In either instance, it is easy to say, “I can’t make it.” Paul reminds us that we CAN do all things THROUGH CHRIST who will strengthen us. A great lesson we must learn is that in myself I can’t, but in Him, “I can.”
Victory Family Ministries
We're a group of folks who love helping teens and families. We also love learning and sharing what God has taught us in our over 50 cumulative years of working with families and teens.