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 Others of a more introverted temperament may become withdrawn, discouraged and defeated, feeling like they can never measure up to our expectations.
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.
“Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house were tensions and frustrations. What a rouse!
The hurts and offenses from long long ago seemed just under the surface. Things were ready to blow.”
Does this, in some measure, describe your family Christmas each year? Are you concerned about the gathering over the next few days? You are not alone. It isn't just your family. In fact even in the Bible we see family conflict from the first family (Cain murdered his brother Able) right on to the family of Jesus himself. If you study the families of historical heroes in the faith, missionaries and even pastors, you’ll find conflict to one degree or another. Why? We are all sinners. We irritate each other at the very best and “bite, devour and destroy one another” (Galatians 5:15) at worst.
So how do we handle tough family situations during the Holidays when it is supposed to be a time of love, joy and peace? A time to cherish the memories of each other’s company, yet it is filled with strife? Certainly there are an infinite number of situations. This post is not intended as a “cure-all” article nor do we want to minimize your family’s needs by trying to tackle them in a short blog post. However, we want to offer some basic Bible principles and a few practical ideas that may be of help.
1. Love your family. Jesus said that our love for family must be secondary to our love and devotion to him. He also said to love our enemies and those who spitefully hurt us. In order to love Jesus and honor him, we must love our families. What does this love look like though in practical terms? Does it mean we open ourselves or our children up to physical or spiritual harm? No! However, It does mean that we love biblically. Study 1 Corinthians 13 for a refresher on what this means. We suggest you seek wise biblical counsel from a pastor or godly friend for help in your particular situation especially if it is involves an abusive situation.
2. Pray. Pray for yourself. Pray that you will show grace, love, patience, mercy and reflect Christ and his actions toward those who hurt him. Pray also for the family members who cause problems. Seek God's help diligently about the whole situation through serious prayer.
3. Open neutral lines of communication. The Christmas visit probably isn't the best time to confront or rebuke. Instead, perhaps you could make an actual list of topics you can chat about which you know will be neutral. Try crafts or hunting and fishing. What about new apps you've found for your phone? Recipes, pets, new restaurants… the list could go on, but think ahead about it and write it down. Maybe write it in a note on your smartphone so you can discreetly refer to it when needed in the middle of the room or in the car.
4. Don’t preach. Again, this probably isn't the time to correct, advise or rebuke. If frustrating topics arise, do your best to suggest postponing the conversation. Have a plan of action for politely walking away. (I have to email a friend for Christmas, wrap a gift, check on the kids…) Do your part to avoid tense subjects especially if you’re prone to being a confronting type person.
5. Limit the time. Plan ahead to limit your time together. Don’t over-stay. Planning ahead allows you to politely let them know you’ll only be staying for a few hours or just for a meal. If family is coming to your house, plan something ahead that you’ll be involved in after the family visits. Invite others over at a certain time so the family members in question will need to leave etc. This is not being rude. It is planning to avoid conflict.
6. Plan activities. Perhaps you can visit a local landmark together. Go to dinner at a neutral place in public. You can plan crafts with the kids, outdoor or indoor games or watching a Christmas movie. Avoid down time where people are bored, restless or have opportunity for negative conversation and/or arguments. Keep the flow of activity moving with things that give options to keep minds and talk active with positive subjects.
7. Create Space. If possible, plan ahead for times of space for yourself and/or your family while still visiting. Maybe you’ll take the kids for some last minute shopping or to a McDonald’s Play Place. Plan a walk or run each day. Plan to call a friend for Christmas which takes you away into a private room for a short time. Bring a project to work on with the kids – a model or craft. Whatever it is. Plan ahead to create some space so tensions can ease. Space allows you and them time throughout the visit cool down.
We fully realize that these few suggestions could seem trite depending on how difficult things are for you. We hope not, but we do want you to know that we realize that the Christmas and New Year’s holidays are not always “the most wonderful time of year” and we care. If we can be of help to you or your family, please contact us and talk with us. We care and we believe the Bible can bring hope to your situation.
Learn More About How Victory Can Help Your Struggling Boy
Watch a Video about Victory Academy for Boys
Read more from Mark Massey and our Team
5 Phrases That You Can Give to Make Christmas Awesome This Year
Victory Academy for Boys - A Well Kept Secret for Too Long
Making Time to Train Your Teen Before They Are Gone
Take some time to spend with your teen but don't just watch a movie or play a video game, TALK. Grab some coffee at Starbucks, go fishing, take a drive, go shopping or just take them out for their favorite meal.
Here are some conversation starters to help deepen the communication and make the time more meaningful.
1. Name three things you wanted as a kid but never got.
2. What was the happiest day of your life so far and why?
3. What is the dumbest purchase you ever made?
4. Which is better to you, $100 Million or true love?
5. If you wrote a book about your life, what would the title be? Why?
6. What kind of church do you think you’ll go to when you’re older?
7. What’s an area you feel I need to work on as a parent?
8. What’s the most difficult thing in the Bible for you to believe?
9. A Bible verse that has really stuck out to me lately is…
10. What friend has had the most impact on your life for God? Why?
So there are a few ideas to get you started. Make sure to make the questions / starters work both ways. Remember communication is a two-way street.
What other conversation starters have you found to work with your teens that may help other parents?
Leave a comment below or on Facebook.
Here are some other Parent Point Posts you may be interested in:
Making Time to Train Your Teen Before They're Gone.
Rules Without Relationship Equals Rebellion.
What Do Your Kids Think?
Click here to download a report on 10 Things Parents Often Miss in Raising Teens .
If you feel that Victory Academy or Mark Massey could be of help to your family or a family you know, please let us know. Just click here.
Have you ever been yelled at as an adult? Maybe it was in traffic or when you accidentally spilled something on a brute at a ball game. Whatever the situation, how did it make you feel? Did you feel your face get red? Were you embarrassed or angry? After the fact, even hours later, did you feel vengeful or keep thinking of things you could have or should have yelled back at the person? Now, rewind to the last time you yelled at your child. Do you think they feel much differently? Do you think raising your voice or using harsh words helps or hurts the relationship with young people?
The Bible says in Ephesians 4:29-32, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (30) And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (31) Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: (32) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
There is powerful truth in this passage regarding communication in general especially at home, but let’s focus for now on the word “clamor” in verse 21. The word comes from a word that means to croak (as a raven) or scream that is, shriek, cry (out). This unfortunately describes most every one of us as parents at one time or another in the way we speak to our kids. We lose control because we had a long day, our kids get under our skin, they disobey or disrespect one too many times and instead of responding firmly in love, we respond firmly in anger, clamor and evil speaking. Instead of solving the problem, we makes it worse.
Here are 10 suggestions for dealing with yelling and/or its aftermath.
1. If you’re guilty, make it right. If you know you’ve been wrong in this area, let your child know you were wrong, you feel badly about it and you are going to take steps to correct this issue. This may be difficult, but it will help you and your child. Make sure you also go to the Lord and ask for forgiveness and help as well. He will not only forgive us but strengthen us to overcome our sin. (I John 1:9)
2. Communicate with your child in age appropriate ways that you struggle with anger and yelling at times. Let them know you are praying for victory and ask for their help. Let them know what actions cause you to struggle more. Don’t blame them or make them feel your sin is their fault (it’s not) but communicate that their actions do make a difference.
3. Give advance warning when possible to avoid the yelling. Let your child know that their actions are elevating your emotions in a negative way and that you feel like you’re going to explode. Let them know when possible that you both need to work to defuse the situation immediately.
4. Pray. Ask God right there in the heat of the moment to give you strength to control your words and voice. Step away and cool down if possible.
5. Envision a stage. God sees your actions, but imagine that a group of your peers or co-workers are watching you and your child on a stage. Would your yelling embarrass you in front of them? Perhaps it will help to envision them as being there.
6. Remember you are the parent. Yelling and warring with words reduces your level of authority and respectability. You are the adult. Remember to act like one. When you yell, it makes it easier for your child to yell back because you seem more like a sibling or peer.
7. Memorize this passage of Scripture together with your child. Agree that it is wrong for both of you to participate in these sins of words and voice. A joint memorizing project will help with accountability and relationship building. Ps. 119:11 says, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”
8. Have your husband or wife help. Be accountable to someone regarding your words and voice. A husband or wife it perfect. If that doesn’t fit in your particular situation, ask your pastor, pastor’s wife or a close friend to keep tabs on you and ask how you’re doing weekly. Ask them to pray with you about the struggle.
9. Thank the Lord your child is safe and healthy. There have been times I felt myself becoming irritated with my child and feeling like exploding. It helped to envision them sick or hurting and thank the Lord that they were actually ok, safe and well. This filled me with more compassion and thankfulness which helped defuse the anger and tone down the situation.
10. Read a good book on Words. A new book is currently available by Paul Tripp called “War of Words.” You can order it here and watch a short helpful video here.
So is there ever a reason to yell? Sure. Perhaps to get attention, to create urgency or emphasis, but yelling with sinful anger is never good. Like any sin, it always makes things worse.
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.
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.”
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Author & Editor
Author and Editor
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.