Archive for September, 2013

When YOU Cross the Line With Your Teen

One of the most frequent themes that inevitably arises while chatting with parents of teenagers is most certainly the topic of limits, boundaries and consequences.  With adulthood looming on the horizon, teens love to test the limits and exercise their independence.  As a result, parents are always trying to stay one step ahead of their teen by mastering the art of setting good limits and responding to the rebellion in a way that will be helpful to a teenager.

But what happens when you, the parent/adult,  are the one that crosses the line?  What do you do when you have said or done something that is completely inappropriate and possibly  wounding to them?  Maybe, your behavior was a direct response to your teen’s negative behavior or attitude.  Perhaps, you felt provoked, unprepared or even attacked.  Whatever the case, there is never an excuse for verbal or behavioral retaliations toward our teenagers.   The inappropriate words or behaviors never help or heal a bad situation  and often deeply stab at the heart of your teen.

Unfortunately, most parents have or will cross this line at some point or another.  Recently, I leaped over the line by reacting to the sin of one of my teenagers by sinning right back at them.  During a family devotion (of all things!), one of my kids had been displaying an obstinate and resistant attitude by offering curt answers and sarcastic remarks.  While my husband continued leading us in a discussion, this particular child seemed determined to distract and disable our time together.  My husband calmly attempted to redirect him and remind him of the limits and expectations as a family.  A few minutes later, I thought I heard our grumpy teen utter an ugly, cutting comment toward his brother who had been trying his best to ignore his brother and participate in the conversation.   Frustrated by his unkind manner and his refusal to just be nice to everyone, I abruptly stood up at the table, exclaimed some harsh words his way and physically corrected him in the most immature and unnecessary manner.

The whole table fell silent and I immediately felt a wave of conviction come over me.  My husband’s bewildered expression combined with my son’s tear-filled eyes added to the shame that was swimming around inside my heart.  Ugh. Aaah. Gulp.   “What had I done?!”  How had I let something so minor get to me in such a major way?  After apologizing to my whole family and individually to our son, we proceeded to finish up our time together.  Even though he had accepted my apology, I still pursued a private conversation with him afterward.  I was humbled and blessed by the genuine forgiveness he had offered me as well as his desire to apologize for his earlier behavior.  Despite the grace I had received from my family and my son, throughout the day I found myself wanting to do something more to make things right.  In the midst of this battle in my heart and mind, I was reminded of a passage in the book of Micah.

In this short book in the bible, we are given a true picture of our God who hates sin yet loves the sinner.  Through the prophet Micah, Israel is reminded of how they have repeatedly forgotten their covenant with God by refusing to live by the standards that He had given them.  He tells them that God is angered by their sin and will pass judgment upon them because of it.  In the midst of God’s words of judgment, however, He mercifully offers forgiveness and new life to those who will repent and follow Him. When the people suggest bringing gifts and sacrifices as a way to make things right with God once again, the prophet Micah tells them

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 (Amplified Bible)

The same is true for you and I today.  Whether you have sinned against God, your friend, your spouse or your teen, the very best thing that you can do after you repent and confess your sin is to move forward in His grace.  Ask the Lord to help you as you commit to act justly, to love kindness and mercy and to exude humility as you humbly walk with Him.  Your temptation to do anything else will lack the redemptive power that comes when His streams of mercy and love and kindness flow out of you and into your relationships.   This is good.  And this is what the Lord requires of you when you wound someone.   May you find freedom in His forgiveness as you commit to walk this way as a mom, dad, or friend of a teenager.

Constant Conversation

The changes that occur in our teenagers often accompany shifts that begin to occur in our relationship with them.   Many parents notice their teens spending more time in their room or with their friends.  As a result,  there is often a steady reduction in the amount of time parents are interacting and conversing with their kids as they approach adulthood.  While this desire for separation and solitude is certainly a natural part of adolescence, parents are more limited in their ability to guide and disciple their teenagers if their kids aren’t around as much as they were.  For many parents, this disconnection offers the solitude and relief they have been craving and even dreaming about for so many years.  But, as I have written in earlier posts, during these last years we must pull up our boot straps as parents and intentionally seize the opportunities God has given us to continue  instructing, guiding, loving, supporting, admonishing and correcting our kids while they are still under our roof.

Rather than expand my thoughts on why this need for constant conversation is so critical, I thought I would direct you to one of my favorite books for parents of teens.  In his book Age of Opportunity, Paul Tripp gives parents a biblical perspective on this issue and why it so important for parents to keep the conversation going well into adolescence and young adulthood.  Below is an excerpt from a section in his book where he discuss some critical strategies for parenting teens.

Why do our teenagers need constant daily conversation? Why is it dangerous for us to let days, weeks, sometimes even months go by between personal, self-disclosing conversations with them?  Hebrews 3:12-13 answers this question for us and provides a model for our daily interchanges with our teenagers. 

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.             

This passage gives us a reason for constant conversation with our teenagers.  The reason comes in the form of a warning against turning away from God.  Notice that the turning away refers to a turning away of the heart.  The heart always turns before the eyes, the mouth, the ears, the hands, and the feet. 

As parents we want to do everything we can to protect our teenagers from falling away.  We want to protect them from rebellion, unbelief, rejection of God, and the hardening of their hearts.  To do so, the writer of Hebrews says, we need constant conversation; that is we need to encourage them daily.  Our teenagers (like all of us) need daily contact and daily help.  They need daily encouragement and daily exhortation.  They need daily pleading.  They need constant conversation. 

The constant conversation model means being willing to pursue your teenager.  It means not living with the distance that he has introduced into the relationship.  It means hanging in through those uncomfortable moments when you’re not really wanted and not really appreciated, and forsaking a negative relationship where you only have meaningful talks when your teenager has done something wrong. 

Be committed to prevention.  Don’t settle for nonanswers.  Ask good questions that cannot be answered with the teenager disclosing his heart (thoughts, motive, purpose, goals, desires, beliefs, values, etc). Finally, always bring the Gospel to each of those conversations.  There is a Redeemer.  He has conquered sin and death.  He present as the Helper in all my trouble.  There is hope!  Goliaths do die! Change-radical heart and life change-is possible!

A parent who has his hope in the Gospel will pursue his teenagers and will not stop until they leave home. We won’t wait for them to come to us for help.  We won’t argue with them as to whether we are needed or not.  The call of the Word is clear.  With hearts filled with Gospel hope, we will question and probe, listen and consider, plead and encourage, admonish and warn, and instruct and pray.  We will awake every day with a sense of mission, knowing that God has given us a high calling.  We are walls of protection that God has lovingly placed around our teenagers.  We are the eyes that he has given that they might see.  So we converse and converse and converse.  (Paul David Tripp, Age of Opportunity,  excerpts from p. 223-226)

I am often asked by parents what they are to do when their teen seems uninterested or even resistant to having any conversation with them.   For many different reasons, some kids don’t demonstrate outward interest in your pursuit of them.   That does not, however,  let you, the parent, off the hook.  We are to continually model God’s gentle and loving pursuit of us as His children.  He never, ever stops pursuing His children.  Nor should we as parents.

You might begin this constant conversation by stepping into their world and showing a non-condemning interest in their passions, struggles, conflicts.  Ask good questions and seize the opportunities that you have with them every day.  Pray that the Lord gives you insight into any resistance you experience while you pursue them.  And be wise about when and how to start a conversation with a guarded or defiant teenager.  Often times the best conversations between parents and teenagers occur during those unplanned moments – car rides, trips to the doctor, preparing food in the kitchen, or doing mundane tasks around the house side by side.  These are the opportunities that God gives us each day to “encourage one another daily while we still have today.”

Today, ask the Lord to prompt your heart to notice these and to be ready when they happen.  I pray you will have many opportunities to lean in, listen well, love unconditionally and lead boldly just as our Father does for us each day.

Are you ALL IN Too?

Our oldest child, Emily, just began her freshman year at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.  This past year has been a complete whirlwind.  Like others who have traveled this road before us, we experienced many conflicting feelings along the way- joy and sorrow, excitement and angst.   Mixed in with all of those emotions was amazement.  No, it was not because Emily is an amazing girl.  Though I believe if you met her, you’d agree that she really is.  And it was not because the school she had chosen to attend was so incredibly amazing either.  Though, I am certain that many alumni could give me a long list of reasons why Chapel Hill is truly an amazing place.  We were most amazed at how quickly Emily became a devoted fan and completely, committed follower of her new school.

Now I realize that instant devotion following a commitment to college is par for the course.  Many high school seniors immediately plaster that university bumper sticker on their car and wear clothing which bears the name of their college selection.  Even so, we just didn’t expect to see this drastic change from our daughter.  You see, ever since Emily was born, she has been wearing clothes that have the name of our alma mater on it.  Our university’s logo was on her bibs, onesies, t-shirts, cheerleading uniforms, water bottles, and even on her school supplies!  One of her first phrases as a toddler was, “Go Duke!”  Whenever she saw our team name, she reflexively exclaimed these two words.  And after eighteen years of cheering for our team, all of a sudden, Emily Perry is a Tar Heel!

Her brothers are just not okay with her new allegiance to the “dark side”.  All summer they have taunted her and mocked the light shade of blue she now wears with such pride.  Despite their provoking, Emily has remained completely resolute about her decision to attend Chapel Hill.  When she said “yes” to their offer, she indirectly said ‘no’ to every other offer that was made available to her , including our alma mater.  And while that has made for some playful opposition at home, just between you and me, we are very, very  pleased that Emily is ALL IN.   Her enthusiastic commitment arose because she realized that what she was being offered was a privilege not a right.  This attitude to be ALL IN as a student at the University of North Carolina will undoubtedly make her college experience more rich and meaningful.   Her determination to be faithful and loyal, even in the midst of opposition and ridicule, will cause her to link arms with other devoted followers for strength.  Together their strength and devotion will offer her encouragement and support when she faces discouragement, despair, and even defeat while she is on the Hill (especially during basketball season !).

I have to wonder if the disciples were in a similar position at the onset of their calling to follow Jesus.   They were being given the opportunity to live life with Jesus, the rabbi who was performing miracles and attracting crowds wherever he traveled!   Even though being picked by him was an unparalleled honor, they too had to say goodbye to other paths that had been offered to them.  The cost of this decision could not have been very clear at the onset.  Perhaps, they found strength in the crowds at first.  But as more and more followers abandoned Jesus, the disciples were often reminded by Jesus that following Him would not be easy.  Jesus said, “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:38-39)  Jesus told the disciples they needed to be ALL IN.  He also told them that the Father would “enable” them or empower them to follow Him.  (John 6:65)  I am certain they regularly reconsidered the decision after many followers deserted or opposed Jesus. Eventually Jesus asks the twelve if they wanted to leave as well.  Peter who had certainly evaluated other options replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

Now that all of my kids have returned to the classroom I, too, must take take some time to reevaluate who my teacher is as well.  A disciple is a completely committed follower-someone who has decided to be  ALL IN.  In a world where principles, opinions, ideologies and philosophies that oppose Christ are heralded and godly wisdom and biblical principles are regularly mocked and minimized, disciples find strength by His Spirit, through His word, and by fellowship with other committed followers.

As I hear about Emily’s new classes and see my kids studying at home, I must ask myself who I am following.   Do I know my Jesus because I am actively seeking to study the way He lived, loved and labored on this earth?

When my kids are passionately cheering for their teams, I must examine what I am fervently praising.  Where is my emotion, energy and enthusiasm channeled?  What do I really worship?

When my kids begin to talk about their peer groups at their respective schools, I must consider  who surrounds me.  Who do I walk beside  and who is encouraging me to fix my eyes on Christ when I face trials, challenges and opposition?

Our kids need us to remain devoted followers.   Choosing to be ALL IN is the best decision we can make as a mom or dad.  Our kids crave examples of what real life as a disciple-a completely committed Christ follower- is like.  Every single day they are enticed to follow something or someone else.  All of these paths begin with alluring messages yet end with false promises.  Eternal life can only found by following Christ and His ways.  Even though our kid’s interest in being ALL IN as a  Christ follower may seem minimal or even non-existent, we must remember our own youth and how we were drawn to steadfast people who lived life with passion and purpose.  Our willingness to stay genuinely committed to Christ will always garner more respect, curiosity and admiration from our kids than a parent who follows anything and everything or nothing and no one.  No, we can’t force our kids’ allegiance to Christ but we can trust that our resolve to be ALL IN as a disciple of Jesus will be the most enticing and life giving path this world has to offer.



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