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.

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