Trying to figure out a teenager is not really as hard as it seems. As previously posted, they are just like you the parent. Their lack of experience and many times focused teaching makes them susceptible to making foolish decisions. The last 2 items of who are these teens are perhaps the ones that bring the largest amount of fear and frustration to their parents.
5. Teens typically think they are wiser than they really are or in other words, they have a very distorted view of themselves. But, of course, so do I most of the time of myself. Oh, the deceptiveness of sin! (Hebrews 3:13) However with many teens, they tend to lack a real hunger for wisdom and look at what we older adults have as very little practical insight to give to them. I can’t count the number of times in working with teens I was told I just don’t understand. What we as parents and youth workers must do is make wisdom much more appealing to our teens. By using demanding words and tone of voice, confrontations and verbal struggles we easily shift the problems we want to address to ourselves. The teen tends to become defensive and not interested in listening.
6. Believe it or not, teens tend to be more legalistic than their parents. Pushing the limits on rules, they want to know and will test just how far they can go. They become quite the literalists. Ever hear, “I did exactly what you told me to do” to your frustration that they knew what you were intending in a situation? This is a heart issue that needs to be addressed in both their hearts and ours. Legalism as a parent is a form of self-righteousness that denies the saving grace of God and the need that our teens need to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit and their actions need to flow from their being born again.
7. Our teens tend to choose some of their friends without using wisdom. It is impossible to not be influenced by friends. We need to help guide teens in how to choose relationships and how we can step outside the emotional pulls to honest and biblical criteria.
8. Teens are susceptible to sexual temptation. Here the strength of youth, changes in life, the freedoms they experience and the lack of an accurate view outside the home and church all contribute to the potential problem. As a teenager physically awakens, fantasy and lust are common private sins and to help a teen, they must be open for discussion. Are you comfortable with this topic with your teen? Do they really have a biblical view of sex? Do you know where they struggle in this area? Can they critique the world’s view? Do they have a heart for sexual purity? Are they modest?
9. The final point to discuss is that teens tend to be focused on the present. What is not in their scope of view is to delay anything, especially gratification. Right now is the most important moment of life. Galatians 6:7, “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” is not so much in the scope of their day to day thinking. The physical moment tends to be what matters and temporal happiness is the priority. Some of this comes from the saturation of entertainment in our lives where the meaning of things is found in how good it makes me feel. As a result, things like church are boring regardless of how nourishing it is for them.
All of these things that describe a teen does not mean every teenager nor every item. They only are representative of the culture today. For us as parents and workers of teens, it gives us a place to understand and enter their world so we can help shape it to God-centered meaning. More to come….
The term teenager has not been around long in our language. You do not find it in the Bible nor in most literature until the middle of the 20th century. One of the reasons is that in most cultures, including the western culture, a young teenager was considered a young adult. Using the term teenager or adolescent becomes almost an excuse for not acting like a young adult. So who are these beings in many of our homes?
- They are sinners like you. Romans 3:9-23 gives a description of the teen and their parents. As a parent, you need to see your teen accurately so that you are not surprised by them. They will do some things that will affirm these verses. As sinners, it means there is hope for them as Christ came to save sinners.
- They are a young adult. The Bible does not recognize teenagers but calls those who are traditionally at puberty up to 30 a young adult. Jewish tradition puts it at 13 years old with the Bar (Bas for women) Mitzvah. Your teen needs to be treated as such and leave many of the childish things behind. The biggest challenge of being an adult is making decisions. They have the capability to begin making important choices and living with the consequences of them. Using good wisdom as a parent for sometimes to let them fail is the best thing for them.
- Your teen is self-centered and that will get in the way of accomplishing #2 above. Oh yeah, so are we self-centered and how often that gets in the way of our parenting! For both the teen and the parent, godly virtue is appreciated but our biggest problem in practicing it will be ourselves.
- Your teen is a “meaning-maker.” Paul Tripp in his books on parenting speaks of how we are all interpreters, thinkers, organizers and responders to life and it is not so much based upon the facts of what we see and hear, but moreso on how we interpret the facts. Read back through Genesis 2:16-17 and 3:1-6 and see how the facts were received and interpreted. You will see your teen (and yourself) in the narrative.
I have several more that I will post but what does this mean? To better understand your teen is to see how you can better help and reach them. I hopefully will be able to show you that your teen is not that much different than you. The biggest difference is the wisdom of experience. More to come…..