By Robert Wayne La Coste
Remember your teenage years? Now, come on, it wasn’t that long ago. I was still a teen twenty-four years ago, yet it seems like yesterday. Now, I’m living those years again through my own teenage children. No doubt, most if not all of us have “paid for our raising” in more ways than we might like to talk about. In conversation with other parents who have teens, we all agree that it is harder being a teenager today than back even in those “terrible” sixties. The sixties had its problems, but nothing like today. In the sixties, drugs, premarital relations and thusly sexual diseases were prevalent, but today they are an epidemic! As a result of this epidemic, abortion remains America’s holocaust while in the sixties it virtually was unheard of.
Though these matters have changed (and regretably not for the better), still there are some things which have not changed. I can remember teens in my youth wanting parents to know certain feelings we had and it is interesting to note that teens still want parents to listen and to know their true feelings today.
At the Guelph Correctional Center in Guelph, Ontario (Canada), Charles Galea, who works with troubled youth in that facility, asked hundreds of teens what they would say to their parents, if they could talk to them right now. These answers helped the facility and their staff in dealing with teens, but equally important, in helping men and women to be better parents.
“Don’t Lose Your Temper”
Or as one teen put it, “keep your cool.” In difficult times kids need reassurance.
I go to thinking about this statement and surely God’s word supports the principle of self-control; especially of one’s temper. The word temper is the root of another word, temperance. Self-control, or temperance is one of the keys in maintaining any relationship. Uncontrolled anger leads to other unrighteous acts, or as James put it, “. . . for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (Jas. 1:20). You noticed however, I said “uncontrolled anger.” Surely, there is a righteous indignation or anger that may well need to exist against certain evil, but to this anger the apostle Paul gives a warning, “Be ye angry and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Eph. 4:26). To fathers in particular, the apostle Paul wrote, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged” (Col. 3:21). Uncontrolled anger only begets more uncontrolled anger. Parents, let’s get hold of ourselves before we get hold of our kids and with calmness we will find our discipline will not only be more effective, but received in a lot different manner, than if we do otherwise.
Show Us Who’s Boss
Does it surprise you that many teens in these interviews said this? It shouldn’t. Most teenagers are young people who know their limitations and realize they need guidance and direction. Others said, “We just wanted our parents to show they cared about us. One way was to set rules, which they didn’t do.”
Children without guidance and rules to restrain them are going to turn out like the sons of the priest Eli. The Scripture reveals, “. . . because his sons made themselves vile, and he restained them not” (1 Sam. 3:13).
Children don’t want cruelty, but they do want discipline. I remember a friend from my high school days having no rules or regulations. He thought it absolutely preposterous that my parents should have an I I o’clock curfew for a senior in high school. My dad however felt that “anyone out past midnight was up to no good.” We weren’t exactly crazy about the rule, but we indeed followed it. Teens, respect and obey the rules of your mom and dad. Someday you too will have teenagers and you’ll be glad you did! Anyway, this friend later got into some trouble and remarked, “If I would have had some guidance and been restrained, I might have learned restraint. My folks didn’t care about me or they would have had rules.” No, he didn’t think this as a teenager, but in his early twenties when his life was messed up, he wished then someone would have cared enough to help him control his earlier life as a teenager.
God loves mankind and has rules for men. If we love our children, can we do less? Set rules, enforce curfews. Stick to them parents. Your teenagers might not think much about them or thank you now, but they surely shall someday!
Remember Who You Are
“Kids want someone they can look up to. Parents need to act their age. Be a parent, not a pal.”
This comment did surprise me somewhat. I didn’t think most teens wanted anyone but a pal. Of a truth, they want a parent. They want someone who is a role model for them to imitate. Because parents are older, I really think most teenagers respect that and look to the older for advice and help, particularly in tough situations.
This is a tough chore for me as a parent, for I’m close to my children, as I think most parents are. Because of that closeness, there comes times when I must say no, even though I might like to say yes. It boils down to this, Fathers must take the lead in “bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). My brothers in Christ who have children: We are first fathers! Everything else is secondary.
My wife has taught high school for nearly twenty years. She sees this problem all the time. Men who want to be “pals and buddies,” rather than fathers. So what do they do? They give in when they shouldn’t, they compromise and spoil, for they don’t want their Johnny or Janie unhappy. Little do they realize, that in their quest to keep their teenager happy, and seemingly at all cost, they sell their soul to the devil. Parents: Remember who you are. You are the one God has given into your hands a precious soul for a brief time. This will mean standing for the right, as a parent should. Our children will have pals come and go. They only have one father and mother. Teens, you should surely, “hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother; for they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck” (Prov. 1:8-9). Teenagers: Peers are like the weather. They come and go and are often unpredictable and often unreliable. Lean to your folks and strive to build a lasting relationship. You can depend on them and they should be able to depend upon you.
Talk About God
This response may surprise you, but it didn’t me. It made me think of the several times I have talked with troubled teens and each time, they wanted to talk about someone or something bigger than they are. They want to believe in that someone. They want to know if there is a God and if he or anyone else really cares about them. When you are a teenager in trouble, you look for answers. Some find the answer in drugs, but that’s not a solution, that’s a problem. When all seems lost and they think no one cares, some commit suicide. Teenage suicides remain at an all time high.
Long ago, realizing that in each generation, children would need guidance and direction, God spoke and said, “And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut. 6:6-7).
It is not enough brethren to “take our children to church. ” We should have God and his law ever before them, both in our teaching and especially in our manner of living.
Call Our Bluff
“My parents always took me too seriously. Kids don’t mean everything they say,” another teenager remarked. “I only said a lot of things to get their attention.”
Young people are not the only ones who often need their bluff called. I’ve seen Christians threaten to leave the congregation like the young person threatening to leave home if they don’t get their way. Such a bluff needs to be called. At one time or another, both of my children have threatened to leave home. When asked if I could pack their bag, they immediagely dropped the subject. In fact, once with my pre-teen son, his mother did pack his bag. He immediately apologized and in another few minutes was hugging his mother and saying he was sorry. Children don’t really want to leave home, but if they can get you to thinking they just might leave, they feel they have won at least a mental victory. Truly, “foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Prov. 22:15).
“We just want to be told the truth.” Well, who really doesn’t’? The teenager who said this, needs to be commended, for truth is indispensable to any proper relationship. Honesty may well be however, a forgotten virtue. Yet the Scripture remains steadfast and sure, “Putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor” (Eph. 4:25).
When parents lie or deceive their children, why does it surprise them when their children also turn to lying and deception of some sort?
Honesty is not only a “good policy,” but it is the will of God. It was demanded of the special men who worked for the church in Jerusalem to deal with the needs of the Grecian widows (Acts 6:3). All Christians are to “provide things honest in the sight of God and all of men” (Rom. 12:17; 2 Cor. 8:21). Honesty is a surely a matter to be praised and constantly thought on and practiced (Phil. 4:8). Parents, to rear honest children, let’s be honest!
Most parents don’t have delinquent children to deal with, at least not like those interviewed at the Ontario correctional institute. We have teenagers who simply want and need firm, caring parents. Young people want to be treated with an equal balance of love and discipline, told the truth, and have a source of guidance in their lives. Parents are we doing what we can in these all so important areas? The thought of being lost from the Lord eternally is too horrible to even contemplate, but the thought of our children being lost because we weren’t parents as we could and should have been well that’s a nightmare!
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 16, pp. 488-489
August 20, 1992