1. It's not as easy as it looks on paper.
I had parenting all figured out before I had kids. I watched the videos, read the books and even preached a few sermons on it. Then my wife and I had children and all but a handful of key principles blew away like dust (from the top of a teen boy's desk) in the wind.
Parenting teenagers is tough, but can be a manageable mess if we keep our eyes on Chirst throughout the process.
2. Teenagers today are faced with relentless temptations.
Unlike when I was a teenager, today's young people are under a constant barrage of temptation...much of it electronic. From easily accessible on-line porn to seductive Instagram posts to cyber-bullying, temptation is literally at their fingertips. For parents who don't have an action plan, this can be a 24/7 relentless temptation for their teens to compromise.
3. Friends matter.
Show me a teenager's friends and I'll show you that teenager's future. If they have friends who are a negative force it will be easier for them to give in to temptation. As 1 Corinthians 15:33 reminds us, "Don't be misled, 'Bad company corrupts good morals.'" The opposite is true as well. If their friends are passionate for Jesus it will help them to be stay on the right path.
4. Love and listening spackles huge parenting cracks.
Learning to listen to my son and hearing what he means (not just what he's saying) is a skill I'm still seeking to master. The better I've gotten at it the more he has opened up to me. My wife and I deeply love him and his tween sister...and they know it. So even when we blow it, our love for them becomes an anchor for our relationship in spite of our mess ups and missteps.
5. Praying together helps us keep it together.
When I'm not on the road I take my kids to school everyday and we pray together as a family before I drop them off. At night we pray together again. We pray for each other to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to produce the "love, joy, peace, patience" and all of the other characteristics that a family needs to, not just survive, but thrive. We know that it's only through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we can be a household defined by love and faith.
6. Talking about God should be organic.
My favorite way to teach my teenage son about God is when it is more organic than organized. These kinds of spontaneous teaching opportunities could be after a movie, while driving home from school or right before football practice. This is usually when I can help him think through how to apply a Biblical principle to a real life situation, handle a problem at school in a God-honoring way, or break down the real message of a song that is on the radio. This brand of spontaneous training helps him realize that God's Word is practical and relevant, not merely theoretical and theological.
7. He should see me sharing my faith consistently.
Ever since Jeremy was a little child he has witnessed me witnessing to others. Whether it be on a vacation, at a restaurant or on a sideline, I've had the chance to share Jesus with Jeremy standing right there with me again and again. I want him to know that sharing the greatest story ever told is a deep privilege and should be a natural part of our lives. I also like to take him and his friends out to share Jesus with other teenagers at local malls. Since they go to a Christian school this gives them an opportunity to share the Gospel in a real life situation. If you and your teen(s) need help in sharing your faith you may want to pick up Dare 2 Share's new faith-sharing curriculum called Shine. It will equip you and your teenagers to share the good news from take off to touch down in a simple, compelling way.
8. Fighting through to breakthrough is a must.
There have been more times than I'd like to admit where I've lost my temper with my son. Whether it be because of a perceived bad attitude or a subpar grade or a messy room, I can tend to react with a short fuse that can exacerbate the situation. What has saved the day is a commitment to work through the problem until we have a breakthrough. The commitment to work stuff out (and not just stuff it away) has saved the day in the Stier household again and again.
9. I must become more and more his coach, and less and less his quarterback.
A quarterback drives the field and directs the game. A coach equips the quarterback to drive the field and direct the game. Learning how to let Jeremy make some of his own decisions has been a slow, but painfully rewarding process.
Last week we sat down and talked through some issues. He asked me if I trusted him and I told him that I did. He said, "Then dad, you have to let me start to make some of these decision on my own." He assured me that he would do what was right.
I believe him. But, like a recently retired Peyton Manning, I still want to get on that field and throw the ball to him. Learning to coach from the sidelines is something I'm trying to do.
10. Hold the wet soap just tight enough.
Teenagers are like wet soap. Squeeze too hard and they'll go flying out, but don't hold them tight enough and they could slip out of the faith. My wife and I are constantly praying for wisdom to hold Jeremy just tight enough, tight enough for him to feel the squeeze of following God's lead in his life. But we also want to hold him loose enough for him to own, live and share his faith in the way that God has wired him.
Please pray for my son Jeremy as he becomes the man of God I know he's becoming. Pray that he continues to lead the way spiritually on his school and with his friends. Also pray for my sweet 11 year old daughter Kailey as she's about to begin that exciting and exhausting trek into the teen years. Pray that she becomes a woman of God who, like her big brother, is unashamed of her faith.
If you'd like me to pray for your teenager too, then list his/her/their first name(s) in the comments section below.