In this month’s blog post, Primer teacher Janice Stolle—who is also mom to a teenager—sums up key points from Age of Opportunity, by Paul David Tripp
At Trinity Classical School we have students ranging in age from age 4 to age 16. As our student population is maturing and the oldest among us are approaching adulthood, some families may be struggling with what you might call “the dreaded teen years!” Our society often characterizes the teenage years as a time of drama, emotion, and broken communication between parent and child. Parents can be made to feel like the adolescent time period is something we must endure or survive. But according to author Paul David Tripp, it doesn’t have to be that way. Let us first take a look at the strife in our home and see our own role in the unfolding drama. We must check our own hearts and be sure they are aligned with God before we expect our teens to do the same.
As parents, we struggle with our teens because they often bring out the worst in us. They expose our self-righteousness, our impatience, our unforgiving spirit, our lack of faith, lack of a servant’s love, and our craving for comfort. Unlike a younger child, a teen can better recognize our sin and we can quickly become hypocrites in their eyes. We adults may have idols in our hearts, and when these idols are threatened, anger may rule our reactions to our teens. Some of these idols are:
- Idol of comfort It’s not always convenient to deal with our teen’s need when we are in the middle of a task, tired, or we’re looking forward to relaxing. A trip to the store at 8:00pm for an item for school may provoke an attitude of grumbling or complaining on our part. But our heart must reflect that of our Savior. In the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke we read of how after a day of ministering, Jesus comes to Peter’s home, heals Peter’s mother-in-law and then the sick from whole the city gathered at the door to be healed after sunset. Jesus definitely deserved a siesta, but instead the Bible says he healed many.
- Idol of appreciation Parenting in general, is an exercise in thankless giving. But teens very often neglect to express gratitude. A “Gee, Mom, you’re the best!” every once in a while would be great. But our motive should be to impress God only. “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (Matthew 6:3-4).
- Idol of success This idol rears its head when we just happen to casually mention how our teen prodigy pitched a no-hitter, earned a black belt, or achieved his aviator’s license. By the way, those are actual accomplishments of my Facebook friends’ kids! But when we look at our teen as an extension of ourselves and see them as responsible for our feeling of pride at their successes or of disappointment for their lack of achievement, we have placed the idol of success before the love of our children. We all know how our God feels about pride. He hates it! (Proverbs 16:5, 16:18)
- Idol of control: Oh, this is a biggie! It seemed that when my teen was a wee child in the single digits, he was so much easier to control. He was compliant and obedient… but he was three feet tall! Now my son is bigger than me and well, he looks like a man! As my teenage son is maturing and striving to become independent, he regularly voices his own, often differing opinion. It is natural that he seeks to have more control over his choices such as friends, activities, entertainment, etc. One Scriptural truth we parents love to cling to is Proverb 22:16: “Train a child up in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Well, the “old” part doesn’t just happen one day. It is a process that begins even before the teen years and continues through adulthood. You see, we should desire that our teen move beyond simply obeying us and transition to making decisions based on wisdom and doing what is right.
Parents, these idols that rule our hearts are a stumbling block, preventing us from viewing the teenage years as a hopeful season filled with opportunities to teach God’s truth to our teens. Instead we may be at odds with our teen. In our attempt to shepherd our teen’s heart to be oriented toward Christ and for him to have a right focus in behavior and when making decisions, we must be a model of selfless giving, humble confession, gracious acceptance, and forgiveness. Tripp reminds us that within the context of family, God’s primary learning community, we must first check, and then align our hearts toward Christ to effectively shepherd our teen to have a heart for God.