Marriage and the Family (6): The Teenage Years (1)

Bringing up children is a demanding task and parents may, at times, long for the day when their family enters the teenage years and becomes less dependent on their mother and father. But, combined with this, there is also anxiety regarding the years when children, who have relied so much on their parents, begin to express their own views and to challenge the manner in which they have been raised.

The differences between generations

Society has changed in a marked way over the past generation. The standards that were in place to maintain a certain level of decency have been thrown to the wind; the media pumps out its deadly material and teenagers are told that they have “rights” which years ago would never have been countenanced. “Casual” or “cool” reigns and authority is questioned. The use of the Internet and all the electronic toys, gadgetry, entertainment devices, and other products which are available make it almost impossible for parents to know and understand what their children use. Such is the speed by which this is changing that it is beyond reason to expect those who are older to keep up with all that is available.

Another major difference is that respect for the Word of God is challenged. Emphasis is placed on evolution with all that this teaching brings; absolutes are not accepted; long held standards regarding what is right and what is wrong are set aside. This is the background against which teenagers are growing into maturity. Parents must be aware of the issues that will be raised in a Christian home and have to ensure that they are prepared to deal with them.

The dilemmas faced

Parents are often faced with difficult situations when guiding teenagers. The developing independence of the family should be cultivated but there is the need to prevent children from becoming involved with that which is not suitable.

The desire of the teenager to leave home, for further education or other reasons, and the wish to keep those who are not mature in the family home demands careful handling.

Allowing children to develop their own views on spiritual matters, yet ensuring that they do not come to unacceptable answers requires tact.

Saying “no” to what is not acceptable but seeking to be fair and reasonable at all times requires wisdom.

Underlying these dilemmas is the necessity to teach the family to make decisions. The best way to make this possible is to have been an example of how this ought to be done. Ensure that the tenor of life in the home is Bible-centered so that the family can see how to make decisions and, having done so, to be consistent in carrying them out.

The objective of parents ought to be to show that their home is not a dull, uninteresting, severely restricted environment, old fashioned, and “behind the times.” On the contrary, it ought to a place of joy and laughter, of security and contentment, of happiness and pleasure, of responsibility and honesty; of the presence of One to Whom all can turn in times of concern and difficulty. Above all this it has to be a place where the Lord Jesus is loved, where He is central, and where the Bible is valued and practiced.

What mean ye by this service? (Exo 12:26) – a good question

This question would be asked by the young at the annual celebration of the Passover. It was to ensure that Israel never forgot what took place on this momentous occasion. The day will come in a Christian home when explanations are asked as to why family life is ordered in a manner that is different from surrounding families. There will also be questions about the assembly; what takes place there and why? Parents must be prepared for this and have answers ready. When such a question arises, it is encouraging to note that the difference between the Christian lifestyle of the home and that of the world has been noted. It would be a sad reflection on a Christian home if the “differences” were almost unnoticeable, and thus the questions were never asked. Questions are inevitable. Let Christian parents ensure that the ordering of the home will make them easy to answer.

The tongue is a fire (James 3:6) – a dangerous practice

A vital part of bringing up the family is to avoid critical gossip concerning other believers. Teenagers may sit, apparently uninterested in what is being said, but they will be taking in the comments. Apart from the danger of them repeating to others what their parents discuss, they will learn that there are differences between the believers, and that can never be profitable. Another sad feature of a “gossip” home is that the young are learning about matters that they will use if they come to a point when they wish to loosen their ties with the assembly. Let us never forget “how great a matter a little fire kindleth” (James 3:5). “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles,” is advice that is disregarded at our peril (Prov 21:23).

My son forget not my law (Prov 3:1) – a wise exhortation

The objective of parents is that their children will have knowledge of the Word of God that will remain with them through life. Experience shows that even those who rebel against what was taught in early life find that vital parts of the Scriptures remain with them. But in addition to that, parents who have a good testimony in the home and in the world, leave impressions with the family that survive the test of time. Family life, therefore, should show that the Scriptures are not dealt with as a duty, but as a joy. Parental example that displays respect for what God has written is essential, as the eyes of the young are upon you. In this way the family will see that the Scriptures, when put into practice, will stand the test. They will learn that the Scriptures are not an old-fashioned record out of tune with the present, but an up-to-date treasure that proves its value at all times and under all circumstances.