If you failed to raise your children right in their formative years, I have some advice for you. Shut your mouth. You have missed the time for talking and training. God created our children (in their early years) to be pliable; to watch every move we make, and listen to every word we say. We are their heroes whether we deserve it or not.
However, a tremendous shift happens as they start to mature.
We are no longer the smartest people on the planet. They don’t want our constant opinions and if we continue to give them, we will be tuned out; especially if they are bitter because of their early years.
By the time they are teenagers, our walk with God should not be as much about talking as it is power.
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.
1 corinthians 4:20
Whether we have walked with God for a long time or a short time, He will show Himself to our children if we will let Him.
Of all people on the planet, our children know what we really are. If we were a horrible influence while they were growing up, I have great news! The change they see in us will blow them away if we will simply live out the Gospel and not preach at them.
How do you start to show your almost adult children who God is?
If you did not raise them the way God intended, a sincere apology with no “buts” is the place to start. I hate to hear, “I know I made mistakes but I did the best I could.” No you did not. You left God out of your life and decided to walk in ignorance and pride. Every time we walk out of our front door, God’s creation smacks us in the face. We look at what He has made and all of our excuses amount to nothing.
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
A humble apology, full of godly sorrow, is one of the most healing gifts any of us will give another person; especially our children.
Once you have done that, let your child see you follow hard after God. They will see you have victories and failures. Never underestimate the power of failure as you walk with God. Most people are too proud to admit their weaknesses. But when we do, others will start to have more mercy for us (even our children). As God searches your heart and is a Father to you, you will be able to tenderly lead your teenager in all their dysfunction. Sometimes, the reason we get so angry with them is because they are a mirror of us.
To witness our children making horrible life decisions is hard.
If embarrassment is our first reaction, we need to stop worrying about our child and do business with God. Anytime our first thought is, “What will people think?” We can safely assume our own spiritual issues are the most pressing problem we have. If God can tolerate what an embarrassment all of us are to Him, the stuff we deal with concerning our teenagers is small in comparison (even when it feels big). Remember, God sees everything we do in the dark and every thought we have and still loves us.
Most children are a reflection of their home.
Let that sink in. If we want to know our hidden flaws and bad attitudes, we need look no further than our children. They are the fruit of our lives. They follow in the footsteps we think we covered up. If not, God would not have put this in scripture.
He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?
1 Timothy 3:4-5
God holds parents responsible for having disrespectful children who do not obey. When a teenager is angry and disrespectful, there is usually a reason. Rebellion is a lack of relationship.
If we actually start to walk in intimacy with God, He will start to stir the soul of our teenager(s).
They will start to truly experience who God is through us (whether they want to or not). God is “other.” He is not the cosmic killjoy most people think He is. He is creative, fun, never backed into a corner, holy, loving beyond our wildest dreams, and He is stern. No one can put God in a box. He will be whatever our teenager needs at any given moment if we will open our hearts to Him and stop trying to fix what’s wrong with them. It’s so painful to watch them make our mistakes and act like us. However, if we will only humble ourselves, and not try to be heroes, God can do more through us than we ever imagined.
God is precious and tender. He saw every single hurt we did to our children as they were growing up.
He has the key to their hearts. Religion will harden them. Telling them how wrong they are will harden them. The silent treatment (cruelest weapon we can use) will work in the moment but harden them eventually. Admitting that many of their problems are our fault will open the door to God and exalt us in their eyes. It’s a miracle.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you….
1 Peter 5:6
Agree with them when they tell you how wrong you have been. It’s true. Do not defend yourself.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Warning: If you are not serious about seeking God, don’t apologize and tell them things are going to be different. You will bring another level of disappointment to your teenager. We lack the ability to be anything other than the sum of our dysfunction unless God intervenes and makes us whole and holy. He can heal any of us (and our families) who will come to Him, lay down our lives, and leave the excuses at the door.
One of the miracles of laying our lives down is that He will open our minds and let us understand Him and His Word.
Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.
“This is what the LORD says, He who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it—the LORD is His name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’”
Ladies and gentlemen, tell me there is anything God cannot walk us through! God formed the earth and created everything on it. He formed the heavens and named each star in billions of galaxies. He offers us the high privilege of intimacy and deep friendship. He knows every cell in the bodies of our children and every thought running through their minds. Yet we often choose to fight and guilt them instead of running to the King of heaven and letting Him pour His wisdom into our minds. Our fear (when we see their flaws and sins) paralyzes us and will manifest itself in anger and judgement. No person wants to run to us when met with those two things.
He can speak to whatever is bothering our teenager even if they don’t tell us. I’ve witnessed this miracle in my own family. Nothing is hidden from God and He will insert Himself into any situation into which He is invited. He is able to show them how much He loves them through our connection to Him. Wow! What a thought.
We miss the whole point when we try to control our teenagers.
They would see a power and love in us unparalleled if we would let God do it. God will allow us to love them and stand firm even when we are at opposite ends of how we see things. He will give us pity. Not the kind that gives in, but the kind that loves fiercely, stands with God, and trusts Him to work “all things for good.” (Romans 8:28)
Bottom line is we will have to parent teenagers the way we do every other thing in the Christian life; by faith. We will have to hear from God and let Him walk us through day by day.
We have a unique opportunity with the next generation to show them Jesus.
It’s exciting and awesome. No matter how much any of us have blown it, today is a new day and God is willing and eager to restore us and our families. He has promised.
I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.
God sent an army of insects (even insects obey Him) to destroy the land of Israel because of their rebellion. God will send destruction our way and let our families fall apart so we don’t continue down the same path. It is His love.
The moment we turn to Him in our misery, He promises to restore years back to us. The love and care of God should put us on our faces in gratitude and worship. Then it should put spiritual grit in us as we get up and confidently walk by faith.