How To Understand Your Teenager & the Bible

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A few years ago one of our major magazines reported the tragic story of a father who shot and killed his seventeen-year-old son in a "violent showdown over drugs." This hardworking father was on the job ten hours daily, plus handling a part-time job. He was a little league coach and a Cub Scout Committee member. He said he had deeply loved his son but nursed a hatred for what the boy had become.

The shy son had sought adjustment through drugs, had become a pusher, and had fallen into a pattern of arguing and fighting with his father. The "showdown" saw the son, crazed with drugs descending the cellar steps with a steak knife in hand, and the father standing at the foot of the steps with a pistol.

This example tugs at the heart of every father who has repeatedly called home explaining that he must work late, or whose nerves will not tolerate children's play at the end of a working day. We fathers sometimes point the finger at working mothers as the cause of children's downfall. After all, forty percent of today's American women Are employed outside the home. We insist that rearing children is primarily the mother's responsibility. Who decided that? Most likely men. The Bible certainly did not.

The Bible's description of family relationships begins with God and ends with human understanding (Colossians 3:18; I Thessalonians 2:11-12). And understanding begins with love. Who has not noticed that grandparents usually get along with grandchildren better than parents? Grandparents have learned, by the experience of years, the tremendous effectiveness of love.

Security and stability come, not through material things, but through real love in the home. The child must be made to understand, even when he is punished that is for his own good. Our understanding of our children and our expression of love for them involves "being with them" - in mind as well as body. Since parents and children do not work together in the fields or in prolonged household chores as they once did, other opportunities of being together must be found. Work and school responsibilities result in prolonged absences from each other. And even when we are at home, the newspaper often gets more attention than the child.

Observing a "Family Night" can help bring us together with regularity. But there is also a need to lunch or play with one child at a time in order that individual needs can be sensed. If we come home tired, or upset, or bring work responsibilities home through worry and long evening hours of paper work, relationships are sure to suffer. Tragically, we often reserve our worst behavior for those we love most.

In developing understanding between ourselves and our children, we need to be as affirmative as possible. Children reared in a positive atmosphere develop more wholesome personalities than those who constantly hear the words "No Stop - and Don't." Although firm discipline is clearly taught in the Bible, in passages such as Proverbs 29:15-17, the scriptures also warn that we can discourage our children by "overcorrecting" them (Colossians 3:21). A half million youngsters in the United States run away from home each year, while many of them leave as a result of headstrong attitudes brought on by a loose and permissive upbringing. Thousands of others are driven away by the unreasonable and over-reactive criticism of parents who find it easier to provide harsh, critical outbursts than to be a real parent.

Seeing things from the child's point of view is difficult, but necessary for real understanding. The concerned parent does not ignore hair length or dress codes, but he seeks principles rather than pointing only to customs. The child should be given reasons, not simply flat commands. Success in forming a friendship with a child comes in direct proportion to our willingness to get on our knees and talk with the child at eye level. We look like giants to them, but when we consider their viewpoint, they warm to our interes

Patience is a vital factor in understanding, also. There is a difficult balance between not expecting children to become adults too soon and not trying to keep them babies too long. We show impatience when we measure them by our own years and scold them because they have not reached a t expectations. Even when we have been impatient, our children respond with a goodnight hug as if nothing unpleasant has happened. And gradually we learn patience with their faults as they must with ours. In closing this discussion may we emphasize again that the purpose of this presentation is not to encourage a lack of firm, loving discipline, but rather is to encourage each of us to remember that children are people too, and as such have rights and feelings which are as real as our own.

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