Guest post by my friend Rebecca Edelmann who is raising two virtuous teens herself! I greatly respect her and I am grateful for her wisdom that she shares about different topics. She encourages me in my Christian life. This post came about because of our recent discussion on Raising Virtuous Teens on our YouTube channel. You can watch that here.
Since I do not have any teens yet (my oldest is almost 12) I wanted to be a little prepared and have some formed opinions before the show, so I asked my friend Becky to share her words of wisdom with me. I am so glad she did. She brings up topics most parents don’t think about until after they are already raising teens. Below is what she shared with me and she gave me permission to share it with you! I hope it is a blessing to you and encourages you as you raise young people for the Lord!
My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways – Proverbs 23:26
Proverbs 23 is filled with Godly instruction to our children. It also says in verses 24 and 25 The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice.
A father and mother should be rejoicing because of their children. Their children should bring joy to them. But it also goes on to say in verse 26 My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways. This is an extremely important verse because if a parent doesn’t have their child’s heart, it will make the teenage years very trying.
The verse also goes on to say, And let thine eyes observe my ways. My ways – meaning the parent. There’s several things going on here. A parent needs to be walking in such a way that the child can observe good things from his parents. The parents have to have their child’s heart in order for the child to hearken unto their parents’ wisdom and instruction. But the child has to “give” their heart to the parent. The verse is the parent talking to a child and the parent telling the child to “give” them their heart. Meaning, this is something that a child needs to give the parent. A child in disobedience can choose not to give their parent their heart.
Why is it important for your child to give you their heart? Genesis 2:24 says, Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Our kids are supposed be with us until they get married. If we want that to happen, we need to have our kid’s hearts. A home that is filled with constant strife and moody teenagers is not what you want! You want Godly kids that want to please and serve God which in turn will please and serve the family. We’re not searching for perfection from our kids, but kids that have loving, gentle spirits and not a rebellious spirit that wants nothing to do with mom and dad. If you don’t have their heart they will give it to someone or something else. We need our kids to trust us and rely on us for their wellbeing until it’s time for them to leave the home and get married.
Oftentimes, when a good, biblical foundation was not set in the home early on, big problems can start to manifest as the kids become teens. Areas that may have been a struggle such as proper discipline, will definitely become apparent later on and you will need to backtrack. Also, children who are raised in homes with lots of anger and yelling turn out to be extremely rebellious teens. A parent will not have that child’s heart until the anger is dealt with in that home. It’s difficult to give your heart to someone and trust them when you think they’re mad at you all the time.
If you want your child’s heart and to keep it as they get older, you have to put work in to your relationships with your kids. We want our kids to love, honor and obey us with a willing spirit. We want our kids to look up to us and seek our advice and wisdom and to receive it with a glad heart. We want happy teens who love Mom and Dad and want to be with them and the rest of their family until it’s their wedding day. We don’t want worldly teenagers who are counting down the minutes until their 18th birthday so they can leave the house!
For parents that didn’t raise their kids in a Christian home until later on and they don’t have that solid foundation – it’s going to take work! If you don’t have your child’s heart, you can get it back or you can win it if you never had it. It will take time though. The relationship didn’t get bad over night and it won’t heal over night either. Parent – be humble. Confess your sins and faults to your child/children and just be real with them. Let them know that you’ve made mistakes in the past and with the grace of God you want to turn the family around. Talk to them. Listen to them. Open up the lines of communication with them and keep it open. Don’t be surprised if they are harboring a lot of bitterness and anger in their hearts. Work to root that out of them. Studying what the bible says about forgiveness will be of great help and healing.
And of course, teach them the Bible, spend time together, invest in their lives and serve the Lord together.
Summary: Getting and keeping the heart of your teen is the most critical aspect of raising teenagers; with it, you can help them accomplish the goals you have set for them.
Other (related) thoughts:
Even though teens are still under parental authority, it’s time for them to start learning to fly. The first place that they need to start is their own Christian walk. They need to take responsibility for their own bible reading, prayer life and soul winning. If they are not doing these on their own, help them to get in a daily routine.
Continue to teach your teens to walk in the spirit. As they face more adult situations in their lives, they will need that extra guidance to deal with situations that they don’t have any experience with.
Teach teens to serve in their local church. The more they are invested in their church, the more they will love and care about it. If you/they don’t know what to do, ask the Pastor and/or his wife for guidance.
If your teen doesn’t know how to soul win, teach them and take them with you.
Teens should be striving to be responsible adults. Now is the time to work on areas where they may be lacking. Skills are very important especially for our sons who will need to go out and earn a living someday.
Expectations should be higher of course for your teens. Your teenage son should mow the lawn better than when he was 12. Raise the bar. Teach your teens to pay attention to detail and get better at the things they already know how to do.
Help your kids figure out what their talents are and help them to develop them.
Teens should be good mentors and good examples to their younger siblings.
Pray for them. Nobody else will. Make a list and don’t forget to pray for their future and for a Godly spouse.
No dating – teach your teens (but like everything else best to start when they are young) that dating is a worldly concept that is not found in the bible. Do not play the boyfriend/girlfriend game.
• Teach them their heart belongs to mom and dad
• Do not encourage teens to like anyone – “Do you like Johnny? Isn’t he cute?”
• No flirting
• Do not let your girls and their girlfriends sit and talk about boys or the boys to sit and talk about the girls
• Don’t let boys and girls talk privately – even at church!
• Pray for God’s timing for a spouse for your kids – God will lead you to the right person
• It’s not just about staying physically pure but emotionally pure as well. We want our teens to not give themselves away emotionally either
• Teach your sons that girls are the weaker vessel and they can easily lead a girl on just by talking to them – girls get emotionally attached quickly
• Teach your teens to treat the opposite sex as a brother or sister in Christ with respect
• Teach your girls they are to adorn themselves with “shamefacedness” around boys
• Teach your teens to focus on the Lord instead – serving, soul winning, teaching younger siblings, skills etc. Stay focused!
• If they are having struggles in this area, they will need your support and guidance. It’s ok to talk about it.
• Teach your teen to keep the “dating” out of church. We don’t want jealousy, breakups, hurt feelings, rejection and fighting amongst the teens just constantly flowing through the church and destroying our young people. Not to mention the spirit of the church.
No tv, worldly music, video games
If your kid(s) need a phone, best to not have internet access on it. If you need to though, monitor the phone! Demand access to it whenever. Put controls in place, ie group texting. No phone in bedroom at night.
No computers, tv, internet, private texting, email in bedroom
If your child is allowed to use a computer and wants to get on the internet, make sure you have security controls in place. Make sure the computer faces the rest of the room so anyone can walk by and see what they are doing at all times. Keep them accountable.
I know parents want so badly to trust their kids with freedoms but remember, they have the same flesh as you do!