The Hardest Act in Parenting Teens
Today we look at parenting, particularly parenting through the teen years. Parenting teens is full of pressures and challenges. One source of those pressures are the demands and the questions put on mom and dad for which there are no easy answers. We’re trying to help our teens think for themselves with discernment in a very complex world. And it is one of the pressures Pastor John has identified as a trigger in men of what we call a midlife crisis, a crisis that often hits a dad in his early forties, when he has teens at home. We saw that connection in APJ 1173.
Dads, as leaders, bear a particular calling to their homes of self-sacrificing leadership, all to avoid giving the devil a foothold in our homes. Ephesians 4:26–27 raises the stakes that high when it commands us, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” High stakes.
In a 2007 sermon on this text, Pastor John spoke directly to dads of teens. He began with a word on modesty but then transitioned to talk about a dad’s hardest role in parenting teenagers. Here’s Pastor John.
There are spiritual dangers, brothers, coming at our families from every side today, innumerable and subtle. We need valiant warriors as never before, not with spears and shield, but with biblical discernment and courage. Husbands, pray for your wife and children every day without fail — over and over again during the day. “Protect them. Protect them. Lead them in paths of righteousness. Don’t let them go into temptation. Guard their lives. Make their marriages work. Make their children strong. Protect them, O my God.” That’s your job: to call down from God, hour by hour, blessing on this family. That’s what headship means. Pray for them.
Dads with Standards
Then set standards for your wife and children. Work them through with your wife. Here again, primary responsibility means talking to her about it. She’s probably got some better ideas than you, but taking initiative to talk is what she so longs for. Women are not eager to be dominated. They’re eager for their husbands to take initiative to make things happen in the moral sphere of their marriage. “Would you please help me set some standards for these kids and then help me carry this through?” She shouldn’t have to say that. She wants you to step up. Let’s do this together. Take some initiative.
“Husbands, pray for your wife and children every day without fail — over and over again during the day.”
We’ve got to figure out what this kid’s going to watch on TV. We’ve got to figure out what movies they’re going to go to. We’ve got to figure out what music is coming into this house. And we’ve got to figure out how low that neckline is going. And that’s mainly your job, dad. Now on that last one, I’m fully aware that it is mainly mom and daughter that worked that out from age two months to 22. However, dad, they desperately need your input on this. They need you to celebrate when they get it right and look beautiful and modest. And they need you to say, “You’re not going out of the house with that on.”
Anger: The Great Enemy
Here’s another one. The Bible is very clear about one of the most dangerous intruders, spiritually, in the family. Let me read it to you from Ephesians 4:26–27: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” How is the devil allowed into a teenager’s bedroom? How is the devil allowed at night into a married couple’s bedroom? Answer: when they go to bed angry. If you go to bed angry night after night after night, if that kid is seething at you in there, and no steps at reconciliation have happened, the door is just thrown open wide to the devil. And the havoc he can wreak over weeks, months, and years to destroy a soul, a marriage, and a family is awesome.
So, what are you going to do? I’ll tell you, dads. This is where headship is so hard that no woman would ever want it. This is the hardest thing in the world. Headship means you must initiate reconciliation no matter how many times it’s been her fault or the kid’s fault. You have not the luxury as head to say, “She did it, and if she doesn’t say she’s sorry, I’m hitting the pillow.” No way. Justice might say that’s the right way to act, but let me ask you this: Is that the way Jesus treated his bride? How many times has he come back to her and back to her? How many times has he come back to you and back to you and back to you and back to you, saying, “Here I am, ready to make up”? A thousand times. Seventy times seven times seven times seven he has come back to you when it’s your fault and not his. And he took the initiative to make it right. He died to make it right. Will we husbands say, “It’s her turn”? Yes, we will, without the Holy Spirit. This is impossible without Christ.
“Headship means you must initiate reconciliation no matter how many times it’s been her fault or the kid’s fault.”
You don’t want to be heads, women, because I’m holding the men accountable that this family not go to bed angry at night. You knock on that teenager’s door. Oh, this can be sweet, brothers. This is as hard as it gets. You knock on that door, and any little increment of fault that you bear over against his many faults, you confess it. Not many things will break a teenager, but that might, to walk in and say, “Son, my reaction to what you did was over the top. What you did was wrong; that’s not the issue here. But my reaction to it was over the top. I want to apologize and say it wasn’t in love. I just got out of control, and I’m sorry, and I’d like you to forgive me.”
You talk about sweet sleep. You talk about healing balms in the mind and the soul, dads.
Keep the Devil Out
Now, I’m not naive. Good night. I’ve been married 38 years. There are attempts at peace that don’t work, all right? But you have got to try. You get down on your knees. Noël and I have knelt beside each other, and we haven’t hardly been able to pray. We just kneel there in silence. Who’s going to pray first? Neither of us feels like praying. We’re so upset, and this hinders your prayers big time. And you can just eke out, “God, help us. I want it to be better.”
It’s your job, dad. Hardest thing in the world. Keep the devil out of the bedroom and out of the kids’ rooms by not letting the sun go down on your anger — inasmuch as it lies within you.