If you’re just joining us, we are reading the book Boundaries With Teens: When to Say Yes, How to Say No by Dr. John Townsend. Go to the Reading Schedule if you want to start at the beginning.
We are covering chapters 13-15 this week. If you would like to join us, you can download the book for Kindle through my affiliate link: Boundaries With Teens and get started right away. Come back every Monday from now through the end of July, as we cover 2 chapters per week and discuss them in the comments of each week’s post.
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Since we are gearing down toward the end of our study in the Boundaries With Teens book, I am covering three chapters today that cover quite a bit of ground. Bear with me.
I’m going to be perfectly honest and say that it never even occurred to me that this pushing away that young teens begin to do is the beginning of a transfer of authority. It always seems like they’re just pushing away so that they can be on their own, have their own way, do what they want to do… yet Dr. Townsend explains that it’s really about then transferring parentage from US to GOD.
They’re pushing and resisting, and ignoring or shunning, all the while they are filtering all of these beliefs they have been raised with and contrasting those with what they are believing themselves. They have to go through this seemingly agonizing process of believing what Mom and Dad say is true, to believing what God says is true.
“He must wrestle, challenge, question, and doubt so that, when he truly believes, he will have a solid and substantial faith.”
Eventually, their own faith takes root. This part is hard for me because while they seem aloof, noncommittal and distant, they may be anything but. Stay involved with them spiritually. Be aware of what they’re hearing at church, in youth group, Bible studies, and from others so that you can keep dialogue going. Don’t let that door close because if you do, it’s very hard to pull it open again. Ask me how I know.
Couple this spiritual processing with twin nemesis’ of hormonal development and the influence of current culture on them, and it’s easy to see why teenagers can be unpredictable! They are constantly doing all of this filtering, trying to sort out what’s important, what is real, and how they really should act. It’s got to be maddening at times when so often these different factors contradict themselves and one another.
It’s tempting to shelter kids so that they won’t be exposed to the less positive parts of the world around them. They do in fact need sheltering, but there is a difference between being sheltered and being isolated. We don’t do our kids any favors by isolating them. Every child eventually needs to interact with the world around him, because he will indeed be living in it. It’s our job to prepare them for life outside the walls of home.
“Know this: your teen will interact with her culture, now our later. Far better for her if you help empower her to deal safely with cultural differences while she is still with you rather than later, when she is on her own.”
Teen culture drives a lot of today’s media: advertising, product placement and promotions, music and fashion. Teens are power buyers. They spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year in the US. Teenagers now define the culture; gone are the days of this being an adult world that teens had to grow up in order to fit into.
Teens also are inundated with socially accepted thinking that no one is really right or wrong; that there are no absolutes. “Whatever works for you is fine, as long as you don’t push it on anybody else.” Drop this attitude into a teen who is already struggling to define who God is in her life, and you can see why there is struggle to begin with. If there’s no right and wrong, and everything goes, then how does a righteous God fit into the picture?
Your teenager needs you right now more than at any developmental time in his life but infancy. You can, with careful guidance, help him sort through all of the culture clash issues to determine what’s true. It’s your job to know what he’s up to, and what is pouring into him, and to be a non-judgmental ear when he needs it.
Be where your kids are. If they go to youth group, volunteer. You don’t have to be WITH them but it will give you a good picture of what’s going on in the teen culture your child is involved with. If they’re on social media, get social media accounts for yourself, make sure your kids know they have to “friend” you, and keep abreast of what’s happening in her world.
Guide her along, being present as needed and invisible when necessary.
Keep in mind that she is moving beyond her family being her whole world. Her world is her school, friends, youth group, sports, work, and any other place where she spends her time. Ask how school is going, express interest in her friends and activities, and ask her questions about them. Show an interest and be open to talking without criticizing, and she will talk. Your job is to listen and keep the dialogue going.