The Myth of the Horrid Teen
By: Deborah Butler

Teenager—the age of 13-19-year-olds that can send cold shivers down the weary spine of many a fearless parent. Bad attitudes, sulkiness, nose rings and spikey, pink hair... is this what we are in for?

The attitudes you see in your younger children may still be there when they start to grow up. Do they sulk when things don’t go their way? Or are they “mouthy” when asked to help? These attitudes can become worse in the teen years if not dealt with in the younger years. Bad attitudes, disrespectfulness and ungratefulness, mixed with independence can be a terrible experience for everyone involved.

Or the teen years can be some very fruitful years of learning and growing in the Lord. Young adults can become very skilled in their work and hobbies. They begin to think like adults, and not like children. They challenge ideas to see if we really believe what we say, and they form their own opinions on everything. They are forming bonds with their parents, brother and sisters, and others. They are preparing to “go into the world”! We need to remember that we are raising adults, not teenagers.

We are raising our fifth young adult. We are thrilled, humbled and inspired that our first four adult children are following the Lord. Here are few ideas that we have learned through the years:

1. Children Should Grow in Wisdom as They Grow in Stature (Luke 2:52). This is our example for childhood. No more “children will be children,” but children growing in the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 4:22). This is accomplished by teaching our children about God and the Bible: Read the Bible, live it out, talk about it, ask hard questions, debate issues and memorize it! Children should not aspire “to be children” but to be wise in the Lord. We need to teach them how to walk in the ways of the Lord.

2. Set High Standards for Our Children. Our children are “lights in training” (Matthew 5:16). We want our children to act as grown up as possible, as soon as possible. We shouldn’t stomp around, throw ourselves on the floor or scream, and neither should they. The sooner our children act like godly Christians and let their lights shine, the better.

3. Deal With Bad Attitudes and Manners When They Come up. If we are lazy about correcting bad behaviors in their earlier years, the behaviors don’t go away! It is much harder to correct long-term habits. Don’t make excuses: “They’re misbehaving because they are tired,” or “That’s just how they are.” These are just excuses for not training properly.

4. Be Very Choosy About Influences. We should be very careful about what or who influences our children. Make sure all friends activities line up with Scripture. Philippians 4:8 is a good guide for movies or computer activities – if you say “no” it is easier to change your mind later. It can be better to err on the safe side. Proverbs 13:20 reminds us what friends and associates we want our family around.

Teenagers can be horrid just like any of us. They can also be delightful, encouraging and helpful people to have around. They can be exciting and full of ideas, letting their lights shine in their families and communities, as they grow in stature and wisdom with God and with man.

© 2006 by Deborah Butler.

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