“Talking to my sons used to be pleasant. They listened carefully to what I had to say, and they responded immediately. But now that they are teenagers, we have conflicts over everything. They even question our spiritual routine. ‘Do we really have to talk about the Bible?’ they ask. Before my sons hit puberty, I never imagined that this would happen to my family—even when I saw it happen to others.”—Reggie.*
ARE you raising an adolescent? If so, you are witnessing one of the most fascinating stages of your child’s growth. It can also be one of the most nerve-racking. Do the following scenarios sound familiar?
When your son was younger, he was like a boat tied to a dock—you. Now as a teenager, he is tugging at the rope, eager to set sail, and you get the impression that you are not invited on board.
When your daughter was a child, she told you everything. Now as a teenager, she has formed a ‘social club’ with her friends, and you feel as if you were not granted membership.
If something similar is happening in your home, do not hastily conclude that your child is becoming an irreformable rebel. What is happening then? To answer that question, let us consider the pivotal role that adolescence plays in your child’s development.
From birth onward, a child’s life is a list of firsts—the first steps taken, the first word spoken, the first day of school, to name just a few. Parents rejoice when their child reaches a milestone. The accomplishment provides evidence of something that they yearn to see—growth.
Adolescence too is a milestone—although some parents may not greet its arrival with applause. Their apprehension is understandable. After all, what dad or mom is happy to see a compliant child turn into a moody teen? Still, adolescence is a vital phase of growth. In what way?
The Bible states that in time “a man will leave his father and his mother.” (Genesis 2:24) A major function of adolescence is to help prepare your son or daughter for that bittersweet day. At that time, your child should be able to say, as did the apostle Paul: “When I was a babe, I used to speak as a babe, to think as a babe, to reason as a babe; but now that I have become a man, I have done away with the traits of a babe.”—1 Corinthians 13:11.
In essence, that is what your son or daughter is doing during the teen years—shedding the traits of childhood and learning to become a responsible young adult who is self-reliant and mature enough to leave home. In fact, one reference work poignantly describes adolescence as “one long goodbye.”
Granted, right now the very idea that your “little” boy or girl will become independent may arouse your skepticism. You might ask:
“If my son is not responsible enough to keep his room clean, how will he maintain an apartment?”
“If my daughter is not dependable enough to keep her curfew, how will she keep a job?”
If you wrestle with such concerns, remember this: Independence is not a door that your child simply walks through; it is a road that he or she travels, and it takes years to complete the journey. For now, you know from observation that “foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy”—or a girl.—Proverbs 22:15.
With proper guidance, however, your child will likely emerge from adolescence as a responsible young adult with his or her “perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.”—Hebrews 5:14.
Keys to Success
To prepare your adolescent for adulthood, you need to help him develop his “power of reason” so that he will be able to make sound decisions on his own.* (Romans 12:1, 2) The following Bible principles will help you to do that.
Philippians 4:5: “Let your reasonableness become known.” Your teenager makes a request, perhaps for a later curfew. You immediately refuse it. Your adolescent whines, “You’re treating me like a child!” Before replying, “Well, you’re acting like one,” consider the following: Teenagers tend to demand more freedom than they can handle, but parents may tend to extend less freedom than they could grant. Might it be that you could make a concession from time to time? Why not at least think about your teen’s point of view?
TRY THIS: Write down one or two areas in which you could extend a little more freedom to your adolescent. Explain to him that you are extending this freedom on a trial basis. If he handles it responsibly, in time he can be granted more. If he does not do so, the freedoms he has been granted will be curtailed.—Matthew 25:21.
Colossians 3:21: “Fathers, do not nag your children. If you are too hard to please, they may want to stop trying.”—International Children’s Bible. Some parents try to micromanage their teen. To keep him in line, they all but lock him in the house. They pick his friends for him and eavesdrop on his phone calls. But these techniques can backfire. Confining him may only make him want to escape; constantly criticizing his friends might only increase their appeal; eavesdropping could compel him to find ways to communicate with his friends behind your back. The more you try to gain control, the less control you may end up having. Really, if your teen never learns to make decisions for himself while at home, how will he know how to make them after he leaves?
TRY THIS: The next time you talk to your teen about an issue, help him to reason on how his choices reflect on him. For example, instead of criticizing his friends, say: “What if [name] got arrested for breaking the law? How would that make you look?” Help your teen to see how his choices either enhance his reputation or tarnish it.—Proverbs 11:17, 22; 20:11.
Ephesians 6:4: “Do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” The term “mental-regulating” refers to more than imparting facts. It means to appeal to the moral consciousness of the child in such a way that it influences his actions. This is especially crucial when your child becomes an adolescent. “The older your children get,” says a father named Andre, “the more you need to adjust your approach and to reason with him.”—2 Timothy 3:14.
TRY THIS: When an issue arises, try reversing roles. Ask your teen what advice he would give you if you were his child. Have him do research to come up with reasons to support—or challenge—his thinking. Discuss the matter again within a week.
Galatians 6:7: “Whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” A child can be taught by means of punishment—perhaps sending him to his room or denying him a favorite activity. With an adolescent, you would do well to think more in terms of consequences.—Proverbs 6:27.
TRY THIS: Do not rescue him by paying off his debts or by making excuses to his teacher for a failing grade. Let him feel the consequences, and the lesson will be long lasting.
As a parent, you probably wish that adolescence were like a runway down which your child could swiftly and efficiently pick up speed and take off into adulthood. Rarely, though, is the takeoff that smooth. Still, your child’s adolescence provides you with a wonderful opportunity to “train up a boy according to the way for him.” (Proverbs 22:6) Bible principles are a solid foundation upon which you can build family happiness.
Name has been changed.
While we will refer to the child as a male, the principles discussed apply to both genders.
By the time he or she leaves home, will my adolescent be able to do the following?
maintain a regular spiritual routine
make good choices and decisions
effectively communicate with others
care for personal health
manage personal finances
clean and maintain a home or an apartment