“Jesus went on progressing in wisdom and in physical growth and in favor with God and men.”—LUKE 2:52.
1, 2. (a) What concerns do some parents have when their children become teenagers? (b) In what ways can Christian youths thrive during adolescence?
CHRISTIAN parents have few joys like that of watching their child get baptized. “It was a highly emotional experience for us. We were, of course, grateful that our children wanted to serve Jehovah,” says Berenice, whose four children were baptized before they turned 14. “But,” she adds, “we also knew that as teenagers our children would face many challenges.” You may understand Berenice’s concern if your child is a teenager or is approaching adolescence.
2 While acknowledging that adolescence can be challenging for parents and teenagers alike, one expert on child development states: “Adolescence is not a period of being ‘crazy’ or ‘immature.’ It is an essential time of emotional intensity, social engagement, and creativity.” While they are teenagers, your children can develop a more meaningful friendship with Jehovah, set and pursue goals in the ministry, and use more initiative as they make their dedication and live up to it. They may find adolescence to be a rewarding time of spiritual growth, even as Jesus did when he was young. (Read Luke 2:52.) What role do you as a parent play during those crucial years? Consider how Jesus, after he grew into adulthood, manifested love, humility, and insight. How can these qualities help you to train your teenager to serve Jehovah?
LOVE YOUR TEENAGER
3. Why could Jesus call his apostles his friends?
3 Jesus was a loving and loyal friend. (Read John 15:15.) In Bible times, a master did not normally share his private thoughts and feelings with his slaves. However, Jesus proved to be both master and friend to his faithful apostles. He spent time with them, shared his feelings with them, and carefully listened when they poured out their hearts to him. (Mark 6:30-32) Such loving communication created a warm bond between Jesus and his apostles and prepared them for future responsibilities in God’s service.
4. How can you be a friend to your child while still maintaining your parental authority? (See opening image.)
4 “While we as parents can’t be our children’s peers,” says Michael, a father of two, “we can be their friends.” Friends spend time together. Prayerfully consider whether you can adjust your secular work or other pursuits to spend more time with your children. Friends also share common interests. Therefore, make an effort to enjoy things that your teenager enjoys—his favorite music, films, or sports. Ilaria, who lives in Italy, says: “My parents took an interest in the music I listened to. In fact, my dad became my best friend, and I felt free to talk to him about even delicate matters.” When you are a friend to your teenage children and help them to enjoy “close friendship with Jehovah,” you do not relinquish your authority as a parent. (Ps. 25:14) On the contrary, you show that you love and respect them, and you become more approachable. In turn, they are more likely to share their concerns with you.
5. How did Jesus help his disciples to experience the joy that comes from a busy life in Jehovah’s service?
5 Jesus wanted his beloved disciples and friends to experience the joy that comes from a busy life in Jehovah’s service. Therefore, he desired that they zealously participate in spiritual activities. Indeed, Jesus wanted them to be ardent disciple-makers! And he lovingly assured his disciples that he would help them to succeed.—Matt. 28:19, 20.
6, 7. Why is it loving for parents to establish and maintain a spiritual routine for their children?
6 You want your teenage children to remain spiritually healthy. And God wants you to bring your children up “in the discipline and admonition of Jehovah.” (Eph. 6:4) So use your God-given responsibility to establish and maintain a spiritual routine. To illustrate: You insist that your children be educated because their education is important and you hope to instill in them a love for learning. Loving parents likewise insist that their children benefit from the “admonition of Jehovah” at congregation meetings and through other spiritual programs. Because divine education is vital, you try to instill in your children love for spiritual things and appreciation for wisdom. (Prov. 24:14) As Jesus helped his disciples, you seek to help your teenage children to succeed in the ministry by developing in them a love of teaching God’s Word and by helping them stick to a good field service routine.
7 How can a consistent spiritual routine help teenagers? Erin, who lives in South Africa, admits: “We children often whined and complained about Bible study, meetings, and field service. Sometimes we deliberately disrupted our family study to try to get out of it. But our parents didn’t give in.” She adds: “That training helped me to develop perseverance. If my spiritual routine gets disrupted now, I have a longing to return to it as quickly as possible. I don’t think I would have developed that longing had our parents not been firm in maintaining a spiritual routine. Had they given in, I am quite sure I would now find it much easier to miss meetings or other spiritual activities.”
TEACH HUMILITY BY YOUR EXAMPLE
8. (a) How did Jesus acknowledge his limitations? (b) How did Jesus’ humility affect his disciples?
8 Though Jesus was a perfect man, he humbly acknowledged his limitations and reliance on Jehovah. (Read John 5:19.) Did Jesus’ humility weaken his disciples’ respect for him? Not at all. In fact, the more he relied on Jehovah, the more his disciples trusted him. Later, they imitated Jesus’ humility.—Acts 3:12, 13, 16.
9. When you humbly apologize and acknowledge your limitations, how may this affect your teenage children?
9 We have many limitations, and unlike Jesus, we are imperfect and make mistakes. Humbly acknowledge your limitations and admit your mistakes. (1 John 1:8) After all, whom do you respect more? A boss who admits when he is wrong or one who does not apologize? When your teenager hears you apologize for your mistakes, his respect for you is likely increased. He may also learn to admit his own errors. “We admitted our mistakes, and that moved our children to open up to us when they had a problem,” says Rosemary, a mother of three grown children. “We realized our limitations, so we taught our children where to find the best solutions to their problems. When they needed help, we always referred them to our Bible-based literature, and we prayed together.”
10. How did Jesus show humility when commanding his followers?
10 Jesus had the authority to issue commands to his followers. Humbly, though, he often gave reasons for a command. For example, he did not just tell his followers to seek first the Kingdom and God’s righteousness but said: “And all these other things will be added to you.” After saying, “Stop judging,” Jesus gave this reason: “That you may not be judged; for with the judgment you are judging, you will be judged.”—Matt. 6:31–7:2.
11. When appropriate, why is it wise to explain the reasons for a parental rule or decision?
11 When appropriate, explain the reasons behind a rule or a decision you make. If a teenager understands your thinking on the matter, he is more likely to obey you from a willing heart. “Giving reasons helps teenagers to trust you because they see that your decisions are not arbitrary or capricious but reasonable,” says Barry, who raised four children. A teenager is also maturing into an adult with his own “power of reason.” (Rom. 12:1) Barry explains: “Teenagers need to learn to make sensible decisions based on reason rather than emotion.” (Ps. 119:34) When you humbly give reasons for your decisions, your adolescent can sense that you recognize that he is progressing toward maturity, and he learns to make his own decisions with his “power of reason.”
SHOW INSIGHT, AND UNDERSTAND YOUR TEENAGER
12. How did Jesus use insight to help Peter?
12 Jesus showed insight and understood where his disciples needed help. For instance, the apostle Peter meant well when he urged Jesus to be kind to himself in order not to be killed. Jesus, however, knew that Peter’s comment reflected faulty thinking. To help him and the other disciples, Jesus gave frank counsel, stated the consequences of a self-sparing attitude, and outlined the blessings of a self-sacrificing spirit. (Matt. 16:21-27) Peter learned the lesson.—1 Pet. 2:20, 21.
13, 14. (a) What may indicate that your teen’s faith is wavering? (b) How can you use insight to understand and really help your son or daughter?
13 Pray to Jehovah to give you insight so that you can understand where your teenager needs help. (Ps. 32:8) For example, what might indicate that your child’s faith is wavering? Perhaps his joy is waning, he is speaking critically of fellow believers, or he has become secretive. Do not hastily conclude that these are signs of a double life involving serious sin.* On the other hand, do not ignore such signs or dismiss your teenager’s isolation as a mere phase.
14 Like Jesus, ask questions kindly and respectfully. As drawing a bucket of water out of a well too quickly will cause you to lose some of the water, confronting your teen too forcefully may make you squander a valuable opportunity to learn his thoughts and intentions. (Read Proverbs 20:5.) Ilaria, quoted earlier, states: “During my adolescence, I became torn between walking in the truth and spending more time with my classmates. This inward battle affected my mood, and my parents detected that. One evening, they simply mentioned that they had noticed that I was a bit down, and they asked me what the problem was. I burst into tears, explained the situation, and asked for help. They hugged me, told me that they understood, and promised to help me.” Ilaria’s parents immediately began assisting her to forge new and better friendships in the congregation.
15. Explain how Jesus showed insight when dealing with others.
15 Jesus also showed insight by seeing where his disciples needed help and where they excelled. For instance, when a man named Nathanael heard that Jesus had come from Nazareth, he said: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46) Based on that comment, how might you have labeled Nathanael? Critical? Prejudiced? Faithless? Jesus exercised insight and looked for the good in Nathanael. Jesus called him “truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” (John 1:47) Jesus could read hearts, and he used that ability to look for the good in others.
16. How can you help your teenager to develop good qualities?
16 You cannot read hearts, but with God’s help you can exercise insight. Will you use that ability to look for the good in your teenager? No one wants to be labeled a “troublemaker.” In thought or word, never label your son or daughter a “rebellious teenager” or a “problem child.” Even if your teen is struggling, let him know that you see his potential and heartfelt desire to do what is right. Note any signs of growth and progress, and commend him. Help him to develop his good qualities by giving him increased responsibility when possible. Jesus did that with his disciples. About a year and a half after meeting Nathanael (also called Bartholomew), Jesus selected him as an apostle, and Nathanael proved to be a zealous Christian. (Luke 6:13, 14; Acts 1:13, 14) Your commendation and encouragement will help your child to feel that he is, not someone who always fails to measure up, but a capable Christian whom Jehovah can use.
TRAINING THAT REAPS INDESCRIBABLE JOY
17, 18. Your persistent efforts to help your teenager to serve Jehovah can lead to what outcome?
17 As you raise your children, you may sometimes feel as did the apostle Paul, who became a spiritual father to many. He experienced “tribulation and anguish of heart” because of “the depth of love” he had for his spiritual children in Corinth. (2 Cor. 2:4; 1 Cor. 4:15) Victor, who raised two sons and a daughter, says: “The teenage years were not easy. Yet, the good times outweighed the challenges we faced. With Jehovah’s help, we enjoyed a close friendship with our children.”
18 Keep working tirelessly to train your children to serve Jehovah. As you show the depth of your love for them, may you experience the indescribable joy of seeing them come into the truth and remain in the ranks of spiritual children who “go on walking in the truth.”—3 John 4.
Parents may wish to consult Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, Vol. 1, p. 317, and Vol. 2, pp. 136-141.