Parent Your Teen Like God Parents You
I don’t know about you, but I have found parenting during the teen years challenging. I don’t just mean the inevitable conflicts that arise during these often-turbulent years. I think what makes it so challenging is the in-between season of life our children are in. They are no longer young children we can simply pick up and move to another location as we once did when they got into something they shouldn’t. They aren’t completely dependent upon us as they once were. Not to mention the reality that the consequences our teens face for poor decisions are so much bigger than they were when they were younger. Our teens are in a season of stretching their wings, trying out their newly acquired skills. It’s a time of life to practice being an adult while not yet being one. Some guardrails are removed, others remain. They make many decisions on their own, yet we are still their legal authority and guardians. There is much they can do on their own, yet they continue to need guidance and help navigating daily life.
Parenting during adolescence is like walking on a balance beam; we walk a thin line parenting those who are no-longer-children-while-not-yet-adults. It feels like it doesn’t take much to push us over one side or the other! I navigate this tension on a daily basis. I ask myself questions such as: “Should I remind him again of his big assignment that is due, or let him work it out on his own, even if it means not getting a good grade?” “Should I warn him about staying up too late or let him experience the consequences of doing so when he has class in the morning?” “To what extent should I be involved in the decisions he makes for his future, especially when his choices inevitably have an on impact me?”
Throughout these teenage years, one thing I continue to return to as I navigate parenting is how God parents me.
God is our Father
Throughout the Bible, we are reminded that God is our Father. It is who he is to us. He adopted us in Christ in eternity past and made us his own through the sacrifice of his Son. Through faith in Christ, we are adopted into his family. We are his heirs, his beloved. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Our own children refer to us as “mom” and “dad” because these words denote intimate relationships. They belong to us. And so it is with God; he is our Father and we belong to him. And what a privilege it is to be God’s children!
How God Parents Us
As our Father, God parents us. He does all the things that a parent does for a child. He provides for our needs. He teaches us how to live as his children in this world. He trains us in the way of life and disciplines us when we go astray. He is patient with us, teaching and re-teaching the same lessons. He loves us unconditionally, a love based not on who we are or what we have done, but simply because he set his love upon us. The writer to the Hebrews noted that our earthly parents raised us as best they could, but our Father in heaven is our perfect parent (Heb. 12:10). He always does what is good and right for us and ensures that we grow in holiness.
Parenting Teens as God Parents Us
When we consider how we parent our teens, why not to look to the perfect example we have in our own heavenly Father? Consider all the ways your Father in heaven parents you. How has he loved you? How has he responded to your sin? How has he taught you what is right and true? How has he been patient with you? How has he not given up on you?
We were created to bear God’s image in this world. One of the ways we do this is in our parenting. We image the Father to our children when we do what he does. When our teens struggle with sin and we remind them of the way of grace through the gospel, we do what God does for us. When we teach our teens what is true and encourage them to stay on the path of life, we do what our Father does for us. When we give our teens freedoms and allow them to experience consequences, we image our Father then too, for he knows that we often need to experience hardship in order see how much we need his grace in our lives. When we respond to our teens with love and patience, we show them the Father who loves them more than we ever could.
There are many times when I encounter a frustrating situation with my teens and think, “Why haven’t they learned this lesson already?” or “How can they be so selfish and self-serving?” Then the Spirit gently prods me and reminds me of my own wayward heart. It’s as though he holds up a mirror through my children and I see myself in them.
I remember how many times God confronted me in my rebellion and brought me back to himself.
I remember how often I’ve struggled with the same sin, and he was forbearing with me.
I remember too all the hard lessons I had to learn so that I would be humbled and see my desperate need for the gospel.
As I remember how my Father is toward me, it shapes how I then respond to my own children. And when I respond to my children as the Father does toward me, I point my children to him.
The teenage years can be challenging, both for parents and teens. It is an in-between season of life, where our teens attempt to move from childhood to adulthood—and the tension between the two is felt by all. As we navigate these years with our teens, may we look to our perfect Father in heaven.
May we parent our teens like our Father parents us.
Rooted writer Christina Fox’s most recent book, Like Our Father: How God Parents Us and Why that Matters for Our Parenting, releases on March 2.