Here’s the second part of my notes from John Benton’s seminar on being a father of teenagers at New Word Alive. John’s wife, Ann, has recently published a book on parenting teenagers called Teenagers: Biblical Wisdom for Parents (IVP) .
A directive for fathers
‘Fathers. Do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.’ (Ephesians 6:4)
1. The negative command for fathers – don’t exasperate
This does not mean you must never do anything that might make your children angry or upset! Even the most living correction can produce a bad response. It means dealing with our teenagers in a way that will be unnecessarily discouraging or which creates bitterness (Colossians 3:
Here are three short-term sources of exasperation:
1. Setting inappropriate demands. For example, old fashioned and irrelevant rules. You have got to being to let them go and grow. Don’t violate their God-given sense of fairness.
2. Unreasonable discipline. For example, disproportionate punishment or failing to distinguish between clumsiness and disobedience. Teenagers social skills are often poor as they struggle with identity. Mumbling teenagers can embarrass parents, but it is a lack of confidence rather than blatant disobedience.
3. Partiality. Loving the girl rather than the boy or vice versa or giving the younger one breaks the older did not receive or unhelpful comparisons with other people’s children. The message we can give is: ‘I wish you were someone else.’
Long-term sources of exasperation:
1. A failure to exercise discipline. Giving in to prevent the teenager sulking – anything for peace. Children grow up insecure with no boundaries and no self-control. When they go out into the world they can turn on you and feel your failure.
2. Inconsistent example. Urging them make Jesus their Lord when in your life money or comfort or reputation is lord. When we make mistakes we need to have the guts to confess to our teenagers.
3. Promises not kept. The message conveyed is that other things are more important to you than they are.
2. The positive command for fathers – the training and instruction of the Lord
There will always be a pressure on you (because we’re in a spiritual battle) to neglect teaching them the gospel even as we teach them to play chess or ride a bike and so on. You don’t have to teach them to sin. We do not to teach them about the Saviour. This is the primary responsibility of fathers (not the church or the youth group). The time for reaching bed-time stories may be over, but there are many opportunities over meal times or as you watch television and as you discuss real life issues. It may be tempting to say, ‘I’ll let them decide for themselves.’ That communicates that this is unimportant. You don’t say, ‘I’ll them decide for themselves how to cross a road.’ It is not brainwashing to teach children what you know to be true.