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By Dr. Harold Sala

Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged….  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…  Colossians 3:21, 23

One of the reasons that it’s difficult being a teenager is that emotional maturity rarely matches physical maturity.  It’s tough being a teenager, probably more so today than ever before; but it’s not impossible.  A parent is a coach, a teacher, a chaplain, a mentor, a model and, hopefully, a friend as well.  Teen years can be a blessing or a battle, and the parents–not the teenager–usually decide which it will be.

What can parents do to make the transition from childhood to adulthood a blessing instead of a battle?  Plenty!  I’m calling that answer, “Ten Commandments for Parents of Teens!”

Commandment #1:  Thou shalt remember that the teen years are a transitional period of time. 

A teenager is in the process of becoming.  Those years are marked by three things:  (1)  Ambivalence (both a child and an adult are battling for the same body).  (2) They are marked by growth, and (3) by peer pressure–more so today than ever before.

Commandment #2:  Thou shalt be a parent, not a teenager.

The slogan on a t-shirt says it all:  “I’m the mommy–that’s why!”  Parenting is the raising of children by parents, not the raising of parents by children–something never learned by scores of people.

Commandment #3: Thou shalt keep the channels of communication open. 

A person becomes a teenager just one day at a time.  Communication doesn’t die at age 13.  If it ceases, it is usually, though not always, because the parents haven’t been there to listen.  Many teens and parents communicate openly and freely and bring each other into their respective worlds.

Commandment #4:  Thou shalt sift the trivial from the important.

Parents need to ask, “Will this scar, or does it just annoy me?”  If you saw a four-year-old playing with a knife, you’d do something and fast.  Drugs, alcohol and promiscuous sex scar–for life.

Commandment #5:  Thou shalt use sarcasm and criticism sparingly.

Teens come up with statements which are real shockers, and they do it in a matter-of-fact sort of way.  Strive to help your teenager see cause and effect–like what happens when a 14-year-old girl chooses to try to raise her baby.

Commandment #6:  Don’t impose your own unfulfilled ambitions on your teenager.

Insight:  Discover what your teen’s unique gifts are and guide him accordingly.  That’s part of what the advice of Proverbs 22:6 is about:  “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  If your child would never make it to med school but he’s a computer whiz, go with the flow of the natural aptitudes and abilities which God gave him or her.

Commandment #7:  Thou shalt differentiate between acceptance and approval.

Sooner or later, almost every parent has to convey this message:  “Look, I love you, but I don’t like what you are doing.  I think it is wrong!”  But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Commandment #8:  Thou shalt give your child an undivided portion of unconditional love.

Never base love on performance.

Commandment #9:  Thou shalt give of your time as well as your money.

It’s a tragedy to give a child money, education and culture, but to withhold the most important gift of all–that of yourself.

Commandment #10:  Thou shalt surround your child with a fence of prayer.

The time may come when a teenager may ignore your advice and spurn your wisdom, but he or she cannot escape your prayers.

And there you have it–ten commandments for parents of teens.

Resource reading: Ephesians 5:15-6:4