As our children quickly slip from their childish, playful and trusting days into adolescent teenage years, parents are often caught by surprise by the questioning, even challenging attitude that is now seen in their children. Yet this is not a thing to take fright at, for it is the natural development and maturing that will, if wisely guided and nurtured, fit our children for the responsible tasks of adulthood. However it does often come as a shock when the simple answers don’t seem to satisfy any more and deeper, more soundly reasoned scriptural answers are penetratingly sought to things we may have always taken as right and acceptable in the sight of God.

We rightly teach that baptism can only follow after a mature mind has grasped the truth of the Gospel and believed it. The simple, immature of a child cannot grasp these eternal truths in their full depth. As our children grow their seemingly endless questioning, challenging and desiring to test for themselves is a needful period in their life. Let us also appreciate that this period of spiritual growth provides a wonderful opportunity for both father and mother to draw close to their child as they strive to assist and develop in him an understanding of the principles of the Truth and its practical outworking in daily life. Either the Godly standards of the family home as held and practised by father and mother will reign supreme as the teenager comes to fully grasp the soundness of those principles, or sadly he will depart, disillusioned with his parents, to establish his own standards for the guidance of his life. What a great responsibility rests upon parents through these few brief years of the young person’s life.

How Parents can Prepare

 The education system today has taught our children to question all the old values, to think for themselves and break free from their parents’ guidance, and in the Godless society in which we live this has put added pressure on both parents and teenagers alike.

So often we may be unprepared with sound, scripturally based answers to the most simple questions of our teenagers. Their questions become more searching, particularly in relation to the Truth and its application to matters of daily life such as music, company, entertainment, dress, sport and even education, to name but a few topics. They may question something that has always been a standard of our family life in the Lord. They may wish to go to some place where we have never gone or challenge our standards of dress or behaviour.

At first we may be completely shocked that they would even think to question such things. We may even feel that they are not serious and try to lightly brush off the question. However such a response is not adequate. The questions need to be answered. How do we prepare for this? There is no other way than that set forth in the Scriptures. The home from the beginning of the child’s life must have as its foundation the principles of Deuteronomy 6:4–9. There must be the obvious understanding by all members of the family that Yahweh is One and that it is our desire to love Him with our whole being. To assist in the development of this understanding the Word of Yahweh needs to be read and spoken about, and so instilled in the minds of our children from their earliest days that they learn there is no other rule or guide for the family.

Honour Father and Mother

 Yahweh established a pillar for family life in Israel which Paul reaffirmed for family life in Gentile ecclesias. Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right” and proceeded to quote the fifth commandment stating: “Honour thy father and mother” (Eph 6:1–4; cp Ex 20:12). We may not have paused to realise that Paul was writing these instructions regarding family life to brethren and sisters who, until recently, had been walking in the vanity of their mind, having their understanding darkened through the ignorance that was in them (Eph 4:17–19). They were not of long-standing Christadelphian families but had only recently “learned Christ”—they had been renewed in the spirit of their mind, having “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph 4:22–24).

Try to imagine the dramatic change that this transition would have had in many a family. Husbands and wives would not only be trying to implement into their own relationship the principles of sacrificial love by the husband and submission to him by his wife as Paul set forth in Ephesians 5:22–33, but they would also be trying to educate their children, many of whom would be teenagers, in the new-found faith that they had espoused. There is comfort and encouragement in this for those who have recently come into the Truth with their families.

Paul not only instructed that children obey their parents but exhorted fathers saying:“Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath”. Rather than confrontation, anger and bitterness developing in the family circle, there should be patient, careful and wise guidance of children as we nurture and instruct them in the ways of the Lord (Eph 6:4).

The Book for Parents with Teenagers

 Of all the writings in the Scriptures there is one that stands above all others to teach parents how to guide their children through teenage years and lead them into Godfearing adulthood. The Proverbs are presented to us as a father giving mature guidance to his son, a “young man”, so that he might have “knowledge and discretion” (Prov 1:4).

Some parents ask: “How frank should we be in dealing with issues?”; “How direct in speaking on matters relating to morality and chastity?” The book of Proverbs is the textbook for guidance in these matters. As we read through it we see that it gives a very balanced approach. However before we look at some examples, we should note that there is an emphasis on directing the son to have due respect for both father and mother: “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother”. The key for giving sound guidance to children is a united voice from both father and mother. What disasters have been wrought by a divided voice upon divine principles in a home. Children quickly learn to play one parent against the other if the opportunity arises. Let us never forget that the instruction of the father and the law of the mother are of equal importance and it was death to the Israelite child who “cursed” or “set light by his father or mother (Ex 21:17; Deut 27:16). This requires a unity of mind in the parents which has been developed by using the word of God as their guide in life themselves. Should there at times be a difference of opinion on a certain issue this should be discussed and resolved privately, not in front of our teenagers.

 Experience Blended with Knowledge

 So often teenagers want to “find out for themselves”. This is not new and in fact is the background to the wise guidance of many of the proverbs. The father knows what traps lie ahead for the “simple” and, seeing these stumbling blocks, deals carefully but frankly with them to guide his son away from them. He says:“I was my father’s son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother [Note the unity of parents in love and guidance]. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments and live” (Prov 4:3,4). The father reminds his son that he too had received guidance from his father and was now ready to pass this instruction on to him. Hearkening to this instruction will lead to life—eternal life.

Parents need to recall how they, when they were teenagers, were not easily satisfied with simple answers but were seeking for sound and reasoned guidance from their parents or elders. Statements like: “If you did that, what would others think?” or, “We don’t do that”, will not satisfy an intelligent, inquiring teenage mind. They are seeking for real and reasoned guidance.

Dealing with Issues

 We do well to ponder the way that the father in Proverbs deals with issues. He initiates a matter, indicating that he does not wait until his son is tempted by the problem or involved in it. He wisely opens up subjects that he knows can be a problem to a young man. Let us consider a few examples: • Immorality The father does not pretend that immorality could not be a temptation to his son. Thus he frankly, but very sensitively, deals with the issue. He warns that the first step in this direction is for a person to be in places where he ought not to be, loitering at a time when he ought to be at home (Prov 5 & 6). He warns how the simple are infatuated by inquisitiveness, urged on by lust, and finally consumed by sin and death. However he also deals with the antithesis of such immoral by highlighting the beauty, warmth and love that come from “rejoicing with the wife of thy youth”, and throughout Proverbs places marriage in its divinely appointed position.

We may comment that Proverbs is dealing with gross immorality, whereas our teenagers may ask about going to the pictures, or worldly entertainment. One would have to be either very ignorant or wilfully blind not to realise that the film industry, TV, videos and much of today’s music, literature and fashion highlight such immorality and make a mock of Godly morality. The father’s guidance to his son to keep separate from all such worldly entertainment is sound guidance for our teenagers today.

  • Drink and its Addiction We may smile at the way the father portrays the debilitating effects of drink and its resultant addiction in the life of one who has foolishly become a victim of it (Prov 23:29–35). The lessons can be justly applied to drugs as well today. As we read through Proverbs we see the God-denying effect that drink has on the mind of one who is so affected. The father however directs his son to develop a sober mind, guided by wisdom and understanding in the fear of God. Parents can use Proverbs to open up this subject with their teenagers and deal with it frankly and positively. It not only covers drink but the company that one mixes with when pursuing such a lifestyle.
  • Pride What a challenge this is to the teenager and what a greater problem this becomes when foolish parents inflame this “lust” in their children, rather than curbing it. The father in Proverbs often raises this topic with his son. If we foolishly emphasise in the minds of our children how capable, beautiful, or mature they are we are developing a Godless characteristic in them which is native to the flesh (1 John 2:15,16), and will inevitably lead to their fall in the sight of God. Pride needs to be crucified, not fed. Parents should not boast of their children to others but rather thank God if they are truly responding to His Word in their lives. Humility, if truly developed, will ultimately result in elevation when the Lord returns (Prov 15:33; 18:12). Pride can find its boastfulness in many devious ways, and vigilant parents will guide their teenagers from allowing this ugly aspect of human nature to develop.

One thing that is so obvious in Proverbs is that the father has made time available to talk to his son. It is imperative to show our teenagers that they are important to us and so we need to exercise patience and spend time listening and talking with them. Be awake when they come home from young people’s activities and show a genuine interest in what has happened. Set a curfew and explain why you wish them home by then, and be interested when they come in.

As parents we do well to familiarise ourselves with Proverbs if we wish to know how to raise issues and then deal with them in the spirit of nurturing and admonishing our teenagers. In fact a thoughtful reading and discussion of Proverbs as a “family project” could prove very valuable, where the family spends an evening each week reading through a chapter and discussing it. In this way topics can be brought up and discussed well before they may become an issue.

What about Outside Help?

 All the guidance given in Proverbs is given with one aim in mind. It is so the “young man” may realise that “the fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Prov 9:10).

Teenage years can be a new and challenging experience for both teenager and parent alike. However the fundamentals for this, as in all stages of life, remain the same. The Word of God does have the answers—all the answers. It is foolish for a parent to seek help from the worldly wisdom of psychologists and other such professors of this world. Such is foolishness with God. By such wisdom the world does not know God (1 Cor 1:21).

There will be times though when parents feel that they need help or encouragement in difficult circumstances, and would like to talk to others who have faced the same issues with their children. When this need arises then discuss your concerns with brethren and sisters who have already brought up teenagers. If you are a lone parent with children bordering on teenage years, or if you feel inadequate to address a certain situation that has arisen in your family, seek the support of a brother and sister who have brought up their children well in the Lord. Never be hesitant to do this for our children are Yahweh’s heritage and we need each other to assist in their spiritual growth.

Finally, there is one thing that must be recognised— teenagers clearly recognise hypocrisy. Inconsistency between parental advice and parental actions is a glaring mark of hypocrisy. It is useless trying to direct teenagers one way while we walk in another. Thus let us note the words again of the father in Proverbs: “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways(Prov 23:26). How careful we need to be to ensure that our own ways are a manifestation of true discipleship of Christ so that our words of guidance to our children are not robbed of their power.

If this is done prayerfully and wisely the day will come, we pray by Yahweh’s grace, when our guidance will bear fruit as our teenager seeks to be baptised. Truly then we shall say: “Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice” (Prov 23:25).