FINDING COMMON GROUND WITH YOUR TEENS
(Winning Your Teens Over)
Over my decades of ministry work, I have observed many parents begin to struggle once their children become teenagers. Often quite severely. They find they have trouble relating to them. They feel as though a wall of separation is growing between them, and soon they feel more and more distant from them. Their teenager begins to shut them out of their world, and in fact, most become closer to their peers and friends than they do to their mom and dad. This causes tremendous disruption to the family, and many parents find themselves quite exasperated, and very frustrated by it. Many simply give up and quit trying to parent at all, or they simply get angry and lash out at their teen, driving the wedge deeper between parent and teen.
I want to share with you some of the insights that God gave to me, as my wife and I raised our 4 teenagers. All 4 of my teens became genuine followers of Jesus Christ. These things were a tremendous blessing to us and helped us maintain a close, warm, loving, and meaningful relationship with them, and allowed us to continue to speak into their lives.
This passage of scripture gave me great insight, but in fact, many never use its application in their own family, with their own kids and teens. They completely miss its powerful truth and wisdom.
1 Corinthians 9:19b-23 NLT
Yet I have become a servant of everyone so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with Jews, I become one of them so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with those who follow the Jewish laws, I do the same, even though I am not subject to the law, so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Gentiles who do not have Jewish law, I fit in with them as much as I can. In this way, I gain their confidence and bring them to Christ. But I do not discard the law of God: I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are oppressed, I share their oppression so that I might bring them to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone so that I may bring them to Christ. I do this to spread the Good News, and in doing so I enjoy its blessing.
This scripture gave me tremendous insight and wisdom with my kids and my teenagers. I saw myself as their servant, I did everything I could to fit into their interests, their world, their concerns, and in doing so I won their confidence and trust. I did everything I possibly could to find and build common ground with them and win them over. You see, this is the law of Christ! Christ became one of us, He entered our world, our hurts, our human experience, and in so doing, through his compassionate identification with us, He demonstrated His great love and concern, won our confidence, and brought us to Himself.
The truth is many parents feel like their teens are aliens, and they have no idea whatsoever how to relate to them, interact with them or be close to them. This is very sad and tragic for it does not have to be this way.
I always saw myself as an ambassador for Christ and for Christianity.
This greatly impacted my fathering and my strategy as a parent.
Here is a simple example. My youngest son was just about to hit his teen years when Harry Potter became a thing, both in the books and then the movies. A very big thing!! All around me Christians were warning of the dangers of Harry Potter, that it was about witchcraft and so evil. I knew as a father, this was a chance to find common ground with my son as he had a great interest in reading them, and seeing the movies. It was a chance to be winsome, and gain his confidence, by not acting like a wild-eyed, Bible thumping lunatic, who ruled his family with an iron fist! Of course, I knew the Bible has its stories of demons and the devil and I could use this to help my son understand these vital spiritual matters.
My son was a ferocious reader. He was not a wild, crazy kid. He had a genuine interest in reading the books. We got them for him. Then he eventually saw the movies. He eventually read all of the Lord of the Ring books, then we saw all of those movies as well. It was a wonderful blessing all the way around, but more importantly, it was extremely powerful in my relationship with my son, in building bridges and not walls, and he became a devoted follower of Christ!
We need to understand that there are many things in this world that are not in and of themselves evil and sinful. They may be of this world, but in certain ways can be neutral, even if they are uncomfortable to you as a parent. Music was a great way for me to fit in with my kids and find common ground. And I don’t mean just all Christian music. One child enjoyed Lauren Hill, another child loved Damien Rice, another child enjoyed Nelly Furtado. I will never forget my son’s 18th birthday, singing back up with him at my Rock service, on the U2 song, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”! It is a great song, with a great message, and I used it for the gospel. Another teen loved Nickel Creek, another Train. Who can forget “Calling All Angels”. I could go on, but the point is, I found ways to enter my kids’ world, and I gained their confidence, and it helped me to speak quite powerfully into their lives. Heck, I even bought some cool MEK jeans to wear.
And in case you are wondering, No, we didn’t do Eminem, Beyonce, or MTV! We did not listen to sexually vulgar, or explicit immoral songs.
I made certain that I spent time with my teens, went out to eat with them, or just hung out with them in order to intentionally build a strong relationship with them and gain their confidence.
I cared about their hurts, their struggles, and their concerns. When Paul writes “When I am with those who are oppressed I share their oppression so that I might bring them to Christ.” Again a powerful and insightful truth. Teens can become very oppressed in spirit. Things can weigh on them, bother them, discourage or depress them. Do you enter that world with them? Are you discerning enough to sense that in their spirit and lovingly walk through it with them, and share in their suffering with them? Or do you tell them to just snap out of it? Do you belittle them, ridicule them, or misunderstand them, and in doing so, crush their spirit and drive them further away?
Please give careful thought and consideration to these matters. It could make all the difference in the world to your impact on your teenager and their life with Christ.
Here are 2 podcasts that I believe would be a great help to you parents.
The first is entitled “Building Common Ground with Your Teens”
The second is a podcast series entitled “How to Stay Close to Your Kids”
Helping you become a Strong Disciple,
Because of Jesus,
Pastor Mark Darling