10 Things Teens Won’t Tell You

10 Things Teens Won’t Tell You
By Cary Schmidt (published by permission)

Have you noticed that teens are tight lipped? For a myriad of reasons—usually intimidation being the biggest—they really find it difficult to talk to adults at times. This is especially true with parents. In every home, there is a spiritual battle against authentic communication. Let’s face it—the devil doesn’t want parents and teens to truly open their hearts to each other.

But strong families resist this battle and conquer it. On the other side of the mountain of silence is a fertile meadow of healthy hearts. It’s a deliberate journey to get there, but it’s worth the effort. There isn’t a much sweeter experience in life than open, honest, heart-full communication between a parent and teen. When you have it, you gain a deep, satisfactory sense that this is what God intended in a family.

Malachi 4:6 teaches, “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers…” In an effort to turn your heart toward your children, I wanted to share the results of a simple survey I did with our students several years ago. These statements and quotes came from faithful Christian adults who grew up in godly homes and in our youth group. The quotes below is what they shared about why they stayed faithful God. This list is what your teens think, whether they tell you or not; and it’s a great place to start a conversation:

1. I know whether you are faking it or not. (Contradiction is extremely confusing.) Amazingly, teens can see straight through us. They know our hearts, they constantly evaluate our motives, our spirit, and our life. If it’s consistent, then they accept our faith as real. If not, then they struggle with the conflict and often reject our faith outright.

Quote: “The teens are encouraged to read their Bibles and I am sure some of them have never seen their parents even pray outside of church.”

Quote: “I don’t think my parents ever contradicted themselves. They live honest lives, which makes it easy to trust them.”

Quote: “Honestly, I can’t remember my parents ever faking it. They were very open and honest with me.”

2. I need to talk openly with you about our faith. (Make sense of my faith.) Teens have questions. That doesn’t automatically make them rebels. They simply need to make a legitimate connection between God’s principles and real life. Many parents see this as the church’s responsibility. And, in part, it is. But every parent must help their teens see the common sense behind God’s eternal truth.

Quote: “My parents were great at this – especially my dad. He would always be bringing up different spiritual issues and explaining to me why we believed it. Sometimes he would bring up different arguments that unsaved people give about some of the things we believe, and he would explain to us why these arguments were wrong.”

Quote: “I never had to bring up a conversation about God or what we believed. My parents were always using every chance they got to expound on why we believe what we believe- there’s a spiritual moral to everything in life.”

Quote: “I grew up in a great church with great Bible preaching (that left few holes to be filled). I didn’t go to my parents often with questions about our faith, but when I did, I receive a Bible answer.”

3. I’m thinking about the opposite sex, and I’m curious about sexual issues. (But don’t make me bring it up.) Between the awakening of hormones and the onslaught of a godless culture, this is a very critical dynamic of youth. As parents, we want to bury our heads in the sand and hope we won’t have to talk about these things. Big mistake!

It seems everybody is talking to kids about sex today—except parents! How we need to reverse that model! Your teenager should have an open door, any time, to speak directly with you about sensitive, sexual issues. And he/she should get a clear, biblical, and understandable answer. Give them the truth, and they will be able to resist a world of lies. Fail to give them the truth—they will most likely buy the lies.

Sad Quote: ”I think the first time my dad and I talked about sexual issues was a month before I got married… maybe it was awkward for him too.”

Quotes? There weren’t any others—because most parents don’t talk about these things.

4. My deepest need is a sincere relationship with you. (I need time with parents.) Not only will they not say this—they won’t even admit to it or understand it. This one resides so deep in our God-given design, that we barely recognize it. It’s the life results that make it so obvious. A teenager who has a healthy relationship with Dad and Mom is just an entirely different creature than one that doesn’t. They think different, feel different (emotionally), logic different, behave different, and have vastly different lives for the long-term. The key is—you must make it happen. You must create these moments. No force on earth—not sports, not homework, not friends, not youth group, not work—should keep you from having quality, quantity time together.

Quote: “I went soulwinning with my mom and those were the only times I really got to talk to my mom, not just about church things, but about anything. She would take me to lunch afterward. Four hours is a long time. I truly treasured that time, because home life is so busy you don’t really talk.”

Quote: “This is something I didn’t realize I needed as a teenager. Both of my parents work full time, so they had to purposefully make time for us to spend together, and most of the time they had to force us to spend time with them. Had my parents given up on making us do things with them, I know that we would have serious relationship problems today, and I would be lacking two of my best mentors and counselors.”

Quote: “Probably the best thing my dad let me do was buy a 1968 Pontiac, and we spent the next two and a half years together working on it. I got quality time with my dad doing something we both loved, and I also got practical hands-on mechanical training.”

5. I need and want rules born out of love and enforced with sincerity. (Biblically deal with your own failures.) Teens expect us to be authorities—they know that love is sometimes tough. When we fail to provide and consistently enforce boundaries, or when we give too much freedom with no restraint, they know the interpretation—”Stay out of my way, I don’t really care about you.” Biblical parenting requires much wisdom and effort. It’s a sacrifice—hard work—to stand in the gap spiritually.

Quote: “Teens might fight the rules, but they need them more than anything. I am so glad my parents protected me from certain things. I owe where I am now to them. There were times that I didn’t break rules, because I didn’t want to disappoint my parents, and if the rules hadn’t been there, I would have regretted it later.”

Quote: “My parents were good about explaining to us why they had certain rules for us as teenagers. That was a good move because it didn’t give us the chance to sit and think of all the cruel reasons they had come up with these restrictions, and we respected them for it.”

Quote: “I knew the rules from day one. This was never a problem with me, because they were balanced and properly enforced.”

6. I need united authority in my life. (Nothing confuses me more than conflicting authorities!) How often I counsel families where Mom and Dad do not stand together. One parent disagrees with the other on discipline. One hides things from the other. Statements like, “Don’t tell your father” or “Just because Pastor believes it doesn’t mean we have to” abound in today’s Christian home.

For a teen, divided authorities brings confusion and frustration. If you don’t agree with your school or pastor, find one you can support. If you are at odds with your spouse, resolve the problem. For your child’s sake—stand together with biblical authorities and with one another. Work out your differences privately, but stand together publicly.

Quote: “My parents never sided against an authority figure! They always supported them in front of us even if the authority figure was wrong.”

Quote: “My parents agreed with each other (at least in front of us), supported our pastor, and took the side of our teachers.”

7. I’m as confused as you are about my problems. The truth—when you, in frustration, ask—“What wrong with you!?” They honestly don’t know the answer. If you feel like you are confused about what’s going on inside their minds and hearts—join the club—so are they. This is partially due to a complete brain rebuild that’s happening between the ages of 12 and 20, but it’s also due to spiritual battle for a young heart. Be willing to work through problems together and find biblical solutions with patience and prayer.

Quote: “Teens need answers to their problems and if they can’t talk to you about them and get answers, they are going to go somewhere else.”

8. God only needs a moment to change my life, and I need you to help me be there for that moment! We’re so quick to let less important things take the place of the teaching/preaching of God’s Word to our children. Soccer league trumps Bible Study. Birthday trip trumps church. Studying for a test trumps Sunday School. Cost savings trumps teen camp.

These, and all like them, are just very bad choices. There will always be a reason to miss the teaching of God’s Word—and before you know it, your family has missed dozens upon dozens of opportunities for spiritual growth and development. Make the Bible your first priority, and everything else can find a place around it—or not happen at all. Your kid can miss a few soccer practices—or the whole season for that matter—and be just fine. Miss the Bible and you invite disaster.

Quote: “I was 15 and had just come back from teen camp where God completely changed my life. The whole week climaxed to the final night where I know God called me to serve Him for the rest of my life. My parents never discouraged me from going to a camp or activity, and when I came home that Friday and told my dad, his response with a smile was, ‘I knew God was going to do something like that in your life.’”

9. Along with discipline, I really need to know you accept me in spite of my failures. Firm discipline must be coupled with acceptance. Discipline isn’t rejection. Discipline should be restorative not merely punitive. Teens can handle discipline that flows from a compassionate heart and ends with a hug and prayer. Be sure you provide biblical discipline that corrects behavior, nurtures the heart, and fully accepts the child all at the same time.

Quote: “While there needs to be a punishment when you do something wrong, there also needs to be forgiveness, and a learning process from it.”

Quote: “My parents showed no mercy when it came to discipline, however, they always emphasized that they new that I was ‘better than that’ and how much confidence they had in me. That kind of faith is what has kept me from quitting as a young adult. If your parents don’t believe in you, who does?”

Quote: “My parents not only helped me to realize that I am extremely imperfect, they helped me realize that I don’t always have to be perfect to be influential in life.”

10. More than anything I need your affirmation. Let me know when I’m doing something right! Teens generally go through life feeling like they are always in trouble. In most cases, they over-exaggerate our discipline and feel like complete failures. For this reason, it’s important to create the right context—if something is small, let them know it’s small. And when you deliver discipline, balance it out with tender love, encouragement, and unconditional acceptance. For every one time you deliver a reprimand, try to deliver ten affirmations. That ratio of 10 to 1 will keep you constantly challenged to find the good and praise it!

Quote: “When you are a teen, you get in trouble a lot. It always seems to a teenager every time they do something wrong they are always caught and always punished, but when they do something good it is just expected and nothing is ever said. Often, the only time you get attention in your home is on your birthday or when you do something wrong.”

Quote: “Sometimes it seemed like my parents paid much more attention to everything I did wrong, then anything I did right. This was extremely discouraging, and there were times when I became very bitter towards them.”

Quote: “I think this may have been my parents’ one weakness. It’s really easy to pick out the negatives in a person/situation and forget the positives. This can/did take its toll on a me emotionally. Personally, positive reinforcement is more motivating than negative reinforcement.”

So there you have it—ten things teens won’t tell you. Pray for wisdom as you seek to love those young hearts toward a life-time intimacy with their Heavenly Father! http://www.caryschmidt.com/

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