It has been attributed
to Mark Twain that he said when a boy turned about 14, he should
be put in a barrel and fed through the knot hole. In elaborating
on this, he reflected on his own life and said, "When
I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand
to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished
at how much the old man had learned in 7 years." Obviously,
it wasn't Mark Twain's father who learned so much during those
years, it was Twain that grew in understanding to see the wisdom
his father possessed.
Contrast the typical
American teenager with Jesus at age 12. Jesus could live on his
own successfully for 3 days, He could sit with adults and carry
on intelligent conversation, He was spiritually mature, and He
was responsible enough that His parents weren't concerned with
where He was or what He was doing the entire first day they were
traveling from Jerusalem (Luke
2:40-49). And Jesus was not that much different from other
12 year old Hebrews!
Most American adults
say they don't understand modern teenagers. Many current teenagers
use their own strange language with other teenagers, dress in
ways that only other teenagers dress, listen to their own brand
of music, and generally don't act like adults. I once heard an
experienced youth pastor explain why most teenagers do this: they
aren't ready for adult life and inside they know it. So they feel
insecure about talking like an adult and entering the world of
adults so they don't. They try to hang back and stay "kids"
as long as they possibly can. But they want to look like adults,
so they smoke and drink and cuss. And they want the benefits adults
have, so they engage in immoral behavior and stay out at night
until they want to come home demanding to be treated like
they were adults, without assuming the responsibilities of adults.
But this causes more of their teenage problems than they realize
because intoxication, drug induced altered states of consciousness,
any form of immoral sexual copulation or pornography, and even
some forms of "rock music" and un-Godly movies can all
open the door for transference of spirits which "messes up
the teenager." And most teenagers usually don't even realize
the noticeable change which others can see, much less get deliverance
from the problems they introduced into their lives (spirits of
rebellion, rejection, anger and rage, bitterness, doubt and unbelief,
immorality and lust, addictions, laziness, depression, low self-image,
fear, greed, lying, stealing, etc.).
The reasons they
don't feel ready to be an adult are varied. One of the big reasons
is that in modern America, many parents don't actively teach their
children how to be adults that is, the various skills necessary
for independent living. This can be everything from how to cook,
clean, wash clothes, and shop, to managing money, balancing a
checkbook, handling credit, landing a job, managing a career,
and having successful relationships. Most parents sort of hope
the kids will get it by "osmosis". Or they hand off
their kids to the public schools hoping they get it there. But
what they usually "get there" in the public schools
is worse than if they had been kept in Mark Twain's barrel! And
the last thing you should do if you want your 10 or 12 year old
to become like an adult is to keep him or her around 10 and 12
year olds which is what the public school setting does.
So they become peer dependent, and are strangers to the world
One valuable thing
that parents (or grandparents) can do is to help their teenagers
discover the adult vocations which they are most suited for. Every
person needs to be aware of and pursuing the "vision"
or "mission" that God has created them for. In Proverbs,
we are told "without a vision, the people perish." One
good tool for this was developed by Larry Burkett and is available
through Crown Financial Ministries (www.crown.org).
It is a questionnaire purchased on CD that is worked through in
less than 2 hours on a home computer, and gives the teenager great
understanding about what his or her interests and talents are,
and the vocations which match in order to work toward through
schooling or jobs. This gives a teenager purpose and motivation
to enter and move forward in the "world of adults".
problem is the mixed signals we have communicated about when a
person actually is an adult. Which of the following ages is a
person "an adult": age 11 when he no longer qualifies
for the children's price at the restaurant, about age 13 when
puberty occurs, age 16 when he gets a driver's license and can
hold a regular job, age 18 when he can vote and be tried for crimes
as an adult, age 21 when he can drink in bars, age 22 when he
can graduate from college, or age 25 when he gets adult car insurance
rates? The answer to this adulthood question is that a person
is an adult as soon as he or she demonstrates mature decision
making while accepting responsibility and fulfilling it. I have
known people who were in their 40's who were not "adults"
based on their immature behavior and avoidance of personal responsibility,
and they should lose privileges of an adult until they demonstrate
they will be responsible. But if a young person is trained in
decision making and acceptance of responsibility, he or she can
enjoy the benefits of adulthood younger than the rest of his or
her peer group.
In the Hebrew culture,
a boy was trained to be an adult by the time he was a teenager.
(Bat Mitzvah for girls) was a recognition that at the age of 13,
the Jewish young man could lead religious services, enter into
binding contracts, and be held solely responsible for his actions.
The Hebrew children spent considerable time next to their parents
in all responsibilities of life so that they would learn first-hand
how to be an adult. He or she had independent living skills by
their teenage years. An important aspect of this was that the
Hebrew teenager knew he would have full, serious consequences
for his actions. Deuteronomy
21:18-21 tells us, "If a man has a stubborn and
rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the
voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will
not heed them, then his father and his mother shall take hold
of him and bring him out to the elders of his city, to the gate
of his city... Then all the men of his city shall stone him to
death with stones; so you shall put away the evil from among you,
and all Israel shall hear and fear." That took care
of their teenage rebellion problems! Under a dispensation of grace,
I am not encouraging the wholesale killing of rebellious teenagers,
but I think that previous passage of scripture says something
about what God thinks of teenage rebellion. Pretty sobering, isn't
In our society, we
have tried to prevent teenagers from having consequences for sins
from removing corporal punishment in schools, to not trying
them as adults in court, to not even requiring respect for those
in authority around them. As a result, we have "given them
license" to sin and disobey until they got really good at
it by the age of 18. Then we said they were no longer protected
from punishment but they were so good at disobedience it
was hard to catch them!
Instead of trying
to "get away with sin" or justify it, teenagers need
to repent of sins (and not be angry at the adults who catch them).
One problem is that teenagers become aware of hypocrisy around
them, and think that justifies their own sinning. (A teenager
is no more justified in compromising or sinning because he sees
a 40 year old sin, than a 40 year old is justified because he
sees an 60 year old sin!) This disillusionment that comes with
the discovery of adult hypocrisy is a major roadblock to a teenager
maturing. As they progress in their teenage years, they see that
they are no longer protected and they are entering a fallen world.
They need to have trustworthy adult mentors (for example, good
parents or youth pastors) who have already had measurable success
at navigating that fallen world. If they don't personally know
examples of adults who have made it into a reasonable level of
success, joy, and peace in most areas of life, then the teenagers
may want to "check out" which results in numbing their
mind with substance abuse, or even refusing to go on which results
in high teenage suicide rates.
Adults need to ask
rebellious teenagers the question, "Who hurt you?"
They will usually give you an honest answer, which may give you
the opportunity to explain to them the importance of forgiving
others (or else be continually "tormented" as Jesus
promised in Matthew
Teenagers also need
to recognize the comparatively vast experience and wisdom that
adults have, and actively learn from it. This will propel them
into adulthood faster and with real preparation. One minister
said adults have lived long enough to have hindsight, which gives
them insight, which produces foresight! This enables a wise teenager
to skip "the school of hard knocks", because he or she
can learn from adults who have already "been there"
through the hard knocks. (And besides, every adult in the world
was a teenager already, so they understand.)
The biggest challenge
to dealing with modern American teenagers is to respond in love.
I know of a well-meaning former Marine combat veteran who confronted
some "Goth" teenagers in a restaurant. They had a firm
exchange of words, but the angry young Goth was not changed. There
is an old saying that people don't care how much we know, until
they know how much we care. Ephesians
5:2 says, "And walk in love, as Christ also has
loved us." Remember that most young people spell
love "T-I-M-E". Take your children places they want
to go just so you can be with them and communicate with them.
We need to love them as Christ loved us, unconditionally, while
still not allowing them to behave inappropriately in our households.
This may seem hard, but "we can do all things through
Christ." And the results will be worth it in this
life and eternity.