Teenage Discipline

Field trip in the French Quarter... so silly.

Someone asked me about discipline as relates to teenagers. Well, I’m not sure how qualified I am to answer this question since I’ve not had a teenager a whole year yet :)…. but I can share my thoughts and would love to have my friends chime in who have had teens longer than I have!

I’d encourage you to read an earlier post on discipline called, “The General Plan”... This post describes my general philosophy on discipline. This really pertains to discipline during the earlier years…. pre-teen really… but it will give you an overall idea of my approach.

When children are young the faith of the child is really the faith of the parents. They are at the mercy of the teachings of the parents and the church the family chooses if that applies. Generally speaking, I don’t think my young children behave in a certain way because of the conviction of the Spirit… but more because they have learned to abide by a behavioral approach:

You do good… you’re rewarded BUT if you do bad… you experience consequence

This is a very effective tool for young children. I have tried to point out along the way aspects of our faith I want the kids to remember…. “Mom loves you, Girl 2, but you can NOT hit Girl 3. Jesus wants you to be kind. Because you have not been kind, you must have a consequence”… then give an age appropriate consequence.

At some point, this same approach doesn’t work for an older child. After a child has received Christ as their Savior, the faith of the parent will only suffice for so long. The faith of the child has to be the driving force behind his or her decisions to do right and not do wrong. I believe that is a key, essential even, part of their maturity… their physical maturity, their emotional maturity, psychological maturity and most importantly their spiritual maturity. During this maturing process we want to move from that “good=reward & bad=punishment” approach to:

You do good because you love the Lord and want to please Him

Notice I did not say, you do good IN ORDER TO receive salvation but BECAUSE OF your salvation. There is a huge difference.

That’s fine and good… but how does that work? I’ll spell out an example of an exchange my son and I might have:

Me: Did you push your brother?

Son: Yes… BUT it was because he (blah, blah, blah)… and he gets on my nerves and and and

Me: Son, is that the way the Lord would have you behave?

Son: Well, no but….. (blah blah blah)

Me: Ok, Son… If you feel good before the Lord with that decision, that’s fine with me.

I might also direct him with a statement like: “You are the Lord’s boy… you answer to Him ultimately… as do I.”

I seek to instill kindness, generosity, thinking of others before yourself and the like… but know that everything in our world fights against us. It’s hard work. It’s never ending… but it’s never too late. The Lord is in the redeeming business. He can fix anything broken, He can solve any mystery and soften any heart. It would be easier to instill these qualities earlier on but they can be instilled with the Lord’s guidance. Will it be harder later on? Probably but it’s worth the hard work. Be encouraged!

There are moments that we all get pushed to the brink… both you and your teen. Sometimes there needs to be a consequence. The consequences must age with your child. Time outs, spankings and such have to turn into something that the child will really see as a consequence. We usually take away outside time (which is a real consequence here on the NOBTS campus where the kids have near free reign of playgrounds and open fields) or take away media time. We have done the good ‘ole fashioned consequences and adding house cleaning time to their day.One of my personal favorite is push-ups. I might start with 50 and if he bites back I may make it 75.

Our son has responded well to the above. While we have our days, he’s really an easy kid and I’m blessed.

If your child is not a believer you have a different perspective to shoot from. She/He doesn’t feel the need to be a “great kid” because he/she loves the Lord and feels accountable to Him.

I would suggest the following in regards to discipline delimas and your teen or pre-teen:

1- Pray for your child’s salvation. Pray for wisdom and seek wise counsel. It would be so easy to lose your child’s heart and ostracize him/her. Watch for physical and facial cues to see where your child is emotionally. I have no problem laying it all on the line… but if you push your child to the point of complete and total frustration you could be in a dangerous position.

2- Use questions to spur conversation and to keep talk moving during difficult situations…. “Talk to mom, tell me what is going on with you…. how are you feeling… help me understand why you behaved this way… I love you, I want to hear your thoughts, but I need you to speak in a respectful tone” then LISTEN. I want my kids to have the freedom to disagree with Greg and me. I will insist they do so in a respectful manner.

3- If you must follow through with a consequence don’t go overboard. So often parents will make ridiculous threats they can’t or won’t follow through with…. “You are grounded from the phone for 9 months.” Really? That will be more of a punishment for you than the child, haha! Don’t go overboard but be firm! If you say it, stick to it come what may.

4- Pray. Pray. Pray. The Lord is a gracious God. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts so much higher than our thoughts. He alone can convict and convince even the most teenish of teenagers (or pre-teen). :)…. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding… in ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5)

Press on Parents… Keep the Faith!

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11 thoughts on “Teenage Discipline

  1. Alisa is a mom of 2- both are teenagers! 1 boy, 1 girl.

    The greatest tool to use for any teenager’s discipline is prayer. There are times when an appropriate punishment is not an easy one. The statement, “I am not sure what the appropriate punishment is right now. I am going to pray for wisdom in this and I’ll tell you when that comes.” It not only gives time for discernment, but it also provides an example of where our teenagers should seek wisdom from. It is easy for the teenager to blame parents for some of those consequences, but I have seen that when they are aware that you are seeking God’s guidance, teenagers accept the punishment with less issue. With ours it seems as if there is almost a calming effect. Does that make sense?

    You are so right about prayer. One of ours was struggling lately and I waited until that clild was asleep and wept before the Lord beside their bed. The Holy Spirit gave such peace and I have seen a huge difference.

    I was given some great advice by a mutual friend a few years ago. She said that because teenages are out of sight more, she prayed that God would allow them to “get caught” in everything they did, so that she could take care of those issues before they leave home. IT WORKS.

    We have no greater weapon thatn to PRAY, PRAY, PRAY.

    • Hey Lisa! Thanks so much for writing. I admire you so much and appreciate your advice. You have a precious family and the Lord is honoring your prayers!

      I mentioned to a young girl several years ago who found herself expecting out of wedlock that while she did stray from the Lord she got “caught” REALLY quick! What a blessing!

      I am going to start praying my kids get caught at every turn!

      Praying for you and you pray! I love you, sweet friend!

  2. Traci is a mom of 3 and is expecting number 4.

    Great advice! Keeleigh will turn 12 this year but thinks she’s 16 so I’m constantly on the ways to connect to her and foster her connection with the Lord. I love, love, loved when Dr. Steele spoke at the last home school meeting. She also pointed out that prayer has to be a high priority for us as parents.

    And I’m definitely going to be using the statement Alisa mentioned above the next time I find myself flabbergasted. = )

  3. Note: Ellen is a mom of 4… 2 of which are teenagers (both girls)

    I completely agree with Alisa. And, I, too have told my children, “I’m praying that you ALWAYS get caught.”

    But….I rarely worry about that. My children are not perfect, by any means; but so far, it seems they are at their worst for me, which is a good thing, I suppose.

    You know I have a couple of teens. I am still not comfortable giving parental advice, though, because I feel my parenting skills have not been properly tested until they have all reached about 20 years of age. If they’re still God-fearing people at that time, I will feel as though I’ve done a good job. Only time will tell.

    Let me first say, I’m a strong proponent of the rod. I use it almost exclusively when my children are young. I also use Scripture. I remind them that I discipline them because it is my duty to obey the Lord in all things and because I love them and want them to have a right relationship with the Lord. I often tell them, “Sin hurts! It hurts you and it hurts others.” They can either suffer the physical pain of a spanking and repent or they can suffer the long lasting spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical pain of sin that is not dealt with in a proper manner. I don’t want my children to live in sin and the guilt, shame and bondage that comes with it, so I try to deal with it swiftly and effectively. I believe that’s our job as Godly parents. Let us not be deceived into thinking that Satan is not working very hard for our children’s hearts and minds. Every battle that goes on in our homes with our children is at its root a spiritual one. It is a battle for their hearts! And, that heart is sinful from birth. We must be intentional and diligent in our approach to discipline. Why is it so hard? Because it’s so important!

    Now, for the discipline of a teenager. Needless to say, I no longer use the rod. But, I do still apply Scripture. Eph 6:1, Eph 4:32, Phil 2:14-15, Rom 12:19, and many of the Proverbs are some of the Scriptures we apply at all ages. I want to constantly point them to the Highest Authority. I am just as sinful as them, so I cannot stand on my own authority, although I remind them that according to God’s Word they must obey me even if I make a bad choice. Even though I’m not perfect, I am in a place of authority over them because of what God says.

    My teens suffer more “natural consequences” it seems. Not getting to go with that friend or missing out on something they would have enjoyed. The ipod being taken away or not being allowed to talk on the phone, etc. Many times I send them to their room and say, “Go get right, then come back.” They know I mean get right with the Lord. I, like you Michelle, welcome differences of opinion, but only if offered in a manner of respect. My teens are usually quick to confess and repent.

    Be honest with your children about your own struggle with sin. Many times I have had to seek the forgiveness of my children for my sinful attitudes or actions. I have had to repent of being angry and sinning. I do not want resentment and bitterness to take hold in their hearts because I’m unwilling to admit what they already know. It is amazing how they respond. I have never had them hold it over my head or condemn me. Every time they have freely offered their forgiveness, and many times they have even felt convicted and repented of things in their own lives.

    I try really hard to discipline and then “let go.” Forgive and forget. How important is it that we deal with the issue and hand and then, when we see that our child is truly convicted and repentant, we cover that sin over. They must still deal with the consequences, but other than that, that sin never happened. I don’t want to bring it up. I don’t want to hold a grudge. I want to “move forward.”

    If there is any good in our family, I know it’s because of the Lord and His work in us. I believe the most important thing you can do is discipline early and effectively. Ask for wisdom constantly. Look to differentiate between childish immaturity and true defiance and rebellion. Those must be dealt with differently, even in the teenage years. But, if you are unsure then always err on the side of defiance and rebellion because sin is always present.

    • El- you are so wise and I respect you greatly. Thank you for your input!
      I love what you said about the good in your family… I’m right there with you! It’s all Jesus!

      Love you!!! Thanks for writing!!!

  4. Note: Teresa has 5 children and If I remember correctly 3 teenagers. Her oldest daughter is 17. (surely not!)

    Michelle, I am sure you know this too, and as you shared in your post-that most of the discipline issues to use with your older children also you have applied with your younger children…If we dont love our kids enough to discipline them when they are 2 then we will not be able to reach them when they are 12+ … To capture the heart of the child begins when they are young and giving them the time they need to share hurts, laughter, pain, sorrow etc… Looking right into their eyes and hearts as they speak and genuinly caring what they say and the hurts they face and the laughs they laugh speak volumes of love to that child and bond his heart with yours…When you have their heart and Jesus is their focus the discipline is easier-because they will Love Jesus so much that when they please HIM, you will be pleased in the process…I cannot clearly express what I want to say-but you know my heart and can read thru the lines. 🙂
    As we continue to seek God and put HIS principles into play in our life and implement HIS plan in the lives of our kids, HE makes up for our failures—I am amazed as the books I have read (V. Baucham and others) that give a prescription for how to raise Godly kids , families, and looking for godly young men to marry our daughters, etc..and I find that the “prescription” given by said author is what we are already implementing in our family–and we see the fruit of it…God’s truth is timeless and boundless and when we follow it, then yes, we may make some mistakes along the way, but HE will either point us back onto HIS path or make good of the mess we have made-because he will use all things for his good purpose! Thanks for sharing.

    • Teresa… You’re so precious. I can “hear” you as I read your post. You are so right. Thank you for the reminders! This is an area I’m not as strong in… and it is SO important!!! I pray my kids turn out as well as “A” has… what a joy! Love you!

  5. Thank You for posting this … One thing the Lord has taught me in the past 4 years is that we as parents can change them on the outside … but real change occurs when the Lord changes their heart …. I have seen this lived out in our lives …. we must always point our children to HIM and allow His discipline to mold and shape them.
    Speak truth over their lives each day and feverently pray for them … I’ve seen God do a great work when we have stepped back and allowed HIM to do the work … so many times we fail in discipline .. but HE is faithful to do HIS work in HIS time. Thankful that God is in control and I am not.

  6. My 14 yo old had a good laugh when he downloaded this picture. He exclaimed, “Dude has a cute expression!”

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