I remember holding my newborn babies and thinking through the fog of exhaustion about all they would need to learn over the next 18 years. With topics ranging from sleeping through the night to choosing a spouse, the task of imparting all this knowledge overwhelmed me.
As my kids grew from toddlers to children to teens, I realized that I would never be able to give them all the information they needed for every situation they might face. I can’t anticipate every scenario and equip them with a ready-made response. Yes, my kids need training, education, and information; but they also need the wisdom to apply to the unexpected problems they will face in adulthood.
I’m still parenting teens, as my oldest approaches his 18th birthday and my youngest is starting her teen years. As the days when these children live under our roof fly by, I’m noticing how the time gets shorter, and the topics become weightier. Sleepless nights are filled with prayer for wisdom for my husband and me, as well as for my children. Here are three principles I’ve tried to live out as I shepherd them through these years.
1. Keep building on the foundation of teaching them God’s Word.
We read, talked about, and memorized God’s Word when the kids were younger. We listened to Scripture set to music as we drove in the car. I used Bible verses as I disciplined them and mediated sibling squabbles. I tried to give them a solid foundation for understanding the gospel and the principles of God’s Word.
I hope my kids will take their knowledge of God’s Word and apply it to real-life questions in their teen years. Recently, I asked my high school senior if any principles in the Bible would guide his college decision. No Scripture tells him where to spend the next four years. However, he can heed biblical commands regarding the importance of worship and fellowship as he considers opportunities for worship and the Christian community as a college student.
I’ve also used the words of Scripture when talking about a character with my teens. Instead of telling them to be nice or be a good friend, I encourage them to be patient, kind, and gentle, loving their neighbor as they love themselves (Matthew 22:39, Galatians 5:22-23). I talk about crude language rather than having a dirty mouth (Ephesians 5:4). We talk about idolatry, sexual immorality, and foolishness using biblical terms rather than the culture’s words. The shift is subtle, but I want my kids to understand that I’m sharing biblical commands from the Word of God—not just platitudes or practical steps to successful living and healthy relationships.
2. Talk often about the world’s foolishness compared to the wisdom of God’s Word.
Sadly, current events in the world around us give unending examples of foolishness and unbiblical behavior. I shield my kids from most media and news sources, but I don’t avoid sharing the news with them. These conversations allow me to point out the worldviews that inform the government policies, cultural trends, and personal decisions around us.
Then I ask, “What does God’s Word say about this?” I want to help them identify lies in the world and then point them to the Bible as the source of wisdom and truth. As we discuss the destructiveness of sin and the chaos of current events, my teens learn to apply biblical principles and prepare to shine as lights in a dark world.
3. Take them to a church that preaches God’s Word and helps teens grow in their faith.
I know a family who left a church a few years ago because of a lack of gospel-centered preaching. The parents knew they could filter the sermons and take away what was good and true. But they wanted their teens to be so accustomed to solid preaching that when they left home and went looking for a church, they would be able to spot preaching that fell short of that high standard instantly. If our teens have only experienced mediocrity, they will easily settle for more of the same.
We’re grateful to be in a local church where we hear gospel-centered, expository preaching every single Sunday. Our pastor often addresses the young people in the congregation specifically and exhorts them to apply the Word as children, teens, and young adults. In addition, our teens attend Sunday school and youth group, where other adults reinforce what we’re teaching at home. We’ve talked with our teens about why we’ve chosen this church and hope they will find a similar church home in their adult years.
As we prepare to launch our oldest child from our home, it’s both exciting and terrifying. I know there will be times when he struggles and fails, just as his parents have. But I pray that, by God’s grace, his 18 years in a Christian home and church provides a solid foundation of God’s wisdom to draw on as he takes those first steps into adulthood.