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 CHAPTER SIX

Help Your Teenager to Thrive

Help Your Teenager to Thrive

1, 2. What challenges and what joys can the teen years bring?

HAVING a teenager in the house is very different from having a five-year-old or even a ten-year-old. The teen years bring their own challenges and problems, but they can also bring joys and rewards. Examples such as Joseph, David, Josiah, and Timothy show that young people can act responsibly and have a fine relationship with Jehovah. (Genesis 37:2-11; 1 Samuel 16:11-13; 2 Kings 22:3-7; Acts 16:1, 2) Many teenagers today prove the same point. Likely, you know some of them.

2 Yet, for some the teen years are turbulent. Adolescents experience emotional ups and downs. Teenage boys and girls may want to be more independent, and they may resent limits placed on them by their parents. Yet, such youths are still quite inexperienced and in need of loving, patient help from their parents. Yes, the teen years can be exciting, but they can also be confusing​—both for parents and for teenagers. How can youths be helped during these years?

3. In what way can parents give their adolescent offspring a fine opportunity in life?

3 Parents who follow Bible counsel give their adolescent offspring the best possible opportunity to make their way successfully through those trials to responsible adulthood. In all lands and during all  time periods, parents and teenagers who applied Bible principles together have been blessed with success.​—Psalm 119:1.

HONEST AND OPEN COMMUNICATION

4. Why is confidential talk especially important during the teen years?

4 The Bible says: “There is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk.” (Proverbs 15:22) If confidential talk was necessary when the children were younger, it is especially vital during the teen years​—when youngsters likely spend less time at home and more time with school friends or other companions. If there is no confidential talk​—no honest and open communication between children and parents—​teenagers can become strangers in the house. So how can the lines of communication be kept open?

5. How are teenagers encouraged to view the matter of communicating with their parents?

5 Both teenagers and parents must play their part in this. True, adolescents may find it more difficult to talk with their parents than they did when they were younger. Nevertheless, remember that “when there is no skillful direction, the people fall; but there is salvation in the multitude of counselors.” (Proverbs 11:14) These words apply to all, young and old alike. Teenagers who realize this will understand that they still need skillful direction, since they are facing more-complex issues than before. They should recognize that their believing parents are well qualified as counselors because they are more experienced in life and have proved their loving concern over many years. Hence, at this stage  in their life, wise teenagers will not turn away from their parents.

6. What attitude will wise and loving parents have as to communicating with their teenagers?

6 Open communication means that the parent will try hard to be available when the teenager feels the need to talk. If you are a parent, make sure that communication is open at least from your side. This may not be easy. The Bible says that there is “a time to keep quiet and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7) When your teenager feels it is a time to speak, it may be your time to keep quiet. Perhaps you have set that time aside for personal study, relaxation, or work around the house. Still, if your youngster wants to talk to you, try to adjust your plans and listen. Otherwise, he may not try again. Remember the example of Jesus. On one occasion, he had scheduled a time to relax. But when people came crowding around to hear him, he put off resting and began to teach them. (Mark 6:30-34) Most teenagers realize that their parents lead busy lives, but they need the reassurance that their parents are there for them if needed. Hence, be available and be understanding.

7. What do parents need to avoid?

7 Try to remember what it was like when you were a teenager, and do not lose your sense of humor! Parents need to enjoy being with their children. When there is free time available, how do the parents spend it? If they always want to use their free time doing things that do not include their family, their teenagers will be quick to notice. If adolescents come to the conclusion that school friends think more of them than their parents do,  they are bound to have problems.

WHAT TO COMMUNICATE

8. How can appreciation for honesty, hard work, and proper conduct be impressed on children?

8 If parents have not already inculcated in their children an appreciation for honesty and hard work, they should by all means do so during the teen years. (1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:10) It is also vital for them to make sure that their children wholeheartedly believe in the importance of living a moral and clean life. (Proverbs 20:11) A parent communicates much in these areas by way of example. Just as unbelieving husbands can be “won without a word through the conduct of their wives,” so teenagers can learn right principles through the conduct of their parents. (1 Peter 3:1) Still, example on its own is never enough, since children are also exposed to many bad examples and to a flood of enticing propaganda outside the home. Caring parents, therefore, need to know their teenagers’ views on what they see and hear, and this calls for meaningful conversation.​—Proverbs 20:5.

9, 10. Why should parents make sure to instruct their children about sexual matters, and how can they do this?

 9 This is particularly true when it comes to sexual matters. Parents, are you embarrassed to discuss sex with your children? Even if you are, make the effort to do so, for your young ones will surely learn about the subject from someone. If they do not learn from you, who knows what distorted information they will get? In the Bible, Jehovah does not shy away from matters of a sexual nature, and neither should parents.​—Proverbs 4:1-4; 5:1-21.

10 Thankfully, the Bible contains clear guidance in the area of sexual conduct, and the Watchtower Society has published much helpful information showing that this guidance still applies in the modern world. Why not make use of this help? For example, why not review with your son or daughter appropriate chapters in Volumes 1 and 2 of Questions Young People Ask​—Answers That Work? You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

11. What is a most effective way for parents to teach their children how to serve Jehovah?

11 What is the most important subject that parents and children should discuss? The apostle Paul referred to it when he wrote: “Go on bringing [your children] up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) Children need to keep learning about Jehovah. In particular, they need to learn to love him, and they should want to serve him. Here, too, much can be taught by example. If adolescents see that their parents love God ‘with their whole heart and with their whole soul and with their whole mind’ and that this produces good fruits in their parents’ lives, they may well be influenced  to do the same. (Matthew 22:37) Similarly, if young people see that their parents have a reasonable view of material things, putting God’s Kingdom first, they will be helped to develop the same mental attitude.​—Ecclesiastes 7:12; Matthew 6:31-33.

Regular Bible study is essential for the family

12, 13. What points should be kept in mind if the family study is to be a success?

12 A weekly family Bible study is an outstanding help in communicating spiritual values to young people. (Psalm 119:33, 34; Proverbs 4:20-23) Having such a study regularly is vital. (Psalm 1:1-3) Parents and their children should realize that other things must be scheduled around the family study, not vice versa. Further, the right attitude is essential if the family study is to be effective. One father said: “The secret is for the conductor to foster a relaxed yet respectful atmosphere during the family study​—informal but not silly. The correct balance may not always be easy to attain, and youngsters will frequently need attitude adjustment. If  things do not go well a time or two, persevere and look ahead to the next time.” This same father said that in his prayer before each study, he specifically requested help from Jehovah for the right viewpoint on the part of all involved.​—Psalm 119:66.

13 Conducting the family study is the responsibility of believing parents. True, some parents may not be gifted teachers, and it may be difficult for them to find ways to make the family study interesting. Nevertheless, if you love your teenagers “in deed and truth,” you will desire to help them in a humble and honest way to advance spiritually. (1 John 3:18) They may complain from time to time, but likely they will sense your deep interest in their welfare.

14. How can Deuteronomy 11:18, 19 be applied when communicating spiritual things to teenagers?

14 The family study is not the only occasion to communicate matters that are spiritually important. Do you remember Jehovah’s command to parents? He said: “You must apply these words of mine to your heart and your soul and bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they must serve as a frontlet  band between your eyes. You must also teach them to your sons, so as to speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 11:18, 19; see also Deuteronomy 6:6, 7.) This does not mean that parents must constantly preach to their children. But a loving family head should always be on the lookout for opportunities to build up the spiritual outlook of his family.

DISCIPLINE AND RESPECT

15, 16. (a) What is discipline? (b) Who is responsible for administering discipline, and who has the responsibility to ensure that it will be heeded?

15 Discipline is training that corrects, and it includes communication. Discipline carries the thought of correction more than of punishment​—although punishment may come into the picture. Your children needed discipline when they were younger, and now that they are teenagers, they still need some form of it, perhaps even more so. Wise teenagers know that this is true.

16 The Bible says: “Anyone foolish disrespects the discipline of his father, but anyone regarding reproof is shrewd.” (Proverbs 15:5) We learn much from this scripture. It implies that discipline will be given. A teenager cannot ‘regard reproof’ if it is not given. Jehovah gives the responsibility for administering discipline to the parents, particularly the father. However, the responsibility for listening to that discipline belongs to the teenager. He will learn more and make fewer mistakes if he heeds the wise discipline of his father and mother. (Proverbs 1:8) The Bible says: “The one neglecting discipline comes to poverty and dishonor, but the one  keeping a reproof is the one that is glorified.”​—Proverbs 13:18.

17. What balance do parents need to aim for when administering discipline?

17 When disciplining teenagers, parents need to be balanced. They should avoid being so strict that they irritate their offspring, perhaps even damaging their children’s self-confidence. (Colossians 3:21) And yet parents do not want to be so permissive that their youngsters miss out on vital training. Such permissiveness can be disastrous. Proverbs 29:17 says: “Chastise your son and he will bring you rest and give much pleasure to your soul.” However, verse 21 says: “If one is pampering one’s servant from youth on, in his later life he will even become a thankless one.” Although this verse is talking about a servant, it applies with equal measure to any youngster in the household.

18. Of what is discipline an evidence, and what is avoided when parents administer consistent discipline?

18 In truth, proper discipline is a proof of the parent’s love for his child. (Hebrews 12:6, 11) If you are a parent, you know that it is difficult to maintain consistent, reasonable discipline. For the sake of peace, it may seem easier to allow an obstinate teenager to do what he wants. In the long run, however, a parent who follows this latter course will pay for it with a household that is out of control.​—Proverbs 29:15; Galatians 6:9.

WORK AND PLAY

19, 20. How can parents deal wisely with the matter of recreation for their teenagers?

19 In earlier times children were usually expected to help out in the home or on the farm. Today many  teenagers have a lot of unsupervised spare time. To fill that time, the commercial world provides a superabundance of material to fill leisure time. Add to this the fact that the world puts very little value on Bible standards of morality, and you have a formula for potential disaster.

20 Hence, the judicious parent maintains the right to make final decisions about recreation. Do not forget, though, that the teenager is growing up. Each year, he or she will likely hope to be treated more like an adult. Thus, it is wise for a parent to allow more latitude in the choice of recreation as the teenager gets older​—as long as those choices reflect progress toward spiritual maturity. At times, the teenager may make unwise choices in music, associates, and so on. When this happens, it should be discussed with the teenager so that better choices will be made in the future.

21. How will reasonableness in the amount of time spent in recreation protect a teenager?

21 How much time should be allotted for recreation? In some lands teenagers are led to believe that they are entitled to continual entertainment. Hence, an adolescent may plan his schedule so that he goes from one “good time” to the next. It is up to the parents to convey the lesson that time should also be spent on other things, such as the family, personal study, association with spiritually mature persons, Christian meetings, and household chores. This will keep the “pleasures of this life” from choking out God’s Word.​—Luke 8:11-15.

22. With what should recreation be balanced in a teenager’s life?

22 King Solomon said: “I have come to know that  there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good during one’s life; and also that every man should eat and indeed drink and see good for all his hard work. It is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13) Yes, rejoicing is part of a balanced life. But so is hard work. Many teenagers today do not learn the satisfaction that comes from hard work or the feeling of self-respect that comes from tackling a problem and solving it. Some are not given the opportunity to develop a skill or trade with which to support themselves in later life. Here is a real challenge for the parent. Will you make sure that your young one has such opportunities? If you can succeed in teaching your teenager to value and even enjoy hard work, he or she will develop a healthy outlook that will bring a lifetime of benefits.

FROM TEENAGER TO ADULT

Express love and appreciation for your children

23. How can parents encourage their teenagers?

23 Even when you have problems with your teenager, the scripture still holds true: “Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:8) Never cease to show the love that you undoubtedly feel. Ask yourself, ‘Do I compliment each child on his successes in handling problems or overcoming obstacles? Do I seize opportunities to express my love and appreciation for my children, before those opportunities pass?’ Although at times there may be misunderstandings, if teenagers feel assured of your love for them, they are more likely to return that love.

24. What Scriptural principle holds true as a general rule in bringing up children, but what should be borne in mind?

24 Of course, as children grow to adulthood, they will eventually make very weighty decisions for themselves. In some cases parents may not like  those decisions. What if their child decides not to continue serving Jehovah God? This can occur. Even some of Jehovah’s own spirit sons rejected his counsel and proved rebellious. (Genesis 6:2; Jude 6) Children are not computers, which can be programmed to act the way we want. They are creatures with free will, responsible before Jehovah for the decisions they make. Still, Proverbs 22:6 holds true as a general rule: “Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.”

25. What is the finest way for parents to show gratitude to Jehovah for the privilege of parenthood?

25 So then, show your children plenty of love. Do your best to follow Bible principles in raising them. Set a fine example of godly conduct. Thus you will give your children the best opportunity to grow up to be responsible, God-fearing adults. This is the finest way for parents to show gratitude to Jehovah for the privilege of parenthood.