Parenting Teens and Being Successful? Part 2

This is the second post in the series.  Check out the other posts in the series on the main page.

We all want to be successful, as parents we are many times lost as to what that means with teenagers. I am going to work through some biblical principles that will point us to success with parenting teens.

This post I am going to discuss the heart of a teen and behaviorism.


As you read the Bible it describes many functions of the heart.  Our hearts are the core of who we are, what God has made us.

We feel, think, purpose, desire, believe with our hearts.  We also receive or reject God’s New Covenant for our hearts (JBC, On Parenting)

The heart issue in your teen is not hormones, its not growing up, but it is receiving or rejecting the Gospel.  The New Covenant of God’s grace that so freely flows to each person that accepts their need for a sacrifice, the one that came through Jesus Christ.  This is the purpose of a parent, to be an instrument of God’s grace.  If we focus on having “Good,” “Polite,” and “Achieving” children we have missed the point.

God outlines His New Covenant in the Old Testament from the Prophet Jeremiah, and then Hebrews fills us in to the significance of the Covenant,

Jeremiah 31:33-34 “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts…For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Hebrews 8:13 “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”

Jesus Christ gave us the gift of forgiveness, He came and changed the hearts of mankind.  He was longed for and desired by all that loved God.  He was the one used by God to change hearts.  He is the one that parents can cling to for grace in their lives and in the hearts of their children.

There are lots of hurting parents out there who understand that something is not right about what they are doing.  The problem is that they don’t use a “Heart” model for child rearing. (JBC, On Parenting)

As teens grow older they are forming patterns of living that will be how they live for the rest of their lives.  They will also make many mistakes (I can say this from personal experience).

If you’re not dealing with your teen’s heart you might be using some of these strategies,

I can control a child’s behavior through a variety of means.  If I lay enough guilt on my child, it will move him.  If I manipulate my teen with something he wants, a new car or a new bike, I will be temporarily affective.  If I threaten him, he may comply.  But the problem is that none of these strategies have lasting effectiveness.  The inner person, the teen’s heart, hasn’t changed.  The minute the threat or the incentive is gone, the child goes right back to what he was doing.  This happens in the general population and in the church as well. (JBC, Paul Tripp: On Parenting)

The entire system that social workers use (the field I used to work in) is behavior related.  We cannot fake a loving home environment.  We cannot manipulate the heart of your child and change it.  We cannot buy love (The Beatles said something like this “You can’t buy me love”).  So as a parent, stop.  Just cling to the grace of God.

Whatever a teen is going through, we need to stop asking the what question: What is my teen doing?  Instead ask: Why is my teen doing it?  Only looking at what they are doing is called behaviorism. Behaviorism is…

…the theory that humans can be accurately studied only through behaviors, in contrast with subjective heart issues.

What does God say about this?  We know from the New Covenant that God cares about our hearts.  Our behavior is the result of our hearts.  Behaviorism is something that we commonly live by but do not even realize.  The heart of your teen takes time to change and takes intentional parenting from you.  We do not want to be behaviorists.  We want to be doctors that examine the hearts of our teens and make permanent life change.  The first step is getting on your knees and pray for your child.  Spend some time thinking about the heart of your teen.  What are they dealing with?  What are they thinking?  What is hurting their heart?  What events have hurt them?  How can you be a heart-healing agent in your family?

Next week I will be posting the third part of this series addressing “The Heart of a Parent.”


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