Tripp introduces this chapter as follows:
“I remember thinking that if keeping my children in line depended on me outwitting them, I might fail. I am now persuaded that raising teenagers is not a matter of out-maneuvering them. It is much more exciting and satisfying than that.”
Instead, raising teenagers is about internalizing the gospel. This is the process of them embracing the Christian faith you have been teaching them as their own. As a parent, our wish for our teenagers is that they develop their own identities as children of God. The internalization of the gospel in teenagers requires the Holy Spirit in the same way that it does for all believers young and old.
Tripp reminds us that there is no promise to be found in the Bible that our kids will come to faith in Jesus Christ. Our hope is not in a promise that our kids will come to faith but in the gospel itself which turns sinners to Christ. Our role as parents during this vital time is to seek to influence them in the internalization of the gospel.
As children become teens, they become more acutely aware of their own sin. They are also faced with the realization that not everyone believes the same things they have been taught. As parents, Tripp says our task “is to shepherd and nurture his interaction with the gospel.”
Tripp then goes on to address the process of developing a shepherding relationship with teens. When our children our teens, the parental role is directive not remedial. By now, you should have established your authority as an agent of God. If that is not established, you need to go back, seek God, and work through the steps set out in Chapter 15 of this book.
Tripp points out that one of the foundational elements of shepherding is influence. You will recall from Chapter 10 that, as the child ages, your authority as a parent decreases while influence increases. One of the ways you should seek to influence your kids at this stage is with gentle reproofs of life. This approach urges the child to take the wise path and accept the gentle rebuke. This is far superior to alienating the child by the use of harsh directives.
Tripp summarizes, “You are seeking to influence and provide counsel. You can accomplish nothing of lasting value simply by being an authority. You must seek to counsel and influence.” Tripp asserts that there are few times when a parent must actually demand that a teen do or not do something. Furthermore, he asserts that if every day does involve demanding and requiring things of your teen, you have not practiced the biblical principles of parenting addressed throughout this book.
Another role for parents of teens is shepherding them through the doubts related to their faith. As they begin to encounter the realization that not everyone believes like they do, they are likely to face doubts. During this phase of life, teens begin to examine their faith at “arm’s length.” We must encourage them, as we would any Christian, to face up to their questions. The Christian faith has stood up to countless attacks over the last 2,000 years, and it will certainly stand up to your child’s questions.
It is also critical that you maintain a positive relationship with your teen. These years are years of what Tripp calls “colossal blunders.” During these times of failures, our kids need positive interaction with us. In order to do this, we must keep things in proportion and keep watch over our tongue when it comes to dealing with them. We must develop the skill of taking our kids to the cross for forgiveness and the power to live.
Next, Tripp says that we must begin to develop an adult relationship with our kids. That means dealing with them like you would any other adult in your life. This entails:
- Waiting for the right time to talk to them. Tripp observes, “You have no biblical obligation to censure your children for everything they do that is irritating to you. You must increasingly make room for your teenager’s differing style and manner, holding correction for moral and ethical issues.”
- Dealing with Broad Themes. We don’t nitpick our adult friends over every little thing in there lives that needs some work. Instead, you look for broad themes that need work and address those.
- Allowing Room for Disagreement. We need to remember with our kids, like we do with other adult friends, that it is possible to disagree and still remain friends. Tripp warns that there are areas where we will need to give clear direction to our teens. We should not waste our influence on things that don’t matter.
Finally, Tripp explains that internalization of the gospel is not the end of your child’s spiritual journey. It is just a means for future development our your kids. Our goal as parents is to see them take their place as individuals under the Lord. That involves:
- Developing a Christian mind
- Developing friendship with adults
- Discovering and developing their particular ministry
- Determining a career
- Establishing their own home and family
- Developing a mature relationship with their parents
Tripp reminds us that “the parent-child relationship is temporary. The husband-wife relationship is permanent.”
I liked the end of Mr. Tripp’s book so much, that I will not do him the disservice of trying to summarize it. Here is that he says:
“The parenting task comes to an end. We are no longer the onsite shepherds. That aspect of our relationship is done. This will be true whether they marry or just take their place as an adult in their community. God intends for parenting to be a temporary task.
In the final analysis, you must entrust your children to God. How they turn out will depend on more than what you have done in providing shaping influences. It will depend on the nature of their Godward commitment. Ultimately, you leave them to God, knowing that you can entrust your children to the God who has dealt so graciously with you.”
There you have it. We have reached the end of the book and the end of our synopsis. Rarely have I come across a book so packed with practical knowledge and advice. To that end, I am working on a cheat sheet of sorts – let call it a conclusion. I will post it here next time. May God bless you and your family!
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