Principles to Build

Not only does God give us the principles on which to build a healthy marriage, He gives us the power to follow those principles. Let’s face it, many of the principles of God go against our nature. For example: Return good for evil. Who wants to do that? Our human nature says, “make them pay for their evil. I’ll have nothing else to do with them.”

Certainly, they must be held accountable for their wrong doing, but if they repent, we are instructed to forgive them. If they do not repent we are told to release them to God. Either way, we are then to return good for evil: do something for their benefit. This is exactly what God has done for us. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Father, give us the attitude of Christ.

Conversations

When your child becomes a teenager you must stop preaching and start teaching. I grew up in a generation were preachers and teachers were highly respected, but very different in delivery. The preacher was forceful, always passionate and dogmatic. The teacher was more conversational in tone, never overtly passionate, and allowed questions.

Raise your voice with your teenager and he will turn elsewhere for advice. Learn the art of asking questions. For example, “How do you think most students reacted to the burning of the American flag last week?” Affirm their ideas before sharing yours. “That’s an interesting way of looking at it. Let me share my perception.” With teenagers, conversations are more effective than sermons.

Thinking and Feeling

In order to spend quality time with your teenager, you must develop the art of listening. Let me share five ideas:

  1. Maintain eye contact when your teenager is talking.
  2. When your teen starts talking, drop everything else.  If you continue watching, reading, or doing something else, the teen wonders if you really want to hear what they have to say.
  3. Listen for feelings.  Understanding the teens emotions is fully as important as understanding their ideas.
  4. Observe body language.  Clenched fists, trembling hands, and tears, may give you clues as to what the teen is feeling.
  5. Refuse to interrupt. Keep the teen talking until you understand what he is thinking and feeling.

Learn Their Thoughts

In my book, The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers, I make the point that parents of teens must learn a new pattern of communication. When our children were little, we issued instructions and commands, but if we continue this pattern during the teen years, the teenager will say, “You’re treating me like a child.” And, he will be correct.

The teen is developing independence and self-identity. It’s time to move to dialogue, rather than monologue. As children, they simply listened to you. Now, they have their own ideas, emotions, and dreams. It’s time for you to listen without condemnation. They already know your thoughts. Now it’s time for you to learn their thoughts.

Being With You

Loving teenagers can sometimes be challenging even when you know their love language. Let’s say your teen’s primary love language is quality time; so, you take the teen to see a ball game, or you watch a game on TV. Does the teen feel loved? Not necessarily. If the teen walks away from the experience feeling lonely and thinking, “Sports are move important to my father than I am,” you did not give him quality time.

On the other hand, if the teen gets the message, “The most important thing about this game is being with you. I love it when we do things together;” then the teen will walk away feeling loved. The key to speaking the love language of Quality Time is that the teen is the focus of your attention.

Collection of Things

In today’s busy world, many parents of teenagers find it difficult to spend quality time with their teen. Consequently, many teenagers live in houses filled with gadgets, but have love tanks that are empty. They often feel like they too are simply a part of their parent’s  collection of things.

Psychiatrist Ross Campbell said, “Without focused attention, a teenager experiences increased anxiety, because he feels everything else is more important than he is. He is consequently less secure and becomes impaired in his emotional and psychological growth.” Busy parents who want their teenagers to feel loved, must make time to give them focused attention.

As Christ Loves the Church

In Ephesians chapter 5, husbands are given two models as to how to love their wives. First, he is to love her as ‘Christ loves the church’. Which means that he takes the initiative to love her, even when she is not loving him. And, he is to love her even at the expense of his own life. He is to be looking out for her interests, seeking to meet her needs.

Secondly, he is to love her ‘as he loves his own body’. Most of the men I know are eating three meals a day, sleeping every night, and playing golf or other sports regularly. Yes, we take care of our bodies. What if, we invested as much time in meeting her needs as we do in meeting our needs? I think we would have wives who would respect us.

Respecting Authority

Discipline is an expression of love. In Hebrews chapter 12 we read, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Why does God discipline us? Because He loves us. He wants to turn us from a pathway of destruction.

If you are a parent, you also are to discipline your children for the same reason. Your child will break the rules. Kindly, firmly, and consistently you must administer discipline. When you do, your child will learn to live under authority. When your child respects your authority, they are more likely to come to respect God’s authority. What could be more important?

Taking Care of Yourself

For the Christian, service is a way of life. It is interesting that one of the five languages of love is ‘acts of service’. For some children and spouses this is their primary love language. Have you noticed that serving others is physically and emotionally draining? In order to love well, and long, we must take care of ourselves.

For physical health we need balanced patterns of sleeping, eating, and exercising. For emotional health we need self-understanding, love, a sense of purpose, and times of relaxation. Taking care of yourself is often the best thing you can do for your family. After all, Jesus said that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Less Dogma

If you have a silent spouse have you ever wondered why? One husband said, “it’s because every time I share an idea, she pounces on it and tells me how wrong I am.” His wife’s perspective was that she simply wanted the freedom to disagree when she thought he was wrong. What she did not realize was that she was striking at his self-esteem.

We discovered that if she would share her ideas in the form of a question rather than a pronouncement, he was less defensive. “What do you think about this perspective?” was very different from “I disagree with you. That’s simply not true.” Learning to share your ideas with less dogma may open the road to more meaningful conversations. It’s worth the effort. Give it a try.