Reaching Your Teen’s Heart – How Parents Can Speak the Truth in Love

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This article is written by Mark Massey, Executive Director of Victory Family Ministries

As parents, the ones most intimately connected to our children, we sometimes find ourselves at a total loss as to who they really are.

It might be a sudden revelation of activities, friends, or thinking, or it might be a reflection on their life trajectory that causes us to feel that pit in our stomach.

When we reflect on the verse that says, “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7), we can unravel the mystery a little.

While a child can certainly deceive by not doing the bad things around you, their real character can’t be hidden continuously. Such revelation of heart is really a grace of God at work in your son or daughter’s life.

We should consider it of some relief when sin is brought to light by our gracious God. It is His way of rescuing our kids’ hearts. When God graciously shows us where our kids are in their behaviors, we have a grand opportunity to engage their hearts and help them see what God wants them to see.

Those are our “marching orders.” We are to figure out how to engage our children at the heart level so we can help them see what God wants them to see about themselves and their circumstances.

Ephesians 6:4 lays it out as a challenge to help your kids mature by correcting their thinking and helping them apply it to who they are becoming.

So, how can you dig in and reach your teen’s heart?

Part 1: Speak the Truth

The first part of Ephesians 4 gives a picture of how we are to function together to help each other grow.  Verse 15 boils it down to two action points in the paragraph, the first being: speak truth.

Speaking truth might seem to be the easy part, but the danger lies in us getting caught up in our own selfish motivations when it comes to what we teach and the specific points that we make much of.

It is super important that we anchor in real Truth, not just our own preferences. What we are to communicate is WAY above our own personal agenda, it is God’s agenda that carries the weight.

When I find myself needing to address behaviors or situations with my son, I try to step back (in my mind space) and ask myself, “what does God want this kid to be learning right now?”

For example, it would be more than him learning to not look at porn. It would be a greater need to understand sex and sexuality the way God intended, for his good. It could include elements about God’s view of his identity and the identity and value of others.

Think of this part as the “what” you’re communicating.

Part 2: In Love

The first part should always lead us to the second action point of doing the “truth-speaking” in a loving way.  This part answers “how” to go about the conversations.

Applying the love principle to difficult, confrontational, embarrassing situations that sin takes us to is where the “rubber meets the road.”

Anyone can yell and demean. Anyone can scowl and be silent. But as a child of God, that has been called as an ambassador in the life of this person (your child), you have been given the indwelling Holy Spirit. That’s the same power that raised Jesus from the grave, and it can help you be patient, kind, humble, even joyful in the most difficult situations (Eph 1:18-20).

Biblically, love means to care for another the way God wants you to care for them.

When we respond to our kids’ situations in ways that show our care for them and our desire to help them, it shifts the battlefront to look more like you alongside your teen, helping them fight the sinful struggles that they face (which are a lot like the sinful struggles that we face).

Key Elements

As you help your kids grow through the tough, sinful struggles they face, here are three key elements to include.

1. Patience

This element includes waiting, planning, and considering. There is a time to confront and a time to teach. There is also a time to let consequences fall on their shoulders and let cause and effect teach.

Patience is looking for God’s best in the timing for His message. We can’t just let something “die” that needs to be addressed, but we also don’t need to push our kids away by pushing them in a specific moment and/or not being prepared with God’s message and “shooting from the hip.”

2. Commitment

To love means to bear, endure, hope, and trust all things. It means that it doesn’t matter what we find out; we will love.

Our kids need to know that we will love them and that we will do the hard things of bringing God’s truth to bear on a situation, even if it is tough, even if it seems hypocritical (since we struggle with the same things), and even if we don’t know all the answers for the situation.

3. Humility

To love is to not get irritated or frustrated that you can’t control a person or situation that a person puts you in. Love isn’t rude or harsh. Listening and having a heart to hear and learn allows your teen to express and reveal their heart.

Kids will sometimes use our failures to “stab” back at us when they feel attacked and cornered. They won’t readily reveal their hearts if they doubt your heart or ability to humbly and carefully respond to who they are.

Once you’re really listening, you should be able to develop good questions, not questions designed to get your answers, but questions that target heart revelation. You’ll have genuine, humble questions about their motive, desires, and fears.

Though our kids will struggle with the temptations to certain fleshly pleasures, the greater struggles deal with who they are and what they believe. Those are the things that determine decisions and outcomes in relationships and the big picture of life.

We should formulate our questions to uncover for us (and them) those greater struggles and deep heart beliefs, so we can find a way to challenge and encourage them with God’s Truth.

Conclusion

The more we work to really enjoy life with our kids, the more opportunity we have to engage in good, heart-revealing conversation that allows us to deal with big issues outside of serious, devastating sin. Doing that also becomes a platform for helping them through the difficult sinful choices that they make as they grow and mature into the man or woman that God wants them to become.

Remember to wrap God’s Truth in love that is patient, committed, and humble.

This is the foundational philosophy of the ministry at Victory Academy for Boys: God’s Truth, wrapped in love.

We invest time and energy in building an environment of love and care that provides a platform of ministry on which to bring God’s Truth to bear on our students’ hearts.

To learn more about the way our ministry helps parents and teens, visit this link.

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