Thursday, 15 December 2022

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How Do You Teach Your Teenager If You’re A Christian And Your Spouse is Not?


Recently my heart is burdened. The larger Danish society is one where the youth parties like crazy and are exposed to alcohol at an early age, and are liberal with regards to boy-girl relationship (BGR). Our personal Danish parenting coach, who is an experienced retired principal of a school in the north of Copenhagen told us that we should be prepared that this is coming in 2-3 years for our son. He said  this is the case in every high school. He said that this is unfortunately very much a part of the Danish youth culture. And he said that this is the same case with drugs. He advised us to get prepared and be there when our children need help. He himself wished that it isn't this way. That all sounded very bleak. When he said that, I know I am on my own. 

At a Christmas family gathering last Sunday, my nephew who sat next to me and who just started at one of the best gymnasiums in Denmark in Gentofte told me that it's the teachers who are in-charge of buying the alcohol for the parties at the gymnasium and although some students are still 15 years old, they closed an eye to it.

How then can we teach our son who is growing up in the Danish environment about alcohol, party, drug, chastity, etc.? In general, Daddy FECS doesn't worry as much about these things, while I desperately want our kids to grow up God's way. This is the narrow way to a fulfilling life and future married life.

As I fret over these things, I found the following 10 advice that I have found while researching from the links provided in the reference section, helpful to me. They are summarized in the original writer's own words. If you face similar challenges as me, I hope they would be helpful to you too.

1. Accept the things you can't control
2. Don’t worry about your children’s exposure to your spouse's values
3. Model your values at home
4. Spiritual inoculations
5. Don’t allow your home to become a battleground over values
6. But create a stable, respectful, loving and caring home environment
7. Pick your battle
8. Choose your child’s social circle
9. Pray daily for the strength
10. Endure seasons of prodigal living 

1. Accept the things you can't control

Admit that you cannot control what is taught or demonstrated by the other parent. It’s a matter of learning to tell the difference between the things you can and can’t control. Trying to control the environment the other parent brings only invites hostility at home. You can't change your spouse, so stop trying. Let go of control and let God manage what you can’t change and make the most of your time with your children.

In this world, some conflict cannot be bridged despite our best efforts; we may not be able to provide our children with the most positive family life we had hoped for. But no matter what our situation, we can entrust our children to God knowing that He, our perfect, strong and loving Father, can somehow turn the hard things into good things. In the Bible, there are many children—even in Jesus’ own family tree—who grew up in messy, less-than-ideal families, but were raised up by God to great things. We can only do our best and look to God to provide our children with the things we can’t offer them.

You can’t dictate the behavior of another person, but you can stay faithful to your own values and convictions. Believe that your prayers will be answered and God’s hand is at work in our lives weaving a tapestry of purpose that we can only glimpse from time to time.

2. Don’t worry about your children’s exposure to your spouse's values

Don’t worry about your children’s exposure to your spouse's different values. They will be exposed to many different values and beliefs in their lifetime, and they will eventually make up their own minds. Let them see the firmness and fruits of your own faith.

Teach your children about your values, read them the Bible stories, but welcome your spouse's stories as well. Explain that people don’t all believe the same way. Welcome their questions, and be ready to answer them without criticizing their other parent. 

3. Model your values

Sometimes all you have to do is talk less, be true to your values and your kids will be inspired! Children respond to what we do more than to what we say. How you interact with your spouse is more important than any sermon they could hear in church. Let your life be a walking sermon.

Children with one parent not living a Christian life makes it more important than ever that you model your faith at home. This means expressing joy, love, forgiveness, and faith in everyday life. Reveal God as a source of joy and comfort. Your children will see you living your faith.

4. Spiritual inoculations

Discuss different viewpoints and influence your children toward Jesus with much intentionality. Medical inoculations are controlled introduction of a virus by injection to allow the body to develop antibodies that can combat a live virus. Similarly, model the Christian walk and impress upon your children the decrees of God (Deuteronomy 6:4) intentionally using “spiritual inoculations” – controlled introduction of the viewpoints that oppose the Word of God and discuss them with your child. Then teach biblical concepts that help children combat them. 

For example, you can discuss a TV program that glorifies greed and then present children with a more godly view of money management and stewardship. 

Children with one parent not living a Christian life will need inoculations to help them deal with an environment that is hostile to their growing faith. But in doing so, it is critical that you remain neutral about the other parent and that the inoculation is not seen as a personal attack.

For example, a comment like, “Your father shouldn’t be lying to his boss, he is so self-centred,” pulls on children’s loyalties and burdens them with your judgment. Ironically, it also diminishes your influence as they react defensively against your negativity. A more appropriate response is, “Some people believe that lying is fine when it serves a purpose. But God is truth, and He wants us to be honest as well. Let’s talk about how you can practice that in every aspect of your life.”

5. Don’t allow your home to become a battleground over values

What if your spouse is adamant about not wanting your values and you can’t reach a compromise? The most important thing to remember is not to allow your home to become a battleground over values.

6. But create a stable, respectful, loving and caring home environment

Love your husband, love your children, create a stable, respectful, and loving home environment, and strive to instill the foundational values that will help your children navigate a diverse and challenging world. If they experience a loving, caring home environment, they are more likely to grow into loving, caring adults.

Child training is encouraging your children to want to please you and be like you. They will want to please you only when they find pleasure in your presence. You must become the vital source of their joy if they are going to give up their rebellion and choose to exercise self-discipline and self-denial.

7. Pick your battle

You don’t want to exasperate your kids – you want to train them up in the ways of the Lord. That means you have to let some things go. One parent said, “If there is anything I regret, it is the times I’ve exasperated our children by choosing to battle over things that really don’t matter in the long run.”

Another parent advised, “I have observed parents relating to their children in intermittent displeasure and seen the negative effect it is having. I have pointed out their destructive tendency to always criticize or show displeasure with their child. It is a vicious cycle. A child’s bad behavior provokes looks of displeasure and looks of displeasure provoke bad attitudes leading to bad behavior. If you cannot train your children to do as they ought, it is far better to lower your standards and enjoy them as they are than to allow your looks of displeasure to become the norm. A kid may grow up to be undisciplined and self-willed, but there is no reason to add to it a feeling of being unloved and unable to please.

I am not suggesting that there is not a remedy that solves the bad behavior. I only emphasize that a vital part of stopping the bad behavior is to cease the cycle of looks of rejection, followed by more bad behavior, followed by more looks of rejection, followed by “I hate you and never want to see you again; why did you have to be my mother/father?””

8. Choose your child’s social circle

It all starts very young. You must choose your children’s social circle and guard it. This is probably the hardest thing for a parent to do. It requires great effort and constant vigilance to sift your social circle. There are times your kids will not understand, and there are times that other parents are offended, but a mother hen should guard her chicks against the foxes and coyotes, regardless. It may require an adjustment to your lifestyle to protect your kids. A chicken that has roosted under a chicken hawk nest needs to move even if it is inconvenient.

Find a social circle that is righteous and productive where you have nothing to fear from 25 of the teenagers getting together to play soccer or go roller skating together.

Remember, they will evolve from you providing their complete social circle to choosing for themselves. You cannot control them past the age when they grow to be autonomous, so you must train them to choose their friends wisely. For the time will come when what you say has little bearing. Train them before they are ten and you can trust them when they are twenty.

9. Pray daily for the strength

Pray daily for the strength to walk in the light and introduce your children to Jesus at each and every opportunity. Your model is a powerful bridge to their personal commitment to Christ. Do all you can to take your kids by the hand and lead them to walk in the way of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Father, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

10. Endure seasons of prodigal living 

You may have to endure seasons of prodigal living as your children try out the values of the other parent. This is a truth that many parents fear. Children may experiment with the “easier, less demanding” lifestyle of the other parent, especially during teen years, when they are deciding whether the faith they have been handed will become their own. What should you do? Lovingly admonish them towards the Lord, not away from the other parent. And be close enough to reach when they repent, as many children and young adults will return to the wisdom of your values.

My after-thoughts

All these advice are well and good, but not that easy for me to carry them out. We are all not perfect. We carry things out in mess and brokenness, but we have to remember that we serve a great and Almighty God. Cling on to Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." God can use broken and messy people like you and me, so that one day we can say when we look back after our children are long grown up - To God be the glory.

As I fret over these things, the Word of God in Psalms 37:1-9 from the Bible spoke peace into my heart. I will cling onto God's promises that God’s hand is at work in our children's lives weaving a tapestry of purpose that we can only glimpse from time to time. I can only do my best and look to God to provide our children with the things we can’t offer them. God says, "Do not fret." 

The meaning of this Hebrew word (according to the Strong’s Concordance) – to blaze up, of anger, zeal, jealousy: - to be angry, burn, be displeased, X earnestly, fret self, grieve, be (wax) hot, be incensed, kindle, X very, be wroth.”

Be still. Wait. Display patience — a quiet trust that God is in control. We can focus on controlling our anger and allow God to control the concerning situation. I don’t try to fix the outcome or control the situation. I can trust God to move, to control the situation. I can trust Him with the outcome and fret not.

I lifted my burdens into the hands of God. He has been faithful throughout all my life, He will once again prove Himself to be faithful in the lives of our children. My heart leaps up with joy to the steadfastness of our Lord.

I will let go and let God. 

1 Do not fret because of the wicked;
   do not be envious of wrongdoers, 
2 for they will soon fade like the grass,
   and wither like the green herb. 

3 Trust in the Lord, and do good;
   so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. 
4 Take delight in the Lord,
   and he will give you the desires of your heart. 

5 Commit your way to the Lord;
   trust in him, and he will act. 
6 He will make your vindication shine like the light,
   and the justice of your cause like the noonday. 

7 Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
   do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
   over those who carry out evil devices. 

8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
   Do not fret—it leads only to evil. 
9 For the wicked shall be cut off,
   but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. 

Lord, whenever I begin to feel anxiety rising up in me over the faith of our children, help me to stop. To pray. To trust in Your plan and leave the fretting behind. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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