One of the most challenging aspects of parenting young teens is keeping the truth of who they are in front of them, behind them, and in them. According to 1 Peter 2:9 the truth is this: they are chosen, sought by a King, and set apart for Him. You ask, “But what does this look like? And how do I help them care about this truth? Honestly, my kid doesn’t seem to care about those things.” In today’s culture, identity development may begin its best work at the point of telling teens who they are NOT. Here are three suggestions I believe can make a difference in the area of identity and the current war against it.
Create boundaries in your teen’s life. The peer pressure cooker of social media and constant contact distorts our thinking. This thinking can breed a compulsion to believe and act on ideas based on looks, having things, or what other people say or don’t say. As an adult, I am overwhelmed with what my smartphone continuously offers me. I can be besties with someone in Australia, see every decorator’s layout, shop for vitamins, create a meme, tweet my latest opinion, and text vomit with a friend without ever leaving my end of the sofa. And all that’s before my second cup of coffee! Imagine what it can do to teens’ developing brains and hearts!
Identity was stolen in the Garden of Eden. A liar named Satan slithered into a beautiful and untainted place and twisted Eve’s thinking into a distorted viewpoint that she just wasn’t quite enough and that God wanted her to be wise! She believed it and ate the forbidden fruit. Where was her backup? Adam was standing right there. He didn’t budge. He followed her lead. You are your kid’s lead. When your kids need a backup (not to be confused with a cover-up or a bail-out), back them up! It would have been nice if Adam would have said something like, “Eve, let’s go. You are plenty wise already. We are outta here!” How about saying to your teen, “No, you are not going.” And you stick to your words. No matter what.
This is a war zone. Identity breakdown is at the core of the Christian population meltdown. You will not find solutions in self-help books, more seminars, or a support group. Quite frankly, the enemy has waged a full-on war against our kids. Parents must stand in the gap and be empowered through Christ. Knees on the ground. Armor on. If you see something, say something. God is in control, but we are on constant call. Keep your eyes on the One who says, “You are chosen, royal, holy, and intended to shine my light” (see 1 Peter 2:9).
On your best day, your best idea may not get your teen to care. But do not grow weary in doing good (2 Thessalonians 3:13). Identity development may have to begin with, “No, this is NOT who you are. And today that means you are NOT going to that sleepover. You are NOT taking a phone to bed. You are NOT lazy. You are NOT a copycat.” Acceptance of these realities helps us let things play out when the enemy wins a battle. We are not called to wage war with our kids, but we are designed to follow through with consequences. And remember that God has a divine appointment waiting for that wonderful human being we call a teenager. At that appointment, God will definitely let them know who they really are and who they are NOT. And they just might come home from that divine appointment (eventually) and say, “thank you for never giving up on the real me.”