John stood at our door arrayed in all his black leather splendor. Safety pins ringed his ear lobes; jewelry pierced his nose and lips. Tattoos covered his arms. Both sides of his head were shaved, the hair on top spiked down the middle.
Our daughter had told me her date was coming, but I wasn’t prepared for what greeted me when I opened the door.My thoughts raced: Should I let this road warrior in? Is my daughter in danger? What will my congregation think if she brings this guy to church?
“Uh, you must be John,” I managed to stutter.
“Yeah,” he smirked. “Is Amy ready?”
“Not quite.” I stalled and searched for an excuse to keep Amy home.
Amy breezed into the room. “We’re off to get something to eat and go to the game. I’ll be home at 11.”
I wanted to tackle John and scream my objections. The counselor inside me said to stay cool and calm, but the parent in me wanted to panic.
Amy was a junior in high school. Her grades had started sliding, and her friends had changed. Warning clouds were gathering on the horizon.
Even though Amy came home on time that night, I still felt uneasy.
“Amy, we need to talk about your new friend,” I started.
“You were shocked by his looks, weren’t you?” Amy replied.
“You got it,” I said. “I’m not sure you should be hanging with him or that kind of crowd.”
I began my sermon, pouring out all my fears about her friends being into drugs, sex, booze and rebellion. Amy angrily defended her friends and her right to make her own decisions. But we failed to hear what each other was saying; the wall of miscommunication went up and stayed up for months.
We eventually tore the wall down, and today, a decade later, our relationship has never been stronger. But on that night years ago, I believed our daughter’s destiny hung in the balance. A supernatural battle had commenced, and we needed every spiritual weapon we could muster.
Tearing down any wall between you and your teen-ager is critical—not only for your relationship but also for your teen’s eternal destiny.
Satan does not want the next generation saved, armed and dangerous. He deceives teens into believing their parents don’t love them and then tries to isolate them from their parents’ protective spiritual covering so he can attack them when they become lost and helpless sheep (see John 10:1-18).
It’s your responsibility to take immediate steps to tear the bricks out of the wall of miscommunication and reach out to your teen. You may be tempted to deny the problem or to believe that time will make the wall go away. But time doesn’t fix relationships; only God can do that.
Bricks in the Wall
What constitutes a brick in a relational wall? A brick is a word, action or attitude that causes hurt and divides people instead of drawing them together. We use bricks of negative words, hurtful actions or ugly attitudes to hurt, punish or judge another person. Here are some big ones to avoid:
Brick #1: Failing to listen. I was so concerned about telling Amy what I wanted her to know that I failed to listen to her. Even when we appear to be listening, we may be inattentive, thinking about what we are going to say next instead of listening to what our teen is saying.
Focus on your child, and pay attention to your body language and tone of voice. My body language was threatening, and my voice carried the tone of an angry preacher proclaiming fire and brimstone from the pulpit.
After I had delivered my sermon, I left our living room and made myself unavailable. Drowning myself in work and believing that my word was final, I drove Amy further from me. She did what she wanted to anyway. When we are not available to our teens, we remove accountability from the relationship.
Brick #2: Missing the point. Because I had an agenda, I never allowed Amy to explain. I jumped to conclusions about her and John. In any conversation involving conflict, both people have some responsibility for the strained relationship.
The point isn’t who is right or wrong; the point is the relationship. The only one who is 100 percent right all the time is God. Speaking the truth in love means we must keep the friendship intact so we can communicate God’s truth regarding a particular situation (see Eph. 4:15).
Brick #3: Misinterpreting the words. You may have the facts but misunderstand what they mean. Your teen needs to interpret for you. Never assume anything. It’s better for your teen to think you are dense than for you to misinterpret what’s being said.
Driving Amy away from me drove her into a relationship with John. I had misinterpreted their relationship. He was just a passing curiosity in Amy’s life. But the things I didn’t do for her, he did. I didn’t listen; he did. I didn’t understand her feelings; he did. I didn’t let her explain herself; he did. I didn’t make myself available to her; he did.
Guard your friendship with your teen. No matter how right you may be, without friendship you won’t be able to share truth with your teen.
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