Discipline or Discipleship

I’ve been asked how we “parent” our teenagers but really what they are asking is how do we “discipline” our teenagers.  That’s a hard question to answer and I’ve avoided it for awhile because honestly we don’t discipline… anymore.  We did a lot of that when our kids were younger but now the focus is more on relationship and discipleship than on discipline and punishments.  We’ve learned that relationship in the teen years is far more effective than ranting and laying down rules that will ultimately be broken…leaving me stuck in following  through on a punishment that is painful for all of us.  Seriously those days were exhausting and I’m reminded of verses in Isaiah that gave me strength to get through some tough parenting years.

The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:11 NIV

This new season of parenting teens has been more fun than I thought it would be and it’s been times of a sun scorched land when I didn’t know what I would do next.  The Lord gave us strength, insight and enough little joy filled moments to keep us moving forward and sticking to what was important to us.   We had to clearly define what our wins were with our teens.  Our wins are having kids who grow up knowing  who they are in Christ, who know how to pray and read the Word of God , and understand Heaven.

The world tells us that teens are self-centred, egocentric, obnoxious beings put here to give us more grey hairs than nature intended. We perpetuate this by saying things like raising teens is awful, or we can’t wait for them to leave home.  We start this when they are little with comments like “terrible twos”.  We set ourselves up for raising teenagers to be a tumultuous time when it could be a great time of relationship building.  I think that parenting from a biblical perspective should have a different outlook. Similar to Paul’s instructions to Timothy, I think we should encourage our teens to look to the Bible…not social media or mainstream examples… for their guide on how to behave.

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12

Our teens aren’t little kids anymore who need hovering, constant correction and direction…they need to learn how to walk with Jesus and how to be a Christian on their own.  They need to watch us, to catch how we as parents follow Jesus.  Discipleship isn’t something we do in a curriculum, or a program but an organic relationship that happens when we embrace the teachings of Jesus.  Sometimes for us this has meant that our kids have had consequences in their teen years, but ultimately we are looking for a change of heart and attitude.   We haven’t used a laid out method of discipline in our house…you know the “if you do this then that happens”…since our kids became teens.  We have been drawn to our knees more often and more deliberately though.   As a church we believe that we only go forward on our knees and so it is with parenting teens.  Modeling prayer and a relationship with Christ is the best parenting tool I know to use in this new season.  I stand with hands out, palms open and loosely hold onto these people.  I’ve learned more about my own sinful nature in the past few years as my kids have become teens too.  How much do I truly trust God with their lives, what are the ‘mountains I will die on’, what impact of being a Christ following family do I want them to remember?  I’ve learned that what I taught them years ago was formative and necessary but what they experience now will become life long memories.  Am I discipling my kids…are you?

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