Don't Give Up!

*by Walt Mueller*

When a new baby is born, fathers, mothers, family and friends all celebrate. For several days, balloons, flowers, gifts and cards flood the hospital and decorate the new parents' home. The new parents experience a kind of euphoria: giving birth to a new creation that is a bit of them.

But for many parents, it is only a matter of days, weeks, or months before being faced with any number of parenting difficulties. Sleepless nights, colic, crying, and a baby that won't settle down can wear a young parents' patience thin. You know because you remember what it was like to be there!

As babies grow into toddlers, they go places they shouldn't go and touch things they shouldn't touch. Little children with independent spirits, disobedient streaks, and an ability to talk back can be a nuisance when they are someone else's, but they are terribly frustrating when they are your own. Some parents say that as the years progress, the difficulty of the parenting role increases proportionately. At any given point, parents may be tempted to cry out, "What did I ever do to deserve this?!?" The temptation is to wish the years away.

I've learned that a good number of parents of teens feel the same way. The brief time your child spends in the teenage years is filled with a complex and confusing mix of change and discovery. Neither fully child nor fully adult, a teenager's daily life can be similar to paddling a small canoe through a hurricane. My own children are growing up. I've got three teenagers in the house. We know firsthand that for those of us who reside with a teenager, life can be difficult and trying. Even if we have done our best to prepare ourselves for all of the developmental changes and cultural pressures that occur during the teen years, we may feel as though our child has just thrown us a curve by becoming a teen, and we might be tempted to wish away these teen years.

Let's face the truth: We are parents; they are teens. Although we may share a roof and a last name, they are growing up in a culture that is markedly different from the one we grew up in. It's a difficult and frightening world. There is a cultural-generational gap that exists. And if we, as parents, don't make an effort to close the gap, it will widen.

So what can we do to close the gap? As Lisa and I have worked to lead our kids from childhood into adulthood, we have been deliberate about learning from those who have gone before us. We've also talked to teens. And we've looked at the Scriptures prayerfully for guidance. Here are some simple truths we've learned that I trust you'll find helpful. They'll serve to help you keep your footing as you help your teens navigate an increasingly complex and frightening culture.

**First, God gives us the gift of children!** The Psalmist writes, "Don't you see that children are God's best gift? the fruit of the womb his generous legacy? Like a warrior's fistful of arrows are the children of a vigorous youth. Oh how blessed are you parents, with your quivers full of children!" (Psalm 127:3-5, The Message). On the day they were born you celebrated them as gifts. They may be teenagers now... but don't stop the celebration. They're still gifts.

**Second, no one ever said it would be easy.** Somehow we've all bought the lie that the only good things in life are the easy things. If it gets too hard or too painful... well... then something's wrong. Don't believe the lie. Nobody ever said raising kids - let alone in today's culture - would be easy. A quick review of the Bible reveals that sin affects every home. At times, your kids will make unwise choices. Perhaps it's those times where we find ourselves most blessed. Why? Because we must throw ourselves into the arms of our heavenly Father - the place where we should have been all along!

**Third, the world is more than happy to raise our children for us.** In the same way God gives us the gift of children, He gives our children the gift of parents. It's a gift they should have right on through those rocky years of adolescence. Sadly, too many of us drop back. We get too busy with our own interests, careers, and pursuits. But when we do that, we open the door for someone or something else to come in and raise the kids. In today's world, the culture - particularly the pervasive and attractive world of music and media - is all too ready to step in and raise the kids for us. The degree of influence that the world has on our kids depends on how involved we become in their lives. Are you involved in your teenager's life?

**Finally, we've been given a compass.** While our postmodern world denies the presence of truth, we know that God has given us His word to guide our steps through all of life. As a parent, I find great assurance in the fact that I can look beyond my own confused self and the opinions of confused others to a compass that has stood the test of time - a compass created by the one who made all things. The Bible offers us sound parenting instruction. It's a road map that will keep us on course in a culture that offers so many other ways.

Parenting teens in today's culture is hard work. There are no easy answers. We will all encounter trials - some of us more than others. But through constant, active dependence on the God who never changes, we can live through the teen years. And we can experience the joy of letting God work powerfully in and through us to affect the world - through our teens!

*Reprinted with permission from the [Center for Parent and Youth Understanding](http://www.cpyu.org/).*

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