Teenagers: listen first, talk later

Posted on July 2, 2016 · Posted in Authority, Communication, Teenagers


Jesus tells the story of a father and his two sons. The father asks his first son to go work in the vineyard. The first son responds with a defiant no. So, the father asks his other son the same question.  This son, in sharp contrast, respectfully says that he will do what his father asked.

So, on the surface of things, it appears one son is rebellious and one is obedient. This much is true, but not in the way it appears. In the story Jesus quickly adds that the first son changed his mind and actually did as he was asked. The other son never went to the vineyard.

After telling this story, Jesus asked his listeners which son did the will of his father.  It was the first son.

James tells you to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.  Following this direction is exactly what is needed in interacting with teenagers. It would be tempting to just take your teenager’s first responses and make snap judgments. In Jesus’ parable, one son was clearly defiant and the other was clearly respectful.  A busy parent might conclude, what more information do I need?

The context of the parable indicates these sons are teenagers or young adults. If James’ counsel is followed some angry, difficult conversations and wrong judgments can be avoided.  If the father had verbally challenged his first son he would not have been slow to speak. By letting things play out a bit he gained valuable insight about both of his sons. Things are not always as they appear.

As you know, teenagers are often a complex, confounding collection of emotions, hormones and drama. But if you look beneath the surface, they are people just trying to find their way in a difficult world. Have the patience to see past the surface issues. Ask God for the grace and courage to reach your teenager’s heart. You must be a refuge before you can be a resource. When you show restraint and compassion, when you think the best instead of making a quick judgment you show Christ to your teenagers.

Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. This is a wise path to follow in dealing with your teenagers.

Marry Wisely, Marry Well

Jay Younts
Jay Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger. He is the author of Everyday Talk and other materials on parenting. He has been teaching and speaking on parenting issues for 30 years. Jay and his wife, Ruth, live in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. He serves as a ruling elder at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He and Ruth have five adult children.