Self-protection, a destructive response

Posted on · Posted in Communication, Teenagers

When someone attacks you, particularly someone close to you, your first response is likely self-protection. If it is, things will go from bad to worse. For example, your 14 year-old says:

“All you care about is your stupid rules! You care about your rules more than you do about me! Thanks, a lot for not caring.”

You feel hurt, disrespected and defensive. Your child is unable to appreciate the good you are trying to do. The defensive, natural response is to tell your teenager how wrong they are. Your teenager responds by thinking you just proved her point. Things quickly go downhill from here!

Nothing less than wisdom from above can address this breakdown. The Holy Spirit describes wisdom from above this way:

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:17-18

Take particular note of the fourth component listed, open to reason. In the teenage wars few would say their parents are open to reason. If you want to make progress in working out the stalemate with teenagers, I would suggest you start here. I am not excusing your teenagers poor behavior, but leadership starts with the parents. You want to do more than just correct your teenager. You want to make your parenting and God’s ways attractive to them.

As I said, in a dispute, self-protection is often the first instinct. But for the wise parent, the first thought will be to listen, so that genuine understanding can develop. The wise parent isn’t compelled to defend himself first. This positive attitude breaks down barriers rather than erecting them.

You cannot be fearful or even angry when hard things are said. God wants you to be open to reason. So you might say, in response to your teenager, that you really want to hear what is so upsetting to them. You want to respond in humility rather than with self-protection. God has promised to honor the humble. You want to open a dialogue that results in change, both for you and your teenager. You don’t want to respond as your child’s sins deserve. God doesn’t treat you this way. God wants you to model his kindness and patience.

Let your teenager see that God has control of your heart by being open to reason.

Instructing a Child's Heart

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Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.