Philippians is a book that talks about resolving conflict. In Chapter 2 we find the following admonition:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
From these words we learn that considering others to be more significant than we are is essential to heal the wounds of conflict. Of course, when we do experience conflict, considering the other person as more significant than ourselves is often the last thing on our minds. This is especially true of conflicts with your teenager.
So, what does it look like to consider others more significant than yourself?
It means you listen intently and respectfully (Proverbs 18:13 &15), you say only things that are designed to build up (Ephesians 4:29), and you use pleasant words when you speak (Proverbs 16:20-24). It means your thoughts and words are not characterized by anger. (James 1:19-20; Ephesians 4:31) Following these principles with your teenagers (or with your spouse) is equivalent to considering them more important than yourself.
Suppose someone interviewed your teenager immediately after you had a conversation with him. What would he say? Would he say that you listened to him respectfully, wanting to fully understand him before you answered? Would she say that the words that you did speak were carefully chosen to show care for her and address her concerns? Would your teenager say that the words you used were pleasant and brought encouragement?
Paul is saying that this kind of talk shows your teenager (and God!) that you are viewing them as more significant than yourself. You might be thinking that it would be nice if your teenager treated you this way! But this is the point. Paul is taking about resolving a conflict. God’s ways are different that our ways. Matthew 7:12 applies here: if this is the way you would like to be treated, then this is how you should treat others.
When you don’t consider others, including your children, as more important than yourself, it reveals a spirit of selfishness, even an ambitious spirit, that says others exist to serve you. So many conflicts between parents and teenagers end with each person thinking the other person cares only about his own selfish needs. These words in Philippians provide a practical and effective way to break this cycle. You can love your teenager by considering them to be more important than yourself.
Have the courage to set the example.