Importance is a big deal to teenagers. Teenagers are “importance conscious.” I know the phrase is awkward, but it fits. Teenagers are concerned about the brand of shoes they wear, the music they listen to, the friends they hang out with, and more. For many teenagers, life is a continual process of ranking what is important. Conflict with parents often arises over deciding what is important. Parents will consider something to be unimportant that is very important to their teenager, and whether the resulting dispute is calm or volatile, each side is astounded that the other side can’t see their point of view.
At the root of this kind of conflict is the issue of acceptance. God designed people for relationships. John 17:3 teaches that eternal life is knowing God and his son. Even the Law is summarized in relational terms – loving God and loving your neighbor. In the pre-Fall account of creation, only one thing is said not to be good – that Adam was alone. That is why peer pressure is so powerful. God designed man to be in community. At their core, the church and the family are social institutions. Where did the idea of community originate?
The standard for all relationships is the Trinity. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit inhabited eternity before creation, existing together in perfect, harmonious relationship with one another. One aspect of man being made in the image God is that man was created to be a relational being–so it is appropriate to say that God wrote the book on relationships. The very first warning in the book of Proverbs is the warning to the youths of Israel to avoid the enticement of those who would have a bad influence on them (Proverbs 1:10-19).
As children become teenagers and begin to emerge into adulthood, their sense of need for relationships emerges as well. From a biblical perspective, the most important and foundational relationship they have is with Jesus Christ. If this relationship is weak or missing, the ability to face the relational pressures of the teenage years will be damaged. We will talk more about this in the next post.
What is vital to understand at this point is the importance of relationships to teenagers. At the most basic level, the problems that parents commonly have with teenagers, such as with music, friends, dress, activities, coming home on time, grades in school, etc., are primarily relational problems.
The relational dynamic is always present in dealing with teens. This fact must not be missed. It helps to explain why rules are generally so ineffective in giving direction to teenagers. As Colossians 2:23 says, rules by themselves are of no value in restraining sensual indulgence. So, you ask, what will protect my teenager from his own foolishness? He needs constant direction! She needs stability! Proverbs 6:20-24 pictures the word of God influencing teenagers in a vital, direct, and constant way.
What is important to your teenagers? In short, the answer is relationships. If you are having struggles with your teenagers, don’t overlook the role that relationships play in those struggles. It is easy to focus on issues like:
Why can’t you get your work done?
Do you have to listen to that music all the time?
You need to keep your room clean.
Why is it so important to have this particular brand?
These kinds of questions are often indicators of relational problems that are lying beneath the surface.
Give this some thought. Understanding relationships is the key to understanding your teenagers.