Good communication with our children is always important, but once they hit the middle and high school years, it becomes critical. Communication is not just a one-sided lecture from Mom or Dad about your child’s attitude. It is a dialogue, involving both parties. Conversations require listening as well as talking. As parents, we need to actively listen to our children and seek full understanding, particularly when conflicts arise. I’ve appreciated this verse when considering some “things” I can use to speak life to my middle or high schooler:
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if THESE THINGS are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” II Peter 1:5-8 NKJV
How do we teach “these things” to our young people? As Christians we want to speak life into our children even when their attitudes toward us are anything but life giving. One way to do that is by instilling in them “these things” from God’s Word:
- Diligence (carefulness or earnestness when accomplishing a task): Talk about diligence when their attitude might be one of complacency or laziness. What are the rewards of a diligent life? What are the consequences of laziness? Consider volunteering together with your middle-schooler so you can model diligence and enjoy the fruit of your labor together.
- Faith (conviction that God exists and is the Creator of all): Encourage joy in reading and understanding God’s Word by asking questions about what he’s read. Role play sharing your faith with others. If he is questioning whether God even exists, take the time to work through his doubts and unbelief together.
- Virtue (moral goodness, modesty, purity): Virtue will help when your teen wants to fit in with the world or join in when others are living a less than moral life. Ask if her friends lead her into wrongdoing or encourage her in righteousness. Help her find ‘the way of escape’ when she faces temptation. Read a book on purity together. Talk about the affects her virtue can have on others.
- Knowledge (intelligence and understanding): Encourage your middle or high schooler to be a good student by asking about his classes. Can he find a Scripture verse that applies to what he is struggling with? Encourage him to seek counsel from those who are older and wiser. Help him set goals to learn something new.
- Self-control (mastery of passions and sensual desires): Start a conversation about having a guard over her tongue and how that affects others. Ask if she rules over her body so that it does not offend others. Encourage her to seek mastery over her anger, fear, worry, etc. Talk about how you’ve gained victory over your emotions and desires and what you are doing to increase self-control in your areas of weakness.
- Perseverance (patience, endurance, steadfastness): Sometimes our kids just want to give up. Help your young person to keep his goal in view. Talk about the lessons learned through failure. Encourage him to persevere when life gets hard by speaking life over him. Share stories which exemplify endurance.
- Godliness (honor and respect): Encourage your teen to have respect and honor for others by showing her what that looks like. Model godly speech as you speak to her. Talk about how to respond when an authority figure appears to be unworthy of respect. Ask if her attitudes and actions would be pleasing to God.
- Brotherly Kindness (love of brothers and sisters): Conversing about brotherly kindness will be a great attitude adjustment for the whole family! Ask how he can demonstrate God’s love toward others. Is he willing to overlook the minor offenses in others? Does he rejoice when good things happen to others? Ask how he can put the desires of others before his own. Discuss ways to encourage and build others up.
- Love (affection and goodwill toward others): Love ties all of “these things” together. When we can have open conversations with our teens about these various character traits, it will help them grasp God’s unfailing love toward us and help them to reflect that love back to others.
As a parent of grown children, I’m thrilled that my adult children regularly reminisce about the conversations we had together in their middle and high school years. Too many parents shy away from tough subjects, thinking their teen will figure it out on his own. Instead, we need to forge ahead and initiate the difficult conversations with our teens. Be willing to let your young person ask tough questions. Listen. Many times, the bad attitudes we see in our teens are the result of internal conflict and they just want someone to help them process. When you take the time to have hard conversations using “THESE THINGS” you will see their attitudes soften. When teens can’t figure out the answers to their questions or when they ask for help and get a lecture from their parents instead, they get discouraged. Unhealthy attitudes grow. Take the time to have tough conversations with your teen using “these things”. You will win their hearts and see them grow closer to you and closer to God in “these things”.
Cynthia Schrock was born in Ohio but grew up on the mission field with her parents in Quito, Ecuador. She married her wonderful husband Eric in 1990. They have two adult children: Ashley and Matthew. In 2016 Cynthia completed a 13 year long journey of homeschooling. Eric and Cynthia have been involved in marriage and parenting ministry over 20 years. Cynthia is a Contact Mom, helping moms with solutions in their daily parenting struggles. She has also authored a book on celebrating others called The Ultimate Gift of a Birthday.