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Who’s Afraid of the Teenage Years?

Afraid of the Teenage Years

Many people cautioned me about the teenage years. Many people warned that the joys of parenting little ones would eventually give way to the grind of parenting bigger ones. They told me horror stories based on their own experiences, then assured me that I should prepare myself for all kinds of difficulties and all kinds of sorrows.

They were wrong. At least in our case, they were wrong. Parenting teens has not been without its challenges, of course, for there is nothing in this life that comes without challenges. Nothing worthwhile, at least. But it has been my experience that the teenage years have come with joys far beyond the joys of the little years. Parenting teens has been a pleasure and a privilege. It has been an honor and blessing. So for those who have been warned only of the trials to come, let me recount some of the joys.

Parenting teens has given me the joy of seeing my children become Christians. I know that many people can and do make legitimate professions of faith when they are tiny, but I also know that the teenage years are crucial, that a profession is proven when the child has been challenged by the world, the flesh, and the devil, and is capable of rebellion, of turning away. It was in the teenage years that I had the privilege of seeing all three of my children profess faith, get baptized, and be received as members of the church.

Parenting teens has given me the joy of seeing my children begin to make their own decisions—to make decisions that are significant and life-shaping, yet decisions that are wise and honoring to God. It is good to have children who are obedient and who will do the bidding of mom and dad, but it is better by far to have children who are wise and who do the bidding of God.

Parenting teens has given me the joy of seeing my children honor their parents. I expected young children to obey and we trained them to do so all the way, right away, and with a proper attitude. But I expected that as our children got older, obedience would give way to honor, that the compulsion to obey would give way to the desire to respect. And it has been a blessing to see that happen, to see our relationships change in just the ways God expects them to.

Parenting teens has given me the joy of seeing my children take church seriously. All of my children left home at 17 or 18 to attend college hundreds of miles away. This meant that each of them had to find a new church community. And each of them did. They all chose a different church, but they all chose a good church where the gospel is proclaimed and where they could deploy their gifts in service to others.

Parenting teens has given me the joy of becoming friends with my children. Over time I found common ground with each of them—similar interests, shared gifts, complementary passions. As the children grew into adults and started to become peers, friendship sprang up where there had been only the relationship between child and parent. Having raised these children, it is now a blessing to count them as friends.

Parenting teens has given me the joy of seeing children fall in love and get engaged and even get married. What a blessing it has been to see them begin to leave and to cleave. This has, of course, also given me the joy of adding new people to our family—new people to get to know and new people to come to love. As the family has grown, love has grown all the more.

Parenting teens has given me each of these joys and so many more besides.

I was often warned of the struggles of parenting teens but rarely told of the blessings. I was often assured that it would be a time of difficulty but rarely encouraged that it would be a time of pleasure. Yet the years have proven that the joys of parenting teens have far exceeded the sorrows and the blessings have far exceeded the troubles. In fact, it hasn’t even been close. And as these years draw to their close not too long from now, I know I will remember them with fondness. I will remember them as the best years yet, even while expecting even better years ahead.

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