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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Securing the Battlefield

12 tips for guarding your teen’s heart and mind

By Michelle LaRowe
Aug. 8, 2010

Parenting a teen is a tough task. Today’s youth face a multitude of pressures, problems and pervasive influences. Current teen statistics give us an idea just how big a challenge we face in keeping our teens out of trouble. With nearly 1 million American teens becoming pregnant each year, more than 80 percent of youth reporting alcohol use and 69 percent of teens receiving personal messages from strangers over the Internet, parents are desperate to raise teens who beat the odds and become more than a statistic.

Each day, teens face pressure from themselves, their peers, their parents and other authority figures. There is virtually no escape from the pressures to fit in and go along with the crowd rather than do what’s right. These stressors result in many teens walking a fine line they struggle not to cross. Like the apostle Paul, many Christian teens find themselves doing the things they don’t want to do and not doing the things they want or know they should do (Romans 7:15).

Long gone are the days of knocking on your neighbor’s door and going outside for an activity. Today’s teens can interact virtually with their neighbor across the street (or a stranger from across the world) with the click of a button. From laptops to cell phones, most gadgets are designed to be used alone and often promote anonymous usage and seclusion. Today’s teens can “connect” without really “connecting,” and parents are often left wondering whom their children are really spending time with. For parents who aren’t as tech savvy as their teens, monitoring electronic activities can be quite a challenge.

And using technology comes with temptations. While the Internet definitely has its benefits, it doesn’t take much effort for the most innocent teen to end up on sites he or she never dreamed existed. By simply transposing the letters of a Web address, your son’s search can land on a pornography site. By clicking on a link while doing research for a school assignment, your daughter could find a blog that shares videos, pictures or information she never should have viewed.

The good news is parents can actively help guard their teens’ hearts and minds against the pervasive influences of today’s world.

1. Know your role.
As a Christian parent, your role runs deep and includes training your children (Proverbs 22:6), bringing them up in instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), teaching them (Deuteronomy 4:9), disciplining them (Proverbs 19:18), correcting them (Proverbs 29:15), being an example to them (2 Kings 14:3), loving them from a pure heart (Mark 12:29-31), helping them to follow God faithfully (Proverbs 1:7,8), teaching them self-control (Galatians 5:23) and being an authority figure (Ephesians 6:1).

2. Know your goal.
Your ultimate parenting goal is for your children to love God and to make God-honoring decisions. To do this, your focus must move from punishment to discipline, training and character building. We must teach our children to make choices based on the conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26) rather than based on fear of condemnation from their parents or their peers.

3. Understand the difference between a privilege and a right.
Children have few basic rights. They have the right to food, clothing, shelter, love and safety. But things like cell phones, video games and Internet access are privileges. Privileges should be earned, and your teens should understand that any privilege can easily be revoked.

4. Understand that teens need guidance.
Did you know that some research indicates the cause-and-effect part of the brain isn’t fully developed until we reach our 20s? Teens can’t always measure the meaning of their choices, and they need guidance as they learn to make good ones.

5. Use the Bible as your primary guiding tool.
There is no better source for life-shaping wisdom and guidance than God’s Word. Psalm 119 offers a wealth of information on the benefits of the Word in our lives. By teaching your children the ultimate authority of Scripture, you establish a foundation for everything else you communicate to them. Encourage teens to argue with the Word of God, rather than with you. Have an issue? Ask them what the Bible says about the topic. Let God be the Head Coach in your family.

6. Know what they are doing and with whom.
Sometimes, through simple inaction, we can place our kids in temptation’s path without even realizing it. Your teens’ choice of friends and activities should not be left to their young and inexperienced conscience. Take a daily personal interest in your teens’ activities. Pay attention to how they spend their time, and get to know their friends well.

7. Be more caring than controlling.
When addressing why something isn’t acceptable, send the message to your teen that you’re on their side. Move from lecturing to discussing, from demanding to asking, from justice to grace, and from less telling to more listening.

8. Have a “this is mine, and you are using it” attitude.
If you pay the bills, convey to your teens that whatever they have is yours and they are using it. Certainly, do so with the caring attitude just mentioned. Making this clarification helps teens understand that you have the right to know what calls, e-mails, text messages, etc., are coming in and going out of your home and how the devices you have paid for are being used.

9. Encourage your teens to build face-to-face relationships.
Many of today’s tech toys foster anti-social behavior. Encourage involvement with groups and activities that promote healthy, face-to-face relationships. Proverbs 18:24 might serve as a warning against today’s many superficial connections: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

10. Eat dinner together.
Children who eat regular meals with their families are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. During mealtime, take time to catch up on the day’s events. Teens need to feel loved and accepted by their families. When they do, they are less likely to look for love and acceptance elsewhere.

11. Have oversight and accountability.
Be up front with your teen about what is acceptable and what is not. Teens can’t meet or exceed your expectations if they don’t know what they are. Empower your teen to make choices and hold them accountable by using predictable consequences. Many parents have written contracts with their teens that outline house rules and the consequences for breaking them. Keep the computer in the family room, have an open access password policy, insist your teen accept you as their friend on social networking sites and monitor their Internet, cell phone and other electronics usage.

12. Use filtering tools.
From the television to the Internet, filtering tools can help you control what content your teen has access to and what content has access to your teen. Some of the most popular filtering tools include Covenant Eyes for the Internet and ClearPlay for home movie viewing. Parents can set locks on cable television channels, place blocks on cell phones and can restrict access to Internet sites. Many families visit Focus on the Family’s Plugged In Online ( to read about movies prior to viewing them and insist that their teens use Christian alternatives for social networking (, for example).

Most importantly, use each of these steps in partnership with prayer. Pray for your teens every day. Pray that their hearts, minds, ears and eyes are guarded and that they do not fall into temptation. Above all else, that’s the single most powerful thing you can do.

MICHELLE LaROWE is the author of the Nanny to the Rescue! series and attends Faith Assembly of God in Hyannis, Mass.

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