Dealing With Our Control Issues.
Once a child hit’s puberty, a parent’s control begins to slip away. At puberty there are obviously chemical and hormonal changes happening. But the development of a teenager is so much more than that!
With every teenage year that passes, a little more independence is desired and a few more boundaries are stretched. And as teenagers seek independence and stretch boundaries, parents are faced with a challenge:
On one hand (1), a parent must provide discipline when their teen’s desire for independence turns into disobedience. Or when boundaries are being rebelliously crossed instead of stretched.
On the other hand (2), trying to control every behaviour before it happens through excessive rules and lectures can have harmful results.
So how can parents find balance? I believe there are two passages that can keep a parent from sliding down the control-path of excessive rules and lectures.
The first passage is found in Ephesians 6:1-4:
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 ‘Honour your father and mother’– which is the first commandment with a promise – 3 ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’ 4 Fathers (some translations read Parents), do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
As parents, we love the first section of that passage don’t we? When our teen starts talking back, just pull out the blow-horn and start quoting verse 1 and 2 to them. All your troubles will fade away! (That’s a joke; don’t do that. I assure you that won’t end well.)
Now look at Colossians 3:20-21:
“20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers (again, your translation may state Parents), do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”
Considering the topic of control, I want us to unpack the latter part of both of these passages. In particular, two phrases:
- “…do not exasperate…“
- “…do not embitter…“
Because words are important, let’s make sure we define these 2 statements: First (1), “…do not exasperate…” meaning do not “…irritate or provoke to a high degree; annoy extremely…(do not)…increase the intensity or violence…” (Dictionary.com)
Second (2), “…do not embitter…” meaning do not, “… make bitter…” which means do not be, “…harsh, disagreeably…hard to bear; grievous; distressful…(do not be)…causing pain; piercing; stinging…(do not give)…intense antagonism or hostility…(do not be)…resentful or cynical…” (Dictionary.com)
While serving as a youth pastor and camp director for several years, I saw first hand how (1) a parent’s desire to control behaviours lead to (2) a teen’s exasperation and eventually, lead to (3) a teen’s embitterment.
And the outcomes of exasperation and embitterment are tragic.
In some scenarios, the teen may enter into a season of extreme rebellion, where the parent’s voice is completely lost. Alternately, the teen may go completely the other way becoming over compliant, where the parent’s voice is the only voice in their life.
Nevertheless, in both these scenarios, once the teen reaches adulthood, the parent’s relationship with them is significantly damaged.
So instead, let’s commit to relinquish control to a far more experienced Parent, our Heavenly Father.