In Part 1, we looked at Pharisees, and in Part 2, we looked at prosperous people. Since I’m sure you agree with me that you’d rather raise a prosperous person than a Pharisee, we’re going to get pretty practical here and look at three ways to establish an environment in which that’s most likely to take place.
1. Encourage confession to God and others.
Even when your means of discovery is not confession, you can and should encourage brokenness and confession so that your teen does his or her part in mending the broken fellowship caused by sin. This probably won’t become habitual without constant parental prodding and even initiation. Perhaps you responded angrily to discovering your teen’s sin. If you model confession, your teen will be more likely to confess to you as well, and in that fertile soil of mutual confession and forgiveness, your relationship will grow.
2. Evaluate your teen’s motivation.
Consider: What does repentance look like in your teen?
This takes studying him or her and being able to tell when the waterworks are turned on in order to receive a lighter punishment, or if admission comes merely when discovery becomes imminent. While you don’t want to be cynical, you do want to be realistic.
Perhaps you could test the waters, as it were, by initially reminding your teen of the appropriate consequences for his or her behavior. If he or she is truly repentant, that humility will then result in submission to the results of those poor choices.
After you observe an initial submissive reaction, you can be sure that the confession is real and motivated by a Christ-like spirit.
3. Eliminate barriers to open communication.
Have you ever said, “If I ever found out you did something like that, I’d kill you”? Okay, maybe murder wasn’t on your tongue, but was it in your tone? Of course, even if you didn’t include the part about “if I ever found out,” that’s to be assumed: You can’t punish someone for something you don’t know they did. Unless you really want to live in denial about your teen’s sinfulness (the Bible doesn’t let you do that, by the way), you really do want to know what kind of struggles he has with sin. If you don’t know, how can you help counsel and guide him through it?
While true repentance brings with it a submissive spirit that will accept the consequences for sin, sometimes expectations of harsh punishments can provide major barriers to kids’ coming clean about their behavior. Somewhere between permissive parenting and legalistic authoritarianism is the kind of parenting that shows a love of mercy.
The bottom line? If you really do care more about your teen’s relationship with God than their behavior and value humility and confession over apparent righteousness, then they’ll know it. As you forgive them and others and model the response our Heavenly Father has each time we commit the same pet sin we’ve struggled with for years, you’ll lead them in the way (Psalm 139:24) God desires us all to go.
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