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The Parent's PartOlder Children     << Ch. 16 >>
Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but {rather} in speech, conduct, love, faith {and} purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.
- I Timothy 4:12

But Will They Just Be Faking?
While Raising Godly Tomatoes is primarily aimed at younger children, I have had so many requests for �something about older children,� that I feel compelled to at least mention them briefly here, and share some of my parenting thoughts in their regard.

When I only had young ones I intensely wanted my children to really love the Lord and to do everything out of a love for Him, not just because I was making them. But yet they were really too young to discuss anything with on a deep spiritual level. I couldn�t really sit them down and have a heart-to-heart with them about my love for God and the reasons for my faith. Finally, I realized that FIRST I had to deal with what was in front of me, a small child with wrong habits and bad attitudes. I changed my focus from thinking I had to first persuade them to love God (and so do what was right), to believing that for the moment, my responsibility was just to train them to do what was right, period. I would trust the faith to come later.

Of course, I didn�t rely on training alone for the long term. As I trained them, I also showed them God through my life, and as soon as they were able to understand my words, I began diligently teaching them all I knew about God and His ways. This is the entire gist of the Tomato Staking life-style: continually sharing your faith, love and knowledge of God with your children on a daily basis as you include them in your life, inviting them to walk with you as Adam, Noah and Enoch walked with God. 

Most of my children seemed to have made a transition of sorts, from habitual obedience to genuine faith and a personal desire to please God, some time in their very early teens. Before that, they obeyed God because they had been trained to and because they believed in us. Eventually, there came a time when I observed that they were consciously trying to obey God because they wanted to and because they believed in God. Perhaps the changeover was gradual, or all at once in a specific "salvation experience", I don't really know, but by the time we parents felt our children�s level of personal commitment to Christ warranted baptism, I believe they had all been true followers of Christ for some time, even if they could not identify a specific date of conversion. 

So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
- Acts 2:41

Godly and Prompt Resolution
It would take me another entire book and more, to write all my thoughts about teens, but there is one key to a good relationship with them that I feel I should stress. It is the matter of resolving whatever differences you have with them as soon as possible, that is, �in the day you hear of it�.

By the time my children are this age I haven't had to spank or tightly Tomato Stake them for a long time. If an issue comes up, we talk. Usually, if I have a complaint about their behavior or attitude, a brief discussion is all that is needed. If they have a complaint about a sibling, they come to me and we talk. Then, if I think it�s needed, I talk to the sibling. Or, if I think the complainant needs to make some change, I encourage him or her to do so and we discuss what change, and how to make it. If they have a complaint against me (example: "I always get all the work around here..."), then I sit down with the complainant and we talk, politely and considerately, until the issue is resolved. If they don't come to me, but I think there may be something bothering them, I go to them.

That last paragraph is the key. No matter what the issue is, you must talk UNTIL THE ISSUE IS RESOLVED. I guess that's one of my ongoing life mottos. It's a lot like the verse that tells us "Don't let the sun go down on your anger". If the anger is your child's anger then it is still up to you to be sure the issue is resolved "in the day that you hear of it".

Now what do I mean by "resolved"? I don't mean that you settle it by forcing your will on your stubborn child. I don't mean that you strike a bargain. I don't mean that you give in to keep the peace. I mean, that you discuss the issue until you are both in agreement on what is the God pleasing, right course of action, and what godly attitudes are required and how to achieve them. You both must do right and you both must agree. No quitting until the issue is brought to a godly resolution. This will preserve your relationship with your teens more than anything else.

Be angry, and {yet} do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger�
- Ephesians 4:26

Turning around an Older Child

At the time of this writing, my youngest child is six years old and my oldest is twenty-six years old, with all ten of them spaced about two years apart. So seven of them are teen-aged or above. Yet I have never experienced any teen rebellion, raging-hormones, drug or promiscuity problems, or �well�, ANY significant problems with my older kids. Really. I don�t recall ever even having a heating argument with a single one of them. So, while I can�t speak from experience when it comes to turning a rebellious teen around, what I can do is tell you briefly, a few things I believe are important when it comes to raising older ones, and what I believe a parent ought to do if they are trying to restore a wayward child.

Older children are not, in many ways, all that different from younger ones. After all, these really are the very same people you knew as babies, toddlers, and grade-schoolers. If your relationship was close back then, it should be close now. If it was close then and isn�t close now, something has changed that didn�t have to change. Your children should have gradually been mentored and nurtured into competent, trustworthy young people of faith, whom you respect as friends. They should not have remained immature and unthinking individuals, either mentally or spiritually, who have to be told exactly what to do then compelled to do it against their will. 

I really don't think that at the magical age of twelve or thirteen or whatever, all children just have this "need" to be more independent. That�s not it. We all have that urge at all ages, don't we? If it seems stronger at one time than another, I would strongly suspect that we are really talking more about a breakdown in the relationship between you and them, than independence. Something else is going on that needs to be resolved.

Perhaps you have been too controlling or oppressive.
Perhaps your child has already been given too much freedom and has come to believe he has more rights than he should.
Perhaps there is an outside influence coming from school, friends, church, books, TV, or music, etc.
Perhaps your child has a personal gripe against you that has never been resolved (bitterness).
Perhaps your child has never really learned to respect you in the first place.
Perhaps you haven't treated your child with due respect.
Perhaps you have not instilled a love for "family" and the idea of "loyalty", into your child.

These are just some of the things that come to mind when I hear about a young person with an uncooperative or aloof spirit. If your older child is displaying such a spirit, examine this list and see if any of it applies. Keep looking, until you discover the root problem.

Remember how I just stressed that you MUST settle all conflicts COMPLETELY, and as soon as possible? That�s probably where you messed up. Somewhere along the line, you let your child go off in a huff and you didn�t call him back, figure out what was wrong, and fix it. Then it happened again, and again, and pretty soon you were hopelessly separated. More than likely, by now you have not only lost his loyalty, but he has acquired replacements for you, friends or perhaps teachers, or other relatives that he looks up to, who probably do not share your values and beliefs. The only thing there is to do now, is to try to start over.

Where do you start? With you. Reread the �Fixing Ourselves First� chapter and take it to heart. If you�ve been an angry parent, stop, and apologize to your child. If you�ve been a hypocrite in any other way, repent (which includes changing) and apologize for that too. Only when you are committed to obeying God yourself, will your child be tempted to do the same. Humble yourself, admit your failings to your teen, ask his forgiveness, and then start being the parent and Christian you ought to have been all along.   It is unlikely your child will change overnight. He probably won�t believe you are sincere at first and you�ll have to prove it by your continued godly actions and attitudes. 

Then there�s the matter of those friends he�s acquired while you were giving him all that freedom too soon, that he not earned by the demonstration of the maturity to handle them. If you want his heart back, you will have to remove the outside influences that are pulling him away and into the world. I mean TV, school, wrong music, and especially any wrong friends, which often means all friends, since it is unlikely that a rebellious teen is hanging out with great kids you highly approve of. The younger your child is, the easier it will be to remove all outside influences, but if your child is older and deeply hardened toward you already, it may be very difficult. Homeschool, if you are not doing so already. Move if you have to. You will need to use great creatively and good judgment as you replace outside influences with your new improved self. 

Once you�ve got the ball rolling, keep in going. Don�t give up just because the going is tough. When turning around a younger child I would expect things to get worse before getting better. How much more so with an older child. Make firm but reasonable rules based on God�s standards (not your previous ones or your child�s current ones) and enforce them via preemptive vigilance combined with creative consequences, but don�t let your parenting become �Rules Based�. It must be �Heart Based� if you truly want to win back that wonderful soul who was so close to you when he or she was a toddler. 

Insist on compliance with reasonable rules, but spend the vast majority of your time living a Tomato Staking life-style of mentoring, teaching, instilling values, imparting faith, and loving your child. Turn to God with your whole heart, then draw your child along with you into a life of discipleship to Christ.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
- Micah 6:8

(c) Copyright 2007 L. Elizabeth Krueger.  All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.