Why do today’s teens answer the question, “What is character?” with good looking? Since when did physical appearance become a character trait?
Society and pop culture send unchristian messages like:
What’s at stake with this kind of thinking? Our culture’s moral compass — and our sons and daughters’ future.
Can we help our teens reclaim Christian values so their lives make an impact for Christ? Yes. Our influence still matters.
The cliché is true: Values are more often caught than taught. Jesus’ followers learned to be like him by modeling his behavior. “Follow me,” Christ told his disciples. They did, but not without questions, doubts and some resistance.
Actions speak louder than words. St. Francis of Assisi put it this way: “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching” (emphasis mine). For years, your teens have followed you — sometimes resisting, sometimes not. They determine what is important based on observing you. If this thought makes you cringe, don’t let your past failures stop you from showing love and patience today. Continue to grow in your relationship with God, so that your teens will see your faith and want to know more.
Faith. Hope. Love. So many positive character traits are reflected in the meaning behind these three simple words. If we want our teens to emulate these character traits, we need to live them out at home. Here are just a few to start with:
As parents, let’s make our wrongs right by saying, “I’m sorry.” Our sons and daughters will more easily forgive others when they’ve experienced forgiveness at home.
Teens need to hear us say, “Thank you,” when they watch their younger brother or load the dishwasher. Especially thank them if they confide in you. Teens tend to share their secrets and struggles with their friends, so if they pick you to talk to — stop and listen. Let them vent and cry if they need to. Offer understanding and a prayer instead of a long lecture. Ask them if they want your advice.
When you do give advice, talk about how to handle temptation before your teen attends a party or a game. Encourage firm boundaries. Talk about the consequences of premarital sex. Share your testimony if it relates. To promote modesty, buy a fun and trendy — but modest — prom dress. When your teen is walking out the door, say, “I believe you’ll make wise choices tonight.”
Who’s following your teen? Chances are, someone or some group is observing your son or daughter, whether it’s a classmate, teammate or coworker. Teenagers already have the opportunity to spread the light of the gospel. Most of their opportunities for talking about their faith in Jesus will come from first living their faith. This is what St. Francis of Assisi meant when he exhorted, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” Encourage your teen to live a life that emulates the faith, hope and love of Christ so anyone who’s watching will be attracted to Jesus.
Are you showing your teen mercy when they need it?
I don’t always. For example, Justin got in trouble for laughing in class so I gave him the cold shoulder. My message? Shape up, buddy, if you want my love! A bad mom moment, I know. Whenever issues arise between me and my son, I try to remember that God’s unconditional love for us isn’t based on our behavior.
Next time your son or daughter disappoints you, shake things up a bit. Think of Jesus’ example with the woman caught in adultery. Offer a hug and forgiveness instead of a hard word and see what happens. There are times when that treatment isn’t the best option. But there are also times our kids desperately need grace. The Bible says mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13).
By offering mercy, my friend Beth saw results in how her teens responded to one another. Once when Beth disciplined her daughter, her oldest son interrupted and asked, “Mom, can you show mercy to her this time”
If we show our teens compassion, they learn to be compassionate, which carries into their jobs, college campuses, relationships, and into their marriages. When people are hurting, they need a safe place and understanding — not judgment. Inspire your teens to be that place for someone in need.
In a me-focused world, we need to challenge our youth to see beyond themselves. We start by serving our teen and others in need. Simple gestures go a long way.
Beth served her two teen girls by making their beds for them after they left for school. She helped them when they were drowning in classes and activities.
After driving past a homeless man, Scoti turned around and bought the best meal at McDonalds. Her teenage sons handed the meal to this man and said, “Take this in the name of Jesus.”
Our Christ-like examples are the most powerful influence to persuade our teens to be Christ’s disciples. We can equip our teens to offer the world something better — something of eternal value. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV).
by Tiffany Stuart
The teenage years are a crucial time in a child’s life. They are not children anymore, but they are also not adults. During this time the choices they make may have an effect on them for the rest of their lives. It is the parents’ responsibility to guide their teenagers in the right direction by helping them make responsible choices and building their character to the point that when their teenagers move out of the house they are on the road to being responsible adults and have the tools they need to succeed in life.
There are a number of ways that parents can help teenagers build their character. One way is through part-time employment. Having a job provides many learning opportunities for teens.
* It teaches them what it takes to make a living, and that it is hard work to earn money to pay bills.
* They have the opportunity to learn to manage their own money and make choices of how they will spend it.
* If parents gives their teens the responsibility of paying for some of their own bills (e.g., car insurance, gas, clothing, cell phone, lunches out, etc.), then teens will realize they will only be able to have these things if they pay for them and will have to decide if it is worth it to them or not. Their priorities suddenly change when it is their money they are spending. They don’t necessarily have to pay all their own bills, giving them a couple of expenses to take care of will teach them to pay their own way and make responsible choices with their money.
* Working is one way for teens to learn to get along with and work along side other people, a very crucial step in character development. How many adults do you know that can’t get along with other people! Teens learn that you won’t always like everyone you work with, but that it doesn’t matter. You still do your job and have a good attitude about it, treating others as you wish to be treated.
* The process of looking for a job requires teenagers to take a good look at themselves and their abilities, helping them to see what kind of people they want to be and what they ultimately want to do with their lives.
* Job experience is the first step to building a successful resume. Any jobs a teen has will look good on college applications and be a stepping stone to future employment.
Of course, all this sounds great but in reality can be difficult to put into practice. The first job our daughter had she got laid off from because she and her boss could not come to agreement on the hours she would work. After she started working there he changed the hours he said she could work and it conflicted with other activities she had. It was very hard for her to feel like she was “fired” from her first job. We had to talk through a lot of the feelings she had towards her boss and some of the experiences she had at that job. But because she chose to honor her boss by showing him respect when he didn’t necessarily deserve it, he gave her an excellent reference for her next job.
A couple of months later she did find another job that was much better than the first one, and she had many great learning experiences of working with others and learning to serve others even when it was very hard work.
Parents can’t just throw their teens out into the workplace and expect everything will go great. Issues will arise that need to be worked through with the parents’ help, but this is where the learning occurs, and character development begins!
Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom of four. For more inspirational articles and tips for everyday living, visit her web sites at www.creativehomemaking.com  and www.christian-parent.com .
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