Christian Biblical Counsel: Teenagers


Helping Teens through Turbulent Times

by June Hunt

“They [adolescents] now seem to love luxury, they have bad manners and contempt for authority, they show disrespect for adults and spend their time hanging around places gossiping with one another. They are ready to contradict their parents, monopolize the conversation and company, eat gluttonously and tyrannize their teachers.…”

—Socrates about 400 B.C.


The stage of adolescence sometimes called the Troubled Teens is as normal as the Terrible Two’s of early childhood. While the teenage years are ages thirteen to nineteen, the years of adolescence vary depending on differing cultures, legal status and personal maturity. These turbulent times are highly charged with emotional, social and physical changes that can shatter the hopes and dreams of parents for their children—even godly parents who have provided love and encouragement. Take heart … your teenager may be just the tool God is using to motivate you to place all your trust in Him!3

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.”

(Psalm 28:7)

  1. What Is Adolescence?

Moving from childhood to adulthood is anything but easy! This journey involves passing through the unpredictable stage known as adolescence. If your child is in this transition, you face the challenge of uprooting weeds of immaturity while sowing seeds of autonomy.5

  • Adolescence is the transitional period of growth between childhood and adulthood characterized by dramatic emotional, social and physical changes.
  • The Latin word for adolescence is adolescere, which means “to grow up.”

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1–2)

Emotional Changes

Adolescents often feel insignificant and question their personal identity.

  • Who am I?
  • What are my own values and beliefs?
  • What freedom should I have?
  • Whom do I really respect?
  • What can I do well?

Social Changes

Adolescents often feel insecure and look to their peers to get approval.

  • They transfer allegiance from parents to peers.
  • They desire increased independence.
  • They develop interest in the opposite sex.
  • They rearrange friends and peer groups.
  • They fluctuate in moods and behaviors.
  1. What Is Puberty?
  • Puberty is the age at which a person is first capable of sexual reproduction, characterized by dramatic physical changes.
  • The onset of puberty occurs in girls between the ages of ten and seventeen (usually around twelve) and in boys between the ages of twelve and nineteen (usually around fourteen).

Physical Changes

Adolescents often feel embarrassed because of their rapidly changing bodies.







•     Grow up to five inches a year




•     Grow up to three inches a year


•     Experience great weight gain




•     Experience some weight gain


•     Speak fuller and lower




•     Speak fuller and wider


•     Grow underarm, facial, pubic, and chest hair


Body Hair


•     Grow underarm, pubic and lower leg hair


•     Develop a broader chest




•     Develop breasts and wider hips


•     Double in strength between twelve and sixteen




•     Increase in strength most at onset of menstruation


•     Begin to produce sperm




•     Begin to ovulate


  1. What Type of Teenage Examples are Found in the Bible?

Teenagers experience concentrated periods of growth in their emotional, physical and spiritual development. Unfortunately, some adults who have developed physically remain emotional and spiritual adolescents. These individuals will continue to carry the immaturity of their youth into adulthood unless they experience the life transforming power of God.

2 Samuel chapter 13

Negative Example: Absalom

Absalom seethed with anger because his half brother had raped his sister. For two years, Absalom allowed hatred to fester in his heart, putting him on the road of retaliation and rebellion. Because their father, King David, took no action, Absalom did … he had his brother murdered.

This road of rebellion led to open revolution against his father’s authority and ultimately to Absalom’s own death.

2 Chronicles chapter 34

Positive Example: Josiah

Josiah was only eight years old when he became the sixteenth ruler of the southern kingdom following his father’s assassination. Unlike his ungodly father and grandfather, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 34:2). At the age of sixteen, he made the Lord top priority in his life and began to earnestly seek God. As a result of placing himself under the Lord’s authority, Josiah took a strong stand against the accepted sin of his culture and began putting an end to two generations of idolatry and wickedness.

Although fatally wounded in battle at the young age of thirty-nine, Josiah has long been considered the greatest king since David (2 Kings 23:25). He was not just a remarkable reformer, but an exemplary youth who was willing to cut against the grain of culture to restore godliness and integrity to Israel.

Q   “My teenage son is rebellious and is getting into trouble. Since he won’t listen to me, should I give up trying to tell him what is right?”

No. Even if your son continues to make choices that are wrong, you are still responsible for communicating what is right. You are not accountable for your son’s wrong decisions, but you are accountable for your own right parenting. If you won’t try to teach your son what is right, who will?

“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.” (Proverbs 13:14)


  2. Telltale Schemes of Troubled Teens

Almost everyone experiences difficulty with the pressures of growing up. Change is normal, but if you observe radical change in your teen’s behavior, be discerning. Be aware of detrimental friends, sexual promiscuity, eating disorders, alcohol or drugs. The telltale sign of teens in trouble is a pronounced change in attitude—puffed up pride toward parents, hardened hearts toward authority, a growing indifference toward God.

“Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.”

(Proverbs 1:29–31)

  • Emotional withdrawal

—  avoiding family activities

—  being secretive and unresponsive

—  withdrawing to the bedroom to avoid family interactions

—  arguing or being verbally abusive

—  complaining about family provisions (clothes, car, money)

  • School difficulties

—  receiving noticeably lower grades

—  disrupting class and challenging authority

—  repeatedly skipping class

—  lying about homework

—  being apathetic toward school events

  • Detrimental friendships

—  secrecy surrounding phone calls

—  exclusive involvement with older friends

—  excessively defensive of friends

—  ceases to bring friends home

—  criticizes responsible teenagers

  • Boundaries tested

—  demanding total freedom

—  being evasive about activities

—  ignoring curfews

—  sneaking out at night

—  refusing church attendance

  • Physical signals

—  sleeping or eating excessively … a possible sign of depression

—  losing a great deal of weight … a possible sign of anorexia

—  eating abnormal amounts without weight gain … a possible sign of bulimia

—  colorless skin and frequent illnesses (colds, vomiting, dizziness) … a possible sign of drugs

—  slash marks or burns on the skin … a sign of deep internal pain

  • Appearance changes

—  avoiding personal hygiene

—  being excessively sloppy

—  losing interest in appearance

—  wearing bizarre hairstyles

—  dressing to identify with gangs or cults

“A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the one who bore him.”

(Proverbs 17:25)

  1. Picture of Passive Parenting

Often parents ignore their teenager’s negative behavior hoping that things will get better by themselves. Other parents fear confrontation and emotionally withdraw, leaving their teenagers stranded without love, encouragement and positive direction. Ultimately, God holds parents responsible to guide and direct, to comfort and correct—even if their children object. Prayerfully consider the following questions. Then allow the Holy Spirit to probe your heart for an honest appraisal of where you stand in God’s courtroom of parental accountability.

“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?”

(Proverbs 24:11–12)

The Probe for Passive Parenting

Parenting Skills Questionnaire

Do you avoid confronting the negative behavior of your teenager?

Do you fail to discuss uncomfortable situations with your teen?

Do you give in easily and readily accept excuses from your teenager?

Do you cover up or make excuses for your teenager’s behavior?

Do you continually give your teenager another chance without establishing consequences?

Do you shield your teenager from outside repercussions caused by negative behavior?

Do you fail to be consistent with rules, curfews and limits for your teenager?

Do you withhold love in the hopes of changing your teenager?

Do you use comparisons and sarcasm to intimidate your teenager?

Do you withhold discipline in fear of losing the love of your teenager?

Q   “As a parent, I feel unloving when I discipline my teenager—even if he is guilty.”

The God-given role of a parent is to establish boundaries with rewards and repercussions—rewards for staying within the boundary and repercussions for crossing over the boundary. To “convict” a teenager for their wrong attitudes and actions is not unloving. Enforcing boundaries blesses them by enabling them to experience the consequences of knowing right from wrong.

“It will go well with those who convict the guilty, and rich blessing will come upon them.” (Proverbs 24:25)



Teenagers are like butterflies … almost. They are breaking out of the parental cocoon that has met their needs since birth. As potential butterflies, they begin flexing their muscles—no longer depending on parents to meet their legitimate needs for love, for significance and for security. However, since they are still unable to fly on their own, this period of transition places youth at risk.20

  1. Misplaced Dependence of Teens

Parents face the significant task of helping children transfer their dependence from family to God. If this shift is not solidified in the early teenage years, adolescents often look to alcohol and drugs, friends and fashion, sports and sex, cars and clothes, gangs and good grades, and even ritualistic religion to meet their needs. Rather than depending on God, they misplace their dependence. They get all tripped up looking for all the right things in the wrong places.

The Search for Love

  • Teenagers with a misplaced dependence say:

—“I can’t live without my friends.”

—  “I have to be accepted by the opposite sex.”

—  “I have to be told I’m loved.”

—  “I must have sex to feel loved.”

The Search for Significance

  • Teenagers with a misplaced dependence say:

—“I have to date someone good looking.”

—  “I have to excel in sports.”

—  “I have to have my own car.”

—  “I have to make straight A’s.”

The Search for Security

  • Teenagers with a misplaced dependence say:

—“I have to be really popular.”

—  “I have to fit into the group.”

—  “I have to belong to the right social club.”

—  “I have to have my own (things).”

The Search for Love

  • Teenagers with their dependence on God say:

—“I need a personal relationship with Jesus as my Lord, my Savior and my friend.”

—  “I need to realize that I’m accepted by God and that I have His approval.”

—  “I need to know I’m loved by God just as I am, no matter what.”

—  “I need Christian friends who express God’s love to me in wholesome tangible ways.”

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

(John 15:12)

The Search for Significance

  • Teenagers with their dependence on God say:

—“I need to know I have God-given worth.”

—  “I need to realize that I was designed by God and that He has a purpose for my life.”

—  “I need to understand that God will give me increased responsibilities as I am faithful in small things.”

—  “I need to rely on God to work through me to accomplish all His plans for me.”

“I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me.”

(Psalm 57:2)

The Search for Security

  • Teenagers with their dependence on God say:

—“I need to realize I’m a child of God and I belong to the family of God.”

—  “I need to be disciplined and not yield to the pull of the world, the flesh and Satan.”

—  “I need to view God’s truths as benevolent boundaries.”

—  “I need to know the Lord will never leave me nor forsake me.”

“He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.”

(Proverbs 14:26)

  1. Root Cause of Inner Conflict in Teens

Young children are told what to think and what to do … directed by attitudes and actions of their parents. In adolescence, parental authority is often challenged. Teenagers become intensely influenced by the attitudes and actions of their peers. They reject the idea that their parents have a “corner” on truth and begin seeking their own truth. Acceptance and approval from others reign supreme!

Wrong Belief:

“Being accepted by others is more important than doing what is right. I want to live my own way by my own truth.”

Right Belief:

“I would like to be accepted by others, but I want to be a person of character who says no when asked to do something wrong. Because Christ lives in me, my life will be fulfilled as I live His way by His truth.”

“I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)

Teenager’s Prayer


Lord, may I see sin as You see sin. May I hate sin as You hate sin. Whatever it takes for me to be right in Your sight, that’s what I’m willing to do.




Life with a teenager is a ride on a roller-coaster! At times teenagers act as though the family is of little or no importance. At other times they demand strong family support. Caught in the middle of these two extremes, confused parents need to learn how to keep their equilibrium in the midst of ups and downs. You need to know that the Lord promises to be your stabilizer, your rock, your leveler.

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.”

(Psalm 143:10)

  1. Key Verses to Memorize
  • For the teenager

“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

(2 Timothy 2:22)

  • For the parent

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

(Deuteronomy 6:6–7)

  1. Key Passages to Read and Reread

Book of Proverbs

For Teenagers

Much of the Book of Proverbs is targeted to young people, specifically “for attaining wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:2) and “giving … knowledge and discretion to the young” (Proverbs 1:4). Since it contains thirty-one chapters, Proverbs easily lends itself to reading one chapter a day each month. Many young people continue reading this character building book far into adulthood. Consider challenging your teenagers with this project: create a list of “Proverbial Tips for Teens” by paraphrasing each timeless truth in your own words.

Proverbial Tips for Teens

“The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.”

(Proverbs 12:15)

Ten Examples from Proverbs, Chapter One:

    #1 To respect the Lord is the first step toward learning about life.


v. 7


    #2 To refuse discipline and wisdom is to be an ignorant fool.


v. 7


    #3 To listen to my parents’ advice is to receive lifelong benefits.


vv. 8–9


    #4 To be strong enough to say no today is to avoid trouble tomorrow.


vv. 10–19


    #5 To make fun of others is to prove myself an idiot.


v. 22


    #6 To learn from past mistakes is to hear the heart of God.


v. 23


    #7 To disobey the Lord is to invite disaster.


vv. 24–27


    #8 To sow the seeds of rebellion is to bring my own destruction.


vv. 29–31


    #9 To be complacent and self-satisfied is to be really stupid.


v. 32


  #10 To listen to the Lord is to be safe and secure.


v. 33


Ephesians 3:16–19

For Parents

Ephesians 3:16–19 can easily be turned into a beautiful prayer for your teenager. Pray this prayer on a regular basis, and say your teen’s name in the place of you and your in verses 16, 17 and 19.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen [name] with power through his Spirit in [name’s] inner being, so that Christ may dwell in [name’s] heart through faith. And I pray that [name], being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that [name] may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

(Ephesians 3:16–19)

  1. Targets for Parents of Teens

If you have bow and arrow in hand, keep in mind this thought: If you then aim at nothing, you’re bound to hit it! To be the best parent possible, you need well-defined targets to keep you focused in the right direction. Even the most godly parent cannot guarantee the outcome of a child’s life. You can’t force your will on someone else, nor can you control behavior. You can, however, aim for positive targets by the way you talk and the way you “walk your talk.”22

“In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say.”

(Titus 2:7–8)

Target #1 … Personal Identity

  • Have your own identity strongly rooted in Christ.

—  I will look to Christ to meet my deepest needs for love, for significance and for security.

—  I choose to rely on Christ’s strength instead of my own strength.

—  I have died to my self-willed living so that Christ is free to live His life through me.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

  • See your teen as a significant and unique creation of God.

—  God chose to create my child for a purpose.

—  God has given my child intrinsic value.

—  God has a unique plan for my child’s life.

“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11)

  • Discern your teens’ natural inclinations, interests and abilities.

—  Encourage your teen to take part in activities that develop personal skills.

—  Identify the activities that bring joy to your teen.

—  Discover what skills your teen naturally possesses.

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

  • Express more praise than disapproval.

—  Always speak with respect to your teen.

—  Compliment your teen’s choices that exhibit good character.

—  Condemn a behavior, but never condemn your teen.

“The tongue has the power of life and death.” (Proverbs 18:21)

  • Explain that God’s specific plan is to develop the character of Christ in all His children.

—  When you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, He came into your heart.

—  Because Christ lives inside you, you have His supernatural strength.

—  With Christ living in you, He will conform you to His character.

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Romans 8:29)

Target #2 … Individual Responsibility

  • Be a person of integrity and accountability.

—  Don’t tell your teen to say you aren’t home when you are … that’s lying!

—  Don’t break the speed limit … that’s breaking the law!

—  Don’t bring items home from work that you haven’t paid for … that’s stealing!

“The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.” (Proverbs 10:9)

  • Allow your teen to take part in establishing appropriate boundaries and consequences. (If they break the rules, don’t rescue them.)

—  Set appropriate curfews. Explain to your teen, “You are the one who chooses whether you receive the repercussion or the reward.”

—  Communicate the repercussion for breaking curfews. (For instance, being 10 minutes late results in the next curfew’s being 20 minutes earlier.)

—  The reward for complying with curfews over a period of time is earned trust and increased freedom.

“Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.” (Proverbs 29:17)

  • Teach your teens the importance of fulfilling commitments.

—  Keep your word to your marriage partner and to your teenager.

—  Fulfill your commitment to your church.

—  Be loyal to your employer. (Don’t call in sick when you’re not … that’s cheating!)

“When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said. When a young woman still living in her father’s house makes a vow to the Lord or obligates herself by a pledge and her father hears about her vow or pledge but says nothing to her, then all her vows and every pledge by which she obligated herself will stand.” (Numbers 30:2–4)

  • Guide your teens toward developing financial responsibility.

—  Open a small bank account in their name.

—  Set up a budget.

—  Do not bail them out if they habitually run out of money.

“An inheritance quickly gained at the beginning will not be blessed at the end.” (Proverbs 20:21)

  • Help your teens make practical and moral choices that lead toward a particular career path.

—  Encourage your teen to read biographies of Christian leaders.

—  Encourage your teen in the area of personal giftedness and talents.

—  Consider aptitude testing for older teens.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” (Proverbs 16:3)

Target #3 … Healthy Intimacy

  • Communicate your positive and negative feelings honestly.

—  Openly express affection to your spouse and children (hugs and embraces).

—  Tell family members often, “I love you,” “I’m proud of you,” “I really like who you are.”

—  Use “I feel” statements when you have negative emotions. (“I feel hurt when you don’t keep your word to me.”)

“Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” (Psalm 51:6)

  • Ask questions on the feeling level rather than just on the fact level.

—  Instead of, “How was school today?” ask, “How are you feeling about yourself at school?”

—  “How does it make you feel when I ?”

—  “How are you feeling about God?”

“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” (Proverbs 20:5)

  • Encourage supportive relationships with others who are role models, those who are committed to Christian values (pastor, youth director, camp counselor, Christian leaders).

—  Invite a Christian youth leader to your home for dinner.

—  Ask youth leaders to involve your teen in specific youth activities.

—  Learn from other teens who their adult role models are, then encourage some of those to get involved in the life of your teen.

“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7)

  • Readily admit when you’ve wronged someone, ask forgiveness and make restitution.

—  “Son, I realize I’ve been wrong in my attitude toward you (angry, critical).”

—  “Would you please forgive me?”

—  “How else have I wronged you?”

“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

  • Share insights about how to treat members of the opposite sex and the different needs of males and females. God created everyone with three inner needthe need for love, for significance and for security.

—  Both males and females need unconditional love. Since love (agape) seeks the highest good of the other person, both need to interact with members of the opposite sex in ways that are uplifting, not degrading; moral, not immoral.

—  Generally males have a greater need to feel significant, rather than secure. Girls should compliment inner character more than outer accomplishments. (Don’t focus on athletic prowess but rather on the inner perseverance.)

—  Females have a greater need to feel secure. Boys need to recognize their role as a protector of girls, protecting their hearts, their virginity and their reputation.

“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.” (Proverbs 18:15)

Target #4 … Spiritual Maturity

  • Model the character of Christ, for this is your most powerful influence.“Lord Jesus, may I …

—  love with Your love

—  forgive with Your forgiveness

—  hear with Your heart.”

“In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” (Titus 2:7–8)

  • Teach God’s Word as the absolute authority and standard.

—  If God said it, believe it.

—  If God said it, apply it.

—  If God said it, share it.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

  • Advise your teen to think about these questions before doing something questionable:

—  “If I do this, will it show love for God?”

—  “If I do this, will it show love for others?”

—  “If I do this, will it show love for myself?”

“All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 21:2)

  • Pray for God to bring repercussions when your teen chooses a destructive path. Accept God’s heart as revealed in His Word:

“When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong.” (Ecclesiastes 8:11)

“The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” (Hebrews 12:6)

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)

  • Explain the value in standing alone and separating from the compromises of the world. Explain that:

—  You plus God make the majority.

—  You can’t do a wrong act the right way.

—  You will never stand alone when you take a stand with God.

“Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:17–18)

  1. The Battle for Boundaries

Those involved in the world of athletics are well acquainted with boundaries. Every sport has boundaries not to be exceeded, and when these perimeters are crossed, penalties are assessed. Likewise, parents need to begin early in their child’s life to establish well-defined boundaries with rewards and repercussions (consequences or forms of discipline).

External boundaries help develop self-control. The ultimate goal of establishing boundaries is for your child to become internally motivated to do what is right. When boundaries are clearly communicated, teens who “cross the line” learn that parents do not cause their consequences … they have chosen their own repercussions.

Some parents don’t see the importance of boundaries until they come face-to-face with a rebellious teenager. Initiating proper boundaries at this stage is hard, but not impossible. It requires uncompromising commitment and humble reliance on the Lord. Pray for the day your teen will see discipline as God’s loving hand for developing Christlike character.

“Do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”

(Proverbs 3:11–12)

Common Battlefields Over Boundaries



“My prideful teenager has informed me that when he turns eighteen, he will legally be an adult, and therefore, he will no longer have to abide by my house rules. He feels that I should no longer have any say in what he does.”


As long as your son is living in your home, he is obligated to abide by your “house rules.” Whether eighteen or twenty-eight, if your adult child is still a dependent—receiving food, clothing, shelter or any other financial assistance—he has not earned the right to make independent decisions contrary to your decisions. Your standards are to stand as a safeguard for your son.

“Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” (Proverbs 19:18)



“Is it all right to search my teenager’s room if I suspect she is involved in pornography, drugs or anything else inappropriate?”


Absolutely! If your teenager accuses you of “invasion of privacy,” explain that as long as she is a minor, you are held morally and legally responsible for her actions.

“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.” (Proverbs 18:15)



“Recently we discovered that our teenage son has been bringing home pornographic pictures printed from a friend’s home computer. We’ve also learned that he’s been lying about his involvement in sex chat rooms on the Internet. Since his friends attend our church, what is the best way to handle this problem?”


Since you will not be able to isolate your son from computers, the best approach is to appeal to his conscience.

  • Explain that out of love for him, you cannot just sit back and allow behavior that brings God’s disfavor on his life.
  • Ask, “Do you have a clear conscience?” If he did, he would have no reason to deceive you about what he is doing.
  • Ask, “Do you want me to do what God wants me to do?” (He’ll say yes.) Tell him that God is holding you responsible for teaching him the danger of sexual immorality.
  • State that the home where he encountered the pornography is now off limits, but that you want to be able to trust him. And, in the future, you look forward to having that trust restored.
  • Ask the other parents involved to meet with you to discuss briefly what happened and ways of protecting all your teenagers from the pornography that is so accessible on the Internet.

“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18)

Premarital Sex


“How do I respond if my teenager asks, ‘What’s the problem with sex outside of marriage?’ ”


Simply explain practical, social and spiritual problems.


  • When males and females have sex, a baby is often conceived. Even if they use products designed to prevent pregnancy, these products often fail. Ask, “Are you ready to give up almost everything you are doing in order to support your child? Or if you choose abortion, could you live the rest of your life knowing you had killed your unborn baby? Do you really want that on your conscience?”


  • Children born out of wedlock are at a disadvantage socially, often feeling cheated. It’s much harder for these children to be well parented, well taken care of and well educated. On the other hand, children born in homes with two parents typically feel much more secure.


  • Sex between animals is hormone driven and based solely on instinct. However, God designed sex between humans to be a “Holy Union” for husband and wife. Since holy means “set apart,” the sexual act is to be set apart for the covenant of marriage—a commitment that protects the relationship between husband and wife. If you have sex outside of marriage, you violate God’s design, which puts you in opposition to God.

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable.… For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3–4, 7)

Common Questions about Boundaries

Q  “Is it right to have boundaries?”

Yes. The Lord created the world with natural boundaries and gave people behavioral and spiritual boundaries. Some of the more obvious boundaries are the Ten Commandments. (Read Exodus 20:1–17.)

Q  “Aren’t teenagers too old for parental discipline?”

No. Accountability is necessary for everyone of any age.

Q  “When my teen crosses a boundary, how can I enforce the repercussions without feeling harsh and wrong?”

In choosing to cross a boundary, your teen is choosing a repercussion. You are merely enforcing what your teen has chosen! Remember God’s purposes for proper discipline. Boundaries are not just external limits with negative consequences. The goal of good boundaries is to develop internal boundaries or self-control that leads to godly character.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)

Q  “Is there such a thing as a bad boundary?”

Yes. Some boundaries can be too restrictive or too lenient for the age and maturity level of a teen. Only through prayer will a parent be able to discern God’s will for each specific situation. (Just make sure the boundaries are just.) An unjust boundary can wound the heart of your teen.

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)

Talk to Your Teen with Tact


Teen Argument #1:

“I don’t want to go to church anymore—I’m old enough to make my own choices.”

Tactful Answer:

The Seven Step Approach

Don’t be dictatorial, self-righteous or legalistic about your teenager’s attending every church function, but prioritize which activities are the most important. Consider this guide to reach your teenager’s heart.

#1 Freedom

“More and more, I’ll be giving you greater freedom to make your own choices, and one day you’ll be out on your own making all your own decisions.”

#2 Direction

“While you are still under my care, God has given me the responsibility of protecting and directing you. He will hold me accountable for how I raise you.”

#3 Priorities

“My highest priority is to please God, especially when it concerns you.”

#4 Question

“Do you want me to do what is pleasing to God?” (Wait for a response—you can assume it will be yes.)

#5 Love

“I deeply love you and would like to please you, too. However, I know there will be times I can’t do both.”

#6 Truth

“In this case it would be wrong in the sight of God for me to say you don’t need to go to church. There are truths taught at church that are important building blocks for your future.”

#7 Application

“Let’s both go to church, learn as much as we can and pray that we will come away with at least one truth we can apply to our lives each week.”

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.”

(Hebrews 10:25)

Objectionable Music

Teen Argument #2:

“There’s nothing wrong with the music I enjoy listening to.”

Tactful Answer:

The Seven Step Approach

Don’t react out of ignorance. Read the music cover, utilize the Internet or listen to the music, and then write out the objectionable lyrics before you talk with your teenager.

#1 Love

“Although we won’t always love the same things, I will always love you.”

#2 Question

“What do you think today’s music that’s targeted to youth is saying?” (Wait for a response.)

#3 Concern

“I’m sincerely concerned about some of the messages being communicated through today’s popular music.”

#4 Computer Comparison

“God has designed your mind to function like a giant computer. Remember the saying, ‘Garbage in—garbage out’?”

#5 Objection

“Do you really want to program your mind with the words of this song?” (Give objectionable lyrics.)

#6 Role Reversal

“One day you’ll probably be a parent. Would you want the mind of your own son or daughter programmed with this message?”

#7 Encouragement

“Ultimately, it’s your decision whether your mind will be protected or polluted. Because I love you, I want to encourage you to make a commitment to keep your mind pure, regardless of peer pressure. In the long run it will pay off! What you listen to will shape your attitude, and your attitude will shape your actions. Therefore, this music is not to be played in our house. If it is, your CDs will be confiscated. I have confidence you will respect this decision because we both know it’s right in God’s sight.”

“Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path.”

(Proverbs 23:19)

Speak the Truth to Your Teen in Love

Establishing a boundary is an act of love that protects everyone involved. Enforcing a boundary is an act of love that promotes personal responsibility. Instead of overprotecting your teenagers, you need to confront their irresponsibility. Boundaries with clearly stated rewards and repercussions need to be communicated with love and without apology.

“Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”

(Ephesians 4:15)

Argumentative Teen

“I want to discuss your request, but since you continue to argue with me and even badger me, you’ll have to leave the room. We won’t discuss it further until you can talk rationally and respectfully. I look forward to when we can talk together with respect and without arguing. The timing is up to you.”

“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” (2 Timothy 2:23)

Spendthrift Teen

“I want you to realize the value of money. Rather than giving you money to pay for everything, I think you are ready to take responsibility for finding ways to pay for many of the things you want. Ultimately, I think you’ll enjoy being more responsible financially.”

“If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

Chronically Late Teen

“We need to be on time for the dinner party, and I know you want to go. If you’re ready when the car pulls out at six o’clock, we won’t have to go without you. The choice is ultimately yours.”

“Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:20)

Angry Teen

“I know you are angry, and I respect your feelings, but if you choose to yell and berate me, I will choose not to be in your presence. How you express your anger is your choice, and what I will allow in my presence is my choice. I hope we can both talk calmly soon.”

“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” (Proverbs 29:11)

Pouting Teen

“I’m always willing to talk about whatever bothers you, but it’s not best for me to try to force you to talk. When you talk is clearly your choice. And when you want to talk with me, I hope you’ll come to me.”

“A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.” (Proverbs 13:1)

Demanding Teen

“I care about your needs and desires, but I need some time to think about what you are asking. We can talk about it tomorrow.”

“Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Proverbs 29:20)

Untrustworthy Teen

“I know you want me to trust you with the car again, and that’s my desire as well. I’m sure we can get there. For us to work toward that goal, I need at least a month of your proving that you are trustworthy by going only where you say you are going. That way, I can see that you are serious about wanting my trust and being responsible with the car.”

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” (Luke 16:10)

  1. Thank-You’s from Teens

Don’t expect a bouquet of thank-you’s from your sprouting adolescents for the sacrifice and worry you experience on their behalf. Blossoms of gratitude don’t usually appear until your teenagers are away from home and facing the pressures of life in a less-than-kind world. Sometimes it takes the advent of a second generation before the light dawns and heartfelt appreciation comes your way.

Parents, live in such a way that one day you may hear—

  • “Thank you for giving me a Christian heritage.”
  • “Thank you for giving me honest answers to tough questions.”
  • “Thank you for respecting my need for independence and for giving me some space.”
  • “Thank you for giving me the freedom to fail.”
  • “Thank you for not rehearsing my wrongs.”
  • “Thank you for forgiving my hurtful remarks.”
  • “Thank you for being my parent and not my buddy.”
  • “Thank you for being friendly to my friends.”
  • “Thank you for providing more love than money.”
  • “Thank you for teaching me honesty and integrity.”
  • “Thank you for displaying before me freedom from prejudice.”
  • “Thank you for confronting inappropriate attitudes and actions.”
  • “Thank you for saying no when it would have been easier to say yes.”
  • “Thank you for being a godly parent whom I really respect.”
  • “Thank you for setting a Christlike example for me to follow.”
  1. Encouragement

Motivational Pointers for Parents

Parents who take the time to build a loving relationship with their teenagers will find that encouragement opens the door to their tender hearts.

“Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”

(Colossians 3:21)

Examine your motive for wanting your teenager to change.

  • Is it for the young person’s personal growth or because your teen’s behavior affects you negatively?

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24)

Nurture the needs of your teenager.

  • Be aware of your teenager’s inner need for significance.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

Create an environment where it is okay to fail.

  • Acceptance must not be based on achievement.
  • Communicate that failure can be viewed positively as a stepping-stone to success.

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15:7)

Orchestrate small steps to achievable goals.

  • Your teen’s heart is encouraged when results are seen quickly.

“A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.” (Proverbs 16:23)

Use the sandwich method to confront failure.

  • Bread of praise: “You are really doing well.”
  • Meat of correction: “Let’s work on improving so you can do better.”
  • Bread of encouragement: “I’m so proud of you. I know you will succeed.”

“A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!” (Proverbs 15:23)


Recognize and compliment the positive efforts and attitudes.

  • Don’t wait for final results, but give your teen praise and rewards along the way.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12)

Admit your own feelings.

  • Be open and vulnerable with your teen.
  • Don’t be afraid to cry in your teen’s presence when you are hurt.

“[There is] a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

Go to the Lord in prayer.

  • Pray for God to work actively in your teen’s life.
  • Pray blessings over your teen.

“Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.” (Psalm 116:2)

Ensure your own spiritual stability.

  • Don’t neglect your own spiritual nourishment.
  • Spend time daily communicating with God and reading His Word.

“I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.” (Psalm 119:10)

Make time for study in Scripture, for meditation, and for seeking the Lord’s wisdom.

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

(1 Corinthians 11:1)


All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®.

Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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