Wasting the Teenage Years

The teenage years are an important time in one’s life. Therefore, we ought to think seriously about how these years are spent. How are parents to teach and encourage their teenage children? What should children be pursuing in their teenage years?

I read a post from Jason Hardin that got me thinking along these lines. It contained excerpts from the book, Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. I haven’t read the book, so I’m not qualified to endorse it. But the quotes that Jason shared from it were very good. The basic theme is that we, as a culture, have allowed the teenage years to evolve into a wasted time of short-sighted irresponsibility.

The way many in the world view these years is that it is a time to focus on social interactions, unrestrained fun, freedom from responsibility, and schooling – not for the purpose of life preparation, but simply for the sake of education, even if it is without direction and usefulness.

Christians, of course, are to have a different mindset than the world (cf. Romans 12:1). Rather than focusing as the world does, we should view the teenage years as a time to prepare for the responsibilities of adulthood. Parents are to raise their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). So what values should we be working to instill in our teenage children that would prepare them for adulthood?

Hard Work – Paul explained the need for one to work to provide for himself. “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). This responsibility to take care of one’s household (1 Timothy 5:8) further establishes the need to be diligent in work. If one does not learn the importance of hard work in his youth, when will he learn it? “It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke in his youth” (Lamentations 3:27), because it is at this time that he is best suited to do so. “The glory of young men is their strength” (Proverbs 20:29).

Independence – Though a preacher of the gospel, Paul often worked to support himself. The reason he did this was to teach a lesson. He told the brethren in Thessalonica, “nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example” (2 Thessalonians 3:8-9). Paul’s example was one of independence and not relying upon others for our own sustenance. This independence is also necessary in marriage, as a man is to “leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife” (Genesis 2:24). The teenage years should be a time of increased independence (and therefore, responsibility) in order to prepare for adulthood.

Stewardship — The prodigal son behaved like many teenagers are expected to behave: irresponsible, short-sighted, and disrespectful. But when the money ran out and he found himself poor and hungry, “he came to his senses” and realized that it would be better for him to work as a servant (Luke 15:17-19). Rather than squandering our livelihood, we need to make sure we take care of ourselves (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12), our families (1 Timothy 5:8), and try to put ourselves in a position to be able to help others (Ephesians 4:28). Good stewardship also includes avoiding debt whenever possible. The wise man said, “The borrower becomes the lender’s slave” (Proverbs 22:7). Many adults are saddled with huge amounts of debt because they did not learn restraint and self-control during their teenage years.

Spirituality — The most important thing that parents can teach their children is the need to serve God. Timothy had a solid foundation, being taught from childhood “the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Young people are admonished, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, ‘I have no delight in them’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). Parents need to be teaching their children about God and His will. Teenagers need to be developing their faith so that it is their own, and not just something their parents taught them. If one does not do this, he will be ill-prepared for the challenges that will come in college or the workplace.

As parents work to teach these values to their children, the children should take their instruction and learn to build upon these principles for themselves. One should not wait for the “magic” age of eighteen or twenty-one to begin the work of developing these characteristics, lest they risk becoming one of the many young adults who cannot or will not take responsibility for themselves and must rely on their parents’ for their livelihood. The sooner one begins developing these qualities, the better. As parents, we play an important role in this development.

Let us not view the teenage years as a time of reckless irresponsibility, but of preparation for adulthood. It is fine that one responsibly enjoys their youth. “Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things” (Ecclesiastes 11:9). Remember your accountability before God. This understanding should impact our lives at the present time, as well as how we prepare for our future.

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