Tag Archives: sin

Before the Teen Years: Living Redemptively in Our Homes

This is the second article in the series: Before the Teen Years. If you missed the first one, or the post 8 Things that Parents Can Do Now to Shape the Teenage Years that sparked this series they are linked at the bottom.

Today I want to focus on #2 in my list of eight. I said:  “Live redemptively in your home. This means owning up to your sin instead of hiding it, dismissing it or justifying it. Let your kids hear you confess and ask for forgiveness. Tell them how unlike Jesus you are, which is why we need him. When they know mom and dad need a Savior, it will help them see their own need to live dependently on Jesus.”

Owning Up to Our Sin

Why is this so hard? Not just in front of our kids, but with our spouses, friends and in all other relationships?

My husband likes to say the problem is not that we sin, it’s what we do with our sin. Can you imagine how much better our relationships would be simply by how we handle our sin? But fear keeps us from living redemptively. (By “redemptively,” I mean living out the gospel with one another; confession, repentance, grace, forgiveness – repeat!)

We fear what others will think of us if they see our sin, detect our false gods or the true motives behind what we say and do. So we deny it, justify it, or flat out ignore it. Believing they’ll actually think better of us if we act like it’s not there is absurd! Seriously, think about it: If you’ve seen my sin but instead of me confessing and asking for forgiveness I self-justify, won’t you be more bothered than had I humbly owned up to it? So why are we living delusional – avoiding conflict and true heart conversations? And in doing so we are teaching (inadvertently, of course) our kids to do the same.

Letting Your Kids See You Need Jesus

How different things could be if your kids and spouse see you as a regular repenter. When we put our sin on the table to deal honestly with it, we not only move the conversations in our homes from surface-level to the heart, but we show our kids by word and deed we are sinners in need of Jesus.

If this is the message we want them to embrace, I can tell you they need to see it applies to you, too. Otherwise, do you think they will feel free to divulge what’s really going on in their heart? Nope. Not unless they see YOU are in the same boat.

The best part of them seeing you are not Jesus is the opportunity to tell them again and again why you need him. Jesus is everything for you that you are not. Where you have sinned, he met the standard perfectly. So for all the times you’ve lost your patience and lashed out in anger at your kids, Jesus never lost his patience or acted sinfully in his anger. And because he was perfect for you, God views you according to his record!

This is the good news of the gospel that is often left off, but it is vital to understanding that for the believer our sin does not cancel out God’s love. We are at the same time more sinful that we even realize and more deeply loved than we can grasp. This is our true condition that both we, and our kids, should live freely in.

What this would look like is: your kids in their sin knowing they can go to you, and to God with no shame or fear of rejection. Can you imagine how this would help in the teen years and beyond? How this would change the dynamics in your family? How this would shape their future relationships?

Living redemptively in our homes starts with you acknowledging your sin. Next post we’ll talk about shepherding their hearts rather than solely focusing on behavior and I can guarantee how you handle your sin will absolutely effect how they take correction when it comes to their sin. So stay posted for more in this series…

For previous posts in this mini-series:
Before the Teen Years: Getting to the Heart of Sin with Our Kids
8 Things that Parents Can Do Now to Shape the Teenage Years

Before the Teen Years: Getting to the Heart of Sin with Our Kids

Last week my post, 8 Things Parents Can Do Now To Shape The Teen Years Ahead, was so widely read and shared that my supposition behind the article seemed confirmed: Parents of younger kids are fearful for the teen years ahead and want tips and guidance. While following steps makes us feel more in control, it does not guarantee smooth sailing. We, and our children are sinners, and we live in a fallen world so there will be struggles. But for the parent of younger children reading this, I hope this new mini blog series entitled Before the Teen Years will serve to shape your parenting perspective so you feel better equipped to walk into the years ahead.

And for those parents already in the thick of the teen years, it’s never too late to undo, redo or make changes if need be. No matter what your story, may you be encouraged to keep pursuing truth with your teen even when it seems easier to throw up your hands in defeat. Satan would love for you to buy that lie that “teens will be teens” and what you say doesn’t matter, but it’s not true!

So the first of this series: Getting to the Heart of Sin with Our Kids

In my previous post I said: “Create categories for understanding their heart. Talk about sin as idolatry- whatever rules their hearts is what they functionally look to for ‘life’ instead of God. Even if your child is too young to understand, remember teaching precedes understanding. If they already know the terminology and have been trained to think deeper about what is going on in their hearts, the conversations will naturally go deeper as they grow older.” Now I want to break this down.

Creating Categories For Understanding the Heart

We don’t like to use the word “sin.” Maybe in part because we think making them think they are “bad” will hurt their self-esteem. But I also think it’s because we don’t really know the depth of sin. Sin is more than bad behavior; it is a heart condition and without the contrary influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives it is our human default mode!

Romans 3:10-12, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Our kids need to know this foundational truth- and so do we. When we start with this premise, God and his grace become bigger. We see (and they see) how desperately needy we are of Jesus’ worth and work for us, and how amazing it is we can claim it as our identity!

Additionally, when we understand our natural bent toward sin, instead of being shocked by it (which leads our kids to deny it or hide it from us) we can enter in to theirs with compassion. When they see this as our response it makes it easier for them come to us and not cover from us. And isn’t that what we want, teens who talk?!

Talking About Sin as Idolatry

At the core of all sin is misplaced worship onto something other than God. Or you could say, turning away from God and to a false source for identity/worth/life. It’s the reason the first of the 10 Commandments is, “You shall have no other gods besides me (Exodus 20:3).”  Breaking all other commandments also includes breaking #1. So whether I steal, covet or bear false witness against another I am being ruled by something other than God. Perhaps its my desire to look better at the expense of someone else. Or, my looking to possession to give me status and acceptance. It’s the why behind my actions, which always points to an idol. Therefore we must connect these dots for our kids so they learn to trace their behavior backwards to uncover the lies they are believing to be true and false gods they are looking to for life.

Teaching Precedes Understanding

Depending on the age of your child, the concept of sin as idolatry might be impossible to initially grasp, but it doesn’t mean we wait until they do. Our teaching is what shapes understanding. By creating the categories to explain their actions (the sin beneath the sin) when they are young, you are giving them the eyes to better see Jesus through a deeper understanding of what’s going on below the surface in their hearts. You are also setting in place the normal dialogue of these types of heart conversations.

I can tell you from life with my own teenagers, it’s not that having this understanding will prevent them from chasing false gods and buying into Satan’s lies; just as it doesn’t for us. But with the right foundation of who we are and who God is, coupled with an instilled belief that they can always come freely to his throne of grace (without condemnation and shame) the hope is they will have the eyes to discern truth and see their need. This is what I want most for my kids; not for them to always be happy or never to sin (because that’s not possible). But if they know Jesus is safe to go to, always forgiving and forever faithful, even when they are not, may they experience the realities of his love and desire to live for him.

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What Teen Boys Battle Just like the Girls (and Adults too!)

In 2015 I conducted an online anonymous teen survey that spread nationwide. I created the survey after learning how social media had negatively contributed to my own daughter’s sense of worth and belief that if she was struggling so many other teenagers must be too. I was right. This data collected is the backbone of my new book.

The original survey went to both girls and boys, but after talking to my publisher about the heart-breaking and eye-opening information filling my inbox we decided to hone in on just the girls. But it absolutely does not mean teen boys are not also struggling. They are… maybe even more unnoticed.

Everything I wrote in Face Time is everything boys need to hear too. I know that from the survey results, and more personally because I have two teenage boys.  Therefore, I felt like I needed to write this post to say that while Face Time is for girls it does not mean boys are immune to struggles with identity and worth. In fact, the content of Part I of Face Time is as applicable to a teen boy, as a teen girl or an adult man or woman. This is because no matter who we are, our hearts are the same!

By God’s design we long for approval, acceptance and love. But we were made to know and feel our worth perfectly in his absolute approval, irrevocable acceptance and loyal love.  But we think his approval, acceptance and love is not enough. So instead of resting secure in who Jesus is for us, we try to secure our worth by gaining the approval, acceptance, attention and love of others.

We do this by looking to our appearance, performance, achievements and status as the qualifier for how well, or how poorly we fair. For a teen boy it may play out like this…

  • He feels inadequate not playing on the “A” team or varsity so he tries to prove his worth and gain the acceptance of others by bragging about how good he really is. The may be coupled with how unfair tryouts were and by talking smack about the guy in the position he covets. By tearing the other guy down he seeks to elevate himself so others accept him; think more highly of him.
  • He is insecure about some aspect of his appearance, so he overcompensates by acting as the class clown. But by drawing attention to himself and receiving laughs what he seeks is to know his worth. To know he’s okay despite his perceived flaws.
  • He is excluded from a social gathering, and retreats into himself, secretly feeling like a nobody. He may blame the others (and there is no doubt kids can be mean), but his own idol is looking to the approval or inclusion of others as the basis of his worth.
  • He gives into peer pressure -starts drinking, smoking pot, having sex – in an effort to look/be cool or to fit in.  Appearing cool, or rebellious, gains him the approval, friends and popularity he craves, which is where he looks to find his identity and worth.
  • He asks for nude pictures from a girl and then shares them in the locker room. Because of the so-called respect he gets from the guys, he too feels cool. At the girl’s expense, his own status and felt worth is increased. On the flip-side her reason for sharing the pictures also stem from a longing for approval and love, which is unpacked further in Face Time.

As parents we can’t take everything at face value. We have to get to the heart (the root) of why they do what they do, and see it for what it is – the idol that’s ruling them.  Whatever it is they (or we) turn to for identity and worth, to fill us, to give us security apart from God is an idol. Uncovering these idols and seeing them as sin is hard, but necessary and good.

Until our kids (and again, us) see how deeply entrenched our sin is – that it’s not just bad external behavior, but our inner desires, motives and idolatry – we miss seeing how deep our need of Jesus’ worth and work for us really is. Therefore, our view of Jesus rises and falls on how much (or little) we need him.

I don’t know about you, but more than my sons’ happiness and success, I want them to become men who know they need Jesus, live under his smile and desire to please him not out of duty, but delightTo get there, my job must be to help them peel back the layers of why they do what they do to see what rules them. And then point them to Jesus.

It is his perfect performance – not theirs – that their true identity must be rooted in.  When it is:  They won’t have to try to assert, defend or prove themselves, work to impress others or try harder to measure up. They won’t have to live threatened by others’ accomplishments or less than in comparison. And while they will experience disappointment, hurt feelings and rejection (just as teen girls do) my prayer is it won’t define them or rock their core because they will know their secure identity and worth in Christ.

For us as parents, being rooted in Christ means we can live free of tying our worth to our kids successes and/or failures and worrying what other people think. We can live loved – fully accepted, knowing we have the absolute approval of the King. And when we do, may his love and acceptance of us drive us to be compassionate toward others in their sin.  For our kids too, let’s encourage them to reach out to love (not ostracize and judge) those seeking an identity in all the wrong places. Because when we know our own sinful heart tendencies and God’s goodness to us despite it, we should be people of grace and mercy who speak to the hope and security found only in Christ.

If you woud like to further unpack the content of this blog for yourself and to help speak into your kids's hearts, Face Time may be the book for you (even if you don't have a teen daughter). To preorder click: here.