Loving Teens in an Unloving World
Did you know that 60 years ago, teenagers did not exist? That is, as a separate cultural group. Before the industrial age, teens worked on their parents' farms until they got married. With industrialization, teens had a choice. They could be a weaver, a cobbler, or a machinist. But they still lived with their parents until they got married; usually in the late teens.
In the modern world teens have high school, college, and often graduate school before they get married. So they are with parents much longer. This is good news, because it gives us greater opportunity to influence their lives for good. Remember, the quality of your marriage is your greatest means of influence. They will remember your model long after they have forgotten your words.
Never Stop Loving
Do you ever get frustrated with your teenager? The teenager has a strong pull toward independence and is going through radical physical and emotional change. They are greatly influenced by their peers. In fact we often speak of teenage culture.
That culture focuses on music, dress, language, and behavior. This has often created a great divide between teens and parents. So, at a time when the teen most needs moral and spiritual guidance, parents are often rejected. Don't allow your differences to keep you from loving your teen. Love keeps the door open for your positive influence. Learn your teens love language and speak it daily. They never outgrow their need for love.
The Age of Reason
Adolescence is the age of reason. Teenagers are beginning to think logically. We say they are argumentative. Many parents have said through the years, "I think my teenager is going to be an attorney, he is so good at arguments." In reality the teen is developing his mental skills. If parents don't realize this they can create an adversarial relationship where the teen does not feel free to flex his intellectual muscles.
How do we create a positive atmosphere where we can have meaningful dialogue with our budding philosopher? In one word: love. When the teen feels loved he still may not agree with parents, but he will respect them; and be influenced by their opinions.
Recognize the Changed Culture
In my book, The Five Love Languages of Teenagers, I try to help parents understand contemporary teens. Their world is vastly different from the world in which we grew up. Think of these five areas:
Technology - They are bombarded with sights & sounds.
Knowledge and exposure to violence - it is daily and they are keenly aware of it.
The fragmented family - One teen said, "I'm the only student in my class living with my real mother and father."
Knowledge of and exposure to sexuality - overtly sexual messages bombard our teenagers daily.
Neutral moral and religious values - They are told that there are no moral absolutes.
Do you understand why I am so concerned that parents learn to love teens effectively?
Parents Take Heed
If I had one message to give to the parents of teenagers it would be this: Please remember that you still have the greatest influence on your son or daughter. We have heard so much about peer pressure, that many parents have given up on trying to influence their teen. All of the research indicates that parents have far more influence on the behavior of teens than do their peers.
Your own behavior is your greatest influence. If you are a person of honesty, loyalty, and commitment, you are greatly influencing your teen. If you give them a model of a loving marriage you are creating for them emotional security. Teens respect parents of integrity. They want you to be their hero.
Wondering what your teen's love language is? Check out the online assessment at
Adapted from The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers by Dr. Gary Chapman. To find out more about Dr. Chapman's resources, visit www.5lovelanguages.com.