Sometimes being a teenager is a tough job. Especially in the area of self-confidence. A significant amount of their self-worth hinges on the actions of their peers. Teenagers are extremely susceptible to believe the perception others have about them and own this as a truth. The problem is, these sometimes negative perceptions come from peers who are struggling through the same self-identity. They are almost always wrong and usually an effort by their peers to project their perceived negative image of something in their life.
Recent research indicates that teenagers are extremely receptive to suggestions, especially when they come from peers or trusted sources. When a teenager tells their peers something negative they might accept the criticism and form a false belief. This is often the catalyst for low self-esteem which carries several other negative consequences for teenagers. In essence, they begin to believe what people say about them and unfortunately internalize this through negative actions. They simply give up on certain aspects of their lives. Maybe its grades, an extra-curricular activity, or even withdraw socially.
Sounds messy! It is. Welcome to the mind of your teenager! Teenagers often base their self-worth on what other’s think about them. This is why they work hard to connect with those they see as successful. The thought being, “If I am more like them, I will be accepted and therefore, cool.” It affects a large part of their life. The clothes they wear, the places they go, the activities they take part in, how they treat their parents, and on and on it goes.
The problem with this is their sense of self-worth is largely based on the standards of a messy world that is in contrast to God’s desire. Followers of Christ should base their self-worth on God’s word and His passionate love for us. This is critical.
When I lived in Indiana I had a friend who owned a little home decoration shop. Knowing I am a fan of the arts and interesting things, she would always call me when she received a unique art piece in her shop. One day she calls to tell me she was selected to display a piece of art by Vincent Van Gogh. Say what! You know, the guy who lost an ear in a fight with a friend? What do I do? I make a B-line for her shop! Once I arrive I notice an armed guard at the entrance and an area roped off around this picture that was no bigger than a standard 8 1/2 x 11 inch piece of printing paper. Crazy. She meets me at the entrance and takes me through the crowd of people to see this “Amazing” work from one of the greatest artist of all-time.
Boy was I disappointed! I’m looking at the picture, trying to see the beauty and hype surrounding this piece of art and all I can think of is, “Really?” I was trying to keep my composure in the now crowded little shop. I whisper to my friend, “How much is this painting worth?” She whispers back, “Almost $800,000.” I almost hit the floor! Here was this small painting that literally looked like someone lost their lunch on a piece of paper and called it art. It looked like something a 6-year-old child could paint. I say to my friend, “Are you serious! That thing is worth almost $800,000?” Of course I began to joke with her about the fact that this throw up on a piece of paper could cost that much. They needed an armed guard for this! She laughs at me and says the most profound thing. She said, “Chris, it’s not what the painting looks like that gives it value, it’s who made it.”
Isn’t this a perfect representation of God and His children. It’s not what we look like that gives us our value, and our sense of self-worth. It’s who made us. We are “Fearfully and wonderfully made,” God “Knit us together in our mothers womb,” and we were ”Created in God’s image.”
If the teenager can purpose to believe the promises of God and not the immature comments from friends who are struggling though the same mental land mines, it would literally change their young lives. If teenagers can just see themselves as God see’s them and not how they are sized up by a messy, egocentric world.
Parents have the unique opportunity to greatly influence their children’s self-image. All of the recent stats show that teenagers value the opinions of their parents over all others. It’s not even close! This opens the door for parents of teenagers to build the promises of God into their child’s life through actions and words. An important role of the parent is helping to shape the self-worth of their children. I cannot stress this fact enough. Our actions, or the lack thereof, and our words have a tremendous impact on how teenagers feel about themselves. This is another reason it is critical for parents to model and speak the truth of God’s word into their children’s lives. It is a role that only parents can fill.
3 Negative Thoughts Parents Can Help Erase From their Teen’s Mind
1. “No one cares about me.” Teenagers often resort to self-pity to deal with disappointment or hurt. They must hear the message from their parents that people do care. They MUST know that their parents care. Most importantly, that God cares.
2. “I won’t succeed.” While they may not hear these exact words, teenagers often perceive through the actions of those they trust that they are incapable of achieving in a particular area. Teachers might lead them to believe they aren’t smart enough. Friends might lead them to believe they aren’t pretty, or cool enough. Parents might lead their children to believe they will never amount to anything significant. But Christian teenagers have every reason to have confidence that if they are walking with God they will succeed. Philippians 4:13 is a promise to quote to your teenager. “I can do all things through Him (Christ) who strengthens me.” Through this promise from God, teenagers will know that even when they fail or blow it, God is still at work in their young lives and is faithful to help them carry out His purposes. Huge! This literally says that nothing, not even the seemingly impossible, not even the things people tell you that you can’t do, is impossible with God. He makes all things possible.
3. “I’m Just going to Quit.” When teenagers feel they aren’t going to achieve success at a particular task, the response is to give up. Certainly there are valid reason’s why a teenager might want to stop participating in a particular activity, but most often it is the result of believing they won’t succeed. The natural response from parents in a “Buddy parent” culture is to allow their child to quit. This is a tragic mistake. This almost always communicates to your child that you agree with their assessment that they cannot succeed in that particular task. What does this teach? When things get difficult just quit.
Another reaction from parents is to do the task for their child in an effort to help them succeed. Teacher gave you a bad grade? I’ll go take care of this for you. Let me handle it. Coach not giving you playing time? I’ll have a word with that coach. I’ve even met with parents who went to their teenagers job to protest his lack of hours. So what does this communicate to your child? When things get tough, I will step in and do it for you.
Both of these approaches hinder your child’s ability to overcome a defeated/quitter mentality. If fact, most of what our teenagers see in our culture is a result of this warped mentality. A good indicator of how this affects children later in life is obvious in various immoral social behaviors commonly practiced in our culture and is a hot topic of debate in the current political season.
Two facts that come out of a recent study:
1. Parents of successful teenagers always encourage their children to finish what they start. This should be a prerequisite to engaging in all activities. If you want to play baseball I will support you 100%. But know this before you begin.You must finish what you start. Quitting is not an option.
2. Parents of successful teenagers educate their children on the consequences of poor decisions and/or use bad choices to educate. It sounds like this; “I will help you if you are struggling with a particular subject in school, but your grades will always be the result of your efforts and commitment. I will not do it for you. Let’s talk about the consequences if you choose to blow off this class.” Failure is inevitable for all of us. But our failures and bad decisions bring opportunity for tremendous growth. If we constantly rescue or children from their poor choices and failures we will miss an amazing opportunity to help them grow and perhaps cripple them for life.
Christian parents should talk with their children about the example of Christ. Despite unimaginable consequences, Jesus didn’t quit. He doesn’t have a quitting spirit, and He didn’t put a quitting spirit in your teenager. Encourage them to persevere using Christ Jesus as the greatest example.
It is also important to talk to your teenagers about God’s idea of success versus the worlds idea. Teenagers often measure success by the world’s standard which can take them far from God’s desire. This can lead them to take part in good and morally sound activities that actually hinder their spiritual growth. Christian parents help shape their children by helping them think through what’s best for their relationship with God, not their relationship with the world and its idea of success. After all, the things we can achieve in this world, success, prominence, coolness, or monetary gain, will one day disappear and the only thing that will matter on that day is what we did with Christ Jesus. Parents of teenagers often put more emphasis on the temporary over the eternal.
A couple of verses that will encourage your teenagers toward perseverance:
Jeremiah 29:11; Philippians 4:13
Last Thing . . .
It is critical for your teenager to see their life in relation to being a follower of Jesus. This is what Paul means when he tells the church at Colossae (Colossians 3:17), “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Everything we do as followers is to bring God glory and used for His purposes both in our lives and in the lives of those He allows us to influence. This changes everything. We play baseball for God’s glory and His purposes. We study for our test to bring God glory and for His purposes. We take a job and work hard to bring God glory. Imagine how this can greatly change a teenagers perspective! Maybe the conversation can look like this:
Daughter: Hey! I love you. Did you have a good day? Can I help you with something? Oh, by the way, can I start taking dance lessons?
Parent: Dance lessons? Why do you want to take dance lessons?
Daughter: Because it looks fun, and I’ve always wanted to do it, and my friend is taking dance, (takes a breath), and I will clean my room every day and do all my jobs around the house if you will let me take dance! Please, please, please!!!! (Gives pout face)
Daughter: God? What does God have to do with me taking ballet? Did I tell you how much I like your hair today?
Can you imagine the potential for a great, relevant, and real world conversation between parent and teen? Can you also imagine how this will help your child stick to their commitments? It changes the focus from doing something to bring them glory (which when they fail they will just quit and see themselves as a failure), to engaging in an activity to bring God glory. It makes all the difference.
Parents are in the absolute best position to help shape their teenagers perspective of themselves and ultimately understand their relationship with God. Teenagers who understand their position in Christ and learn to live their lives according to His purposes will still fail. They will still make mistakes. The big difference is their failures and mistakes are now viewed within the context of their relationship with a loving Father. A wonderful Savior who did not fail, loves us unconditionally, and is able to take our failures and messiness and use them for our good and His glory.
Love God. Love Parents and Teenagers!