A few years ago, my oldest son and I had a conversation about teenagers. I'm not sure how it came up or what we were talking about, but I remember vividly this comment: "Well, that's because they're teenagers, and teenagers do stuff like that because they're, well, bad." I looked him squarely in the eye and said, "Son, you will be a teenager in a few years, and on the day you turn 13, you will not magically turn 'bad.'" Thus began our children's education on the nature of teenagers because teenagers are NOT all bad.
However, for some reason, teenagers have gotten a bad rap. Society has told us that the teenage years are filled with anger, sullenness, rebellion, and irresponsibility. Teenagers are considered lazy, mouthy, morally irresponsible, and incapable of being well-adjusted. Is it possible that we get what we expect? Somewhere along the line, did we allow moodiness and hormones to become an excuse for bad behavior? Do we expect the worst and so we get it. "Oh, he's a teenager. What do you expect?"
I expect that my son is not going to be that kind of kid, that's what!
Benjamin Franklin became an apprentice to his half-brother at the age of 12. At age 17, he left his brother, a printer, and ran away to Boston. He got a job working for a printer, went to London, published an almanac, retired at age 42, studied electricity, invented things, became a politician, and helped found our nation. Today, a seventeen year old is still considered a "baby." When I married at 22, everyone said, "Why are you getting married? You're still a baby." When I was teaching high school at age 22, I was told I was a baby. What have we done turning 22-year-olds into babies?
Recently, our church held VBS with about 200 children attending and about 60 workers. Many of those workers were teenagers. Our youth pastor told the kids that society portrays teenagers as incapable and with that many teenagers helping VBS, something was bound to go wrong. However, because of them not in spite of them, VBS went well. They did a good job, and they should be proud. This "speech" made an impression on our son, and I want to say, for the record, "AMEN!" Teenagers are not all bad.
So what does the Bible say about youth and teenagers?
Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV) Notice here that there is no in between age filled with angst and irresponsibility. Paul does not say, "And when I was a teenager, I was an irresponsible rascal and talked back to my mother."
13I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father. 14 I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 1 John 2:13-14 (NIV) (Underlining is mine.)
Let's start teaching our children that young men and women, otherwise known as teenagers, can be an example for other believers, can put childish ways behind them, can be strong in the Lord because the word of God lives in them. Teenagers can be self-disciplined, self-controlled, responsible, dependable, and hard-working. Teenagers can make a difference in this world for the Lord, so let's start treating them that way.
Oh, and by the way, my oldest son turned thirteen in May, and I am proud to report that at this very moment, he is helping his father unload a moving truck for a single mother and her two children. Why? Because teenagers are NOT all bad!
For further reading, Dr. David Alan Black wrote a book called: The Myth of Adolescence: Raising Responsible Children in an Irresponsible Society. However, I believe this book is out of print. He wrote an article summarizing his beliefs called Want to Reform Your Youth Ministry? Reject Adolescence!
The authors of Do Hard Things, Alex and Brett Harris, have a wonderful blog. These articles on the Myth of Adolescence are excellent!
The Myth of Adolescence Part 1 and The Myth of Adolescence Part 2
Finally, Sheila Wray Gregoire wrote an excellent blog post called The Curse of Low Expectations for Teens.