Chicken Soup For The Teenage (Parent's) Soul

If you're a mom of younger children (who read today's post title) and are about to leave my blog, don't do it! Today's lessons can never be applied too early, I promise. For those of you visiting from Marybeth's blog looking for my chicken noodle soup recipe, it'll be here shortly. First I want to share a recipe from a friend who's joining us for our"D6 Month of Encouragement for Moms".

Author, Suzie Eller, is here to what she learned during her survey of hundreds of teenagers for her book, "Real Issues, Real Teens: What Every Parents Needs to Know." Susie wanted to find out how parents can hinder or help their teen's faith. Here is what she wrote:

Listen to what these children had to day about faith:

  • God gets sad if you tell a lie, or if you hurt somebody, or if you sneeze on someone on purpose (Shelby, age 7)
  • God is in love with your heart. He made people with hearts and he also made trees. But people are harder to make than trees. (Sara, age 6)

Sweet, isn’t it? But what happens as a child grows up and their view of God becomes more complex? It might just look like this:

  • My parents could impact my faith if they would believe it themselves. (Gemma M., Age 13)
  • I know that you want to protect me, but I need to figure out some things on my own, including where I stand with God and making God my own instead of my parents’ God. (Janelle T., Age 15)

I was 15 when I became a Christian. My family was unchurched. All I knew is that my life was turned upside down by a God I formerly didn’t believe existed. When I became a parent I wanted my children to love and know His amazing love. I read devotions. I prayed with them. I shared Scripture. But many years later I’ve learned one very powerful truth: Most of what we teach our teens about God is not about what we say. Rather they learn about God as they watch our lives.

Scary thought, isn’t it?

Paul the Apostle, a straightforward kind of guy, once said in Philippians 4:9, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.”

Your teen will hear a thousand messages about faith in their lifetime, most of them from people who don’t believe. So what we show our children about faith becomes even more vital.

But what are we teaching them? I talked with hundreds of teens and they said there are four things that parents do that can make faith difficult to comprehend. I'll share two of them with you today and two more tomorrow:

Mistake #1—Make Everything a Religious Issue
A teen was making Mac and Cheese and added water instead of milk. It was a sticky mess. Her mom came into the kitchen and gave her a long spiritual discourse on wastefulness. This teen was ripe for a lesson on how to read a recipe, but instead it became about God. To a teen, it’s confusing when your faith is judged on how clean your room is, or what you are wearing, or what your friend did last weekend. Faith becomes less about Christ and more about pleasing you.

I can hear a parent now. Do we just let them run rampant? Absolutely not! As parents, we have a responsibility to teach our children core lessons about responsibility, respect, etc. But when we tie God into it, a teen might begin to perceive God as a boomerang God who zaps down from Heaven every time they don’t pick up their socks.

The question becomes: If God gets mad over something like not following directions to make mac-and-cheese, what will he do if I make a serious life mistake?

Mistake #2— Not exploring the Christian faith
I wasn’t raised in church. One day I didn’t have faith. The next day I did. It was black and white for me. Jesus transformed my life! But my children were in church the week after they were born. It is a rich heritage, one I wish I had been given, but my children had to eventually sort through what was faith vs. church activities to discover the reality of Jesus for themselves.

When a teen squestions about Christianity, some parents feel threatened. But for most it’s the beginning of a personal faith journey. They are sorting through to find out who God is to them. When my son asked the hard questions, I wanted to give a pat answer: just believe!

But instead, we talked about it. When I didn’t know the answers, we found resources or books that addressed his doubts so that Ryan could dig deeper. I prayed often. It was a hard time because I wanted Ryan to know Christ in an intimate and powerful manner. But I was forced to acknowledge this truth: Christ had drawn me to him. He would do the same for my son.

We continued to go to church as a family, but as a young adult Ryan’s personal faith life was between him and God. Ryan told me later that the determining factor had nothing to do with what we said. He saw his mom turn to God in hard times. He saw joy when his dad prayed.
I wanted to say a million words to him during that time, but it was our lack of words that he heard the loudest."

T. Suzanne (Suzie) Eller is a Proverbs 31 speaker, youth culture and parenting columnist, and author of several books including Real Issues, Real Teens: What Every Parents Needs to Know. or

Mom Give-Aways

Today's give-away includes a copy of Suzie's book, Real Issues, Real Teens: What Every Parents Needs to Know and Finding Home by Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family. To be part of the give-away, click on the words "comments" below this post. PLEASE include your email so we can get in touch if you win!

If you'd like a reminder each time I post, enter your email address in the box on my sidebar where it says, "Delivered by Feedburner." If you'd like to know more about D6 and the D6 Conference, click on "What's D6?" in my top menu bar for lots of great information. And remember, we'll be giving away gifts every day, so be sure to come back for more mom encouragement and resources from D6 and Proverbs 31 Ministries!


Blogger maryw said...

I will be entering the teenage years sooner that I want. I like to soak up all the faith advice I can get.

Anonymous jennp said...

my son is just a toddler...but what great advice and reminders in your devotional today! thanks for your inspiring and Biblical words.

Blogger Donna L said...

Thank you so much for sharing your heart this morning. I have three teenagers and I can definitely relate to this. They too have been brought up in church all of their lives. But, words are simply words and in the long run , seeing the faith of my husband and myself in action will speak much more volume. Thank you for the encouragement and reminder that our children are watching us every day and they see if we are honest or not when someone gives us back too much change. They see us either living out the Christian life or they see us saying one thing and doing something different.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just became mom of a teen last did that happen...he was just born ;-)
I am loving your blog...thanks for all you do!

Anonymous Suzanne Eller said...

Thanks, Renee, for sharing this. We talk more about this topic at my site today. Blessings, friend!

Blogger Luanne said...

I'm a mom of teens--and would love reading these books! Thanks for entering me!

Blogger Susan said...

Thanks for these wonderful ideas. As a parent of two teenager daughters this is especially helpful. If I'm not a winner (I NEVER win), I will be purchasing these books. Have a happy Monday!!


Blogger Joanie Butler said...

Great food for thought. I think the hard thing is to find teachable moments that point toward Jesus, without making everything an issue of faith as was pointed out in tip #1. As I see it, the offense that needs instruction should be one that easily relates to a spiritual issue. In other words if my son spills dog food all over the floor and fails to clean it up, this is not a time to teach a spirtual lesson, but rather to teach him a life lesson about the importance of cleaning up. However, if he uses harsh and hurtful words when playing with a friend, then I could use that as a teachable moment of faith. Am I on the right track here? I would love to hear from others about this topic as I think that this is crucial in helping our children grow toward Christ; along with us living our faith outloud for them to witness.

Blogger Shannon said...

Going through these issues with teens right now....thanks for these two posts! (today and tomorrow!) I really need it!


Anonymous Margaret said...

Hey Renee,
This book sounds amazing and this post was great. It has been great to see my children develope there own devotional time and to say "mom please pray with me about _______". They are ages 16-20. The topics they need help with now are much more difficult then when they were young and for them to see faith lived out in my life is so important. Raising teens will definitly require strong faith, so they will get to see plenty of it in action!ha. Ones growth in a personal friendship with Christ never ends and ones growth in faith doesn't either. It is a daily and continuous walk no matter what age.
Sweet Blessings,

Blogger Stacey said...

Doing the teen thing now; ouch.

Blogger Casey S. said...

I have an almost 19 year old and almost 10 year old. There are mistakes that I have made with my first son that I have tried to make a mental note of for when my youngest son gets to that age. Thank you for sharing. You can never get to much advice.

God bless.

Anonymous Lisa V said...

Not about what we say, but how we live our lives. Oh yes, scary indeed. Always goes back to the heart, huh?

Lisa V

Anonymous Miriam said...

I have younger children but appreciate any wisdom about the teen years before those years are upon me. Thanks for reminding me not to (Tip # 1) turn every mistake/situation into a spiritual lesson--to discern when to speak and when to pray/be silent. This is great advice for guiding little ones too. I can see it will be a challenge to let my children develop their own faith journey apart from my "careful influence". I think these years must be infused with quiet, prayerful support, patience, Godly modeling, and acceptance of our children's unique qualities.

Blogger momagain67 said...

Parenting a teen definitely brings with it a unique set of challenges -- but brings wonderful rewards as well. Just the past couple years my 15yr old daughter and I have enjoyed doing Bible studies together and have had some really great in depth conversations about faith. But then, oh yes, there are the eyerolls and the testing of authority...etc. And the really lovely thing for me is that as soon as my "hands on" parenting years are done with my oldest, my now 5yr old will just be approaching those tween years. So please Renee, keep up your blogging...I need all the support I can get :)


Blogger 4torock said...

I just happened to see your blog through a frined of mine- Mary Beth! I was looking or your chicken noodle soup details ( check her blog out to see why?? lol) but.... found so much more! Thank you for your wonderful words and i would LOVE to read this book:)

Blogger Mocha with Linda said...

I'm smack dab in the middle of the teenage years! Those are great words!

Blogger Wendy Blight said...

Thanks for these great words of wisdom. I have a teenage daughter and the message about not making everything a spiritual issue hits home with me!! Something I needed to hear...and need to be reminded of as I walk this journey with her.

Blogger Happy Four said...

Thank you for the words of wisdom today.

Blessings, Caroline

Blogger Joyful said...

What a wealth this is today. Thank you for sharing these riches of wisdom. Praying the Lord will help me apply this advice in my life so that my son will see Jesus in me and long to follow hard after Him.

Love & prayers,

Blogger Wendi said...

Teenagers! I can't wait until tomorrow for the next two mistakes I most likely have made. This sounds like a book my hubby and I should study together. Thanks!

Blogger Victoria said...

I am not a mom of teens, but I have 4 siblings-in-law who don't know the Lord and a mother-in-law who knows she needs to be back with Him for things to start improving. Thanks for the reminder that even as an older sister, these kids are watching what my husband do and how we act. (reality check) Whoever gets the book will have a blessed legacy! God bless.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My oldest just turned 13 and I have two more that will be teens too soon. Thanks for your post.


Blogger DebbieC said...

I am a mom of two daughters, 26 and 30 who are now moms. I am now sharing the wonderful truths God has given you with them.
My youngest daughter who is a single mom of a 2 year old boy has voiced the thoughts in today's message so many times. She doesn't have a computer, so I try to print your messages of encouragement and hope and mail them to her.
She has thanked me, more than once, for being real in my faith (I didn't see it; I'm glad she did).
My oldest daughter just became a mother of a beautiful little girl at Christmas, so I am forwarding your messages to her.
May you continue to stay in God's presence and may He continue to bless you with His wisdom, mercy and strength.

Count me in!

In His Graces~Pamela

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great devotional today. I always find strength and encouragement in your words.
I have a 17 year old son and a soon to be 3 year old daughter. I wish I knew what was going on with my teenage son. He is quiet and doesn't talk about whats on his mind. He's a good kid, goes to church without being told to but really lacks respect for me and his grandparents. Never picks up after himself. It seems like he doesn't appreciate anything we do for him. Maybe thats just a typical teenager, LOL.
My 3 year old daughter, is beautiful and makes we want to pull my hair out on a daily basis. My nerves has definitely worsened over the years. She doesn't mind at all and is quick to say NO a hundred times a day. I'm praying this is just the terrible two's as they say.
God Bless,

Anonymous Janice said...

Thank you for the insights this morning. Faith vs Church activity is exactly what I needed to read today. I am separated from my husband and our 14 yr old daughter is given the choice of church with me or church with her dad. It is a very sad circumstance. She lives with me and with all my heart I want to give her my faith. I cannot. She will need to develop her own personal relationship with Jesus. Your book sounds like part of the answers I am looking for

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! This has brought me to tears.I have been praying and these past 2 weeks God has shown me some truth. I am a single mom with an 11 yr. old daughter whom I share custody of. Her father and I live very different lives. She and I have been distant lately. I've realized that I cannot keep pushing her. She is a beliver, I will continue to pray for her. Thanks so much for this story.

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