One of the mantras of behavioral psychology is the need to be consistent in your parenting. Satan takes this principle and deceives parents into over-using it. While consistency in daily schedules and in applying rules helps with young children, parents can take this too far. They feel like they have to maintain a steady course, even when that course is not working, so they resist change to the detriment of their parenting. God's example shows us that parents must adapt as their children mature. This is especially true as your children navigate the teen years.
Here are three major adaptations, modeled by Christ with His disciples, you must make as you parent teens for launch.
1. Teach your children about prayer, encouraging them to develop a life of prayer. Jesus spent much of His final year on earth teaching His disciples about prayer. This became clear to me as I studied the gospel of Luke. Luke is the one gospel writer who states as his aim to give an orderly (linear) account of Jesus's ministry on earth. As such, I believe we can see the adjustments that Jesus made during His three years as indicators of His strategic teaching plan. The fact that most of Christ's teaching on prayer occurs late in the book of Luke, then, is no accident.
Prayer will be your child's primary connection to the source of all wisdom. By helping them develop a consistent discipline of prayer, you help your children find guidance for the tough decisions they will face as young, independent people. The risk and penalty for making bad decisions is high for this generation, as our society has removed the traditional restrictions on sex, drugs, and self-indulgence. It's no wonder Jesus taught consistently and urgently on prayer, even to His last day on earth. Luke's gospel is not alone in showing us this. Read John chapter 17 to hear Jesus's prayer for His disciples on the night of His betrayal. He taught and modeled prayer. You, parent, should as well.
2. Introduce your child to the Holy Spirit. As Jesus neared the end of His time on earth, he taught more and more about the coming Helper, like Himself, who would be with and in the disciples. Of course, this step presumes that your child is a Christian. When we are born again into God's kingdom, the Holy Spirit comes to live in us. But that doesn't mean we listen well, or are even aware of His presence in us. We must be taught to listen for His voice, and to rely on His promptings. Do your part in this by helping your child discern the voice of the Spirit. You may need to work on this for yourself, and as you do, share what you learn with your teen.
Even if your child is not yet a believer, you can share how the Holy Spirit helps you. You can talk about how the Holy Spirit makes your Christianity real and imminent. Interpret events in your life through a spiritual lens. When your prayers are answered, discuss this with your children. When you struggle, share how you go to God's Word for answers, or for comfort when the answers don't immediately arrive. As you do, you live a transparent Christian life before your child.
3. Begin to think about sending your child into the world, and not just letting them go. Many parents prepare for the trauma of letting their children go. But this is a frail, negative, unbiblical mindset. Jesus didn't let His disciples go. He powerfully, actively, intentionally sent them. He gave them a clear mission. He prepared them for opposition.
In His final phase of training Jesus spoke often about the cost of discipleship--the cost of being His friend. Teach your children about the cost of following Jesus. It's a cost that emboldens us not simply to walk through life avoiding pain, but to seek the battle of self-sacrifice in serving Christ. This generation is looking for such a challenge. They are looking for a big reason to live, and Christ's mission is just that—big.