In The Disciple-Making Parent, Chap Betis says that “the years of twelve to twenty-one are absolutely crucial years in our children’s walk with the Lord.” Up to age 12, they have learned the faith of their parents, but about age 12 or 13 onwards they begin the process of either making that faith their own or of walking away from it.
It’s in the early teen years that they often start asking more challenging questions, they compare what they’ve been taught with what they see in the lives of Christians, and temptation grows more frequent and powerful.
At this point Chap Betis has seen parents fall into one of two extremes: disengagement or tighten control.
Disengagement: “One group of parents backs off. They throw up their hands, looking for the youth leader to keep their kids in the kingdom.”
Tighten Control: “They still seek to make the smaller decisions for their young person just like when their child was five or six. Rather than asking questions to understand the thoughts their child is having, they’re still inclined to lecture. They do not recognize the changes that have occurred in their children.”
How then do we engage our children without controlling them? Betis answers:
Rather than employing command and control, we must become a persuading and inquiring coach. While obedience is still required, we must influence with our words, giving the reasons for what we say. This is the season of life when our emphasis should move to principles. As parents, this role change means that we are simultaneously an authority and a fellow disciple, an instructor and a fellow learner…The goal in discipleship is to move from command to persuasion, from discipline to discernment, from external controls to internal controls, and from parent control to Spirit control (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 11-12).