The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.  Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching,  for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.  My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. Proverbs 1:7-10
Many are familiar today with the British survivalist and adventurist named Bear Grylls. A few years back my kids and I got really into watching seasons of his first breakout show in the states, Man vs. Wild. We love it. Now I know lots of that show is staged and not for the survivalist purist but for what it is, we just love watching Bear. Grylls will eat anything and do just about anything to demonstrate survival techniques to viewers and some of it is just over the top. Eating bugs, snakes, raw yak meat in the mountains and squeezing liquid out of elephant dung in order to get a drink all come to mind.
On one episode, actually more than one, Bear lashed together a raft out of vines, small logs and some left over parachute cording. Bear can go down a river full of boulders, wild rapids and swirling eddies of death hanging on to a stick in the water. Why? Why can he do this? Wisdom.
With my two oldest I created a talk that I've gone through with them to describe the nature of the teenage years and we've used Bear as a guide. You can fashion your own talk along similar lines but perhaps with an illustration you vibe with.
The Bear Grylls River Talk
- Dad - do you remember that episode on Man vs. Wild where Bear Grylls goes down the river on a stick. Crazy, right!?
- Kid - yeah, awesome
- Dad - Do you think we could do that? Why do you think he can do that?
- Kid - he knows what he is doing!
- Dad - yes, he has wisdom as he's been down rivers before. He knows a flowing bump is likely a skull crushing boulder, He knows a little swirling pool of water could be a suction eddie that will pull you under and drown you. He knows which side of the river is going to be safe, what channels to avoid etc. He's done this before!
- Dad - Life is sort of this way. Each of us are heading down a river and there are many dangers, toils, snares, boulders and eddies of despair! It's also an amazing ride!
- Dad - As you are moving towards adulthood there is something we need to talk about related to the teenage years. Some in our culture hold to a narrative that goes something like this. Teenagers are supposed to think their parents are stupid and will not want anything to do with Mom and Dad. All they want to do is rebel. Parents are supposed to be hyper controlling, not letting kids do anything and trying to hold them back from growing up. So there is a lot of conflict. Do you want this for our relationship?
- Kid - no Dad, we are close and I'd like us to stay this way (this of course, depends on your relationship from birth until this day)
- Dad - me either, I love you and I want us to stay close. But you know what, our relationship must evolve and change. God intends for you to grow up and take your place in his world as a servant of the Kingdom and a mature adult. It's like we are going down the river. Until now, you have mostly been in Mom and Dad's raft but now you need to grab your stick and head down the river with us. I want you to go and enjoy the river; go for it. I need to let go a bit so you can do your thing in the world. At the same time I need you to trust me. I've been around a few years and down this river a few times. I'm going to be so proud to watch you go and grow. I also may point out a deadly boulder or two. I want you to listen to me in those times. I also want you to tell me "I got this Dad" when I need to back off. Our relationship will depend on me learning to let go and you still desiring to listen. And for us both to be honest when we feel tension. Let's reject the cultural narrative of the parent vs. teen conflict and continue together because we love each other. Cool?
- Kid - cool
I think this also gets right at the essence of problems which plague parents and teens. Parents will not let go or they clamp down too tightly. We can squeeze kids into a rebellion. At the same time teens lack the humility to continue to listen to the trusted and loving voice of parents. Parents, rejected by their teens can withdraw their wisdom and lack courage due to conflicts and drama. The tension is found on these grounds.
As my kids hit puberty and walked into the teen years, I wanted to acknowledge three things about myself to my kids. First, I'm a sinner and I will make mistakes. I will sometimes be too controlling or I will sometimes be too harsh. Forgive me in advance. Second, I do love you ever so deeply. My heart and hopes are for you. I'm not the enemy now or into the future. Third, I do know a few things about this life and life with God. I want you to continue to honor me as your Dad.
There is a quote credited to Mark Twain that is very likely apocryphal. It's attribution to Twain is likely due to its Twainishness but the quote cannot be sourced with accuracy. But nonetheless, it gets at an important truth. It reads something like this:
When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.
The point being is that kids tend to go through a temporary amnesia in adolescence but will listen once life beats them up a bit and they get a little earlier. I've shared this quote with my kids as well as a way to remind them to lean on my wisdom.
Has this talk and clarity solved all tensions that me and my teenage girls have with one another? Of course not. Did it prepare us with categories and helpful reminders for the journey that we are now traveling. Absolutely.
Talk about the evolving nature of your relationship with your kids as they come into the flow of the teenage river. In doing so your journey together can be the wild, fun, scary, dangerous and wonderful trip God created it to be.
 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.  Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching,  for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.  My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. Proverbs 1:7-10