Parenting Troubled Youth

Millions of youth are at risk to problems which many social workers have linked to family dissolution.  These problems include academic failure, getting into fights, drugs, and rejection by others, depression, health challenges and many other anti-social behaviors.  Such problems may also be faced by youth coming from unhappy, conflict-ridden homes, and even in cases where their parents are not divorced.  All these marital conflicts affect a child’s school performance, ability to form friendships and even increase their susceptibility to illness.  As a result of all these issues, our society has seen an increase in deviant and violent behavior among children and teenagers.  And usually, these behaviors are exhibited to express a certain need, which they have, or are part of an avenue in which they attempt to solve their problems.[1]


In general, as Dwight Sports puts it, ‘troubled young people receive less love and affection, and their fathers are less satisfactory to them than their mothers.’[2] Also, it is getting harder for parents, especially those who have issues of their own, to handle their children’s problems.  They tend to turn to others to help them address these issues in their children.  But they fail to realize that they have the greatest influencing factor in a child’s life.[3]  Indeed, parents are in charge, and we must learn to communicate with them,[4] to help them work out the issues they face in the family with their teens.


Biblical Imperatives


In every Christian home, the Word of God should form the basis of our value. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 gives parents the responsibility of teaching their children.[5]  Hence parents have this great responsibility to teach God’s laws to our children.  As for the believers who are disciples of Jesus Christ, James 1:27 talks about what is true religion in the eyes of God.  Part of it is to look after orphans and widows in their distress.  Though these youth are neither orphans nor widows, the main idea in this verse is to have genuine concern for others,[6] to help those people who are helpless and lost, those who are in great need.


          Lastly, Ephesians 2:10 also talks about ourselves as God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.  And these ‘good deeds’ are our service.  We were saved to serve God.[7] And ministry is basically a form of our service to God, by loving people and meeting to their needs. Through these good works, we glorify our Father in heaven!


The Needs


          I have raised many needs that have to be met.  As parents or believers, we can look into some of these few categories to help the troubled youth.




Youth are at different stages of their developmental growth and parents do face problems on knowing how to deal with them appropriately when their emotions are high.  They need a clear, good, biblically-defined value system displayed at home for them to guard against others as well as to lead them to discover one of their own.  As much as we want to treat our teens fairly with patience and respect, we fail to carry it off.  All these stem from a lack of understanding to the various developmental stages of an adolescent.  Parents need to be educated as they feel inadequate and insecure about their ability to parent.[8] Educational events such as seminars or workshops will be beneficial to equip them and give them some encouragement and empowerment in their ability to parent.  In addition, we also need to be updated and have a better understanding about the current youth trends.  Understanding these will help us minimize conflicts at home with our teens.




          Miriam Neff mentions that Family is the place to develop strong communication skills.  Family is the place to talk.”[9] Sad to say, harsh words of anger and expectations are often exchanged and they resulted in even more strain in family ties.  Caring communication that is committed, empathetic, and firm can significantly reduce these family strain.  Like wet clay, teens are still malleable.  They are breaking out of their childhood molds and entering into a new and qualitatively different realm of thinking, feeling and acting.  It will be confusing but exciting for them.  Teenagers will need their parents’ knowledge and support at this phase to grow healthily.


When a teenager explodes and say, “you don’t understand”, he or she might probably be right. It may be because they neither know nor couldn’t find the appropriate words to describe themselves.  In such cases, we as parent could choose to say, “Yes, even though I do not understand, I want to, and I am willing to listen to you till I understand.”  Difficult as it is, one of the challenges of understanding adolescents is to discover their motivation and understand what they are feeling and why.  This will help them to have control over their fluctuating moods and help them in expressing their feelings.  When we could identify our own feelings as adults, our children will also learn its vocabulary and express it healthily.  If we know how to communicate lovingly to our teens, we will have many opportunities to share with them their burdens.




          According to Dwight Sports, “To adequately understand a young person, therefore, we should know the forces and influences which have affected his or her life to this point.”[10] So apart from being educated and informed about these forces and influences through seminars or workshops, parents may also be educated personally through personal consultation from trained professional counselors. With this professional consultation, certain issues and problems may be addressed directly and made known to the parents upon their sharing.  This will arrest immediate issues and problems and will help parents of troubled teens know how to respond to their children immediately.  Sometimes, relationships in the family may already be strained among parents and their children, and in such cases, it will be good to have a third neutral party like these counselors to come in to help out.


No one learns to be an effective parent overnight.  Being a parent is a long-term experience.  As long as we have children, we can continue to grow.  But there is also an important place for a concentrated effort to develop our parental skills.  If we are willing to invest the time, we can make radical changes in our home environment.[11]


Let’s redirect our faith to the sovereignty of God.  “God is bigger than any crisis and He will help us through all.”[12] Only God has the ability to change the hearts of man (Proverbs 21:1).  We are only His mouthpiece to bring forth His Word to His people.  Sometimes, we just have to surrender our situations to God.  We need to recognize our human limitations and draw strength from our Almighty God.  As Ephesians 2:10 puts it, we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  We need to live such good lives so that others may see our good deeds and glorify God (1 Peter 2:12).  Let’s continue to share our faith and encourage our youth to gaze upon Jesus and draw strength from Him.  We need to point people to the love of God, which is greater than any other problems we can face in this life (Romans 8:38-39).

[1] Dwight Sports, Reaching out to Troubled Youth, ed. David Veerman (Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1994), 41.

[2] Sports, Reaching out, 33.

[3] Sports. Reaching out, 161.

[4] Sports. Reaching out, 160.

[5] Robert Joseph Choun, Jr., The Christian Educator’s Handbook on Teaching, eds. Kenneth O. Gangel and Howard G. Hendricks (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1988), 105.

[6] J. Ronald Blue, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (USA: Victor Books, 1983), 824.

[7] Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Manila, Phlippines: OMF Literature Inc., 2002), 228.

[8] Miriam Neff, Helping Teens in Crisis (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House, 1993), 65.

[9] Miriam Neff, Helping Teens in Crisis (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House, 1993), 70.

[10] Sports, Reaching out, 161.

[11] Bruce Narramore, Help! I’m a Parent (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1972), 167-68.

[12] Jay Kesler, Parents and Teenagers, ed. Ronald A. Beers (Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1987), 496.


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