John stood at our door arrayed in all his black leather
splendor. Safety pins ringed his ear lobes; jewelry pierced his nose and
lips. Tattoos covered his arms. Both sides of his head were shaved, the
hair on top spiked down the middle.
Our daughter had told me her date was coming, but I wasn’t
prepared for what greeted me when I opened the door.
My thoughts raced: Should I let this road warrior in? Is
my daughter in danger? What will my congregation think if she brings
this guy to church?
“Uh, you must be John,” I managed to stutter.
“Yeah,” he smirked. “Is Amy ready?”
“Not quite.” I stalled and searched for an excuse to keep
Amy breezed into the room. “We’re off to get something to
eat and go to the game. I’ll be home at 11.”
I wanted to tackle John and scream my objections. The
counselor inside me said to stay cool and calm, but the parent in me
wanted to panic.
Amy was a junior in high school. Her grades had started
sliding, and her friends had changed. Warning clouds were gathering on
Even though Amy came home on time that night, I still felt
“Amy, we need to talk about your new friend,” I started.
“You were shocked by his looks, weren’t you?” Amy replied.
“You got it,” I said. “I’m not sure you should be hanging
with him or that kind of crowd.”
I began my sermon, pouring out all my fears about her
friends being into drugs, sex, booze and rebellion. Amy angrily defended
her friends and her right to make her own decisions. But we failed to
hear what each other was saying; the wall of miscommunication went up
and stayed up for months.
We eventually tore the wall down, and today, a decade
later, our relationship has never been stronger. But on that night years
ago, I believed our daughter’s destiny hung in the balance. A
supernatural battle had commenced, and we needed every spiritual weapon
we could muster.
Tearing down any wall between you and your teen-ager is
critical—not only for your relationship but also for your teen’s eternal
Satan does not want the next generation saved, armed and
dangerous. He deceives teens into believing their parents don’t love
them and then tries to isolate them from their parents’ protective
spiritual covering so he can attack them when they become lost and
helpless sheep (see John 10:1-18).
It’s your responsibility to take immediate steps to tear
the bricks out of the wall of miscommunication and reach out to your
teen. You may be tempted to deny the problem or to believe that time
will make the wall go away. But time doesn’t fix relationships; only God
can do that.
Bricks in the Wall
What constitutes a brick in a relational wall? A brick is a
word, action or attitude that causes hurt and divides people instead of
drawing them together. We use bricks of negative words, hurtful actions
or ugly attitudes to hurt, punish or judge another person. Here are
some big ones to avoid:
Brick #1: Failing to listen. I was so concerned about
telling Amy what I wanted her to know that I failed to listen to her.
Even when we appear to be listening, we may be inattentive, thinking
about what we are going to say next instead of listening to what our
teen is saying.
Focus on your child, and pay attention to your body
language and tone of voice. My body language was threatening, and my
voice carried the tone of an angry preacher proclaiming fire and
brimstone from the pulpit.
After I had delivered my sermon, I left our living room
and made myself unavailable. Drowning myself in work and believing that
my word was final, I drove Amy further from me. She did what she wanted
to anyway. When we are not available to our teens, we remove
accountability from the relationship.
Brick #2: Missing the point. Because I had an
agenda, I never allowed Amy to explain. I jumped to conclusions about
her and John. In any conversation involving conflict, both people have
some responsibility for the strained relationship.
The point isn’t who is right or wrong; the point is the
relationship. The only one who is 100 percent right all the time is God.
Speaking the truth in love means we must keep the friendship intact so
we can communicate God’s truth regarding a particular situation (see
Brick #3: Misinterpreting the words. You may have
the facts but misunderstand what they mean. Your teen needs to interpret
for you. Never assume anything. It’s better for your teen to think you
are dense than for you to misinterpret what’s being said.
Driving Amy away from me drove her into a relationship
with John. I had misinterpreted their relationship. He was just a
passing curiosity in Amy’s life. But the things I didn’t do for her, he
did. I didn’t listen; he did. I didn’t understand her feelings; he did. I
didn’t let her explain herself; he did. I didn’t make myself available
to her; he did.
Guard your friendship with your teen. No matter how right
you may be, without friendship you won’t be able to share truth with