The last thing that an adolescent, or anyone who is younger than eighteen, needs to be doing is looking at himself.
He needs unconditional love all the more, especially during the harder times of dealing with an expanding mind, a changing body, and a world which throws nothing but rules and regulations at him, many of which are both complex and conflicting.
When my sister and I were growing up during our teen years, we were pushed into the AA program by our mother. Every day, she would take out the "AA"book, read us a chapter from it, tell us how she was going over the steps laid out in the program, how she was protecting us from our alcoholic father.
There is only one problem: my father is not an alcoholic. He did not have drinking problem. I am not saying this to place him on a pedestal or to deny that there were problems in the family, but the truth is that my father never abused alcohol.
My mother had fallen into the cult sway of seeing everything through the shaded, faded classes of Bill W. and the "AA" way the world works. Everyone was an alcoholic or in denial. I was an alcoholic who didn't drink, and so was my sister, the neighbors down the street, and the rest of the world, one way or another.
Of course, my sister and I would take our inventory. We never went to church. Instead, we would go into someone's room and read a passage out of the Bible.
I suffered a severe depression in those days, most likely because everything was rules and condemnation. Taking your inventory, looking at yourself, trying to change the way that you feel, all of that focus on self is so painful and miserable. And to be a teenager always looking a yourself only makes things worse.
I write this post in the hopes that the parents out there who are struggling with their teenage children do not lost patience or hope. Do not try harder, do not lay more rules on your kids. Let the unconditional love of Christ Jesus transform you, and He will begin to work in the lives of your children. Too many of us are motivated by fear., when we are called to walk by faith, and faith works through love, God's love for us.
If we doubt this love, it is only because we do not understand how much God loves us, that His forgiveness for all our sins is total and eternal, and everlasting righteousness.
This foundation of unconditional love is what every child needs. The biggest problem for parents is that many of them think that they have to provide it. In truth, they need to receive this love in Christ, and then they can share the same love with their children. This perfect love will cast out every fear, including the lingering concern which leads too many parents to resist standing up to their children when they refuse to listen. Discipline does not mean shame, blame, or regret.
Having written the following, I must share that AA is not for kids, a program which teaches them early to look at themselves all the time, to walk around in a cloud of condemnation. For this reason, among others, I am writing to tell people to get out of AA, to stop teaching people that the only that one can live is to keep confessing sins. Kids do not need to know how bad they are, they do not need more shame in their lives. What they need is to know the unconditional love of Christ Jesus, and through this love comes the stability to stand up to challenges, including oneself, and reign in life.