Almost everyone looks back on their middle school years and cringes a little bit. We remember the awkwardness and the constant desire to fit in, to be accepted, to find our place. We remember the constant wrestling with peer pressure and other people’s expectations. We remember trying to figure out who we are in this world and how we are supposed to live. As we look back on all of these things, and the way we handled them, sometimes we smile, but often mostly we cringe.
In reality, this is all part of growing up. The Bible describes immaturity as being easily swayed in various directions. In Ephesians 4, Paul talks about the importance of being mature in the Christian life. He describes immaturity by saying that we should “no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14, ESV). Immaturity is being easily swayed and tossed to and fro. Isn’t this a an accurate description of what our middle school lives felt like? That’s simply because we were still in the process of growing up.
As parents, it’s important for us to remember a couple things. We need to take time to remember what was going on in our own lives when we were in middle school. As we mature, it is easy for us to forget what those struggles were and then look down on our children for wrestling in the same ways. By taking the time to remember our own struggles, we enable ourselves to understand what is going on inside of them.
Our children need adults willing to tune in and invest in their lives. Young people will be more willing to follow our example and hear our wisdom if they recognize that we care about them. A child's life may seem unburdened from an adult perspective, but it is turbulent and unclear to the child. To them it's always uncharted territory. It is easy to become frustrated with their behavior, but it is helpful to slow down and seek to understand what is going on in their hearts and minds that shaped their decisions.
We can also open up our understanding of how to help them work through these struggles and move toward maturity. Ask yourself the question, “What happened in my life that helped me mature beyond being controlled by other people’s opinions?” Take some time to really, truly answer this question about your own life. Then, when you come up with an answer, take the opportunity to tell your child the story. It is a non-threatening way to help them see one way someone has worked through these struggles.
Yet, this passage of Ephesians gives us another way to help our children mature. It says, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15, ESV). This is what leads all of us into maturity—speaking the truth in love. If you want to continue maturing as a parent, you need people speaking the truth to you in the context of love. Correction without love feels like condemnation, but in the context of relationship, correction can lead to transformation. If you want to make sure your children are maturing—moving out of that awkward phase—make sure you are speaking the truth to them in love. By doing this on a regular basis, you are helping them to mature and to become more like Jesus Christ.
When Paul talks about speaking the truth, he is primarily talking about the truths of Scripture. He even defines immaturity as “being carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14, ESV). This means we need to be teaching our children the Bible. If we are not teaching our children the Bible, we are withholding a primary tool God has given us to help them grow up—to mature in Christ. Biblical truth is absolutely necessary in the process of moving from immaturity to maturity.
There are many different ways parents can teach their children the truths of the Bible. Here are three:
In each of these practices, it’s important to remember the end goal. The goal isn’t for us to simply create children who know a lot about scripture. The goal is for our children to grow up and mature in Jesus Christ. That comes through knowing scripture but it also comes through loving the truths of scripture. So, not only do we want to teach our children Biblical truths, but we want them to love those biblical truths. That’s when our children will begin to grow up, firm up, and not be tossed to and fro.