Monday, March 24, 2008

Hormonal Delinquency in Teenage Daughters - Part II

This is a response to some very thoughtful comments regarding the Hormonal Delinquency in Teenage Daughters - Part I offered by a reader named Melissa. I could not post her comment because of its length, but I would be glad to forward it on to anyone who wishes to read it in its entirety.

(Editor's Note: Because of some confusion regarding who has the right to use Melissa's comments, me or the Yahoo! group where she also posted them, I felt it necessary to go ahead and publish them as they were first written for the
Hormonal Delinquency in Teenage Daughters - Part I post. You may find her complete comments, unmodified, there.)

(Very long response)

From the post:

Therefore, when you talk to your daughter, do you remind her
. . .that she will one day perhaps be married with children and that, if she continues in this pattern of behavior when she isn't feeling well, she could destroy her family?

Melissa's comment:

Please don’t tell your daughter that one day she will destroy her family. That’s like telling her that someday she will be a drug addict or a prostitute. I remember thinking “well, if I’m going to be that bad of an adult, then why bother even trying to learn”. Please don’t give your children bad labels to live up to.

My response:

If my daughter takes drugs or commits prostitution on a regular basis, then I would be irresponsible not to warn her that these behaviors lead to drug addiction and prostitution. It is a pattern of sinful behavior which I am addressing in this post. I am not addressing a problem with occasional bad days. A pattern of acting out when one doesn’t feel well may very well (and I’ve seen it in at least four families) lead to the destruction of relationships with one’s spouse and children.

If, on the other hand, a child has only an occasional emotional outburst associated with hormonal changes, then it’s time to sit them down and have a little talk when emotions aren't running so high. They need to understand why they are having these emotionally charged disturbances and that they usually only last for a little while during the time they are turning into an adult man or woman.

It is also appropriate to have a talk with his or her siblings who are old enough to understand that brother or sister is going through some changes as they are growing and that they can expect this to happen once in awhile. They may need to avoid the sibling during those times. Clarify that being a little loud or crabby isn’t necessarily sinful during these times, but hitting, throwing things, rage, cursing, direct disobedience, etc. are and should be reported to the parents.

From the post:

That she is not only sinning against God and her parents, but against her siblings who, no doubt, also bear the brunt of her outbursts, even if only as spectators?

Melissa's comment:

Explain that the children watch her and learn from her. She is learning how to treat everyone with respect and love. . . Just telling her that (once again) she is sinning is like playing a broken record. She will feel like she is always sinning/failing. Why even try to fix it?

My response:

First of all, it is true that younger children watch and learn from their older siblings. That is precisely why a pattern of behavior of this sort must be nipped in the bud. It is good to remind her of her responsibility to them as an example, but I am referring here to the emotional abuse which occurs when someone is expressing defiant rage. You know how you feel when someone is really angry with someone else. You may not be the one they are angry with, but you still get a knot in your gut and experience stress over it. She needs to know that the stress she creates in your home is a sin against her siblings just as surely as if she were raging against them personally.

Secondly, there is a huge difference between sin and failure. “Fixing” sinful behavior is not something you can fail to accomplish because no one can achieve sinless perfection. Many may try to jump the Grand Canyon, and some may get a little farther out than others, but ultimately it is not a legitimate goal. The only sinless Man was Christ, and it is faith in the power of God to conform us to His image which begins the walk of newness of life. That is why it is not a bad thing that our children understand that they cannot get a grip on this or any other sin. They need a Savior.

From the post (recently modified):

That this may be evidence that she needs to be converted? This is a wonderful opportunity to share the good news of the grace of God through the Gospel. Let her know that, whether she is truly converted or not, you and Daddy are praying for her, and that she needs to pray for herself as well. God is able to overcome even our hormones!

Melissa's comment:

Um, even Christians have bad attitudes sometimes. Having sin in your life doesn’t mean that you aren’t a Christian. Instead, affirm her faith in Christ, let her know that God can help her overcome anything. Encourage her to read her bible and pray. If she shares something particular that she is struggling with, pray with her, tell her you are praying for her. But please don’t tell her that she may not even be a Christian, and she needs to pray for herself, that is so confusing to a new Christian.

My response:

This is very true if they are sure of their salvation. Still it is important to remind them that their sanctification is also accomplished through the same saving grace of God. New believers as well as old believers must be reminded to constantly to return to Christ for new grace to overcome sin (Romans 8:13).

However, if a person is living in habitual sin, then they need to question their salvation. There are things which accompany salvation as stated by Paul in Hebrews 6:9. Some of these include

– a desire to read and study God’s Word (Psalm 119:105, 162; I Peter 2:2)
– a continual open communication with God throughout the day and especially in times of need or decision (Romans 12:12; Ephesians 6:18; Philipians 4:6)
a living witness to others both in word and in deed with a desire to see them know Christ as you do (Psalm 119:174; Romans 10:1; I Corinthians 9:22)
– a desire to be in regular fellowship with other believers of like faith and practice and choosing one’s best companions from among God’s people (Acts 2:42; II Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 5:11)
– having a loving respect for and desire to obey one’s God-given authorities (Proverbs 30:11; Ephesians 6:1, 2; Colosians 3:22; II Timothy 3:2; Hebrews 13:17)

This is not a complete list by any means, but it gives an idea of the natural outworking of the Spirit as He lives in and works through the believer. This is not a list to be achieved. It is a list which should naturally occur once one knows the Lord in truth. It is the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22, 23. It is one fruit, like a cluster of grapes, all present at the same time. It doesn’t mean that we never have a bad day or a time of stumbling or backsliding, but these times will not last. Sin shall not have dominion over us (Romans 6:14).

If the majority of these things are missing, then a person should question his or her salvation. A parent, pastor, or other loved one is actually doing that person a great service by lovingly pointing this out.

From the post:

That you love her even through these difficult growing years, and, because you love her, you cannot tolerate insubordination even when she isn't feeling well.

Melissa's comment:

Don’t try to sugarcoat discipline with an “I love you”, it’s really saying “I would love you more if ….” Or “I love you but…” Try to remember to express your love at random moments of the day, give a hug and say I love you. That says I love you just because. No strings attached.

My response:

It is very true that parental love must be exhibited in loving words and deeds all throughout the life of the parent/child relationship. Therefore, the parents would do well to speak with the child who is exhibiting sinful behavior during adolescence during a quiet moment alone with them. Don’t wait until the heat of the moment to discuss the fact that you love them and will do your best to see them safely through this turbulent part of life, including biblical nurture and admonition when it is warranted. According to the Scriptures, true parental love will also rebuke and chasten (Proverbs 13:24; Hebrews 12:5-11; Revelation 3:19).

Ephesians 6:4 explains clearly that Christian parents are to bring up their children in the nurture (paideia: disciplinary correction such as chastening, chastisement, instruction) and admonition (nouthesia: calling attention to wrong behavior, mild rebuke or warning)[1] of the Lord. These two words encompass the two-pronged instruments of godly discipline, both consequences and correction. Thus, pointing out sinful behavior in our children is actually a vital part of our responsibility towards them.

It is true, however, that when parents only show attention to a child when he or she needs correction, this often sets up a misunderstanding in the child that the parent’s love is conditional. For children, and teens also for that matter, undivided attention equals love. They crave it more than anything, and will do anything to get it, even if it means doing something sinful or irritating.

From Melissa's final thoughts:

[S]he won’t grow up to be a murderer just because she is starting to deal with hormones for the first time. Don’t teach her that having a bad day is an excuse to behave badly, but don’t project your fears of “creating a monster” onto her.

My response:

I did not intend that parents should threaten their children with growing up to be murderers if they have an occasional bad day. The point I was making is that some women have justified murdering their spouses and/or children when under the influence of hormonal imbalances. Others have only destroyed their marriages and caused untold emotional damage to their children. In any case, I was only taking the root sin (justifying rebellious rage)to its most extreme fruition (murder) (Hebrews 12:15; I John 3:12). It would be foolish to bring up such examples in the heat of correction, but it might be a good idea to point to such cases when discussing the importance of being accountable for sinful behavior even when you don’t feel well.

As an aside, I am very surprised that no one has left a comment stating that someone who is under the influence of hormonal changes cannot help their behavior. The only exceptions to correcting sinful behavior would be someone who has had injury to or deformity/deterioration of the brain brought about by accidental brain damage, genetics, or aging. In these cases the ability to discern guilt is absent or impaired, thus they cannot be held accountable for their actions.

A person under the influence of hormonal imbalances, however, is still able to know when he or she has been offensive or has sinfully reacted to a situation. If he or she does not immediately recognize their sinful behavior, however, it is up to those around them to point it out in a loving manner. Once he or she has been brought to that realization, repentance and contrition should be experienced and sincere apology should be expressed to all offended parties. The only “failure” occurs when the offensive person refuses to own up to their sin and make amends.

I hope this has clarified any misunderstandings. One thing I must add, however, is the importance of the prayers of parents for their children. We must go to Him for wisdom without a doubt that He will give it (James 1:5, 6). As the old hymn says,

Ask the Saviour to help you,
Comfort, strengthen, and keep you;
He is willing to aid you,
He will carry you through.[2]

[1] Strong’s Concordance Greek Numbers 3809 and 3559.
[2] Ho­ra­tio R. Pal­mer, "Yield Not to Temptation," 1868 24 March 2008.