by Shannon Perry
Shannon Perry is a conference speaker, author, recording artist, TV and Radio show host whose new book is entitled The Overlooked Generation: Parenting Teens and Tweens in a Complicated Culture. Prior to going into full-time ministry, Shannon taught for over 14 years in the public school system and holds a Master’s degree in Education and Counseling and is a Certified Instructor for Crisis Counseling and Parenting Classes. Her TV show, “Grace in High Heels” airs twice weekly on the NRB Network. Her website address is www.ShannonPerry.com.
Miley Cyrus made sure she was not overlooked at this week’s MTV Awards. While many label her actions as “individualized expression,” others recognize the truth behind her outrageous performance. Miley, just as many other young adults and teens in our culture, desires one thing above all:attention. Many young people I have counseled and taught in conferences tell me they are feeling neglected, abandoned and overlooked. They are seeking attention any way they can get it – whether negative or positive. Just like Miley.
Unfortunately, media and technology play a large part in the desensitizing process that our culture has encountered. Instead of downplaying scandalous performances and demanding they be banned on television and the internet, these productions are glorified, shared and “go viral.” Is it any wonder our teens follow suit and see such behavior as admirable? After all, when teens desire attention and have no proper outlet to attain it, the media is always happy to oblige.
Fortunately, God’s Word provides the TRUTH that will ground our teens and allow them the kind of secure identification the world will never provide. When teens learn the truth of Jeremiah 29:11 they are able to recognize a loving Father who has great plans for them and would never allow them to feel overlooked or forgotten. Our teens are bombarded with messages that reinforce self-reliance instead of God-reliance. But how, as parents, can we influence our teens so that Jesus becomes their focus instead of the outlandish behavior of pop stars?
First, we reinforce that God’s Word is the only TRUTH that will stand in our teen’s life by doing something our society has forgotten how to do – be silent. Can you remember the last time the television, radio, computer and cell phones were off in your home? Contrary to popular belief, no one in the family will die, and some powerful things may happen as a result of flipping the off switch. Encourage your family to spend quiet time each night. Cell phones are not only turned off, they are turned in. Once the technology is put to bed, allow everyone to spend time reading God’s Word, sharing feelings and emotions, and connecting. Make family time priority and discuss life in the context of the Word of God and how it applies in every day events. After all, if God’s Word is not priority to you, the parent, it won’t be for your child either.
Need help with ways to make God’s Word applicable in your teen’s daily life? Their “dress” is a good place to start. As witnessed in Miley’s performance, “anything goes” is the mantra for today’s culture. Discuss the sexually-explicit images and messages that are presented by much of the media and how your family values differ. I Timothy 2:9-10 reminds us that we are to dress modestly and in ways that glorify God. Leviticus 11:44 says “We must be holy, for God is holy.” This certainly includes the way we dress. Unfortunately, many of our teen girls are dressing in more sexual ways because they believe it is what “gets the guys.” But research shows that while guys are initially attracted to girls who are provocatively dressed, the relationship is usually short-lived. Guys do not want to date someone who dresses inappropriately because it is a sign that they do not respect themselves. The young men interviewed go on to say that they could not have a serious relationship with girls who dress to get attention because they fear she is hiding deeper issues. Teaching our teens to live by Romans 14:13 helps them avoid being a “stumbling” block and assures they will attract those who share similar values.
Sex is another crucial topic we must discuss with our teens. In our sex-saturated society, the media will teach them if we do not, so offering the TRUTH from God’s Word is a necessity. Psalm 119:9 reminds us that a young person can stay pure by obeying God’s Word. Purity is lost when teens begin acting like they are married when they are not. Remind teens why God’s Word says to wait to have sex before they are married. When teens understand that God is protecting them from sexually transmitted diseases as well as emotional heartbreak, they are less likely to see His command as a threat and view it instead as a comfort. Help your teen understand the emphasis on purity by reminding them of the following:
- You have no guilt, no shame, and no scars when holding to sexual purity.
- You will not face the possibility of bearing a child out of wedlock.
- There is no such thing as 100% “safe sex” outside of marriage.
By teaching our teens to recognize TRUTH, the lies can be more easily discerned. Reinforce Godly role models, reward positive behaviors and attributes in your teen, and refuse to feed the monstrous media that invades your home by glamorizing it. Remind your teen or tween every day that they are never overlooked or forgotten by you or by God. And neither is Miley.