"Many parents have a simple goal for getting through their child’s teenage years: survival. But this goal focuses simply on getting yourself through a difficult time. In order to get through these years, parents tend to settle for external, behaviorist goals. We try to deal with our kids according the Nike way, “Just do it!” But parents who just want to regulate and control behavior don’t give teens much to take with them when they leave home.
Naturally, every parent needs to have regulations to control the behavior of their children, but that is not enough of a goal. That sort of rule-keeping is behaviorism. It is disconnected from the heart and is repudiated throughout the Bible. “Rule-keeping” was the sin of the Pharisees. Christ roundly condemned it. Yet even Christian parents create new young Pharisees who live with no sense of need for the gospel at all. Teens can be quite good at keeping external rules.
Many teens from Christian homes go off to college and then forsake the faith. But I suspect they never had a living faith in the first place. They had the faith of their parents but never internalized it for themselves. The true heart of the teenager, masked by years of parental control and regulations, comes out in the college years.
The final years of a child’s life at home are a time of unprecedented opportunity. As a child’s world unfolds before him and he experiences greater freedom, his heart is revealed. This means parents have to take every opportunity to be part of the final stage of preparation. Being involved with our teenagers at a deep level is a critical goal for these years."