By Dr. S. M. Davis, Crosswalk.com
One of the difficulties involved in parenting is knowing what you should expect from your children at various ages and stages of development. Not only do you need to know when a child should be walking or crawling, brushing his teeth, or feeding himself, you should also be aware of when to expect certain character qualities to be developed in your children.
The age of 12 is a key time in everybody’s life, and it is interesting to note that God has given us a glimpse in His Word into what a 12-year-old is supposed to be and the qualities he should have developed.
I don’t think any of us would disagree with the fact that a 12-year-old can be either a great blessing or a great burden—a great delight or a disaster waiting to happen. The age of 12 is a critical, turning-point age. It is an age at which wise parents should be closely examining the product of their first several years of parenting work.
In Luke 2, we’re given the only detailed look in the Bible at the period of Jesus’ life from His babyhood until He begins his public ministry at about the age of 30. Interestingly, Jesus was 12 years of age at this point. From this passage, I believe we can glean some key principles about the qualities we should be trying to develop in our children before they reach the critical age of 12.
In 1 Peter 2:21 we are told that Jesus is our example: that we “should follow his steps.” Jesus is the example for 12-year-olds so that, at age 12, they can examine their lives and make sure before they hit their teen years that they are following in the steps of Jesus.
The thinking of the world is totally opposite of what our thinking should be in this area. The world thinks that by the time a young person reaches the teen years, peer dependence, disrespect, rebellion, and many other negative characteristics are simply unavoidable facts of life. However, this does not have to be the case, and by looking at Jesus at age 12, we can determine what we should be expecting from our young people.
So, what are clear, proper goals for every 12-year-old?
A Mature Sense of Responsibility, Purpose, and Destiny
One of the biggest differences between an immature child and a mature youth is a sense of responsibility.
In Luke 2:41-46, we read how Joseph and Mary went up to Jerusalem each year for Passover. You remember that, when Jesus was 12, He was left behind when the rest of the family left, and Joseph and Mary didn’t know it.
“But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.” (Luke 2:44-46)
By age 12, Jesus was able to take care of Himself for several days alone. Joseph and Mary traveled a day’s journey before they thought to look for Jesus. Then they had to travel a day’s journey to get back to Jerusalem. Then it took them three days to find their son.
For five days Jesus had to take care of Himself. He had to eat. He had to sleep. He had to bathe. He had to dress Himself. He had to determine what He was going to do. For five days, Jesus took full responsibility for Himself.
By age 12, a child should know what to do and what not to do, where to go and not to go, whom to be with and not to be with—without being told.
Without needing to be told, he should keep his room clean and neat. He should do chores without being reminded.
From 12 on, a girl should know what is right and wrong to wear, and there should be no arguments about it. What happens far too often in our day is that a girl gets to be around 10, 11, or 12, and suddenly she wants to look like her friends and the rest of the world. The parents wrestle with her throughout her teenage years, trying to keep her modest and proper as a young lady.
By age 12, a boy should be able to be given the responsibility of a task that is within his skill level to accomplish. He should be expected to get it done. By age 12, he should do schoolwork and study without being told. He should be responsible to handle his money wisely.
I’m not suggesting that at age 12 a young person should no longer require or receive any parental instruction or guidance. However, there should be a sufficiently high level of responsibility developed by this point that a 12-year-old doesn’t need someone constantly telling him or her what to do.
Don’t underestimate the incredible capabilities of young people who have a sense of responsibility, purpose, and destiny.
Look at Luke 2:46-49: “And it came to pass, that after three days they found him [Jesus] in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?”
Notice the sense of purpose and destiny that was tied in with Jesus’ sense of responsibility. He knew who He was and what He should be doing. He had a sense of purpose and destiny already by the age of 12.
Both the Bible and history prove the astounding ability of teenagers. Go through your Bible and look at some of the incredible stories about young people accomplishing great things for God: Joseph, David, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. History is replete with examples of young people who did extraordinary things. It’s time we leave behind this idea that the teen years are just meant for fun and pleasure.
By the age of 12, a young person should have a well-developed sense of responsibility and purpose.
A Keen Sense of Discernment
It’s important for a young person to have good discernment, especially in the company he or she keeps. Again, this is something that definitely, clearly needs to be learned before age 13. At age 12, Jesus was not cruising up and down Jerusalem Boulevard, running the streets or forming gangs. He was with the doctors, the experts in the Word of God. He was hearing them and asking them questions.
Someone has wisely said, “Who you run with determines where you go in life.” Who is it that young people should be around? The older, the wiser, and the godly. Everyone you are around is either discipling you or being discipled by you.
Almost any time young people get in trouble, they are with someone who encouraged them to do wrong, or who they encouraged to do wrong with them. If your child is running with wrong friends, it means that he himself is a wrong friend.
A Burning Hunger to Understand Truth and Wisdom
Luke 2:46: “And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.”
How can you create a hunger for truth in your children? By sharing truths you discover. As you discover a truth and get excited about it, your children will get excited about it—and they will want to find and share truths with you. Discuss messages that you hear at church. Encourage your children’s presence in adult discussions about the things of God.
When I was a young man, my parents would have preachers and missionaries come into our home for meals or to spend the night. I remember the discussions that we used to have and what a challenge they were to me personally.
You must also teach your children the extraordinary value of wisdom. Proverbs 16:16 says, “How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!”
What is wisdom? Wisdom is looking at life from God’s point of view. It is seeing life like God sees life. It is the ability to apply knowledge to its practical ends. It is thinking God’s thoughts after Him.
You see in Luke 2:51 that Jesus “went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.” He was totally obedient by 12 years of age.
A parent should work diligently to make sure that all bad attitudes, rebelliousness, and disobedience are gone before a child turns 13.
Ephesians 6:1 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.” What is obedience, anyway? To be obedient, you must respond to an order immediately and sweetly. If a child does not obey immediately, then he has actually disobeyed because he has chosen when he will obey. If he does not obey sweetly, then he dishonors parents. The Bible clearly commands in Exodus 20:12: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”
Obedience must not be negotiable. Before 13, children should obey concerning what to eat, what to wear, when to go to bed, with whom to associate, what books they can and cannot read, what duties they must perform, and what kind of attitude they may display.
Obedience to proper human authority is the automatic response of a heart tuned to gladly obey God.
You notice the respect of the Lord Jesus here as He is sitting with the doctors, hearing them and asking them questions. You can also see his respectfulness with Joseph and Mary.
Respectfulness is more than just saying, “Yes, sir,” and “No, sir,” though that is a good start. Respectfulness is a whole manner of life. First Peter 2:17 says, “Honour all men.” This means that we need to quit thinking so much about ourselves and treat everyone with value.
By the way, one of the biggest ways youth learn disrespect is by hearing parents criticize their authorities. It’s important for us to be respectful to those in authority over us so that our children will learn by our example
Total Commitment to Doing the Will of God
It’s amazing to me that for the first 30 years of Jesus’ life, we only have a little handful of words that came from His lips. Thirty years of life, but only two sentences! What were they? “How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” What was God letting us know? He was telling us that, by age 12, the lot was cast. The decision was made. The commitment was complete.
The Son of God was going to do the will of the Father. And by age 12, that should also be true of our children. They should be totally committed to God. Every 12-year-old, before becoming 13, should come to a definite personal decision that “I must be about my Father’s business.” No wrestling or questioning about it from 13 on. The decision is final. It is as final for a 14-year-old as it is for a 40-year-old; he is going to follow through on this.
This is the most important point of all: By age 12, a young person should have an unmistakable godliness about his or her life. I’m glad to report to you that it is just as possible for a 12-year-old to be godly in our day as it was for the Lord Jesus Christ to be godly in His day.
Malachi 2:15 tells us that a key reason God makes a husband and wife to become one flesh is because He wants them to have godly children. The word “godliness” occurs fifteen times in the Bible, and Paul wrote most of those to the young men Titus and Timothy.
1 Timothy 4:7: “But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.”
1 Timothy 4:8: “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things.”
Godliness isn’t something mystical, strange, or weird. Godliness is normal human life—life like God meant it to be.
Life without the God who made you is strange, weird, and abnormal. Godly people don’t act or look weird. Ungodly people do. Godly people look normal and have normal relationships. It isn’t normal to be disobedient, disrespectful, rebellious, wild, and strange!
Why do we have so much foolish teen rebellion in our day? Because these children were not godly by age 12. The time to disarm and defuse the teenage time bomb is before your child becomes a teenager. Too many parents expect their children to be wild, immature, and irresponsible like so many in the world, instead of expecting them to be godly. The children just live up to those expectations.
Why don’t children, by age 12, read the Bible and pray and witness for the Lord? Because parents do not make those things a key goal for their lives.
The last verse in the story of Jesus at age 12 is Luke 2:40: “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.” So what formula can we use to help our children become what they should be by age 12?
First, work on making them strong in spirit. Work on their spirit. First Thessalonians 5:23 says,“I pray God your whole spirit . . .” (notice your spirit is first) “. . . and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The most important time in life to put emphasis on developing a strong spirit is when children are small. You want them to become sensitive to the right things. That is the reason you do not want their spirits to be deadened by rock music or wrong friendships or wrong teachings of any sort. These things will deaden their spirits. They will make them insensitive to God. It is more important to be strong in spirit than it is to be smart in intellect. You develop your children’s spirits by developing their character, by praising their character, and by pointing them to God, the things of God, and godly people.
Secondly, you want to teach them to accept the grace that God offers in every difficult situation of life. If you need to forgive someone so that you do not become bitter, God will give you His grace. If you need the strength to get through a trial, God will give you His grace. If you will ask Him, God will give you His grace. What is grace? It is the desire and power to do the will of God.
The world tries to tell us that disobedience, rebellion, and immaturity are inevitable for our young people. The Bible and history tell a different story. By following the example of Jesus, let’s raise our children to be strong leaders in the kingdom of God!
Dr. S. M. Davis has been the pastor of Park Meadows Baptist Church for 33 years. He and his wife, Rae Jean, have been married for 39 years and have four children and 11 grandchildren. He also speaks widely in churches and at homeschool conventions on family-related issues. For more information about his ministry, visit www.SolveFamilyProblems.com or call 800-500-8853.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally preached as a sermon by Dr. S. M. Davis and was specially edited and adapted for publication in Home School Enrichment Magazine. Get more great homeschooling help by downloading our FREE report entitled “The Secret to Homeschooling Freedom” by visiting http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com/resources/report.htm
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