Dear Dr. Meg,
My twelve-year-old son has a negative attitude about our daily devotion time. How can I encourage him toward spiritual truths in ways that he might be more responsive to?
Your son’s reaction is not unusual. Many adolescents want to be independent and make their own decisions. Because of this, they seem to reject their parent’s ideas and attempt to exercise more control.
Here’s what I suggest: change things up for him and ask him what he thinks he can do differently to make devotions interesting. Tell him that you notice that he’s bored and ask how he thinks you can help the boredom to go away. If he says that he would like to stop doing devotions altogether, tell him that you understand what he’s saying, but that it’s important to keep going even if he’s bored. Tell him that you have struggled with the same thing (if you have) and that doing devotions is like going to school, soccer practice, etc. It’s a part of life for your family.
Ask him if he wants to do them on his own or if he wants a different devotional book to use. If you give him some leeway without having him opt out, you can help him renew his interest. Don’t be discouraged or too put off. Your son may be tired of riding on the shirttails of your faith, and now wants to figure out what he wants, likes, and believes.
Most adolescents feel that they are treated like young children (which they often are), but desire to feel respected. You can show him this respect by challenging him intellectually. Tell him that you’d love for him to read one of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles or Josh McDowell’s More than a Carpenter, and then have him give his opinion. When children hear that we genuinely want to know their thoughts and feelings, they feel smarter and usually rise to the challenge.