Thursday, July 14, 2011

Practicing Prudence

Ok Mindy, since you asked, here you go.  I’ll give it a try.

After my last post, I received a comment asking how to create a less moody teenager.  Now, I am not pretending to have all of the answers, but I will tell you what has worked for us, and maybe it will work for you too.  And then, perhaps I will write a book and get rich.  Just kidding. kind of.

Here at the Haverkamp house, we are big into “prudence”.  Prudence is an old fashioned word which means,

“The ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason.” 

The reason that prudence is so important when it comes to moody teenagers (or adults for that matter) is because moodiness is an emotion like any other; when we give in to it, not only are we irritating and unpredictable, in reality, we are being very self-focused.  As Christ-followers, we should be continually striving to be Christ-focused, not self-focused. When we are looking toward God for guidance in our thinking, we are using the renewed mind that He has promised us in Romans 12:2, and we are unable to keep our eyes focused on our selves.  When we allow ourselves to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, we will be able to test and approve of what God’s will is—His good, pleasing, and perfect will.

This is where prudence comes in; when I am tempted to feel discontented in any way, I need to refocus my mind on the TRUTH of God—not the '”truth” of the world. I need to realize that my emotions often lie to me and they will convince me to have that pity party that I desire.  This pity party is not of God, because when I focus on myself…and my hurts…and my perceived injustices, I am idolizing my feelings instead of God’s TRUTH.  But…if I choose to govern and discipline myself by use of reason, I am evaluating what I am feeling by placing it next to what is TRUE.  If what I am feeling does not line up with God’s TRUTH and His character, then I need to train my reactions to these situations and learn to reign in my rogue emotions. 

Elizabeth Elliot says it well; “The discipline of emotions is the training of responses.” When we train ourselves to be God-glorifying with our emotions—even when we don’t feel like it—we are training our responses.  And like any other training, training your responses takes time, work and effort.  And like any other training, disciplining your emotions is often unnatural and unpleasant.  But with practice, all things get easier and more automatic.  When I first started exercising my will to think with the TRUTH, it was as if I were learning to speak a foreign language—the way of reason was so unnatural to me…I was a feeler, not a thinker…and I often used that as an excuse for moodiness.  Once, I understood how I was grieving God by my inward focus, I started immersing myself more and more in the Word of God.  I chose to believe that God’s Spirit inside of me could control my powerful moods and I chose to evaluate where my emotions would lead me.  Basically, I learned to think before I responded to my feelings.

As a teenager, hormones can cause increased mood swings, but if your child has chosen to be called a Christ-follower, then they need to do just that—follow Christ.  When they give in to these very powerful—and real—feelings, they are focusing on themselves and not on God.  Adolescence is a great time for your child to learn how to train their emotions and responses because they will have adequate opportunities to do so.  If they learn the valuable skill of practicing prudence now, they will be prepared for life’s peaks and valleys in the future.  Your child’s adolescence is also a great time for you, as the parent to demonstrate how God is working in your life.  Share your struggles with your teen.  Tell them how you, too, have to choose “agreeability” when you feel like being cross.  And let them know when you mess up.  Apologize when your attitudes don’t reflect Christ.  Authenticity speaks volumes to our kids.

Prudence is a choice. Let’s live our lives in wisdom. 

Our kids are watching. 

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,  making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

Ephesians 5:15-17


  1. You could've just answered the question with "send her to small group." Haha - just kidding. I love reading your posts and always glean things that I want to implement with my kids. As I'm sure Shay has told you - they need it!! :)

  2. i read it, Tori, and this is awesome. i'm thinking this is what we have been trying to teach and train in our home, but never put the word prudence with it. what other words do you use? i'm all about one words, short phrases to encapsulate an idea. now to work on my own prudence- hah!

  3. Just what I needed for myself right now! Thanks!