I raised four daughters. That is to say, together with my highly-committed and sensible wife, Trudi, I raised four daughters. I must admit, though, that sometimes it feels like they raised me. Nothing highlights one’s sinful tendencies more effectively than raising children. Every parent reading right now knows what I mean.

The relationship between teenagers and parental hypocrisy is a complicated one, but one worthy of consideration. After raising four children, I am convinced that one reason the teen years are often difficult for parents to navigate is because teens are acutely aware of any hint of hypocrisy in their parents. And many of these teens are more than willing to call out their parents when they think they see it. This generates considerable angst among parents.

Unfortunately, every parent, at least sometimes, says one thing and then does something else. If we define hypocrisy as acting contrary to one’s claims, then all of us parents have done this in one form or another, at least occasionally.

But perhaps that isn’t quite the right definition of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy isn’t merely a failure to follow through on claims, it is also pretending that you aren’t acting contrary to your claims. If your teenager sees you doing that, he or she will either confront you about it or secretly look down on you.

What to do? This is such a thorny conundrum for Christian parents! What can Christian fathers and mothers do about their own failure to consistently live up to what they claim — coupled with their teenagers’ hypersensitivity about parental hypocrisy?

Here are seven suggestions:

1. Make every effort to control the claims that come out of your mouth. It will be easier to deal with your teen’s hypocrisy-radar if you don’t pretend to be something you aren’t. This does not mean that you should avoid talking about your convictions with your kids — an approach that some parents choose in an attempt to resolve their fear of hypocrisy. But it does mean that you should endeavor to guard what comes out of your mouth.

2. Be honest about your sins and shortcomings. Apologize to your children when you don’t live up to your claims.

3. By all means, don’t ask your teens to do something that you are unwilling to do. Don’t expect them to love their siblings if you don’t display love to your spouse. Don’t presume that they will be active in church if you aren’t involved in a church, or that they will be accountable to others if you avoid close relationships.

4. Don’t be discouraged by every criticism your teen throws your direction. Your teenage son or daughter will sometimes call you to account for things they view as hypocritical, which in fact are not. Be aware that sometimes an interpretation your teen places on one of your actions will be askew. This does not present a warrant for hypocrisy; but is a reminder that children, like parents, frequently attribute words, actions, or motives to others who never said, did, or intended the things of which they are accused. In other words, don’t let your teenager’s criticisms rule the house.

5. Balance humility with confidence in your God-given role as a parent. For the humility side of the equation, keep in mind that God has forgiven many of your past sinful and foolish decisions, even in your past parenting. For the confidence side, remember that parenting is a calling from God, not simply a hobby. God called you to parent when he brought a child into your family and has instructed you in his holy Word to work hard at raising your child. Lean into humility and lean into confidence — both. There is a way to bring both qualities together in parenting.

6. Pray all the time. Call out to God about your concerns. Speak to him before, after and during your interactions with your kids. Pray for your children morning and night. Confess to God anytime you have not done well as a parent. Talk to your Heavenly Father about your children — and don’t stop talking to him.

7. Pursue an authentic relationship with the Lord, recognizing that you are certain to stumble at times along the way. When you stumble, get up and continue to pursue Christ with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.

These seven action-points will alleviate some of the tension — not all — generated by teenagers who look for evidence of hypocrisy in their parents.

This post and other resources are available at Kindle Afresh: The Blog and Website of Kenneth Berding.