I understand over the past couple of days some of you have been encouraged by the things that I have been writing to teenage girls and boys. I am thrilled that you have enjoyed my letters. Today I want to take a few moments and write directly to you. My desire in writing this letter is to help support you and maybe even share some insight with you that I have gained from working with teenagers for the past 12 years. I will begin with a disclaimer however, and let you know that I DO NOT have all the answers. I am a parent of a 5 & 10 year old. I’m still working very hard to figure out what I am doing most days…
One source of wisdom that I attempt to draw from daily is the Bible. As I read the Bible I gain understanding of how we (all of us – children, adults, all of us.) work, live and hopefully thrive in this world. One verse that I hear many parents refer to as I speak with them is Proverbs 22:6, which states, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” One of the mistakes that parents make with this verse is that often times I see the training end somewhere around age ten or eleven.
In my role as a Youth Pastor I have had many parents ask me to disciple their teenager. I hear often that they, the parents, just don’t know what to do with them. They don’t know how to respond. They don’t know what to say. They feel helpless and don’t know where to turn. I find great hope in this Proverb. I take it to heart every time that I speak with one of my daughters. I trust that the seeds that I am planting in their lives will one day flourish and grow. I am keenly aware that I need to be present in my daughter’s lives. They need me and their mother to help guide them while they are young. Your kids need you to help them make good decisions. That means that you need to be going to the source of true wisdom yourselves. You can’t lead people where you aren’t going…
Guiding my children is my role. At some points I would even use the word control. As they are young I do have the control in the decisions that are made. As they grow that control becomes less and it transforms more into a shepherding role. I give a bit more freedom in order to allow them some room for failure while still having the safety of Mom and Dad around to help them when they do choose poorly. My role as a parent, your role as a parent needs to be a continual process from cradle to grave. While the role does change, it is critically important that you protect your relationship with your children so that you can maintain influence over them for the rest of their lives. This is not accomplished by giving them what they want, but by balancing discipline with love.
In dealing with teenagers I see far too many parents who have transformed their role of parent to more of a friendship. Hear me on this subject, please. They have enough friends. They NEED parents. Strong parents. Parents that love them enough to say the hard things. Parents that are less concerned with being told, “I hate you mom. You never let me have any fun!” and more concerned with seeing their son/daughter grow into a healthy adult. If you don’t like the clothes they are wearing make them change. I addressed the subject of modesty with the girls the other day. You should be helping them understand boundaries in what is appropriate to wear and what is not. If Sally so and so is wearing it and that is the reason they give you for wanting to wear it as well you can always say what my mother said to me – “If Billy jumped off a bridge would you follow him?” Sounds cliche but I think it’s time to get back to basic parenting. Speak up. Stand up. Do the right thing even when it gets uncomfortable.
What’s more uncomfortable –
- Enforcing the rule that they won’t be alone with someone of the opposite sex or sitting in your living room as your 15 year old daughter tells you that she is pregnant?
- Taking a stand for what your daughter will wear and won’t wear or working through the pain of rape?
If you have a son you aren’t off the hook on this one.
- Would you rather speak into your son’s life and enforce that they drive responsibly or get the call from the Highway Patrolman informing you that there has been an accident and there was nothing that the paramedics could do?
- Would you prefer to keep your son from dating the girl that you know is only motivated by one thing or watch your son drop out of school to get a job to provide for the life that he helped create?
Here’s one –
- Would you rather keep the liquor in the house for those “special occasions” when family comes over or deal with your kid being a closet alcoholic, who drinks themselves to sleep each night?
Some things in our lives are not comfortable. Deal with it. Be the parent that you kid so desperately needs. Protect them but don’t baby them. Your kid won’t always get their way in life. Help them to understand that. They won’t always make the varsity team, get the starring role, or make honor role. Help them understand that life really isn’t fair – but it’s still worth living! Above all model a life that is lived well. You cannot expect your kids to learn principles that you are not willing to model for them. Your kids should not be held to higher standards than you hold for yourself.
Raising kids is not easy. No one ever said t would be. You will make mistakes. I share with the teenagers that I minister to that not one of them were born with an instruction manual. While it would be great if one would pop out somewhere between their delivery and the placenta; it doesn’t work that way. With that knowledge they need to cut you, their parents, some slack. You won’t always get it right as you work to raise them well. But don’t let your failures overshadow their lives. Work hard at being the best parent (again, I’ve already said this but hear me again – PARENT, not friend) that you can be. And know that there are people that are praying for you. I pray for every parent of every student that is part of my ministry. I want to do all that I can to partner with you, encourage you and resource you.
Now go and do it. Do it well…