Several years ago, when our kids were small, Margie and I sat down and came up with what would eventually become our guiding principles for raising our kids and developing a sense of family in our home. These are ten of those principles that have been a huge help to us…. maybe they would benefit you and your family as well… ENJOY!
1. Copywritten (sorry) ooops!
2. CORRECTION versus CRITICISM “Death Spiral” – Like most people, when a teenager is wounded they will wound someone else. They will look for a way to get back at the offender (parent). That creates a stiffening of the relationship and a sparring with my teen. The child is hurt so they hurt the parent , who sees disrespect and comes down even harder on the child….who sees the stiffer punishment and finds ways to wound… keeping the death spiral alive….
- Jeremiah 10: 24:Correct me, Lord, but only with justice— not in your anger, lest you reduce me to nothing.
- James 2: 25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,
3. CONTROL. No one likes to be controlled. Including teens. My kids don’t like friends who do it, they run from teachers who do it and they rebel against us when we do it. That puts us in a tough spot. We want to lead with freedom not control. Good behavior gets freedom, poor behavior gets confinement. Can I go to the movie’s? Response: “are you free to go” (have you completed the task given to you?, Is the movie suitable according to the standards of the family?) Can I have friends over? (are your responsibilities done)
4. MAKE YOUR HOME “BASE”. For those of you that grew up playing outside (without video games, cell phones or internet) you may remember a great game called “Kick the Can”. (at least it was great in my Tulsa, Ok neighborhood in 1977) It is like a lot of “tag” games in that the object is to avoid getting “tagged” by the person who is “IT” while at the same time trying to “kick the stationary can” that he is protecting. To add to the fun there is a designated “base”. It may be a tree, a shrub or a fence but as long as you are on “base” you cannot be “tagged” or disqualified from the game….you are safe! While “on base” you could relax, catch your breath, work on “strategy” and prepare to re-engage the game etc….
That is a perfect picture of what a home needs to be for teenagers….a “base”. Safe emotionally, physically and spiritually. A Sanctuary – I have spoken/written on this a lot. The world is putting our kids into a vice and squeezing them. Any teenager that wants to “walk with the Lord” is going to have to resist a lot of pressure. But like any of us, they cannot resist 24/7! They need a place where they can be free from pressure, undeserved criticism and sarcasm. Your home should be a “sanctuary”.
a. RARELY CORRECT YOUR KIDS IN FRONT OF THEIR FRIENDS (except for extreme cases). They should get to be “in charge” (socially) and the center of attention in their own home. Unless something is dangerous, immoral or blatantly disrespectful…let em do it. “Wear their butts out” away from their friends but “tearing them down” is what the world is doing to them. We are the builders. We cannot use embarrassment as a means of controlling our kids except in extreme situations.
b. REMEMBER WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE A TEENAGER. Insecurities, silly ideas, crushes, zits…. then show the same compassion for your own kids as you would for that guest from out-of-town who is struggling.
5.”WIN THEIR HEARTS AND THEIR BEHAVIOR WILL (usually) FOLLOW – While I know that we are our kid’s parents first and their friend 2nd, (especially when they are young), somewhere in their early teens a very cool things takes place: You get to talk to them like a real live person! A dialogue instead of monologue. Actually sharing ideas instead of solely instructing. It may happen once and then not again for a while…but then it happens again. Before you know it you are having validating, important life changing discussions with an intelligent viable teenager….almost like a friendship!
I’m not talking about getting my kids to like us….. I’m talking about respecting our teenager’s gifts, personality, bent, etc…. We are beginning to make the turn from instructor and role model to confidant and role model. (yea, ya never really lose the whole role model thing). If we never make this transition we will frustrate our teenager and (opinion) stunt their growth. I was a teenager once…
6. NOT ALL TIME IS THE SAME TIME ….. some time is “instructional”(learning opportunities), some time is relaxing (Elvis movies with friends), some time is correctional (hun, you really have a blind-spot here that I want to help you through it) and some time is relational (what is God doing in your Life…if anything?, what boys do you like? Who do you think is cute?)
7. “TALK” WHEN THEY WANT TO “TALK” – scheduling time to talk is very difficult. It can feel forced and canned etc…. but God seems to bring our kids around to a time when they want to share stuff with us. That usually means (especially in the summer) that Margie or I (usually her) will have to stay up with them till they go to bed. What is it about teenage girls that wants to talk after midnight? (for you control freaks I would challenge the notion that making a 17-year-old go to bed at 10pm is a good idea 🙂 )
8. MY KIDS WILL “LOOK LIKE ME” IN WAYS I DONT INTEND. They will become who I am in every area of life. Mannerisms, sarcasm, anger, humility, pride, devotion to the Lord, etc…. Jerry and Mary Royal say it best: “They will follow WHO I AM before the follow WHAT I SAY”. My child has a problem with authority? ….hmmmm. My child wrestles with worry and fear….hmmmm. My child does not walk closely with the Lord?…. well… you get it.
9. TRY TO GET TO KNOW “THEIR WORLD” – Most teens in my kid’s world have cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, IMing, text messaging, Skyping, ….. blah blah blah. I won’t fight it because it is just a “hill I refuse to die on” and I’d rather help em manage it with me than learn without me. (I had a phone… a land line…that I hated talking on…I’m a guy) Each form of communication has its own little language and etiquette. Get into what they are into and you may find that you and your teen can communicate well in the languages THEY most like to use. OMG you may find your son or daughter is your BFF! lol
10. NEVER “PROTECT THE PICTURE”– At least once a week I am in the homes of folks who have visited our worship services or Life Groups. Over the years I have been in hundreds of homes and almost every one has pictures of family members. Some are simply school pics placed on the fridge with a magnate while others are ornate formal sittings. I’ve seen hunting pics, camping pics, skiing pics, Christmas pics, prom pics, wedding pics, black and whites, beach pics, “Lady Godiva” pics (yikes), pics where the old boyfriend was torn out, and the list goes on….. NOTHING WRONG WITH HAVING PICTURES OF FAMILY… I recommend it, endorse it, it is a great idea! They give a family a sense who they are or who they want to be. My house is covered with em!
Most families do their best to represent the family well when they are “out and about”… and they should.
THE PROBLEM: Many times the family picture of warm smiles and happy embraces is anything but an accurate reflection of what is actually going on in the home. Don’t misunderstand, all families have issues to deal with. However, I have watched families, especially folks who are in church (who feel some misplaced pressure to look and act a certain way), do all they can to “protect” the happy images represented in the pictures that hang on their walls…… while their family implodes. After the damage has been done most say they were too embarrassed to seek help….
The problems associated with deceitfulness, control, anger, lust, apathy, abuse, money, depression, suspicion, mismanagement, hypocrisy, fear, idols etc……When the family becomes a dumping ground for these issues and all members are expected to ignore, cover up and act like the “pretty family” in the pictures…it causes immeasurable harm in the following ways…
1. teaches the kids to prioritize what others think vs. what God thinks. (Prov 29:25)
2. trains family members to be (even bigger) hypocrites. (Matt 6:16)
3. “hard wires” family members, who may want to “walk authentically” with God, to hide their sin from Him. (Psalm 32:5)
4. builds resentment and distance between each other and those who want to get close to them. (kids future spouses) (Job 5:2)
5. places mother and father is the positions of “chief liars” not Godly leaders. (Prov 19:22)
6. weaves the problems into the fabric of our homes and breed dysfunction as a way of life. (Hebrews 12:1)
7. developes a “mini-culture” of secret-sin that become almost a family treasure.
Men: Deal with your own junk before you fix your family. How can you lead your family if you can’t lead yourself? Get real.
Women: Don’t worry as much about what others think. Do they really care about your family…. or how they rank next to your family?
Both: Love Jesus…. yea, I know, but it will radically change your family