My husband and I recently had a date night planned that involved dinner and a musical. In order to make arrangements with the babysitter, we did some math. If we needed to be at the musical by 7:30, we had to be looking for parking by 7:10. This meant we needed to finish dinner by 7:00, be at the restaurant by 6:15, and leave home by 5:30. All of that to tell the babysitter to arrive at 5:15.
I suppose we could’ve estimated the best time to leave and it might have turned out fine. However, there once was a time when we arrived 2 minutes late to a musical, and my husband was locked out of the first several acts — which happened to be the best ones!
So we knew enough was at stake to do a little math.
When it comes to our parenting, there is certainly enough at stake to do a little math. Not with numbers per se’, but in calculating our efforts.
In the most obvious way, we want our children to arrive at adulthood as Christ-followers. Which means we should do whatever we can to set them in that trajectory; which by and large is done through “biblical parenting basics,” as discussed in the last blog post (Get Ready for the Teen Years Now!).
We also want our teenagers to choose what’s right even if they aren’t yet Christians. We want their minds trained to recognize good and evil. We want habits formed that mirror God’s design for their lives. We want them to be respectful, hard-working, and honest. We especially want them to avoid sin, and it’s devastating consequences.
With such high hopes, we should do a little math. If that’s where we hope they land in the teen years, what should we be doing today? When you work backward on the clock, you realize there is a lot we should be doing now!
While there’ s likely many more battles worth fighting, I bring you 5 (out of 10) for your consideration:
1. Church Attendance
Some teens start boycotting church attendance. They might find it boring and uncool, or they may think they are too busy (and if your teen isn’t a Christian it makes sense they wouldn’t want to go). But, no spiritual good comes from skipping church. In fact, the teens who want to attend the least, probably need it the most.
With all that said, show your children that church is a priority. It should be a rare and odd occasion when your family misses church. When you are tempted to skip, remind yourself that though your reasons feel justified, your teen will one day feel justified in their reasoning too. So make sure they grow up knowing that church attendance is a non-negotiable in your family!
God clearly commands women to dress modestly (1 Timothy 2:9), but many parents seem to be losing this battle with their daughters. If you have a young girl, set the standard now!
My husband and I have decided to stay far away from the line of immodesty, even while our kids are young. Certain things may look cute on a little girl, but if we look down the road and realize it would be inappropriate in a handful of years, they can’t wear it now. The goal is to make dressing modestly normal and natural. (We also don’t want our girls pushing the line later because they used to wear certain kinds of shorts, bathing suits, tank tops, etc.)
You simply need to establish who’s in charge in this area of life. Does your child complain or object to what you ask them to wear (due to comfort, preference, style, etc)? If so, work to establish authority. You don’t want these complaints and objections escalating in the teen years.
3. Following Rules
We run into rules all the time. Some of them feel silly, some appear purposeful. The problem with breaking rules (as parents) is the example we are setting; one day our teen may feel like a (good) rule is “silly”, and follow your example by breaking it.
Is there a time to break a rule? Probably. But let’s teach our children that the reason to break a rule should be based on wisdom, not pleasure. Hopefully your teen will remember this pattern when they run across worthwhile rules.
Imagine your child taking their current technology habits into their teen years. Would you wish you created more boundaries? Do they watch whatever they want? Do they play on their iPad behind closed doors? It may be safe and innocent now, but a precedent is being set. Make sure it isn’t one you’ll regret when curiosity, hormones, or a bit of rebellion kicks in.
In our home we’ve decided our children need to remain in “common areas” when they are using a device. Meaning any iPad games, emails, FaceTime, texting, etc, takes place in rooms where people go in and out. The goal is to establish a culture that makes secretive technological use unnatural and less likely.
On a different technological note: many teens are distracted from spiritual things because they are addicted to their alluring screens. Try to develop a rhythm in your home that doesn’t revolve around constant screen time. More importantly, set the example you want your teens to follow. Show them how to use our wonderful technology for the glory of God! Though they will have to learn it for themselves, a good example could make a big difference.
5. Open Communication
Establishing good communication is one of the most proactive ways we can get ready for the teen years. Of course, honesty is huge. As early as possible children should learn that lying is a big deal! They should know that God hates lying (Proverbs 6:16-17), and your discipline should remind them lying is never worth it!
But beyond that, it would be great if our kids learned we are safe to talk to. They should know they can tell us anything.
There have been times when my girls have wanted to talk about things that made me feel super awkward. But I sucked it up, put on my game face, and made it a comfortable conversation. When my children are open and vulnerable, I don’t want to make it a big deal; I want them to know they picked the right person to talk to!
And because I am well over 1000 words, and I don’t want you to quit reading before I quit writing, I will publish battle tips 6-10 next week…