In honor of our JCC Parenting Summit at the end of this month, I'll be posting a 5 part series on this blog this week.
My experience as a youth pastor is that most parents of young kids I meet are scared of the teenage years ahead. Some common fears are:
- Sexuality will be navigated horribly
- They will leave all I have taught them behind when doubt begins to take root.
- They’ll grow up to rebel against me.
- They will make a mistake that can’t be undone like pregnancy, car accident, etc.
To this end, my wife and I wrote a seminar for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) a few years back, shortly after we finished up that stage of our own parenting. In it, we shared 5 basic parenting patterns that we tried to start when our kids are young to produce the young adults we want in the future. It's kinda like planting a bulb.
We're not working for what we hope to see today so much as for the flowers we want to see in the Spring. It's the hope that the seeds we're planting now will produce a rich harvest in the future.
SO HERE WE GO:
PROTECT YOUR KIDS (care based), DON'T SHELTER THEM (fear based)
Jesus prayed this in John 17:15 of his disciples: "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one." (NIV)That's a great parenting mindset in my opinion. Sure, protect your kids from things like cars in streets and bad movies and people who could harm them. Absolutely. Just don't move subtly from caring for your kids to a fear based role of a bunker parent where you remove them from the "big bad world" out there all together. A bunker parent tries to protect their kids from the evil one not by equipping them to protect themselves, but by building big huge "Christian walls" around their homes. This surely keeps kids safe for a season, it just doesn't train them to live in the real world for the long haul. Failure to help our kids guard their own lives from evil down the road means we're raising teens who will spend a lot of energy wondering how to get outside of the big parent barriers and parents who spend all their time reinforcing the rules. It's the wrong focus for both.
When parenting little ones, this means:
- We work towards teaching them how to cross the street, not just putting up a bigger fence.
- Inviting neighborhood kids to play in your home under your family values instead of just telling your kids they can't play with so-and-so because they don't make good choices. We then parent those kids like we do our own and lead up, teaching our kids how to make good choices when poor ones are available to them too.
- Talking about their "why can't we" questions in ways that don't end with "because I make the rules" but instead because "that's not the kind of people our family wants to be. It's not the kind of people who make God's heart happy."
- Listen to music in the car that you want them to be listening to later in life.
- Letting them take healthy play risks. Climb the tree, ride the bike off the jump, swim in the deep end. Sure, these come with time, but don't shelter your kids from risk. Work with them to let them enjoy healthy risk. Teaching them how to make that choice will reap huge dividends when the risks get bigger and the consequences much more out of our control later in life.