In today’s hectic, ever-changing, social media centered world, it is no wonder parents often find themselves feeling overwhelmed, lost, out of touch and discouraged. Do we let our children have free reign over social media and their devices? Do we take it away all together? What boundaries should they have? Is there any hope that they will have moral standards with what they see and hear and experience? What do we do?!
After meeting with, interviewing and counseling teens for almost 30 years, I can tell you exactly what to do and what they need; and it all comes down to YOU.
WARNING: doing the things on this list will not guarantee an outcome of a perfect child, a straight A student, or an Olympic athlete. What it WILL do is help you get to know your child, help them feel secure, help empower them to make good choices and help them think critically in a confusing, challenging world where there lies an evil enemy whose goal it is to strip them of all things moral and of good character. Remember, this enemy has had thousands of years practicing how to “steal” souls and corrupt generation after generation and he is now alive and “seeking to destroy” with a vengeance. We need to diligently utilize the 18 or so years we have them under our wing.
So parents, arm yourselves and incorporate these 7 things into your daily lives and your children will be ready to face the real world and have the best chance of success.
- Spend time with them. Surprise surprise. No electronic devices allowed. In fact leave them in a drawer at home and go explore nature, a new café, walk around the block. If you have more than one child, spend quality time with each, alone. In our house on Saturday mornings my husband takes each child, alternating Saturdays, to breakfast. No electronics allowed. Weekend at dusk, I do “frog and wild bunny” hunts with my younger two and bicycle rides with my teenager. This time is priceless.
- Talk to them. Have dinner together at least twice a week. The coolest conversations I have with my kids are when I ask them what is going on with their culture and if they have heard the latest about this app or that Netflix show. Yes, it requires a little research on my part, but it is worth it (by the way check out this new app called After School—started out good but now may shock you!). This is a non-judgmental time for listening and conversing. They get enough judgment from teachers, coaches, friends and even us. Set aside some time to just “hang out”.
- Be Proud and Present. Be proud of them and TELL them you are proud of them. At least once. Every day. The number one desire expressed to me by the teens and tweens I see, is that they want their parents to be proud of them and present with them—at games, at practice, at concerts or recitals. They want to hear it from you and experience it with you. Do not assume they know it. What our children face day to day can be extremely overwhelming some weeks. They need a safe haven in a home. They need to know they are loved and that we are proud of them and the best way for them to feel it is to show them and TELL them. Often.
- Set Expectations. Having rules, expectations, boundaries and consequences, is a huge part of good parenting. And guess what? From what they tell me, they want them. I get so many complaints from teens about how they either have no clue what their parents expect of them or that the expectations change on a daily basis. Sit down with your spouse annually (right before school starts is a great time to redo these) and discuss what your expectations are: academically, socially and domestically (around the house). Write down 3-5 in each category along with rewards if followed (electronics for 30 minutes or an allowance for items desired to teach budgeting). Then sit down with them and explain the “expectations” and explore with them the consequences—they give the BEST ideas when this is taken seriously and they feel respected. This plan has worked wonderfully with us and especially with our more defiant child. It has resulted in a much more peaceful home.
- Teach Them Manners! We have so lost etiquette and manners in this society with our youth and we do not tolerate disrespect in our home. Teach them “thank you” and that magic word, “please”. Teach your sons to open doors for their mother and sisters and the concept of “ladies first”. It is truly a beautiful thing when you see it playing out in public and at friend’s houses.
- PRAY. With them, for them at every single meal and at night. Have them pray as well as it instills in them and reminds them of that wonderful relationship with our Heavenly Father. Some day when they feel alone and you are not around, they will need someone to talk to, to get advice from and to lean on. Praying and teaching them to pray gives that Person a name and a way to cope when life tries to bring them down.
- TRUST but Verify. You will see this written in almost every article I author. It is so important and a true necessity of good parenting. Trust them age appropriately so and empower them to try out things in the world—within reason and noting illegal or that will break too many bones. J Trust, and the cool thing is that when you verify, if you are consistent in this, this will produce moments of being proud, being present, encouraging them and letting them know that they are capable of making the right choices.
This upcoming generation is losing the concept of what it means to be a responsible, productive adult. We must teach them what this means and these seven things will do just that. Parenting is a full time job and indeed takes a village. I am here for you and even more so is God. God commands us in Proverbs 22:6 to “ Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Raising good, respectful, honorable children of integrity and character is possible in this day and age. Will it take a lot of dedication, time and good old fashioned hard work? YES, absolutely. Anything worth it, does. These are our offspring, our flesh and blood, our gifts from God and the future of this world. I think it’s worth it.
Keep fighting the good fight.
Dr. Bridget Melson is a licensed MFT, certified Life Coach, author and speaker. To find out more or to book her “Parent Survival Seminar”, visit www.trinitylifesolutions.com .