fbpx

Releasing Your Teen into the World

Releasing Your TeenVery few comments made by high school seniors and college students can scare parents more than when they announce they have plans to go on a medical mission and travel to Guatemala, spend a few weeks in Rwanda with orphan kids, or go to Indonesia to minister to girls involved in the tragic and pathetic sex trade.  As they share their excitement and enthusiasm for their hopeful venture, parents shudder with nervousness about all the potential hazards of travel as their child’s first campaign to “fly the coop” and “make a difference” silently fade to the background as all the reasons they shouldn’t go come to a parent’s mind, shouting, “We can’t let this happen!”

Moms and Dads, when your child comes to you with plans to launch out and change the world, I would encourage you to consider what your child is actually asking, and reflect on this potential opportunity that is set before your family to affirm those character traits and values that you have spent years building into the moral fabric of your son or daughter.  This may be the opportunity that you have practiced for all your life, so be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.  Instead of thinking about all the reasons your child shouldn’t go, think of all that might be accomplished by giving your stamp of approval on what was first thought to be a bad idea. Realize that this may be a wonderful opportunity.  Consider these things.

They want to make a make an impact.  They want to fly and use the tools that you have given them.  They see a mission trip to a foreign country as a new adventure, an excursion of excitement and intrigue, and an opportunity to travel and see the world.   They have a sense of compassion because you have built it into their life.  They want to “go and make disciples” because you have shared with them the truth of scripture.  They want to help, because they have seen you help others.  Their longing is one that has been instilled in their life, because of your influence on their life.  And, because “their” world is more global than the world of teens ten years ago, distance or travel is no longer a barrier that limits their dreams or passion.

I always encourage parents to trust a couple of sure things as they release their kids to the world.  First, trust what you have taught them.  All the seeds that you have sown into their life will come to completion.  Scripture reminds us that God will “bring to completion” that which He has started.  And scripture reminds us (and encourages us) to not grow weary in doing good, for in due time you (a parent) will reap if you surely sow. Your “sowing” is not in vain.  A parent must trust what they have done, in hopes that a harvest will come later in the life of their child.

Second, parents must trust that God, who brought their child into this life, will continue to be involved in the life of their child.  The promise in scripture that tells us that He will never leave or forsake one of His own is a promise that applies to our children.

Now, I’m not saying that we should allow our twelve-year-old daughter to travel to western Africa to dig water wells.  Nor am I encouraging any parent to throw caution to the wind.  But I am saying that perhaps because our twelve year old will become that eighteen or nineteen year old young lady that might, one day, want to travel and “change the world” that we, as parents, not only teach, but train our kids to have the tools to accomplish their dreams when they come of age to be able to do so.

For all parents of tweens and teens, are you training your child to fulfill the great commission as it applies to their life?  Are you working on them becoming independent?  Are you helping them make good decisions, and training them to be able to do so, when the consequences of making poor decisions becomes more and more potentially life changing as the years pass?  Are you training your child about finances?  How to handle stress?  How to deal with disappointment?  How to not be influenced by people who have no interest in the wellbeing of your child?  How to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow anger?  How to take the scripture they know and apply it to the life they will be required to live?  These are all parenting goals to make sure your child is ready to fulfill the call of God on their life when He decides to call them to the task He has set before them.

And what if you haven’t trained them for a trip or adventure?  Then this “trip” they’re wanting to take might just be the opportunity for them to have a crash course on some pretty valuable character traits that need to be developed in their life.  I would rather have a young person learn these valuable lessons on the mission field under the guidance of a mission director and an organization that can teach some principles that were missed during their younger years, than have them learn these lessons on their own without someone speaking truth into their life when they need it the most.

If you’re like me, you receive plenty of requests from folks wanting to experience the mission field; and wanting me to financially help them change the world.  Well, this is what I’ve found.  The lives changed on these mission trips are not always the ones touched by the child who goes to change the world.  The lives who are truly changed are the ones who “go” and have their lives touched by the hand of God who uses a mission trip to affirm those qualities parents have been building into their child’s life.  They learn about the needs of others.  Their heart is moved with compassion, instilled by a Mom and a Dad, and fueled by interactions with people in another country, in another culture, living a life far different than the way they were raised.  And there is a change.  It’s a change that will one day change the world.

They learn to embrace the blessings of their life and the plenty that their family has provided while developing a thankfulness for their possessions and circumstances, countering the effects of a selfish and entitled culture in which they live.   I believe they make a connection with the very heart of God and capture His vision for all people.  They find the significance they desire, the impact they long for, and the feeling that their life does indeed matter, thus motivating them to further His Kingdom.  All because of a trip abroad, a trip to see another culture, and a trip dedicated to change the world of your child.  These trips are profitable for all involved and help your child…your young adult…find the significance for life that only a God of love can provide.

Moms and Dads, don’t miss out on the opportunity set before your child.  In Moses’ words to the Pharaoh, God would beckon you as a parent to “let my people go!”

Trust what you have taught.  And, trust that the God of this world holds your child in the palm of His hand, and wants to use your child to further His Kingdom.  It will change your family.  It will change your child.  It might just change you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a counseling facility for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas. Check out our website, www.ParentingTodaysTeens.org. It’s filled with effective parenting ideas, helpful articles, and practical tools and resources for moms and dads. Visit our website, where you can download the Parenting Today’s Teens podcast, or find a radio station near you to listen to our broadcasts. You can also call us directly at 1-866-700-3264 to find out about any upcoming events.


Kids and Money

HALF-HOUR PODCAST SUMMARY:

Money is a powerful tool, and in these economic times, it’s more important than ever to show our kids how to handle their finances.  On this week’s Parenting Today’s Teens, Mark Gregston and special guest Howard Dayton, explain how to transition from your kids’ personal banker to the role of financial advisor.

Special Guest: Howard Dayton


Letting Consequences Teach Maturity

Facing Consequences“Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

What’s that famous line parents, coaches, and teachers use ad naseum?  Practice makes perfect.  Though it borders on the cliché, the saying holds water.  When we hear a child practice an instrument for the first time, the sounds are anything but pleasant.  The notes screech out, and we’re tempted to cover our ears.  But we don’t let them stop playing the violin or flute just because they can’t hit the notes right off the bat.  As they learn, kids will make mistakes, which should make them practice more.  Eventually, with enough practice, they’ll play that song just right, and we will give a sigh of relief!

The same principle that applies to music, sports, academics, or anything worthwhile, holds true for decision-making, as well.  With enough practice, your child can learn to be more mature, responsible, trustworthy and accountable for their actions.  But that means handing over some of the control.  Unless we allow a child to take full responsibility for their behavior by facing consequences, our teenagers will remain perpetually immature.  If we don’t allow them to practice maturity, they will constantly be blaring that one, screeching note of irresponsibility.

Experience comes from a making mistakes and learning from them.  There lies the heart of maturity – consequences.  If you wonder why teenagers behave irresponsibly, it’s because, well, they are irresponsible.  And, they will not become responsible, or mature, until they deal with the consequences of their choices and behavior.  It is a cycle that needs to happen over and over before a teen comes to full maturity.

So how can mom and dad allow their teen to deal with consequences appropriately?

Don’t Wait – Start Early

I’ve had many parents say to me, “Wouldn’t it be best to wait until I trust my child before I give them more responsibility or control?  Then they won’t have to deal with such difficult consequences.”  My answer has always been, “If you wait until you trust your teen, you will never give them any responsibility.”  By delaying the process of handing over accountability to our kids, we’re throwing away valuable, real- world practice time.  Once they leave the home, all that adult- type responsibility will be on their shoulders, and the consequences they face will be much more serious.  Better to start early, and often, so that when they do face the realities of the world, they do so equipped with the decision- making tools they learned growing up.

Good decision- making is a learned process.  As the writer of Hebrews says, “But solid food is for the mature, who, because of practice (constant use) have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).

Gradually hand over the reins, and stop helping teenagers so much – the way you did when they were younger.  You help your teen best by letting them deal with the natural results of their decision, fall down a bit in the process, and then figure out how to get back up.  Don’t wait to develop this necessary skill in your child.  Start early, and often!

Avoid Over-Control

“Over-control” is when well-meaning parents protect their children from the consequences of their mistakes by enforcing strict rules or by trying to oversee all aspects of a child’s life.  There was a recent extreme case of “over-control” when a college student filed a restraining order against her parents, alleging that they required her to leave her computer’s web cam on all the time, so they could see what she was doing and who she was with day and night.  Now, that’s a severe example, but even to lesser degrees, “over-control” can be dangerous.

Overly protected children are more likely to have problems with peer dependence, relationship conflicts, and difficulty setting and keeping firm boundaries. They also run the risk of having problems taking risks and being creative.  Avoid that problem by handing your teenagers more degrees of control and allowing them to face the consequences of their decisions.

Let me give you a few examples:

  • Allow your older teen the freedom to regulate their homework.  Now, they may get an “F” on if they don’t turn it in.  And if they get enough F’s, they will flunk the class.  And if they flunk the class, they will have to make it up in summer school.
  • Buy your teen an alarm clock and give them the responsibility to get up in time for school. They may have to walk to school, pay for a cab, or miss an entire day when they don’t get up in time to make the bus.  If they miss school, they miss the fun after school or this weekend as well.  Don’t write the excuse note that gets them out of the consequences.
  • Your teen gets sent to detention, then let them miss the football game on Friday night, as well.
  • Every year, allow your child more privacy on the Internet.  But if they choose to use the Internet to post an inappropriate image or lifestyle, disconnect the computer for a period of time.
  • Should your teen be arrested, let them sit in jail for awhile.  Don’t bail them out right away. The consequence of spending a night in jail can have a sobering affect on their thinking and force them to reevaluate their life’s direction.
  • If your teenager is ticketed for speeding, not wearing their seat belt, being out past the local curfew, or other infractions of the law, let them figure out how to pay the fine, as well as how to get to work or school the next day, since you will not let them use their car, or yours either.
  • Give your teen the privilege of helping to pay for their insurance and gas when they are ready to start driving.  Don’t even get them their license until they can pay their portion of the first quarter of insurance.
  • Pay for your child’s college as long as they maintain their grades at a level you both agree on prior.  If their grades become unsatisfactory, then they have to pay for the next semester.
  • Give your pre-teen a checkbook, or a debit card with their monthly allowance on it.  If they spend their money foolishly, don’t buy them the things they need.  Let them figure out how to pay for those things.  Doing without teaches the importance of sticking to a budget.
  • Cancel your cable or the Internet service if viewing inappropriate content is a problem for your teen.  Loss of that media is an appropriate consequence that will help them in the long run.

Listen; you are not being a bad parent by allowing these appropriate consequences to follow your teen’s actions.  In fact, you are helping your child learn valuable life lessons, and grow into a mature adult.  That’s being a good parent!  Every culture on earth has a similar proverb like this one: If you rescue them once, you will just have to rescue them again.  Don’t swoop in and rescue your kid when they are face-to-face with the outcome of a bad decision.

Are you willing to start relinquishing control and helping your teenager find out who he is and who God desires for him to be?  This doesn’t mean you stop helping your child.  But it does mean that you guide them into a problem-solving process, even if you don’t solve problems for them.  You may have to repeat this process several times before your teen gets it right, so hang in there.  Eventually he or she will get it, learn how to make good decisions, and avoid unwanted consequences.  And that’s sweet music to any parent’s ears!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, located in Hallsville, Texas.  For more information and helpful resources for moms and dads, check out our website.  It’s filled with ideas and tools to help you become a more effective parent.  Go to www.heartlightministries.org.  Or read other helpful articles by Mark, at www.markgregston.com.  You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.  Hear the Parenting Today’s Teens broadcast on a radio station near you, or download the podcast at www.parentingtodaysteens.org.