Everyone, even Christian parents, assume there must be trials, conflict, rebellion and drama through the teen years. Most anyone will tell you it is not a job for the weak and if we merely survive it then we should count ourselves lucky. But I disagree. With two grown children and two teenagers in the family, I am here to tell you this is not inevitable stage of child rearing. With the right foundation and some good tools this season in our parenthood need not be a war zone and in fact can be a time of great blessing.
Allen and I have safely seen two of our children through the teen years and have two more there right now. Our teen years have been full of fun and laughter as we purpose to tie heartstrings with our young adults whom we count as our very best friends. Granted we have a few more kids to get to the other side... and there is no telling what might happen between now and then... Just the same, because our adult children equal the total number of kids in most families... and because I spend countless hours counseling parents on these issues... I feel I can speak with a little bit of authority. To date, we have never faced any of what is considered "normal" or "typical" teenage behavior. We have skipped the drama, hysterics, rebellion, mouthy attitude, eye rolling, etc. In fact, we have managed to get our kids to adulthood without any scars on either side. Indeed, we count both our grown daughters as well adjusted, happy adults who spend their lives fully committed to serving the Lord and ministering to those around them. They are in high demand as workers, babysitters, mentors and friends. This makes me think others agree with our assessment.
How did that happen? Well, it wasn't by accident!
I get so annoyed when people meet our kids and say, "You are so lucky you got good kids." There is no luck to it. My kids are imperfect sinners just like your kids. Another annoying statement is, "You must be saints to raise such good kids." Wrong again. Allen and I are sinners just like the rest of the parents out there. And yet another popular comment, "Well, God sure blessed you." Well, that's true. He has blessed us immensely. But guess what, he's blessed us all who have a child to raise for His glory. We didn't get an extra helping of blessing that happens to make our kids better than any other children.
Nope, there is nothing amazing or special or particularly blessed about us, our kids or our family that makes our young people turn out the way they do. The magic is in the fact that we decided early on, as God entrusted these children to us, we would fully and completely dedicate our lives to raising them. We were certain we would not allow the schools or government to do the job for us. Nor would we would hand the baton off to the church, babysitters or anyone other than ourselves. We asserted we would not let any of our authority or responsibility be usurped by individual or any organization.
We knew it was the two of us who would be completely and fully held accountable for whatever became of these lives and as such we set out to intentionally raise them for the Lord. We made decisions about what our life would look like. And we never accepted what anyone said would or should happen. We never believed that anything had to look any one way or that any behavior or outcome was normal or inevitable outside of what the Lord has laid out in His word.
We never wanted adult children who were mouthy, disrespectful or rebellious and therefor my toddlers were not permitted to be mouthy, disrespectful or rebellious. And because my young children were not allowed to behave in such ways and I don't believe well adjusted adults behave in such ways we certainly did not accept the idea that all of a sudden our children would start carrying on in such ways simply because they entered the "teen" years.
We didn't want adult children who couldn't hold a job therefore we started teaching our children to work, and to love work and to love responsibility and take it seriously from the time they could crawl. Since that was expected of our preschoolers and that's what we hoped for our children when they are adults we didn't accept socks lying on the floor or chores left undone in the teen years simply because some worldly expectation said it was "normal" for teenagers to behave in such ways.
That's intentional parenting.
Add to that well established lines of communication and by the time our children were faced with the time of transitioning from a parent's authority to independence and autonomy the hard part was already done.
An important key to intentional parenting in this very difficult environment is to have your tool box stocked leave no move or decision to chance. No! Parenting is not a task which should be undertaken by the seat of your pants. But rather with a humble spirit, a prayerful heart and a plan in hand.
For those who are looking for a good resource to help create a plan or make some of these hard decisions I am thrilled to introduce a new book by Candy Gibbs, Executive Director of a major Crisis Pregnancy Center in Amarillo, TX called CareNet Pregnancy Center. She has an amazing story of redemption.
In Rescue Raising Teens in a Drowning Culture, Mrs. Gibbs shares much hard earned insight gained from her own trials, helping her children through some hard times and from her work with families and young adults. Candy uses the analogy of a Coast Guard Rescue swimmer to depict the tumultuous culture, our drowning young people and the parents who are trying to rescue them.
Together with a team of young adults the author addresses some of the toughest issues facing young people today from dating, drugs and homosexuality to abortion and higher education. On every page you will find personal accounts and concrete suggestions to help parents win the hearts of their teens and help them safely through the difficult decisions and transitions which come with the journey into adulthood. For those who have fallen into hard times there is good information to help your child through the consequences of bad decisions to rise victorious in a society that seeks to destroy.
Some of my favorite points in Rescue was when Candy was sharing about the importance of communication. I feel as if most people are missing the boat when it comes to communication and all kinds of relationships are hurting because of it. In no other relationship is communication more important than when trying to reach and guide the hearts of our young people. Mrs. Gibbs says,
"Communication isn't easy... Yet, communicating in any circumstance-having the nerve to stand face to face with another and take time out of our busy lives to address what is going on in this relationship, says, 'I love you enough. You matter to me.' "
I had a big old aha moment on the topic of homosexuality and the Christian. Even though I believe this is a choice people make, not just the way God creates people, it is still something that must be addressed by Christians. Candy offered the perspective that all Christians are called to sexual purity. In it's simplest form that means not having sexual relations outside of the guidelines God has laid out for marriage. To the heterosexual that means we do not have sex if we choose to remain single. For the homosexual that means since God has defined marriage as one man and one woman they can not be married and therefore must choose a life of abstinence.
You can check out Candy's blog and ministry at her blog. And you can buy Rescue at Amazon
Thanks to Candy Gibbs and Brigette at the Fedd Agency for giving me an opportunity to review Rescue. The publisher has given me an extra copy to offer to my readers. If you would like a chance to win Rescue leave a comment with some thoughts on raising young people. Advice from your parents, advice from raising your own young people, a trial you have faced, maybe some thoughts on what you think is the greatest difficulty you will face when your children reach the teen years, or an anecdote from your teen years or when your kids were teenagers. Drawing will be Friday November 21st.