Growing Your Kids towards Independence (Part 2)
Today's article on Responsibility is the second of two parts.
One of the primary goals of good parenting is for your children to be an independent, responsible, productive young man or young woman. A parent's job is to make them more and more responsible for decisions they'll have to make as they incorporate themselves into the real world.
Responsibility says, "I am accountable for all of my choices." It also teaches, "Everything I think, say, do, and emote is a choice. I am responsible for each one." Take a look at what these two scriptures say about responsibility and accountability:
"Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul. Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law. A slave will not be instructed by words alone;
For though he understands, there will be no response." (Prov. 29:17-19)
"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap."
Allowing your son or daughter to experience natural consequences for their actions is part of growing towards independence. To get them to this point, however, it begins when they are young. Next week, I'll share more about what to do when they are already in their teen years.
Here are some abbreviated ways to build responsibility in your kids. For more about this, I offer a podcast called "Four Keys to a Great Family" available by clicking HERE. I go in to much more depth about these concepts and provide more examples of ways to do this. Here are the next four responsibility lessons.
4. Eat at least 4-5 meals a week together for discussion, devotions, and fun.
Columbia University did a study in which they noted twelve different activities that families could do which would guarantee that their children would not take drugs as they grew older. One of those activities was eating at least 4-5 dinner meals per week together. Make sure that there is adequate family time around something pleasant. Be encouraging to one another around the dinner table. Ask about their day and how things went. Be genuinely interested in their concerns and issues. The family meal should not just be a time to consume food quickly but instead should be a place for conversation, concern, love, and attention.
Read or recite a Bible passage together and pray before the meal. It is not just the members of your family that are present at the meal, but God is also present and He should be thanked for the food and His blessing should be requested upon it. I know the early Christian church that turned the world upside down with their discipling plan repeatedly taught only five specific texts which was the basis of all the spiritual growth of the early church. Often times children are confused about what is important in terms of their own spiritual journey and growing relationship with God. I have found that emphasizing these five biblical texts over and over can have a profound impact. They know what is important. The five texts are the Two Great Commandments, Ten Commandments, The Lord's Prayer, The Beatitudes, and The Fruit of the Spirit. We said one of these texts at almost every meal. Or we had a discussion about how some current event is a confirmation or violation of one of these key principles.
5. Remove the television and computer from the bedrooms of your children and put them in a main common area.
The proverbs says, "He who separates himself argues against all sound wisdom." Your children will naturally want to isolate themselves from you as they grow older and build a new mental paradigm where their ideas always are agreed with and supported. They need to live in the real world which includes your interests, respectful interaction, and regular supervision. One of the ways children like to isolate themselves is through television, phone, computer, and music. We have found that if they have to come out into the common area of the home to view the television or to work on the computer, then it forces them to interact with the family and the real world. Children who have all the technology in the world in their rooms can become surly and distant from their family. Having private space is a wonderful thing, but too much private space can allow them to be selfish and sullen. Bring the TV and the computer out of their rooms to a common area of the house so they will have to interact with others in the family. You can learn a lot and correct a lot as they are forced to defer to others in the family. This is essential socialization and a maturation exercise. It is easier to let them just be in their room, but it will not be easier later.
6. Teach your children how to process pain, hurts, and wounds.
There is a huge attraction to drugs, alcohol, and suicide among teenagers because no one has taught them how to process the pain in their lives. Teach them how to get it out and to process what they are going through. It could be through writing, talking with you, praying, etc., but they are going to have to get it out of themselves so that they do not come to the wrong conclusions about themselves and the world. Pain is a reality in a broken and sinful world. In order for people to be successful, they will need to embrace this reality. It starts when friends no longer want to play with them or they get rejected. It continues when they fall in love and then it ends. They get bad grades. Their hard work is not reward but is overlooked. The popular kids get all the attention.
They are going to need you to listen to the whole story and let them pour out their raw feelings. They don't need your platitudes or stories from the old days; that will all come later. They need you to focus on what they are saying and what they are feeling. The fact that you allow them to process their feelings means you love them and it teaches them a valuable lesson about life and disappointment. When you have a friend to share your troubles with you can get through anything.
7. Interact about your fears and their independence.
Yes, it is very scary to see your children grow up and start making choices themselves. You cannot make those choices for them. They must be equipped with the abilities to make good choices. They will make mistakes as they grow older, but you want them to make the mistakes while they are at home and you can help them learn the lessons from those small mistakes so that they do not make larger ones. Growing enjoyable children means young adults who know how to make wise decisions. The teen years are the apprenticeship years when they get to try their hand at making decisions. They will make mistakes but if you have input to them, it is almost always fixable. Remember, you have stopped parenting when you no longer listen to your children or if your children no longer listen to you. You cannot change the rules just because you are afraid of what they might do. If they make a bad decision about friends or an activity, then lets talk about what they learned. Notice I did not say let's talk about what you wanted them to learn.
One of the best ways to parent in the teen years is to ask questions and stop making statements. Your rules will still be your rules but you must interact differently when your children are going through this need for independence. They need to come to the conclusions themselves. Teens are not that open to statements from their parents, but they are open to questions which allow them to talk and express their opinions and reasoning. If you are wise, you will not react to what they say, but instead just keep listening and asking more questions. You may ask questions like, "That is fascinating. What do you think will be the result of your friend going to these parties with older teens?" "What are the positives of this?" "What are the negatives?" "What are the dangers of this kind of situation?" Have you heard of other kids who have been involved with young people who are a lot older than themselves?" "Would you like to study this area in more depth or know more about the facts behind this area?" When you do this it is possible to move them in the direction of wise choices.
I hope you find this helpful and that you'll join me next time for how to teach kids to grow towards independence. I look forward to interacting with you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how God is working in and through your life.
In His service,
Four Keys to a Great Family
Audio Podcast by Gil Stieglitz
According to the president of a well known youth ministry that works with 250,000 kids in 600+ cities, over 80% of the young people will abandon their faith in college. I have watched with alarm the growing number of families who have teenagers that rebel from their parents. This podcast covers the essentials that are needed to keep this rebellion from God and their parents from happening. When parents work hard at instilling the four keys into their family, the nature of the family changes. It is not enough to have great kids when they are in elementary school. Many parents are not prepared for the significant changes that they must make in their parenting style as their children grow into the teenage years. A great family is an enjoyable family through the teenage years as well. Don't miss this resource if you are headed into the teenage years or are already in them. This could be the best investment you make. Visit our online store.