There’s a lot of confusion and controversy in today’s parenting. The access kids and teens have to technology is one of the primary challenges, what kids are (or in most cases, are not) taught in school completes much of the picture. As parents we absolutely cannot afford to underestimate the importance of our part of the process of a child becoming a healthy, well balanced, responsible adult that thinks for themselves.
For most of us, I can guarantee you, what our children are seeing in social media or television, or are being taught in public school does not align with our own values, morals, beliefs. Even much of what is taught about history and government, etc. have been altered to today’s politically correct viewpoints.
As responsible parents, we have to be even more involved than ever in the lives of our children to make sure that they get the bigger, clearer and more balanced picture of the world we live in and the truths that still do exist despite all that, that only we can provide.
Here’s the biggest tips for parenting and raising responsible, well informed children.
Intentional Conversations are KEY!
I guarantee you that the information our children are receiving about government, current events and ethics from any public source is completely biased. It’s not balanced at all, and often doesn’t come close to full truth or aligning with our own basic values as a family. If we rely on school or television or social media as the only source to “teach” our children about all this, just think about the repercussions, and the confusion they experience.
Sure, the saying “more things are caught not taught” applies in pretty much all areas of life for our kids, but with how inundated today’s kids are with media/technology, it becomes a lot more grey and we have to be much more intentional.
Open up discussions with your kids regularly.
This does not have to be a big ordeal, no weekly meeting is needed (though it’s not a horrible idea). The idea here is simply to create an environment where it’s natural to allow conversation to flow on one subject or another. It’s amazing how often my teens will just meander into the same room with us and open up a conversation, one subject leads to another and we find ourselves discussing some hot topic.
It’s my job, in that moment, to take the opportunity and help direct the conversation. I usually let them talk about it for awhile, to see what their perspective is and if they need any guidance from me, or if they have come to a solid, balanced conclusion on their own. The important thing is to keep it casual and if needed, gently steer them or challenge their ideas enough to help them see the bigger picture.
Tip: Plan a weekly family night. This does not have to be a family meeting where it’s all heavy topics and information, in fact I really don’t recommend it’s that at all. Let it be a game night, or any fun activity that you can naturally open up a casual discussion about a variety of topics.
For example: If an election is a big news topic, open up a discussion about it… not by simply throwing out your opinion, but with a lot of input from your teenagers. Ask them what they think and discuss ideas and thoughts that might challenge them to dig deeper.
Offer them alternative ideas and challenges.
Kids and teens today are simply not challenged enough. They are not robots and we do them a huge disservice if we don’t encourage them to think on their own. They are often fed information and just expected to believe what they are told. It’s our job as parents to help our children know when to challenge things, and how to compare everything to our base values. Little of what they see or are taught outside the home will measure up against basic Biblical truths and this can be very tough for kids to work through.
Think about what tomorrow’s leaders will look like if they aren’t taught to think for themselves today…..
Give them a safety net.
Let them know that talking openly with you about any subject is safe. Sometimes what they have to say may be a little disturbing, but often, they’re simply looking for a balanced sounding board that will call them on the stuff that’s off balance. Often, they know that what they were told isn’t quite right, but they don’t know how to sort it all out on their own. We need to be that for them.
Keep conversations calm and respectful.
Allowing a conversation to become a yelling match, or just lording our authority over our kids about our beliefs will simply get us nowhere with them. Approaching any conversation calmly and with respect, and sharing our personal beliefs while allowing them to give their input is key.
Give them something to think about if they don’t know if they agree with you. No teen is a closed book, they may look like it, but we have to continually show them the truth and often they will eventually figure it out for themselves. A lot of boys in particular make it seem like they will go the opposite of what we say… usually it’s pride, they want everything to be their idea.
Never underestimate the power of prayer.
While all of the above applies to any family regardless of faith or values, for those of us who have Christ in the center of our home, prayer is one of the most important tools of any conversation. We are careful to allow prayer to be a natural component of conversations, not something forced or uncomfortable. Often we will just feel led to pray during some part of our discussion and we will simply ask our child if they mind if we pray for them. We keep it short and specific and simply ask for guidance for that child and for us as parents, and anything pertinent to the conversation we are having. It seems so simple, yet it can make a huge difference. It’s especially important to include (gently) if there seems to be a bit of tension, a bad attitude, a hardness of heart, etc.
So today, consider opening up a light conversation with your teen, see where it takes you. You might be pleasantly surprised by what they can offer. Teens can be a lot of things, but often we underestimate how much wit and intelligence they can offer to an “adult” conversation.