Six Ways Your Teen Can Invest in a Worthwhile Summer

teen yard work

Sleep until at least midday.  Lay around the house all afternoon using various digital screens, preferably with headphones on to tune out any and all parental input.  Stay up well past midnight interacting with friends via gaming connections or various social networking options.  Sleep until at least midday…

Such is the lofty dream of many an American teenager for how to best spend their summer months.  And while there is certainly a place for some lazy, relaxing summer vacation time, if this becomes the daily norm for our teens throughout their three month break from the school routine, they will have very little to show for it.  As parents, we need to be prepared to help them aim higher than this.  Here are six different ways your teen can do something valuable and productive with his/her summertime, rather than simply wasting the entire time on lazy self-indulgence.

1. Get a job.  Whether full-time or part-time, spending the summer months in gainful employment offers so many benefits for a maturing adolescent.  You could even encourage your teen to look for a job opportunity in a field related to their career aspirations.  I’ll never forget how impressed I was with the young lady who took a job as a receptionist/secretary as a college student in a counseling center where I once worked.  She was very interested in becoming a professional counselor, and wanted to get a closer perspective to see if it was really the best career field for her.  Today, she is a successful counselor!

2. Volunteer.  Some teens may find even greater life benefit from volunteering in a worthwhile organization during their summer break, rather than working in a paid position.  Not only is this an experience that looks great on a resume for college, graduate school, and a career position, but it also can be a powerful means for shaping a teen’s heart toward considering and caring for others.

3. Summer School.  This is certainly not something I would recommend for every teen.  However, for those students who have either been struggling in certain subjects, or may be interested in getting a jump on their college experience, summer school may well worth sacrificing that coveted break from the academic routine.

4. Camps.  These days, it seems there are enough summer camp options to make your head spin!  From sports to music to academic to art to science to fitness to faith-building – there are great options for piecing together an enriching and rewarding summer experience.  Take some time now to explore the various summer camp options available near you, or even away from home.  It may just be the best investment you make in your teen all year.

5. Extracurricular Lessons/Classes.  Check with your local colleges/universities and library system to find out if there are any community classes available this summer that would be of genuine interest to your teen.  Perhaps the summer months would be the ideal time to try enrolling in that swimming, martial arts, community theater, private music lessons, or other ongoing activity that just wouldn’t fit into the normal school-time schedule.  If the summer trial goes well, you and your teen may just decide to adjust your family schedule when school starts up again, to ensure that this experience can continue throughout the year.

6. Have Regular Household Responsibilities.  While I would recommend assigning your kids ongoing household responsibilities throughout the year, beginning even before their teenage years, summer break is a time when this may need to be stepped up a few notches.  Especially if your teen will not be regularly involved in any of the previous suggested activities.  Manual labor, both inside and outside the home, is good for the body, mind, and spirit of teens and adults alike.  While they may not thank you for it, don’t deprive your growing kids from the valuable experiences and lessons of doing some good old fashioned work for the family that doesn’t directly benefit their bank account.

*Regardless of the particulars of how your teen spends her/his summer days, I highly recommend having a regular expectation of getting out of bed by 9 am at the latest, except during days that are truly designated as vacation time.*

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The Wonder Years: Putting My Dissertation Research Into Practice

The Wonder Years

When I decided to pursue my Doctorate back in the day, I was eager to study the dynamics of family life and entertainment media.  At the time, television was still king, so to speak.  Smart phones and tablets had not yet emerged.  Laptops were not common.  Netflix and Redbox weren’t around.  It’s mind-boggling to consider how the media landscape has changed in less than two decades!

At any rate, I put together a research design to study the relationship between the healthiness of family functioning and how families interact with television.  While there are many more screens in the mix these days, the good ole TV set still serves as a family focal point in most homes today. And what I learned then continues to be true: the strongest, healthiest families not only have clear guidelines and limits regarding TV viewing, but they intentionally and actively engage in conversation around what they watch together.  Television content is used to spark meaningful discussion.

We “cut the cable cord” several years ago, so whatever TV viewing we do (not counting watching movies on DVD and Blu-ray) is via Netflix streaming.  One of the delightful benefits of watching shows this way is being able to start at the very beginning of a series and watch every episode in order.  My wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Everybody Loves Raymond, Cheers, Friends, Arrow, and other series together after our son is in bed.  His entertainment preferences these days lean much more toward playing Plants vs Zombies on his laptop or watching YouTube videos of gaming commentary – both with his Beats firmly fastened around his ears.  And since we regularly enjoy (okay, sometimes we insist) spending family time together around board games and reading stories aloud, we decided it’s time we began using the “big screen” as an active family gathering place as well.

The choice of shows to begin this new adventure together was clear: The Wonder Years.  The pilot episode begins with Kevin and his friends, Paul and Winnie, entering Jr High.  My son is making his way through his first year of middle school.  We loved the way this series faced so many coming of age and culture issues in such an endearing manner.  Perfect!  And so, we began.  I must tell you, we hadn’t gotten ten minutes into the first show when my wife and I looked at each other and questioned if we should be sharing this with him.  But we took a breath, hit pause several different times, and calmly discussed the various life issues that Kevin and his family presented to us.  I’d like to share updates from this journey with you from time to time.  Not to convince you to watch The Wonder Years.  Rather, I hope our family experience will inspire and enlighten you to share the same kind of conversations with your teens and tweens.  Let me know what you think.  And I hope you will share with us your own experiences along the way.

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5 Ways You Are Building Walls Between You and Your Teen

tear down the wall

I applaud you for taking the time to take a look at this post – especially since it sounds like an accusation.  Got your attention, didn’t it?  Hopefully, you aren’t placing all these barriers between you and your teen.  But even one or two of them can seriously diminish the quality of your connection and your ability both to understand and to guide your teen through the critical transition years to adulthood.  I invite you to seriously consider each one.  Then ask your spouse for input.  If you really want to go all the way…ask your teen about it.  And LISTEN.

1.  You react when you should be listening.  If you are paying any attention at all, there are going to be times when you see and hear things in your teen’s life that concern you.  That’s just real life.  But your concerns don’t have to erupt into reactions.  The moment you let your concerns, fears, disapproval, or disgust overtake you and spill out in some form of emotional reaction, you can count on your teen shutting down and shutting you out.  Because what your teen is hearing from you in that moment is quite simply… You can’t handle it!  Take a breath.  Make mental notes.  Ask some questions.  But keep on listening!

2.  You’re expecting answers and conversation in the wrong time and place.  As a parent, you certainly have the right to ask questions of your teen.  In fact, that’s good parenting.  But if you really want to hear the full story, you need to learn your teen’s personality well enough to know what kind of atmosphere feels the safest and most inviting for him or her to open up and get real with you.  It may be very different from one of your kids to the next, and may even change over time with each one.  Pay attention.  Your teen may get more chatty and responsive when you are alone together in the car.  Dinner time together (yes, sharing a meal while sitting in the same place) is perfect conversation time for some.  Bedtime is a great let-your-guard-down time with my son.  Others may open up during active play or exercise time with you.  When you take the time to study and learn the best setting for your teen, you communicate very plainly how much you value and respect her or him as a person.  And that is a great way to encourage anyone to open up and share!

3.  Your idea of talking seems WAY too much like lecturing to your teen.  There are times in any family when authoritative correction needs to happen very directly and clearly.  But even then, it is best to keep “lectures” as brief and to the point as possible.  When you establish a parental environment where lecturing, complaining, and criticizing become the norm, don’t expect your teen to really tune in to what you are saying.  And you can forget about them opening up and sharing anything real or meaningful with you.  Work on turning your lecturing tone into positive instruction and encouragement.  Your teen will feel much more respected by you, and may just begin to respect  and trust you more in the process.

4.  You aren’t asking about the things your teen actually wants to share with you.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Our kids don’t care how much we know…until they know how much we care.  One of the best ways we can communicate care, value, and respect to our teens is to show interest in what is important to them.  Sure, this isn’t always fun for us.  Sometimes, it may seem downright weird.  SO WHAT?!!  If something grabs our teen’s attention, we better be willing to invest the time and effort to understand why.  And that means we have to ask.  And listen.  Without reacting.  Keep breathing.  And praying.  You got this!

5.  You are too quick to disapprove of your teen’s friends.  I know this can be one tough issue.  Sometimes teens just keep being drawn to kids that really are bringing them down.  And we should be paying close attention.  We just need to be very careful about how quickly and decisively we voice our disapproval of the friends they choose.  When you do have concerns, ask questions first and really listen to and consider your teen’s responses.  Work on asking questions that invite your teen to consider important relationship dynamics for him or her self.  And when you see things that you simply must point out in concern, do it directly and respectfully, not through sarcasm or cheap shots.

Perhaps posting this simple passage of Scripture in a prominent place in your home will help you remember and practice the essence of what I am sharing with you today…

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.      – James 1:19-20 (NIV)

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Three Ways to Help Your Teen Manage Digital Dating Boundaries

teens in love with phones

Remember back when you were dating as a teenager, and you wondered why your girlfriend or boyfriend hadn’t responded to your text within thirty minutes?  So frustrating, wasn’t it?!  It’s like, “What’s the problem?  Did I do something wrong?  Is he cheating on me?  What did I say?  Is she mad at me again?  Maybe I should switch to Snapchat and see what’s up there?”

No?  Oh, that’s right.  None of these dynamics existed when we were teens.  My, how the landscape has changed!  Today’s teens live immersed in a digital world that has profoundly changed what it means to be in a dating relationship.  Chief among the many ways this has transformed relationships is the fact that they can now stay in direct contact with one another 24/7.

Sure, this may afford them more opportunities for fun and flirting and such.  But have you considered the kind of pressure this adds to the relationship dynamics between two adolescents who still have a great deal of growing and maturing to do?  Their brains, hormones, and spirits can be so easily overwhelmed by the digital deluge.  And whether they like it or not, whether we like it or not, they desperately need our guidance in maintaining reasonable limits for their communication with one another.  I am working with more and more teens and parents where this is clearly a problem area in need of direct intervention.  Here are some of the guidelines I typically recommend to parents of teens.  I would love to hear any other ideas or concerns you have about this subject.

1. Have a clear consistently enforced digital curfew.  In order to really make this happen, you are probably going to have to have a screen turn-in time.  Phones, tablets, laptops, etc. are either handed in to parents or placed in a designated spot that allows for some rest time away from digital dating communication well before bedtime until the next day.  Be sure to emphasize that this is not about punishment or snooping.  And it isn’t because she or he has done something wrong.  It is simply about helping your teen keep a healthy balance while in a relationship.

2. Directly check your teen’s digital communication on a periodic basis.  Yes, this is where things get really dicey.  First of all, I recommend telling your kids very directly that this is something that will happen.  While there are occasional situations where “snooping” is warranted, I have found an open policy to work best for the norm.  In this spirit of openness, I suggest telling them once or twice a month (more frequently, if there have been problems in this area) to hand over one or more of their digital devices and log you in to wherever you want to check.  Again, explain that this is not about mistrust, but rather about proactively guiding them and ensuring they are not in water over their heads.  When you look through their activity, don’t scrutinize every single element of their communication.  Look at the big picture, check for any glaring problems, and be sure to note places where your teen is using healthy and mature judgment in their digital conduct.

3. Regularly discuss with your teen how they are doing in their dating relationship and how things are going with social media and digital communication.  Be sure to listen more than you lecture.  Offer encouragement and support in addition to guidelines and limits.  Doing your best to maintain a healthy, respectful, and open relationship between you and your teen is one of the most powerful ways you can help them navigate the complex landscape of life!

I know this whole issue can be so daunting and difficult in so many families.  Let me know if you need more help, and I will continue to share more ideas as we move forward together in this constantly changing digital culture.

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Let the Good Times Roll!

catching beads

“Okay, everyone – raise your hands if you think parades are fun!”

Yes, it’ Mardi Gras time down here in Cajun Country.  And, truth be told, my family and I are not really into the whole parade scene.  But they do certainly represent high energy fun in a very special way.  So I thought this would be a good time to remind us all of one very important element of family life…

HAVING FUN!

For some families, it can be easy at times to forget how important it is to play, laugh, and enjoy life together.  This is especially true during difficult seasons when teens may be particularly agitated, contrary, or distant.  When times get tough, sometimes the parenting default becomes correction, lectures, scrutinizing, excessive monitoring, and punishment.  Not much fun at all – is it?  While it is important to watch, correct, and discipline throughout our kids lives, and sometimes especially during teen turbulence, sometimes we just need to break up the serious grind by having some good fun.  Here are a few practical ways you can bring a smile to the faces of your family and remind everyone that life is still good and joy is still readily available to anyone who seeks it:

  • Play a board, card, dice or other variety of game together.  Yes, you’ve likely heard me emphasize this before.  Because it is such a great way to invigorate family life!
  • Have a family video game challenge or tournament.  And let your teens or kids pick the game.  Sure, they’ll likely destroy you if it’s their pick.  But don’t you think that will be more fun for them, anyway?  : )
  • Karaoke night.  If you can find a family-friendly place nearby that has an organized karaoke night, go for it.  If not, create your own.  If your teens think it would add to the fun, invite some family friends or let them invite some good buds.
  • Give each of your kids a chance to pick a fun family activity.  Rotate turns, so everyone gets to pick from time to time.  And feel free to put a reasonable dollar limit on it.  This really is a good way to show your kids and teens they still have a genuine voice in the functioning of your family life.
  • Family role play drama time.  Plan a time where each family member gets to put on their best performance at acting out the part of another family member.  In order to help keep this a fairly positive and fun activity, have an award ready to present to the one voted Best Actor.
  • Family Triathlon/Pentathlon/Decathlon.  No, this one isn’t for hard core fitness families, only.  Plan a weekend or longer, depending on the number and types of events involved.  Each family member gets to determine one “event” in which the entire family must compete.  It can be anything that every family member has at least a reasonable shot at accomplishing.  Laundry speed folding, jigsaw puzzle racing, high score on Plants vs Zombies, basketball free throw shooting, gaining the most views on YouTube within a set time, etc. – anything your family members would consider a fun way to compete.  The prize goes to family member who racks up the highest total score on all combined events.  Make it annual event with a serious trophy.  Who ways we can’t get serious about family fun?!

Whatever you do, just remember to Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!

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Six Ways to Inspire Your Teen to Rise to a Higher Standard

 

 

 

 

 

As loving parents, we all want to see our kids thrive, succeed, and reach their best potential.  As Christian parents, we want to see them doing seeking and depending on God to lead them on their best path, so their lives will make the greatest impact for His Kingdom.  Giving our teens our best as parents means more than teaching them life skills and correcting them when they are out of line.  We must also seize opportunities to inspire them.  Here are six ways we can do just that.

1.  Share your own stories of success and failure with your teen.  As long as you aren’t constantly hitting them with a barrage of your own stories, your teens are eager to hear how you have succeeded and failed in life – especially the failures.  Just be sure you emphasis isn’t on telling your kids to be more like you.  Use your life experience to share how you can actually related to them, and how you learned some of your own valuable lessons.  Give them permission to ask questions about the details of what happened and how you responded.  It’s a great way to inspire them while building a solid relationship that will be there in their own times of struggle and triumph.

2.  Be compassionate when your teen fails.  There are times for bringing an arrogant youngster down a few pegs, for sure.  But when your teen is discouraged, hurting, or ashamed from failure, this is the time to reach out with genuine loving compassion.  Don’t relish the moment of your son or daughter paying a price for foolishness or whatever led to the downfall.  Even if you know it was a much-needed lesson.  Fine.  Let the failure make its own point.  You be there with compassion and care to lift up her/his head, speak words of life, or simply offer a much-needed silent embrace.  This kind of parental response offers much in the way of inspiration.  It says you know this low point isn’t the final chapter, or even the defining moment.  It says you believe and you care.

3.  Regularly invite your teen to share his/her life-dream with you.  If you don’t believe in your son’s or daughter’s Big Dream, then who will?  Listen.  Encourage.  Offer constructive feedback and guidance.  Even if your teen has a dream that seems far beyond realistic, spend more effort showing you believe in who they are, rather than trying to convince them what they can’t do.  Being a true supporter, cheerleader, and coach on your teen’s journey toward the Big Dream is not about you believing in the dream.  It’s about you believing in the dreamer.

4.  Ask questions of genuine curiosity about your teen’s daily life and interests.  Sure, the music or YouTuber or games or fashion or Instagram star may seem weird or even just plain obnoxious.  Some of her friends may totally rub you the wrong way.  The stuff your son is hanging on his bedroom walls these days may genuinely scare the bajeebers out of you.  If you want to truly inspire your teen to rise about the current whatever this is and reach her/his full potential, don’t lead with criticism.  Lead with curiosity.  Find out what is so appealing about these mysterious elements of your adolescent’s daily life.  Get past the unpleasant surface appearance or sound.  Find out the meaning beneath it.  And don’t just hold you nose and try to survive the conversation.  Take mental notes.  Write down some actual notes after conversations, if it helps.  Then you can blow your daughter’s or son’s mind at a later date when you actually remember and understand something important to them, no matter how weird it may seem to you.  This kind of energy and attention communicates importance and significance, which are great foundations for inspiration.

5.  Be honest about your own shortcomings, and be quick to apologize to your teen when you are wrong.  WHAT?!?  Yes, that’s right.  Having the humility and integrity to openly acknowledge and correct our wrongs and shortcomings is an incredible way to earn our kids’ respect and inspire them to live a virtuous life.  It also makes it much more likely your teen will listen to you when the time comes for correction, because you have earned the right to be heard – so to speak.  While it wasn’t really something I had done wrong to him, I will never forget the day my son and I went to go watch the first Andrew Garfield Spidey flick.  My son is reasonably knowledgeable about comic book lore, while most of my experience comes through the many comic-based feature films that have been produced in the last couple of decades or so.  Long story, short – I very arrogantly and curtly dismissed his argument on the way to the theater that Spidey uses “gadgets” to shoot his webs.  Thanks a lot, Tobey Maguire!  My son ate up every word of my meek apology, and the two of us still laugh about that one.

6.  Reward superior attitude and effort in your teen’s life.  Medals are great and trophies are wonderful.  They certainly represent moments and seasons to be celebrated and cherished.  But if you want to inspire the most in your teen, always be ready and eager to recognize a winning attitude and champion effort – regardless of whether there are any bleachers or auditorium seats nearby.  Not only will you offer great encouragement to keep walking along the right path, but you will also be a living example of God’s love for your teen and His ready celebration of every moment of victory, even those moments never recognized by another soul.

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5 Questions I Dare You To Ask Your Teen!

teen questions

Asking good questions is a great way to build any relationship.  It helps the questioner learn more about the other person, as well as communicating a certain level of genuine caring for that person.  Why bother asking, if I don’t really care, right?  In the spirit of opening important doors of conversation and facilitating a more powerful relationship between you and your teen, I have five questions to share with you.  While some of these could certainly overlap in the same talk together, I wouldn’t try to fit them all into the same conversation.  In fact, I would recommend prayerfully looking for, or perhaps creating, the right time for each one.  Buckle up!  This could be quite a wild ride!

1. What is your biggest fear?  Understanding your teens fears allows such an incredible window into their spirits.  You may already have a good idea what some of these might be.  But you never know what else may be haunting or taunting your adolescent between those Beats headphones.  Ask and be ready to gently reassure and guide.  How you respond to what your teen shares with you can make a huge impact on how likely he/she is to talk to you about other bigger things in the future.

2. From whom or where have you learned the most about sex?  I told you to buckle up, didn’t I?  The responses to a question like this one will vary greatly, based on experiences, personality, and the quality of your relationship with your teen.  If you have shown your teen over the years that you can calmly handle big issues, and you have taken time to have good heart talks along the way, you may just hear more than you would have imagined on this one.  Be sure you make it clear that this isn’t a setup to “bust” your daughter or son.  The hope is simply to discover how your teen is being led regarding sexual information and values, and to make it clear that you are there as a primary resource and guide.

3.  Who is your greatest role model, and why?  Seriously, wouldn’t you like to know?  And for goodness sake, don’t pressure her/him to name you as their role model!  Create conversations and emotional space that invite the truth, not flattery, avoidance, or manipulation.  This could really be a fun one to discuss.  Make the most of it.

4.  What have you never heard from me, but wish you could?  This one may not evoke much response.  It may not be a big deal for your kids.  If not – great!  But I can tell you as a therapist that this is a question, if asked with sincerity and compassion, that has the potential to lead a son or daughter on a better path for the rest of their days.  Think about this: what if your Mom or Dad asked this question of you?  Hmmmm…

5.  Is there any way I have ever hurt or seriously disappointed you that I have never addressed or tried to make right?  Again, there may not really be anything to this one in your relationship.  But far better to ask than assume.  This question has the power to heal and transform your teen’s spirit in ways you may not even be able to imagine.  Be bold.  Be compassionate.  Be genuine.  And ask.

If asking, or even considering, any of these questions stirs up dynamics you don’t know how to effectively handle, please feel free to reach out to me.  Or find a Christian counselor or other helping professional in your area that can help provide you with the space and tools to work through it in the most effective way for the growth of your teen and your family life.  Blessings of openness and honesty to you and yours.

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4 Signs You Have A Healthy Relationship With Your Teen

dad and teen watching phone video

Do you ever find yourself wondering how you are doing with with your teen(s)?  Maybe you are unsure how to even assess things.  Well, if you see any of these indicators in your relationship, it’s a good clue you must be doing something right:

1.  Your teen likes bringing friends home to hang out.  This is huge!  It means you have created an atmosphere that not only feels safe for your teen, but is even comfortable enough to share with other teens.  And as a bonus, it is also a clear affirmation that your teen isn’t totally humiliated by you.  WAY TO GO!!!

2.  Your teen regularly invites you to watch/listen/play digital entertainment selections together.  Another big deal.  This lets you know your adolescent isn’t feeling totally judged, criticized, or rejected by you.  No way you would be included in her/his digital entertainment space if you were viewed as a “hater.”  There is clearly something genuinely secure in your relationship with one another, and you may even be viewed as something along the lines of…cool.

3. Your teen periodically gets mad at you for saying “No” and committing other similar horrible acts of parenting.  Congratulations.  You are exercising healthy authority, discipline, and boundaries for the sake of your child’s growth.  If you can check this box, along with at least one of the others, you are a blue ribbon parent.

4. Your teen uses the words “Thank you” and “I love you” in your general direction without an obvious roll of the eyes at least once a week.  Step up to the high platform and enjoy your national anthem – this is champion level parenting!  Your teen didn’t get to this place by accident.  You have been consistently sharing your own healthy love and affection with him/her for some time now.  And you have likely guided your child toward healthy maturity, if these words are still being spoken from your teen’s mouth.

This simple list is not intended to be comprehensive, of course.  And it isn’t shared to scold you, if you aren’t seeing these things reflected in your home.  Rather, I hope it will serve to encourage you today.  Take heart in seeing the things you are doing well in raising your kids.  What are some of the other signs you see in your own relationship that reveal good things happening?

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Three things I wish my Dad and I had done together before I left home:

father son fishingThis is not a post about regret or blame.  Let’s be clear up front.  It’s about encouraging fathers to seize the day and share your knowledge, wisdom, experience – share your self – with your teens while they are still teens and you still have this golden window of opportunity.  My son recently turned 12, so I am becoming more and more mindful of the conversations and experiences I want to share with him before he heads off on his own adventure beyond our home.  And one of the places I turn to put together my own list is to consider those things I missed with my own Dad.  There are three that stand above the rest, and yes, they clearly fall in the “stereotypical guy stuff” category.  This is not to say that there aren’t Moms who can share these things.  If you are one of those – don’t miss the boat!  And I am certainly not suggesting that Dads only share these things with sons.  If you have a daughter, don’t leave her out of this!

1. I wish we had worked on cars together.  From what I understand, my Dad worked in an old-fashioned garage at one point earlier in his life (he was almost 35 when I was born).  We changed a few car batteries together over the years, and he did teach me the handy skill of plugging/patching a flat tire.  That one has come in handy and saved me some hard-earned bucks on several occasions.  Thanks, Dad!  But we never really worked on cars together.  Granted, by the time I can remember, my parents typically brought our vehicles to a shop somewhere if they needed work.  Dad didn’t really do much of that himself.  But I’m pretty sure he knew how to do some of that stuff.  And while it would have been much more of a “hassle,” especially with an impatient kid who talks too much during lesson time “helping” him in the process, it would have been really wonderful for me.  For us.  I think our relationship could have deepened through that experience.  And I’m sure I would have more options today regarding my own car care.

2. I wish we had gone fishing together on a regular basis.  We lived out in the country in a small neighborhood about half an hour from town.  And there was a good sized pond in the middle of our little community.  (They called it a lake.  It was a big pond.)  I don’t think there were any world class bass in there, but I’ll bet there were some fish.  I know we weren’t far from some really good fresh water fishing.  Arkansas has lots of rivers and lakes and ponds scattered throughout its beautiful country.  Exploring the different areas and learning the skills of the fisherman would have been a priceless way to spend time with my Dad.  Not only learning the confidence to bait a hook, quickly release a fish, tie various knots, and knowing where to go for what kind of fish.  I’m thinking it would have been an incredible way for an impulsive, overly talkative kid to learn about patience and being still and quiet when called for.  That would have been really good for me.  Might be good for your teens or younger children.

3. I wish we had gone hunting together.  The first time I saw a deer on a hunt with a gun ready in my hands, I was in graduate school in Texas.  I was out with some friends who graciously took along a smart guy from school who was a clueless idiot in the campsite and deer path.  I wish I had been with my Dad.  The first time I killed a deer, I was in a stand in North Louisiana, with my best friend and his Dad and brother in nearby stands, eagerly listening for the report of the rifle they had loaned me.  It was incredible.  Breathtaking.  Surreal.  And I wish my Dad had been there.  As a poor boy growing up in the woods of Middle Tennessee, he had learned to shoot anything they could eat.  And he got very good at it.  He was an exceptional marksman in the US Army in his prime.  I wish he had bought me a gun, taught me to use it correctly, and shared the ways of the woods with me.

While I have begun to share these experiences with my own son, after first seeking guidance from men with the knowledge and patience to teach me, I need to be more deliberate.  I need to plan better.  I need to take time to share these skills and conversations and life opportunities with him.  It won’t happen by accident.  And my son is growing up in a screen-saturated world that constantly cries out to him to stay indoors where the “real” action and adventure is.  I don’t have a set of mechanic’s tools.  I don’t have a boat.  I don’t have a rifle.  But why should that stop me?  I can share some basics with him in auto maintenance.  We have friends with boats and plenty of places to fish in South Louisiana without needing one.  My 12 gauge is all we really need to do almost any kind of hunting we would want to pursue around here.  This year, I’m going to schedule time to get my son outside with me and experience some adventure, growth, and new skills together.  I hope you will do the same.

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The Prodigal’s Dad – Lesson Three: Who’s Responsible?

helicopter

 

We’ve all heard the term “helicopter parent.”  The parent who feels compelled to follow around with constant monitoring of their child or teen, ensuring everything goes as planned.  So let me ask you this: have you EVER heard the term used in a positive light?

Didn’t think so.

Why is that?  It’s because we all know deep down that this is not good.  It does not allow our teens to exercise their own judgment and learn their own lessons.  If they are not allowed to fail, then they will miss their greatest opportunities for learning and growth.  So why do we, as parents, still feel compelled to hover and take responsibility for them?  It is primarily a function of our own fear.  Rather than dwelling on what may go wrong, we must choose to focus on remembering how our teens have learned from previous lessons, and the kind of growth, maturity, and responsibility we are eager to see in them as they move into adulthood.

Just as the Father of the Prodigal is clearly a man of faith, so must we place our faith not only in God, but also in our kids’ ability to learn, grow, and shine.  The more we believe in them, the more we will see them rise to the challenge of responsibility.

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