Tag: parenting teens

Parents, Let’s Not Fall for the Dating Lie

Maybe it’s true that wisdom comes with age. I’m almost forty-six, so it’s about time I gained some wisdom, I guess. I’ve learned a few things about my enemy here in the last little while. I’ve heard it’s wise to be wise to the ways of your adversary. Until recently, I didn’t give him his just due. I didn’t recognize just how surly and evil he is.

I have learned that his best and most brilliant talent is tampering with the truth. His expertise is taking a truth, and carefully, patiently whittling it into something untrue. Yet the metamorphosis of the truth into an untruth is so subtle, that unless we are diligently paying attention, we come to accept his version of the truth as actual truth. At this point I think I need to cut to my point, or I may lose you altogether, if I haven’t already.

Let’s talk dating. The way young people enter into social and romantic relationships has changed drastically over the last fifty years or so. What used to be admiration from afar has quickly become up close and personal. When my parents were teenagers, their parents were the keepers of all things relational for their teens. If a young man showed interest in my mother, he had a tough road to get to her. He had to go through my grandfather first. Good luck with that. My grandfather was my mother’s shield of protection, and he took that job seriously. He remained that shield until my mother married. Then both spiritually and literally, my grandfather gave my mother to my father, and he then became her shield of protection.

Fast-forwarding to today, just a mere fifty or so years later, my own children are teenagers. Things have changed so much. Many parents have let go of the responsibility they have to be that covering for their children, both male and female. Dating is encouraged even in middle school. Elementary aged children have boyfriends and girlfriends. Really?

We are putting our children into social and relational situations they are not nearly mature enough to handle. We step aside, too busy with our own lives, and allow them to make decisions regarding with whom they will spend time, and invest in emotionally, without setting limits that will allow them to proceed with success. So when their hearts are broken, all we can do is be there with a ready shoulder for them to cry on. We allow them to bounce from dating relationship to dating relationship, and all the while they get really good at ending relationships, but never quite so good at keeping them.

The enemy is destroying our kid’s ability to invest in healthy relationships because he has convinced us that parents having control over how and when our kids enter into social and emotional relationships is just too old school.

Gone are the days when a young man had to get through the father before he got to date the daughter. Gone are the boundaries that set younger relationships up for success.

One of my sons recently announced that he was going to meet up with a girl at the movie theater. He said it wasn’t a date, although he was considering the possibility of dating her. Okay, but things change quickly, and what might have started out as a platonic situation during the previews, could very easily end up something quite different by the credits.

When my husband questioned the wisdom of this endeavor, and asked what this young lady’s parents thought of their daughter going to a movie with a young man they had never met, our son told us that her parents were not as strict on those things as we were.

My husband was quick to tell him, that even though this girl’s parents had differing ideas, she would still be treated the same way that our daughter would be treated in the same situation. As it turned out, they didn’t see a movie. Instead, they went to lunch, and had a conversation. Out in the open. Not in a dark movie theater. Who talks in a dark movie theater anyway? A lunch date was a much better way for our son to determine if there was enough of an interest in this girl to then approach her parents about a dating relationship. So far, there isn’t.

It’s true that if you tell a lie long enough, you can believe it is true. That’s what our enemy is counting on. He has told us a lie about teens and dating for long enough that parents are just throwing up their hands in surrender and saying, “What are we supposed to do?”

We are supposed to be parents. We are supposed to be that spiritual covering that keeps our kids from venturing into relationships they cannot possibly be ready for. We can’t fall for the lies. Our kids need us too much.

How To Survive Raising Teens

Just kidding. But you got a little excited there, didn’t you? I mean, wouldn’t it be great if someone could tell you in a hundred words or less how to get through those interesting, challenging, mind blowing, years of raising teens without pulling your hair out?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I love raising teens. I didn’t think that I would, but I do. Like many parents, the fears I had about the potential pitfalls of those years had me freaking out about going through it FOUR times. I am happy to say, it has been my very favorite stage of parenting to date. While I have loved pretty much every stage, this one, this time that worried me so, has been great. I will put out this disclaimer: I have great kids, not perfect kids, but great ones. I mean, I know you do, too, but I am serious here. My kids don’t drink, smoke, or chew and they don’t swap spit with kids that do. Now if that were all twenty first century parents had to worry about I think we’d all feel comfortable going away for the weekend and leaving them with the house. Parenting teens today has a whole new set of pitfalls and snares that our parents didn’t have to worry about.

Mostly when I say I have great kids, I believe it’s more in spite of me than because of me, but I do think Matthew and I have done one or two things right. I’ll tell you what those things are, just in case those things might help you navigate this unique stage of child rearing. I’ll share the first four today, and the last four on Wednesday. (I’m sure the anticipation will make you crazy.)

Alright, here you go:

Find parenting mentors| Matthew and I met a really cool couple several years ago who had successfully raised three children to adulthood who all happily served the Lord and loved their family. We watched this family, and asked those people LOTS of questions. We asked their kids some, too. How did they do it? We learned a lot from that family, and much of what we learned we use with our teens today. One of the best things we learned from our mentors was how to take things in stride. Most things are not nearly as desperate as they seem in the moment. Ask yourself, “Is this going to matter in five years?” Most of the time it won’t. But for those things that will, stay vigilent!

Get reinforcements|  Find a young adult to spend time with your tween or teen and invest in them. Someone who loves the Lord and holds the same values you do and are trying to instill into your kids. Pay this person to spend time with your kids if you have to. They will say what you are saying to your teen, only they will say it cooler. News Flash: you are not as cool in your kid’s eyes as you were when they were five.

Making their faith their own| Kids entering middle school need to have a conversation with you about owning their faith if they have not already. They can and will ride along on your faith skirt tails as long as they can, but the time comes when they have to step up and make it their own. This will shape how they act, who they choose as friends, and how willing they are to be salt and light among their peers over the next few years. This is not something you can leave to chance. Even if your child became a Christian at a young age as ours did, they still need to “grow up” in their faith just as their bodies and minds are growing up.

Get them into meaningful service within the body of Christ| Sixty percent of all kids raised in church leave the church in their early twenties. How can we prevent this? Matthew and I firmly believe that if your kid spends time in your church or other Christian organization serving in meaningful ministry, (as in their presence there actually matters and they are really making a difference) they will get a taste of how it feels to be used by God, and they will never want to be without that feeling. Your church should offer these opportunities to kids as young as sixth grade. If they don’t, find a church that does. Mercy Lokulutu of Celebration church in Florida says to students,“We don’t need you to be the church of tomorrow, we need you to be the church of today.” (www.mercylokulutu.com) 

So if you are just starting on this journey of parenting a tween or teen, or if you’ve been at it for a while, hopefully these tips will help. Matthew and I have blundered up plenty in raising our kids and we have found that God’s grace does cover a multitude of sins. Teens need parents who are engaged and plugged in, not fearful parents or parents who are too busy to invest in them.