This is a hard post to write. I'm pretty sure that it will ruffle some feathers, appear judgemental, or maybe even result in some nasty comments. But maybe, maybe it will encourage someone on the fence. Maybe it will be used by the Holy Spirit to convict someone who's been feeling a tug they can't name. Maybe it will shore up someone's sagging confidence in what she feels called to do. If any of those things happen, well ... I'll be grateful to God for nudging me to write what I feel uncomfortable putting out there.
Why, why, why do so many parents--and yes, I'm talking about homeschoolers here-- feel like the moment their child passes through some magical, invisible line, they cease to have the power to actually parent said child?
Really. What is that?
Why is it that it's o.k. to tell a 9 year-old that you don't allow certain words to be said in your house, but that's denying a 14 year-old his right to expression?
Why do you actually take the time to meet the friends that your 10 year-old likes to spend time with, but not even know who your 16 year-old is texting?
Why is having standards of modesty for a 6 year-old acceptable, but the 12 year-old can wear whatever she brings home from the mall?
Why do you take the time to teach the 3 year-old that temper tantrums are not o.k., but let your 13 year-old slam their bedroom door in your face?
Please don't think that I'm living in la-la land. I know that parenting a teen is a whole different ballgame from parenting a preschooler. I am not unaware of the fact that the parent/child relationship grows and (hopefully) matures. I am not expecting a high schooler to blindly obey or to bow to every whim of their parents.
No, that's not what I'm saying at all. What I am saying is that so, so many people I know seem to just throw their hands up in the air the minute their child hits an age that even remotely resembles independence.
Every event, activity, etc., becomes a drop-off affair. The mom who led the Brownie troop never even darkens the door of the youth group. Standards become incredibly lax. The dad who required his son to open the door for girls and ladies suddenly doesn't mind the same child talking to his mother through a closed bedroom door. Fitting in with peers becomes more important than following family rules. The family used to forgo rated-R movies, but all the other kids have seen it, so why not? The youth pastor suddenly takes over the spiritual education of the child. Those family Bible times are a thing of the past. And, worst of all, parenting becomes non-existent. "I wish she wouldn't do X, Y, or Z, but it's not like I can stop her..."
I have been so disheartened over these past few weeks listening to fellow homeschooling parents with children on the cusp of their teen years. The vast majority of them seem to have already assumed a defeatist, hands-off type of approach. I've heard, on more than one occasion a parent lamenting the peers their child has fallen in with, the poor instruction in the youth group, the behavior of their new teen. You know what every. single. parent. followed their complaints up with?
"All I can do is pray I guess."
Excuse me? All you can do is pray? Obviously, all parents need to be praying for their kids, no matter what their ages. And I don't just mean those generic, "help her to be a good person, Lord," kind of prayers. Specific, directed, goal-oriented prayers that help the Lord hone your vision for His vision--those are the most effective parenting prayers, imo.
But beyond that, do you have any control? Of course you do. Be the parent. If your family has rules, enforce them. If you feel led to have specific expectations, keep them. Respect your child's newfound independence and sense of self, yes. But still require him or her to be a loving, working, functional part of your family.
Please don't get me wrong. I do not ascribe to the theory that has all children bowing to their parents in all things up until the day of their wedding. I firmly believe the axiom "Rules without relationship equals rebellion." I don't expect the kind of mindless obedience that some Christians impose in their homes. Growth, freedom, and maturing are good things. They are part of God's design. I'm not talking about stifling any of that.
What I am talking about is staying involved. Asking questions. Not assuming that your teen (or pre-teen) is ready to handle anything and everything simply because he or she has graduated to youth group or has a double-digit age. Be the parent.
How? Volunteer for whatever activities your child is involved in. Not every week, but on a regular enough basis that you know the leaders, the routine, and the other kids attending. Keep a family devotional time going. Now is not the time to let that slide! If anything, this is the most important part of the discipling process--moving from general knowledge to real application! Maintain a sense of respect for your child, and also insisting that he or she respect you (and your rules). Insist that family stay more important than peers by nurturing sibling relationships. Read a book together that inspires you to walk forward into the teen years with a shared vision. (I recommend "Do Hard Things," but there are many others). And remember: Rules without relationship equal rebellion. Having your child's heart makes all the difference!
Doing these things is no assurance that you won't find yourself on your knees praying for a prodigal. God gave all of us free will, and that includes your kids. You can do all of the "right" things and still find yourself doing the heavy lifting of parenting a child who is simply lost, who abuses drugs, who makes you a grandma before you're 40.
But if you've been the parent, at least you can say you did your part. Your heart will still be broken, and your faith will be stretched ... but in the end, you will hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Remember, God will hold you accountable for the job you did stewarding the blessing he entrusted to you. Not your child's peers. Not the church's youth pastor. Not Hollywood. Not the author of the latest book fad. Not society at large. YOU are the one given the job of raising your child to adulthood--and it doesn't stop until that child really and truly is an adult. If you wouldn't want your 14 year-old getting married, then he or she isn't an adult. If you can't say the same thing for your 20 year-old, the same thing applies.
Be the parent. All the way.