Parenting is hard work, life is hard. Raising children is difficult in the best of homes, and the best circumstances. It seems everyday presents more challenges and hurdles. We want our children to be happy, accepted, and excel. They want to be accepted by their peers, have fun, and “go along with the crowd.”
This has been an ages-old problem. Children of all generations want to “go along with the crowd.” For some, this is a dangerous path. In most cases, children do not have the experience or confidence to say “no”. Their fears of being ridiculed, or made fun of, outweighs their desire to say “no”. Children don’t worry so much about being popular as they worry about being an outcast. They fear being teased or talked about if they are different. This unspoken need is seen throughout the school years but is most important during the teen years.
As a parent, most of us want our children to be able to do the “right thing”, even if it means being different. But we must understand their world and the stress they are feeling.
Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord, offspring, a reward. Psalm 127:3 (CSB)
How parents can help
- Try to walk in their shoes.
It helps if parents are understanding of the dilemmas many children face. Be there to listen, without judging, but offering advice. Try to remember your most difficult times growing up. Be kind, they need you.
- Be the “fall guy”, when necessary.
Sometimes children just need an excuse not to participate in a bad activity, such as going to a party, or staying out late. Try to always keep communication open, so they will share these times with you. Then allow them to use you as an excuse. They may want to tell their friends they are grounded, or they have to go visit a grandparent, or they will be out of town. Whatever, they need, try to understand they are trying to do the right thing while “saving face” with their friends.
I’m not encouraging children get in the habit of lying. Understand sometimes they will feel backed into a corner without a way out. Peer pressure is very strong, it can lead to risky behavior and poor judgement. Help your children be prepared for these times.
- Don’t try to be their friend.
Be their parent. Just because children confide in you, doesn’t mean you should be on the same level as their friends. Children need parents to set boundaries, to protect them, and to guide them into adulthood. Friends cannot and should not do those things. It’s fine to say “no”, in fact, it is most likely the one word more children need to hear more often.
As a parent, you love them more than anyone else, except for our heavenly Father. A parent has lived through some of the same experiences children will have. Even if times have changed, children still encounter peer pressure to “push the limit”, to break the rules, to engage in sexual behavior, to consume drugs, and to lie to parents and authority figures. It is at times like these that children need to have an open, honest relationship with parents, they need advice, and they need to understand there will be consequences for these actions.
- Assure your children you will NEVER stop loving them.
Let them how much you love them and cherish them. They must know you will always be there, no matter how bad they think things are. Children need to know you will help them work through it.
This is not the same as solving their problems for them. I discourage parents from doing that. Children must learn there are consequences to their actions, good or bad. Parents will not always be able to solve the problems for their children. The younger children are when they discover this, the more responsible they will become.
Do not allow children to think they will “let you down” if they make mistakes. We all make mistakes. We all sin. They need to understand God is a loving God who forgives, and we, as parents will forgive. This is not about us; it is about our children growing up.
- Enroll children in a couple of after school activities.
Do not fill up every after-school minute, but being active will give them other places to feel like they belong. Exercise is always a good outlet to forget the disappointments of the day, or to let off some steam. Encourage community activities. Knowing others are benefitting from their work is very rewarding and gives them a sense of purpose, of being needed and wanted. Make sure these activities do not include social media. Social media is only compounding problems of children, especially when they compare themselves to others.
- Give children responsibilities, comparable to their ages.
For younger children, it could be preparing things and delivering them to a nursing home or making crafts for others. For older children, it could be helping with a summer camp, collecting for the needy, or mowing lawns for the elderly. Whatever it is, encourage them to continue it, and let their rewards be intangible. Their reward should be a sense of accomplishment, not money.
Collecting for food drives, for toy drives, or ringing the bell for the Salvation Army at Christmas, along with an adult, are all wonderful responsibilities. Children may even create their own project. Honoring vets, organizing friends and sending letters to soldiers, organizing friends to collect items for the homeless shelter are other suggestions. The list goes on and on.
- Make sure children are involved in church activities.
Children will have friends who encounter the same problems and learn from them. Bible study will put their problems in perspective. Children are growing and maturing, which includes spiritual growth. Their love for God, their understanding of the Word of God, and their understanding of our Biblical morals and values will provide them with the strength to reject the ways of the world.
- Set priorities.
God should always be first, family next. Electronic devices should be at the end of the list, and only allowed for schoolwork. Help children use their talents to honor and glorify God.
- Be an example for them.
Whatever you do, your children are watching and learning. You set an example by going to church, by attending Bible study, by the language you use, by the way you treat others, by the priorities in your life. Do not allow electronics, smart phones, emails, job, or others take you away from your family. Avoid the current trend of staying on social media and apps.
Lift your children up to the Lord. There will be many problems, and times you will not be there, but God is there, watching over them and loving them. Pray for wisdom, for guidance, and for grace to be an example.
Don’t be afraid to love your children, to hug them, to tell them you love them. But do not rob them of the many opportunities to fail and get back up. Just as a toddler endures many falls, before learning to walk, children need many falls to grow and mature. It is hard to be on the sideline, however, you are showing them you trust them and have confidence in them to be able to handle whatever difficulty comes their way.