We wanted our children to ask questions–and lots of them! We wanted to be their answerer as much as possible. Thus, we “trained” them to ask questions–by answering them freely and endlessly.
Ray is the best answerer I have ever met (honest!). He is the one who made me come up with the little acronym that we teach at our parenting seminars. I have watched him day in and day out, year in and year out, answer a question. Then he paused and continued on with more answers and more answers and more answers.
Our son and daughter-in-law whom this post is based on are coming up to their first anniversary of marriage. And we were so thankful that we helped guide them through their dating and engagement years. Thought we would re-run this one as it is almost always pertinent to someone! 🙂
I am an experiential writer. I like to write and speak about things only after I have experienced them for myself for a while. I have had the writing/speaking bug ever since our first born (now thirty) was two years old, and I headed up our children’s church department and taught teachers how to teach, manage the group, etc. (based on my credentials as an elementary education major). However, it wasn’t until I had homeschooled for many years, raised a few babies and toddlers, managed a busy household for a decade and a half, etc. , that I felt ready to talk to others about those things. As a learner, I also like to learn from those who have “been there” and “came out to tell about it”! Smile…
My husband and I began talking about raising and homeschooling teens about eight years ago–when our first born was twenty-two. Now I have seven children ages fourteen through thirty–three of whom are in college and living at home. Guess what? I am more than ready to tell the world what I have learned and continue to learn about raising/discipling teens and young adults in this heart-affecting way that we have chosen to live. If there are even a few things that we have found to work, I want to spread that vital info from shore to shore and sea to sea (okay, that’s a little dramatic, but have you ever had seven kids ages fourteen to thirty at various critical stages of life–let me tell you, it’s more than a little dramatic!).
So…with deep affection and emotion, I bring you a few things that we KNOW teens and young adults need from us as parents:
1. Safe place to talk
They need to know that it is safe to tell you whatever is going on in their hearts and lives. They need to know that you won’t completely freak out (even if you don’t agree)–and that you will love them regardless of what they say in these talks. Our oldest son and daughter (30 and 27) were raised in a pretty strict home. We had rules that did not have logical reasons (see our teen posts for Recipe for Rebellion beginning here: http://characterinkblog.com/day-sixty-eight-avoid-the-recipe-for-rebellion-ingredient-i-rules-without-reason/). We were oftentimes lost, exhausted caring for small children and emotionally drained trying to help young teenagers find their way. However, our son told us that he never wanted turn away from us–in spite of our many faults–because no matter what we made him do, wear, or say, we always gave him “intellectual freedom”–freedom to believe and think for himself (with our guidance but not with an iron fist). Fourteen to twenty-four year olds need a safe place to talk that should be found in their parents.
Are you tired of hearing me talk about this yet? One of the most unfortunate things to me in the whole “teen” thing is that parents sometimes think that they are done or at least almost done long before we really should be done. I have often said, and continue to believe, that children between the ages of sixteen and twenty need their parents more than ever. Why would we work so hard to instill in them our beliefs, to teach them character, to raise them with love and tenderness–just to leave them to peers alone during these ages? They need us. And they need for us to be available when they need us. For some of us, this means not going to our own things (shopping, golf, and, gasp, ballroom dancing) many a Saturday for much longer than we originally thought we would have to give up those things. Parents of teens and young adults–you are not done! There are still some more critical years to make yourself available to these amazing people in your life.
This might seem like a repeat of number two, but it really isn’t. Yes, we need to clear our schedules not just to watch them play baseball or go to their concerts; we need to clear our schedules to provide times of availability. We also need to understand the amount of time that these ages take. We have had two of our kids get married so far. The amount of time that it took to counsel them, have fun and plan with them, encourage them, and help prepare them was probably more than my many long days of teaching that child to read or working on chores together! We have three college kids at home right now. They need the “normal” time things–help with college math, reviewing class schedules and seeing how they can squeeze in something that is only offered at a certain time during a certain semester, help changing a tire, and the “as-only-Mom-can-do” edits on their big papers. But they need long periods of time for #1 (safe talking place) and long periods of time of just being there—when they feel friend-less, when the stress of going to college and working is taking its toll on them, when they have a broken heart, when they are questioning something that they have always believed to be true, when they are disillusioned with people and this world….time….and lots of it.
4. To Be Treated Like Adults
If you have been to our parenting seminars or read our parenting book (The Well-Trained Heart), you have likely heard us emphasize the strong link between responsibility and privileges. This point, to be treated like adults, is not to de-emphasize that. We believe that children (and adults!) who show themselves responsible and mature get more and more privileges (hmmm…parable of the talents????). However, many of us treat our sixteen year olds like little kids–micromanaging their school work and homework, following them around to check on each step of their chores, not “expanding the boundaries” of responsibility/privilege in a way that is commensurate with the responsibility and maturity level they are showing. If your teens are still working on that whole responsibility thing and really aren’t ready to have the boundaries widened like you had hoped they would be, at the very least, don’t continue to treat them like little kids in other areas. Give them opportunities to please you and do good things. Set them up for success so that you can expand their boundaries and treat them more adult-like. Quit giving them money for nonsense and toys that keep them playing all the time, and instead provide them with tools–books, computer for school, gas cards, work desk, handy tools, car wash passes, and even fast food gift certificates so that when they are out doing those adult things, they can get gas and a bite to eat. Stop giving them video games, ipods, and individual sports things that twelve and fourteen year olds want/get. Talk to them like adults–don’t ask them where they are going or what they are doing in an accusatory way, but ask them in the same way you would ask your spouse–in order to determine the schedule and plan for family time. Say, “When will you be home from class–I was hoping we would have some talk time tonight” not “And what time will you be rolling in tonight?” I have so much more to say about treating our teens and young adults like adults, and I will try to address this even more as Ray and I are speaking about some teen topics this summer at some conferences, but I will leave you with this word of advice: The tone in which you speak to your kids tells them right away whether they are being treated in a condescending, child-like way or an adult way. Tone is where I would start.
That’s all for today. I am crying as I finish this article. I have had a couple of weeks of intense parenting of teens and young adults. I truly have the most amazing eighteen, twenty, and twenty-two year old living in my home right now. But their hearts are vulnerable, and they are facing a big scary world. And they need me and Ray to help them finish becoming who and what they are going to become. The needs are so much bigger than getting them to finish their peas and pick up their toys.
Our teens and young adults need us! They need our support. They need our advice. They need our encouragement. They need our faith in them. They need our time. They need for us to be available to them. They need for us to treat them with respect. They need us.
When we had Valentine’s parties (or any “holiday” party) with our kids, we always did it a few days after the holiday—so we could get the candy and treats for 50-75% off! So…if you are reading this after the “real” holiday, it really isn’t too late to have a party with your kids for Valentine’s Day!
One of the things that we tried to do with our kids for celebrations (or just “anytime parties”) is that we tried to go out of our way to make being with Mom, Dad, and brothers, and sisters cool. Our kids see us go to great lengths to prepare for a Sunday school class party, Mary Kay party, or extended family party. We put thought and effort into having “parties” with our kids—so they wanted to stay home and party with their family–and so that they would know that they are as important (more so!) than the Sunday school class, the gals at the make up party, or the reunion.
We have fond memories of communion nights, footwashings, Valentine parties, Easter celebrations, fondue parties, “flat top grill” parties, and more with our children. Being in our family was just plain fun and way cool! Some times we would just announce to the kids that “tonight, we’re having a movie party” or “tonight, we’re having a chocolate party” or “tonight, we’re having a game party.”
It may have been as simple as frozen pizza and a movie or as elaborate as a fondue meal that Mom and the littles spent the afternoon preparing for. It may have been for a holiday (after the holiday!) or just because we wanted our kids to stay home with us on a Saturday night instead of running around with friends. (We’re not opposed to friends, but the more time we spent with our kids the more WE would influence them rather than peers influencing them.)
I will list some ideas for a homemade Valentine’s Party—some that we have done and some that I have read about or heard of.
1. Write love notes to each other. Okay..I can write this one without crying…I really can. Some of my fondest memories are the times that we sat down and had the kids write notes to each other. Okay…forget the not crying thing. Talk about incredibly sweet and memory-imbedding! We drew names and sat down and listened to the true Valentine’s story on cassette (Adventures in Odyssey) and wrote love notes to each other. I still have some of them! We had the little kids dictate to us. One of the funniest ones: one of the little boys wrote, “Dear Kayla, I love you so much because you have skinny arms.”
2. Have fun foods! This is especially important as your kids get older. After all, what do they have when they go out with friends or to youth group? Pizza, Taco Bell, mall snacks. As our kids got older, we got more elaborate with our party foods. When the two oldest girls were college age and crazy about Flat Top Grill when it first opened in Fort Wayne, one of our Valentine’s parties was a flat top grill night. (It was tons of work to prepare for, but the older kids loved this!) We had meats, veggies, and pita breads all ready—and had griddles and electric skillets all set up on the table. It was quite the feast!
3. Do something for others. Preparing Valentine’s cookie baskets or bath baskets for nursing home residents, etc. is a great way to spend a party—and helps others too.
4. Wait until after the holiday to have your party, so you can get some cool party treats for fifty to seventy-five percent off! With seven children, buying elaborate Easter baskets or Valentine’s hearts was usually out of the question. However, after the holiday, we could go get things for a lot less and still give them special treats.
5. Spend your Valentine’s Day showing love to those less fortunate. For the past several years, we have spent time on or around Valentine’s Day serving a Valentine’s banquet (and sometimes cooking it or helping to cook it) for adults with cognitive disabilities through our daughter’s disability ministry (One Heart). We often do things to prepare for it (cookie making, set up, preparing a special drama, etc.) then serve at it. Valentine’s Day is about love…and what better way to show love than to live out Luke fourteen.
6. Get a special movie, audio, or talking books to listen to or watch together for your Valentine’s party. We love Adventures in Oddysey and other radio dramas put out by Focus on the Family; the Christian bookstore (and Hallmark) have some good movies about unconditional love, etc. that are appropriate for this holiday.
7. Write various verses about love on large hearts cut of construction paper, cut each one in half in various zig-zags, mix them up, and pass out a half a heart to each person. That person then finds his other half, reads, the verse, and discusses it with the family.
8. Sing Scripture songs about love. Once we had piano players around here, we loved to gather around the piano and sing. None of us is too musical (except the two pianists), but we all loved it anyway.
Party with your kids—and make them want to stay home more!
“There are games to be played, living room football to be conquered, talks to be had, words of affirmation to be spoken, talking books to be listened to, stories to be read, lessons to be learned, foods to be cooked, lego castles to be built, crafts to be made, tales to be told, songs to be sung, and hearts to be won. Turn off the television and turn on relationships.”
Today I bring you more tips for Taming the Television. I pray that these will help you to make the most of the time you have with your children. You will never regret the hours upon hours you spend discipling, mentoring, nurtering, heart training, and playing with your kids–take it from a mama with a thirty year old! Smile…
7. Replace television with something else—you!
About thirty years ago we went to a parenting seminar in which the speaker told a story of a dad who wanted to get rid of his family’s television. His children balked at the idea. He told them that he was taking away the television but giving them something else. They asked him what this something else was, and he replied, “Me!”
Everyday his children would call him at work, anxiously awaiting his arrival home. “What are we going to do tonight, Daddy?” And each day he gave his children something far more valuable than television: he gave them himself.
Don’t just remove television, certain nights of tv viewing, or tv time without replacing it. There are games to be played, living room football to be conquered, talks to be had, words of affirmation to be spoken, talking books to be listened to, stories to be read, lessons to be learned, foods to be cooked, lego castles to be built, crafts to be made, songs to be sung, and hearts to be won. Turn off the television and turn on relationships.
8. Have the children earn television hours.
This has been suggested to us many times when we speak about time management and time with your children, so it must work well for some folks! I have heard of various ways to earn tv time—same number of hours reading as watching, getting so many minutes per chore, earning minutes by doing things on time (i.e. homework done by six equals 30 mins tv), etc.
9. Watch out for preschoolers’ screen time!
This isn’t a method for controlling as much as an admonition. Your preschoolers will grow to dislike simple pleasures very quickly if they watch television and movies all day. We had a “no movie during the day period” rule most of our lives. (The exception to this was one hour of educational dvds, like Reading Rainbow, Doughnut Man, NEST videos, etc. for one hour after naps with one particularly trying child.)
Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours per day of television for two year olds through preschoolers and none at all for children under two. There are so many more educational, meaningful, physical, and fun things for two, three, and four year olds to do besides watching television!
We teach the concept of “setting children’s tastes” in our parenting seminar–and it is so real and so true and so impacting that we want to shout it where ever we speak. Just like my two oldest kids despise pop because we “set their tastes” by not ever giving them any when they were little, so we set all of our children’s tastes for continual entertainment by bombarding them with it when they are young.
10. Make a “no turning on the television without permission” rule.
I am amazed when children come into a house and turn on the television. I have seen semi-pornography on commercials for television shows many, many times when we are at someone’s house watching football or in a motel viewing television. I would never consider letting our kids have the remote control to a tv and flipping through the channels. They just see way more than they should see at their ages (or more than I want me or my husband to see!).
11. Be careful not to use television as a babysitter too much.
I know preschoolers and toddlers are demanding. I had six kids twelve and under all at home by myself twelve to fourteen hours a day every day—without television (or even computers!)! However, continually putting little ones in front of the television is simply not healthy for them. Their attention spans will not lengthen like they would if they were listening to talking books, listening to you read aloud, “baking” a play-dough pie, or building with Duplos. Use the television as a babysitter only when it is absolutely needed—and try to find other ways to entertain toddlers as much as possible.
12. Limit daytime viewing for everyone.
We always told our kids that daytime isfor learning and working—and evenings are for resting, fellowshipping, playing, and family. It is extremely hard to control the number of hours our kids watch television when they watch from seven to eight before school and again from four to six after school—to start with!
13. Pay attention to how much time children spend using all screen media.
In a study recorded in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the hours of actual screen time logged by children versus the hours that parents estimated were significantly different. In our media-driven age, we should be aware of all of our children’s media/screen time—not just television*. In order to control the amount of time our children sit in front of entertainment screens, we must be realistic and honest about the amount of time they truly are being entertained by any screen.
14. Do not put a television set in a child’s bedroom.
The aforementioned study discovered that children with televisions in their bedrooms watch significantly more television than children without. Furthermore, parents monitored television habits much less when there were many television sets in a household—and especially when the children’s rooms contained televisions.
15. Turn the television off when it is not being used for purposeful viewing.
The study previously cited found a negative association between the use of television as “background” and children’s time spent reading. Quite frankly, reading is a simple pleasure that many children do not enjoy—background noise of television is not conducive to enjoying this pasttime that takes a great deal more effort than simply viewing and listening.
16. Pinpoint other nonscreen, in-home activities that your children enjoy.
When discussing the idea of reducing television viewing time in your home, you might have a family meeting and draw up a list of other ideas of things the family can do instead of watching television. A website devoted to helping families reduce their dependence upon television, The Television Turnoff Network (http://www.televisionturnoff.org/), lists one hundred alternatives to “screen time” that parents can suggest to their children.
Family time is worth fighting for. The relationships that can be developed when some of the distractions are removed are incredible. The amazing things that we and our children can do with the time that we are not watching television are worthwhile. Don’t let your children set out to spend nearly fourteen years of their lives watching television!
*Jordan, Amy, PhD; James C. Hersey, PhD; Judith A. McDivitt, PhD; Carrie D. Heitzler, MPH. “Reducing Children’s Television-Viewing Time: A Qualitative Study of Parents and Their Children.” Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Web. Feb 2010.