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.
If you have more than three children, you have probably heard it over and over (and thought of it a lot too): I need to make each child feel special.
We would agree with this concept. What we disagree with is how difficult we sometimes make it.
Sure, there are times for Daughter-Daddy Dances. (Kara was the proudest girl there because her daddy knew how to dance and had taken her to the ballroom for private lessons before the big day!)
There are times for “dinner and a movie” with Mom. There are times for day trips shopping or caving or hunting or crafting or, or, or.
But why wait for those “big days”? Why create this “it has to be big to make my child feel special” idea in your mind.
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.
“TV will never be a serious competitor for radio because people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen; the average American family hasn’t time for it. “ from New York Times, 1939
With so many new year’s resolutions involving time–family time, controlling time, more time with those we love, less wasted time, etc., I thought I would re-work parts of a lengthy series I did on here a few years ago–this time titled “Taming the Television.”
When Ray and I speak or write about allowing more time to be with your kids, we are always asked how we have so much time for our kids, especially in light of our business and ministry. And the answer lies in not where we get the time (we all get the same amount, remember), but where we allocate the time we have been given.
Thirty-two years ago this summer Ray and I were married in a little country church. The best marriage advice we received (and followed) has also become our best parenting advice: do not get a television. Somebody told us not to get a television set for the first year of marriage but instead spend time together, talking and getting to know one another, developing intimacy and romance. We took that advice—and have been “stationless” for most of the thirty-two years of our family, though we did get a vcr and eventually a dvd to watch movies. (We tried getting stations one year, but didn’t like the way it dictated our evening schedule and stole time from us. We just got a television and Netflix about a month ago–and so far, so good!)
With the advent of computers, dvd’s, i-pads, and other electronic devices, we have other things to contend with for our attention—and our entire family loves movies—however, we have found that by not being able to get television stations (via antennae, box, cable, etc.), we have gained the most-sought-after commodity: time. The latest statistic on television viewing in America is twenty-eight hours per week, per person. Even if we and our children watch three movies a week (which is a stretch many months), we still have twenty more hours every week than the “average” American.
We cannot tell people that they should get rid of television as it is all bad. Nowadays, more than ever before, there are tons of good, interesting, entertaining things to watch. Educational and informative programs abound. Good movies are available at the flip of the remote. However, one thing has stayed the same: television (and now internet or internet television) is the greatest time robber of all things that vie for our attention.
Getting rid of television programming is not an option for most people, I realize. After all, it’s an American institution! However, I propose to you that even getting control of the television could potentially yield you more time than you would know what to do with! And would give you literally hours each week to spend with your kids.
Consider the math for a moment. If a person is the “average” American watching twenty-eight hours a week of television, over an eighty year life, that person will have watched 13.29 YEARS of television—28 hours a week x 4 weeks x 80 years=116,480 hours….divided by 24 hours in each day equals 4,854 hours, which equals 13.29 years of twenty-four hour days. Imagine the relationships we could build with our children; imagine the things we could learn; imagine the good we could do—with even half of that time, say six and a half years—given to us. Makes me want to control my time just a little better!
Today and tomorrow I will give you many ideas and tips for Taming the Television–some that we have used successfully and some that we have heard of others using. Here we go:
1. Set weekly time limits.
Even with the ability to only watch movies for at least thirty of our thirty-two years, we have had to set weekly limits when it seemed that every day someone wanted to watch a movie! We have usually had the four to six hour movie rule per week—and found that this was enough for the kids to watch a thing or two that they wanted on dvd (currently Monk on dvd) and a family movie or two.
This varies with kids, too. A couple of our kids really like watching movies; our three boys recently went an entire month without watching anything, even though they were allowed to watch if they asked. Now they got a television series on dvd and have watched several hours in one week. It is the spirit of this rule—not the letter—that we try to follow. It is about being in control of your life (and teaching your kids to be in control of theirs)—not about a certain number. We balance this time out so that it is enough entertainment to enjoy being entertained, but not so much that it controls our lives.*
2. Set television days.
We had a rule for over a dozen years that other than educational dvd’s (we use some teachers on cd/dvd for school), movies could only be watched on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. I prefer the #1 idea as sometimes the children wanted to watch, watch, watch simply because it was the weekend.*
3. Decide ahead of time what programs/times/days the family will watch television each week.
Many child development experts recommend this—and call it the “family viewing schedule.” Write these programs/times on a calendar or schedule, and only turn the television on during those times. This method provides you with conscientious, purposeful viewing—not just, “Wow, we’re home, so we should turn on the television.”
4. Cover your television or put it away unless it is purposeful viewing time. We have our television on a rolling cart in my bedroom closet.
This worked for us for most of our family’s life because if we had a television to watch movies on, it was not hooked up to anything to keep it in one place (i.e. cable or box, etc.). I know this might not work if you have it hooked up to receive programming, but our family loved this. We just sat in the living room and talked for hours—no television calling out to us, no “favorite programs” causing us to work around them. If you do have your television hooked up to something, you might consider having it in an armoire or other close-able cupboard. Again, the out of sight, out of mind concept works wonders, especially for younger children.
5. When you do watch movies and television, watch it together whenever possible.
This will allow you to keep tabs on what your children are seeing/hearing, but it will also create opportunities for lively discussions. We love to talk about movies that we have watched. We love to quote lines from them back and forth to each other. Watching together allows you to share the entertainment, not just passively watch shows separately.
Obviously, we cannot do this all the time. The boys were on a Psyche kick (on dvd)with one of their sisters. They only watched it when the four of them could all watch it together—and Ray and I seldom joined them. We didn’t have the time then to devote to watching it, and we knew that they were watching it together, so that worked out well.
Family viewing will be more of an event than an everyday occasion if certain shows or time slots are dedicated to family television watching or movie watching rather than just evening free-for-alls.
6. Declare certain days “tv-less days.”
If you cannot get rid of television programming all together, the “tv-less days” seems to be the next best thing to me. Decide what evenings/days are people’s least favorite days to watch something, and make those evenings no television evenings. Cover the television up—and don’t even consider turning it on. If you manage to have three evenings a week without television, you will likely cut your family’s viewing by one third, at least. Just imagine evenings together without anything distracting everybody. If you do this, follow our family’s “replacement” rule—if you’re going to take something away from your kids, replace it with something else. (More on this tomorrow!)
Well, I am out of time and space. Tomorrow I will post tips for television viewing reduction for children specifically. Same bat time. Same bat channel. (Sorry–I just couldn’t resist.)
*Note: With the ability to watch things online, watch dvd’s, stick a dvd in the laptop, etc., we have found it especially important to include all viewing in these time or day limits. Thus, the four to six hours a week includes anything they watch—unless they watch it at Grandpa’s for an overnighter or go to their brother’s to watch football or something.
Tonight as we drove home from an extended family Christmas gathering, reading aloud and singing, I was reminded of an old article I wrote for our newsletter several years ago—Christmas in the Car. I will post it in its entirety below—gotta sneak in those family times any chance we get as our kids get older!
If your children are growing up as fast as ours are, and if you travel distances to church, piano lessons, grandparents, etc. as we do, you might want to try some of our “Christmas in the Car” tips. Basically, every year I see the holiday time slipping away from us. The girls are taking college classes; off to Spanish or piano; teaching their own guitar, language arts, and piano students; working at their jobs; and more. Every time I think we’re going to have a sing-along/reading time tonight, someone announces that she has a Spanish test tomorrow and has to study all evening! Thus, our “Christmas in the Car” time was born.
We spend a great deal of time in the vehicle each week—driving to lessons, church, grandparents, etc.—all forty-five minutes away from us minimum. Being the efficiency expert that I am (of sorts!), I began utilizing this time in the vehicle to keep some of our holiday traditions alive. Try some of our “Christmas in the Car” ideas—and keep those traditions going strong:
*Sing carols as you drive.
*Listen to Christmas radio dramas (Focus on the Family has good ones), Uncle Dan and Aunt Sue Christmas stories, Christmas books on tape, Adventures in Oddysey Christmas stories, etc. as you are driving.
*Sing your way through the Christmas story. Start with “Mary, Did You Know?” and move on to “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem,” then move onto anything having to do with the shepherds (“The First Noel,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Angels We Have Heard on High”). Next move into the birth/after the birth with “Silent Night,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Away in a Manger,” and “We Three Kings.” Lastly, sing of the joy of his arrival: “Joy to the World” and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”
*Tell the Christmas story in one sentence increments as you go around the van, person-by-person. (This gets interesting with the little ones who might have them fleeing Herod’s wrath before Jesus is even born!)
*If a passenger can read without being sick, you might read your way through a favorite (pictureless) holiday book. We enjoy reading Cosmic Christmas by Max Lucado and The Birth by Gene Edwards. Everyone looks forward to reading another chapter the next time we get in the van.
*Likewise, we read “devotional” type books about Christmas while we drive. This year, we are enjoying short chapters in the book Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas (see review). We have also enjoyed Christmas Stories From the Heart, The Christmas Reader, and more in years past.
*Use the driving time to memorize the Christmas story from the book of Luke. (We like to assign one verse to each person and go from person to person.)
*We enjoy memorizing all the verses from a certain Christmas song each year. In years past, we have memorized “Away in a Manger,” “Twelve Days of Christmas,” and “We Three Kings.” We can still sing most of the verses today!
*Drive by Christmas lights on your evening travels.
*Go through a drive-through or walk-through nativity while driving by one.
*Deliver goodies to those in route.
*Play “20 Questions Christmas-Style” or “Name That Christmas Tune.”
*New game: A person picks three things about the Christmas story that are really true or just thought to be true (or embellished, such as the little drummer boy playing for Jesus), and the others try to guess which two things are really in the Bible and which one is not. This is eye-opening.
*Sing whatever Christmas song you are reminded of by the decorations you see—stars, snowmen, angels, etc.
*Make up your own humorous twelve days of Christmas song, with each person getting to add their own items to the list as you sing around the van.
*Play the ABC Christmas game—“What I love about Christmas is A for angel, B for baby, C for candy, etc.” Go around and each person starts with A and tries to remember what was previously said. (This is a spin-off of the “I went to Grandma’s and I took A for applesauce, B for blankets, etc.)
*My personal favorite: Have someone write your holiday cooking and shopping list and holiday menus down for you while you drive and dictate to them. (Be forewarned: No comments about the spelling or penmanship are allowed when the child is done writing for you!)