Thursday, May 18, 2006

Helping Kids Make Wise Choices

I began youth ministry at the ripe old age of nineteen. I had just finished my freshman year of college when I went to work as a summer youth minister at my home church in South Carolina. Needless to say, student ministry brings a wide range of challenges of its own, but at nineteen years old, those challenges are very different. I will never forget standing in my driveway that summer speaking to a mother who stopped by to talk with me about her sixteen year old daughter. “Craig,” she pleaded, “just tell me what I should do with her.” I was awestruck; a mom in her mid-thirties was asking me, a nineteen year old kid, to tell her how to raise her daughter who was only 3 years younger than me. It was at this very moment, early in my ministry that I understood one thing very well; parents do not think they understand their kids.

As I look back at that moment, I think the question that mom was actually asking was, “Craig, how can I be sure that she makes the right decisions?” That situation revolved around a relationship with a boy, but relationships aren’t the only area where parents struggle to help their teens make wise choices. Obviously adolescence opens doors to all sorts of temptations and struggles with peer pressure and acceptance, so what are the things that parents can do to help their students make choices that will affect them now and in the future in a positive manner? I believe there are a few things that are necessary, some of which you might not guess, that will help you encourage your student to make wise choices.

Before I discuss the things that you can do as a parent, there is one thing that I must say. Parents too often disregard the impact they have on their children. “Craig,” I often hear parents saying, “I don’t know what to do, she just will not listen to me.” Parents, take heart, your children hear and retain more of what you say and do than you would ever believe. Your kids will never tell you how much they hear and heed what you say, but know that when you are not around they are talking about what you have said. I am always amazed at just how much kids need their parents approval deep down inside of them whether they want to admit it or not. So, parents, that means that you need to be sure that no matter how things seem to be going, you continue to parent, you continue to love, lead, guide, encourage, admonish, punish, and reward regardless of the response that you get from your students. Proverbs exhorts us to raise children up in the way that they should go so that when they are old the will not depart from it. Below is a list of some specific things you can do to help your kids make wise choices.

1. Eat Supper Together- If you want your kids to make wise choices, spend time with them daily. Time around the table opens conversation among family members where parents can know what children are doing and students can learn by hearing how mom and dad deal with conflict on a daily basis at work. According to studies cited by Miriam Weinstein in her book The Surprising Power of Family Meals (Steer Forth Press, 2005), children and teens who enjoy dinner with their families five or more nights a week were 32% likelier never to have tried cigarettes, 45% likelier to have never tried alcohol, and 24% likelier never to have smoked marijuana. "Those who eat lots of family dinners are almost twice as likely to get A's in school as their classmates who rarely eat as a family," Weinstein adds. The family meal is a pre-emptive strike against bad decisions in adolescence.

2. Ask Questions- Teens are famous for wanting their parents to leave them alone, but parents, if you want to aid your students in making wise choices, check up on them. Remember parents, you were once a teenager yourself thinking the same way your teen now thinks, so ask questions to hold your students accountable.

3. Spend Time With Them- I know that you may not be that cool, but go to their baseball games or band competitions. Teenagers want to know that they matter to their parents and you show that you care most by the time you spend with your kids.

4. Discipline- Your students need to know that you love them through discipline. Discipline is accomplished in many ways; the type is not the necessity. The act of discipline, however, is a requirement of parenthood. Discipline shows students first that you love them and second that there are boundaries in life and punishment for exceeding those boundaries.

5. Go To Church With Your Kids- I put this last, but it should probably have been first. Parents drag them kicking and screaming if you must, but get them to church and get yourself their too. The church is God’s vehicle for making himself known in this world. Regular church attendance and an active relationship with Christ is an assumption for all who seek to be advised by this article because it is a precursor to a healthy family.

No comments: