In the last decade, I’ve experienced the loss of both my parents. This has caused me to think a lot about my parents and the impact they have had on my life: the things that were important to them and how that has shaped what is important to me; lessons I learned along the way, some caught and some taught.
In many ways, I think it is harder to be a parent today. Kids today are surrounded by a secularized society that bombards them with advertising, television, and social media messages. Parents are juggling demanding careers and family life in light of societal pressures to be more, do more, and have more. Our good intentions of helping, protecting, and providing for our kids can quickly turn to enabling or even disabling them.
How do we help our kids grow into mature Christ followers without falling into the trap of enabling or disabling them?
1. Don’t do for your kids what they can do for themselves.
I recently had a friend who shared with me that her son texted her from his bedroom and asked her to bring him a bottle of water. She texted back, “the water is in the refrigerator, feel free to help yourself.”
We laugh about this, but what do we do when our kids come home from school and tell us that they are struggling in a class, or they walk off the field upset that they aren’t getting more playing time, or they get in the car after being at a friends house disappointed that their friend was mean to them.
Is our first response to make an appointment with the teacher, or talk to the coach after the next practice, or call up the friend’s parent and have a conversation?
How to Help:
#1 - Affirm their feelings and the experience they are going through.
#2 - Instead of talking for them, why not coach them on how to have a conversation with their teacher, coach, or friend.
#3 – Teach them to empathize with others by asking them what the other person might be feeling or thinking? Why might they be acting the way they are acting? By asking questions you aren’t trying to excuse the behaviors of others, but simply trying to help your child learn to consider the perspectives of others.
2. Don’t always rush in to rescue.
While school clothes shopping with my son before his freshman year of high school he found a pair of bright red pants that he couldn’t live without. Knowing that he was starting a brand new high school I tried to steer him away from the purchase. I shared with him how others might react to the pants and how that might affect him. He boldly stated that he was his own person and that wouldn’t bother him.
I allowed him to buy the pants. He wore them the first day of school and then hung them in his closet the remainder of his high school years never to be worn again. I’m still not sure what happened that day, but throughout his early adult life he often made comments about ‘those red pants’ and how they reminded him that what he wanted wasn’t always the best thing for him.
How to Help:
The next time your kids forget their homework at home, or leave their lunch on the counter, or their gym clothes in their room avoid the temptation to rescue them. Some of the best lessons learned are through experiencing the natural consequences of our actions.
3. Don’t give your kids everything they want.
One endearing memory I have with my dad was a family camping trip. My dad and I were in the lake and I must have asked my dad for something. I don’t even remember what I had asked my dad for, but I will never forget his response to my request. He simply said, “you have the wants, the wants, the wants.” In my adult life when I’ve caught myself ‘wanting’ something his words have lingered in my head. I’m really glad now that he didn’t give in to my every ‘want’.
How to Help:
When the sentence starts with, “Will you buy me ...” offer them a way to make money and save up for what they want or offer to pay half. We always appreciate things more when they have cost us something.
Help your kids without enabling or disabling them. Don’t do for your kids what they can do for themselves, don’t always rush in to rescue, and don’t give your kids everything they want.