I set out to write a five-step article, helpful and easy to follow. The topic? Teaching kids to become independent thinkers who depend on God; I wound up with a thousand-word mess! I kept wondering, “What am I missing?” I realized, there isn’t an easy five-step answer. Maybe the answer isn’t about a set plan, but more about the heart—my heart.
When my oldest was little, I lived in terror. Terror of the scary things the world would someday teach her, terror that she would listen and terror that I wouldn’t keep her safe. I wanted to protect her and hold her close.
As she grew, I realized each day, each moment contains: letting go. Preschool, elementary school, middle school, and onward—it’s all been the opposite of holding her close and protecting her from the “big bad world”. Instead, my life as a mom is actually about launching her to greater adventures, increasingly more of them away from me.
Point Them to God
Though it’s painful, I’ve had to accept that I won’t always be there for my kids. Just as I learned independence, I want the same for my children. They need to be prepared for the real world. Life isn’t always easy. I struggle. I’ve faced some tough questions:
Why is my younger child disabled?
Why did I have cancer?
I don’t always know the answers. But I do know God, and I trust him. Instead of fostering my kids’ ongoing dependence on me, I need to point them toward my source of strength, hope and comfort: God.
In the process of pointing my kids toward God, I teach them how to make wise decisions; we set limits, we communicate and they practice making decisions.
For example, my daughter wanted to watch a movie recently, but when we looked up the film on Plugged In*, it has explicit sexual content. We talked it through and decided to skip the movie. Other times, we watch the movie together so we can discuss it afterwards. Although, she doesn’t always love this approach; I’ve noticed recently, she comes to us with a movie choice having already looked it up. So, it seems to be sinking in!
The same goes for books. For a while, I tried to stay ahead of her on the books she read, but she started reading so fast, some slipped by me. When I realized one book I’d missed had some graphic sexual content, I went back and discussed it with her. I wasn’t angry with her, but it opened some good discussions.
Technology is a bit stickier. Our goal isn’t to employ such tight restrictions that our daughter wants to sneak around. Instead, we teach her to make wise choices so that she’s equipped to make good independent decisions. To that end, we have some boundaries:
- The phone she carries doesn’t belong to her. We have all passwords, and we check it.
- We enforce time limits, attached to consequences for misuse.
- When we have family time, no devices allowed–that includes Mom and Dad.
- We monitor the age-appropriate social platforms she uses. I’m an active user on each platform we say yes to. I have expectations for her: and me.
- Online is forever. We use discretion in what we post.
- There are social media platforms we say no to, based on some questions:
- What kind of content does the app promote?
- Who are the target users?
- What controls are in place on the app?
- Parent involvement benefits children. Check this out, “Why some 13 year olds check social media daily.” The more a parent is involved and aware of the teen’s social media world, the less stressful it is for them!
- With all of that in mind, I keep a sign on the front door: Remember who you are.
Finally, I’ve read that one thing teens crave is authenticity. So, let’s be authentic with our kids. Let’s . . .
Apologize for our mistakes.
Admit when we don’t know what to do.
Go to God in prayer for answers.
Seek to be examples in making wise decisions.
Let them see the real us, the messes, the hurts: our humanity.
And be unafraid to see the same in them.