As I watch Sam and Ian lope into the tween season, I am quizzing my faithful mentors for hints to navigating this new terrain. I thought I’d share some of their wisdom here, only slightly condensed or re-worded. Some of this applies to both genders, some is boy specific. I don’t expect it all to work for you or for me. But it’s worth letting you peruse for your own personal set of highlights. Fist bump to all the tween parents out there!
Ms. Jean has been in my life for several years now. She successfully raised six children, including boys who grew up to be excellent men. I tend to follow her around and pester her with questions when she enters my orbit. Here’s what she told me…
Training and Consequences
Take the time to discern if the issue at hand was the result of immaturity and childishness or if it was the result of knowing better and making a bad decision. That will help you decide appropriate consequences.
It’s easy to get worn down at this stage, to get lackadaisical because you think you should be done teaching them general life skills. We feel like we’ve “said it all” already. But this is not the time to quit. You’ve still got work to do. Said it 100 times? Say it 800 more.
God does not quit on us. He doesn’t stop telling us and re-telling us how to live. (Anybody else reading Jeremiah these days? Feels like maybe God had raised a tween or twenty.) We show our tweens God’s character when we don’t get surly because we’ve had to tell them to quit dunking their brother AGAIN. Keep speaking truth, keep holding them to a high standard, over and over and over again. Just like Jesus does to us.
It ain’t that deep, honey. Be faithful in what you need to do and don’t beat yourself up when it gets hard.
Decide what your rules are and stick to it. Don’t let peer pressure win. You tell them, “It doesn’t matter what other people do. In our family, we do THIS.”
Monitor everything. Know what your children are into, know how they spend their time.
Declare a shut down time. God gave us the Sabbath for a reason. It’s ok to declare a Sabbath from technology, even just if it’s at dinner time. More importantly, take your OWN Sabbath from technology with the kids. Teach them to live as you do and then live like you know you should.
On Becoming Men (but this totally applies to raising young women, too)
The best way to help them grow into men is to surround them with men you’d like them to imitate. Let them learn by example.
Life will make them men, not a lesson plan or a book you give them. Be open to the teachable moments, even when they’re inconvenient or hard. This is the time to be faithful, guide them as you can, and leave them in His hands.
And then, as she saw me feeling overwhelmed, she summed it all up with this:
All you have to do in any given moment is:
God loves them more than we do. Even on the bad days, IT’S FINE. You show them the Word, but they are their own selves and they will make their own choices. You can’t do it for them.
So you pray a lot, and I guarantee they will know they are prayed for.
You teach them how to clean their rooms and study God’s Word.
You show them how to be a good disciple by just following God like you do.
And apologize when you’re wrong.
Remind them to love God, love others, and let the rest fall as it will.
That’s all you have to do.
Let me tell you something – My kids still make decisions I don’t like. But I talk to God about it and then I sleep well at night. Because I’ve done the best I could, I’ve shown them how to love Jesus, and the rest is up to them and Him.
As I’m running around cleaning out closets, planning our school year, and finding shoes to fit all the rapidly expanding feet in this house, it’s nice to dwell on these words and remember that I won’t get it right, but Somebody else will. Hope you find some comfort here, too.