Making Responsible Choices

I was a part of the student group last night; Craig Goodmurphy led a presentation about teenagers making responsible choices during these developmental years. While a lot of the information probably went in one ear and out the other, he presented scientific details about the development of neural pathways. Drugs and alcohol have a significant effect on the brain (and therefore decision-making), because nerves need to wire and fire properly. When we ask the kids “what were you thinking?” they have an imagination that honestly tells them that what they are doing is safe, responsible and logical. They are convinced they can handle it, and they are doing a good job… while observation from the outside shows they are wasted and reckless.

During this season of proms and ring dances, there will be teens all over this city making poor choices that will effect the rest of their lives. What is a parent to do? Check out this verse:

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. (Proverbs 22:6)

Every year I approach May and June with mixed emotions. I know how exciting it is to be finished with teachers, classes, and homework and to look forward to a summer of fun. And for high school graduates, the future seems exciting, filled with potential. But I also know of the shipwrecked lives, kids who never even make it to summer because of careless celebrations at proms and other parties. It seems like every year we read of carloads of kids who are killed through drinking and driving, and other tragedies.

As I watch seniors walk across the stage to receive their diplomas, I know that they will be headed for the whole range of ups and downs as they make the difficult transition into adulthood. Our future as a nation truly does rest with this generation, and I wonder what that future will hold.

I also wonder about the kind of world we are giving them. My generation has made a few contributions, but we have also formed a society based on self-centeredness, materialism, and greed. It’s a violent world, filled with guns, gangs, crime, abortion, and abuse. Despite the progress and the optimism of the ’60s and ’70s, racism is on the rise again. Personal freedom and choice have come to mean that a person should have the right to do almost anything he or she wants, with no restraints. Families are falling apart. Alternate lifestyles are being taught as normal, and this generation has been trying its best to purge public life of every trace of biblical faith.

It’s not a pretty sight, but it’s not hopeless. There is time to change the direction, but it must begin with our children.

This is a good time to think about our kids, of all ages. We need to reach them now; we dare not wait until graduation.

  1. What are we doing to teach them the right values?
  2. What are we doing to motivate them to serve others?
  3. What are we doing to heal their pain and meet their needs?
  4. What are we doing to lead them to Christ?

The Bible verse above is not a guarantee of raising successful kids, but if we don’t raise them right, we can nearly guarantee they won’t turn out right. Think of what you can do to reach this generation. There is no better investment of your life.

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Help Your Kids Pick Good Friends

I was reading the Lifeway magazine “Living with Teenagers” (Feb 2009) and it’s full of great information this month. One article on finding friends I find exceptionally noteworthy today:

 

Your teenager may have a couple hundred friends on his Facebook page, but how does s/he find real friends? How can parents help?

 

  • Reflect on your own friends when you were a teen.
  • Understand it takes some time.
  • Get to know your teenager’s friends and pray for them.
  • Help them to see that God is relational and created us to connect with others (Matthew 22:37-39).
  • Help them think through the qualities of a good friend; perhaps define the word “friend.”
  • Share examples of poor friends:
    • Shallow friends (Proverbs 18:24),
    • Foolish friends (Proverbs 13:20, Proverbs 14:17),
    • Mean girls – and boys (Proverbs 12:26),
    • Gossiping friends (Proverbs 16:28, Proverbs 20:19),
    • Volatile friends (Proverbs 22:24-25),
    • Fair weather friends (Proverbs 17:17).

 

Measure how good a friend you are (each question is worth 10 points):

 

  1. ____ I haven’t passed on any gossip this week; I keep things to myself.
  2. ____ I am a good listener; I make eye contact and ask follow-up questions.
  3. ____ I am even-tempered; I don’t explode or withdraw when upset.
  4. ____ I am happy for people, not threatened, when they succeed.
  5. ____ I feel sad when others (including those I don’t like) fail.
  6. ____ I have the skills to be honest about things that bother me in a relationship; when I’m honest the problem is usually resolved.
  7. ____ I appreciate someone who is honest with me; I receive it gracefully.
  8. ____ I take appropriate responsibility for my behavior.
  9. ____ One of my strengths is picking the right kind of friends.
  10. ____ I can avoid foolish and wicked people without creating a scene.

 

How’d you do? The closer to 100 you are, the better friend you are! Ask your friends to take the test with you in mind and see how the two compare.

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Communicating With Your Children

I recently read a story about Ken…

 

“Ken squandered many opportunities to connect deeply with his sons, to communicate things that would have made their lives better. But he is thankful for those times when they did connect more than superficially—the breakfasts before school, the weekend “guy trips,” the bedtime conver­sations and prayers. The love and respect they now have for one another testifies to the effectiveness of those occasions and God’s mercy and grace.”

 

The Bible is full of wisdom when it comes to life and relationships, and Proverbs 5:1 tells us about a father desiring to pass on life insights to his son. Although in context this passage refers to a father warning his son about the temptation and enticement of women, I believe that we can broaden the appeal of this verse to include fathers desiring to pass on wisdom and life lessons to all of our children, not just sons.

 

We want our children to pay attention to our “wisdom” because we don’t want them to go through the same things that we did; the pain, the hurt, the mistakes, the sorrow, many things about which we are not proud (and we keep from telling our kids). But when we share life wisdom, are they listening?

 

The Same Old Story

Much has been written about the conflict between fathers and sons. Throughout history they have often struggled to understand each other, get along with each other, respect each other, accept each other, and even love each other. No national­ity, religion, or generation seems exempt from this struggle.

 

We shouldn’t find it surprising, then, that father-son conflicts are found throughout litera­ture, including the Bible. The tragic relationship between King David and his son Absalom (2 Samuel 13-19) is a classic example. Yet, by the grace of God, some fathers and sons have largely avoided this struggle. How have they done it?

 

Writing Your Own Story

The trite but not-too-surprising answer is usually something like “you need to have good com­munication.” Of course, the time to start working on that is always now, but how to do it may vary based on the age of your kids. Maybe this can help:

  • Put your children on your calendar. If I don’t write it down, it generally will not get done.
  • Block out time for the two of you to be alone. Give yourself time and opportunity to be together.
  • Engage in activities that you both enjoy but also allow for meaning­ful conversation. Sometimes it is the ride to and from the event, or over the lunchtime you shared.
  • Avoid long lectures. Instead, humble yourself and seek to listen as much as you talk.
  • Encourage your kids to ask questions and then answer them tactfully and patiently.

 

Over time, your kids will grow to trust and love you.

 

Pay It Forward

Sir Charles Barkley once said, “I am not a role model.” But dads, you need to be. The “strong, silent type” is not the best role model for your kids, they need to know the real you. Talk with them; spend time with them. Open your heart and your life to them. Share the wisdom that you have, that which cost you so much to gain.

 

Freedom of Choice for Teens

I recently read about Tim Stafford’s advice to hurting parents, regarding a son’s irresponsibility toward himself and his behavior. He mentions “Three Rules of Life” that I find very positive: 

  • Rule 1 – You live and die by your own choices.
  • Rule 2 – You can choose smart or you can choose stupid.
  • Rule 3 – There’s always somebody or some circumstance whose job it is to make your life miserable when you choose stupid.  

 

Regarding rule # 1 – While we cannot control people or circumstances around us, we can control the way we respond to people or situations. Someone might do something that makes me angry, but it is my choice to actually be angry. The Bible mentions that God has set before us life and death, (Deuteronomy 30:15) and we must make a choice as to which we want. It’s called free will, a gift of God Himself, but with our choices come consequences (leading to rule number 2).

 

Regarding rule #2 – The debate might come on how you define that which is smart and that which is stupid. We have a list of the smart choices and our kids have a list of smart choices, but the problem comes when I see something on my stupid list showing up on my child’s smart list. So, the solution is to use a predetermined list from Someone who is all together wise and perfect! Use the Bible as the standard for life and making choices. There may be a few gray areas, but look for the principles, and be fair to the text. But, please don’t pull out verses like Exodus 21:17.

 

Regarding rule #3 – If you choose stupid, there always will come a day when it comes back to bite you. If you choose smart, give your kids the credit for making a wise decision! You’ll face a judge (stealing), fail a grade (not doing homework), be in an auto accident (drinking and driving), develop cancer (smoking), catch an STD (for the obvious)…

 

You cannot make someone change who does not want to change, which is basic counseling advice. It doesn’t work in a marriage with alcoholics or drug addicts. Secular wisdom tells us that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. There is nothing that you can do to make your kids change, but you can reward smart choices and give consequences for poor ones. So, our job as parents is to influence our kids in the right direction. Influence is the essence of leadership.

 

Years ago I read a book called, ToughLove, and another called Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, The point of the first was to have rebellious teenagers experience the consequences for their actions, and the latter had a section that challenged parents to at times “pull the rug out from under their kids and watch them tumble.” 

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Gift-Giving During a Money Crunch

Times are tough. Money is tight. While many Christians are hoping for a white Christmas, for a lot of us, we might be anticipating a blue Christmas. Gas prices may be half of what they were a month ago but the cost of everything else is still pretty high!

 

Our kids are caught in a materialistic society, and parents are not immune. We want the newest gadget, the latest toy, the upgraded phone or gaming system. When do we reach a level of satisfaction and contentment? Oops, that’s for another time…

 

Gift-giving is a Christmas tradition in the western world; it is expected. Our kids cannot even imagine Christmas without packages. We might like the message of the Grinch; that Christmas came anyway, even without all the packages, boxes and bags. Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more! But how can we emphasize the Gift of Christmas over Christmas gifts?

 

Here’s a radical idea, how about choosing gifts this year based on a biblical theme? ** For example, as we read about Jesus in Luke 2:52, that He grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man, perhaps we can find items to fit these four categories. Give a board game or a book that promotes wisdom. Stature might warrant clothing or a sporting item. A devotional book might help your child grow in favor with God. A DVD or a video game might foster relationships with their friends. It would be important to explain the significance of each of these gifts!

 

Helping your kids understand a family budget might cut back on the notion that mom and dad have money growing on a tree somewhere. Resist using your plastic! Explain the reality of Proverbs 22:7 (just one verse after the admonition to train our children in the way they should go).

 

You can always find a way to serve others, taking the focus off of ourselves and putting on to others. Giving back is the latest craze. Gather items for our Christmas basket give-away. Bake cookies for your neighbors or shut-ins. Sponsor a child in the Chande Orphanage Project. Serve a meal at the homeless shelter.

 

Christmas will always be meaningful to a believer, whether there are a lot of packages under the tree or not. Focus on the reason for the season! Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)

 

** I got this idea from Kelly King in Oklahoma. 

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