Having toddlers and teenagers at the same time is just HARD, people. I dare you to try it sometime. Lest you start going on about how I’m a saint, let me clear up the record for you: this homeschool blogging mama may have great intentions, but I don’t have it all together. My goal is to journey down the “Cross Road” with my teens, though… even if there are difficulties and failures along the way. It’s our little version of ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’… and I’m happy to see glimmers of progress each day.
Posts about the latest recipe, the election results, the field trips we’ve been on, and children’s books we love seem to ring hollow as I type lately. All have been demoted to draft status and may never see the light of day. Over the past week, I’ve had blog post titles scribbled on the bottom of each day’s box on my planner – but haven’t found a moment edgewise to write. The issue isn’t just time to write, but it is my commitment to live first – and my life and the people in it have needed a lot of intense focus lately.
So… with the desire to keep it as real as possible without divulging information that is of personal nature, I’m just going to ask that you pray for our family as we transition through the last two homeschool years to the first years of the rest of my sweet teenagers – then adult children’s lives. Funny thing how children turn into adults even if you put bricks on their heads to stop them from growing. Sad thing that parenting is mostly done in hindsight because for most of us, we are all in Parenting 101 for the entire time our children are at home… learning along-side our kids and trying to stay one step ahead of them. It isn’t easy being a shaper and molder of human minds and hearts… but I have learned so much and thought I would share with you a few things I’ve gleaned lately.
I was an avid reader as a child, but I will admit that since I had my own children, most of the books I have read are about teaching, the mind, the heart, the soul, living well, having a better walk with Christ, methods of learning, curricula, raising kids, teens, etc. In my pursuit to offer my kids back to the Lord, I have been consumed with seeking out His will for my children and trying to live according to it myself. I have failed often. I have turned homeschooling into an idol at times. I have been too lenient and too strict at times. But the worst thing I’ve done… something I never even realized I was doing… is believing it was UP TO ME to save my kids.
Sure, when you write it out like that it’s obvious, right? Idolotry. Self-reliance. Not trusting my kids to God, to whom they belong.
This is why parenting is so hard. We are constantly having to remake ourselves in Christ’s image and fill ourselves with His Word to remind ourselves that the ultimate outcome is BEYOND OUR CONTROL. And yet He is faithful and loves our children more than we ever could. He knit them together. He created them. He never makes mistakes.
May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it. ~ Thessalonians 5:23-24
A couple of tips for parents who don’t have teens yet (or those who do):
1. Establish the rules of your home early (and in LOVE teach them)
Imagine that little Peg and Johnny are 16 and remember what life was like when you were that age. Try and remember what those hormones were like… the emotions… the tears… the desires of your little immature hearts. Think long and hard about what ways you can safeguard your teens and do not neglect to offer them the tools to make good decisions for themselves. Some rules that were shared with me by a friend were that they don’t allow anyone inside the home to use screens behind closed doors, and all devices are plugged in on the kitchen counters at night – even mom and dad’s. I loved the way that this particular rule shows that people in the home are accountable to each other – not just the teens, but mom and dad as well. No, home life shouldn’t be a long list of rules, but having basic expectations for the entire family to meet is not only normal, but healthy and teaches respect for other people and offers a great way to build on Christian values. The key here – and where parents often fail – is to make sure the rules apply across the board.
2. Seek out Godly Counsel
I can’t tell you what a lifeline a good Christian friend and mentor can be – not only to yourself, but to your teens (who may not think mom and dad are so smart as they near the adulthood mark). Getting plugged in to a serious meaty Bible study that talks about practical life application for your Christian walk is not only important for parents, but also teenagers. If you don’t know of one, START ONE in your own home. Ask the kids to bring a friend. Start conversation. Pray about the things that are on their hearts and start digging in to find answers in the Word. It WILL change their lives (and yours in the process). I know for us, this has been a life-changing positive thing… and my teens would tell you themselves that their bible study group is a non-negotiable part of our week.
3. Realize it Isn’t About You
This is the hardest bit of parenting advice I can offer, but it will squelch the idolotry right out of your heart and bring you into the proper kneeling position to fight for your kids in prayer. You need to be praying (in case you don’t already know this). Start early. Increase in intensity. You can’t overwork your Father in Heaven’s ears. Key word in that sentence: Father. He’s the one who is ultimately in control.
I’d like to share a bit of advice from a friend of mine on this topic…
“In my opinion, kids who wish to break the rules are going to find a way to break them. No matter how strict the rules become, the more deceptive they will become. As a parent, you should err on the side of freedom because it gives you leverage to put the responsibility on the child by saying, “I try to give you freedom, so if I am saying no, then you must know how important this is to me”. The law brings about sin – that’s it’s job. It shows us where we need God’s salvation and grace.
This is scary. I know. I have had children who have badly failed despite me thinking I had provided every Christian benefit they needed to avoid sin. Yet creating a false environment may only delay the natural consequences of sin – which WILL happen at some point. It is safer for it to happen at home where mom and dad can help to guide and love the child. Is this easier on the parent? No way!!
My last two kids at home have almost no rules besides basic house rules, but when I see sin in their lives, I ask questions guiding them to the root of the issue (the sin is the symptom) and then pointing them to the truth and the Cross. Look underneath the sin; not just to its manifestation – the fruit – but to the root. For example… If they have an attitude that shows unwillingness to help with chores, that points to comfort – so do they value their own comfort over the well-being of their family? Search out the scriptures together. Talk about the heart issues that come up. This is the only way to change a child’s motivation from within so that their character is shaped forever.
Remember to search your own heart, also. Children have a keen eye and can spot a hypocrite even from a very young age. Are you living out your values in front of them and not just asking them to do so? Get with God often to keep yourself humble and teachable. Remember that the teen years are a time when God reveals SIN to a child to show them that not just their parents need a savior… but they also need one. This is a GOOD thing (even though it is very painful to witness a child fail to live up to a standard you know in your heart is righteous).
Never forget that God loves your kids and doesn’t want to leave anyone in sin (doesn’t wish that anyone should perish). They are only going to be able to sin as far as the Lord allows (note to mom: you aren’t in control). They must SEE their own sin for them to KNOW He is needed – and for them to understand what a blessing salvation through grace really is. This means allowing failure so that God can redeem a soul. This means mom steps aside and Christ steps in. None of us can hide from the fact that we are sinners, so this is a natural process of learning to love a faithful and amazing Savior. It is not just growing up, but growing a personal faith.”
Mind blown. Isn’t she awesome? I love you, Tillery. I altered a few of her phrases and added a bit to clarify, but she sent me most of this via TEXT message and I love her for it. Why she doesn’t have her own blog that brings in as much traffic as the Pioneer Woman is beyond me. I love what she had to say. I thank God for all the amazing friends he has put in my life. Special thanks go out to my friend Kimberly and her husband for their sweet and gentle mentoring of me and my children – for being willing to pray and talk, even into the night. I value all my Christian friends and most importantly their willingness to be a witness for Christ and His hands and feet to me and my kids. It may not take a village, but it takes a kingdom, for sure!
Side note: I also wanted to say to all you homeschool mom bloggers out there… make sure your stats and your site aren’t coming between your real-time relationships in your life. Who cares if you have to let the silence echo off the walls of your online space for a few weeks while you are busy engaging in the real life and times God placed you in. Real should always come before virtual. Tend to your garden and watch it grow… and then blog when you get a free moment. It isn’t about pinterest or perfectionism – it’s about being a real-life blessing to the people in your life.
And with that… I’ll jump back into quiet prayer mode over here… (don’t worry, I’ll be back soon).