I've been thinking alot about parenting lately. Maybe it is because we have four kids at home, ages 7, 11, 13 and 15. Yeah, our quiver is full. I think everyone would admit that there is a point in a teen's life when the influence of his/her parents becomes less, and the influence of their friends becomes greater. I did an informal survey yesterday on Twitter, and again last night at dinner with some friends. It seems that the age at which the parents' influence drops dramatically happens somewhere around 13- to 15-years old.
As I reflected on my life as a child, the influence I perceive that I have with my own kids, and my informal survey, I charted it like this...
As a parent, the awareness of loss of influence can be alarming if you didn't see it coming. So be warned young parents, I have just given you a glimpse of the future.
Here is the key learning: Environments matter. Who my daughter is influenced by as a 15-year old is dependent greatly on the environments that my wife and I placed her in as a 10- and 12- and 14-year old.
It's a little early to tell whether we will survive life with teenagers, but here is the advice I would give parents of pre-teens...
- Get involved in a great church with strong youth leaders.
- As they start middle school, don't give them the option to stay home from the youth program.
- Find a school that has strong values and where there is good chance they will be able to find solid friends. That might mean paying for private school or moving to a better school district.
- Get them in situations where they are hanging with young adults who are following God. That's why we had college-age students live in our home for two years.
- Teach them the joy of serving when they are very young.
- Let them participate in events where there is a good chance they might take a step spiritually, like summer camp, missions trips, or weekend retreats.
Oh, and one last word of advice for those with teenagers---stop lecturing and start listening. Stop giving direction and start asking questions.
It's your turn now...is my chart way off?