Thursday, December 01, 2005

Extreme Parenting

Everyone who heard about the double murder of Kara Borden's parents by David Ludwig was saddened and shaken. Parents asked themselves, "If it happened to their children, could it happen to mine?"

In the wake of this tragedy, the Kansas City Star examined what is going on with the youth today. They placed some of the blame on the electronic media available.

Some wonder whether the Internet and cell phones give children more places to hide. A family acquaintance said the Bordens took away Kara Beth's Internet service when they discovered her relationship with Ludwig months ago. Apparently it had been restored. Friends of Borden's and Ludwig's said the couple stayed in touch via cell phone text messages and computer instant messages, both difficult to monitor.
Many teens do seem to be in their own universe. Living in a home with parents they do not know. Between school and their electronic links there seems to be little desire for family connections. As the Bordens illustrate, this is true even in Christian homeschool families.

Some suggest moving off to a remote area. Away from "the influences". That can help in an outward way. In the same way moving a plate of cookies from my two year old keeps her from wanting one. But that "tactic" is only a temporary fix. Even in the remote Amish community of Otterville, Iowa is having its struggles. Parents are battling a culture tempting their youth in their neighbor's barn.

Amish children are taught to shun modern conveniences and technology. But the room's contents suggest those who gather here have interests and hobbies not unlike teenagers from the "English" world.

A line of tattered garage-sale couches face a big screen TV that's attached to a VCR and DVD player. A row of ratty recliners and other mismatched chairs sit on a riser constructed behind the couches.

Video tapes and DVDs sit in messy piles around the room, and hundreds of cases line shelves built into one wall. Many of the titles would be at home in a college dorm: "Animal House," "American Pie," "Baywatch," "Wayne's World."

The image of a scantily clad model smiles on a giant cardboard beer ad for Old Milwaukee hangs on one wall. Cigarette butts litter the chilly concrete floor.

So what's a parent to do? Some just throw up their hands and say, "Well teens just need to go through this." They seem to be giving a "right to rebellion" with a hope that they will come out okay on the other side. While the children dabble in one extreme, parents seem to gravitate to the opposite extreme. Fearing if they hold too tightly to a standard they will lose their child. But what is often missed is the heart of their children may already be lost.

"My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways." Proverbs 23:26

When a few local incidents happened in our area, I had a conversation with my own 15 year old son. He is not perfect by any means. But he doesn't keep me up at night worried about what he is doing or who he is with. I asked him why, even though we have our struggles, we don't see any major rebellion in him. He replied, "Mom, those parents don't have the hearts of their boys." It is so simple and yet the most difficult of choices a child will ever make. The choice to willfully honor their parents and the Lord.

A two year old can be made to obey. A fifteen year old needs to want to obey. That's the difference. The choice is theirs to make. We can't choose for them nor can we make them choose correctly. But we can make sure they know exactly what the choices are.

Teens have one tactic that they use most often. The rules of the house. They will select one or two and decide that these are just not for them. In Kara's case it was a boy and a curfew. In another family it can be music or the computer. But the child draws a line and says, "This far and no farther will I bend." The parent responds with, "Well in my house we...." It seems that the more they argue the more the defenses go up and the relationship breaks down. They fear that giving in to the demand but they fear losing the child just as much. The disagreement becomes parent against child. This is never a good strategy for either one. There is one solution.

The Bible and the Joy of Discovery.
You hand a child the Bible and say, here is God's Word. Let's figure out what God's word says about this. Give them the liberty to study the scripture and learn truth for themselves. We need to give them the joy of discovering that God's Word does speak to us. That's the way I became convinced of truth. I remember the light bulb going off so many times as I read a passage of scripture and how it applied to my life today. Don't deny your children the same pleasure by "giving them what the Bible says." We must let God speak to our children. Our children want to make us the quarrel. They think they can battle, wear us down, and win. God's Word is able to take down the strongholds and defenses that the child and the word is tempted to build. Let them wrestle with God about this issue. The parent becomes a faciliatator in their search for understanding and truth rather than the enemy. I have found that it is a lot more pleasant walking with my children in truth than constantly pushing them in truth.

The Dating Dilemma
A friend was telling me about a man that her Christian daughter was dating. They were concerned and uncertain about what to do and asked what I would do. I asked her what her daughter's convictions were. She told me a little about what they had taught her. But in the end they were the mother's convictions and not the daughter's. All is not lost though. This is what I told her might be helpful.

Go out to dinner. Tell her that you both are going to separately look at the scripture and study what God's plan for marriage, how a man should treat a woman, and what a woman does to prepare herself for marriage. Then you give her a time frame and let her go study. You do the same. Come back together after a few weeks and discuss what you both learned. Each being willing to listen and learn from what the other has discovered.

So many times as a mother I have developed ideas that I have found were not necessarily rooted in the truth of scripture. Often these ideas were developed as a reaction to a particular situation or adopted because of a convincing presentation at a conference. Studying an issue again has given me an opportunity to learn, futher strengthening my convictions and walk with the Lord.

The mother protested, "But she won't study God's word. And she isn't about to listen to my interpretation either."

I told her she had a bigger dilemma on her hand. She had a professing Christian that refuses to submit to the authority of God's Word. Dating this young man was a symptom of that problem but not the root. She had not given her heart to seeking out what God desires. At this point you must acknowledge where she actually is. Not where you want to BELIEVE that she is at. The mother paused.

We want to believe and pretend certain things about how life is. Her daughter went to church and provided enough cover to make them believe she was living a life for Christ. But when it came to denying herself and her desires for the Lord, the light of truth shined brightly. Her daughter wanted to be a Christian without surrendering her desire for the world.

Redefining the Extreme
True Christianity doesn't define the extreme by how close to the line we can get while still being a Christian. The extreme is how far from the line we can run and how close we can get to our Savior.

This is going to require extreme parenting. A parent who is willing to deny their pleasures in life for a greater pleasure to come. A parent who is willing to refuse a job or a promotion because of the time away from the family. A parent who is willing to sit next to a child on the computer and work together rather then let them build a virtual family. A parent who is willing to talk with a child and not just at them. A parent who is willing to walk daily with their child and guide them to HIS truth. A parent who is willing to tell their child daily what the real choice is but give them the liberty to make their choice. These and many more require an extreme commitment. A parent willing to die to themselves so that their children will walk with the God.

"God demonstrates his own love for us in this that while we were yet sinners HE died for us." Romans 5:8

I want to become an extreme parent.

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Related posts by Spunky - Outsourcing Parenthood, and Don't Bend the Wire.

What other teen bloggers are saying

After I wrote this, I went over and read what Spunky Jr. had written today. Here's the last line of her post,

...it really boils down to what we value and are we open to input from God. If so, we should listen to His leading and not our own.

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