Parenting Upstream Stinks!

Parenting is an exhaustive job, no matter where you fall on the spectrum of the ages of your kids. Though the physical demand dissipates as they grow, the emotional and mental energy only intensifies.  As our pre-teens and teens face a range of issues, we become increasingly burdened with tough decisions requiring much guidance, thought and prayer.  At least we should. But over the years what I’ve discovered in various situations is parents tend to respond by either-

  1. Abdicating their authority and allowing their teen to run with whatever plans they wish.
  2. Abstaining from speaking out against/changing plans they don’t agree with so as not to be the “party pooper” or for their teen to miss out.
  3. Aiding their kids with the plans but failing to prevent or address red flags out of naiveté.

Now I know this post runs the risk of sounding judgmental or stepping on toes, but to be honest, I am tired of feeling judged and dismissed for putting my foot down. Some may presume because my husband is a minister we are stricter, though I don’t think so.  As we’ve told our daughter countless times, “This has nothing to do with Daddy being a pastor, our decisions come from our core convictions as Believers!”

Thankfully, even when she hasn’t initially seen eye to eye with us, she has accepted our stance without too much argument. It hurts me though that she often feels alone in having restrictions and it angers me to feel as if we are swimming upstream alone in an increasingly permissive “Christian” culture.

imagesHaving ministered to college students for nearly eight years my eyes were opened wide to the effects of hidden sin and struggles in the world of teens. And still today being behind-the-scenes in ministry exposes us daily to the reality of the sinful, brokenness that is in all of us. So, while my daughter has never given us reason not to trust her, why would I hand her over to opportunities of extra temptation and lack of protection?

The truth is none of us are above doing things we never thought we would do. We can have pure intentions and absolute resolve yet still fall to temptation. The deceitfulness of our own hearts and Satan’s relentless pursuit make us easy prey. Don’t you know this to be true from your own heart and experience? Whether we love Jesus or not, we are all prone to wander and at any given moment something other than Christ becomes more desirable.

The answer, however, is not to shelter our kids from everything of the world since sin comes from within us and not outside of us. Instead, allowing our teens to learn through things like experiencing formals or navigating social media can lead to opportunities for deeper dialogue, growth and learning while under our roof… and with the loving protection of boundaries.

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Though boundaries restrict they are designed for our flourishing by providing and protecting. Author Paul Tripp in his devotional New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel DevotionalNew Morning Mercies describes boundaries well by saying, “It may seem constricting that the train always has to ride on those track, but try driving it in a meadow and all motion stops.” 

We, too, are most free when we are within the boundaries of God’s grace and provision! Anything outside of that (appealing as the freedom of doing whatever we want seems) will actually enslave us to our own desires and expose us to Satan’s snares.

Jesus says in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Let’s prepare kids who can swim upstream by shephering them in awareness and wisdom of the lurking evil – not just in the world – but in their hearts, while simultaneously setting perimeters to help them remain pure. To do so, we must also be willing to swim upstream from popular opinion, new cultural norms and fear of man.

Having to parent upstream stinks, but by God’s grace I intend to keep going that direction. Will you join me in swimming against the tide?

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