A Few Other Thoughts On Parents & Students

As I spent a month or so thinking about parents and students leading up to last week’s sermon, I considered a lot of different things that wouldn’t fit in a sermon. So I just wanted to share a few of those extra thoughts with you…

1. Your parental influence spreads further than just your kids. Obviously, your responsibility as a parent is primarily with your own children, but you have a marked influence on their friends as well. A story about one of my very good friends illustrates this well. We’ll call him Ben. Ben grew up in a non-religious family, and as a high school student decided he was somewhere between an agnostic (doesn’t know whether there’s a god or not, and doesn’t find it that important of a decision) and an atheist (doesn’t believe there is a god).

During this time, as a sophomore, he began dating a Christian girl (whose parents, by the way, go to The Crossing). Multiple times over the 6 or so months they dated, Ben would have dinner with her family, watch TV, etc. This past summer (he dated this girl over ten years ago, by the way), I had a conversation with Ben regarding what he believed and why. In the midst of that conversation he discussed becoming more and more open to the idea of a God and to the possibility that Christianity and the Bible were true. One of the factors he cited: those Christian parents he had spent some time with. They were, in his words, the parents he respected and admired the most. So, I say again, your influence on your student’s friends and even their boyfriends/girlfriends have lasting impact.

2. Students need to remember that they’re not the only people in the world. On all Jr. High events and trips, we have two stated rules up front. The first I stole from Luke Miedema and the Sr. High ministry, but the second we came up with ourselves. Rule number 1 is “Don’t be an idiot.” And rule number 2 is “There are other people in the world.”

You see, when we went in public, there were many instances where our students would just get in the way of people. We’d rush through the doors of a restaurant making elderly people stand and wait before being able to exit themselves. We’d bump into people while running blindly through the zoo. These were relatively small social faux pas. But they represented a deeper truth about teenagers…they’re very self-consumed. They think life revolves around them.

Students need to realize that there are other people in the world. And, as parents and adults, we need to find ways to help them in this realization. We must not cater to their every whim, we need to emphasize the importance of service and put them in opportunities where they learn how to serve.

3. Parents and teenagers both want to spend more time together. Parents often think their student thinks they’re stupid (fun-haters is the term I think I used…) and thus would never want to spend time with them. Likewise, many students think their parents are too busy to spend time with them. But many research studies, both nationally and within particular churches I’m aware of, have come back with surprising results. One of the most consistent findings of parent/student interaction is the fact that both groups want (and need, for that matter) to spend more time with each other.

After watching students for many years, one of the best predictors for having well-adjusted, socially capable, selfless teenagers/college students is family closeness and interaction in the younger years.

With life as busy as it is, spending time together is tough. The traditional nightly family dinners that many of us grew up with seem infeasible. In many cases, they may be. But just because you can’t have dinner every night together doesn’t mean you can’t schedule something else. Go to lunch after church as a family every Sunday. Take another family with you every week. Find a board game or a card game everyone enjoys, and try to play it as a family one night every two or three weeks (Nertz and Pit are two of my personal favorites right now).

And don’t just make your kids adjust to your preferences. Find things that they like and become interested in those things…even if you think they’re silly. Fantasy Football is a huge deal among boys today, from junior high to 30 year-0lds. Keith Simon wouldn’t care about Fantasy Football on his own…but his son, Nathan, loves it. So now, Keith knows that Maurice Jones-Drew is a capable running back, and he knows to stay away from injury-prone Wide Receivers. Maybe you don’t like video games, and think they’re a waste of time. But your kids probably love them. So use that affluence and prosperity you have and go buy a Nintendo Wii. Get Mario Cart, Wii Sports, and Guitar Hero…and I promise you’ll have a wonderful time with your kids. And they’ll be the better for it.

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