Disclaimer:  Yes, I’m starting off this post with a disclaimer.  Sad huh?  LOL

I am NOT a perfect parent.  I do not have all the answers.  And I stumble all the time and make mistakes too.  My goal is to always learn from those mistakes and do better.  I am human.

So there you go….there’s my disclaimer.

Parenting tips I’ve learned working in the Youth department:

1.)  Keep spiritually fit—if I have learned anything, this is the major one.  I have to be spiritually fit myself before I can help anyone else.  Period.  I can’t do God lip-service and then live however I want to live.  I can’t lie to everyone else and fake my Christian walk and think I’m going to get away with it.  I can’t.  And I can’t guide anyone else in their spiritual walk (like my children) if my faith is based on fire insurance alone.  The truth is in the FRUIT. 

If you’re lacking here…….fix this FIRST.  Make the time.

2.)  Spend time with your kids—I can’t tell you the scary amount of teenagers that are left to themselves.  If they are left alone too often, nothing good will come out of it.  Trust me.  I have had personally experienced the gamut on that one:  s e x, p or no graph y, cutting, depression, aggression, runaways, etc etc etc etc….  If teenagers are alone for any length of time, they are incapable of making good, mature decisions on their own.  And they can and WILL do anything in their immature brains to gain your attention. 

Spend time with them.  Do family things together.  If that means you work less, work less.  If that means you have to give up your own dating life….give it up.  If that means you have to give up little pieces of yourself….then for the time being, that’s what you do.  You had the children, you raise them into productive adults and not emotionally stunted ones. 

3.)  Know your kids—this is where the QUALITY of time comes into play.  Just because you spend every waking moment with your kids in the same house, doesn’t mean you KNOW your kids.  Spend time with them on an individual basis on a continual basis, and you will know your kids.  Giving birth to them does not give you miraculous knowledge of them, they grow and change all the time.  Their interests change, their opinions change, and their feelings change sometimes with each wind gust.  Make sure the QUALITY of time is spent well, gaining information about them on an individual basis.

     a.)  ask questions:  about what they are thinking, how they feel about that, what their day was like, who is their favorite teacher, who they don’t like, what are they struggling with, what they would do with a MILLION dollars……it doesn’t have to be a barrage of 20 questions, just open the door. 

     b.)  give them the option of what you do for the day: it isn’t all about us after all.  And we won’t know what they like unless we give them opportunities to do what they like to do!  And they may surprise you!  And there is a chance WE have to leave OUR comfort zone and do stuff we don’t like.  LOL

     c.)  give them safe places to talk:  I know that Austin talks while he drives, Chandler talks while he is helping me cook dinner, and Brooklyn talks in the bubble bath.  If we are sitting in a dark movie theater, no talking is going to happen.  But, if I take them for ice cream and we sit there in the booth while we eat it together, I have a better shot at them opening up!

4.)  Do what you have to do to improve their lives—this is a hard one because it is so subjective.  God entrusted us with these children/teenagers, and we have to make their quality of life as good as we can.  If a child is struggling with something, seek help.  Get the counseling.  Keep them in counseling.  Make every effort to make their life BETTER.  If what we are doing isn’t working to help the child, pursue something else.  Try a different approach.  Do what you have to do to make their lives better. 

GET A JOB.  Yes, that sounds harsh.  I understand struggling financially, boy howdy….do I understand struggling financially.  But teaching my children instead of GOOD, HONEST HARD WORK, you just learn to live WITHOUT stuff, isn’t a lesson that will benefit my child in their future.  And I’m not talking about the latest electronic gadget or gaming system, I’m talking about the basics:  food, utilities, clothes NOT worn by another person, housing….etc.  Teach them by example what GOOD, HONEST HARD WORK looks like.   And handing them the proverbial “will work for food” sign isn’t productive.  Teach them to work to provide for themselves and not rely on everyone else to provide for them.  Don’t give them fish…..teach them to fish…..that sort of thing.

This is longer and probably more boring than I thought, so I’ll finish up tomorrow. 

I should teach a class on this….make everyone come.  HAHAHAHAHA  Things I thought were common sense……{shrug}  But these are things I’ve learned working with teenagers!

Be kind!

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