What Good are Your Yearbooks Now?

Ahh, the end of the school year…

It’s “that time of year” for many things, depending on the ages of our children: field days or proms, end-of-year parties or graduations, pool passes or job applications. And yearbooks. We didn’t do yearbooks in elementary school, but my children did. Then of course, they have middle and high school yearbooks.

So many yearbooks!

freshman class pic
My freshman class pic. It was 1987.

My husband and I recently—finally—unpacked some boxes and pulled out our old high school yearbooks. The kids laughed at the outdated designs of the covers before we even opened them. Then they laughed at the hairstyles, shoe choices, clothing, club names…just about everything. I’m not offended. Styles change, and one day, my grandchildren will laugh at my children’s yearbooks, too. (So there!)

They laughed, and I laughed with them for a minute. Then I began looking into my own eyes, staring back at me from those pictures. My yearbook reminded me of a few things I had forgotten in the thirty years since I was a teenager.

I was once awkward, too.

I once spent too long in front of the mirror, too.

I had braces. And glasses. And pimples. And all the worries that go along with them.

I had broken hearts and broken friendships.

I stressed out over a junior prom about which I can’t remember a single detail, even when I see myself in the yearbook photos. (Well, I remember that my date was a really nice guy.)

yearbook most likely
1991: My Senior year, voted “Most Likely to Become a Millionaire” – LOL!

Have you looked through one of your old yearbooks recently? Have you taken hold of them and looked into your own eyes until you remember all the emotions and uncertainty of that age? That’s what your teenage kids are feeling right now.

When it comes to our children, we need to remember the other side of this verse.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  –1 Corinthians 13:11

It’s okay that our children talk, think, and reason like children. That’s what they are.

Yearbooks aren’t good for much, especially if, like me, you prefer to look forward rather than backward. But they helped me. You see, I had forgotten. I was expecting my teenagers to be entirely too reasonable, too rational, too efficient. I wasn’t reasonable, rational, or efficient at that age, and I came out okay.

I’m thinking my children will, too.

God used my high school yearbooks to remind me what it feels like to be a teenager. I needed that. #teenagers and #IntentionalParenting via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

Have you looked through your high school yearbooks recently? Is there something else that helps you remember what it was like to be a teenager? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

 

10 Ways to Secure Influence and Reach Your Goal (guest post)

I love it when I have the chance to learn from Christ-follower parents who 
are a couple of steps ahead of me on the parenting journey. This week, we 
have the privilege of sitting under Sandra A. Lovelace, a writer friend that
I’m sure you will love! Read more about her at the end of this post.

Both ladies sported face-wide smiles. Emma jumped out of the silver Honda with fourteen-year-old delight. Mom grabbed her purse and slid out from behind the steering wheel. They’d taken a few steps when the older woman started to sing what had become their just-us-having-fun song.

The daughter’s eyes shifted from the ice cream shop to the tires of an old green truck. Mom slowed her tempo as she made beckoning circles with her hand. No response. “Hey now. Don’t leave me with a solo here.” Continue reading “10 Ways to Secure Influence and Reach Your Goal (guest post)”

6 Reasons I (Still) Read Aloud to My Kids

The sky darkens and we begin to see ourselves reflected in the window. Three plates are empty but one—the youngest—is still at work, with his tiny bites and propensity to tell an entire story between each mouthful. I take a long drink of water then reach for the heavy book on a nearby shelf. The others around the table grow quiet. This is a sacred time, of sorts. This is reading time.

I have a fifteen-year-old and a twelve-year-old, both of whom read far above grade level. My husband, of course, can read anything he wants. Yet they all stay around the table while I voice the characters, pause for dramatic effect, and stop to ask questions. Continue reading “6 Reasons I (Still) Read Aloud to My Kids”

Teens: #MistakeManaged

He tried to decide well. He talked to his parents and tried to foresee the consequences. He thought about it, not hastily jumping to a conclusion; maybe he even prayed. But there was no clear right or wrong and no precedent to which he could refer in his short life.

He tried to decide well. But he chose wrong, and now he’s faced with managing a whopper of a mistake.

We could have chosen for him, but he’s old enough now to make his own decisions. (We may not have recognized the best decision anyway.) He’s old enough now to learn from both good and bad situations.

So what can we, as parents, do now? How can we walk our teen through the aftermath of a bad decision? How can we coach him (or her) to manage mistakes?

Help your teen work through his situation with these steps. (If you’re facing a similar bad decision, these steps work for us parents, too, by the way.)

4 Steps to Managing a Major Mistake

  1. He must “own” his mistake: “Yes, I did this. Yes, it was wrong. Yes, I accept the consequences.”

Our teen must admit his error and accept the natural consequences that follow. This is not the time to lecture but to comfort, to gently peel away the excuses and blame-casting. Help him see the connection between his decision and what followed (and may still follow). Help him look for anything he can learn that will help him in the future. This is wisdom: learning from our experiences!

  1. He must apologize to the wronged parties: “I’m sorry. I messed up.”

In whatever way is appropriate (although face-to-face is best), help him create the space to apologize. In admitting he was wrong and asking for forgiveness, this bad situation can begin to heal—for everyone involved.

  1. He must forgive himself: “God loves me. I am forgiven. I can learn. I can change. I am valuable.”

Yes, he made a mistake, but our lives are never summed up in one decision. Let him know he may laugh at this whole situation one day. Encourage him to consider the value of learning from a mistake and becoming better equipped for the future. (This is a “growth mindset.”) If appropriate, share an “epic fail” from your own teenage years. He will see that you’ve recovered from your error and that you’ve gone on to have a full life. But hey! Don’t lie. If your bad decision still affects your life, let him know, and point Him toward God’s faithfulness even through your consequences.

  1. He must move on: “I will not be defined by this one decision. I can and will continue with my life.”

At our house, we call this step “nail it and press on” (from an AIA camp years ago). If forgiveness looks back toward the mistake, “nail it” looks forward toward a better future. It’s easy for our teens to get emotionally or spiritually stuck at their mistake. We can help them take that intentional next step. Ask something like, “Where do you want to go from here?” We (the parents) must not repeatedly return to his mistake. Sure, there will be times to remind him, but we can’t pick up the hammer and keep nailing. Keep moving forward with him.

It’s inevitable that our children will make mistakes—some of them doozies! If we handle their mistakes with maturity and coach them through the process as well, we’re equipping them for adulthood where (as we all know) mistakes continue to pop up in our lives.

Parents, now is the time to help our teens learn how to manage their mistakes! Try these 4 steps, via @Carole_Sparks of #IntentionalParenting. #mistakemanaged (click to tweet)

You probably don’t want to embarrass your teen by sharing one of their big mistakes, but we would appreciate any counsel on how you helped them walk through it. What did you say that elicited a positive response? What should the rest of us not say to our teens at such a time? Please share in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

The Method Drowned the Message

It feels like yesterday when my firstborn would climb onto my lap to read a book. Well, I read. She turned pages–sometimes too quickly. One day, she brought me this book about a sad sheep. (I can’t remember why the sheep was sad.) I liked to do voices when I read (still do!), and I voiced the sheep as if he was horribly upset. After about three words, she turned around with a look of horror on her face and tears in her eyes. Before I could react, she burst into tears and pushed the book away. I’m not sure we ever read that book again.

The method of my delivery drowned out the message of the story.

Twelve years later… Continue reading “The Method Drowned the Message”

Respect is a Two-Way Street

We all want—no, expect—our children to respect us. It’s Biblical, right? Both the Old and New Testaments say, “Honor your father and mother” (e.g. Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:2). We are right to expect respect, but no matter how much we quote these verses, no matter how much we stomp our feet and vociferously demand respect, we don’t always get it.

Why not? Well, part of the reason is the sin nature with which both we and our children were born. Part of the reason is our culture and the influences of media, peers, etc. But may I submit something to you? Perhaps another part of the reason our children don’t respect us is because we don’t respect them. Respect is a two-way street.

In Intentional Parenting, we model respect for our own elders and superiors (at work, church, etc.). We also talk about respect, about how honoring others honors God and other associated Biblical concepts, such as “The Golden Rule.” Sometimes, however, we forget to apply those same Biblical concepts within our families as well.

Need some solutions? Here are a few age-appropriate ways to demonstrate respect toward your children. You can expect that respect to be reciprocated.

At Any Age

Follow through on your promises and commitments. If you said you’ll read a book before bed, then read a book. No excuses. If you said, “One more time and you lose [a certain privilege],” then after one more time, they lose that privilege.

This kind of integrity demonstrates that your words to the child actually mean something. When you begin to do what you say you will do, they will start listening.

Young Children

From the first visit to a playground or first playdate, institute a two-minute warning. Two minutes before you need to leave, tell the child he/she has two minutes remaining to play. (We usually tried to give a five-minute warning as well.) This simple warning has helped us avoid so many tantrums! I know because the times we didn’t give a warning were much more difficult.

When you, as an adult, are busy on a project or in a conversation, you don’t like to be interrupted. Even worse, you don’t want to be forced to stop without warning. I don’t either. Why do we think it’s any easier for our children?

Early Elementary

Allow your children to make as many decisions as possible. Before you correct (or laugh—even worse!), ask yourself if it really matters. Toy storage locations, everyday clothes worn, books to read, interests to pursue…all these are decisions a six-year-old can make. Maybe you prefer the Legos in the bin on the left and the doll clothes in the bin on the right; maybe there are even good reasons for your preference, but as long as there’s no danger, allow your child the choice. That “ownership” in the location of the toys may even help at clean-up time.

Children at this age long for independence, but they have so little. By allowing their decisions to stand, we demonstrate the validity of their choices and affirm the children as independent thinkers. Besides functioning as a confidence builder and sign of respect, this approach will help your children know that when you do object, there’s an important reason.

Middle-Grade Children

Elementary and middle-grade children have so many stories to tell. Let’s be honest, though. Some of them are boring. Long and boring. As parents, we may be tempted to interrupt with something unrelated or jump in and quickly finish the story ourselves. Don’t interrupt. Allow them to finish the stories. (At our house, we have a sign for “make this shorter” when the story gets too long. It helps.) If it’s necessary to interrupt, say “Excuse me,” just like you would if interrupting an adult.

From the time they could speak, we’ve taught our children not to interrupt us. Allowing them the same honor says their experiences are valuable and their family participation is important.

Tweens and Teens

If your child asks you not to show affection in a certain way or say a certain thing in front of his/her friends, don’t do it. Respect their public image. Public displays of affection, pet names, even cheering too loudly may infantilize our teenagers (at least in their own eyes), and it may be fodder for teasing or bullying among their peers. Our teenagers don’t deserve that. Don’t worry, they’ll still enjoy the hugs, pats, and verbal affection in private. Also, refrain from telling embarrassing stories or showing naked baby pictures no matter how cute they are.

Let’s face it; we will embarrass our teenagers. It’s inevitable. But our efforts to minimize the embarrassment demonstrate our respect for their increased maturity. That respect will surely be reciprocated.

Reciprocate Respect

The world says respect is earned, not given. Contrary to the world, however, the Bible says every person—regardless of position or power—is a unique creation of God Most High (Psalm 139, for example). We begin there: every person deserves respect. This is not a burden to lay on our children (that they should respect us) but a principle to lay under our interactions with our children (that they are worthy of respect). At the same time, however, we parents should live lives worthy of our children’s respect. That’s just a given. We clear the way for respectful responses when we demonstrate respect in our interactions with them. Respect is a two-way street.

Respect your children at every age and you can expect respect from them-5 ideas. (click to tweet)

I thought about sharing stories of parents carrying their children from the playground in the middle of a temper tantrum, but let’s not do that. Instead, use the comments below to share some positive stories of reciprocated respect. Let us hear from you!

respect-2-way-street
Rainy road (c) Carole Sparks

Find a Parenting Role Model

As a first-time expectant mother, my biggest concerns weren’t with sleeping or diapers or language development…although all those things intimidated me. For some reason (read: the Holy Spirit), I started thinking about that fateful future time when this as-yet-unborn baby would be a teenager. Yes, I worry in advance, obviously—way in advance. My big question was this: How can I raise a child that doesn’t turn into the typical teenager? At the time, I didn’t know of any books to address this topic. (Here’s a list of really great parenting books I’ve discovered since then, by the way.)

My husband and I decided the best thing we could do is ask someone. We didn’t want opinions or observations. We wanted proven results. So we began to look around our community and church family for some atypical (in a good way) teenagers. There was a set in our church: a respectful, friendly, thoughtful, Jesus-loving brother and sister who seemed very genuine and even liked each other. We watched them for a while as we very intentionally got to know their parents. Finally, we felt comfortable enough with them to “pop the question” although, by that time, the answer was fairly obvious.

Okay, that was fourteen years ago, so I don’t remember their exact answer. We asked how they came to have such amazing teenagers (which any parent would love to hear—flattery gets you everywhere!). Their answer boiled down to this: They always talked, and always had. They said they talked to their children about everything, from the time they were very little. It was clear, also, that they showed love easily and they respected their children as real people, uniquely created by God. Because they were authentic Christ-followers themselves, I’m sure their talks included issues of faith and God’s will in their lives.

The world has changed in the last fourteen years—more than I thought possible in such a short amount of time. But their advice continues to prove true in our family. By consistently investing in our children’s lives through conversation, we seem to be raising thoughtful, Jesus-loving teenagers who are becoming agents of the Kingdom even before they reach adulthood.

I honestly don’t believe we could have received any better advice, but that’s not really the point of my post today. If you are a new(ish) parent, or if you think you’re missing something in parenting, find some kids or teenagers that act like you want your kids to act. Then track down the parents of those children and sit at their feet for a while. Prayerfully model your parenting on theirs and see what happens.

I’ll be praying for you. So will they.

 

To find a parenting role model, first look for children who act like you want yours to act. (click to tweet)

What’s the best teen parenting advice you ever received? How has it affected your parenting? I’d love to hear about it. Please share in the comments!

For more on talking with your children—including some actionable guidelines—check out my previous post, Wait, Wait, Don’t TELL Me. And if you would like to read further on my overall approach to parenting, especially continuing the conversations through the middle grades, click over to Where My Kids At? You might also appreciate this recent guest post, Parenting Advice from the Other Side by Kim Wilbanks and/or Wisdom for Parenting Teenagers, my review of Paul Tripp’s book, Age of Opportunity.

 

 

Parenting Advice from the Other Side (guest post)

I relish the chance to get good parenting advice from someone a little ahead
of me on the parenting road, and these thoughts from my writer-friend, Kim, 
are right-on. If you're entering the teen years, write them down somewhere 
prominent so you can benefit from Kim's wisdom! (More about her at the end.)

“You better enjoy them while you can. They grow up too fast.”

“Yeah, right,” I thought to myself as I balanced my baby girl on my hip while I tried to wrangle my 2-year-old son. I knew the older women at my church meant well, but my sleep-deprived, potty-training, diaper-changing, laundry folding self didn’t get it. But, they were right. Boy, were they right.

Fast forward about 14 years. That is when the mourning began. Not true mourning but the mourning of the swift passing of time, the end of childhood. My son, my firstborn was in his sophomore year of high school. Conversations turned to graduation and colleges and what he really wanted to be when he grew up. I remember walking down the street one evening weeping. “God, where did the time go? How in the world did it go by so fast?” I knew how quickly the previous years had flown and that made me keenly aware that these last three years in high school, at home, would be no different.

So yes, time does fly and those sweet babies do grow up and leave the nest – sometimes before you’re ready.

I am like most of you reading this blog. We do the best we can in raising our kids. I am by no means an expert in parenting. My only credentials are that I, along with my husband, raised two independent, responsible, well-adjusted young adults. They aren’t perfect but then, who is?

I’ll share with you two things that worked for us and two things I wish I could go back and do over.

Things that worked

Be Authentic

This is true for any age child but it becomes crucial for teenagers. What they see is stronger than what you say. If you want your teens to be in church, you go to church. If you don’t want them to drink alcohol, you don’t drink it. If you want them to have integrity, you live with integrity. There is no guarantee that your teen will turn out the way you intended but when you combine a good example with a lot of prayer, it is more likely than not.

Be That House

Welcome your teen’s friends into your home. Be the hangout. It will be messy and loud and your grocery bill may be a little higher, especially if you have boys, but it will be worth it. We opened our home for everything from church youth group events to impromptu sleepovers. My daughter and her friends got ready for homecomings and proms at our house. When you welcome their friends into your home, you learn a lot about your kids. I still look forward to visits from their high school friends when my son and daughter come back home for the holidays.

Parenting advice from the other side: “Be that house, the one where all the kids hang out.”  (click to tweet)

Things I would change

Establish Good Communication

This became more of an issue when my son went away to college. We would talk every week or so but I soon discovered he would have more to say if he initiated the conversation than if we called him. Now that he is out of college and working full time, I find that we don’t talk as much as I would like. I realize it is partially because he is busy with his job but I miss hearing about his day to day life. In retrospect, I would have asked him to call home once a week in the hope that it would help establish the habit of regular communication. I will say, with boys there comes a time when they will have more to talk about with their dads than their moms.

Give Them Some Space

You have to find the right balance of involvement with your teens. My husband and I both volunteered in youth ministry in our church when our kids were in middle school and high school. We enjoyed working with youth and for the most part our kids did not mind us being involved. However, I made the mistake of being my daughter’s Sunday school teacher for too many years. At the time, the youth minister had the leaders move up with their groups from year to year. It was not so bad when she was in middle school but I probably should have stepped down after that. I was sad to learn, years later, that my daughter resented my over involvement. I wish I had had the insight to give her the space she needed.

Parenting advice from the other side: “Give your kids space to be themselves.” (click to tweet)

I hope this encourages you. Enjoy your teen – they really do grow up fast! Many thanks to Carole for inviting me to write this guest blog. If you are getting close to the empty nest, check out my blog: Feathering My Empty Nest.

Kim Wilbanks-headshotKim is a wife and a mother of two adult children who have flown the coop and left her with an almost empty nest. Her “baby” is a comical Welsh Corgi named Sir Higgins. A native Floridian, she enjoys frequent trips to the beach. Kim stays busy as a MOPS mentor mom, in Women’s Bible studies and writing a blog called Feathering My Empty Nest! Reading, traveling and crafting are favorite pastimes. Most importantly, Kim is a follower of Christ and a passionate student of God’s word. Follow Kim on twitter.