Walking through the teen (or pre-teen) years with your child isn’t easy. The goal isn’t simply keeping them from drinking, doing drugs or making choices that will change their lives permanently. For the Christian, it is more about the heart and the purpose behind their actions. I think every parent wants teens that do well in school, follow the rules and make good choices. But their motivation has to be because they want to please God. I believe this is a time in their lives they move into their own relationship with the Lord.
Recently, I have had a lot of conflict with Jonah over schoolwork. His teachers post assignments, quizzes and projects online so parents are informed. In order to keep Jonah accountable, I would check over his homework, help him projects and study with him. This sounds good, except Jonah didn’t like it. He wanted to be responsible for himself. He didn’t want his Mom correcting his homework; he wanted to do it himself. After a couple of conflicts, I had to sit back and look at my role. I realized a couple of things.
First, Jonah was trying to spread his wings a little. He wanted me to trust him to do his work. He wanted me to let go and allow him to be responsible. Second, Jonah needed to fail for his own sake. In my attempt to help him, I was not allowing him to take responsibility when he made bad choices. If he chose not to study, he needed to live with the consequences. I had to stop controlling and trust him.
So, we had a talk about the situation. We decided that from now on, he is responsible for his homework. I still ask him if it’s finished but I do not check it anymore. I still help him with studying, but only if he asks. And I still help him brainstorm for projects when he requests my assistance. He was happy and I was relieved of some responsibility. With this new arrangement, I did lay down some ground rules for accountability (motivation).
Jonah’s motivation in life is video games. I decided if he had straight A’s at the end of the week (I check his grades online) he can play video games as much as he wants. If he has one B, he can play video games only on the weekends. And if he has a C, he loses video games altogether until his grades are brought up. Other restrictions are added as needed but everything is based on his grades. He is responsible for them and there is no wavering.
A funny thing happened this quarter. Jonah made all A’s except for one B. That was better than the first quarter. I knew he could do it. I just needed to give him the right motivation. And I had to let him accept the punishment when he made bad choices. Oh yes, Jonah and I still have conflict but I feel like this is a small victory.
We have to be able to trust our children to God. He loves them more than we do. He has their best interest at heart. The world is a scary place and there are no guarantees. But we must choose trust over fear. My job is to teach them how to fail as well as succeed. I have to pray diligently for them. And I have to run to God for guidance. Each one is unique and requires a unique approach. God knows that. In the end, we have to allow God in so He can mold their hearts.