Both of my children headed to high school this week, and this mama had some crazy emotions. You know that thing people always say, “Savor the moments. Before you know it, they’ll be grown?” Goodness, it’s true. This picture was taken several years ago. We have definitely transitioned into a new season at the Douthits: a few more gray hairs in my roots and my kiddos shoe sizes have doubled.
I’ve enjoyed having teenagers, but they certainly didn’t give owner’s manuals with How To’s in the hospital when they were born. Nothing can prepare a mom for having a little boy one year and a towering giant with man hands and a deep voice the next. My husband winks and jokingly asks, “Who are these people in our house? And why are they eating all our groceries?”
Raising children can be one of the most fun yet difficult endeavors in life. I’ve been hesitant to write much about parenting. One, because my husband and I are still figuring it out. And two, because we’ve made our share of mistakes. I certainly don’t feel like an expert, but here are just a few tried and true tips that have worked for us and just might for you too.
1) Create healthy boundaries. Establish routines. Also, teach that there are consequences for negative behavior, yet maintain grace and love. With gaming, stay age and content appropriate. Limit their time on games. The same applies for social media. With extracurricular activities, we encouraged them to do at least one thing at a time (example- Piano lessons) but wouldn’t allow them to choose to do more than 2 activities at a time. This was mainly for my sanity, since I was the one having to taxi them.
2) Encourage. Use words wisely. Our words are powerful to bless or curse, so speak life. Encourage them to always do their best, but don’t pressure them to be perfect. Perfectionism is damaging because it’s entirely unrealistic. Bless them and watch them soar.
3) Make God a priority. Talk about Him and His Word in the going and coming of each day. Let them know they can trust Him, and if they need anything He’s there with them. Don’t be afraid to pray out loud over and with your children. Be specific when you pray. It will build their faith to watch God answer, AND it will teach them how to pray themselves.
4) Play together. Don’t get so serious that you forget to have dance parties in the living room. Stop to get inside your child’s make-shift fort. Or sing to the top of your lungs in the car. These are some of my best memories with my kids. They need to see that it ‘s okay to be goofy and have fun.
5) Help establish independence. At a fairly young age, I encouraged responsibility. They could make their own bowl of cereal, tie their own shoes, and pick their own outfits. By age 7 or 8, I would let them pay the cashier (with supervision) if they were buying something. Or, I’ll never forget the time I let them pack for a trip without my help. My daughter took all shirts and one pair of shoes. Of course, I came behind her and added what she would need in my suitcase. She got to our destination and realized what she was missing. This was such a great teaching moment, and today she is excellent with packing. Encouraging independence with random activities early on helped them become self propelled with homework a lot sooner.
6) Get in their business. I mean be interested in what they love. Ask about their school day, then listen. Try to make it a habit to be off your cell phone or computer when they get in the car or get home from school. Initiate meaningful conversations. Show them, don’t just tell them, you care. Find out what makes their heart soar. What are their strengths? Hone in on these and help develop them. These may be part of their God-given purpose and destiny, and as parents, it’s part of our responsibility to call these strengths and gifts out in our children.
I’ve always tried to tune into what mine are watching and listening to. With all the technology and everything they potentially have access to right at their fingertips, it doesn’t make sense to have our heads in the sand. I always pray if something is hidden in the dark that it would be brought into the light. I’ve prayed, “As hard as it may be to know if my children are doing something they shouldn’t, expose it Lord and give me wisdom in how to deal with it.” He’s faithful to do just that.
Also, meet their teachers, and don’t be afraid to check in periodically for an update on their progress. This lets the teacher know up front that you are actively involved in your child’s life.
7) Make healthy choices. Encourage drinking water instead of sodas, veggies and fruits instead of chips and cookies, and regular exercise. This helps with concentration and brain growth and function. I’ll admit we could’ve been better with exercise. Our children aren’t athletes. They tend to be more artsy and techie, so exercise has to be very intentional. One thing we do very well though is regularly eat around the table as a family. I would highly encourage it. It creates a place of open communication, safety and honor.
I would love to hear your thoughts and what’s worked for you.
Let’s do this! Let’s make this our best year so far.
“…But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” ~Joshua 24:15b