As the parent of two teenage girls, I think one of the biggest mistakes parents of young teens can make is thinking we need to control the behavior of our kids. We can feel pressured to tell them what kind of people they need to be, so we can keep our kids from moving outside God’s moral boundaries. But this is dangerous.
When we focus on trying to control the outward behavior of our young teens, we actually hinder their development and cause a great deal of stress for ourselves.
In their book Making Peace With Your Teenager, Kevin Huggins and Phil Landrum wrote, “The most important task facing our kids during adolescence is to decide what kind of people they are going to be for the rest of their lives.”
Of course we want to support kids in growing into the kind of people God wants them to be, but in the meantime, parents often are tempted to try to take every important decision away from their kids, to decide for them. This can easily create power struggles that, in the end, cause parents to lose control and influence over their middle schooler, rather than gaining it. And when parented this way, young teens never have the opportunity to learn to take true responsibility for their decisions.
Do you know any parents like this? Parents who need to loosen the reigns for their sake, and for the sake of their kids?
A DIFFERENT APPROACH
Here’s a different approach to parenting young teens that we can offer parents who are in need: just REST.
A position of rest allows parents to loosen the reins and trust that God is working in the lives of their kids. It means recognizing that, although parents care deeply about the kind of people young teens decide to be, they can’t control how they make their decisions. Parenting at rest frees them to…
- Find freedom from the pressure and stress that come with trying to control their kids’ every action.
- Become an ally to their kids.
- Give them resources, guidance and support that will help them grow into the kind of people God has created them to be.
SO HOW CAN WE HELP?
As Middle School Ministers, we have the chance to help serve parents at a crucial time in their parenting journey.
Let’s find ways to encourage and educate parents in this faith journey with their middle schooler. Let’s help them understand when they are truly at rest, and parent from this position of trust, all the pressure that they sometimes put on their kids and themselves will be placed on God. This is about shifting the responsibility back to God where it ultimately belongs. With each problem we face with middle schoolers, we have to continually shift from self-reliance, to reliance on God.
And modeling for our children & students what it means to rely on God is one of the most important things we can do in middle school ministry.