Category: Parenting

Q&A: Non-Christian Friends of Your Teenager

Q: My husband only wants our teenage daughter to have Christian friends. What do you think?

Gary: Teenagers are going through a very dramatic stage of life. They’re changing physically, emotionally, and intellectually, rethinking their spiritual values; it’s such an important time. Yes, I think we need to be friends with Christians and non-Christians but be very careful whom your teenager spends time with. If they spend time with non-Christians who have a non-Christian philosophy of life, they may well get pulled into that lifestyle. I think both of you have legitimate concerns. Continue having conversations with your child about what is going on in their life. Don’t back away from them this is a time during which they need parental guidance.

The Importance of Parental Love

A mother recently said to me, “I don’t know if I’m ready for my children to become teenagers. It seems like all teenagers are having sex, using drugs, and carrying guns to school. Is it really that bad?” The answer is no. It is true that 10% of teenagers are troubled and get into trouble, but most of them were troubled children. Good kids don’t suddenly go bad in adolescence. When teens are secure in the love of their parents, they will have confidence to face the negative influences in our culture. In my opinion, nothing is more important than parental love. The teen wants to feel connected, accepted, and nurtured by parents. When this happens the teen will move through adolescence in a healthy manner.

Q&A: Your Relationship to Your Children

Q: I’ve been told that it’s not good to be called “your child’s friend,” but we should always be a parent. What do you think?

Gary: I think it depends on what you mean by “friend.” I think you can be both a parent and friend to your children. No, you are certainly not their peer. You have more wisdom, maturity, and responsibilities. You set the boundaries and bring discipline to your children when appropriate. In being friendly to them don’t cease to be a parent. It’s not either/or, but the emphasis is on parenting.

Q&A: A Spouse with Depression

Q: My wife struggles with depression, and it’s hard to deal with, especially with our young children. What do you suggest?

Gary: Depression will not go away simply with the passing of time. There are many kinds of depression and many ways to approach it. The most effective approach with severe depression is both counseling and medication. That combination has been the most successful treatment for depression. Don’t sit idly and hope it goes away; get her to a medical doctor, get her to a Christian counselor, and get the process moving so that she can discover the source of the depression and the answer to that depression.

Guiding Your Children

Socrates said, “If I could get to the highest place in Athens. I would lift up my voice and say: ‘What mean ye, fellow citizens, that ye turn every stone to scrape wealth together, and take so little care of your children, to whom ye must one day relinquish all?’” In my personal study of anthropology, I have never observed a culture where parents are not expected to provide guidance to their children. Our greatest method of teaching is our model. May I ask you a sobering question? What if your children turn out to be just like you? If you would not be happy with that, then what do you need to change? Why not begin that change today? God is available to help, and so are your friends.

A Child’s Creativity

Creativity is a gift of God. All children are creative because they are made in God’s image. In our efforts to teach children, we sometimes stifle creativity in favor of conformity. Creativity is the wonderful gift of thinking outside the lines. It is our creativity that allows us to develop the uniqueness implanted within each of us.

Dr. Howard Hendricks tells the story of a child who drew flowers with faces. The teacher said, “Johnny, flowers don’t have faces.” Johnny replied. “Mine do!” Johnny’s creativity is still alive, but if his teacher succeeds, his flowers will eventually look like everyone else’s flowers. To stifle creativity is to make children look like cookies rather than snowflakes.

Letters to Children

Do you write letters to your children? Here’s part of a letter I wrote to my son after he played poorly in a basketball game.

“Dear Derek: I know that last night’s game was a disappointment to you. Any time we don’t perform up to the level we know we can, it is discouraging. I was thinking about biblical characters who also had setbacks; Joseph, David, and Peter when he denied Christ. But they all went on to be great men of God.

“I know you are not a quitter, but I wanted you to know that I understand your discouragement. I love you very much and I’m proud of you no matter how you play. You have character and that is what really counts – in playing ball and in life! Love, Dad.”

Do you have a child who needs a letter?

Spending Time With Your Children

In our society child abuse is at an all-time high. Screaming matches between parents and children are common in thousands of homes. A part of the problem is that parents and children are strangers. The instruction that God gave ancient Israel is Deut. 6:7 is still timely. God said that we are to teach our children His instructions when we “sit around the house and when we walk along the road, when we lie down and when we get up.”

A bible story and prayer as the children go to bed; a brief devotional and prayer at the breakfast table; exploring God’s creation as we take walks with our children; discussing the day and listening to our children’s questions as we “sit around the house.” You cannot improve on God’s plan.

Both Teaching and Training Children

In the New Testament, two words describe the function of parents: teaching and training. With teaching, the focus is on words: verbal admonition. On the other hand, training has to do with actions. These two must always go together. One of the mistakes often made by contemporary parents is that we use one without the other. If our emphasis is on words, we say, “Let’s talk about this.” Our belief is that if the child understands, then he will obey. On the other hand, the action-oriented parent says, “Do what I say. We’ll talk about it later.” Often, later never comes. How much better if we learn to explain both what is expected, and the results if they don’t obey. Words and actions are a winning combination.

Encouraging Your Children

All children need to hear words of encouragement. The word ‘encourage’ means “to instill courage.” We are seeking to give children the courage to attempt more. We do a great job of this when the child is learning to walk. If the child falls, we say, “Yea, try again. Try again.” And the child tries again. Don’t forget this principle as the child gets older. The greatest enemy of encouraging our children is anger.  The more anger present in the parent, the more anger the parent will dump on the children.  The result will be children who are both anti-authority and anti-parent. If you have an anger problem, let me recommend my recent book, Anger: Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Way. It may make the difference between encouraging or discouraging your child.

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