Monday, March 24, 2014

how to raise children who fail

So this is how it feels, this adolescence thing. This month we jump the bridge from parents of children to parents of a pre-teen. I honestly didn’t think we’d ever be here, not because I thought we might not survive the early years of parenting, but because when you’re holding a ten pound lump of newborn, you never can imagine how fast it is for that baby to grow into a man/boy who is as tall as his mom. 

He’s becoming a man. And that simultaneously makes me feel old, and proud. But mostly proud.

As we enter this new season, Zac and I have been wondering how we should navigate and relate to our son. We are praying for wisdom as we make decisions about middle school. I don’t have any answers, really. But I do know what not to do for for my young boy becoming a man. Of course I want for him to fall in love with Christ, and experience a faith that’s all his own. Obviously I want him to choose the way of purity. And I really want him to just be him, and grow into the unique personality that God has given him. With all of those things in mind, though, here’s one thing we know we won’t be doing: we will not have low expectations of him.

I was reminded of this a couple weeks ago while I sat in the coffee shop early one morning. I’m there often enough that I’ve gotten to know the regulars, and we’ve been able to have lots of good conversations. One morning stands out though. As I retreated to my corner to get work done, I overheard the guys talking about teenagers. One of them made a comment that made my blood boil, and I had to restrain myself from yelling across the coffee shop that what he said wasn’t true. He said that teenagers, especially middle schoolers, were all just troublemakers and rebellious hoodlums. Well, he didn’t use those exact words, but the message was the same. Teenagers mess up, and they screw up, and they're stupid, and a big fat mess. Anyone who parents middle schoolers knows this just isn’t true. Yes, they can be tricky and moody. But overall, they’re good kids. They are trying to find their place in life. Growing up is hard. And it’s even harder when the adults around you don’t expect greatness from you. 

In life, we hit the targets that we aim for. As parents we have a responsibility to set the bar high for our kids, not in an effort to make them fail but because we know they have what it takes to hit it. It might not be without struggle, but that’s what makes them stronger. We all know that.

There seems to be undercurrent running through our society that expects teenagers to be screw ups. We expect moodiness and rebellion and attitude. Guess what? Our expectations have a great way of becoming reality. If we don’t expect much from our teenagers, we won’t get much. But if we expect them to be successful; to contribute to their families and communities, to do well at school, and to make good choices, then they will most likely get there. It’s not that our expectations automatically produce good kids, but our kids need to know we believe in them. And knowing that gives them the freedom to aim high. 

We expect our son to be a success. We expect great things from him. We’re also realistic. We know he’ll make mistakes, but we expect him to come back from them. And we know it’s our responsibility to teach him along the way and love him totally. 

Here’s what I expect of our boy as he grows: lots of love, laughter and more of that dry sense of humor that brings life to everyone around him. And we expect great things, because we know he has it in him to achieve greatness. 

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