If you swim with the sharks, you’re bound to get bit. One bad apple spoils the whole bushel. Bad company corrupts good character. Many parents have added these phrases to their lexicon, because they illustrate the dangers of running with the “wrong crowd”. As moms and dads, we know how susceptible kids are to peer influence. You’ve likely spent many sleepless nights worrying about the people your child is hanging around. What are they teaching my son? What are they pressuring my daughter to do? Are these friends that will give needed support and encouragement to my teen, or are they the type of people who will bring my child down?
It’s never a conversation a mom or dad wants to have with their child. Talking about sex with your teen or pre-teen is uncomfortable for both you and your kid. There’s a level of embarrassment, a fumbling for the right words, perhaps a hesitancy to share or to ask questions. I’ll be honest; I’ve been talking to teens about sex for close to three decades, and it never gets any easier.
Very few comments made by high school seniors and college students can scare parents more than when they announce they have plans to go on a medical mission and travel to Guatemala, spend a few weeks in Rwanda with orphan kids, or go to Indonesia to minister to girls involved in the tragic and pathetic sex trade. As they share their excitement and enthusiasm for their hopeful venture, parents shudder with nervousness about all the potential hazards of travel as their child’s first campaign to “fly the coop” and “make a difference” silently fade to the background as all the reasons they shouldn’t go come to a parent’s mind, shouting, “We can’t let this happen!”
As a child moves from his elementary years into early adolescence, it’s essential that the style of communicating with your child change with them. They are moving from “concrete” thinking to “abstract” thought. What was “non-hormonal” now becomes laced with hormones. Total dependence moves closer to independence. While they have always wanted to listen, now they want to express.
Parenting teens is hard enough when parents agree on how a child should be parented; and even tougher when parenting styles collide. And the one place that parents should be especially concerned about not allowing confusion is in their own home. Confusion flourishes and relationships flounder when parents can’t get their parenting styles to compliment one another, during a time when a teen needs the cohesive and focused team approach by Mom and Dad, whether living in the same house or not.
I’ve been confronting kids for 35 years and it wasn’t any easier the last time as it was the first time I challenged or confronted behavior, attitudes, motives, or actions that I thought were unacceptable or inappropriate. One would think that after living with 2,500+ high school kids, the act of confrontation would be simple and comfortable. It’s not. But I have learned this through the years. I’ve never liked the process of confrontation, but I sure love the results. Conflict is a pre-cursor to change, not only in the life of the one I confront, but in my own life as well.
You know what they say; behind every great leader stands a proud parent. But great leaders don’t just happen. People who stand tall on their own two feet are often the result of a family who poured into their lives and helped them develop the necessary skills to take charge and bring others with them. But I’m sure there are some parents who will say, “Hey Mark, my teen will never be a leader! He can’t run his own life, let alone guide anyone else’s.” But before we jump into “never” situations, perhaps it would help to clarify what we are talking about.