Imagine dividing up parenting into phases. Andy Stanley* has suggested this breakdown:
Ages 1-5 Discipline
Ages 5-12 Training
Ages 12-18 Coaching
Ages 18+ Friendship
I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks. I have a 12-year-old middle schooler. It’s crazy how suddenly she “grew up”. It’s clearly a new phase of parenting. We are shifting from “Mom decides” to “You decide with the help and influence of Mom”. And on what basis is she making decisions? On the basis of all the training I have provided (or not provided!) in the last 10 years. Eeeekk.
Here are a few other bits of wisdom for the coaching years:
– If you fail to discipline and train your kids when they are young, then it’s too late. You cannot suddenly add discipline when they are teenagers. Doing so provokes rebellion and communication breakdown.
– You cannot “be friends” with your middle schooler. You are the coach. Coach is not the same as friend.
– “Don’t freak out.” This is your mantra as long as you have teens in your house. Don’t freak out. Be calm. If you freak out they will stop talking to you. Don’t shut down the communication. Leave them open to coaching.
– Say “Oh no, that’s terrible! What are we going to do about that?” See how you can use your words to communicate that you understand the drama and that you are on their side? Then let them work out a solution. Practice encouraging from the sidelines, not charging out into the middle of the field to sort things out.
– Remember that the most important things are not the urgent things. (True for much of life!) Do not allow seemingly urgent issues and activities replace the important things…
– Sometimes you say “no” to good things (sports, ministry, whatever) in order to invest more in your kids and have time with them.
– Don’t lie. Don’t let them lie either.
– Teach them to honor their mother.
– Let them fail when the stakes are low.
– Help them see how their faith intersects three important things: 1. Decision making, 2. Relationships, and 3. School. You can do this partly by talking all the time, everywhere, in a natural fashion about how your faith affects your thinking processes too.
– And finally remember that “Later is Longer”. You have only a few short years of parenting, but you will be friends with your kids for 60 or more years. Make the hard decisions now. It’s ok to cry for a night. Later is longer. Always.
*Our Wednesday night dinner/small group has really enjoyed Andy Stanley’s “Future Family” series. Session 5 he co-taught with his wife and they discussed parenting. http://www.northpoint.org/messages/future-family