Ask the Experts

    I did a little research last night.  I had an
opportunity to teach the teen class last night while a large part of
the group was out of town on a mission trip.  I get to teach the
teens every once in a while but it’s usually a very large group on
Wednesday nights.  Since this was a much smaller group I decided
to use the time for a little research.  The question of passing
faith from generation to generation has been on my mind a lot lately so
I decided to ask the experts, “What do parents do that works?”  In
other words, as they are guiding and shaping their kid’s lives what
tactics work and which ones do not?
    Granted this was not a “formal” survey, but the
results were pretty interesting.  We used Proverbs as a backdrop
for different strategies that parents can use.  Here are the
different roles that we came up with:

  • Parents as teachers.
  • Parents as encouragers.
  • Parents as prophets.
  • Parents as enforcers (discipline).
  • Parents as storytellers.
  • Parents as models.

After a lot of discussion and a little role playing I asked them to
rank these as to which ones are most effective.  Can you believe
that not one of them ranked discipline at the top of the list?
;^)  (I told them I wouldn’t rank it there either!)   The
overwhelming majority agreed that being an “encouraging model” is the
best communication tool that parents have in passing
knowledge/values/faith on to their children.  The sentiment
was,  “When my parents catch me doing something right and I get
credit for it, that makes me want to do it again.”  In fact, they
said that if parents would lean more heavily toward encouragement and
modeling (living out their beliefs) then when discipline is needed it
has much more impact.  “If your parents tend to be positive and
encouraging most of the time, when they do point out negative stuff it
carries more weight than if they are always griping.”
    So this little bit of research has me thinking about
what we offer to parents in the church.  Most of the parent
education that I’ve seen leans toward discipline.  We equip
parents to discipline their toddler, to train their child, and to reign
in their teen.  We give them tools to set boundaries, to make
their children mind, and to grow them up “God’s way.”  But what I
heard from the “experts” last night was that they need parents to lead
them more than to control them. 
    The issue that is raised here is an important
one.  Parents want tools that will help them know what to “do”
with their kids, but what they need is a church to show them how to
“be” with their kids.  In other words, parenting 90% what you are
and only 10% what you do.  Skills training has its place, sure,
but the church needs to show parents that teaching kids is more than
correcting and rebuking.  It’s living, walking, talking,
encouraging, and finding the good in their kids.  The problem is
that those categories don’t sell many parenting books.  Parents
who are at the end of their rope don’t buy a book about modeling, they
reach for “Dare to Discipline.”
    So how do we (the church) help bridge the gap
between what parents want and what kids need?  I’m not sure yet,
but I think that’s the question that the church is going to have to
answer if we want to help parents pass faith on to the next
generation.  Argh…more research.

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~ by Chris Green on June 9, 2005.

4 Responses to “Ask the Experts”

  1. our kids have a lot to teach us…unfortunately, in the more traditional settings they’re not listened to until they’re old enough to late, sadly, we find that by then they’re not around anymore. It’s not a judgement call, just something to think about…we’ve got to help them get their hands dirty early on while giving value to them and their thoughts.

  2. Andy Stanley has a decent parenting class called Parental Guidance Required. We just finished it with our small group. Lots of good thoughts, and it addresses this very issue. Check it out! Probably through North Point Resources.

  3. Not to overlook your post – which was good since I work with teens a lot of my time….but still, drop by my place, you’ve been tagged! You don’t have to join in, still, I’m interested in what literature has moved you!

  4. I like a book called “Parenting Teens With Love & Logic.” by Foster Cline M.D. and Jim Fay. Here is a quote from that book: “We can encourage teens best by talking to them as adults. We do not build self-concept by telling them they’re good. Teens with a poor self-image will simply discount it, and they’ll probably end up worse off than if we’d said nothing. One day teens are down; the next day they’re up. It goes with the territory. We can help by criticizing them as little as possible and by refraining from telling them what they should be discovering for themselves. We want them to think for themselves, so we should be asking them questions instead of ordering them around. When they say they’re going to do something stupid, we can respond,’Well, that’s an option. You can do that. Have you ever thought of this, this, and this? We wish you well, and we’ll still love you no matter what happens.”I read my daughter’s xanga and found that she thought I was griping at her at a time I didn’t think I was griping at her at all. As a matter-of-a-fact I remember complimenting her on the job she had done. Which just goes to show that the comment made by the author is true, a teen who feels that she has been gripped at will ignore the complement. As a mother I find the hardest thing is just letting go and letting them face the consequences of their own actions. Good or bad. A lot of times when I think the consequences will be bad they are actually quite good.

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