The lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer are coming to a close…and the rough, tough, stuff of a new school year are beginning! For some young people, this means joyous anticipation of reconnecting with friends…of participation in fall sports…of getting back into a routine…of learning! There are also those starting afresh in uncharted territory of a new school, who are anxious, perhaps even fearful, of a new beginning with the unknowns. And some will be returning to the same school, same peer group, with the same feelings of inadequacy…of not quite fitting in…lonely, and hurting, and afraid.
Having three children, I have experienced the gamut of school adjustments. The first few days of a new school year she clung tightly, sobbing and begging me to not leave. By her middle school years, though still apprehensive, she had learned that school was a safe place and I would always return for her! Our middle daughter readily went each year, with a cautious excitement of reuniting with friends, and with an eager anticipation of what that year would bring.
Our son, now a junior, has never loved school. On summer break he asks us not to use the “S” word (“school”), which for him is a curse word! Given the option, he would stay home and draw, play his guitar, write music, play video games…and would never open a textbook!
In his book The Hurried Child, Dr. David Elkind states that “play is a child’s work”. Because our son’s learning style is hands-on coupled with the visual, and because his mind is usually processing information way ahead of what he is able to express in written form or verbally, he easily becomes frustrated with a normally structured classroom. He is inherently smart in the academic, extraordinarily mature in spiritual insight, and is socially average or above. Yet, because he is not fond of organized education, his mind easily wanders in structured settings, which, in turn, causes him to have to work more diligently outside the classroom to maintain his grades. It’s a repetitive and vicious cycle!
So what does this have to do with parents being friend or foe? Our response to our child(ren)’s distresses and uneasiness about life situations is vital to his/her’s understanding of how to deal with uncertain and difficult situations. As parents we desire to fix our child’s problems~ to bail him/her out of painful situations! But is that type of response preparing the teen for adulthood? Allowing our child(ren) to experience difficulty helps him/her learn how to effectively deal with, rather than avoid, complex situations.
Learning to face these “giants” in a teen’s life can also serve as a catalyst for greater spiritual growth and maturity. Walking through negative situations teach us most of life’s greatest lessons. Reading books, attending seminars, and listening to sermons offer information; however, it is in the “fleshing out” of learned principles that the growth and maturity occur. If we, as parents, are not modeling those principles in our own lives, our children risk becoming helpless, dependent and less inclined to effectively deal with the hurdles life throws at them.
The way we model appropriate responses will often be mirrored back to us in the way our child(ren) reacts. The amazing thing is that we may not even realize how we do respond to situations unless and until we observe our own child(ren) responding to similar situations.
A personal example: Our eldest daughter, who is not a natural athlete and wanted badly to “fit in” somewhere, decided to try out for the middle school softball team. Tryouts took place over the course of 3 afternoons. During the three days of tryouts she had a severe flu, with a high fever, and did not attend school. She was distraught about missing tryouts. I called the coaches, explained the situation and they assured me that, because she was returning to school the following day, they would still allow her to tryout. However, when she arrived at school the next morning, the roster was posted and her name, of course, was not on the list. I did not find out until she arrived home that afternoon. Can I just say that “mad’ would be inadequate to describe my feelings about this private Christian school and how she was being treated? With my heart racing, I grabbed the telephone and called the athletic director. After I set him straight, he assured me he would talk to the coaches and have them call. When the coach called, she was very apologetic, explaining that they had a limited number of uniforms, and that they needed to go ahead and choose the team. However, if my daughter wanted to stay after the next day, they would watch her throw and hit, and if she was really exceptional, they would see what they could do. I knew those words were simply to appease me for the moment. I also knew they would not kick another player off the team so she my daughter could play! I hung up the phone crying and ranting and raving about how unfair and un-Christ like they were… and how dare they do that to my child… and blah, blah, blah!
Preparing to swoop my daughter into my arms, coddle her and promise that would never happen again, she stopped me in my tracks with eerie calm and said, “Mom, its ok. If God wanted me to be on that team He would have made a way. Obviously He has something better in mind for me!” I fell to my knees and asked the Lord AND my daughter to forgive me for the way I had responded, and I thanked the Lord that my daughter (the child) taught ME (the parent) a deeply spiritual principle! Much later, as I was again complimenting her on the way she handled that situation, she told me that she was only doing what she had seen me do and heard me say in similar situations. As parents and as role models, we have a God-given responsibility to bring our children up in the ways of the Lord. Those ways are simply stated in what is called “The Golden Rule”: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you!”
We can take the “front door” approach (The Back Door To Your Teen’s Heart: Learning What They Need and Helping Them Find It~ Travathan and Goth) and tell our child(ren) what they WILL and WON’T do (because we ARE the parents!), which will likely make us the “foe”…OR…we can enter the back door of his/her heart, offer some options, then step back and allow him/her to make the choice, and live with the consequences. In responding this way, we become more of a friend. Even if, and when, he/she fails and falls, he/she knows we are steadfast to believe in him/her, to pray for him/her and to walk beside him/her through good and bad, thick and thin, ups and downs! Will you choose to be a friend…or will you allow yourself to become a foe? It is up to you!
You can visit Lisa at her blog- http://www.lollipopandpearls.blogspot.com