If asked to share her greatest accomplishment, Robin would quickly point to her 24-year marriage and how thankful she is for children who are becoming the type of young adults she’d choose to spend time with. In three blinks of an eye they’ve morphed from toddlers to teens, and though she’d like to take credit for both, she knows God deserves the glory. All. She’s been blogging for six years at PENSIEVE, and enjoys contributing at (in)courage (faith), Simple Mom (parenting teens), The Skinny (inner beauty), and Story Bleed (literary online-to-print publication). She equally enjoys writing poetry, catching fireflies, walking in the rain and eating tiramisu.
Google “the best homemade butter mints in the world” and you’ll find my recipe #1 out of 651,000 entries; substitute “chocolate eclair” and I’m first again; keep going with apple pie, fried okra or hamburger and every one of them makes the top five.
Which would be wicked awesome except I’m not a foodie!
but I’m a Mama and I could write about my daughter or sons every day.
It was high honor when Kristen asked me to guest post for her Tween Parenting Series. I don’t begin to profess knowing everything about parenting this age group, but since I’ve just graduated from it–my baby will be a freshman in high school (hold me!)–maybe I can offer some helpful advice.
1) Be wise about ALL things electronic.
I’m guessing you (Kristen’s readers) are professing Christians and/or all round good people, seeking to raise your children in the “fear and admonition of the Lord.” But listen to me lovies: “good” kids will do things you’d never suspect. Sometimes by accident, sometimes with intent, but children even as young as middle school will say and do things you never thought possible. I’m continually amazed by the volume of “good” parents who don’t understand the depth and breadth of danger as it relates to online activities.
You cannot afford to think “not my child.”
Here are a few suggestions as your are becoming more tech-savvy than you:
- No smart phones. iTouches and iPads can access everything, too.
- Computers only in visible, family areas.
- Filters on all computers (only mom has the password). We use Net Nanny but I’ve heard Covenant Eyes is good, too.
- If you allow cell phones (and let’s not debate this now ), do not allow picture texting, have children give them to you at bedtime for YOU to charge, don’t allow texts to be erased, and monitor all accounts online.
- Know user names/passwords for all online accounts (Facebook, email, etc.).
Your children might argue but establishing boundaries with explanation will save heartache later. On a recent post at (in)courage I made the analogy that trying to set up boundaries AFTER the fact was like trying to scrape toothpaste back into the tube. It’s messy, difficult, and you never really get it all back in.
2) Make your home a refuge.
Tween years are tough ones compounded by hormonal changes. Your children need your support and involvement even while they’re becoming more independent. They need you to like them, to be their biggest cheerleader. Not unwarranted flattery, but praising those qualities and strengths that often go otherwise unnoticed. Look your daughters in the eye and tell them they’re beautiful; feel your son’s muscles and tell him how cute he looks. Fill their tanks at home so they don’t have to look for it elsewhere!
Cultivate an atmosphere where their friends feel welcome, too. Engage them in conversation and have plenty of snacks on hand.
Whatever it costs in dollars and sense is more than worth it when kids want your home to be their hangout. Biggest and best doesn’t matter; friendliness and accessibility does.
3) Encourage experimentation.
Now is the time to challenge your kids to think outside their comfort zone. Tween years are the perfect season to go out for a new sport (or two), to try their hand at art, to volunteer in your community.
It’s hard to believe, but many children will feel like it’s “too late” to begin something in high school they’ve never tried before. They might resist or initially refuse, but YOU look at the big picture and realize if they don’t try now, they might regret it later. (I speak from experience on this.)
4) Choose your battles carefully.
My kids have often thanked us for how we handled their grades; we didn’t flip out if a bad one made it home. If we knew they had prepared, studied, and invested time in the subject, we offered consolation; if they hadn’t adequately prepared, we offered consequence. Be sure to differentiate the two; what we learned is that their friends became numb to parental involvement when the parents reacted to grades.
Of course grades aren’t the only battle, so look for moldable heart issues, not practices or interests you don’t plain like. ”The law gives strength to sin”–prohibiting something that is morally neutral might make it more attractive to your son or daughter.
5) Remember you’re raising them for someone else.
As much as you love your babies, one day they’ll grow up and leave home. While you have influence, parent in a way that gets to their heart, not just outward behavior. Allow your children to suffer the consequences of poor decisions; there’s nothing less attractive than a victim mentality.
I realize some of you reading are single moms, and my heart goes out to you for the added challenges you face. But if you’re married, be intentioned about loving your husband well; make sure your children understand that’s your primary relationship. Make sure YOU understand it’s your primary relationship! As you model a healthy relationship complete with working through difficult times, you’ll be teaching faithfulness that will have impact in their relationships.
Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of parenting is we are not alone and perfection doesn’t exist. God is accomplishing a work in and through us as we lead our children, using successes and failures for both parent and child as a means to conform us to the image of Christ. We can’t take all the credit for how they turn out; nor can we assume entire blame. Ours is simply a stewardship role along the way.
It blesses my heart to have the beautiful, engaging, and HIL-AR-I-OUS Robin offer her parenting smarts around these parts. And what she talks about above? She lives this and therefore has created a home environment where her kids thrive and respect their parents. She is a true Southern Belle and a genuine sweeter-than-sweet-tea encourager. Robin has been awarded the Southern Girl’s Oscar: a Southern Living Mama Blogger of the Week Award! If that don’t beat all!