There are many times that we as parents make mistakes, but there seems to be that big one...
The one that we all do from time to time that plagues our kids across america: We try to over-protect them instead of walking with them through the ups and downs of life. Now don't get me wrong, if we see a pond full of crocodiles, then yeah, I expect that we would kind of steer our kids clear of it. However, to swoop in and be superman or superwoman all the time and not let our kids taste defeat, discouragement, or disappointment on an appropriate level, could being upon some significant rammifications. Here is a great piece from an article written by Josh Harris at joshharris.com, talking about this issue. Thanks Scott Todd for putting this article out there!
"Relationships between parents and teens are weakest in control-oriented homes. Bev and I treated our children as if they were "projects." The more they became projects, the less we had significant relationship. The less we had relationship, the more we lost their hearts. Without their hearts, the less we were able to influence them or their values. We regularly spent hour coaching and admonishing them during the teen years, not realizing that without their hearts, the best we could do was make more rules and devise new consequences. The consequences affected the outside, but not the inside.
When my oldest son was almost 16 we let him get his first job washing dishes at a restaurant managed by a Christian friend of ours. As diehard shelterers we wrestled with whether or not our son was ready to enter the world's workforce. We knew we couldn't shelter him forever, and so finally concluded that he should be old enough to send into the world two nights a week. What we didn't realize was that he would be working with drug-using, tattooed, partiers, and our Christian friend was never scheduled to work our son's shift.
Within a month it became apparent that our son's new work associates were having an effect on him. He came home one evening and asked, "Dad, can I dye my hair blue?" After my wife was finally able to peal me off the ceiling, I laid into him, reminding him whose son he was, and that I would not have people at church telling their children not to be like the pastor's son. I explained that just because he wanted to use washable dye, it didn't make me any happier. (Note that my intense reaction had to do with "outward appearances" and the impact on me.)
Of course, my wife and I immediately began to evaluate whether we had made a mistake by letting him take the job. After an intense discussion we decided to coach him more carefully and let him keep his job.
Two months later he came home from work and asked me if he could pierce his ear. Again, my wife had to peal me off the ceiling. He thought it might be okay since he wanted a cross earring -- like I was supposed to be happy, because it would be a "sanctified" piercing. If that wasn't enough, he also wanted to get a tattoo! But it was going to be okay, because it would be a Christian tattoo!
As I was looking back on this experience several years later, something my son said shortly after he started his job kept coming back to me. When I picked him up the second night of work, he got in the car with a big smile on his face and said "They like me!" As I dwelt on that comment, it suddenly came clear to me - my son had finally met someone who liked him for who he was. Few others in his entire life had shown him much acceptance, especially not his mother and I. It is no exaggeration - in our efforts to shape and improve him, all we did was find fault with everything he did. We loved him dearly, but he constantly heard from us that what he did (who he was) wasn't good enough. He craved our approval, but we couldn't be pleased. Years later, I realized he had given up trying to please us when he was 14, and from then on he was just patronizing us.
The reason our son wanted to adorn himself like his work associates, was because they accepted him for who he was. He wanted to fit in with those who made him feel significant. He wanted to be like those who gave him a sense of identity. The problem wasn't one that could be solved by extended sheltering - he could have been sheltered until he was 30 and he still would have been vulnerable. The problem was that we had sent our son into the world insecure in who he was. He went into the world with a hole in his heart that God had wanted to fill through his parents.
Whether believer or unbeliever, those young people who are least tempted to follow the crowd are those who are secure in themselves and don't need the approval of others. The Bible calls insecurity the fear of man - it is allowing other's opinions of us to affect our values and choices.
In the Bible we see that people obeyed God for two reasons - fear and love. King David sang of his love for God (Ps 18:1; 116:1; 119:159) and he also sang of the fear of God (Ps 2:11; 22:25; 33:8). God wants His followers to be drawn to Him out of love (Jer 31:3), and that's why it is His kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4). But He also wants us to be kept on the path by fear of His authority (Luke 12:5; 1 Pet 2:17). That's why He told the Israelites He wanted both their fear and their love; "And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deut 10:12). With our children, it should be the same.
Those who have the most power to influence our hearts are those to whom we are drawn: those who succeed with our values (which is what a hero is), those who can benefit us, those who make us feel valuable, and those who have earned our respect.
If our children grow up motivated only by fear of consequence, they will eventually get away with what they can whenever we are not around (Eph 6:6). If we have their hearts they will seek to honor us whether we are present or not, and their hearts will remain open to our influence.
I refer you to the apostle Paul who modeled this approach to leadership perfectly, "Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love..." (Phile 1:8-9a). Paul's pattern with the churches suggests he understood that appeals to love were more powerful than commands and threats.
I am convinced that the most contagious parenting is living a heartfelt faith before your children. Fruitful interaction is not about what you do to your young people, but who you are with them. It's about having a real faith in God, and expressing it in a real relationship with a real person--not about methods and self-working principles. God intends that the side-effect of loving Jesus and enjoying the grace of the gospel will be that all people--including our children--will be touched by the Savior in us. I pray in Jesus' name that as you read these words you will experience the grace of God in a fresh and new way."