3 reasons we DON’T want to give our teens a better life

After our high school basketball team lost an important tournament game, the paper interviewed the coach and announced the reason for the loss. “Tana (our son and captain of the team) had no legs. He had to work at 4am this morning.” The newspaper article made it clear; our son’s job commitment took priority over his basketball team. I remember feeling a twinge of guilt and embarrassment. We had encouraged him to have a part time job on top of carrying a full community college class load and playing high school basketball!! It was a lot to ask of an eighteen year old.

tana blockTana in the state tournament his senior year.

I felt the unspoken, subtle judgment. I was a bad mom because we were expecting too much of our son. Maybe we were, but for our family some was out of necessity. It had become the norm for our adult children to work at 16 as well as begin classes at our local community college. This allowed them to graduate high school while also earning their Associate of Arts degree. It effectively cut our family’s college bill from 44 years to 22!!!!! A job allowed them to help some with the family budget.

Everyone wants their kids to have it better than them. If we are honest, we want our kids to have it better than their friends have it! But is that really what’s best for our kids?

Here are 3 reasons we don’t want to give our teens a better life. We love our kids, but:

1. We don’t realize or we forget what has most shaped who we are today

We need to remember the things and the people that most influenced us growing up. The coaches and teachers we remember most were the ones that were hardest on us. It was working hard to get through the challenges that truly shaped our character and produced growth in our lives. We forget the hard things growing up impacted us; sometimes in profound ways. No one wants their kids to experience the same storms, but to deny what God did through those storms is short sighted.

2. We are raising the very people we are complaining about in our culture today!!

From the church to the schools to the teams our kids play on, we are quick to complain about teens… they are lazy, they only care about themselves, and all they do is play video games. But then we raise them to be the very thing we complain about. Some parents think if they pass in school, make their beds and take out the trash, we’re satisfied.

We believe they are capable of so much more. In their book Do Hard Things Alex and Brett Harris, challenge teens to rebel against what’s been called “Teenage Retirement”. Teens desperately need something bigger than themselves to believe in, something worth dying for; a call on their life with adventure and challenge. Let’s get them connected to that call.

3. We have forgotten the goal of our parenting.

Who do you want walking out your door at 18, spiritually, physically, relationally, vocationally, financially, etc.? So many parents today have a plan for their teens that has very little to do with what is really important. I know we found ourselves too often worried about external behavior. We hoped our kids looked good for a watching world; rather than focusing on their hearts and ultimately being spiritual champions.

In his book, Accelerate: Parenting Teenagers Toward Adulthood… Richard Ross gives the history of the teenage culture, addressing many of these issues. He shares how we need to change our approach in parenting them. It is never too late to make some changes. It’s great to start early, but it is never too late to begin!!

Did you work in high school?


12 thoughts on “3 reasons we DON’T want to give our teens a better life

  1. I started working for money at age 12. Back then it was shoveling snow from driveways during the Winter, rakeing leaves during the Fall, I had a daily paper route (6 days per week every evening). Worked picking apples at age 14 one Summer, then worked many days per week at a restaurant as a dish washer and eventually at age 17 got promoted to a shift supervisor. Then at 17 and half, off to college. Worked part time during college as a kitchen worked at one of the sororities a few doors down. I literally “worked for food”. No pay, but great food and saved money by not having to buy a meal plan at the fraternity. Being the oldest child of six in a low income family had its benefits. You learned early to take care of yourself.

    • Thanks Dick for sharing your experience. We should have had you write the article! Stories like yours are a great source of inspiration and a reminder of the things that wind up shaping us.

  2. Wow! Once again you manage to tap into what we are going through. Finding the balance between “you can do this” and exasperation is some what a difficult at times. On the other hand, this blog is an encouragement that implementing What’s best for our teens might be unpopular but the pay off is worth it. Thanks for reaffirming that what I am doing isn’t in vain. God Bless you on your ministry and the lives you’re touching.

    • Thank you Samoa! You are so right that we must ask God for wisdom as we parent in this tension of compassion and not doing things for our teens that they can clearly do for themselves. One of our favorite lines is,”You are smart. You will figure this out. I will pray. Please let me know how this works out!!” When parents manage things that their teens should be managing parents are communicating that they are not smart enough, competent enough, and/or brave enough to handle their own life. Be encouraged that you are even aware of this part of growing Godly people!! May God bless you as you persevere on this adventure!!

    • Haha! I was going to mention that in the article about humility! Just kidding. We were so proud of you that year for the way you handled the pressure you were under. It’s great to see it paying off now in your college career. Thanks for following your parent’s blog! We love you.

  3. Thank you so much for your encouragement! We have six children and currently our 4th is a junior in high school. She is captain of the track team and works for all of her sporting expenses, entertainment and clothing. We realize this is a lot for her as she goes to a private Christian high school where many of the kids come from families of wealth. She manages to somehow keep it all going and at times I want to give in and help her out. But I know the reward is too great if we keep with it. Her sisters before her did it, she can too!

    • Oh Lisa, that’s the great tension we parent in. You can never be perfect in knowing how much is too much. But thanks for being willing to live in the tension of “we love you enough to allow things to be hard sometimes!” Thanks for sharing your experience.

  4. I don’t know if you already have this, but if you don’t, it would be great if you had a list of books that you recommend for parenting; from littles all the way to young adults. Thanks for sharing the your wisdom and using the influence God gave you.

    • We have one but it is old. We have been planning to update it. Well do that soon and get it posted. Thanks for your recommendation.

  5. Hi Kelli. You said that Tana had “A job allowed them to help some with the family budget.” Did he contribute to his college fund or family budget from his paycheck? We’re just getting into the teen years and trying to figure out budgets with kids. Thanks!

    • Hey Stephanie!! We wish we had done a better job in the training of money all around with our children. We are wiser now and our teens now have a much better understanding of budgets and money. We still do not formally ask them to handover money. We try to do good teaching on the Biblical view of money and the heart of God with the resources He entrusts us with. One of the great tools we’ve used has been Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. We attended and we’ve asked our working kids to attend as well.

      We’ve let our kids know on ministry salary we weren’t going to be able to pay for them all to attend college. With that said, we have been super involved academically and athletically with our children to give them the best chance of earning scholarships and grants. And of course the whole Running Start program also allowed them to cut years off of their college tuition. We haven’t paid for our kid’s college. We’ve helped some with transportation and incidentals. But generally speaking we’ve asked them to save money while they are home working and then apply for as many scholarships as possible.

      Of course we were fortunate with our two oldest boys as they earned athletic scholarships. Our third son has earned an appointment to West Point so those situations certainly help the big picture.

      In answer to your direct question, we’ve never formalized our kids helping with the family budget. More and more we’ve made them aware of the budget. But they have been encouraged to help cover their own expenses (gas, school fees, clothes) when they can. They’ve also been super generous with their younger siblings and relieved some of the budget pressure just by helping on occasion with one of them. It’s not uncommon for us to go out for ice cream and have my working kids divvy up the younger kids between them. We’ve actually pulled in with our 12 passenger van full and gotten away with just paying for each other!

      The principle we tried to teach was this – the reason they have money to spend is because we were providing a roof over their head, food to eat etc. They weren’t really paying their way. But the heart of it was to be generous with what God has blessed them with.

      Sorry for the long answer. I hope that helps. We’ll do some future blogs on finances – at least share all the mistakes we’ve made! Thanks for visiting our blog.

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