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.
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?