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The Big Four for Parents pt. 2 (of 4)

March 2, 2019

The New Life Version of the New Testament puts Luke 2:52 like this: 52 Jesus grew strong in mind and body. He grew in favor with God and men.

The four primary pieces of us are there in that verse.  I wrote about the first piece last time.  The New International Version calls it “wisdom.”  The mind.  The intellect.

The body, or as the NIV has it, “stature,” comes next.

I should say that I view almost all of life from a developmental perspective.  Most everything is becoming. It’s developing.  If you’ve got a middle school kid, you know that the shoes and jeans you bought the week before school started don’t fit the month after opening day.  They’re in high-water pants the morning after the same pants fit just fine.  Anyway, it seems like it.  That’s the nature of a developmental process.  It develops and it proceeds.  And shoes and jeans are just two of thousands of things that are effected by this process.

A growing body is a wondrous thing.  Well, until puberty.  Then it’s a monstrous thing.  Especially with the first of your offspring that enter it.  Even if you have memories of your own entry into puberty, you probably found (or will find) yourself unprepared for the many changes that come along with it.  Changing chemistry (hormones) and all the fun that brings for both boys and girls.  Changing attitudes and all the fun that brings.  Changing urges. Changing interests.  Changing… well, everything.  Who’s kid is this, anyway!?

Remember all those changes your kid went through on the way to puberty?  Well, they were just to get you ready for the mega changes that happen as they move into and through puberty.  I wish I had 5 or 6 fool-proof steps for setting you and your kids up for a successful and happy puberty.  I don’t.  I’m pretty sure they don’t exist.  If somebody has these magic steps, they’re probably also selling magic beans, so don’t take them seriously.  You’re no more likely to grow a beanstalk into the clouds than to move gracefully and sweatlessly through your kid’s puberty.

One of my heroes, and the pioneer of Christian family thought and teaching, is James Dobson.  Years ago, his advice on puberty and the teen years was, “Just get through it.”  That advice served my wife, Debbie, and me well through our journey with all three of our wonderful daughters.  It somehow took the pressure off.  We didn’t have to move through those turbulent years with dignity and a smile, as a model for all the other parents in our church.  All we had to do was get through it without killing one another.  That Dobsonian sentence made a huge difference for us.  It’s my best advice for you, too.

Call on God’s grace to help you move through the rapids of the river of adolescence with as few injuries as possible, but don’t expect to come out on the other side looking like Ken or Barbie.  Don’t even ask for that.  It ruins one of the main purposes of this lengthy stage of development.  What’s that purpose?  Learning how to get through stuff you don’t like and don’t understand.  For both you and your kid.  In case you didn’t get the memo, life is full of stuff you don’t like and don’t understand.  You don’t get to opt for a nicer, more hygienic way.  Because there isn’t one.  So learn how to lean into what you don’t like and don’t understand, with the power of God’s Spirit and grace as your source and sustenance.

When I Googled “books about adolescence,”  I only got 10 pages of sites to look through.  There are thousands of books that offer all kinds of advice on what to do and not do about your adolescent.  I’d say dive into the pool of literature, but don’t expect to get the perfect answers to solve all your issues.  Every kid is different, even though they share many predictable and common characteristics as they develop through adolescence.  Look for principles.  You’ll have to apply these principles to your kids with wisdom.

And you get wisdom from God by asking.  I love what James (the half-brother of Jesus; imagine growing up as Jesus’ little brother…  Jesus was the PERFECT older brother…) in his letter to the 12 tribes scattered abroad.  Here you go: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5 NIV)

A long time ago I paraphrased this verse, “God is more interested in making you wise than He is in making your feel stupid because you need wisdom.”  This is the best news I have for any parent.  God, the source of wisdom, wants to make you wise.  You have to ask for it, but He wants to give it to you generously.  And He does this without finding fault with you.  SO ASK!  All the time!  Every morning.  Every time you sit down to start a new task.  Every time your head hits the pillow.  Every time you lose a battle with your adolescent.  Even the bloody losses.  Especially them.

Recruit your trusted friends to pray for you in this regard.  Trusted is the operative word there.  For me, anyway.  There’s a thin line between a prayer request and hanging your laundry for the whole community to inspect (and in this case advise you on).  I suppose there’s no harm in asking your faith community to pray for you, but please be advised that you may end up with more advice than prayer.  So connect with people you know well enough to trust that they won’t punish you for your failures.  They’ll pray for you and cheer for you, but they won’t judge you.  And if you don’t have friends like this, make your first and most passionate prayer that God will give you this kind of friend.

One more aspect of the body-thing.  In a world of computers and smart phones and digital tablets and video games, it’s challenging for kids to get enough physical exercise.  Even if they’re in organized youth sports, they may spend considerable time watching other kids run and exercise.  Rural kids may have less of a struggle with this than urban kids, but my observation is that ALL kids have to be encouraged to develop physically by being physically active.

Childhood obesity, we’re told, is one of the endemic issues in American society.  Inactive kids almost always result in obese kids.  So do what you can to build time into their day for play.  Physical play.  Outside, if possible.  Limit their screen time.  Experts agree that 2 hours per day is the limit.  An hour of an engrossing video game in a cyber world won’t do nearly as much for a kid as an hour of play in the actual physical world.  Making this happen is more challenging than it is for me to tell you that you should make it happen.  So.

This verse in Luke 2 is the last thing that is written and preserved for us about Jesus’ childhood.  We have nothing more about his childhood and adolescence until He presents Himself to John the Baptist at the Jordan River for baptism as a 30-something.  Mercifully, the details of His perfect adolescence have been omitted from the gospels.  You have nothing to measure your parenting against there.  This is a gift from God, really.  Because it leaves us free, under His grace, to follow Dobson’s advice, “Just get through it.”

From → Parenting

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