To the mom of the toddler who won’t stop crying on the plane…


I know it seems unbearable right now, with your toddler crying and you feeling like everyone is upset and frustrated with you and your kid. But that’s not what I’m feeling. I’m not mad at you at all. In fact, I’m sad. Not sad for you, sad for me. Your crying little boy reminds me of my own and the fact that my kids are almost grown. Believe it or not I’m actually a little envious.

I have so loved being a parent. I can’t believe this chapter of life is nearing its end. Our youngest son is graduating this year. It’s gone by so unbelievably fast. Like a paperback read far too quickly, I can sense the end of the story is near, as the number of pages remaining are far too thin in my hand. And I’m sad. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I started this book? Wasn’t it just yesterday I was hurling throw pillows at my boys as they ran across the living room squealing with joy? How can it be that my little man will never again jump off the top of the couch onto my back while I’ve got his brother pinned to the ground?” I remember wondering each time I tossed him up on my shoulders as he grew bigger and bigger, “Is this the last time I get to give one of my kids a piggy back ride? Somewhere along the line that last one finally did happen, and somehow I can’t remember it no matter how hard I try.  How is it possible that I’ll never have to threaten to pull the car over, or tell the boys to go to their room? When was the last time I made them apologize like they meant it? “Say it again.” “Say it again.” “Say it again!” “Now hug.”

How I loved reading a chapter of Narnia each night until they drifted off to sleep. How great was it to lay next to them in bed in the pitch dark and answer random questions that suddenly felt safe to ask? How wonderful to try to explain how big God is and how great His love for them.

There’s plenty I wish I had done differently. I wish I hadn’t been a workaholic for a few of those years. I wish I’d had family devotions more often. I wish I’d taken them to see their grandparents more. There were so many times I had no idea what to do, and it’s scary to think how much we actually winged this parenting thing. But I refuse to beat myself up for mistakes made, for opportunities lost. We did the best we could, with what we knew to do at the time. And somehow, the kids turned out okay. Even the teenage years were way better than advertised. It hasn’t been anywhere near the nightmare that others warned us about. In fact, it’s been exactly the opposite.  We’ve loved parenting; every chapter, every page of their childhood.

Now, I know that parenting doesn’t stop when the kids leave home. And I know there will likely be grandchildren in our house someday, with toys on the floor and smudges on the windows. And I suspect we will always have teenagers in our lives and in our home.  But let me grieve the ending of this story, just for a moment.  What a fantastic book.  And I can’t wait for the sequel.

And mom of the crying toddler? I hope you enjoy your story just as much as I did. Because it won’t be long till you’re sitting in my seat.

~Mark

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Tips for Parenting Teens from a Veteran Youthworker


Aaggghhh!

For the last time… Do your homework!

As a youth worker, I’ve always kinda avoided speaking about Parenting. I didn’t want to jinx it. But now that we’re almost empty-nesters, there are some things that we’ve learned from raising our own teenagers and through having a front row seat to the literally thousands of teenagers and their parents over the past 27 yrs of youth ministry. I spoke on Parenting this weekend and here are a few things regarding parenting & discipline I thought I’d pass along.

1. Don’t Freak out about the wrong things  – Be more concerned about your kids character than their behavior.

Too many parents freak out about stuff that really doesn’t matter in the long run. Dirty dishes left in the sink, unfinished homework, unapproved hair color. I’m type A, I get it. I understand that things belong in their place, but save your real freak outs for character stuff: Lying, Stealing, Immorality; those kinds of things. Parents who go from zero to lit in 2.3 seconds for every infraction, leave no room to ratchet up for the big stuff. You’re response should fit the crime.

2. Discipline should be consistent – A foul is a foul.

Be as consistent as possible. In sports, it really doesn’t matter whether the ref wants to call the game tight or loose; good players find a way to win regardless. But when a ref is inconsistent with how they call fouls, it’s impossible to figure out a way to navigate successfully. It’s the same way with kids. Parents need to be consistent with what they call a foul. Unpredictability just frustrates everyone and drives them out of relationship with you.

Be consistent, but parent each child differently.  This sounds hypocritical as first glance, but it’s not. Each teenager is different. Each teenager is wired differently. What motivates one kid, doesn’t motivate his sibling. Learn what motivates your teenager and use it to get the behavior you are looking for.

3. Don’t make idle threats  – Always follow through on what you promise

Some parents of teens make the mistake of making their punishment over the top and nearly impossible to enforce. “You’re on restriction for life or until further notice! No TV for a Year! You can’t leave the house all summer!” Teenagers cannot see very far down the road, they plan and live for today. Discipline that goes too far risks breaking the relationship. It can push a teenager away and at times over the edge. Most parents don’t have the fortitude to see long punishments through either. So, try to make discipline short, and for sure NO LONGER than YOU can endure!

4. Make your home a safe place.  – Physically, emotionally and every other way.

Encourage your teenager. Speak life to them. Everywhere else in the world teens have to be on their guard. The world can be such a hard place. Make your home the one place where it’s safe, and both your teenager and their friends will want to hang around you and your house long after they get a driver’s license.

5.  Make time for them now  – don’t wait for later.

As a youth pastor I can remember many times when I had parents come into my office with their teen and say something like: “You fix them!” I wanted to tell them, “You weren’t around when they were little and you feel them slipping away and now they don’t want anything to do with you. You should have hung out with them when they were 4, 5, and 6 yrs old.”

If this is you… there’s nothing you can do about the past except apologize and attempt to move forward from there. Whatever age your kids are, don’t put off connecting with their heart till tomorrow. Start now.

I heard Josh McDowell tell the story one time of his basketball star son greeting him during halftime of a homecoming game at his college in front of a packed house with a hug and a kiss. A mom in the stands approached him later and asked, “How in the world did you get that kind of relationship with your son?” He replied:

“If you spend time with your kids when you don’t have to,     they will spend time with you when they don’t have to.”

Josh McDowell

Don’t wait. If you want a good relationship with your teenager, spend time with them now. It’s hard, I get it. But it is possible. And as a dad who has a great relationship with his teenage sons. Do it.

It’s worth the effort.

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