I just spent four days with 13 students fourth through tenth grades. The majority of these students were junior high. We camped in tents and hiked around Enchanted Rock State Natural Area and Pedernales Falls State Park. We also did some rappelling down the backside of Enchanted Rock.
After spending this time with these teens and preteens I have some observations about us as parents. As you reed this I want you to know that I am with you in this. My oldest is 13.
There was an era in our nation’s history, in fact probably several eras, where the children were raised with certain responsibilities. They grew up respecting the adults they came in contact with, and the adults respected them in turn. The fathers worked to provide for their families, but they didn’t work so far away that they couldn’t teach their sons how to become men. The mothers worked in the home, and they trained their daughters how to be women. Society was much healthier then.
Nowadays we have a grand upheaval of the ideal way of life. Parents are now slaves to their jobs, and they are so physically exhausted and mentally drained that they give their parenting rights over to a black box with moving pictures on it and often wires coming out the front that their children are attached to.
Gone are the days where the fathers teach their sons to become men. Gone are the days where the mothers teach their daughters to become women. Gone are the days where the children show respect to anyone…even themselves.
I say these days are gone because the vast majority of students today do not have this way of rearing as they grow. Sure, there are pockets of this, but the majority of kids I see today come from families where their mom and dad aren’t married to each other – maybe they never were. Now they are growing up with step parents or often single parents. Many of these single parents are living with their “partner” who is not their spouse. The more I visit with teens, the more I see this, and the trend doesn’t look like it is going to slow down any time soon.
This weekend I saw preteens deliberately disobey their parent, and the parent did nothing to discipline them. I saw parents who did discipline their children, but they did so out of control, and their anger got the best of them. I heard from several parents, just in the last few days, that were asking what to do about how to raise their son or daughter.
Let me tell you what else I saw from the kids. I heard teens tell me that they were afraid. I heard teens tell me they were angry. This wasn’t just one or two teens, this was the majority. I heard them say they didn’t want to be angry or afraid, and they weren’t really sure why they were either. I saw kids disrespect each other then get upset when someone disrespected them. They didn’t even understand the concept of respect.
I was not on a trip with a bunch of kids from some detention center or other ostracizing facility. I was on a trip with normal kids. But the norm these days isn’t pretty.
I am used to seeing fear, and I see anger a lot. What struck me the most this weekend happened on the way back. Our group was mostly boys, so I had a great selection of boy-type movies for us to watch on the bus. I gave three options for the teens to watch: “Mission: Impossible”, “The Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Gahoole”, and one of my teens brought a movie so I just threw it out there expecting no other hits – “Where the Red Fern Grows”.
I had seen the last movie when I was a boy, and it was old then. I think it came out when my parents were kids. Yet, when I asked for a vote on which movie they all wanted to watch, the “Red Fern” won decisively.
For two hours I watched my teens get engrossed in a wholesome movie where the main characters were above reproach. The father led his son into rites of passage. The boy was hard working and kept his integrity and his word. There wasn’t a foul word in the entire movie. Even the antagonists were clean-mouthed. The teens ate it up! When the movie was over there was this short silence as if to soak in what they had just seen.
This is what they desire. They are looking for men and women to show them how to be men and women. They aren’t looking for gangsta guys and bi-polar gals to show them how to be dysfunctional. They already have that. They deeply want to be taught respect. They want to be taught to be valuable members of the world around them. It’s such a strange concept to the world they live in, however, they can’t put that desire into words.
Dear parents, if your family is dysfunctional – you know deep down if it is or not – it’s time to bring some healing for your children’s sake. These kids are looking for and needing men and women who will take them in and show them by example how to be healthy adults. If you have friends who have healthy families, then draw close to them so that your children can be influenced by their presence. If you don’t, then get involved with a church where families are investing into the lives if children.
One of the greatest things I do as a youth minister is bring my children (3, and 5) along on trips like the one we went on last weekend. The teens get to see how I interact with my kids. They see when my five-year old is acting more mature or behaving better than they are. I don’t have to say it; they see it.
If you’ve read this, and your children are grown, then please get involved in helping the future generations of our society. If you are a parent whose kids are much like the ones I’ve described above, or your family is like the norm these days, then please get involved with others who can help you mentor your children into becoming mature, healthy adults. The biggest deficit in society today is dads who father their children. Get involved in a place where men are investing. Moms, you work hard and do the best you can. I thank God for you. It’s time you got some much deserved help.
If there’s anything I can do to help you get connected with others who would be willing to help, then please contact me at 245-1611 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Nichols St. church of Christ is dedicated to helping kids grow in all areas of life, and I am proud to be blessed to work there with the teens in our area. Let’s work together to help the future generations grow healthy and stop the decay of the family and society. God bless you all, and I am praying deeply for you.