Annette Nay, Ph.D.
Who is Influencing My Child?
As parents, we try to instill the essence of goodness in our children, then they let them go into the world and hope that they have listened and learned the teachings we have given them. We lend them to the schools for approximately eight hours a day and then they come home and want to be with friends. That leaves little time to influence them further. The greatest influence in their lives are their friends. In many cases you have giving your precious child to a stranger to mold into the adult s/he will become.
Do You Know Your Teen's Friends?
How can you get to know them? Make your home a place where they will hang out. That may mean having exciting good videos around, fun activities, and lots of food. This probably means that you have added the food for four or five teenagers to your to your monthly food bill, but you are getting away easy. You at least know what your teen is doing and with whom he is with. Piece of mind is worth a lot.
Uphold Your Values in Your Home
Now that you have the teens in your home. Gently correct any deviations in behavior from your standards as they occur in your home. Teens will respect your expectations of behavior or they will choose not to be in your home. I have had youths in my home that act one way at their home and quite differently in mine. I liken this behavior to many people who go to church. They have their Sunday behavior and their rest of the week behaviors.
Build Strong Family Ties
Make your home a place where each family member feels loved and a sense of belonging. Communicate with each other. Eat together as a family, whenever possible. Work together as a family. Talk together as you work.
Build family traditions. Plan and carry out meaningful vacations together, considering your children's needs, talents, and abilities. Create happy memories with your children. Teach your children about their family history. ancestors, and their heritage.
Buss Them to Milwaukee if You Have To!
Proximity plays a very important part in who your youth's friends are. Many youth would have better friends if they had some reliable way to get over to their home. You need to be the facilitator in getting good youths into your home and getting your youth over to their home. It may seem inconvenient, but it is worth it in the long run!
Teens Are Organized Why Aren't Parents?
If a parent puts his/her foot down on an activity, it isn't long before your youth's group of friends knows about. Soon they are plotting ways to get around the problem. Parents need to have a roster of their teen's friends and not be afraid to check out the story or plans your teen has made with the other parents who's teens are also involved. In most cases the parent on the other end of the line will welcome the alliance. They want to know what kind of home their teen is going to. If they don't, that is a signal that your teen should not in their home. You can almost guess that that parent is not caring what his/her teen is doing nor yours. You have to have alliances with the other parents. You need to check with the other parents about supervision for activities in their homes. You need to check to see if they know what activities are being planned. Teens are not above telling their parents that they are spending the night at each other's places and then slipping out for a night on the town.
What Happens when Your Youth gets into the Wrong Group of Friends?
It will be your worst nightmare come true. Many of the gangs of today do not espouse an of society's values or laws. Everything within their grasp is theirs to take. Many feel no qualms about taking someone's life. Many smoke, drink and /or use drugs. These may be the very people that you have turned your youth over to, to be trained.
Unfortunately, your youth would not be hanging with these teens unless s/he felt comfortable with them or they fulfill some need your youth has. If s/he is already one of them, your trouble is just beginning. You can transplant your youth to a new city and still s/he will seek to be with people who are like him/her. You can't run from the problem. You have to change the behaviors and thinking of the youth. Again this is almost impossible. They can see more of their friends than they ever see of you, since they are gone to school all day.
If there is a need find out what it is and fulfill it.
Bad News Friends
So you can see from the word go that your teen's friends are bad news. What can you do? What you don't do is tell your teen that s/he cannot see them any more. This statement raises hackles and begs for defiance. How can you enforce this rule? You don't see your teen for most of his/her waking hours. They can see who they want to see and they can be anywhere in a matter of minutes.
Instead, have a friendly talk with your teen. The big task here is not to make it an inquisition and you have to not show how you really feel about these friends.
Tell your youth that if friends are not helping him/her to be the best s/he can be then they are not really friends. You can tell good friends by their actions. Look at the actions, they speak louder than words. Some friends say one thing and do another. These are not friends.
If they are not the right kind of friends, your teen will make excuses for them. Saying,:
So your teen has a lot of anchors pulling him/her down, and no one buoying him/her up? Even the best of teens will succumb to the law of the pack. Ask your teen why all the excuses. Either they are or they are not good people. There is no in between. Again check out their actions. They speak for themselves. You can't say this enough to your teen.
What Move Rating You Would Give Your Friend?
I talked myself blue in the face to my teenage daughter. She still wanted to hang with a neighborhood friend even though my she agreed that is neighbor did not have our standards. My daughter stated that she was just a little this and just a little that., but basically she was a good person.
Then one day I was inspired with a way to help her to see there was a problem. We allow our children to see movies with the rating of "G" or "PG." Just out of the blue, I asked my daughter, "What rating would you give your friend if she were a movie. She thought for only a moment and said, "PG-13." I asked her if she saw anything wrong with that? She looked shocked and realized what I had been trying to tell her all along. She agreed to not to be with her unless she had another friend of her standards with her. With two girls with high standards together, it would double the chances of the group doing what was right, instead of a 50-50 chance it had been.
Anything Done After Midnight is Trouble
Too many parents let their teens stay out later than midnight on the weekends. Police have stated that crime escalates more after midnight then at any other time. If and activity cannot be done before midnight, then it shouldn't be done. See that your teens are home. If they cannot keep curfew then they loose the right to go out for a time. If they were using the family car then they loose that right too. Keep these rules consistently.
Treating the Gang
Psychologists find that the gang or friends are so important that they have found that they make better progress with troubled teens if they treat the whole group rather than just the one teen. That is a highly significant message for us as parents. If you want something to happen enlist the help of the group. When the group know your rules because you are kindly consistent with them just like you are with your youth there is a better chance that they will help your youth to keep those rules. They may even choose to adopt them for themselves.
What if the Worst Happens and Your Child Won't Change?
When teenagers begin testing family values, you need to go to the Lord for guidance on the specific needs of each child. Pray for careless and disobedient children. Hold on to them with your faith, until you see the salvation of God in their behalf. Your youth need to know, like the prodigal's son, when they come to themselves, they can turn to you for love and counsel. Avoid spoiling your children by giving them too much.
When a Child's Intolerable Behavior Necessitates His/Her Leaving the Home
Generally, you should never in anger lock the door, or your home, or your heart to your youth. Realize though that there are situations that warrant a child's expulsion from the family and your home. This is due to violence or continuous behavior directly opposing family values. Once the behavior has changed the youth should be allowed back into the home. Never should the youth be locked out of your heart. Your love should be unconditional. Remember the youth is always wanted, the intolerable behavior is not! Prayers should always be raised up in his/her behalf for a change of heart and behavior.
The choice should be the youths whether to go or stay. If they choose to stay they need to change their ways immediately. If they choose not to, then they choose to leave, until they feel they can change.
A Note on the Happier Side
We have this promise in Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." If we have taught our youth the gospel, then we have the Lord's assurance that He will make sure that they will espouse those ideas in there maturity of older years. They will see first hand that not following the gospel will bring them sorrow. It will be at the bottom of their sorrows that they will be enlightened to call upon the Lord and repent. It is at that time that they will be ready to try living the gospel for themselves, and in it they will find joy. This is our promise!
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