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Act Your Age

An article from Wayne Rice at TheSource4Parents.com
06/21/2009

No, Brandon, I’m not going to give you an advance on your allowance. Money doesn’t grow on trees! Besides, it’s wrong to go into debt just so you can buy things you don’t really need.

Then why, dad, did you just borrow twenty grand to buy yourself that new Harley-Davidson?


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Jennifer, I really don’t think you should wear such a skimpy bathing suit to the pool. It’s just not decent.

But mom ... my bathing suit covers more of me than yours does! ...


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Christine, we’re leaving for church in twenty minutes. You had better get ready.

But dad, I’m going with my friends to a beach party today.

A beach party? It’s Sunday morning, Christine. Time for church. Get ready, now!

Dad! We’ve planned all week to go to the beach!

Christine, you know we don’t put beach parties ahead of church. Nothing is more important than being in the house of the Lord on Sunday morning. Maybe you should re-think your priorities, young lady.

Well then maybe you should re-think YOUR priorities, dad! Or didn’t you think I noticed when you skipped church last month to play golf with your boss?


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Ouch.

 

Whether we like it or not, kids tend to follow our lead. If we want kids to “act their age,” then (doggone it) we will have to act ours. It’s a very simple truth that many parents fail to understand. As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. That is especially true when teenagers are doing the listening and watching.

 

If our goal is to get our kids safely into adulthood some day, then it only makes sense that we as parents model in front of them what it means to be an adult. Many teenagers get very confused when their parents fail to demonstrate such adult characteristics as responsibility, good-judgment and self-discipline. It’s hard to teach kids to delay gratification or make wise choices when parents rarely do so themselves.

 

If you are prone to swearing in traffic, don’t be surprised to hear some choice words from your teenager next time they come under a little stress. If you bend the truth on the telephone to get out of an unwanted engagement with a friend, don’t be surprised when your kid lies to you about his whereabouts last Saturday night. If you are a consumer of junk food, or pornography, or recreational drugs, or alcohol, or cigarettes, or the shopping channel, or any other bad habits ... then don’t bother to tell your kids that these vices are wrong or bad for them. “Do as I say, not as I do” just isn’t going to be very effective with teenagers.

 

On the other hand, we can have a powerful positive impact on the lives of our teenagers by behaving in ways that reinforce what we want them to learn. Our basic beliefs and values, those things that make up our character, are clearly communicated to kids through our daily actions. What we do has much more impact than what we say. Teenagers are especially adept at noticing discrepancies between the two.

 

If this sounds like a heavy burden to bear, keep in mind that no parent can be a perfect example. One definition of a model is “a small imitation of the real thing.” None of us do the right thing all the time. Our children can learn a great deal about themselves and about life just by observing how we handle our mistakes and failures. If we lose control of our temper and say things that are hurtful and unkind, we can apologize and ask for forgiveness. If we make a bad choice or commit sin, we can admit our wrongdoing before God and before our family members, allowing them to become part of the restoration and growth process. Quite often, kids are most encouraged and strengthened when they learn that their parents aren’t perfect and that they, like themselves, must work hard to close the gap between our knowledge of right and wrong and our behavior.

 

Some parents worry that their past misdeeds disqualify them from being good examples or positive role models for their children. Again, our kids can learn much from their parents’ life experiences—even bad ones. While it is generally neither advisable nor helpful for parents to expose their “dirty laundry” before their children, there are times when it is best to be honest and to let kids know that failure is part of the human condition. You can learn and grow from your mistakes, but it requires honesty and a commitment to change.

 

Ultimately, teenagers learn about adulthood by watching the adults they have the most access to—usually their parents. When their parents act selfishly, irresponsibly, or dishonestly, kids learn that this is normal adult behavior and they most certainly will imitate it. If you want your children to learn such mature concepts as “think before you act,” “plan ahead” or “guard your integrity,” then you will need to demonstrate these values in your own daily living.

 

Remember, your kids may not listen to you very much, but you can bet they will be watching. You can help your teenager grow up by being a grown-up yourself.


Wayne Rice Wayne Rice is a life-long youth worker, Christ-follower and bluegrass music nut who spends most of his time these days writing, speaking, consulting, playing his banjo and trying to be a good husband, father and grandpa. Wayne co-founded an organization called Youth Specialties, as well as a parenting organization called Understanding Your Teenager, which is now part of HomeWord.com. Wayne has written over 30 books, including the parenting book, Generation to Generation. You can follow Wayne on his blog at WayneRice.com.


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