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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Parents, Be Their Heart Meter

This past Friday and  Monday was Fall Break for our school, which means there was no school. (Can I hear a YIPPEE for no school days???!!!) Teachers, students and parents get a much-needed break during this annual four-day weekend in most Oklahoma schools.

Each fall we decorate our yard with pumpkins and hay bales, corn stalks and a scarecrow.  It's my favorite time of year and my husband always makes sure we have plenty of the pumpkins and hay bales.  This year our own pumpkin crop didn't grow too well, so we actually bought about half of our pumpkins. 

Monday morning we woke up to a surprise.....a sad surprise.  Someone (or several someones) had stolen a lot of our pumpkins and one of the hay bales.  It disappointed us that someone had done it, especially since smashed pumpkins were seen on several streets in our small town.  This proved that the pumpkins were stolen only to be destroyed.  But the thought that someone came onto our personal property and stole something....even though it was pumpkins and a hay bale, makes me a little angry! 

What made me angrier is that I was writing my blog post late Sunday night and actually heard people at the stop sign near our house and heard a vehicle door shut.  That was probably the thieves!  I wish now that I had gone outside or at least looked out the window. I probably would have yelled out, "Thou Shall Not Steal!" and "Jesus Loves You!"....and then hit them with my son's marshmallow-shooter-sling shot :). Just kidding....don't worry!

Teens (we know it was teens now, although we don't know all that were involved) make bad choices.  So do adults.  But, I thought about this post I received some time back via email from Inspiration List.  It talks about the influences our children have around them from all different sources.  As parents, it's up to us to protect our children from those influences.  I love how Mr. Luce says that, as parents, we must be our children's "Heart Meter".

Who Owns Your Kid's Heart?
Ron Luce

"Johnny gets to do it, so why don't I get to do it?" Is this a familiar statement out of your son's or daughter's mouth? This is a tell-tale sign that their friends may be influencing them more than you do. Your kids can develop a frame of mind where they desire to please their friends more than you. You'll begin to see that these friends will subtly hold more authority in their lives than you do when it comes to what to wear or what to do.

Peer pressure is quite a common part of growing up, at least according to most parents. Yet the questions their children ask, based on feelings of peer pressure about why their friends get to do so and so and they don't get to do so and so, are met with responses like, "Because I'm not Johnny's parent, am I?" "Just do what I say," or "We don't do that in our home." While these responses are partially true, there is a deeper issue here: Is it really a "natural part of growing up" for our children's hearts to be given over more to their friends than to their parents? I'm not so sure. It may be a familiar part of growing up, but it doesn't mean that we can't stem the tide of the transference of their affections. It doesn't mean that we're doomed to lose our children, or that there's sure to be incessant fighting with the "because I say so!" kind of mentality from now until the time they leave home.

The change in ownership is not something that happens dramatically. However, there are subtle signs that friends are beginning to hold more authority than you do. Therefore, it is imperative to know who your kids' friends are; who they spend most of their time with. The values your kids friends hold will be values they attract to as well. Do you know what kind of talk goes on at school? What's being said in the locker room? And in particular, what is going on at overnight parties and sleepovers, even when they are young? Are they staying with their friends the whole night?

Most parents don't imagine they have any control over what are considered "normal" activities. How can parents control who their kids' friends are or what they do? How can they possibly know what's being said or done when their kids stay the night at another person's house? These are all difficult questions, but they are not unanswerable. We need to wake up to the fact that what seems to be the "normal way kids grow up" can actually pose entry points for the culture to begin to shape their minds and hearts.

When Katie and I were very young parents, some incredibly wise parents told us that the biggest mistake they ever made was to let their kids stay overnight with other kids. That seemed to be where all the trouble started for their kids, who were now teenagers who had gotten into quite a bit of it. There is a strange kind of peer pressure created, and an inordinate amount of influence on your children, when they are engaging in an all-nighter with someone else's kids, and you have no idea what that family's values are.

We made a decision when our kids were small that they could not spend the night at any friend's house. We modified that rule a little to say that they could stay the night at the houses of covenant friends. Covenant friends are parents with whom we have a relationship and know that they are raising their kids with the same values we have. We know that their kids are going to have the same kind of morals instilled in them. We know that the parents are going to be supervising our kids as well as their own.

Sometimes our rule about sleepovers meant that the girls could not stay the night with a friend down the street or even with their cousins. This is where it gets a little sticky, because we don't want to offend our relatives. However, one horrible conversation could destroy a whole bunch of work you are trying to do in the lives of your kids. If your children are only 8, 9, 10, 11, imagine if they had an exchange of thoughts and conversations with other kids, where rebellion is deposited, or something is shared about sex, or your kids are exposed to some movie where swear words are prevalent or it contains concepts that you just don't want in your kid's mind. Children are just too young to understand, not to mention the possibility of their sneaking out from a parent's supervision. We have stuck with this rule through all the years that our children were young, and I encourage you to do the same.

Parents, you are the ones to intervene in your children's lives to keep them from being pulled away by the culture. To do this, you need to develop a "heart meter" for your kids by watching for the signs-even when they are young. Watch who owns your kid's heart and mind, in each stage of growth, and you will see the cue for you to invest into their lives. You need to woo their hearts back from the culture or their friends so that you are their touchstone. You are the one they go to for advice and direction.

We are engaging into a battle for the hearts and minds of the young people of this generation, and we do have the authority to claim influence in our kid's life. It is time to step up and take the role that we have been given as parents. Remember, it's our job as parents to woo our children's hearts, to keep their hearts and then to influence their hearts. When that happens, they will become the God-honoring people we've always dreamed they would be. Who owns the heart of your child?

This article was adapted from Ron's book, Re-Create: Building a Culture in Our Homes That Is Stronger Than the Culture Deceiving Our Kids. Look for it at your nearest bookstore, or visit for more information.

Ron Luce is the president and founder of Teen Mania Ministries, a Christian organization reaching millions of young people worldwide. He passionately declares the Gospel through Acquire the Fire TV broadcasts, youth events, camps and media resources, challenging teens to take a stand for Christ.


diepenl said...

Excellent post! Not only do we have a responsibility, but I've found that most kids - even teenagers want their parents to be more involved in their lives. When I was doing marriage and family counseling, I found it interesting when teenagers would tell me they wished their parents would spend more time with them. I would come back with "seriously now, wouldn't you rather spend time with your friends?" It was amazing how many times teenagers told me they wanted their parents to spend more time with them. We as parents have bought the lie that our culture has sold us that their peers have more influence and they just want to be around their friends. Truth is, even as teenagers they want us involved in their lives and if we have worked at building a strong positive relationship with our kids up to their teen years they will usually continue to value our values. There may be a few exceptions, but I've found it to be true most of the time.

Lori said...

I agree and it's interesting that you actually heard that from the teens. I remember when I was about 19 my best friend from HS said she was jealous of me when we were growing up because I had a curfew and rules. She felt like my parents cared a lot about me and even though she knew hers loved her, it wasn't a feeling of security and boundaries that translate into love in a young person's eyes.

Thanks for your insight! Lori

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