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Category Archives: Teens

Why Listening Is Part of God’s Repair

Happy September! I’m not sure where August went! Espressos of Faith is belatedly celebrating a Blogiversary! We opened up the site on August 3, 2014 and started posting August 15, 2014. I’ll never forget it because I was on vacation, and my web site manager and I said: “Okay, ready or not, here we come!” (I’ve since learned to put better margin in my life and not attempt huge undertakings while away to relax.) Not long after, by the amazing grace of God, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day was published on October 1, 2014, a day shy of my birthday.

This summer, I’ve been keeping a weekly faith column at Your Tewksbury Today and slowed down in terms of adding content to the blog site. Personally, we had a challenging summer on several counts, and rest became a must.

In honor of a year of faithful readers, engaging conversations, and much-needed personal growth, Espressos of Faith will aim to post twice a week this month, hopefully posting a few guest bloggers along the way.

Thank you for coming alongside me and reading what my heart wants to communicate. I dedicate each post to the Great I AM, Whose hand I never want to let go of—not in the stormy seas and not even when the skies are clear and the air about me dancing with dragonflies. It’s the best hand I’ve ever held: The Warm Hand of Jesus on Cold Days of Doubt.

Blessings to you this September,
Bonnie

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Why Listening Is Part of God's Repair

Summer: A time when the family spends significant amounts of quality time together, regroups from the busy school year, checks every item off the year-in-the-making to-do list, and catches up on each other’s lives.

Sound good? Yes, yes it does.

But summer can also be a time when all problems shoved to the side by our busyness the rest of the year come rushing into that empty space like an angry brook moving so swiftly, it polishes pebbles along the way.

Only I’m the pebbles, and no matter how smooth I think I am, the water continues to force its way in and demand my attention.

Know what I mean?

We glided into July with a few weeks of calm. It was good to sleep in, not worry about schoolwork, and follow our whims about the schedule.

And then, like a gigantic, threatening, visible but still-out-to-sea tidal wave, suddenly every issue that had been building—some unbeknownst to me—piled on top of my head. When I thought maybe I had a handle on one area, another person in the family would point out another flaw in our relational dynamic. Not fun.

Pretty soon I was seeing not just the frayed edges, Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Navigating T(w)een Texting: What Are Good Guidelines for Middle Schoolers?

Today, I am trying something different at “Espressos of Faith.” I was recently drafting a texting contract for one of my children, and I brainstormed many guidelines, but I’m sure I didn’t catch them all. I realize that people have different parenting styles. This is just mine. I can also see where a 6th grader would have (hopefully) tighter parent reins than an 8th grader who has shown responsibility and maturity in this area. I have a high schooler, a middle schooler, and an elementary school child. We have navigated this tricky world of online communication with one so far and are in the middle of the training ground with another.

This list is a brainstorm for training. It’s intended to be the guardrails necessary for helping a tween or young teen find safety and structure in the digital and online world. The wording is designed to let them know which statements are advice best heeded and which ones are imperatives, or non-negotiables. Again, this is a work-in-progress. I’m open to feedback.

Texting

Today, I pose these questions to readers:

What would you add?

What would you take away?

What would you change?

What has worked for you?

Why?

I’d love to hear from you.

Bonnie Lyn Smith,
Author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day

P.S. This topic first appeared at Espressos of Faith in Texting: Can We Raise Our Kids From a Posture of Fear?

P.P.S. risk(within)reason is a great resource for managing your child’s digital footprint.

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Texting, Emailing, and Messaging Guidelines for Middle Schoolers

You can use your iPod Touch after homework (unless we’ve made a different arrangement that day) if the following rules are adhered to:

1.) No texting/emailing/messaging/playing a game with or otherwise interacting with any friend before 8 AM and after 8 PM.

2.) No forwarding *anything* (especially *no video or photo content* but also no email forwarding) for anyone else, of anyone else, or about anyone else, even if you have his/her permission. Whatever you share or forward makes you culpable, not only in our home, but it leaves a digital footprint legally.

3.) No pressuring anyone else to respond/forward/share/get an app you want them to have, etc. In general, no pressuring people at all, without good reason (he/she needs to carry through his/her end of a school project, as one example).

4.) Overall, it’s usually best not to share a photo showing you are with a different friend on a group chat, especially if that chat only has three people on it, and you two are together, but the other person is not. There are exceptions to this, but in general, that is just polite social behavior in the tween/early teen world. Too many unnecessary hurt feelings and insecurities erupt at this age from unnecessary “look whom I’m with” photo postings. In general, avoid group chatting when you can. It leads to trouble. Almost always. Something often gets misunderstood when three or more people communicate digitally.

5.) Absolutely no exchanging of any game or other password on text/email/message in typed/video/audio form. Similarly, no asking for anyone’s passwords.

6.) It is best not to continue an extensive argument in digital form. You must be in person, FaceTime, or on the phone to have productive conversations where meaning and tone are understood. We’ve been there, done that, and lived through the damage. Even though these are the very words you hate to hear follow any parent statement, we’re going to say them anyway: Trust us on this one.

7.) Avoid repeat begging for a reply after second attempt to get your friend to respond to you. Nobody likes to come back and find 40 short texts left there just to annoy or get their attention.

8.) You do not need to follow anyone’s “orders.” You are your own person. You do not have to forward, go fetch, share homework, etc., just because a strong-willed friend is asking you to. “No” or “no, thank you” work beautifully in emails/messages/texts as much as they do in person.

9.) No recorded video conversations until you are in high school, and even then, with guidelines.

10.) No discussing another person in any way other than: “Was she in school today?” or “Have you heard from her?” You leave evidence of every reference, every conversation. We don’t care if it’s venting about a teacher, a parent, or another student: That needs to be done in person or talking on the phone.

11.) If we have to consider whether or not your emoji is offensive, it is. Get it off there.

12.) No pouty/sexy looks in pictures. We are not  ____________ [insert name of any current tabloid magazine celebrity of your choosing].

13.) No pictures of other people sent in text/message/email.

14.) No sharing of locations or plans to leave the house, go on vacation, etc.

15.) No interacting with someone you don’t know. Don’t even join a group chat if you don’t know every member by face and context. Verify, verify, verify.

16.) No telling anything private or confidential in a text/message/email. Any discussions meant in confidence should happen in person or on the phone and with discretion. Nothing’s a secret once it’s in typed/audio/video form.

17.) No threatening/pressuring language of any kind, not even: “I will be upset with you if…” That is putting conditions on someone with emotional manipulation. We don’t play that way, nor do we respond to those kind of messages. Please let us know if you receive those, so we can help you.

18.) No sharing anyone else’s email, text address, phone number, or address with others, even if he/she gives you permission. That is for that person to share.

19.) The texting device gets put on counter or away during meals, family conversations, appointments, church, and any other location you need to talk to people, and it can only be consulted after homework or during designated breaks. It reports back to the dock by 8 PM.

20.) We never text and walk (or bike, or, when you’re older: drive). We would never cross the street or parking lot looking at a texting device. We value our lives more than our devices. 🙂

21.) Failure to respect boundaries and rules results in apologies given individually to people who were involved. Other parents may sometimes have to be involved. So, be careful how you manage rules so you can keep yourself safe and others safe, and you can avoid embarrassing parent involvement.

22.) Passwords can’t change without letting us know. We have a right to spot-check at any time without receiving any attitude about it.

Please sign here that you understand your responsibilities: ___________________________

If this list seems too long, too hard to remember, over the top in any way, or stressful, it’s okay. We get it. It just means that you are not ready to have a texting device, and we can revisit this when you’re ready. We want you to feel comfortable with this new responsibility. Every rule on here is because we love you so incredibly much.

Love,
Mom and Dad,

The People Whose Job It Is to Keep You Safe and to Train You in Becoming a Good Citizen, Friend, Person
Also the People Who Feed, Clothe, and Shelter You

*This blog has been shared at Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Grace & TruthFaith-Filled Fridays, A Little R & Rand Christian Mommy Blogger.

 

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Dear Middle Child: A Letter from Mom

Dear Middle Child

Today I unexpectedly ended up with time alone with my middle child, a daughter between two sons. I knew based on a recent family therapy session that she had feelings of being somehow left out, just outside whatever is going on in the house, a sense of being unnoticed. It struck me as so odd at the time that she would feel that way because, from my perspective, she seems to always insert herself in the middle of everything going on. I didn’t fully understand she did this in an effort to remain always included. I wrote this letter to her in my head, and I hope, at just the right moments, to be able to convey some of these things delicately to her with my heart over the holiday season when we have more time together. If you are or have (a) middle child(ren) in your home, I hope you find something in this that speaks to your situation as well.

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Dear Middle Child:

First, let me start off by saying that Mom was not the middle child. I was the youngest. Dad was the middle child, just like you, although in his case: a son between two daughters.

It must be a challenge somedays figuring out who you are.

Are you mature enough to get the same benefits and responsibilities as your older brother? To have an iPod Touch when he does? To know grown-up stuff that he does?

Or are you still wanting to grab your childhood and be young like your little brother?

I imagine that walking through each day uncertain which role you want must be confusing, complicated, and frustrating at times.

Some days, you may not be sure how Dad and I view you.

Or you may want to change it up now and again, and we’re slow on the uptake, not realizing which one you are in that particular moment.

When your little brother is in the room, you like to feel older, sharing a bond of knowledge and growing up with the one above you in age.

When your older brother comes into the room, you perhaps feel awkward caught playing with the little guy when you want to be esteemed as mature by the oldest.

But then I catch you closing the door and entering into the delightful world of imagination playing in your room with the little one. You don’t really want us to know, but

  • You still want to be a child
  • You ache to be as free as the youngest
  • You long for days when playing didn’t require shutting the door to avoid being caught in Play World

What you don’t know is that I’m in no rush for you to grow up, and that when you are in Play World, I get to see how much you have kept sweet, innocent, and free. And the oldest doesn’t fault you for it either. He doesn’t hold it against you or find you less mature. He misses Play World, and while he’d never maybe say it to you—or me—he envies you still getting to be in there.

I also see you walk a balance of wanting to mother and nurture the one below you in age but receive that same safety and protection from the one above you. You do both beautifully, but I can see where you aren’t ever completely sure which one you are: Nurturer or Protected.

I want to tell you, sweet girl, that you are both. Always. Because God put you in the birth order right where He wanted you. And the best part is: You don’t have to choose.

I love when you share a more mature conversation with your teenage brother before the little one comes home. Sometimes, you feel stuck there and get a little haughty about how big you are; you might even get a little disgusted when the little one doesn’t know something yet that you do. You might feel impatient with him. You might wish he’d catch up.

But if he caught up, you couldn’t enter Play World now and again. You couldn’t experience those caretaker moments that you do when Little Man looks up to you, and you get to be Big Sis.

I see when I have a private talk with the oldest child, how much you desperately want to be included, or likewise, when I lavish some attention on Little Man because he’s still a younger kid, you struggle to find the fairness. You often want to keep things even, because, unlike the rest of us, you are the very middle of the kids, and you feel you have a good view of both angles. So you tend to be hypervigilant about making sure things are fair—to the point you sometimes feel you need to play “parent.”

I know you often seem to think there are conversations going on around you that you aren’t a part of. And yet, what you don’t realize is how much we take your input, we hear you advocate for a brother, we listen to what you have to say.

But it’s hard, because when you are the middle of the sibling sandwich, the bread on either side seems to get more attention: The one going first is our practice round, and the one going last has greater dependence at his age. But you don’t see yourself as the peanut butter in-between bringing the bread slices closer together. And that’s exactly what you do. It’s amazing to watch.

I see you playing tug-of-war with yourself over which child to align yourself with, and I can appreciate that fine balance and the daily struggle, My Love. But I want you to know that you get to be the middle of the sandwich, and with that, comes as much blessing as aggravation—as much extra love as feeling a bit unsure at times. You may feel like you are on the sidelines while the action goes on in the different ends around you, but to us, you are critically needed and loved because you bring balance and input that nobody else here can offer.

So, my sweet, middle child with your sense of justice and keeping track, Mom wants you to try to rest, relax, and look for where your role is so vital, so important, so blessed. You touch our family deeply with your ability to play both roles. We love both your childhood and your growing up! We love keeping you free of the worries of the older one a little bit longer but also being able to hand you more responsibility and mature conversations. We love when you delight the youngest with the Play Sparkle you still have inside you when you need it.

Rest, my child, in who you are. And if you can do this, you will be so incredibly gifted in social navigation and dynamics because you walk the balance every day of your life and know so much about how to relate to different ages and different personalities.

Trust your dad and me to keep things fair. And play in your room still—as much as you can! Freely love on Little Man. And let your older brother take you under his arm and teach, guide, and protect you. As you give as teacher to the one below you, freely receive from the one above. You can do both things well.

You don’t have to patrol or be on guard. You truly aren’t missing anything. If anything, you get a double dip into family dynamics and sibling relationships. You have insight we all can learn from.

We learn so much from our sweet “middle.” You are absolutely needed and very deeply loved.

With love forever,
Mom xoxo

*More anecdotal stories about faith, family, and relationships can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (includes Book Club Discussion Questions).

**This post has been shared with Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-UpMake a Difference Mondays, Pick Your Pin TuesdayBreakthru LinkupGrace & Truth, A Little R & RDance With Jesus, Faith-Filled Fridays, Saturday Soirée Blog Partyand Christian Mommy Blogger.

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2014 in Teens, Tweens/Children

 

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“Don’t Let Anyone Look Down on You Because You Are Young” — Apostle Paul

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My husband and I teach a Junior High Sunday School class. Last summer, the class read Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations* by Alex and Brett Harris. It challenged us to not be content with what is culturally expected of teenage behaviors and complacency. It set the bar higher with examples of teens running political campaigns, fundraising for good causes, etc. It even provided historical examples of great people who did incredible things at very young ages. (This is about giving teenagers opportunities while young and not waiting until adulthood; it is not about stressing teens out with too many activities. Reference “Pressure Cooker Culture: Is High School in America Becoming an Initiation into a Lifetime of Stress” for more on the subject of stress in high school students.)

Where can we bring our kids, or children/students we love, alongside us and teach them part of a trade/business or philanthropic pursuit?

Both of my sons (ages 14 and 8) would like to guest-blog on my site. All three of my children are participating in writing a children’s book with me. Chickie (age 11) learned to cook muffin tin meals over the summer in her Sunday School class. Now she serves us dinner one night a week.

It’s so simple, and yet, so many times I still get stuck in the mindset that it’s easier to do something for them than to teach them to do it—or even expect them to do it, and to do it well.

It honestly starts when you have your younger child sort the socks or stick bulk snack items in 20 ziplock snack bags for school lunches that week.

Or run a lemonade stand.

Or help oversee a garage sale.

And it builds confidence until they are soon running part of your home business or making calls to raise money for a good cause.

I’m a firm believer that God’s purposes for us do not start at 18 or 20-something. I’ve seen young children pray for other children, out loud, ministering and loving, like Jesus. They keep it simple and don’t trip up in theology. They just come straight to Jesus.

Example 1:

Over the summer, my very hardworking husband had promised to get my author web site up and running. But he also travels frequently. And he promised to build a loft bed for my teen. And he worked on a do-it-yourself system to heat the aging pool. And he counseled me over several areas of angst in recent months. And he loved on his kids.

So, I decided to take him off this assignment that was stressing us both out and really placing unreasonable expectations on one person (which is a really good blog subject for another day), and suddenly, there was my 14 year old man-son looking at me, looking old enough to take on this endeavor.

I commissioned Oldest Son to get a web site designed and running. And yes, he worked with templates within WordPress, but he sorted out various designs and layouts he thought would work with “Espressos of Faith” and researched/studied all widgets, metrics, and other features of the site. And with our permission, he launched the site, while we were on vacation, of course—because that’s how we roll. But he also checks the metrics, geographical information, search engine terms, and “clicks” on different links daily, and he advises me on good topics to post on which days based on metrics. He taught me how to navigate the site, and he is now looking into Google ads. He even instructs me in catchy titles and target words to use. Having someone else consider this side of the business frees me up to do what I love: write.

He can’t drive. He isn’t old enough to gain employment in very many places yet, but he has learned much about research, marketing, promotion, web sites, and advertising from his experience with his robotics teams over the years. Consequently, he served as a wonderful assistant all summer, so much so that I am considering putting him regularly on the payroll even during the school year. He did what I could not easily do on my own, and we both learned a lot about each other and the business in the process. Win-win.

Example 2:

I am very proud of all of the amazingly cool things my Junior High Sunday School students do with their lives already, and I could write volumes about any one of them. Today, with permission, I mention one particular student who has been boarding dogs in her home since she was 10 years old. She provides doggie spa services, plays with them, sets up obstacle courses, and produces a blog post about them while their owners are away. She also knows a tremendous amount about each breed and how to cater to their needs, and she maintains clear records for each pet. Her mother tells me that she now has 55 furry clients and people booking out for months in advance. My Shih Tzus, Samson and Delilah, had to plan their stay carefully around her other bookings, and they had a great time!

Can you imagine learning that much about caring for animals, interacting with adult clients, and employing siblings as needed, starting at 10 years of age?

Example 3:

Our Junior High Sunday School class over this summer has been working with different artistic media and technical arts to produce a short film—reality-show-style—of the account of Noah’s ark. In the process, we have learned much about the biblical account and the God who spared Noah and his family—fascinating facts not usually given attention in children’s books.

Our students have executed building the ark to scale (Minecraft), watercolored, oil painted, clay-modeled, cartooned, and sketched several scenes of the account. From start to finish, they chose the topic, planned the scenes, collaborated on who would take which part of it, brainstormed, listened to feedback, shared their lives, and encouraged each other. Next week we film.

Sound ordinary? Not to me. I know so many adults who can’t do this in a room together, even in a professional setting. Forget training sessions offered by Human Resources departments around the country! These students could offer team-building seminars on how to peacefully and graciously interact and build something together, allowing for differences and capitalizing on each other’s strengths, as well as taking a risk and trying something new or different, outside their comfort zones.

1 Timothy 4:12, Apostle Paul speaking

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

As the Apostle Paul exhorts us, “set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” It’s not just what these teens do, although that’s very inspiring, but it’s very much what they learn along the way in how they do it—and what message that sends to the world around them.

*Harris, Alex, and Brett Harris. Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2008.

 

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Pressure-Cooker Culture: Is High School in America Becoming an Initiation into a Lifetime of Stress?


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My high schooler recently sat down next to me and told me about friends taking five (sometimes six) honors classes in ninth grade (the school only recommends three at the most at a time), doubling up in advanced math/science/engineering. These students are 14 years old.

There was an unspoken question somewhere in him telling me that.

So, I took a deep breath and told him that while I would never put anyone down for that, because clearly academic achievement is a noble goal, our family makes a different choice because of our placing equal value on everything else that he does outside of academics: marching band, youth group, karate, robotics. I told him that:

  • We value good grades (“personal bests”)—but balanced with mental/emotional wellness.
  • We want to instill a good work ethic, along with built-in moments to unwind.
  • Statistics show way too many overworked, over-pressured high school students keeping themselves artificially awake in unhealthy (or even illegal) ways round the clockending up in psych wards having emotional breakdowns, or taking their lives. Yes, I realize there can be several factors playing into those situations, but academic pressure is one of them. In my opinion, one kid suffering in this way is one kid too many.
  • Ivy League college entrance letters and highly successful future careers are admirable things to reach for, as long as we keep perspective. Training my kids to live in a constant state of lifelong, self-driven pressure and stress, however, is not my end goal.  

I know some folks feel that the United States could increase education standards. I realize that the bar could be higher. It always can. I also know how well other countries around the world do in math and science. I attended college in one of those countries for a while, and I get it. I do. And I know in this increasingly high-tech world, kids are being pushed to take college-level classes sooner, push math advancement, interface with technology at earlier ages. Nothing is inherently wrong with that. I’m all for seeing what people are capable of and letting kids grow toward greater responsibilities, setting personal goals to do better.

But I also value well-rounded individuals with a wider understanding of the human experience. In the United States, college admissions counselors still look for after-school club involvement, community service, and extracurricular activities on the field, in the studio, and at the track. And they should. I don’t think we are doing 18 year olds a favor having them think the world is so narrow that as long as they can program in Python, they are all set for their future.

On the flip side, they need to learn how to balance stress, work and school, and the people in their lives, so I’m also not in favor of high school students in such a state of relaxation that they play video games for 6 hours straight while parents do the laundry and cook their meals. Either end of this pendulum swing has its pitfalls and dangers.

Honors-level classes are awesome if students can perform at that level. Go for it! Call me American (because I am), but honors classes at the expense of everything else—social interaction, activities that broaden character, serving the community, etc.—is where it can sometimes be out of focus.

Life outside the 40 to 60 hours of work per week these future adults will put in has so much more to it. If we teach our kids that academic achievement is the ultimate striving, then where is their personal satisfaction and fulfillment during downtime, when they are just kickin’ it with their families for a few days, or when they want to contribute something non-academic to society?

As one of my social media friends shared, when I brought this up in public forum: “It isn’t good to base an entire life on performance.” And that’s true of anything out of balance: performance of any kind, really.

In my humble opinion:

  • They need to learn how to talk to humans: their boss, their parents, other people’s parents, their coaches, their teachers, their peers.
  • They need to know how to stop and breathe when stress piles up, to prioritize a hectic schedule, to find a way to rest (which ironically, is designed to ultimately keep them at optimal performing level when they take the gift of rest), to wrestle through issues of faith, morality, and justice. To grow into adults who function emotionally, mentally, physically, socially, spiritually.
  • They need to see know how awesome it is to help in a soup kitchen, to run a marathon, to get a black belt in karate. Of course it’s not about doing all of those things—or even those particular things—just people-to-people interactions in general.

As I read my niece’s college application essays this summer, I thought: Well done! She is a high academic achiever but also mentored younger students in cheer, held a job, babysat, went on mission trips, anchored her school news reporting, among other responsibilities. She doesn’t appear to have let any one of those things get out of focus.

I’m glad my son and I had this talk because I saw relief on his face that we don’t expect six honors classes at a time. My parenting wasn’t so much in my saying “no, please don’t take that many” but rather in the why we don’t expect that. I saw the panic button stop going off. There was a life lesson right there that I hope he teaches his own children someday:

Balance, Son, balance.

Because if there’s anything I want my kids to know going into adulthood, it’s when to rest.

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Exodus 34:21, God speaking through Moses

“Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.”

Mark 6:30-32, Apostle John-Mark narrating

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 

 

 

 

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Dear 4th Through 8th Grade Girl:

Recently, I was looking over class pictures from elementary school (ages 5-11) with Chickie, my middle schooler. What saddened us both was that so many little chickies (my term of endearment for girls) are currently being pressured to trade in their true, sweet, first grade selves of yesterday—their original personhood—for whatever others want them to be in this fleeting moment of tween/teen angst. Hopefully, most of them will come out the other side and find themselves again—or perhapDear 4th Through 8th Grade Girls discover, for the very first time, the dreams in their own hearts—but the upper elementary school and middle school ages (9-14) are those “how do I define myself to get others to like me” years that I grieve for girls. As we looked at photos, I was pleased to see that, while some were trying on identities to please the demanding Group Think of a mythical popular crowd constantly being redefined, there were a certain number of chickies continuing to remain true to themselves over the years—still matching their younger selves, only more mature.

Realistically, these “true-to-self” girls may walk a bit more alone right now, at times. They may not travel in huge groups, and they may occasionally sit alone on the bus or at the school cafeteria. But as they grow in wisdom and maturity, they will draw deep satisfaction from holding firm to their real identities—not new ones fabricated by others for them to wear—during these really rough (at times) years. 

Dear 4th Through 8th Grade Girl:

It takes great courage to keep being you in the storms of catty behavior and popularity contests, but it’s the only you you should ever be! Even some adults don’t fully understand this. You have my utmost admiration, chickies, holding to your real selves while facing a culture where girls feed off the insecurities of other girls just for sport and false confidence. Even the entertainment industry reinforces this as normal behavior you should adopt toward each other.

Please believe me when I tell you: It’s not.

You can do better for yourselves.

You can set the bar higher.

If I could scream into a megaphone right now and reach every 4th through 8th grade girl in one moment, or two, I’d tell you:

–Ask for reassurance instead of lashing out at each other when you start worrying nobody likes you or you are feeling insecure. It’s normal to feel insecure now and again. It’s not normal to use it as an excuse to hurt anyone.

–There is real, positive power in kindness and paying it forward. Try to look for the good or potential in those around you instead of a cutthroat “survival of the fittest” approach.

–Trash-talking divides everyone so that they are alone. So does gossip in general. If your words divide people, it’s not hard to see it, and it becomes a label you will work very hard to shake off yourself. You will eventually end up the brunt of the hurtful jokes and slurs you yourself are making. It’s only a matter of time. Choose grace toward others instead.

–Learn to be okay with not being in control of your friends all of the time, accept that some of your peeps will hang with peeps you don’t like or understand, and practice being okay with not being the center of attention, if you tend to love that limelight. If you have to be negative to get the spotlight, it’s not a spotlight you are going to want further down the line when you find it always following you, with only negative people attracted to its glow.

–Celebrate being chicks with each other, finding strength in whom God made you to be. Being female is awesome! At the end of the day, it’s a common bond and a very level playing field. That girl you don’t like on your soccer team with the funny teeth? She could be the kind face delivering your baby someday when you’re in 48 hours of labor, or be the specialist helping your child through his reading delay. Or you could hold her hand through her first mammogram. What’s waiting for us down the line in life has more in common than it does differences. You will save yourself so much heartache if you start looking at it that way right now.

–It’s so much more awesome to find what we have in common and encourage each other than to mock what we don’t understand.

–The awkward years of losing the child part of us don’t last forever, and…

–We need to learn how to build into friendships for when we reach the other side of these years. We need each other.

I’d also tell you that you are beautiful and precious in God’s sight.

King David speaks about how God sees you, me, us: fearfully and wonderfully made! Friends will come and go, but the voice and word of God will always be around to guide you and to ground you, because He made you and is so pleased with whom and what He has made.

Psalm 139:13-18, King David speaking to God when he was made king over Israel

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!

Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

This post was also featured at  Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-UpGrace & Truth Link-UpA Little R & RCoffee & ConversationSaturday Soirée Blog, and Christian Mommy Blogger.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2014 in Teens, Tweens/Children

 

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Texting: Can We Raise Our Kids From a Posture of Fear?

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About a year ago, I had a discussion with Kid 2 (then age 10) about internet safety. Computer use at home is always in our line of sight, and really, only certain sites are approved by us. Searches need to be educational in purpose and have our okay and assistance. But it’s a good reminder what awful stuff awaits out there and why we have to guard our minds and eyes. It’s not really a very safe place out there. “Stay on the sidewalks I draw for you, Child, so you don’t get hurt. If you step off, I can’t protect you, and there’s no turning back or erasing that kind of scariness or darkness from your mind.”

In the meantime, I had a very conscientious and caring parent in my circle of friends raise an interesting question recently about navigating the texting world with our teens and tweens, and I feel it is such a valid concern so many parents of teens—and nowadays tweens—face, I wanted to discuss it blog-style.

People may disagree with me, and that’s okay, but I feel like the world of texting is actually an open garden of practicing social responsibility as well as building trust with my children, when done correctly (and at the right ages—the “right” age being something we parents may differ on). My oldest has had an iTouch since Christmas of his 6th grade year. He isn’t a phone talker (which I celebrate, since I’m not either), and he isn’t much into emailing, but the quick text-fests he and his friends occasionally engage in offer a space where he can practice so many things.

(As a side note, we agreed to him getting the highest-memory iPod Touch he could get at the time because he would use the memory for his deep love of music and a few apps, but only if he saved and paid half of it himself. That was about a year or more of saving. Paying for half made us feel more justified in using the iTouch as leverage the few times we needed to, and it also got across the greater message that while he saved up and persevered to earn something, during the time that he continues to live with us and be otherwise provided for, nothing that expensive is so much in his ownership that we can’t remove it when the attitude needs adjustment. And as a result, we have rarely had to remove it. He understands that while he alone uses it, it’s still only half his. We stumbled upon this concept by trial/error in our parenting. It worked with the iTouch anyway.)

My kids know that when they text or email:

1.) They need to write it as if all parents are watching, and in most cases—we all are.
2.) In general, photos of people should not be sent, at least not without me reviewing it first and only on very rare occasion.
3.) Content needs to be edifying.
4.) Conversation needs to be pure.
5.) It’s not a place to share confidences/secrets.
6.) We, parents, have all passwords and can check at any point to see what the conversation is about.

I would never embarrass my child by referring to it to anyone else, but I do reserve the right to spot-check.

I am not afraid of letting him text because, if I’m committed to spot-checking it, it more or less creates an open window into his world: What are they talking about? thinking about? paying attention to?

They learn:

–Self-control and restraint
–Time management
–How to better communicate and be understood in written/typed word
–Where the dangers are

So, I choose not to parent from a posture of fear on this one—caution and monitoring: yes, but fear: no. I choose to roll with the latest technology and put up the right safeguards and lessons to make it another place to teach my children. I don’t love everything about it, but there is good to be gleaned from it, if we’re deliberate in our parenting.

That said, sometimes we have a child who is more defiant and strong-willed. Sometimes we have to pull the rug out on his/her communication until he/she is more respectful. I call that boundary-parenting and good discipline, and not fear-based. Fear-based parenting* says everything is scary and needs our handholding through it, to the point we can’t let go, and we miss the chance to have our kids learn greater independence and responsibility.

And let me end by saying that handing a 10 year old a texting device is completely different than giving one to a 13 year old; obviously, there would have to be more structure and monitoring to go with the younger ages. No judgment on anyone else whatsoever, but in our house, my kids have to be almost 12 before any texting device becomes part of their world, and any emailing before 12 has to be approved by me before it gets sent. But if you have a younger peep with a device like that, then I of course support more structure, rules, and checking. It’s not about the age, so much, as it is about how willing are you to be on top of it? I personally wasn’t willing to “go there” until they were on the edge of teen and until they had navigated enough in-person social conflict to manage digital communication as an extension of that—an additional challenge.

To me, the scariest thing about texting isn’t the device in my own kid’s hand; it’s the unmonitored device in the hands of another. Like anything else, all I can do is teach them how to avoid pitfalls, be wise, protect themselves the best that they can, and tend to their own character.

Even if your rules are different than mine, what has worked for you on this issue? 

*Great references for fear-based versus grace-based parenting can be found below:

Kimmel, Tim. Grace-Based Parenting: Set Your Family Free. Nashville, TN.: W Pub. Group, 2004.

Chip Ingram is a wonderful resource for parenting in this new high-technology age and can be found at:
http://livingontheedge.org

 

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