Last week, I introduced the idea of C.A.R.E. Parents are most successful when they show Competence, Assurance, Reconciliation and Empathy. After a few emails this week concerning specific issues with youth parents, I thought I’d spend a few lines describing my approach to parenting.
1) There is no normal. Family forms and constellations are more varied than ever before. What was known as the “nuclear” family is (and was never, by the way) the ‘norm’. The nuclear family was two heterosexual parents, two children, two car garage, and a dishwasher. Today, families are very diverse. Blended families, same-sex parented families, co-habitating families, grandparents raising grandchildren families, single parent families, emancipated families, and on and on. As youth workers, there is an opportunity to discover what families’ strengths are in your local church. Discover what got them to their current level of functioning; it may indicate to you “why” their child behaves that way in youth and may give you an indication as to “how” to re-direct in a different way.
2) We are outcomes of generational transmission. Parents are products of their parents who are products of their parents and so on. So, there are patterns to how parents parent and how we “judge” parenting. Ask openly to your parents about what they experienced as teenagers. What types of questions did their parents ask? How were punishments handed down? This will help the parent really consider what they have inherited and how they may use what is good and leave what is not-so-good. If you have a good relationship with the parents of your program, you may also encourage them to get together to support one another and hold each other accountable. The best advise I give to parents is: “know your children’s friend’s parents.” To know how another parent deals with or has dealt with a similar problem could be invaluable!
3) Socialization is key. One of my mentors used to come by my office on Monday mornings and ask me, “So, how was Alternative Peer Group Night last night?” It took me a while to understand what that meant. It simply means we are setting up a community that should look different than what young people see day after day. In the nature v. nurture debate, I am on the nurture side. When I look at a youth program, I ask the question, “How does this group represent a community that affirms Christian virtues and builds the Kingdom?” In our programming and our care ministries, we are helping a young person navigate the gauntlet of a culture that is not so forgiving. Bear in mind that you have an opportunity every week, within the hours that you have, to create a way of thinking and being that could transform the schools, communities and even cities that your young people represent. Parents also need to be aware that church is not like the soccer team, orchestra or other extra-curricular activity. When parents would ask me why their kids were acting the way they were, I would check their attendance in the youth ministry. More often than not, if the young person was not a regular attendee, their behavior represented their absence.
May God bless you in your ministry! Remember parents are allies in the journey: they are in youth ministry 24/7/365 … and not getting paid … Give back to your parents; it could make all the difference.
Rev. Andy Stoker , PhD
(214) 220-2727 ext 222
1928 Ross Ave.
Dallas Texas 75201