"Johnny gets to do it, so why don't I?" Is this familiar? This is a tell-tale sign that your kid's friends may be influencing them more than you. Instead of just saying, "Because I'm not Johnny's parent,"or "Just do what I say," we must realize that there is a deeper issue. Is it really a "natural part of growing up" for our children's hearts to be given over more to friends than their parents? I'm not so sure. Recognizing these tendencies doesn't mean that we're doomed to lose our children. Now is the time to know our authority as parents and play that vital role.
As parents we start off as the authority figure and holder of their hearts. The change in ownership is not dramatic, but subtle. It is imperative to know who your kids' friends are and how they spend their time, the values your kids friends hold, and what kind of talk goes on at school? In the locker room? What is going on at parties and sleepovers? It matters 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 what their kids do around their friends away from home? 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.
Some incredibly wise parents told me that the biggest mistake they ever made was to let their kids stay overnight with friends. That seemed to be where all the trouble started. There is a strange kind of peer pressure created, and an inordinate amount of influence on your children in that environment. We made a decision when our kids were small that they could not spend the night at any friend's house unless the parents were covenant friends who shared our same values. Sometimes our rule meant the girls could not stay the night with a friend down the street or even with their cousins.
One horrible conversation could destroy a whole bunch of work you are trying to do in the lives of your kids. At young, moldable ages, influence is huge. The exchange of thoughts and conversations between kids, where rebellion is deposited, sex is discoursed, or your kids are exposed to some movie with language, or violence are the very things that begin to take the attention of their heart. 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. In each stage of their growth, who owns your kid's heart and mind? You will see the cue for you to invest into their lives.
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 latest 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 www.battlecry.com for more information.