(Photo: Courtesy Thomas Nelson)Marina and Gregory Slayton.
"Mom Says/Dad Says," an exclusive Christian parental advice column by Gregory Slayton, former U.S. Ambassador to Bermuda and author of the best-selling book Be a Better Dad Today: Ten Tools Every Father Needs, and his wife, Marina Slayton, author of the new book Be The Best Mom You Can Be. The Slaytons have been featured on Fox and Friends, Focus on the Family Radio and numerous other media outlets. They donate 100% of their royalties from parenting books to fatherhood and family nonprofits.Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, Governors Jeb Bush and Sam Brownback and Pastors Tim Keller and Luis Palau, among others, have endorsed the Slaytons. In their exclusive series for The Christian Post, both Marina and Gregory will answer thoughtful Christian parents seeking to raise their children up in the goodness of the Gospel and the Glory of God. If you would like to have Marina and Gregory answer your questions, please contact them via firstname.lastname@example.org.Parent Question: Our child simply does not want to work — too lazy to study much, too interested in electronics to do chores, too bored to look for a summer job. This clearly is not a good path. What can we do as parents?Mom Says: There is a lot packed in to that question — including frustration. Firstly, spend time with the Lord forgiving your child because any form of communication needs to be as free from condemnation as possible. This is important for two reasons: one, spiritually we are called to forgive, and secondly I have found that my kids simply tune me out when I am harsh and angry. Plus, prayer does change things. Not just our own hearts (which is wonderful and true) but also sometimes the hearts of others. And I sincerely believe that the prayers of a righteous Mom and Dad — when they are unified in heart — are the most powerful prayers of all.The next step has to be to look to yourself and be honest where you have been complicit — have you and your spouse been so busy that electronics have been an all too convenient babysitter/companion? I recently saw a toddler in a stroller who exhibited a scary command of the iPhone. His parents were too busy to pay him any attention. Busy parents like not being distracted. But kids are not a distraction…they are a priority.Sadly this is a major cultural issue today. We know 'kids' who are still in their 30's or even 40's who are basically professional couch surfers. They seem to have no drive, no backbone and no desire to do much more than play video games and watch TV. Of course most of them say they can't get a job, they are trying really hard, etc. etc. etc. But the truth is, drive and discipline and desire seem to be missing. These terrible traits were developed in their youth and are only aided and abetted by our totally 'me first' culture. So it is very important that you are addressing these challenges early and forcefully. Trust me, you don't want to be doing it when your kids are in their 20s!!First, you are going to have wean not only your child but yourself off the convenience of electronics. Taking the stuff away - perhaps permanently — may be the way to go. At the very least set strict rules about when and how much video gaming they can do (including games on their smart phone). If that means taking the phone away while they do their homework or help with chores … so be it.You are also going to have to find out why your child does not like working at school — perhaps a vocational path is the right answer. Too many American parents think university is the only path for their children. Some kids are great with their hands and really enjoy fixing things or building stuff. There is absolutely no shame in having a hard working and successful plumber or auto mechanic or electrician or chef as a son or daughter. A technical path might be a better fit. At least consider and pray about it. Be sure to sit with him or her when they are doing their homework. Or at least have them do it where you can see them working. If they know that it is important to you, over time it is likely to become more important to them. We teach our children that schooling is their first 'job.' And it truly is. They must get their work done, show up to class on time, listen carefully to their 'boss' (i.e. their teacher) and earn their paycheck (i.e. good grades). School is preparation for life. Some kids don't understand that ("Mom, I don't know how Biology is every going to help me???"). Make sure your kids understand that schooling is getting them ready for real life as adults. And that it is essential.Related Our College-Aged Son Has Roommate Trouble, Should We Get Involved?What Are Good New Years Goals for a Family?How Do We Encourage Our Children to Pray More?
Lastly, don't give your child a free allowance. That will be an immediate incentive to getting a job. Babysitting, lawn cleaning, or a job at the local grocery store will be welcomed once the old parents stop the easy (and unearned!) giving of money. Getting a job of almost any type is a great way to introduce your child into the realities of life. If you do give an allowance, make sure it is 'earned' with work around the house and the earning of good grades.The truth in life is that money does not grow on trees. To give our kids the impression that they are 'owed' anything in life is to give them a very false understanding of how the world really works. One of our sons is at a fine university in the south. Unfortunately some of his peers seem to have grown up being pampered and coddled to the point where they can barely function on their own. Large unearned allowances are spent on drugs and drinking … with disaster following close behind (including a suicide … absolutely tragic).It won't be easy — or quick — but with lots of energy on your part you can begin to instill the importance of work in your child. Start with deep and heart felt prayer for him/her. You are going to need God's help to turn this around. Then sit down with your child for a 'come to Jesus' meeting. Be sure your spouse is there and that you two are in agreement.Be loving but tough…and start with prayer. Our kids must all understand that in life there is NO FREE LUNCH. We must help our kids understand reality … that is one of the most important jobs we have.It's going to take time and it's not going to be easy. But it is absolutely critical. May the Holy Spirit help you and guide you … and turn the hearts of your children to you (and your hearts to them) per that great Biblical promise in the Book of Malachi 4:6 (in fact, that is the very last verse of the Old Testament … right before Jesus shows up … so it must be important!!).We will be praying for you all.MarinaDad Says: Wow, you've got a problem on your hands. But these type of challenges rarely resolve themselves, so thank you for being honest. Have you spoken at length with your spouse on this issue? What does s/he say? You must be together on this if you are to have any hope of impacting your child. So first and foremost I would suggest lots of prayer and a good conversation with your spouse on this. Getting on the same page is an essential first step…then developing an Action Plan, which must include a face to face meeting with your son or daughter. Be sure that the meeting takes place in a private place where you will not be interrupted…and that you will all have plenty of time. Be sure s/he is paying full attention (not texting or whatever)…and be sure you start with a strong and heart-felt expression of your love for him/her. Pray together (even if your son or daughter says they don't like to pray…that doesn't matter). Prayer is our most valuable tool and our strongest weapon. And it is a great example to our kids. Don't leave it out of the mix.I believe that actively involved fathers are absolutely essential for teenagers and young adults, especially boys. That's why I wrote the book Be A Better Dad Today (www.BeABetterDadToday.com
) which has (by God's grace) now become a global best-seller (we give all profits to charity). So Dad, my question is this: how involved are you in the life of your teen or young adult? Do you make time for him/her? Do you do things together? Does s/he know that (1) you love them deeply and truly? (2) you believe in them sincerely and (3) that you have goals and standards for them that are important for them if they want to succeed in life?If you're basically out of touch with your teens and/or young adults, don't expect to re-establish a full connection immediately. Real relationships take time. But no matter where you are with your teen/young adult…a better, fuller more mature relationship is very much possible. Yes, it's going to take your time. Not just once a month or a few times a year, but at least once a week and hopefully even more than that. But there is no more important relationship in the world. In fact, I strongly believe that fatherhood is the most important job you or I will ever have. And that means we must take it seriously.When kids are very young, Mom is of course the primary care giver. But as they grow up, our roles as fathers become more and more critical. Take your son or daughter out to lunch, just the two of you. Let them know you are concerned about them. That you love them. That you believe in them. And that you want to help. Find out what's going on in their lives (usually this takes time…certainly more than one meeting…but it never hurts to ask and then listen carefully). Keep it up. Maybe there is a deep seated issue that you and Mom haven't understood. Maybe you have to help your child find something s/he is really passionate about. Maybe you just have to help him/her go through a tough time (that has been true for each of our four children at different times … it's just part of growing up).But Dad: you must get into this fight. There is no leaving it to Mom. That is a recipe for failure (not because Mom isn't competent…but this must be a Team Effort). And remember, sincere and heart-felt prayer is your greatest weapon over time. Spend time with your teen/young adult. Show them how much you love them. Set a good example for them and help them understand that in life, there truly is NO FREE LUNCH. But likewise, they can develop the skills and abilities to EARN THEIR OWN LUNCH every single day. And when that day comes, as it has now for our two oldest kids, you can be justifiably proud of your success at the most important job you will ever have: FATHER.Praying for you and your entire family today.Gregory more >>