"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.