In a few weeks, my husband and I will be official empty nesters. Our 21-year-old daughter, Charity is our youngest and the last of our three kids to fly the coupe.
The past several years has been a series of transitions as each kid grew from being under our control— to under our influence. The shift began long before they turned 18. It’s a natural, normal, and necessary progression for teenagers to begin moving away from their dependence upon their parents. It’s also natural for parents to waver in adapting to this progression for independence. If we want our kids to grow into responsible adult members of society, we must prepare them for eventually leaving the nest and living in the real world.
So, how can parents prepare their young adults to live in the real world successfully?
Raising Kids Successfully Starts with a Plan
We plan for things like birthday parties, vacations, and college. We need to plan for our kids to grow into independence. This should start long before senior year of high school. I suggest writing down your plan to make it official. The plan should include:
Prayer, Bible Study, and Church Attendance
We must be the example to our teens. They should be aware of our devotion to God before all else which includes regular church attendance and time alone with God.
We should make the most of the everyday situations to teach our teens Biblical values.
“Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” Deuteronomy 11:19
Raising kids takes wisdom. We must ask the Lord to guide us in raising the children He has blessed us with.
‘If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5
Ask for Advice from others
Talk with other parents who have been there and done that successfully. You should share this with your teens. It teaches them the value of relationships and to ask for help.
“A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” Proverbs 1:5
Establish House Rules and Expectations
Just as the Lord has given us His expectations within the pages of the Bible (the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20 are an example), we chose to do the same for our household. I typed up our family rules along with the consequence if a rule was broken. All my kids signed and dated it. We kept a copy on the fridge. By the way, the house rules got tweaked as our kids grew older.
Every family is unique; however, most house rules will likely include things like chores, expectations, attitude, respect, curfews, and homework.
Give More Freedom
Think back to when your child was beginning to walk. You had to allow them the freedom to attempt walking alone and even falling several times. We need to allow our young adult kids opportunities to stretch their wings and sometimes to fall. It’s safer to experience a fall with the safety net of living under our roof, right?
Here’s an example. My oldest son, Kevin needed to maintain a certain grade point average to remain on the high school baseball team. When I noticed his grades were dropping, we had a discussion. It was apparent that he was not doing all his homework and not studying enough. I told Kevin what he needed to do to bring his grades up. Rather than nag at him to do his homework and study every day, I allowed him the choice of doing what he knew was necessary.
When it got to the point where Kevin’s coach had to talk with him and even enforced some discipline (sitting the bench), Kevin got his grades up in a hurry.
Give Responsibilities that Include Real-life Skills
Grades are important, but we must also make sure our kids are equipped to handle real-world responsibilities such as cooking, managing money, and dealing with conflict. I will write more on this next week.
Employ Fair, Firm, and Consistent Discipline
Gone are the days of time-outs. When our kids grow into teens, it is important to remember that discipline should focus on teaching, not punishment. We are preparing our teens to be successful in the real world. This means implementing consequences that reflect as such.
To be clear, the consequences of not complying with house rules were in writing. We are doing our teens a disservice if we are not consistent with our discipline. We must adhere to our established house rules in a timely manner.
Of course, there is a time for grace. This is where the wisdom of the Holy Spirit comes in and why as parents, we must be walking closely with the Lord to discern His voice.
Examples of Discipline:
Natural Consequences— I shared with you above about my son Kevin nearly losing his spot on the baseball team due to poor grades.
Loss of privileges—Temporarily take away a phone, car, computer, TV, friends coming over, going out, etc. I suggest writing down the consequence and amount of time the privilege will be taken away.
Fines/Restitution—You may consider implementing a fine if your teen has a job or earns an allowance. This worked pretty well in our home. We came up with fines and put them in writing within the house rules. We learned to make the fines pretty stiff or our kids would just choose to pay a fine. Also, if it was a repeated offense within a short time span, the fine increased.
Restitution: If your teen breaks the neighbor’s window, don’t take away the cell phone. Make him pay to replace it and of course, apologize. If she loses her jacket for the third time, don’t buy her another one. Make her buy a new one.
Think about it. If you break the speed law and a cop pulls you over, most likely you will receive a ticket and pay a fine. If you leave your phone on the table at the restaurant, it might be stolen and you’ll need to buy a new one or do without.
Problem-solve together—If your teen violates curfew, turn it into an opportunity to problem-solve together. Ask him, “What can you do to be sure you are home on time?” This way he is participating in the plan of action rather than you nagging.
Talk about being considerate when he notices he will be late.
Reward Good Behavior with More Trust and Freedom
An example is: If your teen is good about regularly coming home on time, increase their curfew by 30 minutes. These rewards go a long way at keeping your teen motivated to following house rules.
Regular and Quality Communication
Families are busier today than ever. Quality time together can get lost in the bustle of sports practices, homework, church, and many other activities. We must make time to stay home and be a family. My husband and I established certain nights of the week to eat dinner at home as a family. During dinner, we played a little conversation generator game called high/low. Each would take a turn telling us the high and low points of our day.
My husband and I also set up periodic date nights with our kids where each had one-on-one time with us separately.
Look for opportunities to praise your teen. Too often we point out when they aren’t doing something rather than when they are doing well. It could be as simple as telling them they make you laugh. The point is, put a concerted effort into praising family members.
“Kind words are like honey— sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Proverbs 16:24 NLT
Teach Your Teens to Manage Money Well
Let’s face it, money is a big deal. The Bible has a lot to say about it. In fact, Jesus speaks more about money than heaven and hell combined. We should start teaching our kids at a young age and progress as kids enter their teen years.
We established a notebook for our kids to keep track of their allowance. I would not give them their allowance until they wrote the date and the amount. The folder had three pockets marked: Save 10%, Tithe 10%, Spending.
When your teen gets a job, help them open their own bank account. Teach them how to manage it. Teach them about credit cards and interests rate.
I will cover helping teens with life-skills next week.
Choose Your Battles Wisely
When Charity graduated from high school, she stopped cleaning her room to my standard of cleanliness. In all honesty, she’s sort of a slob. Here’s the thing, she works full-time and commutes almost two hours to college. She has great grades and work ethic. I decided rather than to nag her about the pig pen, to shut the door.
This was difficult at first, but it saved a lot of heartache. Now that Charity is moving out, I have a feeling I’ll miss that piggy room.
Parents, most likely we will only have 18 birthdays and 18 summers with our kids. We are on the home-stretch when our kids reach their teen years. We need a godly, loving plan of action that is doable and consistent to prepare these young ones to fly the coupe successfully.
Being a parent is the hardest but most rewarding job in the world. Let’s do it well!
May the Lord bless you and yours,
Do you have any comments, suggestions, prayer concerns or questions? Let me know in the comments below or email me.