A mother, my good friend, once shared with me how she struggled with the maturity level of her son, Pete. She thought she had been a good mom and she certainly loved her son. She had spent a lot of time with him and yet he constantly underachieved.
Pete even lost friends, academic goals, and sports opportunities because of this character flaw. So this mother wondered if she had failed him as a parent? Or did the responsibility lay on her son's shoulders alone?
As we continued to chat over coffee, I discovered that she and her husband had constantly covered for Pete during his growing up years.
For example, when Pete brought home bad report cards, his parents felt guilty. They didn't want to be too harsh with their son so they allowed him to make excuses. If Pete said the bad grades were a result of the teacher being unfair they immediately went to straighten out the teacher.
His parents had not let him bear the consequences of his actions and decisions. So, Pete never learned to act responsibly.
Responsibility lies with both the parent and the child... but in different ways at different stages of our children's lives.
When our children are young, we have full responsibility for our children and their actions. Then our children begin to assert themselves, learn tasks, and begin to take ownership of their lives.
About the time children become teenagers, we begin to be an influential part in their lives instead of a controlling one. When our children reach their late teens, they should be prepared to take over complete responsibility for their behavior, finances, morality, and relationships.
Even in their late teens, parents still provide safety and love, and structure experiences to help our children mature. Our children's role is to respond to these situations, take risks, maybe fail, and learn from their experiences.
As parents, we want to help our children respond in such a way that they grow, change and forgive. But as our children grow to adulthood, it is ultimately up to them to choose how they will respond to what life brings.
Ruth Willms helps Christian parents teach biblical principles to today's youth. She is the author of The Lion Tree, an exciting novel for ages 8 – 12, and A Christmas Present for Goliath, which retells the nativity story from a unique perspective. Visit http://www.RuthWillms.com to download her free gift to you, How to Introduce Your Kids to Jesus, Their Forever Friend.
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