Raising Responsible Kids
One morning, several years ago, within minutes of getting out of bed, I had 2 teen boys come into my room arguing.
Two digital clocks in our kitchen read 7:55 and the big one on the wall read 8:00. They were arguing about which was the “right” clock to go by. Really?!! My head actually started spinning as they flung words back and forth.
It’s these moments that make you want to cover your ears and run out of the room screaming! I managed to resist the urge (this time).
I tended to react so easily to the emotions that often seemed to take over situations like that, but what I found was that it seemed to work best to hit the “pause” button, take a minute and think about what was really going on.
First of all, this wasn’t actually about the clocks. This was about who was “right”. It was about having to be right, which always involves pride. Both boys were being prideful in their approach to the problem.
You see, these two boys had the responsibility of milking our cow every morning (I’m not making this up). I purposely put the two of them together on the task because I knew these issues would come up. These two are very different in personality and approach life from completely different perspectives. Consequently, it brings out some pretty raw displays of sinful, human nature.
Did I ever question my decision?? Absolutely! I didn’t enjoy these conflicts at all. But when I stopped to think about the benefits of walking through conflict with them, I knew it was worth it.
You see by walking alongside our kids through conflict, we get the chance to see what they are really made of. What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? And they get to see them as well.
We can give them tools to help them learn how to resolve conflict in a godly way. Most importantly, we have the opportunity to teach them to be responsible for their own words, actions, and choices. And we do that by pointing them back to the Gospel.
Romans 14:12 ” So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.”
Hebrews 4:13 “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
Matthew 12:36-37 “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words, you will be condemned.”
The plain fact is that we are all sinners who need Jesus to save us from our sins. That's our starting point. It’s a place of humility, a place where we have to admit that we can’t do this life well and certainly not in a godly way, without Him.
I can testify that this is not an easy place to get our boys to. But it’s the goal. It may take much prayer, time, and many conversations that continually point them back to the cross.
Can I just interject an important reminder here? Keep your words to a minimum and simplify how you verbalize this gospel message to them. Boys tend to get lost in lots of words and these are the most important words you will speak to them.
There were a couple of other relational issues that were involved in this spat between our boys. The older one tended to be administrative and the younger one fought this to the bitter end. Again, it’s about pride when both boys are forcing their way. But it was also an opportunity for the older one to learn what’s appropriate in using his God-given gift of administration, to take responsibility for his part, and let the younger one deal with whatever consequences came his way for the choices he made.
It was also a chance for the younger one to learn to be willing to take direction and responsibility for his part in the task at hand.
Taking a break when things were heated, was always the best way to keep them from escalating. Often I would have the boys just be quiet for a while or go to separate places and be alone for a bit to cool down. This gave me a chance to pray and think the issue through in light of the Gospel.
Our kids attended classes for a day, once a week. At one point around the time of this story, one of the teachers called me. She wanted me to know that our boys stood out among the many other students she had. She expressed her appreciation for their work ethic, their willingness to serve, and their good attitudes. It was balm to my soul.
Working through conflict and training our kids can be frustrating, but as parents, we have a responsibility to pray for wisdom and to take advantage of these scenarios for the good of our kids. Remember that you are raising future husbands and fathers, wives and mothers.
These boys are now in their 20's, one is married the other will be married soon. What they learned through those years at home has served them well. They are not only great men, but they are also very close friends.
Be encouraged moms. You will get through this. We aren’t shooting for perfection, just progress. We want our kids to have tender hearts toward God. Rest in God’s faithfulness to work in your heart and theirs.