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Friends

Did you know that if you’re a parent, you can decide who your children are friends with? This plan doesn’t work entirely if you start trying to do this when they are teenagers; but there is some merit to the idea. When your children are little, you are the one that decides who they spend time with and how much time they spend with everyone. Use the opportunity when they’re young to begin doing the little things, and planning for the pre-teen and teenage years.

Screen their friends. It’s simple really. Encourage quality time with those people you want them to be around, and limit the time with those less positive influences. Just don’t become judgemental and separatist in your behavior.

Awareness. Become aware of who they are spending time around and become involved in their social life when the opportunities are there. Regular conversation with the

SchoolBe involved in the social parts of school life. Friendships at school are totally different than church friendships, and can quickly become a loud voice in your kids life.

Be Smart. Specifically in regards to smart phones. A parent who doesn’t know their kid’s FaceBook password is a parent who doesn’t know the company their kids keep.

Make yourself friendly. Make it a goal of yours to become friends with the friends of your kids. Volunteer to drive kids to events, host get-togethers at your house, and do whatever it takes to responsibly become a part of the lives of the kids around your children.

I Corinthians 15:33 “Bad company corrupts good character.”

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For an hour every Sunday, I hang out with 3rd graders and their AWESOME small group leaders. I bounce around between five small groups totaling about 50 kids. I’m there to help the groups in any way I can: getting them supplies, filling out rosters, helping with unruly kids, etc.

Myself and the leaders…we don’t exactly run a “tight ship.” In fact we run a rather….err…crazy ship. We don’t expect kids to sit in perfect circles for an hour. There is a lot of sprawling on the ground, getting up and down a million times (especially the boys), running, wiggling, heck sometimes there’s breakdancing.

We understand that anytime you have that many 3rd graders together, the goal is controlled chaos with small moments (like, counted in seconds and minutes) of calm and discussion.

But occasionally a kiddo’s behavior will move beyond “normal third grade activity and commotion” into true disruption. If a kid is picking on someone relentlessly, or the only one refusing to let the group have a moment of discussion, or is just being over the top with inappropriate behaviors, then I have to talk about those behaviors with their parent.

Listen, it’s never easy to talk to a parent about what their kid does wrong. I only do it in extreme cases, and I’m always quick to also share that we LOVE their child, we’re THRILLED they are at church, and we want them to come back. But the fact remains…I’m still telling a parent about their child’s misbehavior, which can be an awkward and hard conversation.

Know what makes that conversation even harder? If it’s the very first one I’ve had with that parent.

It’s difficult, and maybe even wrong, for the first time you engage with a parent to be when you are unhappy with their kid. You’ve got to do some work ahead of time, so that when and if those conversations need to happen, that parent will already be assured that you are invested in their child.

How do you make those conversations happen? Here are some ideas:

Be sure you are at the door smiling at parents at arrival time. Say hello to kids, and call them by name.

When you see a kid in the church lobby with a parent, approach them and engage in conversation.

Send postcards and birthday cards to kids in your group.

Share the smallest of wins with parents:

“He was so engaged today!”

“He gave a great example in discussion time.”

“He rocked at our game today!”

“He is always so respectful.”

“I love how he’s a great friend!”

“He prayed for our group today during prayer time!”

Work hard to find ways to talk to parents about the GREAT things that you love about their kid. Even the toughest and rowdiest of kids have value and worth, and those are often the parents who need to hear it the most.

And when you do have to say “He had a bit of trouble in small group today. We talked a lot about being respectful and not disrupting prayer time”, it won’t be the first thing that parent has heard from you. They’ll know that you don’t just think of their kid as “disrespectful and disruptive”, because you’ll have already told them otherwise!

Heavy Words

Jonathan Cliff  —  September 23, 2013 — Leave a comment

HeavyWords

Recently, my middle school son has begun to volunteer at our church in the preschool areas. He has been assigned to the 3-year-old room, and has proven to be a real all-star in that environment. This son of mine, is entering a stage of life where he is looking for affirmation, and needs to feel that he is accepted for who he his. As he has served the 3 year olds at our church, he has also been surrounded by adults that marvel at his heart for the little ones. They've said things to him like, You are so great with these kids, I wish there were more middle schoolers like you! and Have you seen the way these kids look at you? You are their hero just by coming and playing with us!

Those words on their own are powerful, but I have leveraged them in a few distinct ways. First, I knew my son would succeed in that area. I m his father, and I know his strengths. Helping him find a place to serve 3 year olds was better than if I had asked him to go work with 3rd graders. I also set him up for success by choosing an environment that would bring out the best in him, and therefore bring out the words of affirmation in others. Then, I made sure that the he fully understood what those people were telling him. I helped him to see that those friends were sharing what they saw in his life, and they weren't making it up. I reminded him that his mother and I have seen those things in his life, and have told him those same things as well.

It is experiences like this that allow me to say what I ve always said to my son, You are special, unique, and God is going to use you to do great things for the world all around you! and to put those words into the mouths of others. With your child you have the ability to find areas where they can win consistently, and then leverage the situation to say what you ve been saying all along.

Maybe it s an art class at the community center, or working alongside others at a local food bank, or volunteering at your church. Maybe it s allowing them to play a sport that they excel at a little more than the other kids, or spending some time after school with a club that will help draw out some of these other talents they have inside of them.

So much of leveraging the words of others in the lives of our children, has to do with us being intentional as parents. When we leverage the words they hear, we are helping to shape them into the people God wants them to be. However, this doesn't happen by accident. This happens when we listen for the voices, and surround our children with the right voices.

 

Math_Couple

What does my child need to hear from others?

In whom could I trust with encouraging my child s natural gifts?

What voice is now missing from my child s life?

Who are the good influences in their life now?

Every child is different and responds to voices in different ways. I ve got a son that loves words of affirmation, and I will do nearly anything to bring him along with me so that he can hear words of affirmation from others. I ve got another son that wants to put himself to work alongside anyone needing help, so I will bring him with me for projects where others are all working together. The words they both hear from these experiences are added voices they need from someone not their father.

There is great value in my kids hearing words from others that are the same words they hear from their mother and I. Many times these same words from others seem to carry an extra power in the psyche of my kids.  When I find a good friend that brings out the good qualities in my children, I will go out of my way to bring them into my home and take them with us on family trips. I purposefully seek out great friendships for my children, and then encourage them. The addition of these good relationships can help to subtract the less healthy ones in ample time.

One great place to find the right voices are at a church that values small group relationships. If I m looking for voices that will spiritually encourage my kid s growth, then there is no better place than church! I m working hard as a parent to be intentional about what my children discover about having a relationship with Christ, and so we make these Christ following adult voices a priority in our home.

It is an intelligent parent that takes advantage of the church when it comes to the right kind of relationships. Our children have had the advantage of patient, grandparent-ly voices at church. They have listened to the passionate voices of college students that think they can conquer the world. They have heard the parents of their friends encourage them in their pursuits.

Before you go further as a parent today, take some time to think through who your child should be listening to. Is it a friend that they share likes with? Is it an adult that has inspired you, and you want your son to meet? Is it somebody older, wiser, and more educated than you? Is it someone younger and more ambitious than you? Is it a business entrepreneur, a devoted follower of Christ, a retired schoolteacher, or is it all three? Do the math and begin today by adding the right voices to your child s life.

 

{Image Source: Masterfile}

GroupsMatter

I’m an advocate of making our big churches smaller by focusing on the circles we live in, not the rows we sit in. I also  I think it’s a great thing for my children to see me in meaningful community with others.

It’s a responsibility of mine to work hard to make this big world, as small as possible for my kids. I want them to see that I value my relationships with others, I want them to hear me on the phone with a friend, I want them to know that on Wednesday nights we leave them with a sitter because Wednesday nights is OUR night with our community group. I need them to know that I need relationships with others.

I’ll admit, this has been a struggle for us over the years. So often, community fell to the side because my job had me working 8 days a week. Our relationships would cycle up and down like the weather; a few friends here and there. Having just recently established the principle of sharing our lives with others, we’ve seen the benefit of our kids have gained.

 

They value their own group time talking with people they trust. They have a small group time at church, and now they see their parents doing much of what they are doing each week.

 

They regularly interact with adults and other families because of our relationships discovered in community. They meet new people, and expand their own relationships because of our relationships.

 

These are just a few of the ways that community in front of my kids has proven to be important in our family. Today, I’m choosing to make community matter by living community out in front of my kids.