Hey Parents...Environments Matter

If your kids are older, it's probably too late. You either did this right or you did it another way. But if you have little kids at home, listen up...

Faith and I have four children, ages 13, (almost) 17, 19 and (almost) 21. I'd love to share parenting stories from our failures and successes, but one that comes up over and over is how important environments are.

I think everyone would admit that there is a point in a teen's life when the influence of his/her parents becomes less, and the influence of his/her friends becomes greater. I've talked to tons of parents, and through my less-than-scientific findings, it seems the age at which the parents' influence drops dramatically happens somewhere around 13 to 15-years old.

Parental Influence On a Child.jpg

When my oldest turned 15-years old, I put together this chart to symbolize my thoughts about parental influence on a child. I still think it's pretty accurate, although perhaps the extremes at 16+ years old are varied based on the personality of the child. 

As a parent, the awareness of loss of influence can be alarming if you didn't see it coming. So be warned young parents, I have just given you a glimpse of the future.

Here is the key learning: Environments matter. Who my daughter is influenced by as a 15-year old is dependent greatly on the environments that my wife and I placed her in as a 10 and 12 and 14-year old.

As a parent who has LOVED having teenagers, and who has not yet experienced teen rebellion (although we can't celebrate yet as we are barely past half-time), here is the advice I would give parents of pre-teens...

  • Get involved in a great church with strong youth leaders.
  • As they start middle school, don't give them the option to stay home from the youth program. I can't stress this enough. They will have no desire to be involved as a high school student if you gave them the option when they were younger.
  • Find a school that has strong values and where there is good chance they will be able to find solid friends. That might mean paying for private school or moving to a better school district.
  • Get them in situations where they are hanging with young adults who are following God. That's why we had college-age students live in our home for two years.
  • Teach them the joy of serving when they are very young.
  • Let them participate in events where there is a good chance they might take a step spiritually, like summer camp, missions trips, or weekend retreats.

Oh, and one last word of advice for those with teenagers---stop lecturing and start listening. Stop giving direction and start asking questions.

It's your turn now...what would you add (or ask) about environments and parenting?