In order to start exercising the writing muscle a bit, I asked my Facebook friends for suggestions for top-5 lists.  You know, prompts to get the brain going.  The fourteenth one is from my friend Marilee, who asked for…

Top Five Tween Parenting Tips:

  1. Remember that you’re goal is an adult who walks authentically with Christ as an adult rather than a well-behaved teenager that doesn’t embarrass you.  Go for long term patterns rather than short-term behavioral wins.  All teens have stupid-head so let them fail and make dumb decisions and all while they’re still under your roof and you can teach through them.
  2. Remember that spiritual formation is a slow business.  It is for you, and it will be for them.  They need grace and space to think for themselves and make their faith their own. It won’t, and shouldn’t, look like yours.
  3. Set up a weekly time where they have your undivided attention and cell phones stay in the car or whatever.  Each of my girls had a coffee date with me (because that’s what fit my schedule, but it can be whenever) and I’d just ask them about their “highs” and “lows” and “what are you excited about?” and “what are you anxious about?” and lastly “How can I serve you better this week?”  Some weeks it was one-word answers and others we were late to school but for the tween years, it set up a pattern that was pretty natural to get away and have a conversation.  I didn’t want times when I set up a coffee shop date to signal to them that something was abnormal.  We kept accounts short and learned a lot about HOW to communicate with each other.
  4. Have their friends over.  As much as you can.  Get to know them, even the ones you suspect aren’t good for them.  Don’t judge them. Just enjoy them…and kids that age are pretty enjoyable.  Sure, let them have their space when they’re there, but you can pop in for 15 minutes over the pizza or spend a few minutes the next morning making Texas shaped waffles. Usually, their friends are fun and interesting and they’ll give your home life and make it a safe place for your kid’s tribe.
  5. Trust God with your kid.  He loves them more than you ever will, and we tend to heap expectations on them that are more culturally acceptable than they are Biblical.  Let the God who creates works of art do his thing and realize your expectations are likely to be blown away.  Don’t compare your kid to anyone else’s or even your own expectations, because whenever you compare, you lose. Comparison leads to either pride or envy, so just do everything you can to let your child be who they’re supposed to be.

Top Five Marriage Tips

(Yikes…I’m no authority on either of these things)

  1. If you have kids, remember that your job is about 20 years worth of investment…and your spouse will be there long after they leave.  I’ve seen too many people define who they are by their children and their accomplishments.  Your children will move out and you’ll be in that home with just your spouse…so you’re better served to build into your relationship as more important than the one you have with your kids.
  2. Don’t compare your relationship to your perception of anyone else’s (see #5 above), and don’t get me started on all the things you don’t know about other people’s relationships.  Each couple has their own way of doing business, and yours is okay as long as it works for you.  Too often we get frustrated because “they”… (insert whatever you want in your relationship here) and “we” don’t.
  3. Be a student of your spouse.  We all grow and change, go through ups and downs, win and lose, etc.  What “worked” when you first got married don’t “work” in year ten…or twenty…or thirty. Things happen. People change. So, be ready to keep being fascinated by the person you married and make liking and loving them a priority even if it’s different than it was years ago. There’s a lot of hurt when a spouse doesn’t live up to your unrealistic expectations.
  4. Get in community together.  Find good friends to live abundantly with.  Lots of time around a table with wine and food or s’mores and board games and laughs and tears and celebrations and funerals and all that jazz.  Invest in friends, together and as individuals.  It’s a hard balance to strike, but you can get creative.
  5. Remember love is not a feeling.  It is a choice.  Make the choice to love and serve even when you don’t feel like serving and the feelings will follow along.  Feelings are fickle, and if you make decisions based on them, you’re doomed.  Make the choice to give grace and serve even when they’re unlovable, and you’d be surprised how much it comes back to you when YOU’RE unlovable.

(Yeah…keep in mind these are from a fumbling practitioner of both parenting and marriage.  I don’t do all these perfectly and still am learning, so a little grace before you comment with things like, “Yeah, well, YOU said this but DID that.” okay?)