Back to Baby Basics

Back to Baby Basics

This summer has brought some changes for our family. Huge change in fact in the form of a precious little boy named Sawyer. I promise to get to the point of this post soon, but first – who doesn’t love some cute baby pictures??
 

 

Having a baby and spending time at home this summer with him has completely changed my perspective. People expect you to take off from work, forget about house chores and just spend time with your sweet little one. So much importance is placed on enjoying and getting to know your baby – as it should be! But why does this only apply when our children are infants? Even though I am a rookie mom and newbie parent, I think there are several baby-parenting tactics that we should apply to parenting teens. They may be half-grown and independent (or so they think), but these teenage years are so critical for their development and your family!

Here are a few things that I believe we can learn from those beginning days of parenting that can benefit the relationship you share with your teenager:

 

Dedicated Meal Times

I am a huge believer in the power of meals and their ability to bring people together. Perfect strangers are friends at the end of a meal. Two people can begin a romantic relationship over a meal. And people are comforted, encouraged and uplifted through meal conversations. Meals are so important.

When kids are little, meals require alot of attention. Meal times are all about them, whether they are a babies and parents (mainly moms) have to put down everything to feed them the milk they need, or they are toddlers and it is all out warfare to get a bite of food in their moving, screaming mouths. When do we lose the desire to set aside dedicated time for meals? I know life is busy. I know it isn’t always possible to eat every meal at home, but teenagers need dedicated time from you!

This mealtime can look different for every family. Maybe it is ordering pizza and eating on paper. Maybe it is grabbing a quick bite after football practice at your favorite fast food restaurant. Or maybe it includes a homemade meal and set table (good for you!). Whatever your situation looks like, take time to silence phones, turn off televisions, get rid of distractions and share a meal with your family. Ask about school and tell them about your day in return. Find out more about friends and hobbies. Talk about future plans and silly things like their favorite TV shows. They need that time, and I bet you’ll find that you do, too! In fact, Andy and Sandra Stanley talk about this in a series on family. (You can watch it here! Start at 22:00 to begin where they talk about family dinners.)

 

Intentional Routines

When children are little, we have routines for everything. A morning routine – wake up, change diaper, put on fresh clothes. A nightly routine – bath time, change into pjs, read a book, goodnight kisses. Imagine if we had routines with our teenagers…seems silly, right? But these don’t have to include reading them a book or rocking them to sleep. It doesn’t even have to be a bedtime routine!

Last season of the Stay Calm, Don’t Panic! Podcast, Chris Robey discussed this very topic with Dr. Mark DeYoung in the episode “4 Ways the ‘Check-In’ Transforms Relationships.” I encourage you to go listen to this podcast! There are so many benefits to asking teens how they are doing and making it part of a routine. I discussed a dinner routine above, but maybe your routine is as simple as asking one question in the car on the way home from school. Or asking them to say goodnight before they go to bed and speaking truth over them at that time. Create a routine so your teenager knows what to expect from you. Ask good questions and speak words of encouragement.

 

Realistic Expectations

Sawyer is now a month and a half old. He is still a baby and therefore, acts like a baby. Duh, right? You wouldn’t expect my baby to walk, talk, or use the bathroom by himself. If he cries, I am not surprised. When he has a blowout diaper, I don’t get upset with him. I am enjoying every moment of this baby stage – the good, bad, and the stinky.

We need to apply the same principle with teenagers. They are going to mess up, make decisions you don’t understand, get caught up in drama. I fear that adults often fall into the trap of treating teenagers like children while placing adult expectations on them. We hover and control while also getting upset when they don’t make choices we approve of. They are still trying to figure out who they are. They need a little guidance and a whole lot of grace! If you place unrealistic expectations on your teenager, you will be as frustrated as I would be if I expected Sawyer to change his own diapers.

Let’s go back to the days where our children were more important than clean houses and home cooked meals. I beg you to take the time to get to know your teenager! What do you think about this? Are there other baby-parenting practices that you can apply to parenting teenagers?

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.

4 Tips to Parent Smarter

4 Tips to Parent Smarter

This post was originally titled “Parenting Isn’t for Everyone,” but that sounded a little too negative. That said, it is still true; however, it is also true that anyone can benefit from parenting if they choose to commit to the path of parenting. Does that seem confusing? Let me try to come at it this way. It is possible for everyone to be a parent. We see this all around us. The act of, or result of an act, that ends in being a parent happens all the time. The difference is that some people choose to continue on the parenting path and others choose to quit.

 

This was my dad. He quit being a parent. He chose to let other life choices distract him from being the father and husband he had committed to be, and instead quit all of it. Since becoming a parent myself, it is becoming more and more real how he could have given this up, it is hard. Some days are VERY hard to parent. I mean there is the whole “I’m not adulting today” movement that has caught on. This is often related to parenting, but they are two very different things.

 

I am guessing this sounds likes a downer of a post but stay with me. The foundation for wading through this very real journey is that parenting is very hard and very worth it. I want to offer the four reasons below in hopes that they will help you, and me, be a better parent. My hope is that trend will then continue until you are done parenting – something many people believe doesn’t happen, but I assure you it does. You may never stop feeling like a parent, but your parenting will end maybe even sooner than you think.

 

These 4 tips aren’t about whether you should be a parent or not. They’re about when you are a parent and what you can get out of that. So if you haven’t had kids yet, use this as a way to decide how you will handle things if you do. If you have kids, use this to reframe or renew your perspective about being a parent.

 

  1. Parenting isn’t about you. This is one I am having a hard time with. My tendency is to take things personally. I want my kids to be a reflection of me. I mean people say this to us all the time, even my good church friends. “You can tell you’re good parents because your kids are so good.” Or some version of that. We really need to change this. Yes, there is influence and modeling, but your kid is their own person. They make their own choices starting at an early age, and it’s supposed to be that way. Our job as parents is to teach them values, character and morality. Then, it is up to them, and it’s not our fault if they choose to throw that stuff out the window. This also means we don’t get the praise if they choose to succeed. That hurts a little, but maybe it’s the way it needs to be.

 

  1. You can’t compare your situation to anyone else’s. This past January, we finalized an adoption. Our family grew, in less than 3 minutes, by 3 people. There are now 9 of us requiring a 12 passenger van to transport us anywhere we go. We have people tell us all the time, “I don’t know how you do it,” or “I could never do that. It’s a lot of kids.” You know what, you’re right. But you also need to know you have no idea how hard this is for us. There are many days that the only reason I make it is because I don’t quit. Does that make me a horrible person because I don’t love every minute of parenting? No! It makes me not a quitter. My commitment is strong and with that comes the decision to not complain and use “what if” phrases, which leads us to number three.

 

  1. Realize balance is about making everything equal. Many of us see parenting as something that gets in the way of us accomplishing what is really important in life. I know this because I have felt that and heard plenty of talk socially about that attitude. This was recently emphasized for me at a business event I went to. The speaker said, “Balance is not dependent on circumstance. It’s about what you choose to spend your time on.” This choice puts us as parents in the mindset that when I am choosing to spend time with my kids, it is valuable time. This also means that when I am choosing to spend time on work, that is valuable time. I once heard an interview that was highlighting a dad who had his 3 year old say that she didn’t want him to go to work, and he realized what was most important. WHAT?! No, she’s 3. Yes spending time with her is important, but she has no perspective. It’s just as important that she know her daddy is spending time working so that their family has their needs met. It’s also important so that she also learns to love work. I mean this with the assumption that you don’t become a workaholic. But we also have to realize that work, in it’s proper place, is a great part of life and needs to be seen that way.

 

  1. Parenting ends sooner then you think. Andy Stanley is a preacher and speaker who has a great perspective on this. He and his wife break parenting down into 4 stages. If you stick to these stages, you will have a greater peace about being a parent. If you try to jump ahead or skip a step, you will regret it – most likely in the teen years, the years I hear are the worst but that I am looking forward to. Why am I looking forward to them? Because I’m done parenting by then. I am working my butt off to work through the first 2 stages, discipline and training, so that I have the opportunity to then coach and be a friend to my kids in their teen years and beyond. What I’m saying is parenting is done at around age 12! This perspective has yet to play out for me, so we will see. What if you already have a teen? Is it too late? No! Start shifting your perspective and making small adjustments that let your teen know you are 100% there for them, but you are done trying to correct every error or miscalculation on their part. You want them to make the right choice every time, but they won’t. So offer to be there, but let go of hovering and trying to catch them at every corner so you can make sure they choose correctly. Instead, take the posture of coach. Remind them what you have taught and trained them in and offer to help them figure out how to get back on track, but ultimately it is their choice.
These 4 tips do not lead to parenting bliss. They are a learning process that I am guessing never ends but rather shifts and changes over the years. My hope is that reading through this helps you make a positive shift in your parenting so that you can be committed to the process to ensure the highest possibility of success for your child. In order for them to succeed, you have to stick to being the parent, and in order for you to feel like you have succeeded, you have to make sure you know what success looks like.

I do not have this figured out. What would you add to this? What perspectives on parenting have helped you stick with it through the hard times? How have you hung on when it feels helpless or pointless? Share with us, I definitely want to keep learning.

Ricky Lewis is our Executive Director and has been with us since the beginning. As a father of 7, he seeks to help parents and their kids Live Life Better.