Is it ever too late with our children? A good friend raised the question this week and we agreed, well of course not! In conversations subsequently about faith and family. Teens and raising them I got to thinking. I was thinking about adults I know and how bad choices in their youth became lifestyles and habits. It's not too late for them either, in theory. In reality though the odds are not in their favor. Practically speaking however, do people really change? When they do it is usually because the pain of living their life becomes unbearable, or the consequences of their actions leave them little choice.
Like learning a foreign language is a cake walk for young people and like speaking Greek for older folk. Better to tackle this when they are young and more flexible. Better to shape their brain while it's still growing.
How far does a parents' reach really extend though? Into their teens, twenties? Yes.
My feeling is the reach is much broader than parents may think. Too often we are reluctant to exercise our influence and authority. We don't want to rock the boat, we don't want them to be angry with us, stop talking to us, disrupt the peace of the home, or possible worse. Maybe they will be destructive, violent, depressed, lash out. All of these reactions are temper tantrums, potentially dangerous ones but still temper tantrums nonetheless. From a teen they are not terribly different than those of a toddler, they can hurt themselves, you, damage things. It's all about manipulation, frustration and power. They want their way but you are the parent. BAM! Swords cross.
No different than enforcing standards and rules for a toddler because it's for their own good, we must enforce standards on teenagers and young adults. We are derelict in our responsibilities to them if we do not. For that, we answer to our Father in heaven who will discipline us in turn. We can't wash our hands of them, we can't choose other things to do because this parenting job is unpleasant. The faster we get involved, the closer a new day is dawning.
This post isn't how the "how." It's a call to action. There is no time in their lives they need more hands on supervision than when they are toddler and teens. Boundaries, standards, and expectations keep them safe and shape who they are.
It never gets too late, but every time the sun sets and you haven't stepped up to the task, it becomes harder, the stakes raise and your ability to influence them is diminished.
As for the how -
Parenting with Love and Logic
are some suggestions, whatever method - work it. Do not be afraid, do not be manipulated and remember it's your job. (pep talk to myself - check)