As a mom, I desire to see my kids become capable, responsible adults who live steady and fulfilling lives. Part of this will come from them having an ability to process their emotions in the ups and downs of life. But it will also depend on whether they have developed healthy rhythms and disciplines that support the lives they want to live. Guiding our teens in developing life disciplines is giving them a gift that will pay off for the rest of their lives. Today I will wrap up our series based on 4 Habits of Raising Joy-Filled Kids with this post about how we can help our teens develop these disciplines.
Just this week I sat down with my teenage daughter and asked how we as parents have helped her to develop some of the structure and disciplines in her life. She specifically shared her appreciation for the ways we have given her space to become independent. As we spoke about this, I realized a few things.
First of all, it is much easier to help our kids build disciplines in areas where they are motivated. If we find one of our teens lacking discipline in their life, or we just want to begin to intentionally help them develop some disciplines, a great starting place is an area they care about, such as a sport or an extracurricular activity they love.
For example, this past year our daughter turned 16. She was eager to get her license and get a job so she could buy a car and drive herself where she needed to go. While I had some hesitations of her getting too busy with a job and everything else on her plate, we felt like it was important to support her desire to become more independent in these ways. We walked with her through the job application process, through finding a car, and then dealing with how to create a budget and manage her finances. Not only did she feel very loved and supported, but she grew a ton in responsibility and got some fabulous new routines in place.
As I pondered these things with my daughter, I could also see that sometimes helping our kids develop disciplines involves challenging them to grow areas where they don’t want to grow. In our daughter’s case, it was easy to help her start putting structure in place because that structure supported her dreams and goals. But there are other times where we want our kids to learn important skills – like doing their own laundry, taking the dog for a walk, etc. – and they might have zero interest or motivation. What do we do then?
In those cases, we have had some big picture discussions with our teens about how their freedom and independence is tied to responsibility and love. We try to communicate regularly that we are for them and want to give them more freedom. But the freedom we give is directly tied to how well they can manage their resources and their hearts in general. This is for their own good because we don’t want to give them more freedom than they have the ability or character to manage.
An example would be, “We are okay with giving you more media time once you have built in the habits of getting your homework and chores done on time.” Being able to get chores and homework done on time are both acts that demonstrate responsibility and love toward others in their life. (Side note – some might consider the statement above manipulative – and it could be used that way. But when our hearts are for our kids and we set up these structures to help them grow and learn about natural consequences, I don’t believe it is).
No matter what discipline we are trying to help our kids develop, our goal has been to help them find an internal motivation. Very soon our teens will be in the real world and won’t have mom and dad there to make sure they eat three square meals a day and pay their bills on time. So we want to help them learn to take ownership of these kinds of things. Helping them develop internal motivation might be slower at first than motivating our kids with guilt, manipulation, or fear, and it has personally required a lot of patience, prayer, and growth on our part as parents. But I believe the long-term rewards will be worth it.
What disciplines are you helping develop in your kids? We would love to hear what has gone well or what you have found challenging. Comment below!