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Judy Lair is a licensed counselor and owner of Counselorplace Christian Counseling. She is the author of “From the Other Side of the Couch: A Biblical Counselor’s Guide to Relational Living.” Judy’s personal struggles with fear led her through the valley of hurt and sorrow. She now embraces a joy-filled life grounded in God’s truth and freedom in Christ. Judy uses her professional counseling expertise to tell stories that help people find healing and freedom. Her vulnerable, godly approach helps people find courage to move from Fear to Freedom. For more information or speaking requests, email JudyLair@counselorplace.com or sign up for blog posts at http://judylair.blogspot.com

 “Freedom is attainable. Trust me, I’ve been on the anxiety side, gone through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and now I’m praising God, eating at the banqueting table, and helping others make the same journey. Whether you find yourself stuck in anxiety, disappointment, grief, or confusion, your heart can be set free.” Judy Lair, “From the Other Side of the Couch.”

Sunday, July 6, 2014

How Big is Your Child's Backyard?

God’s plan is for parents to be an integral part of meeting needs, teaching skills, and facilitating their child’s journey into their own personhood. This concept is different from an Outcome-based model where parents are judged by others based on whether their child meets certain societal standards. In a Relational Model, the goal of parenting is to help our kids see themselves the way God sees them and to live out of that knowledge. When they do so, they’ll learn to make decisions and choices in daily life that lead to a happy, healthy abundant lifestyle. Helping our kids, especially, teens learn how to make wise decisions is a huge part of parenting. Young children need clear parameters as they balance self-empowerment with safe options. As they grow older, kids need to experience a bigger choice backyard while still under your roof.

I absolutely love teenagers. They are full of energy, opinions, and attitudes. It’s like they’re being energized by the world. Talking to teens is like riding a roller coaster. Teen gals want to talk about everything relating to their life in the minutest detail. Who said what; what they wore; what they felt. Absolutely everything. Talking to teen guys is like waiting for water to boil on the stove. I ask a question, they stare at me, or the wall, or the floor for a while, then give me a one word answer.

Adolescence is a time for self-exploration. “Who am I and how do I relate to the world?” When parents don’t allow mistakes and demand adherence to rules and expectations, teens can’t develop their own identity. In an Outcome-based system, the high school years are seen as preparation for entry into adulthood. Teens are required to learn how to master adult values, adult behaviors, and how to play the adult game of climbing the corporate ladder. In God’s Relational model, teens are encouraged to try all sorts of things on for size, seeing each item fits with who God made them to be. Giving teens the freedom to experiment with how they express their individuality allows them to develop a solid sense of self.

Unfortunately, most parents live out of fear. They want their child to be a happy, healthy, productive member of society, have a strong faith in God, and not make the same mistakes. While those are admirable hopes and dreams, the way most parents try to make that happen is to micro-manage their child’s life, damaging the parent’s relationship with their child and wounding occurs.

When children are young, parents have almost complete control and strive to make perfect choices for their children. As the child grows, parents allow the child room to make their own decisions within a selection of “good” options. When a child begins to find their own individuality as a teen, parents need to allow room for “bad” choices. Instead of lecturing, listen. Ask how they made the decision and whether they feel like the consequences are worth the choice. Kids need to "try on" choices to see if those decisions fit their understanding of who God made them to be.

As Ben’s parent, I will always step into my son’s life if he’s making catastrophic choices that will cause actual harm to himself or others. Giving him room, however, to make bad choices is one of the most difficult examples of sacrificial love. I don’t want Ben to have his feelings hurt, lose money, fail a class, etc. I can foresee a lot of things he can’t at his age. But to protect him from making mistakes prevents him from growing and maturing. I wanted him to experience the consequences of bad choices while he was still under my roof and we could process those events.

There are many accounts in the Bible where God allowed his kids to make "bad" choices, allowing them to experience their own learning curve. I think about Moses hitting the rock to obtain water when God told him to talk to it; Sarah tried to have a son in her timing her way; Peter made impetuous decisions numerous times. God's priority is not about perfect choices -- He looks at decisions as opportunities to learn about ourselves, others, and God.

How is it possible that folks who were so immature, made a lot of bad choices, did not trust God, caused pain and suffering to themselves and others can be held in such high esteem? Because God knew their potential and allowed them to grow and mature into their personhood through the process of making good and bad choices. 

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