Parents must beware about pushing their kids toward popularity. We live vicariously through our children in so many ways, most of which bring about great harm. Striving for coolness and adulthood before it is time to be an adult, can have major ramifications of development, suggests this New York Times article.
The following quote comes from the article: “To be truly mature as an early adolescent means you’re able to be a good, loyal friend, supportive, hardworking and responsible,” Dr. Allen said. “But that doesn’t get a lot of airplay on Monday morning in a ninth-grade homeroom.”
The truth is, parents often care more for their children’s success–on the field, in the classroom, and with their peers. Success matters, but it is not had at 13, nor should it be at the forefront–especially not in front of more key developmental areal, like integrity.
Here are some quick takeaways for raising a teen with proper priorities:
1) Model Christ (Deuteronomy 6)
It is not the youth group’s job to raise your kid. They supplement what you are providing at home, but they cannot be expected to supplant or overcome dodgy parenting. The call of parents is to model Christ and godly living. Parents are to speak faith principles “when they are coming and when they are going” and they are to write God’s statutes on their “doorposts.” Little in Christ’s message had to do with gaining fame and prestige, so these should not be high priorities in your household.
2) Teach the equality of “peers”
Many youths strive for adult experiences to impress others. Peer pressure has them taking risks they know are unwise, and even dangerous–both in real-time and to their future growth as an individual. Much of this comes in part due to an elevated sense of what a peer is. Those whom they attend school with are your child’s equals, and your child needs to be reminded of this. Size differences, popularity gaps, achievements . . . none of these things give one adolescent dominion over another. When your child sees his or her peers as equals, those equals have less influence over your child’s choices and behaviors.
3) Be aware
If you don’t know your child’s ‘community’–his or her peer group–you are setting yourself (and your child) up for trouble. Yes, every parent wishes to be the cool parent and we live in an age that stresses individuality, but that child is your charge, given by God, to be shepherded through youth by you. Stewardship is normally attributed to money, but it can also play quite nicely in the realm of parenting: As a parent, you are stewarding a life. This doesn’t mean rigid micro-management, but it also cannot mean laissez-fare free-for-all. Of course, the best way to ‘be aware’ is to build trust, and that is done through constant, loving conversation with your child.
4) Redefine “cool”
Kids want to be cool. They always have and always will. But kids often don’t choose what is cool–someone tells them. Usually, it is a lone voice preaching this message–parents tend to stick to battling against the messy room or harping about grades. And yes, those are important, but when a child hears Miley Cyrus define overt sexuality as cool over and over again, without any rebuttal or option, it is natural that that is the message that becomes cool to them–there is no competing worldview. Parents need to offer their children a different definition. One based on the biblical notion of love. Cool looks out for those in need. Cool stands out among the crowd. Cool strives for excellence. Cool loves. Cool is loyal. Cool respects. Cool is in control. Cool wears clothes!
Sure this definition of “cool” may not win out. But it is far more likely to fail if it is never mentioned, of that I’m certain.