This is a different kind of post for me. Rebecca Powell, a friend of ours, has written a new book called Season of Change: Parenting Your Middle Schooler with Passion and Purpose. Rebecca asked me to read it and then ask questions from a dad's perspective. It was an honor to be asked, and you'll find my questions along with her answers pasted below. If you want more information or would like to order the book, just click on the picture or go to www.rebeccapowell.com. Here we go:
View from the Cheap Seats: From reading your book, it seems apparent that your main target is moms. Are there any words of wisdom you would give specifically to dads for the middle school years?
RIP: Probably the best advice I could give dads is advice that another dad gave to Rich and me when Danya was just around four years old. This dad was raising a 13-year-old daughter, and he said that he had been a little uneasy around her when she started to “blossom” and begin to look more like a woman and less like a little girl. This didn’t seem to be the same little girl he was used to wrestling around with, and he felt like he didn’t know her anymore. So, unfortunately, he was starting to shy away from her, thinking that this was a time in her life when she needed her mother more than she needed him.
However, an older friend of his noticed what he was doing, and he really reprimanded him for it. He just told him, “Hey, your little girl will always be your little girl, and she needs you now more than ever!”
And that’s so true. When our daughters begin to grow and change, they are feeling so awkward and ugly about themselves. Unfortunately, dads can sort of get weirded-out by the process. However, it is critical to a girl’s self-esteem that her daddy push past his weird feelings and tend to her needs! He must do everything he can to help her know that she is and always will be his beautiful little girl. Take her on dates! Tell her how pretty she is! Pray with and for her! A daddy’s relationship with his daughter sets the standard for every other relationship she has with the male species. Dads must intentionally take an active role in their middle school daughters’ lives.
View from the Cheap Seats: It seems that much of the book is aimed at preventative parenting, which is greatly needed for those looking for answers. However, as I read, I began to think of parents who already have middlers. Maybe they have unknowingly allowed their kids to get sucked into the culture, with idols of convenience and laziness and appearance (and more) set up in their homes. What words of encouragement would you give parents who want to finish the parenting race with godly kids but feel like it's hopeless?
RIP: First of all, it’s never too late. Our God is a God of second chances and fresh beginnings, so no parent should ever throw up his hands and give up! Sometimes, if the children are sucked into the culture, it is because the parents are, too. Now is the time to ask for God’s forgiveness for your own failings, and then, go ask your children to forgive you! Let them know that you have failed, that you realize it, and that now, as one who stands forgiven before God, you desire their forgiveness as well. Then explain that while you may have let certain things go before, such as the trappings of unwholesome media (TV, Internet, video games), along with things like laziness, materialism, and complaining, you are not going to be doing that any longer. With middlers, you have a unique opportunity in getting started with this new plan because you can ask them to hold you accountable as well.
When I was growing up, a friend’s mom realized that she had never truly been in a relationship with Christ. She had always been in church, but she had never really experienced Jesus. When she finally accepted His forgiveness of her sins, her life changed. My friend saw that change, and she thought her mom had gone nuts! Her mom was transformed, and my friend didn’t understand what was going on. But they were moving from living as shallow, superficial church-goers to living as Christ-followers. They began reading the Bible together every night, and then everything changed: their relationship with Christ, with each other, and with other people!
Experiencing success rests on the fact that you and your children have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. If that hasn’t happened, then that’s where you begin. That starts with a very simple prayer.
Dear God, I confess that I am a sinner, and my sin separates me from You. Please forgive me of my sins. I believe that Jesus is Your Son, and I ask Him right now to come into my heart and fill up the emptiness with His love. I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
View from the Cheap Seats: In the role of the church with the family, there exists a huge range of feelings. Some parents drop their kids at the door at 6th grade, and their attitude seems to be, "Can you please fix this child before he graduates from high school?" Others believe that allowing someone else to teach or influence their child must be a kind of usurping of their parental duties. So, they don't allow their kids to be part of any youth ministry, and some even go so extreme that they remove their whole family from the church. Can you speak to the role of the church in all that you have written regarding middlers?
RIP: Toby, this is a great question. Let me begin by saying that I love the church! I grew up a preacher’s kid, and I became a preacher’s wife several years ago when Rich was called into ministry, so the church is very much a part of who I am.
If I were to encourage churches in any way regarding this age group, it would be to respect and appreciate your middlers. Just as our parenting has to transition in the way that we are responding to our middlers, so does the ministry of the church need to transition in the way that it responds to the needs of those middle-school age kids. Some churches are large enough to have a middle school ministry, and a lot of churches are establishing those.
As you know, my family serves in a small, inner-city church. We are short on both financial resources and parental resources—most of our kids get dropped off, so we cannot count on actively involved parents to help with our programs. A very talented leader in our church, Miss Mel, came up with a way to separate our fifth and sixth graders. She recognized that they needed to be called up higher, and she implemented the steps to do that.
1. She formed a special class for them, “Crossroads,” taught by the only male leader in our children’s department.
2. They cleaned out an unused room in the children’s area, painted it, and furnished it with used couches and chairs. It is stocked with a mini-fridge full of soft drinks, a special privilege only for our fifth and sixth graders. By giving these kids a place of their own and privileges of their own, she is preparing them for their eventual rise to the youth department.
3. Deeper Bible study is an important part of moving to the “Crossroads” class, where they are presented with homework and weekly action challenges.
We are seeing changes in our kids. We are seeing them develop an understanding of what Christianity is all about. We are also giving them multiple ways to minister by offering them roles in the many services we extend to our community.
The church has a vital part to play in every Christian’s life. It does not exist to usurp the parent’s role but to supplement it. And of course, for those who are neglected, it can certainly serve as a home and family.