As parents we want to be relevant in our children's lives not only in the present but for many years to come. If you are the parent of a young child, you are their center of the universe. As your child grows and matures, other influences will enter his or her life. If you are the parent of a middle school child, you are all too aware of this reality. Regardless of how old your children are, there are several things you can do to maintain or improve this relevance.
Study their culture. Especially as our kids grow they begin to have a culture outside ours. What are they reading? What are they watching? To what are they listening? The better you understand their culture, the better you understand them.
Try to understand the difference between a cultural phenomenon and timeless value. Some societal trends will come and go quickly, while others leave behind some part of themselves for a long time. At any moment it's hard to know whether some phenomenon is a fad or a permanent change. Be sure to keep your timeless values in mind and teach them to your children.
Look for redemptive analogies. Even in the foreign culture occupied by our children, we can find examples of people doing things that we find acceptable or even laudable. Look for those words and deeds to discuss with your children. When they see their cultural icons acting in harmony with your timeless values, it's a powerful message.
When something works well, start looking for the next strategy. Unfortunately solutions that work with our children don't last forever. As parents we have to constantly and creatively look for new alternative ways to communicate and lead.
Measure success by connection and not by control. We can only temporarily control our children and that only when they're very young. The connection we make at a young age will remain intact. When your children are older and less under your control, you can move to the consultant phase of parenting. That stage works even through adulthood.
Just a reminder -- many of the ideas I present are based upon the writings of Dr. Tim Elmore. Check out his website at http://growingleaders.com/ .
Blessings on your parenting,
Tim Miesner, Principal