If you’ve done your homework from Part 1 of this blog post, you’ve hopefully gotten some good conversation out of your Jr. Higher. I’m sure you discovered a few of their beliefs that may have gone slightly astray from where you’d like them to be. Here are a few tips on some creative ways to redirect and intentionally guide them back to better ideas and values.
The Set Up
Instead of telling your Jr. Higher how wrong their views are, work up creative ways to help them experience and see where their beliefs are not accurate.
For example, my son has begun to put more emphasis and importance on the outside appearance of people than he is on their personality and who they are on the inside. Left unchecked, this belief could cause him to make poor choices in girlfriends, his wife and his friends as he grows older.
St. Patrick’s day is coming so I’m going to bring home two gifts. One gift will be wrapped in cool paper and look very appealing. The other I’ll put in a recycled gift bag or maybe even a lunch sack. Inside the “Cool” looking gift will be some sort of cheesy toy. Inside the “ugly” gift will be a new CD he’s been wanting.
During dinner, I’ll bring out the gifts and let him choose. He will most likely choose the “cool” gift, so I’ll give his brother the other gift. He’ll be in for quite a suprise, when he opens the “cool” gift with the cheesy prize, and his brother opens the new CD from the lousy, cheap bag. Even if he chooses the “ugly” gift, the experience will still make an impact because he’ll witness and experience the same idea, only instead of being sad he chose the “cool” gift, he’ll be elated he chose the “ugly” one. That would have even a greater impact in the long run.
By taking the time and effort to set him up, I’ve helped him experience that sometimes the outside of the package isn’t a good picture of what might be on the inside.
It’s important not to ruin the experience by explaining the purpose of it to your kids. Just let them sit and soak on it. However, I will follow this experience up later in the week by starting a conversation with the boys when we have some time together. I’ll start it by asking Jarrett, “When you picked the “cool” gift, what were you hoping would be inside?” That’ll spark a conversation between the three of us that will then open the door for them to share their thoughts and ideas.
Side Note: I can include Brendan, age 9, in the set-up because he’ll be happy with either gift.
Make it Cost
Know that your kids are going to make poor choices and be prepared. In fact, be prepared to deal with some of the same issues over and over and over again. But don’t take it personally and don’t think that you are failing as a parent.
When you kids do make poor choices, make it cost them something like time, money or labor.
Last weekend, Jarrett had a friend over and they were playing hide-and-seek all over the house. (I thought they were too old for that, but I guess not.) Jarrett hid in a pile of laundry that was waiting to be put away on the love seat in my bedroom. In the process of being found, he tossed the pile of clothes all over my bed, all over the floor, all over my room. I didn’t discover the mess until I went to bed that night. I could have yelled and screamed but instead, the next day, I told Jarrett he could put away all my laundry for me. When he asked why, I calmly and simply said, “Because it’s not where I left it. Thank you for the help today.”
I don’t like to use restriction or take things away unless it absolutely necessary. Instead, I prefer to give my Jr. Higher additional responsibilities appropriate for the poor choice he made. It needs to be a cost that will help to emphasize that choosing poorly or taking shortcuts, desn’t pay off.
Jump Into Their World
If you really want to get a more comprehensive view of your Jr. Higher’s world, volunteer to work with them. You can do this through church, at their school, or through sports. I’d recommend not volunteering directly with your child, but with their peers. I volunteer at our church’s Jr. High group on Wednesday nights, but I work with a group of girls. That way Jarrett still has freedom to do his own thing without his mom hovering around.
I have gotten so much insight by being around kids his age. Although I’m saddened by many of the issues that the kids are struggling with, it’s reassuring to know that it’s not just Jarrett who’s got problems. Some of his quirks and bad habits are just a part of the stage he’s in. Here are few things I’ve observed over the last few months about most kids in this age group:
- Life is all about friendship.
- It’s okay if I talk bad about you, but not if you talk bad about me.
- I don’t want to be picked on.
- The way I look is important.
- I talk in half sentences cause my friends know what I mean.
- Every sentence ends with, ” . . . and, yeah.”
- I know what’s right, but it’s hard to do what’s right.
- I want to know that I’ll be missed if something happened to me.
- I don’t understand why people say one thing, and do another.
Surround your Jr. Higher with other adults who share the same Godly values as you. Get them involved in a youth group on Sundays or during the week. Encourage their grandparents to invest some one-on-one time with them. At this age they begin seeking validation for their beliefs, and what mom and dad think, just doesn’t count.
You want you kids to hear good stuff, from lots of different sources and from people they respect. If they don’t get that reinforcement, it will become harder and harder for them to resist those worldly temptations. They won’t have any reason not to believe the lies that marketing, TV shows, movies and even friends tell them about they way they should choose to live their lives.