By the time your child is 18, he should have the knowledge and virtue to go into the world and live as Christ lived. This means that parenting during the teen years should focus on readying your youth for participation in the world outside the home. In general, this means checking in with your emerging adult to see if the principles established in the family are neatly packed within his heart. How do you do this? Engage in regular and meaningful conversations with him. Some of these conversations will be light subject manner and some will be deep and thought provoking. Consider the following communication steps when checking on the contents of your child’s heart.
- Ask – If you want to know what principles your child holds dear, you need to ask what he is thinking. “What do you think?” is a great question to get the conversation rolling. Be a very good listener and gather all the rationale for his decisions.
- Clarify - If the answers you hear are not in line with what has been taught, then ask the next question – “help me understand your position”. Listen again.
- Restate what you heard. Put your young adult’s thoughts into your own words and then ask if you heard correctly. Again, listen.
- Offer Your Position – When you are prepared, offer your position to your young adult. Before you do so, ask him to honor you with the same respect you showed in hearing his thoughts. Encourage him to ask questions for clarification and to try and restate what you said. (In some instances, you may choose to offer your position at a later time because you don’t feel prepared to give a well reasoned and calm response. If you need the time – take the time.)
- Begin again.
There are numerous virtues that each of us needs to live as Christ did. First and foremost are the theological and cardinal virtues. Below are three other virtues to nurture in your child.
We live in a world that’s ‘all about me’. Fame, attention, and shock value are esteemed above doing a hard days work without any notice. And yet, it is the latter which builds up society and attends to the needs of the common person. Before your youth leaves the nest, provide ample opportunities for her to become a servant. Consider the following:
- Increased sharing – not only in the day to day chores but also in the material goods of the home. Resist purchasing a cell phone, car, computer, for each member of your family. Instead, learn to share these and other items.
- Increased observation – teach your child to learn and respond to the ‘cues’ that something needs to be done. For instance, if the garbage needs to be taken out teach your child that observe the need (‘the trash can is full”) rather than wait for the plea for help from you (“take out the trash”). This takes time, but your child shouldn’t have to be told to do what needs to be done.
This virtue is the recognition that we become happy not because we receive what we want but because we appreciate what we have. How do we cultivate this habit?
- Count your blessings – this may seem trite but it is a great daily exercise. At the end of each day ask your youth to tell you as many blessings as she can remember that happened during the day. It may be as little as ‘there were no tests in any classes’ to ‘it was my day to use the car’.
- Share your thanks – make it a point to sincerely thank someone each day for a blessing they bestowed. Again, little or grand, the ability to verbalize thanksgiving when one is touched by an act of kindness is significant.
Of all the virtues, this one is claimed to be the rarest. Perhaps the fear of not having enough for ourselves motivates us to hoard rather than to offer what we have to others. What can you do to stir generosity in your youth’s heart?
- Be generous yourself. Remember the gifts you have been given come in three main groups; your time, your talent, your treasure. Give all three to your child.
- Teach the difference between a want (something we would like to have) and a need (that which we must have to live). Generously meet the needs of your youth.
- Help your child identify each of the following
- How she spends her time
- What her ‘treasures’ are (clothing, music collection, cell-phone, etc.)
- What her God given gifts are (ability to teach, musician, diligence in work, etc.)
Once you have these identified, discuss ways that she can be generous in each area. It is vital that she decide what she will give rather than be told what you want her to do.