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This past weekend, I spoke at a Promise Keeper’s event in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. The topic that got the most response was the idea of being friends with our kids. I mentioned in one of my talks that my goal is to be friends with my kids by the time they are 30. Well, that raised a few eyebrows and prompted a question during the Q and A session as some of the men were concerned that I wanted to be friends with my kids at the expense of being their dad. I described for them the five stages of parenting:
Stage 1: Dictator. This is the time when kids are under the age of 5. They can’t do much for themselves and they don’t have discernment about life. As a result, parents make all their decisions. Without a strong, commanding parent, toddlers get into danger, mischief and foolishness. In fact, basic character is developed during this time of life so parents need to be vigilant so that kids learn the most important lessons in life, such as honesty, teamwork, urgency, sharing and discipline.
Stage 2: Director. This is that period time in between kids entering school and exploding into puberty. Kids explore during this development stage to figure out his or her possibilities. It is best during this time for kids to try out a lot of different things. Kids discover whether they are good at athletics, music, academics, socializing, technology, etc by trying them out. It is a parent’s job during this time to direct kids into activities and commitments that help them discover their basic capabilities. Kids get more freedom here but they are still under the close supervision of directive parents.
Stage 3: Coach. This is the awesome years of puberty. Adolescents mostly develop through experimentation because they are growing physically at a frantic pace which makes it harder for them to think strategically. Without a coach who challenges them to make decisions, teens will just “feel” their way through these tumultuous years, which may or may not turn out well for them. As an illustration, I pointed out this is the time when parents ought to stop saying, “No,” and start staying, “Tell me why I should say, ‘Yes.’” This gives decision-making responsibility to the teenager while leaving veto power in the hands of the adult.
Stage 4: Consultant. This role happens during the 20s. Your kids have made decisions about who they are and they are now actively trying to live out their identity. Parents at this point wait in the shadows until they are asked for advice. Our kids know we have knowledge that will help but they are determined to make it on their own. They are, therefore, reluctant to ask but hoping we are available if necessary.
Stage 5: Peers. If things have gone well, your kids grow up and become adults. At this stage, they know more about some things in life than you and they respect the fact that you know some things better than they do. As a result, a true friendship is possible where you both contribute to the relationship as equals.
It makes sense to me that 2 Peter 3:18 should apply to our relationships, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” As we grow, we ought to expect that our most important relationships will change. They will mature, they will require new skills, they will bring new challenges and they will bring fresh rewards. Let’s all be better a year from now than we are today!