We were visiting with a family the other night over dinner. They started to share about their concerns for their 14 year old daughter. She was starting to pull away from the family. She would hide in her room, texting her friends or playing games on the internet with them. She resented when she was asked to help out with chores and other household duties. This family has done a great job training their children in Godly character over the years, and they wondered what has gone wrong.
I (Joey) don’t think they were reassured when we told them this was normal behavior and to be expected. This is their oldest child, and they just were not prepared for the middle years. Oh they have gone through GKGW several times, taken the GFI Middle Years class, and listened to the Mom’s Notes, but having information is one thing, when the explosion comes in the form of unexpected behavior, it is another thing altogether. To some extent, we all live in denial. We get information, but we don’t think it is going to happen to our kids. When it does, the rug is literally pulled out from underneath us.
I (Joey) reminded these parents of two things they learned in Growing Kids God’s Way (Cpt 17); the independent and interdependent families. Let’s say the members of your family are standing in a circle, holding hands with their backs to the inside of the circle. This is your independent family. Everyone’s focus is where their interests lie, not with each other.
Try standing in a circle again, still holding hands but facing inward. This is what an interdependent family looks like. Everyone is focused on the needs of the family as a whole. The members of an interdependent family support each other, and make each other a priority. They realize no matter what, you have their backs and they will have yours. For fourteen years, all the members of this family had been facing inward, but the daughter flipped around and is now facing outward. Once the parents realized this, they knew what they needed to do to turn her back around so their family is interdependent once more.
How do you build an interdependent family? It is called “Family Identity.” Take family trips and plan activities where you build memories that withstand the rigors of the worst times of your family. Parents and kids alike sacrifice certain things you want to do in life to have nights of playing games or making ice cream, going for a bike ride as a family, or just for a walk. The family talks around the dinner table instead of shoveling food down and running to do their own thing.
When parents are busy with their own activities, kids will find substitutes for their parents to spend time with. They don’t care if their friends have the same values and standards you have trained them to. If someone shows interest in them and is nice to them, that qualifies them as a good friend, regardless what their personal beliefs are. Parenting is a season of your life. When your kids are adults, you will crave time with them. Start building a relationship now that will lead to a lifetime of friendship.
I learned to play Frisbee golf because it was someone my son enjoyed doing. Although Carla would have preferred to scrapbook by herself, she allowed both our daughters to scrap with her and encouraged them in their efforts. Carla will tell you she has played more games of Uno than she cares to think about. We found ways to do what our kids enjoyed doing.
We assigned each of our children a week every month to plan our weekly family night. I am sure Michael still remembers the time his younger sister excitedly gave us all pictures she had copied from her color books to color and make up stories about. We were pleased to see him put a smile on his face and participate in this activity without complaining. This was our family rule: If you wanted the members of the family to participate in the family night you planned each month without whining and complaining, you had to do the same for them. Michael and I cheerfully participated in “dress-up night,” knowing Briana had planned what she wanted us to wear. She had a great time putting curlers in our hair and make-up on our faces. Speaking of scrapbooking, many of these nights have been recorded for posterity in photos, so we all have fun when we are together laughing and remembering.
When I (Joey) was growing up, we had a family vacation where we didn’t leave town. We were each given a day of the week to plan something to do. We went bowling on my brother’s day, to my sister’s favorite restaurant one night in another town, roller skating on my day and so on (I am pretty sure we cleaned house on my mom’s day).
How many things do you do as a family? To develop family identity, we strongly encourage you to plan a family night once a week. If you are too busy to give your undivided attention to your family one night a week, then you are too busy. You will not believe the encouragement this will be to your children, no matter their age. When our kids got to be teens, they kept family night a priority and would not plan other things to do that night, including taking babysitting jobs. That is how important family night was to them.
As parents, we have committed many sins that have offended our kids over the years. But, I have found, aside from going through the Repentance, Forgiveness and Restoration process with them, the one antidote that can cover a multitude of parental sins is to build family identity with them.
There is a Mom’s Notes presentation entitled, “Building Family Identity” (Volume 3).
If you already own this presentation, this might be a good time to listen to it again.