Answering top questions from today’s parents PART III

In PART I and PART II of this series we already tackled some of the big questions today’s parents are asking…

How do I regulate screen time with a high functioning autistic kid?

When your kids push you away and go silent, how do you reconnect?

Is there a way to receive your kids’ texts directly on your device?

These are just a few of the countless questions I just received from parents… and for three days I’ve been answering them in this blog. Each day I’m narrowing it down to the top 10.

Here are the final 10 answers to the last 10 questions…

QUESTIONS FROM TODAY’S PARENTS, PART II

1. What suggestions do you have about young people creating their online identity? For ex: professionals are told to have LinkedIn with followers because we have to network. As adults, we have a social media presence or we are considered odd. How do we guide them in understanding their online identity?

I think here’s a perfect opportunity to teach our kids truth and see how that truth seeps into the other areas of their lives like “online identity.” In other words, the more we teach our kids who they are “in Christ” (II Cor 5:17) and their mission of “we don’t preach ourselves, we preach Christ the Lord” (II Cor 4:5), the more they’ll know how to live this out in every area of their lives, including online.

For Further Reading: The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, Chapter 8: Take more “Selflessies”, Chapter 9: Like Me

2. How do you defend “right” to check text with the argument that you are invading their privacy?

I wrote about this very subject a few year’s back because it was a huge issue with my daughter, but as you’ll notice, I didn’t post any answers in that article, I just left it open for comments (quite a discussion in that comment section).

Bottom line: I think we need to consider THE SEGUE.

THE SEGUE is a principle I spend an entire chapter on in my book If I Had a Parenting Do Over, I discuss it in Lesson 5 of our free parenting curriculum of the same title, and it’s a principal that Andy Stanley shared that he uses with his kids. It’s the principle of starting strict and then lightening up as our kids grow towards adulthood. In fact, I even recommend letting your kids have NO RULES their senior year. So my 12-year-old is going to have to get used to me looking at her texts. But my 17-year-old won’t. Conversation is a must at both ages, but it’s silly to squeeze tight boundaries on a kid who is going to be leaving the house in 5 months. This is where our conversations with them have much more impact that rules.

For Further Reading: If I Had a Parenting Do Over, Chapter 5: The Segue

3. How do we handle disturbing behavior by our kid’s friends? Do we stay out of it? Or do we engage the school or parents?

My two cents is that you have plenty of conversations with your own kids about who they hang out with- even stepping in and saying, “Sorry, you’re not going to Jackson’s house” if need be. Again, more boundaries when young… less when older. But I wouldn’t contact other parents unless their kids were hurting themselves or others. I would talk with the kid directly with humility and grace.

4. Do you have advice for a single mother with little resources and no father figure? I have 2 teenage boys who I feel like I can’t control.

My advice to you would be the same that I’ve been giving every parent—a balance of bonding and boundaries. But in addition, I would really seek out environments that provide good male role models- churches, youth groups, sports teams, schools with positive male teachers. Those male influences can have an amazing impact in their lives. Embrace that.

Sticky Faith did some amazing research on the power of mentors (I highlight some of that in this article about teens need for mentors), and they really emphasize the more mentors the better. In fact, they recommend 5 or more. So start thinking through what that might look like in your boy’s lives: Mom, grandpa, coach, youth pastor, small group leader, best friend’s dad, etc. The old adage “It takes a village” is proving more true than ever before.

5. Is there any reason to keep some discussions with your kids about apps, social media failures, etc. private from your spouse?

Nope. Parents should be on the same page.

6. How do you engage with your child when their favorite apps or games bore you? (example: Minecraft)

Suck it up. When you’re kids are gone out of the house you’ll wish you would have played some of those boring games with them. Love is full of sacrifices. In my research for my book, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, I asked hundreds of parents what they’d change if they could go back in time and change one parenting practice, and the number one answer was “I’d spend more time with my kid no matter what.”

For Further Reading: If I Had a Parenting Do Over

7. How do you balance freedom for a 16-yr-old and being an authoritative adult who makes decisions? I know she is a 1 1/2 years from leaving home with college and no supervision. How do you know how much freedom is too much?

There is no hard and fast rule for exactly the right rules for a certain age. Each kid is different. Just keep your eyes on the calendar and ask, “Am I preparing her for that day when she leaves for college?” Instead of telling her what to do, ask her, “What should you do?” (More on that HERE).

8. The desire for money, power, fame, and influence is a huge driver in all of this. But everything has tradeoffs. Can you talk about how to have this discussion without sounding like a killjoy?

DJ Khaled recently joined up with Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper, Little Wayne and a few others and cut a track called I’m the One, a song that soared to the top of the charts as each of those guys bragged about their money, status, and possessions. It’s a common theme in today’s music, and apparently a common theme back in Biblical times, because when Jesus taught his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), He shocked his audience painting a picture of humility, selflessness, and compassion. People weren’t used to this kind of teaching… it was as revolutionary then as it is today.

Take your kids through scripture like Matthew 5, especially the Be-Attitudes. Limit lecturing, just read and then ask, “What does Jesus mean by this?” Then ask, “What does that look like today?” “What are some messages that seem to counter this teaching today?” “Who is right?”

Or use our FREE Music Discussions on TheSource4Parents.com. We actually have a discussion for that song, The One, with scripture and questions.

9. Can you talk about the TBH (to be honest) free social networking app that lets friends anonymously answer questions about one another. TBH is a simple social networking app that lets you answer fun, whimsical questions about your friends and collect gems (trophies) every time your friends select your name in answer to a question. Once you give access to your phone’s contact list and location, you can select the high school or college you attend. Since there’s no age verification, adults can join or kids can say they attend a school they don’t. Ultimately, the app draws from your phone’s contact list first and then offers other app users from the school second.

This app is like so many that encourages anonymity. If the word “anonymous” is ever in the description in an app… I think we should steer away from it. Anonymity always conveys “lack of responsibility” or “no accountability.” There is no reason our kids need to be wandering through an online world under the guise that their actions have no repercussions. This only sets them up for failure in the real world where actions actually have consequences. Many young people discover this the hard way when their seemingly “anonymous” online activity comes back to haunt them. In fact, this happens all the time.

For Further Reading: The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, Chapter 6: Unmask: The myth of anonymity

10. Sexting or sending inappropriate pictures are obviously popular among teens. What can be done about creating boundaries when our kids are not with us (ie: school, sports, church, etc.)? How can we protect our kids from being exposed to things they have not asked to be a part of, but are exposed to via group chats or unsolicited texts with inappropriate content?

The sad news is, we can’t protect them from everything. We can provide good boundaries, but then all we can do is teach them truth so they learn to recognize the lies.

When it comes to sexting, a friend might show them an image someday. We can prepare them for this by talking about sexting and pornography in general. The more they know the truth about these distractions, the more equipped they’ll be to make the right decision when they encounter it.

For Further Reading: The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, Chapter 4: The Whole Picture of Those Pictures, Chapter 18: I See London I See France…Why are you showing your underpants?

THAT’S IT! THANKS FOR YOUR QUESTIONS.

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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