Milestones for Boys

Passport2Purity.jpgThis month it seems we have just been clicking off the milestones for my 12-year-old son, Jonathan. Jonathan has been in the same school, St. Paul Christian Academy, since Kindergarten and is graduating tomorrow night. So we have been doing the last of everything: last Field Day, last day of classes, last field trip, last tests, etc. But there have been so many other milestones that hit at the age of 12: his last year in Bible drill, his last year playing Cal Ripken baseball, and all the other milestones of being a last-year preteen.

I have been thinking for quite a while how to help Jonathan mark this transition into becoming a teenager. I am leaning toward a road trip this summer and going through the Passport2Purity study with him as part of that trip. Passport2Purity is produced by FamilyLife.

I would love to know what you have done to help your preteen mark this transition into the teenage years. What worked well and what does not? Thanks for your help!

Punishment or Discipline?

June_22_preteen.jpg“What did you say?” I asked my almost 12-year-old son. When he admitted his guilt of intentionally using an obscene word, I responded with a small tirade, complete with restrictions from video games, an explanation that God insists we not talk that way, and threats for washing his mouth out with soap if it happened again.

As I stormed off, the thought of “at least he was honest with me” made me pause.  He was honest.  I did not want to squelch that with an excessive reaction.  What I wanted was his understanding that this wasn’t about me, but about God’s direction for his life.  He needed to understand that cursing was a choice against God, not a choice against me.  My son was at a critical point in his life where he was increasingly choosing his own reasons and influences for his behavior.  I wanted him to see God’s Word as a positive source of authority in his life.  If his choices were solely to gain my approval or to avoid punishment, what would motivate him when he was alone?

So breathing a silent prayer, I returned to my son.  I thanked him for being honest with me and reiterated, calmly this time, how it is God’s Word that directs us not to curse.  I explained that using those words can easily become a bad habit, one difficult to break.  I wanted to spare him that by helping him to not even get started.  Therefore, I was going to offer him a choice, and he could decide which one would help him not to talk like that again.  He could be on restriction from video games for 24 hours, or he could learn a verse from the Bible where God says not to talk that way.  He would write the verse and learn it so he could recite it anytime I asked.  He eagerly chose to write the verse rather than give up his video games.  It felt like he’d chosen the easy route, but after he’d memorized it within 36 hours, I wondered just what I had stumbled upon. I had never thought to do this before.  Had God just introduced me to a new discipline technique?

In my own life, when God brings a struggle to my attention, I often do a word study in Scripture or search out related verses and then saturate myself with God’s Word to help me overcome the issue.  Didn’t it make sense to teach my son the same process?  As a teacher, I had always avoided using writing or reading as venues for punishment.  But God helped me see that this process wasn’t about punishment.  It was the training mentioned in Proverbs 22:6.  This was about building a lifelong discipline into my son’s life, not just a momentary punishment for an isolated incident.

When I overheard my son correcting another individual several days later for using some choice words, I knew the process had helped him.  Looking at Scripture, I understood why.  When we read about the armor of God in Ephesians 6, we are introduced to many protective pieces, but only one weapon: “The sword of the spirit, which is God’s Word.”  By committing Ephesians 5:4 to memory, my son had picked up a spiritual weapon against the temptation to speak obscenely again.  And this was a weapon always with him, even when alone.

I also realized that when I instituted excessive consequences as punishment in my desire to eliminate the behavior, I was teaching the wrong motivation and authority.  If my son behaved out of fear-fear of making a mistake, fear of rejection, fear of my wrath-I was actually reinforcing a negative stronghold in his life.  If his behavior was shaped by avoiding punishment, wasn’t his motivation more about serving pleasure and self rather than the Word of God?  If I wanted the Word of God to be the authority in his life, it is important that I follow God’s pattern of correction.  When Jesus confronted the adulterous woman, he did not expend his energies on judging and condemning her actions, but rather providing God’s standard for her to follow.   

This has been a radical change in my approach to raising a preteen.  It is now about discipline rather than punishment; about grace rather than judgment; about the future instead of the past.  It honors his growing need for autonomy, and it makes God’s Word his authority.  I’ve found it important to keep the verses short and very specific.  Using multiple translations helps me find the best wording for the most powerful impact.  It has brought an added bonus in that our entire family learns the scriptures, not just the individual.  Most importantly, it is creating a life-long discipline that will serve my son well for his entire life.  And isn’t that what parenting is supposed to be about?

Sample scriptures for memorizing:

Anger- Ephesians 4:26
Arguing/Complaining- Philippians 2:14
Attitude – Philippians 2:5
Bickering – 1 Thessalonians 5:13
Bragging- Galatians 6:14
Cursing – James 3:10
Greed – 1Timothy 6:8
Grumbling – James 5:9
Laziness/sloppy work – Colossians 3:23
Lying – Colossians 3:9
Obedience – Colossians 3:20
Peer Pressure – Galatians 1:10
Pride – 1 Peter 5:5
Respect – 1 Peter 2:17
Retaliation – 1 Thessalonians 5:15

Juli Lubelczyk is a freelance writer from Elkridge, Maryland, where she lives with her husband and preteen son.  An elementary teacher, she is currently on leave to care for her son who battles mitochondrial disease.

Winter Wonder Slam 2009

WinterWonderSlam09.jpgLooking for a fun event for you and your preteen? Check out the Winter Wonder Slam 2009 Tour  headlined by GRAMMY® Award winner TobyMac. The tour also features the talents of Relient K, B.Reith, and Stephanie Smith. For the first time ever the tour will head to the West Coast as well as making its way to New York City; Fairfax, Virginia; Pittsburgh; and numerous other cities across the states.

The tour continues its tradition of giving, as Winter Wonder Slam teams up with the U.S. Marine Corps to help with their Toys for Tots campaign. Toys for Tots aims to provide tangible signs of hope to economically disadvantaged children at Christmas. Music fanatics will be encouraged to bring an unwrapped gift to the event as Marines will be on site to collect toys at every venue.

This will be the fifth year that TobyMac has brought his highly energetic show to the holiday season to crowds across the country. This family reunion show is one that keeps bringing people back for more each year sharing the true meaning of Christmas.
 
For more details on Winter Wonder Slam 2009, visit www.winterwonderslam.com or www.tobymac.com.