4 Lessons for Parents to Learn this School Year

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4 Lessons for Parents to Learn this School Year

Our son’s senior year has begun.  A year I have jokingly referred to as a year of meeting deadlines and writing checks. There’s always a deadline looming and every deadline requires a check!  But in all seriousness, it’s already turning out to be a year of great reflection for me.  These years of schooling haven’t just given him an education, I got one, too.  Here’s a snippet of some lessons I learned in his twelve years, stuff I wish I could say I always learned easily.  But really, some of it I learned the hard way . . .

Douglas Cleverly, age 17, first day of Senior Year at DMHS, Scottsdale, AZ
Lesson 1.- Your kids can get a bad teacher at an awesome school.  (And by the same token they can get an awesome teacher at a bad school.)  Of course it’s a definite red flag if the good isn’t outweighing the bad.  But a year with a difficult, harsh, incompetent, unkind (insert your choice of undesirable qualities here) teacher doesn’t have to be a waste of a year.  Both my kids have experienced this – more than once. Yes, it meant they spent more time than they wanted to with a tutor (sometimes to little avail).  Yes, it meant they dreaded entering certain classrooms. It didn’t kill them.  They overcame.  They persevered.  Reading, writing, and arithmetic aren’t the only things in life worth learning. Lesson 2.- Your kids need to learn to manage their own friendships.  Especially when problems arise.  You can give them wise input.  You can stay in communication with them about how things are progressing. When they are very young, there may be times when a situation has gotten so difficult that you need to step in and communicate (or even advocate) for them.  But, that should be a truly rare occasion.  And if a parent-to-parent conversation does call for any firm boundaries, choose your words carefully and speak them with kindness and an openness to future reconciliation.  Little eyes are watching the way you love. Lesson 3.- Your kids might be bothered. It doesn’t mean they are being bullied. We use that term entirely too recklessly in today’s world.  A mean word isn’t bullying.  Being excluded from a birthday party isn’t bullying.  A push on the playground isn’t bullying.  These are hurtful behaviors common among immature, underdeveloped, self-centered humans known as children.  And children have an annoying habit of acting childishly.  Bullying involves an intent to harm, an imbalance of power, and repeated acts or threats of aggressive behavior.  And while it cannot go unaddressed and uncorrected, it is so much less common than our modern media would have us believe.  We do our kids a disservice by not helping them identify the real distinctions between hurtful behavior and true bullying and the appropriate responses to both.  They need us to help them have the confidence and character to live in a world that won’t always be on their side. Lesson 4.- Your kids will fail. In academics.  In relationships.  In their behavior.  Sometimes in all these areas, all in one day.  If there are difficult natural consequences to their choices, don’t stand in the way.  You’ll want to.  Really badly. Sometimes you will. Don’t make it a habit.  A poor grade in math won’t define them.  A friendship that couldn’t ever be fully restored won’t define them.  A month without the car won’t define them.  Never learning to fall off their horse, brush themselves off, and get back on to ride again – this will define them.  Failure is an exceptional teacher.  We parents know this to be true.  Because we have experienced failure.  And while it’s sometimes terrifying to allow our kids to fail and sometimes excruciating to watch them endure the effects, they really just need to know we will walk through the consequences with them, celebrate when they get to the other side, and have faith in them that they can begin again.  This is how our great, failure-redeeming God parents us. These school years are full of wonderful joy and great growth for our kids and for us.  They also bring heartache and sleepless nights – for our kids and for us.  But in these many years of my kids in school, the best lesson I ever learned is that all the hard stuff was just a wonderful excuse to be on my knees in dependence to a big God who has been with us through it all.

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