Some of us are still doing the last minute shopping and getting the kids' hair done at the salons or barbershops. Prepping for that first week. Realigning schedules, making sure we know where the bus stop is, packing backpacks with supplies, and planning outfits.
The annual hustle and bustle that parents get to enjoy 🙂
As my son, starts 7th grade, I'm a lot less nervous and anxious this year as I was last year when he first started middle school. We have a daily routine that worked really well last year, that we will continue this year.
However, as I watch my child literally continue to grow before my very eyes (he's pretty much my height now - scary), I am both happy and sad. He's not a baby anymore. And let's face it, in a few years he will be off to college.
In the midst of all the mixed emotions, God reminded me of a few things this morning. Things that I as a Christian mother, need to remember to do. And I'll share those things with you.
Proverbs 22:6 says:
Now we all know its our responsibility as parents to provide for and train our kids. But what does "training our kids" actually look like in real life? There are so many things that I could list here and this blog post could on and on. But, I've decided to stay specifically on the topic of "Back to School".
So here are what I'm going to call my 5 Back to School Parenting 101 tips.
I can't emphasize this one enough. Whether your child is starting Pre-K or their senior year of high school - start praying NOW! We are naive if we think our kids are just going to be okay simply because we are raising them in a Christian home.
I have been teaching my Sunday School kids for the last 2 months about the devil and how he operates in our lives. And I mean, come on parents. We all know how much crap is at the disposal of today's generation!
My son has NEVER been in any serious trouble. He is an Honor Roll student, plays basketball and is loved by all his teachers and peers alike. However, I know its only by the grace of God. And I know as a mom, that if I want him to stay on the right path, I MUST pray for my child - EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Your little Susie may be a sweet little angel - but the devil does not play favorites. We are not with our kids 24/7 - but God is and we MUST pray for his guidance and protection in their lives!
Side note: if we aren't teaching them what to look out for, how will they learn or know? But that's another post....
2. Pay Attention
Again, this is even more necessary for those of us who have so-called "good" children. Just because they are behaving like a "model child", doesn't mean they aren't "dabbling" in things they are not supposed to be. Between TV, YouTube, social media, cell phones, video games, mobile devices and music - there is literally nothing our kids can't access today.
Do you know what your child is watching? What they listen to? Do you even know if they have a secret social media page? Who are they texting regularly? Who is texting them?
My son is a HUGE Fortnite fan and he converses with people via what's called Xbox Live. At one point I assumed it was just friends - but they can literally talk to and play the game with ANYONE on the internet. Needless to say, I had to have both a conversation and put some very specific restrictive parental control measures in place.
However, had I not been paying attention - I would have left him to his devices, as so many of us parents often do without giving it a second thought.
3. Have Real Conversations
These days you see it everywhere you go - restaurant, shopping mall, movie theater, doctor's office, even church: everyone is on their cell phone. A family or group of 4-6 people (of various ages) will be sitting at the same table but no one is talking to each other. Everyone is on their cell phone for one reason or another.
Electronic devices and social media have taken the place of real conversations today. If most of us were to describe a typical "day in the life" we would have to admit that we spend little to no real time having conversations with our kids.
And no, the old "how was your day" and "fine" does NOT count as a conversation!
With this generation, we have to be a bit more clever and willing to go above and beyond to spark true conversations. We have to know what questions to ask and how to ask them. How to get something other than a yes, no or one word response. We also can't be so "busy" and preoccupied ourselves that we don't even try.
"I guarantee, even though it may seem like your kids are in their own world and don't want to be bothered, let alone have a conversation with you, most of them are craving your attention and are dying for their parents to show even some remote interest in them."
We have to do a better job at listening and asking the right questions to stimulate real conversations with our kids.
Here's a few ideas for this first week of school:
- Instead of how was your day - "my day at work was crazy today, what was the craziest part of your day at school?"
- Instead of did you see any of your friends from last year - "which of your friends from last year did you see today? Do they have any classes with you?"
- Instead of do you like your schedule - "which class do you think you're going to enjoy most this semester? why? which teacher?"
- Instead of did you have any issues at school today - "how has the environment been at school this week - any bullying, profanity, or fights that broke out?"
- Instead of did you do your homework - "what homework did you have today? Let me take a look to see if I even remember how to do this stuff."
Even if you have to force yourself to do it - do it! Eventually, it will become a good habit. One that leads to more conversations and ultimately a better relationship with your kids.
4. Get Involved
If you're like me, you really are super busy and don't have time to be a part of the PTA or anything else for that matter. However, I've learned that even if I can commit to one thing, that I should. Trust me, it goes a long way with your kid!
If your child plays a sport - you definitely should make it a point to attend as many if not all the games that you can. NOTE: if you can't make a game but are free during practice time - you can show up for that too.
Your child may love art, write poetry, play in the school band, or may even be President of the Debate Team. Whatever the case, if and when you are free you should show up!
My mind runs a mile a minute at any given point in the day and one of my biggest pet peeves is "wasting time". If I could be writing or making money or doing something better, I would rather be doing that! But God had to teach me, that as a parent, that any time we invest into our children is not wasted time. Even if we don't necessarily enjoy it or want to do it at the time.
There is no way we can truly "train our children" without ever getting involved to some degree into what they do. Its a sacrifice that comes with the job of parenting.
And again for those who truly have demanding round the clock jobs that simply do not allow you to break free - this goes back to what I mentioned earlier about being more clever. You have to come up with ways to compensate for your lack of physical presence.
Here are a few ideas:
- If you know you're going to miss a big game, or recital or performance, have someone video record it. Then set a time for you and your child to watch it together. Get popcorn and everything!
- If you missed a presentation where they won an award, have them re-enact it for you at home and then take them out to dinner or a movie - or both!
- Maybe they tried out for a sports team but didn't make the cut - start working with them in the evenings or on the weekend to develop their skills.
- If they failed a big test but have an opportunity for a retake - find a creative way to help them study - make it into a jeopardy game.
- If they have a school project (as much as I hate these lol), help them come up with creative ideas and work with them to build it/put it together (ahhhh the memories of a huge lego bridge from when my son was in 5th grade)
5. Set Goals & Rewards
This is one of my favorite things to do - for myself and others. I even had my Sunday school kids create a "vision board" of the 5 key things they wanted to accomplish for this upcoming school year.
Regardless of what academic level your child is at, setting goals is so important. Without them, a C student can easily become an F student. And A student could just as easily become a C student. And its not just about grades.
Goals should be in the area of academics, behavior, social involvement, and what I like to call "risk taking". I challenge my church kids to try to do "new things" or things they wouldn't normally do.
My son hasn't had straight A's since elementary school - which is not a problem at all - I am totally ok with A/B Honor Roll. But I challenged him to see if he can get straight A's this new school year. And not only that, but I offered a monetary reward for each grading period where he does it. So now he is even more motivated about it.
And by the way, even if he gets super close (all As and a B), he will still be rewarded. Its all about teaching our kids to strive to do and be better. And even more importantly, when they do hit their goals we ABSOLUTELY MUST celebrate with them. Even what we may see as "small victories" should be celebrated. It's these very things that we do during their childhood that will go a long way for them as individuals in life.
Maybe its passing a test, making a team, getting perfect attendance, recognition by a teacher, being voted class president, making the drama team, going a semester without any behavior issues, trying to learn to play a new instrument, bringing a D on a report card up to a C+. Whatever the goal, and whatever the resulting achievement may be - reward and celebrate with your kids!
Parenting has never been an easy thing to do.
And with the various distractions facing our current generation of young people, it has gotten all the more challenging. In the midst of it all, I know one thing has remained constant – God! As Christian parents we will ALWAYS have an advantage with God being on our side.
My prayer is that we will stand strong, hold to His Word, pray more than ever before, and ask God for strength to be the best parents He has called us to be for our kids. Lets not allow the devil to creep in and cause unnecessary chaos simply because we stopped:
- paying attention
- having real conversations
- getting involved
- and setting goals and celebrating with our kids
Yes – the kids are back in school! And if you’re being honest like me, you are happy! LOL. But, let’s be challenged as parents to do our part to make this an awesome school year for our kids as well!
And BTW – aunts, uncles, godparents, and grandparents can participate in all these same things – it still takes a village!