Helping Kids Make Great Choices
By Pam Farrel
I grew up on a sheep farm. Our flock was large, but to be honest, we had our favorites. Our 4-H show (breeding) sheep were like our “kids.” We took extra time with their care and feeding. In the same way, our own children deserve extra time and attention in the busy schedules of our lives. We want our kids, and the way they handle relationships, to be a reflection of how God loves.
Bill and I decided we wanted to leave our “trademark” on our kids’ hearts with Traditions and Memories. These are the proactive moments aimed at helping your son or daughter eventually make great choices when it comes to love, dating, marriage, and sex (hopefully in that order).
Let us give you a few ideas of Traditions and Memories from our new book, Questions Kids Ask About Sex
- Traditions – These are things you do year after year to reinforce core principles.
- Memories – These are once-in-a-lifetime events that mark a moment or drive home a point.
We will just mention two of our traditions:
Learner and Leader Day. This is held the week before school begins each year. We have a fun family day, then negotiate a privileges and responsibilities contract. The plus side of having a yearly tradition like this is our kids thought it “normal” to make contracts, set goals, and negotiate new privileges—and eventually the privilege of dating became one of them!
Christmas Blessing. Each year at our Christmas dinner we say a blessing over each one of our kids—as individuals. We compliment them, share a verse or quote that they embody, then we pray for them. Often the character qualities that eventually become vital in the area of relationships were some of the earliest we complimented: honesty, delayed gratification (patience), kindness, etc.
By reinforcing key values and beliefs year after year you develop an inner moral compass or GPS in your son or daughter. As we interacted, from our kid’s preschool years on, one “tradition” was to always ask the child when he or she was making a decision (of any kind): “Have you checked your GPS?” – Does this decision (action, behavior, choice) show respect for:
Be proactive in your daily, weekly, monthly or yearly traditions and you will see them pick up the principles of life and love that you hold dear.
Often memory making involves Rites of Passage. For example, you can mark their double digit birthday (11), or entering their teen years (13), the beginning of menses (for daughters) or the day they first use a razor (for sons) or the day you allow them to date, drive, and depart home for college or the military!
Often these Rites of Passage are gender specific:
Modern Day Knight celebration is when you as a parent prepare a son to become an “adult” then celebrate this marker with a party, often inviting friends and family. We read Robert Lewis’ Modern Day Knight when our sons were preschoolers and began to implement various rites of passage along their growing up years. Since we had all sons, our celebration was a “Walk into Manhood.” One son, a quarterback, invited mentors to the football field for a walk up and down the field then BBQ; another, who loved his truck, had a “Drive into Manhood” at a race track and mentors walked the race track and poured wisdom into his heart. The last was an “On Target for Manhood” held at a shooting range accompanied by dinner.
Modern Day Princess Party: In my book, Raising a Modern Day Princess, founder, Doreen Hanna, and I share numerous ideas to mark a teen girls’ transition into being a grown up, from a simple tea with her mentors to a Sweet 16 celebration, but with a Biblical, meaningful twist. Often girls enjoy these parties together, as a group they can go through Becoming a Modern Day Princess girls' journal, and all the parents can pitch in to celebrate, bless, and pray for their daughters. (Many churches sponsor Modern Day Princess groups).
Another resource we recommend to you that we developed as youth pastors, and then also used with our own kids, is the Teen Relationship Contract. At age 11 or 12, each of our tweens completed their first contract (a Bible study and Q and A workbook they fill in that can be downloaded from www.Love-Wise.com). They were rewarded with a dinner out with mom and dad. (This dinner often included more dialogue and discussions on love, sex, and relationships). Each year we would then take each son out solo for a meal and they/we could add more privileges to the contract, ask questions, make adjustments, raise accountability, etc—whatever they needed to be more successful in the guy-girl relationship area.
This is work to be sure, but the payoff to us became the beautiful, God-loving women my oldest two sons have married. Those wedding days were the precious dividends for the investment of all the late night meaningful conversations (and some painful days of “restriction” to help them stay on course). It is precious to watch your kids find, “the one my heart loves” (Song of Solomon 3:4) – God’s best mate for them.
Recently, we had the joy of seeing the baton of love and faith pass securely from our hands and hearts to our oldest son and his wife. Brock is a coach who recently shared with his players his love story which included waiting until marriage for sex. His wife, Hannah, shared their love story to over a hundred moms and daughters, and they heard how having extraordinary self control (they waited till engagement to kiss), has turned into a beautifully strong marriage and family. Our son’s love story has been featured in several of our books and numerous TV and radio programs, so it has traveled worldwide which is what we believe God hopes for every young person (including ministry kids!) He wants His love to create epic, heroic love stories that inspire people to want to be loved by God and love others with God’s love.
It is really the words of my daughter-in-laws themselves that bring tears to our eyes because somehow in partnering with God and doing things with heavenly values in mind, Bill and I ended up with three sons who are leaders who love God—and love their wives well.
Let’s hear it from my daughter’s-in-law:
Hannah: I don’t think I can put the payoffs into one quote, It would take a book to summarize the benefits of being married to a Farrel. For our anniversary, I came up with 84 things that I respected about Brock. One for each month we’ve been married. What’s crazy is that it was EASY to come up with that many things.
Caleigh: Marrying a man who values his relationships as his top priority is the biggest blessing I could ever ask for! Zach tells me almost every day that he wants to make an impact on anyone that comes in his life. He follows this by saying, “As a couple, I want us to make that same impact on every couple we come in contact with! It is our goal to show people our love for one another and our passion to have such a STRONG relationship!'”
Make a date and discuss as a couple, what Traditions and Memories can you make a part of your family rhythm? God wants your love to be a bright light for His love—but He also wants this same precious payoff of loving according to God’s traditions to become a beautiful memory for your kids too!