By Susan Merrill
No matter how old or young your child is, they can always run into trouble, especially when it comes to opportunities and choices with friends. Maybe I just felt like my kids were at risk more, because I was pretty particular about things my kids were exposed to, like movies, music, crude language, clothing, etc. I have 5 kids all within 6 years of each other, so I know a lot of kids and many parents. I have seen patterns of how kids travel down the slippery slope to trouble and how some parents learn how to head it off with a detour!
Below are three ways you can divert them before you end up with kids in trouble. But first, one overriding tip for all three: find a few “Parenting Wingmen!” Every parent needs a few wingmen! These are relatives, friends and other parents who can help you provide protective support for your kids. Your sister, for example, might be a great wingman for you. She can stay involved in your kids’ lives by following your kids on Facebook and Instagram. Your mom might be able to speak words into your child’s ears that echo your words but from a different perspective. She can listen to you when you have a dilemma with your kids and she can encourage you when you are worried. Here are some examples of diversions I have created for events or situations I felt might lead to trouble.
Scenario Number 1: A Troublesome Event
In sixth grade, one of my daughters was invited to her first boy-girl party. Mark and I were not at all comfortable with the situation. The classmate hosting the party was boy crazy, the party was later at night and the parents were permissive. There were no mentioned activities and to make it a little more out of control the entire grade was invited. Mark and I were leery, our daughter was excited and I needed support.
I phoned a friend/wingman. She knew this family and agreed that while this party was probably not dangerous, it was a troublesome opportunity for situations a twelve-year-old shouldn’t have to face. My friend and I created a diversion–her daughter would spend the night with my daughter, and we would plan a fun outing. When I explained to my daughter why I thought she shouldn’t go, she was disappointed but somewhat consoled by my alternative diversion.
The night of the party, she and her friend had a great time, but as I was tucking them into bed she got a little sad. She said, “Mom, everyone probably had so much fun. They will talk about the party all day at school, and I will be left out.” Then I said words only God could have divinely placed in my mouth, “Honey, think about it, they probably did a bunch of stuff you really wouldn’t want to do. Like, what if they played spin the bottle and you ended up having to kiss that boy that drives you crazy. And then, on Monday you would have to sit next to him for a whole hour in math class.” Her face was priceless: “YUK!” She went to bed happy.
On Monday, the first thing she said to me when she got in the car after school was, “Mom, you are not going to believe this. They did play spin the bottle, and my friend had to kiss that boy!” (YUK look again with added horror). My daughter had avoided something she really didn’t want, and she was greatly relieved. Playing spin the bottle is not what most would consider an extremely dangerous kind of trouble. However, my daughter learned to listen to me a little more before pushing to do things—thank you, Lord! And I often have wondered what future trouble was diverted because she learned this lesson early.
Scenario Number 2: A Troublesome
One of my daughters had a really sweet, best, best friend throughout elementary and middle school. They were inseparable. But when high school came, things changed. The friend chose another path that my daughter couldn’t go down. She vacillated daily in her emotions—wanting to be with her friend, knowing in her heart it was wrong, and frustrated when confronted by me if she chose to join her friend. I was worried and sad for her. She was lost and lonely.
I phoned my mother-in-law/wingman. My mother-in-law is really great about making my kids feel special and treating them to little luxuries and outings. She spent a lot of time with my daughter encouraging her, praising her for doing the right thing, filling her time with fun diversions. My mother-in-law diverted my daughter from the temptation to join her friend headed for trouble by spending time with her. It worked because it gave my daughter time to grieve the loss of her friend and time to make new friends. By the end of her freshman year, she had found a new group of more like-minded girls to hang out with.
Scenario Number 3: A Troublesome
All of my children have experienced a troublesome disappointment. These are times when they didn’t get the opportunity they wanted and their self-esteem was rocked. It has happened to them in sports–they didn’t make a team or get a starting position; in chorus/drama–they didn’t get the part; in academics–they didn’t get the score for that college or academic honor; in leadership–they didn’t get elected for a position. All of my kids have had humbling experiences, and I am thankful for that. Humility is a wonderful characteristic that is usually learned from experience.
However, there have been times when the experience has led to dejection and self-deprecation. They have been uprooted from friendships because they didn’t make a team all their friends were on. They have been confounded by multiple failings in the same area, leading them to believe they just weren’t good enough. They have been unjustly treated by adults running things unfairly, and it led them to believe it didn’t matter how hard they tried because the world is unfair so what is the point.
In each of these situations, I have had to phone all kinds of wingmen–a past piano teacher who loved my daughter, an aunt who had a similar experience growing up, a young adult in our church who had a cool connection with our child, and so many more. Sometimes I called new people I didn’t really know and explained the situation asking if they could help, like a coach I heard about that ran his team differently or a ballet teacher who wasn’t so critical. Sometimes the diversion was to pull the child back from the world for a time and fill their time with family. Outdoors are great for helping you gain perspective, like fishing or camping trips where they can just be quiet and be filled with praise from us, away from whatever was so disparaging.
Diverting our kids when they are headed for trouble is a big part of training them up and takes a lot of time. But with a few wingmen and inspiration from the Lord–you can do it!
Copyright 2017. iMOM.
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