How to teach your preteen responsibility

Crystal Cox

Everyone has a different parenting philosophy. In the search for the best way to raise my two children, I found valuable parenting insights in the Bible.

One of my favorite images of God is found in Matthew 23:37. Jesus says, “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” What a perfect picture of the love a parent has for a child, providing for and protecting them.

I remember being that mother hen, showing my love in that way when my children were babies. Soon, my children were learning so many new things. I couldn’t hold them as close because they were longing to venture out and needed more freedom.

The Transition From Protecting to Teaching

I think about Jesus, how in Matthew 4:19, He asked His disciples to “Come, follow me.” His disciples spent several years physically following and learning from Him.

I think about that mother hen again. Her chicks begin to venture out and follow her around the yard as she teaches them to find food, take dust baths, communicate, and rest. I still protected my children as they grew, but my primary role transitioned to having my children follow and learn from me.

Learning to Let Go

My children are now 12 and 15 years old. I’m still loving them in those first ways, but I am beginning to experience the next stage of parenting as they settle into their teenage years, where the chicks are ready to live without the hen. It pierces my heart, but this too is part of a parent’s love expression toward their children.

Ask God to help you follow Him and be the kind of parent He is: protecting, leading, and letting go.

After the disciples had followed and learned from Jesus, there came a time He wasn’t going to be present with them in the same way. He commissioned them in Matthew 28:19-20 to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” He promised that, “...surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Practical Tips to Transfer Responsibility to Your Children

My husband and I are transitioning from doing everything for and making every decision for our children to seeing them into adulthood. It’s a tough learning process. These are some practical ways a parent can transfer the responsibilities of life from parent to child.

  1. Allow them to do what they are able to do. An example in my life is laundry: until recently, I was doing it for them. (I hovered in this area way too long.)
  2. Remind them to serve others because Jesus modeled being a servant (Matthew 20:28). This means if I have space to throw some of their clothes in with my load, I do. My heart is so happy when they serve in the same way.
  3. Focus on their heart, not their behavior. We have to focus them on allowing Jesus to shape their hearts. A heart that loves Jesus will keep them close to Him in a way a “don’t do these things” list never will.
  4. Pick your battles. Give them room to be an individual. When my daughter first started picking out her own clothes, a few of her choices made me cringe, but they were appropriate. I decided to give her space to choose, even if it wasn’t the choice I would have made.
  5. Prepare them for tasks by teaching them to think through the situation before facing it. My son is new to driving. We gave him a lot of guidance in the beginning, but I have to remind myself to give him the opportunity to remember the steps he needs to take. If I tell him every step, every time, he will not gain independence.
  6. Remember mistakes are part of learning. We have to check our reactions to them. When our children learned to use a cup,  there were a lot of spills. Spills are not worth losing our cool. Everyone has one sometimes.
  7. Allow other people who love Jesus to influence their lives. My husband and I partner together to love and teach our children, but we also value the part their church leaders and family play. As they grow older, they need other people in place speaking the same truths into their lives as we do.
  8. Pray for your children. If you did everything right, they would have heartache. If you taught them perfectly, they would still make mistakes. Ask for their growth and for God’s grace and mercy to cover them every day (2 Peter 3:18).
  9. Pray for guidance. Ask God to help you follow Him and be the kind of parent He is: protecting, leading, and letting go.

I have learned through the last 15 years of being Mama I am not alone. You don’t have to face the challenges of parenting alone, either. Be encouraged! God wants to lead you through this journey!

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