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Young people learning to weather life’s storms

A spring thunderstorm is raging outside our Georgia home at 5:00 this morning as I write this blog. My sleep schedule got messed up and I’ve already been awake an hour. Made my cappuccino; built a little fire, and contended with the fear of our animals. Our two dogs and two cats have probabl…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

A spring thunderstorm is raging outside our Georgia home at
5:00 this morning as I write this blog. My sleep schedule got
messed up and I’ve already been awake an hour.
Made my cappuccino; built a little fire, and contended with the fear of
our animals. Our two dogs and two cats
have probably been mothered around here too much. The cats got carried around like babies by
our four girls. So at the first sign of
a thunderstorm they’re all crying to be let inside.

Karen’s edict is that all animals save King Whimsy are to
live outside. Whimsy is an inside dog
only, because he is cute and somewhat obedient.

So, when nature begins to cut loose outside, all the excess
mothering turns out to have been counterproductive. These outside animals that have been
protected from the elements turn into jelly.
When I open the door, Chloe the cat is the first to dart in and take up
residence behind the washing machine, a dark and obscure place to weather the
storm. Abby the dog is such a baby about
storms that she once broke thru a window screen to get inside. She is allowed to lie in the washroom until
the thunder stops.

Here, I’d like to point out some parallels with raising
young people. When they’re toddlers,
it’s appropriate that they hide behind Mamma’s skirts. Mothers need to be in MAX PROTECT mode until
their kiddos wise up to the ways of the world.
As children grow and learn to cope with the antagonisms of the world
outside their front door, the protection of mamma’s skirts becomes unnecessary
and increasingly ridiculous with age.
When the storms of life howl against them, they need to master their
fear and grow up.

You’d think this would be obvious parental hard wiring. Animals everywhere know how to push their
adolescents out of the nest when it’s time.
But a great societal dysfunction seems to be becoming the new
normal. Young people everywhere are
breaking thru their parents’ window screen and coming back into the house. And everybody is more miserable for it.

Having raised our five, there’s lots we’ve done wrong, but on this score we’ve hit it out of the park. So let me be share a few secrets of our success: Around about the age 13, mothers need to stop preparing
their children’s lunches. At age 15 or
so, kids need to be getting part-time jobs and going on mission trips. Along the way, parents need to have taught
them the spiritual disciplines and invested them with the spiritual authority
they’ll need to survive the storms of an immoral and sometimes painful

At 18, young people need a gap
in some place on the planet.
American young people are among the most parochial in the world. They don’t know what they don’t know. The greatness in them will only be released
only as parents learn to stand back and let them weather life’s storms on their

If you’re a young person dying to be trusted in this way,
the win/win is to prove yourself trustworthy. Then, when you’re a parent, you can pioneer a bolder
way of living with your own kids.

Comments (11)

  • disagree.. i came back through the parents front door three different times.. had some hard hard things happen in my life and without their support there is no way I would be where I am at now with a great job, wife, own house and cars and a child on the way.

    its not always as easy as you seem to think it is

  • As the mother of two (almost three) teen girls, I couldn’t agree more with this! There is only one problem with I’m finding with the things you stated. I have a 14 year old who’s passion is, and always has been, missions. But unfortunately, trying to find a group that will take a 14 year old, is next to impossible! I agree that all kids should do missions, but it’s not that easy to find someone willing to accept THEM!

  • Jessica, I got my start on Teen Missions when I was 17 too. Very mixed reviews there these days. Hey – it got me started, but check around and see what others are saying. I suggest a family trip that’s cheap.

  • No authority to wax intellectual at all about child rearing being my oldest is 6 years old. But I think you have hit the nail on the head.

    It is inspirational to see someone today say, push the little birdies out of the nest and make them fly. We are always looking for opportunities for that around our house. Even at 6 and 3.

    My parents were incredibly successful in raising three children who all love God and seek to bring healing to the dark places.

    I think a lot of that success came from making us responsible for our responsibilities at every age appropriate step.

    Thanks for the reminder and encouragement to us young parents.

  • I can’t wait to take a group of teens myself somewhere! I’de do it ya know…

    Man, it is hard to let my own teen live his life. I not only need to mother him, I want to baby him. This is difficult after being out of his life for the greater part. Oh how I pray often that the Lord would open his heart to missions (overseas). He actually has done a couple of US Missions with me, and he excelled!

  • is this a hint Papa? 🙂 I see my peers struggling to find freedom, but unwilling to take responsibility but I can’t tell them anything. The parents have to be the ones to make the move – change won’t occur if it’s up to the kid alone. You and mom are the best parents a kid could ask for.

  • Seth – you have a great point.

    I have friends that are Resident Advisors (ie: they live in the dorm with the kids) at our local university, and they refer to the overprotective parents as ‘Helicopter Parents’ always hovering, making sure that their child is doesn’t slip up. Many of these parents call the RA each time the child (mind you, 18+ college aged child) has a fight with a roommate.

    You are so right when you say that ‘American young people… don’t know what they don’t know’ These young adults to to college and are clueless as to how to interact with other people their age, and their only recourse has become calling Mom and Dad.

  • Angi,

    we call ’em helicopter parents too. there’s an epidemic of them. wringing their hands every time their 22 year-old kid is challenged in some way; not realizing that challenge is the only way their child is ever going to grow.

    As to “questioning” above (comment 6). I’m not saying this is a blanket policy. If I throw my kiddo in the deep end and see her drowning, I’m going to jump in at some point. And your parents did the right thing if you were at that point. But we still need to help our kids grow by throwing ’em in the deep end.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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