Thursday, July 26, 2007

Courageous Parenting



The past month Larry and I have been bringing a series of messages on "Courageous Parenting." Through this we have been sharing the Biblical values we hold about this subject in our household and also hard lessons learned.

One thing I believe strongly is that as parents we're called to be just that - parents, not pals. Our kids have plenty of pals, but only two parents, and as such we need to be courageous and take the unpopular stand at times.

As everyone knows, Dustin totaled my car 2 months ago. Since then he hasn't driven, mostly because there's nothing for him to drive! Larry and I share one car and that takes it up 100% of the time and then some. But before we get another car or he gets one of his own, I was determined that he needed some help. Mind you, he wasn't reckless when he had the accident (only going 24 mph but it was raining and he hydroplaned and panicked.) Part of this is the fact that he was a young, inexperienced driver. I have come to realize since then that 63% of all kids wreck their parents cars in their first year of driving. I got that stat from the Sheriff's dept., by the way.

Anyway...I was praying about what to do. Dustin already took Driver's Ed in high school and passed, and he had hours of practice with his Dad, me and his Grandfather. I was really at a loss as to the next step. But there had to be one. Even Pastor T said that he could see, he simply wasn't ready for driving. We had done all we knew to do. As everyone should know by now, I'm a praying mother. In fact, I was praying for Dustin all the days leading up to the accident. I was angry when he had it, being that I prayed everyday. Why did God still allow this when so many prayers went up day after day? I was pretty steamed with God until Rosemay told me three teens were in an accident on the same road and died. Dustin only had a sprain. I have so much to be grateful for. Well, back to prayer...

I was at a loss as to what the next step was. One day a few weeks ago I was watching TV and a commercial came on for something called "Teen Driver Challenge". It's a brand new 2-month old program done by the Sheriff's Dept. It's not a driver's ed course, but a special 2 day course for defensive driving only. It is a "next level" course, both in the classroom and several hours of one on one help actually practicing with an officer in the car with the student. At the end the students receive a special certificate and can even get a percentage off of insurance having proven that they took the course. The officers teach the students what to do when hydroplaning, in inclement weather, when a car is coming at you the wrong way,etc. They put them in difficult situations and help them get out safely. This is an incredible thing, in my opinion. I immediately felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit and called the Sheriff's department and signed him up. The classes started today and he'll be there all day tomorrow as well, driving with an officer.

He was so ticked off at me for putting him in this course, I can't even describe to you how much. When I told him he got angry, yelled, and slammed the door and left. I instantly commanded him back into the room and gave him a talking to. Evidently he forgot that the night he wrecked the car he said, "Momma, I'll do ANYTHING to make this up to you." So far, I've asked him for nothing in fact his Daddy and I haven't even brought up to him once the fact that he even wrecked the car, in the last two months. We simply told him he would have to take responsibility and pay for the damages. But we did not scold him about the accident because truly it was not intentional. However, now it was time to say something, since the attitude was occuring. We said, "Son, in case you don't remember...you totaled a car. You said you'd do anything to make restitution for this. This is our "anything", and really...it's nothing! You're getting off easy. We could have knocked you from here to Japan for wrecking that Mustang, so put on a happy face and deal with it." He still wasn't real happy - went to his room and sulked. But it's like this - I've learned big lessons about this through hard years of experience in both the home and the church. You see, when you are a pastor, you are not only a parent to natural children (if you have them) but you also function as a spiritual parent. Much of the same principles apply. Just thought I would throw that in for your pastors and pw's who are reading, free of charge. LOL

As a natural parent, and as a spiritual parent in the church - when I or Larry make a decision, sometimes our natural or spiritual children sulk - but it's important we take our stand no matter how much they do. What's right is right. I think the problem with too many parents is that they can't endure sulking or even blow ups. The fact of the matter is, it's part of the territory of parenting kids or a church.

So he didn't exactly put on a happy face, even today he was still peeved with me and went dragging in there to class today when I dropped him off, but when he came out I could tell he didn't think it was so bad. In fact, deep down I think he actually might have enjoyed it, he just doesn't want to admit it to me. And that's okay. I don't care that he admits that I'm right, I just want him to get the help he needs. (Another mark of effective parenting in both the home and the church: your children may never admit that you're right - but your goal is not to be right, it's to see them flourish, even if you never get a 'you were right' or a 'thank you.'" Our reward is the satisfaction of knowing we did the right thing. The fact of the matter is - parenting our kids and parenting a church is HARD work.)

I know he felt like we were sending him as a punishment but I explained that it's not so, in fact it's because we care and want to help him. I see this class as an answer to prayer. I think he also thought it was for "bad kids" who drink and drive or something. Not true. Although, tomorrow they will be putting what they call "beer goggles" on him, and having him drive around and see for himself how bad it would be (how impaired he would be) if he chose to drink and drive. I think that's a great idea. Although Dustin doesn't drink or have desire to, I think it's just great knowledge to have. And I hope this has great impact on the other kids who take this course as well. I explained to him, the class is actually preventative maintenance and should be taken before kids wreck, only in his case I never knew about it til now. I think he also feared what it was going to be like -- he didn't know anyone or know what he was in for. When he got there his class only had six students, and besides that there was one girl he found absolutely adorable. I said, "is she saved?" (he doesn't know yet)

I reminded him, his Dad and I cared enough about doing this for him that we rented a car for tomorrow. We still don't have a car and he needs to take ours to drive tomorrow at the class, and we need a car, so we rented one just for the weekend. I explained to him if I were trying to punish him I would not be renting a car for the weekend and going to all this trouble.

I think he's got a much better attitude now. But even if he didn't, he'd still be getting his butt to that class. Because as I told the church last night in our message, we all get mad at God, our Father. There are times we are so mad at what He decides for us. But don't we get over it? Yes, we do. We eventually do. And we realize it was best for us. There are times my kids momentarily hate me. They rail against me for what I decide, but ultimately it was what they needed. This was one of those times. But that's what courageous parenting is all about.

p.s. If any of you parents in Pasco County want to put your teens in the program, e-mail Cpt. Dan Olds at DOlds@PascoSheriff.org to sign up. I highly recommend it and plan on my other two children taking the course as well before another one of my cars goes to be with Jesus.

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