I remember sitting down in my office with a couple concerned that their 16-year-old son was going nowhere. They used the word “apathetic” as a descriptor several times throughout our conversation. “He doesn’t do anything but sit in his room and play video games,” they lamented. “We’re concerned about his future and we just want to him to care about SOMETHING!”
Curious, I asked Dad what his evening routine was like when he came home from work. He said, “I typically make it home for dinner, then once the little one is down I watch Sportscenter…twice.” I asked Mom the same thing and she responded, “Well, after dinner is finished I make lunches for the kids and then cozy up with my iPad to peruse Facebook and Pinterest.”
“Hmm. What about the weekends?” I asked. They looked at each other nervously and began to share a typical laundry list of suburban weekend activities: yard work, golf, grocery shopping, church, television, etc. Rinse and repeat 52 weeks out of the year.
I concluded our time with one simple question for this couple, “What in your life inspires your kids to live with purpose and passion?”
All too often we parents blame the culture for our kiddo’s apathy. We point to music, film, and public school as the guilty parties in our teenager’s seemingly disengaged disposition. Sure, popular culture has great influence on our young people but lest we forget, so do we.
Teenagers watch their parent’s every move. Usually looking for something that justifies a preconceived notion they might have about just how uncool mom and dad really are. Or maybe a little anecdote that reinforces the “they just don’t get it” mindset. Regardless, they are paying attention and how you live has greater impact on your young ones than what you say ever could.
Here are a few tips for raising passionate young people:
- Say Yes To Risk
It’s absolutely incredible to think about the lengths to which society goes to make things “safe” for our young people. We are a culture of nonsensical boundaries typically birthed in reaction to a once in a million tragedy. The beauty of saying yes to risk is that you might get hurt or fail along the way. I don’t know a single passionate person who hasn’t fallen down and learned the important art of getting back up.
- Encourage And Equip
A friend of mine was driving with his 14-year-old boy past the rescue mission downtown when his boy said, “Dad I want to buy 100 cheeseburgers and pass them out to folks in need.” Against his better judgment my friend drove his son to the closest McDonalds, they ordered 100 cheeseburgers, and then proceeded to walk the streets passing them out to those who might need a meal. My friend encouraged and equipped his young son to serve with passion, and a little bit of recklessness. Major win.
- Model the Way
Most teenagers have a hard time believing that they can actually affect change in the here and now. They are convinced that they have to wait until they are older to make a difference. If Mom and Dad want their teenager to be an active participant in the renewal of all things then mom and dad need to be active participants in the renewal of all things. Teenagers are far more likely to leverage their gifts and resources for good if Mom and Dad are doing the same.
What if Jeremiah 29:7 hung as a banner over our homes: But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
Imagine how different life would be if our kids were invited into something bigger than themselves at a young age. Something more than Sunday mornings and prayers before meals. What if we spent as much time serving our fellow man as we do consuming the cultural goods at our fingertips? Do you think that the family dynamic in your home might change a little?
If we want to raise passionate teenagers, we must be passionate parents.
By Matt Thomas
Husband to Shannon, Dad to two
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
Owner and Executive Director of Expedition Backcountry Adventures
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