Q: Our son is barely going to complete the eighth grade this month. He refuses to get serious about schoolwork. I doubt he'll be able to pass ninth grade next year with this lax attitude. We want to help him succeed, but is it better to let him reap what he sows?
Jim: All parents want their kids to succeed. But sometimes, it's better to let them fail in the short-term.
Author Chip Ingram wrote about the shock he experienced when his son told him he was dropping out of college to join a band. Even though he desperately wanted to convince his son to stay in school, Chip held his tongue. He believed experience is the best teacher.
After six months, Chip's son realized how hard it was to make a living as a musician. He didn't abandon his dream altogether, but he did re-enroll in college.
Now, I'm not suggesting you stand idly by while your son fails ninth grade. That will have a much steeper downside for someone his age than it does for someone in college. But he does need to learn to accept the consequences of his decisions. You may need to allow him to be late to school when he doesn't get out of bed on time. If his homework doesn't get done, you shouldn't bail him out or make up excuses for his teacher. He won't learn to apply himself if he's rescued every time he chooses to act irresponsibly.
Chip Ingram puts it well: "A parent's job is not to make sure a child has a smooth or comfortable life. Our role is to put safeguards around them when they're young to keep them from ultimate harm; to gradually widen those safeguards as they mature; and to help them to grow into the person God wants them to be."
Q: How can parents teach their children how to behave on Facebook without falling into the trap of doing what everyone else is doing? Are there rules and boundaries we should give our kids when working on social media sites?
Juli: Most people don't know that Facebook has established 13 as the required age for an account. So, right out of the gate, remember that Facebook is not for children. It's designed for teens and adults. This is a good opportunity to teach your children integrity by making them wait until they're legitimately old enough to be on Facebook.
When your kids reach the teen years, if you choose to allow them to be part of Facebook, here are a few principles to keep in mind:
Make it very clear that you will be their first friend on Facebook and will monitor their activity. For young teens, you can set up the account so that all messages, wall posts and friend requests go through your email account. This is a good form of accountability and a reminder that what happens on Facebook is not private.
Second, you should know all of their Facebook friends and limit the personal information they share. Help them set up their privacy settings and make sure that not just anyone can see their profile. It's probably best not to have cell phone or address information listed.
You also need to have a conversation with your teen about how Facebook can be used for both positive and negative purposes. Just as you would never tolerate bullying or inappropriate language in person, those standards also apply online.
Finally, establish time limits. Unchecked, many teens (and adults) will spend hours and hours on Facebook every day, neglecting responsibilities and important aspects of teen development, like face-to-face communication. Facebook is a privilege, not a right. Remind your teen that you may take the privilege of Facebook away if they don't learn to use it responsibly.
Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.
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