When I was a teenager, I thought it would be a great thing to have long hair that I could sling. Not “Big-Hair, Head-Banging” type hair. But just long enough to hang down in my eyes so that I could sling it over. You get the picture.
The problem with that was I did not possess “hair slinging” type hair. You see, my hair would not grow long. It would only grow big. Just short of “fro.” It seemed like all of my friends had “hair slinging” hair. The thin stuff that actually moved when the wind blew, thus requiring a sling of the hair. Jealous.
But I, the ever so clever one, discovered a solution. Before I divulge my solution, let me pause for just a moment to say that what follows is a bit of transparency. I’m not proud of this. At all.
The key for me to obtain the “hair slinging” look, at least in my teenage mind, was to not wash my hair. Brilliant, right? The resulting greasy hair (there I said it) would cause my hair to lay down flat. It would look like you could really sling it, but that never happened. Too much grease. Don’t ask about my ever so successful teenage dating life.
Why would I go to such gross measures to have the appearance of slinging hair? Was it because my dad had great slinging hair and I wanted to sling mine just like him? Ha. Nope, that’s not it. If my dad is reading this right now, he is laughing.
That brings us to the second thing that happens to teenagers (the first is here) that should affect everything that you are doing as a parent now. It’s that their number one influence in life changes. It goes from being the influence of their parents to the influence of their friends. Sorry mom and dad, but hanging out with you is not near as important as it used to be. Your child’s friends will influence how they wear their hair (see what I did there?), how they act, what they wear, where they go, what they say, how they say it, and what music they listen to. Your child will not want to listen to “your music” anymore…no matter how awesome “your music” is. They will be challenged and tempted to compromise almost every value you have worked so hard to instill in them. Those pesky friends.
Just so there is no misunderstanding, let me reiterate: the power and influence of friends is HUGE. It is to be feared. Don’t believe for a second that your child will somehow be immune to this. This is the number one reason why the “normal” that you create must be all encompassing and strong. Very strong. Do not try to find an easy way around this. This is where the battle is. Please hear me on this. Wow, I sound serious.
Oh and just wait until one of those friends becomes a “signicant other.” Katie bar the door.
So what’s a parent to do? Is there any hope at all? Absolutely. But you must start early. If you wait until your child is a teenager to start changing things, well I hope you have a good grasp on the power of prayer. Start now.
Now I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. There is a very real possibility that your child will be surrounded by friends that have an incredibly good influence on your child. Invite those friends into your home as often as possible and give them Snicker Ice Cream Bars (the food that we will eat in heaven).
In my years as a student minister, I can say without hesitation that the overwhelming majority of teenagers who were strong in the face of the influence of friends had two things in common: a love for God and a love for family. And neither of those things were half-hearted. They were genuine and deep. Overpowering. I wish I could do a better job of communicating how important this is. This is your main defense against the influence of friends. It is a massive part of a great normal.
If your child would describe your family as any of the following: loud, boring, business-like, mean, condescending, hateful, mundane, cold, etc., then your child may eventually RUN, not walk, to their friends. Here’s the scary thing, your home doesn’t have to be all of those things for your child to run. It might just take one. I’ve seen God-loving parents lose their children because their home was boring. Seriously. I wish I was making that up.
Your goal as a family is to have your child describe it as loving, fun, safe and exciting. Especially exciting. We’ll talk about that later. We’ll talk about that a lot.
Next time: What’s up with that green triangle?