Raise to a higher level—that’s what upraise means. I think adolescents today really need this support, to be raised up or guided to early manhood. Adolescence is the time when teenagers sometimes get mixed up whether they’re kids, teens or young adults. They don’t know what age to act. They dare to be like young adults, explore and do things on their own and refuse help from their parents.
Yet, when they’re in deep trouble they quickly push the eject button to escape from it all, or run home and cry like kids. Or, rebel like teenagers.
How do we help them go through this confusing and unpredictable phase?
Letting Them Go Through It Alone
Letting them go through adolescent life alone often leads to more problems. And too much guidance is likewise counter-productive. There are some teens who come out well by going through it alone. They manage to take on life maturely by learning from their own and others’ mistakes. They develop well-rounded personalities and become broad-minded. I call them advanced teens. They even emerge as positive individuals despite going through terrible life adversities, turning out good from bad experiences. But these are rare breeds.
Majority of teens (I call them rookie teens) get affected negatively and carry it on through life and even affect their next generation. They become problematic and so with their kids when they become parents. Worse, their kids grow up to be problematic parents, too, and so on. It becomes a vicious cycle. Every bad experience they encounter molds them negatively. They need guidance and counseling.
And they need to get connected to advanced teens for positive influence and positive peer pressure.
We sometimes let them join basketball or sports teams or school clubs, thinking these are enough to mold them into fine young men and women someday. They may become more athletic or hone their talents more—even become promising leaders—but growing into mature and responsible young men and women (and into good parents) still greatly remains to be seen. Chances are, majority of them will not.
Simply being with their peers and busy with something is no guarantee they’d be guided well and grow up properly as they should. Leadership skills don’t automatically translate to positive personalities or characters. And often, growing up maturely is far from being the case. Without guidance, they enter the young adult stage with personality or character problems and on to marriage and parenthood. They become problems in their families, workplace, neighborhood and even in church.
I’ve seen how some parents thought they’d been close enough to their teenage kids and know everything about them. They thought everything was okay. They saw their kids happy and positive. They even bragged about how close they were with them. But later, they got the shock of their lives—their kids had been keeping secrets from them all along. They began to learn strange things about their kids they never knew about.
But imagine if these parents were also close to their kids’ friends and their parents. And together they share the fun and adventure. That would be different.
Parental Guidance at Play
Nothing beats parents themselves guiding their kids. That’s how God intended it. But this often fails because of some problems with generation gap. Most teens do not open up to their parents. They’d rather do so with their peers. But this doesn’t mean parents should stop trying to get back to the sphere of their teenage kids. But they need to do so naturally and appropriately, not obtrusively.
Here’s what God said about the need for parental guidance and how:
These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God…
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. [Deuteronomy 6]
Parents guiding and counseling their own kids—that’s the way God intended it. But first, parents need to put God’s Word into their hearts before they can impress the same on their children. Be an example first to your kids. There are kids who get disappointed when they see adults being the first to break their own rules. So they’d rather open up to their peers or other people. Tragedy is that, they may end up opening up to the wrong guy, and that will ruin them further. I’ve seen it happen a lot of times. So, parents should take the initiative to get their kids back.
God will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction. [Malachi 4]
This is, in fact, the key to the restoration of society. When the family is restored, everything else in society follows. When this is ignored, society rots no matter what political, economic or health measures are put up. God destroys everything else.
Second, parents should learn how to get close to their kids without being obtrusive, and yet having their authority over them intact. They should learn how to give them freedom and make them responsible kids at the same time—getting real close to them but not suffocating them. This may sound simple and basic but many parents fail in this.
So dads and moms, real change in society is really in your hands. You have to get your acts together and start winning back your teenage kid. So I have come up with this idea to have this realized—UPRAISE.
My youngest son is very athletic, and so are his friends. They’re pact with energies they often need to release! I have regular bible studies with him and his elder brother but I see the need to extend this to their friends in a fun way. Fun is characteristic of what youths want and need and they need to share the fun with their friends. There’s no fun in fun that is kept to a few.
Consequently, I’ve been thinking of putting up a group or club for them to put direction to their fun. Now and then they play basketball, eat and laugh together and enjoy sleep-overs. These are all good but they lack direction. After all these, what then? I see their obvious need for guidance. They’re left to themselves to enjoy fun and they often look for someone to lead them through it. Well, they usually end up with wrong people. It’s the time of their life when they are most susceptible to influences, like how sponges easily absorb water. But then they absorb the wrong influences and develop wrong mindsets. Parents have to wake up to this reality.
So I thought of starting such group in my community. I want to call it UPRAISE. I plan to gather all the friends and close classmates of my sons and tell them about it and see what they think. It’s all about doing things together for fun, sports, recreation and values education—and doing them with their like-minded and like-spirited peers. We’d make programs and schedule some activities for the year, most of them outdoor. Then gradually, we’d be involving their parents, too.
Develop closeness, affinity and harmony within the family. That’s the mission. And I hope to see more and more parents and kids in my neighborhood naturally getting close with each other, especially those who are now hindered by generation gaps. That’s my vision. All these through fun activities.
Here are some of the year-long activities: Weekly family sports (basketball) and fellowships, some weekend picnics, sleep-overs, camps and outings, family “seminars” (like learning tips about friendly parenting) and of course, “bible awareness” as my friend and neighbor, Gil, once put it. These will be done by families together, like a club or something. Gradually, more “members” from the neighborhood, community or from the teenagers’ sphere of influence may be added.
Imagine if all families on your street or block are involved! That would be one peaceful and harmonious neighborhood! More importantly, your kids would all develop into responsible citizens and family men and women, all helping each other as true neighbors.
Well, I admit this will be a precarious experiment and it may not work. But it’s worth a try. Parents should simply aim to be less busy for their kids.