Developed by Mona Lindeman and Susan Ward
© 2012, Mona Lindeman & Susan Ward, Used by Permission, All Rights Reserved.
DOWNLOAD THE STUDY GUIDE HERE (38 pages)
[Based on the Book Raising Kids with Character That Lasts, by John and Susan Yates]
“Enjoy them while they’re little, because when they hit the teen years, watch out!” “Teenage brain—there’s nothing you can do with all those hormones raging!” “We just dropped off our last one at college—Phew! We survived!!” If you are a parent in American culture, it’s difficult to avoid hearing such remarks as the adolescence of your children approaches. Perhaps you have bought into such thinking yourself and look ahead with a sense of foreboding. Perhaps you have seen friends or family members struggle through challenges with their teens and you taste apprehension as you wonder about what might lie ahead for your own children. Perhaps, like us, you haven’t succumbed to the negative “conventional wisdom” about parenting teens, but the teenage years are on the horizon for your children and you too are looking to soak up all the parenting wisdom you can get.
Part of our soaking came through a parenting course led by John and Susan Yates, based on their book Raising Kids with Character That Lasts. At the conclusion of the course, we invited some friends to continue meeting so that we could share and learn about parenting together. Two excellent books come to mind about this stage of parenting. In Like Dew Your Youth, Eugene Peterson observes that, “adolescence is not only the process designed by the Creator to bring children to adulthood, it is also designed by the Creator to bring something essential for parents during correspondingly critical years in their lives. . . adolescence is a gift, God’s gift, and it must not be squandered in complaints or stoic resistance.” Peterson describes adolescence as “an experience to be entered into” by parents, and cautions against “any approach that reduces adolescence to a problem that must be solved.” In a similar vein, in his book, Age of Opportunity, Paul David Tripp views the season of parenting adolescents and teens as an opportunity for us as parents to confront our own idols and grow in holiness as we deepen our relationships with our children and learn and grow along with them. It was in the spirit of these two authors that our group met to gain wisdom about parenting teens. We used Tripp’s book as the basis of our adult group study.
Our plan was to meet twice a month on Sunday evenings working together through Tripp’s book. Our group consisted of four couples, collectively the parents of six adolescents. We wanted our pre-teens to get to know one another better and to enjoy playing together, but we also desired their times of fellowship to include opportunities for discipleship and growth. With that in mind, we developed this study for them using the Yates’ book Raising Kids with Character That Lasts.
Each week the children studied a different character trait. The studies were designed to help the children define the trait, develop an understanding of the trait through Scripture and consider how the trait was or could be more a part of their own lives. The studies use a variety of methods to teach the traits, ranging from the children creating artwork to participating in role plays.
The children took turns leading the study, although no one was required to lead. In advance of every meeting, we e-mailed each family a copy of the study for that week so the person leading could read through the material. This also gave participants who were not as comfortable in a group study setting the opportunity to read through the study ahead of time. Because the kids were responsible for their own time together, some weeks the studies went more smoothly than others. But each week provided occasions to learn about the challenges of leading a group discussion and how to work together.
When we began, each child knew someone in the group but not necessarily everyone. In addition to studying character traits, we hoped our pre-teens would develop or deepen friendships. To that end, every Sunday get-together included time for fun as well as study. The order of study, play and watching a movie or Andy Griffith Show reruns varied each week, but we adults always smiled when we heard the inevitable raucous laughter at some point emanating from the yard or basement.
At the end of each evening, our kids rejoined us adults and shared a little about what they had learned. We ended our time together in prayer, sometimes with the children praying and sometimes the adults.
In school, sports and church, our children are often grouped by age and gender; this group study provided a wonderful occasion for three fifth-graders and three seventh-graders, boys and girls to come together, share challenges and insights, learn from one another, work out differences, and simply have fun together. When we began our study, our primary purpose was for the parents to have the opportunity to experience such things. Through the children’s study, all four families were given a valuable and somewhat unexpected gift: without exception, the children loved our Sunday gatherings. A seventh-grade girl said, “It was a lot of fun, but we learned as well. We learned more about God. The study made me change the way I look at each of the character qualities, like understanding the difference between happiness and joy.” Another seventh-grader said, “It was a really fun study. The way it was written was helpful because I could relate to a lot of the examples. It was great doing the study with friends because you get to hear what they think and it makes it really fun. We laughed so much.” And a fifth-grade boy said, “I was inspired to become a better man of character and I enjoyed the time with friends that it gave me. I’m really glad we did this.”
This study is designed to be led by pre-teens or teens in a group on their own. It would work equally well with an adult leading, or to undertake as a family. We pray you and your family will be blessed by this study.
Mona Lindeman and Susan Ward