Category Archives: Culture

The One Area We Need To Raise The Bar For Our Teens

My older son took the ACT for the first time in December. He’s a sophomore. It seemed early, but to assess where he needs to improve in order to consider certain schools it made sense to take it now. Many of your kids have done, or will do, the same. But most of us adults were probably juniors (or even seniors) before we took college entrance exams. Of course, we didn’t take AP or dual credit classes either.

Certainly, the bar has been raised.

What we also didn’t have were travel/competitive club sports’ teams or the pressure to specialize in just one sport (at least prior to high school). When I made the varsity soccer team as a freshman at my large public high school I was ecstatic. I hadn’t played in two years since it wasn’t offered at the middle school level and back then you only did what sport was in season. We weren’t thinking about college scholarships or staying competitive to secure future spots on high school varsity teams. Obviously, it is way different now. The hours our kids dedicate to their sport (or passion) has become a full-time job on top of their school.

The bar has been raised.

As if rigorous academic course loads and high performing athletics (music, debate, whatever) were not enough, look at most any high school seniors’ resumes and it’s quite amazing to see what else they’ve managed to accomplish. How they have time for school clubs, leadership positions, and hours of philanthropic work is beyond me. But many kids today (including mine) even serve on teen boards. When I was in high school, I didn’t even know what a non-profit was!

Again, the bar has been raised.

The bar having been raised for our kids comes with pros and cons. But in every realm the bar has been raised — except one. One that matters more than everything else. And that is, our kids’ spiritual life.

With all the other taking so much time, church, Bible studies, discipleship, family devotions, and time spent in the Word often happens only if one of the other obligations doesn’t conflict. But even then, instead of raising the bar as we have with everything else, we’ve lowered it.

As I heard author and speaker Jen Wilkin say in a talk at Rooted Ministry’s fall conference, why do we expect our kids to master chemistry, trig and other AP classes, but then think the Bible needs to be spoon-fed to them?

Why do we not include them in “big church?” Do we think they can’t sit still? Understand the message? That they will be bored?

We need to raise the bar!

If we’ve reduced the Bible talks they sit under to quick nuggets and the rest of the hour is spent on fun and games, we are not training them to think deeply about the scriptures.

If we think a 1-minute devotional book will lead them to treasure and seek God’s Word, when they spend hours on their phones, I’m afraid what the world says will hold more weight.

If we want kids who see their need for Jesus and cling to him and the church, they have to know who he is in light of who we are, otherwise it won’t be “life” for them. Plenty of other things can fill the need for community.

We need to raise the bar!

But maybe, we need to raise the bar for ourselves first.  What do we treasure? Our kids see, and for good or ill what we value will influence them. Evident by the high success of kids today, wherever the bar is set, they do tend to rise to the occasion.

It’s still a brand new year — a great time to evaluate where we’ve set what bars and what might need to be tweaked. My family included.

**The “Raise the bar” idea was taken from Jen Wilkin’s talk. You can read more in a similar article of hers here.

Before #MeToo Becomes Yesterday’s News, the Truth About Rape on College Campuses

The recent #MeToo movement is a sobering wakeup call to just how prevalent sexual harassment and abuse really are. We hear about it on the local news, but in light of the Harvey Weinstein revelations hearing from the many women who have stepped forward with their own stories has both personalized the problem, and exposed how big a problem it really is. But what we can’t even begin to quantify is the effects of the shame and brokenness these women have been left to deal with because of what happened to them.

Many of these women (some who are still suffering in silence) have been the victim of rape. And for many of these, the rape occured in college. Studies show 1 in 5 college women experience rape or attempted rape. But only about 20% of sexual assualts on college campuses get reported. Likely this is because many victims feel guilt over their own behavior (alcholol and drug use are often a factor) though by no circumstance is a victim responsible. Another reason rapes go unreported is because in most cases the perpetrator is a friend or acquaintance of the victim, who in turn fears consequences of telling on him.

Having ministered alongside my husband at a university for nearly eight years, the reality of date rape, along with the pervasive hook up culture and binge drinking on college campuses is something we have dealt with personally and also read much about. Therefore, when it came time for our own daughter to head off to college last year this was one of our biggest fears. Since early high school we had talked about this stuff, but without any #MeToos she was slow to believe the picture we painted about drinking, dating, sex, and the college culture was as we said it would be.

But after being on campus for almost three semesters, and witnessing what takes place at fraternity parties and in dorms, she now sees we were right.  Thankfully, it has led her to take more seriously precautions about holding her own drink and staying with her sisters. And though she used to be bitter about her curfew in high school and our conviction that, “Nothing good happens after midnight,” I now hear her repeating this mantra to others (with a slightly altered time because of the late hour college kids even go out).

My hope in shining the light on another not-talked-about-enough problem is to spare more women from ever having to say #MeToo. The life-altering experience of sexual assault can lead to deep depression, thoughts of (and attempted) suicide and carry with it shame that will infilitrate into future relationships.

*In my daughter's pledge class of a 115 girls, statistics say 23 of them will be victims of rape
*81% of college rapes happen in a dormitories
*72% of college rapes happened when the victim was so intoxicated she was unable to consent or refuse
*Freshmen girls are the most vulnerable of becoming a rape victim.

Parents of high school and college students, please talk to your girls and boys about this topic. They may roll their eyes, but education is the first step against naivety – theirs and ours.

There is so much on the topic, plus the book we recommend, Unhooked about the culture in general.  It’s not fun reading, and honestly I think sometimes we’ld rather not know what’s happening, but we must in order to increase our kids awareness, and hopefully help protect them- physically, emotionally and spiritually.

If only education were enough to guarantee their protection, but for that I continue to pray.  Not being able to fully protect our kids has got to be the hardest things about being a parent. And it is also my biggest struggle in trusting God. #YouToo?

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Why College Is Harder than It Even Should Be for Our Kids

When I was in college I spent countless hours on the floor in my room of the sorority house pecking out my English paper on a Brother Word Processor. Only one girl in the house had a desktop computer, so for the majority at that time Brothers were the best thing going. Inevitably though in the wee hours of the night before the paper was due is when the cartridge ribbon ran dry. This meant running to the office supply store at daybreak and then very carefully (under the gun of a ticking clock) finish typing. But you better not make a mistake!

If you also had a word processor you know a mistake meant potentially retyping the page from the top. This was because the word processor had no delete button. Instead it required backspacing to the error and hoping the correction tape hit in just the right spot. White Out was an option too (do they even still make that?), but an exact realignment of the type guide after the error was still needed to keep going without restarting.

How nice it would’ve been to carry around a laptop in our backpacks. No cords even restricting work to our rooms. This would’ve been especially great on those nights my room (located right at the top of the stairs) was full of friends watching Friends and I had a paper to do. But then when I wanted to stay in my room because it was too cold or rainy how awesome to have had WiFi and Google and not have to trek over to the library for research!

Thinking about these things now as “hardships” makes me laugh. It’s all we knew so it was just what we did. But somewhere along the way grit has gone by the wayside. Today when the going gets tough, many college kids can’t cope as evidenced by university counseling centers nationwide struggling to keep up with the demand for mental health services.

Now I do think college students are under way more pressure today – thanks to our culture of comparison and standard of perfection. So it is not that I don’t think college is hard (even if the technological changes make life easier). COLLEGE IS HARD. But I’m afraid we haven’t prepared our kids as well as we could for the reality that not only is college hard, but life is hard.

I know there are ways I accommodated our daughter to make her life easier and less stressful. My intention to help came out of love, but I wonder now if my helping became enabling?

One friend described the two like this:

 “Helping is doing for someone what he is not capable of doing himself; enabling is doing for him things he could or should do himself.”

By not requiring our children to do chores or to sacrifice their time and desires for the good of the family, we allow them to live self-centered. In catering to their every whim, we foster an attitude of entitlement. When we swoop in to rescue them from consequences and never allow them to fail, we leave them ill-equipped to handle adversity on their own.

This is not setting our kids up to be college ready!

Instead we need to teach them to deal with adversity, to see the world does not revolve around them and things are not always easy. So next time you are tempted to take things into your own hands by emailing the teacher/coach, calling the school or gossiping with other parents, encourage your child instead in how to handle the conflict on their own. This may mean for them a difficult conversation with a friend, teacher or coach. It may mean you helping them accept second string. Or it may mean backing the teacher for giving them a late grade (even a zero) if work wasn’t turned in on time. But I firmly believe what they will gain is for their greater good.

To raise kids prepared for adulthood, we must rethink what we’re doing to get them there. Because honestly, shielding our kids from hardship and responsibility, not holding them accountable and allowing them every indulgence is not real life. Real life is hard. College is hard. Relationships are hard. Work is hard. Let’s start doing the hard thing this school year and give them proper training ground while in the safety of the nest.

Did you miss the other two posts in this mini college-related series? Check them out here: Your Identity is Not in Your Greek Letters
Embracing a New Normal After a Child Leaves for College