Telling Them to Be the Parent Without Losing Your Job
Okay...admit it. More than once you’ve just wanted to stand up during a mom’s whine-fest and scream, “IF YOU’D BE THE PARENT, YOU WOULDN’T HAVE THIS PROBLEM!!”
Of course, if that migrated from your head to your mouth, it’s likely you’d lose your job…or worse, have to meet with the elders or the senior pastor. So how can we convey this message to parents and still enjoy what little job security we have?
1. Develop a relationship with mom and dad. If the only time you ever talk to parents is when they’re facing crisis at home, you need something for the ministry, or there’s a mandatory meeting for them, then you haven’t earned the right to say anything to them, besides possibly ‘Hello—nice haircut.” Nurturing a friendship (beyond ministry convos) gives you the opportunity to speak truth to them…about their kids and themselves.
2. Catch them doing something right. We all have a tendency to look at what’s wrong. And chances are, parents are already kicking themselves about perceived "wrongs" in their parenting styles. So catch them doing something right–and let them know about it. Send them a note telling them what an awesome kid has come from their loins! Give them some kudos when you hear their student speaking well of them. (Hey, it could happen.) Pat them on the back as they leave the church parking lot and thank them for investing in the spiritual walk of their teenager.
3. Don’t believe everything you hear. Many times we base our opinion of parents mostly on what their kids tell us. And I don’t know if you’ve heard, but teenagers are kind of narcissistic–so when they tell a story, it’s from their own perspective…which can be a skewed one. So be sure that your view of a certain parent’s ‘style’ is an accurate one before you say anything.
4. Spin the positive bottle. When you’re in your office playing ‘spin the bottle’ to decide which parent you’d like to confront first, think about how to ‘spin positive.’ So instead of, “Gosh–you suck–don’t you realize calling Johnny an idiot will probably lower his self-image and push him toward a life of crime?” maybe you say, “I know Johnny can be challenging–what are some ways you can encourage his good behavior? Something that’s worked for me is...”
5. Don’t say a word to them until you’ve said some words to Him. Confrontation is never easy. And the goal, anytime we have to say difficult things to parents, kids, staff, or anybody, is to point people to Jesus. Having a conversation with Mom or Dad is part of the privilege of being in ministry–don’t blow it by not relying on the One who called you to ministry in the first place. Remember, as youth workers, we are only one small influence in the lives of our teenagers. The greatest influences they will ever have are their parents. Helping THEM do a better job is the best way to impact teenagers for Jesus!
Darren is a veteran youth pastor in Corpus Christi, TX, and co-hosts a weekly podcast for parents of teenagers (http://www.facebook.com/mipodcast) with his wife, Katie.