Is it wise to give high school seniors the freedom of college freshmen?

Kara Powell | Jul 5, 2012

Last week my family and I spent the week at Mount Hermons Family Camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It was a real treat to experience God, the beauty of creation, and some amazing teaching and worship with about 60 other friends who were there that week also.

During my time there, I did three seminars on Sticky Faith. One of the best parts about teaching about Sticky Faith is all the amazing ideas I get from parents, grandparents, and leaders who hear our Sticky Faith principles and share their past or present ideas for building Sticky Faith in their own families and churches.

One mom of young adult sons shared with me that in order to prepare her three boys for life after college, she and her husband treated them like college students during twelfth grade. One of the major shifts they made was eliminating as many rules as possible and shifting the responsibility for wise choices to their sons. They wanted their sons to make any mistakes they were going to make while they were still at home, instead of after they left home.

Instead of a curfew, the boys told their parents when they wanted to be home. If they were going to significantly deviate from that, they needed to call home and let their parents know.

It was up to the boys to get their homework done.

Did the boys make some mistakes? You bet. And their parents were there to help them learn from their mistakes while the stakes were relatively low, instead of when the stakes were higher after graduation.

Im not sure this would work for every family, but it does make me wonder some questions that wise parents and youth leaders can ask themselves:

1. How can I give young people more opportunities to make their own choices and fail while Im still around to help pick up the pieces from any mistakes they might make?

2. For high school seniors, would it make sense for them to have a weekend, or a week or two, during which parents are encouraged to treat them like college students?

3. What will I say to young people when they do make mistakes?

Thanks to our Sticky Faith research, one of my mantras as a parent and youth leader is that Jesus is bigger than any mistakes. How can you communicate that to the young people you care about?

One important note: the parents who relinquished some rules never relinquished their relationship with their sons. They still remained relationally involved and connected. More about that in tomorrows blog when I share some haunting words from a 16 year-old at this same camp that I will never forget.

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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