Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Electronic communication

“He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him” -Prov. 18:13

In this age of electronic communication, it’s important that we teach our kids how to communicate well. Taking the time to train them in being good listeners and communicators is more caught than taught. In other words, they model what they see around them, especially in us as parents.

No electronic device has pervaded teenage life like cellular phone devices. I read that 86% of Americans own a cell phone. Like so many mainstays in society, the answer rarely lies in the lifetime ban but more in the moderation mode, teaching teens how to use things appropriately.

Does anyone remember the bag cell phone? It was huge and bulky and had a little case that had to be carried along with the phone. It did have great reception using 3 watts of power (today’s phones have .6 output watts) but was very expensive and had limited coverage. Next came the first hand held phone. It too, was huge. Then came the flip phone and so on…

Like them or not, the cell phones are here to stay. Of course, now the “phones” are more powerful than computers were not too long ago. They are mini laptops doing everything from surfing the web to finding directions across town.

The telephone was invented in 1876 but began to be used as a communication device in the early 1900’s. Like cell phones, the modifications and ease of their use progressed over time until most every household could not do without a phone in the house. I would imagine that our grandparents commented about phones like we comment about cell phones, “If there is something worth saying, why not say it face-to-face instead of over wires.”

I asked one of my kids the same question about texting, “I don't get why y’all text. Why don't you just call each other?” By the way, did you know the average American teenager texts 80 times a day? My kids explained to me that they like texting because then you don't have to take the time to listen.

Therein lies the problem with modern communication devices. I call them “lazy communicators.” True, they are efficient, but they also break most of the healthy communication rules: no non-verbal cues, no listening feedback and a focus on the person speaking.

The cell phone is advantageous for interpersonal socialization. But the cell phone should not replace healthier forms of communication. Remind your kids and teens that when the issue is important, face-to-face is always better. Encourage your teen to make the phone call instead of texting when the message involves more than something just informational.

Bottom line is, when the communication is important, avoid using email or texts. It’s better to discuss issues on the phone but the best way is face-to-face.

You decide when your teen is mature enough to handle the responsibility of a cell phone and be sure to set the rules and parameters for it’s use.

Let them know that if they bend the cell phone rules, they’ll have to carry a bag phone!

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Friday, August 27, 2010

Opie losing

“…I count all things to be loss…” –Phil. 3:8

Someone said life is all about how we handle winning and losing. Perhaps the greatest lesson we can teach our kids is how to suffer loss and disappointment. No lessons are needed for success (except maybe humility), but in the losing department, teens need to be trained in losing well.

It was time for the Annual Sheriff’s race day and Opie was excited. Barney promised Opie that if he trained him, he would win a medal in the 50 yard dash. “You let ‘ole Barney ‘the Rabbit’ Fife train you and you’ll win a medal for sure,” Barney said. Opie prayed that night, “Lord, if you let me win, I’ll take my medal off for my bath.”

Finally, race day came and Opie lost badly. Opie was disappointed and sulked on the couch as Andy came to talk to him. “It’s important that you tried. It’s important that you know how not to win,” Andy said. Opie replied, “I don't want to be a nice loser, I want to be a good winner. My friends beat me and they’re not my friends anymore. They got my medal.” Andy replied, “then I’m disappointed in you.”

Opie later came to Andy and apologized. “Pa, I don't understand why I’m supposed to be happy about losing.” Andy replied, “You don't have to be happy about it, but you need to be a good loser and congratulate your friends when they win.”

Of course, here’s the catch: we can't teach well what we haven't learned ourselves. And in the area of winning and losing, most adults haven't learned much at all. Just watch a professional sport tonight. It doesn’t matter which one really. Chances are, you’ll observe some matured grown millionaire athlete throw a temper tantrum over a missed call. Or you might see fines levied toward an aging coach for throwing a water cooler on the baseball field.

When my son Eric was in 3rd grade playing basketball on a neighborhood team, he had a game north of Branson in Ozark. One Saturday afternoon, he had a game against a team that had an irate coach. The kids were small and having fun, but the opposing coach began to lose it. With every foul called, he got louder and angrier until finally he charged the referee. The game was cancelled and the confused kids left the court. Kris, the kids’ excellent coach, explained to them what had happened and that the coach was in trouble because he wasn’t nice to the referee.

These incidents happen all the time. Maybe not to that degree, but often kids are witnessing adults being poor losers. It’s the subtle times that we communicate the most to our kids. It’s the drive home from the basketball game when we say, “that ref stunk, those judges gave really low scores, or that umpire was blind.” Funny that we never say those things when our team wins.

Instead our teens need to hear us speak encouragement. “Tough loss tonight, but you all played really hard.” Or even, “not our best game tonight, but glad we get to play this weekend.” If your kid didn't play well, chances are he already knows. Don't remind him.

Yep, medals are a blast. But most of us won't win one most of the time. Our “medal” needs be the knowledge that we gave our best with what God gave us. Teach that to your kids.

Even Barney can't improve on that!

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


“I consider it right to stir you up by way of reminder…” -2 Peter 1:13

What is it with our teenagers and listening? Sometimes the directive given does not register in the mind receiving. In other words, our kids have selective listening. “Honey, here’s your allowance.” They show up in a flash, ready to receive what you have for them. “Honey, here’s a chore for you.” The kids are suddenly nowhere to be found.

Can you relate to this scenario? 11:30am: “Son, you need to have your room picked up- tonight the neighbors are coming over for dinner.” 3:00pm: “I just looked at your room and it’s a disaster- you need to clean it up now.” 5:30pm (30 minutes before the guests arrive): “Son, get your tail in you room and clean it up NOW!” 6:00pm (dinner time): cleaned room.

The truth is we all have selective listening. On Mount Carmel Elijah demonstrated to the entire nation of Israel that the Lord is God (1 Kings 18); but within a few years, the people had returned to Baal worship. Jonah’s preaching turned Nineveh upside down (Jonah 3:1-5). Only 150 years later, however, the city had returned to it’s pagan ways and was swept away like a flood by the Babylonians (Nahum 1:7-8).

I’m the same way, I listen and learn an important lesson and then I forget that very lesson and have to relearn it all over again. Why do we do that? Because the lessons learned and the directives given don't stick. They aren't permanent. As the old hymn says, I am “prone to wander, prone to leave the God I love.” They say it takes doing something at least 20 times to make it a habit. It tends to take a lot longer for me.

I learn habits well that suit my own interest and I resist habits that require work. I quickly learned how to use the remote to my HD TV in a few minutes. I read and reread the instructions in a flash. But when it comes to flossing, I get a D-.

So, our official title as parents becomes “reminderers” (I made that word up). As Peter concluded, his role was to remind his readers so they wouldn't forget what they had been taught. When we are good reminding parents, we “re-instruct” our kids on the task at hand. With patience and urging, we redirect our kids back to the right path.

“I’m not going to tell you again,” is one of the most repeated directives in the parenting toolbox. But we tell them over and over again. Be sure to reward your child when he/she is a “first responder.” Obedience is always deserving of a hug or treat. But don't lose heart in the long haul either. Stay firm, but understanding as you repeat the directive. Be specific and realize that teens are usually hearing more than they acknowledge.

God tried so hard to send prophets and signs to remind the people to turn back. In their stubbornness, they resisted and bore the consequences of their disobedience.
Grace is always willing to remind, remind and remind again.

Whether we’re handing out an allowance or a chore.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Saturday, August 21, 2010


“To everything there is a season…” –Eccl. 3:1

I learned an important lesson again this past week: nothing is for sure except for God. That has important implications for parenting. We do our best to provide for our kids and to create the stability and predictability we think they need. But what they also need from us as parents is to share our struggles as we flow with life’s seasons.

I had lunch with a friend this week who shared about his struggles this past year. He is a dad to a couple of kids and has been vulnerable with them about how the Lord has used the trials to bring him closer to His Lord. They have seen his tears and heard his prayers. He is a great dad.

I too was vulnerable with Elizabeth and Eric, my young adult kids, this week. It felt a little awkward, but I called them into the living room and shared with them some pretty huge trials I’d been experiencing. They were awesome and encouraging and hopefully they saw that, with all my work to have it all together, life is hard and only complete in the Lord.

Sure, we need to be solid for our kids. But we also need to be real with our kids. They need to see the ups and the downs. Why? Because they’ll be having ups and downs in their lifetime too. They don't need all the gory details of our journey, but when we become vulnerable and open, our teens are able to relate and learn from us that trials are okay.

Check out the attached picture of Carrolton, Arkansas. It’s now a blink on Hwy. 412, between Alpena and Fayetteville. How many people do you count in the picture? How many buildings? How many streets? I took this picture a few weeks ago. I read on the Internet that in the 1850’s, Carrolton had a population of 10,000 people with 6 hotels and 3 livery stables in the town square. It was an important stopping point through the Ozarks on the Carrolton-Forsyth-Springfield highway.

The picture I took is of that very town square today. There is nothing there. Today, there are barely 30 residents in the whole area. No one is exactly sure why. Maybe it was the civil war battle fought there where both sides burned the town. Maybe it was Harrison taking over as the big town in northern Arkansas.

If you’d have asked anyone in that town in 1860 whether it would be around in 100 years, I’m sure they’d have answered, “Well, I don't see why not?” But the truth is, things change. Towns have seasons. Businesses have seasons. Life is all about seasons. What is thriving one minute is gone the next.

A sweet lady at the nursing home once told me, “Honey, I’m just doing my best to flow with seasons.” I think that’s what Paul meant when he said he was “content in whatever circumstances he was in.” Contentment is taught and learned and the more our kids see us travail through the hills and valleys of life, the more they come to understand that struggle is okay.

The irony is that meekness does not equal weakness. In reality it’s just the opposite. The strongest people I know are the most vulnerable and real. They are strong enough to be humble and contrite.

Be strong in the Lord with your kids but also be broken with your kids. It’s a powerful parenting combination and paints a beautiful picture of life for your teens.

Whether you are passing through Carrolton or not.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Andy and the women speeder

“…speak the truth in love..” –Eph. 4:15

There are times when the blunt truth spoken in the right context makes all the difference. As parents, we need to always be prayerful about our tongue. The Bible pretty much sums up our speech as a lost cause on it’s own- we’re going to speak when we should listen and we’re going to listen when we need to speak. Only godly discernment will give us the discernment with our kids.

As always, the Andy Griffith show dealt with that matter almost 40 years ago. On a country road with Barney, Andy nabs a lady speeder. She refuses to pay the fine and insists upon a trial. She is incarcerated in the Mayberry jail until Mayor's Court sits the following day.

In the meantime she seduces the witnesses against her - Barney, Floyd and Opie - with flattery and, in Opie's case, the gift of an autographed baseball. In Mayor's Court, her case is dismissed because the witnesses won't testify against her.

Andy tells the lady speeder she has corrupted justice with her wiles. He is firm but honest. She is shamed. Leaving town moments later, she deliberately speeds away. Andy and Barney pursue and stop her on the road. This time she pays the fine with good grace and, wanting to right previous wrongs, pays the fines she eluded in Mayor's court.

Her change of heart was contingent upon Andy telling her the truth. He was under control, but he shared his heart with her and walked away. Her shame was a good thing. Shame is a tricky concept because, in the wrong context, it is not healthy. But when it leads to good guilt, it can be so freeing.

Truth is, out teens know when they have done something wrong. They aren't as clueless as they let on. Many teenagers are just asking for someone to get in their face and correct them in love. I remember disciplining our kids when they were young and they would tag next to me the rest of the day. Why? Because they sensed love in the process.

The woman sped away because she wanted to get caught. She needed a chance to repent of her wrong and Andy allowed it. He showed forgiveness for her past mistake and let her right the wrong. In other words, Andy loved her through the process, not only with his hard words, but with his forgiveness also.

Be a parent that is willing to be lovingly hard and honest. Pray for the discernment to know the right timing- when to listen and when to talk. Share your frustration in love and let it go. Don't harbor anger. Give your teen a second chance. Then, if they recognize the guilt, you’ll be ready to help them right the wrong. If they don't face the guilt, then you correct them again and again. If they continue with the wrong, seek help from a Counselor.

Be ready to speak truth to your teenager in love and the godly counsel will give them life.

And hopefully keep them from speeding.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


“…respect those that lead you…” -1 Thess. 5:12

Good coaches are worth their weight in gold! Their involvement in the life of our kids is so crucial. Especially with junior high and high school kids still forming their fragile self-images, coaches have such potential to have a positive effect on a teenager’s confidence.

The heat of August always reminds me of one thing: two-a-days! For those who played serious high school football in Texas or anywhere else, the frantic preparation for that first fall game is well underway. And it brings back memories of my favorite coaches and what made them so memorable to me all these years later.

Steve Chevereau was my coach freshman year in high school. He was in charge of the linebackers and I can remember he was tall and loud. But mostly I remember his interaction with us off the field. During breaks and after practice he didn't run to the coaches’ office (I always wondered what they did in there anyway?), but he mingled with the players. He made us feel like we were worth more to him than just football.

My sophomore year, Jimmy Johnson was my coach. Much like “Remember the Titans,” Terrell High School, located in the urban part of Fort Worth, shut down and the kids from that school transferred to Arlington Heights, a mostly all-white school. They hired Coach Johnson from Terrell to bridge the gap. He did a masterful job making us all feel valued.

My junior and senior year, Merlin Priddy took the reigns as the head coach of the varsity. I was the fourth Staples boy to play under him and he always called me “little Staples.” He wore the classic elastic coaches shorts and chewed tobacco constantly, and he was a great coach. I was a fair football player and he got every ounce of my talent out of me by pushing to be all I could be. “Joey, it’s time to get going,” he would say as he pushed me along.

At Baylor, my soccer coach was Telmo Franco, and I remember he was fairly gentle and accommodating. His style was not loud and boisterous, but calm and gentle. He let the players play and we felt relaxed on the field.

One of the greatest coaches I know is my wife, Jeanie, who has faithfully coached kids in gymnastics for over 25 years. The emails and letters that she receives from past students testify to her ability to love kids as she coaches them.

Whether intramurals or varsity, coaches play such a huge part in the life of our kids. Much like teachers, our kids encounter coaches that click with their personalities and others that don't click. Of course, as parents we don't click with some coaches either. Baring the need to confront them over some serious issues, we parents should leave them alone.

I know too well that sick feeling that comes with a coach not recognizing the potential in your child or a coach not understanding your child’s needs. But face it, no one knows your kids better than you do. And your teen needs to learn how to deal with adversity by himself.

So, encourage and praise your child’s coaches, even if they wear those elastic coaching shorts!

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Luke 9:58

The one thing certain about life is that it’s uncertain. Life is always full of change: change in health, change in finances, change in location and change in family. Most of us parents are working hard to produce peace and security for our kids, but a part of our job description is teaching our kids how to deal with change. We need to be sure we’re teaching them that peace and security aren’t dependent upon things staying the same.

Jeanie and I just got back from helping some good friends pack the moving van. They have lived in Branson for a long time and are very dear friends of ours. The Lord has called them away from the Ozarks and they are excited. A new opportunity awaits them in Colorado and it will be great. Though we will miss them, their adventure will be awesome.

Brian, my brother-in-law, is a missionary in Botswana, Africa. In the 31 years he’s been away from home in various positions, he has lived in 31 different places. Why? Because the Lord has called him to 31 different locations. He loves the adventure and the change.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with living in the same place for years, but it depends. Jesus certainly didn't teach that we should strive to live on the same street where we were raised. He stressed that, to be a true disciple, we owe our allegiance to Him first, then to mom, dad and family.

Sometimes that allegiance to Him means we are to “go.” Sometimes it means we are to “stay.” The point is, He comes first.

Help your kids understand that moving is not “bad” or something to be avoided. Teach them that change, when initiated by the Lord, is exciting and stable- even more than staying put.

Growing up, our family moved a lot, especially my 3 older brothers when my dad was being transferred all over the country in the Air Force. All of us brothers were born in different places. My parents did an excellent job teaching us that moving is exciting and fun. I remember moving into new houses and loving the new bedrooms and yard. It took adjusting, but it was exciting.

Only God knows what course He has planned for our kids. Maybe they’ll live down the street. Or maybe they’ll live in China. We want them following God’s plan for their lives. Hard as it is, our plans for them may not be God’s plans for them.

Be sure you’re helping them grow through the trials and challenges of growing up. From childhood through the teenage years, there are so many physical and emotional changes. Help your kids see that life is about growing through change, not avoiding change.

Help your kids understand that no matter where they live, the love of family and faith are important.

Because they can live anywhere!

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Monday, August 9, 2010


“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life” –Prov. 13:14

School is getting ready to start and thousands of teachers across the country are going back to work. I know most have had a great summer off, but I’m glad they’re going back to the classroom to do what they do. Thousands of kids need what they can offer.

Teachers play such a huge part in the growth and development of kids. As parents, we’re always a bit nervous about our kids’ new teachers. We’d prefer to receive a detailed background check and personality profile for each of our child’s teachers. But in the end, we pray that the teacher will be as concerned about our child as a person as well as his/her grades.

Miss Stepp was my fifth grade teacher. I had just moved to Fort Worth from Alabama (my dad was in the Air Force and was transferred). Being the youngest of four boys, I was a pretty insecure and a shy little guy. Miss Stepp took the extra time to reach out and make me feel special. It’s been over forty years ago and I still remember her because she cared about me first. I had many other teachers that shared that same attitude.

Mr. Tucker was my woodshop teacher in eighth grade. He invited me to be his aide for a class period. It meant so much to me. I still remember how special I felt taking that role for him. He was kind of strict but when he looked me in the eyes and said, “good job,” it meant a lot.

Miss Ross was my senior year English teacher. Though her class was very hard, she took time out to explain to me how the course would help in college. She often asked me about my future. Looking back, more than any other high school teacher, she helped me prepare for college.

Gerald Fielder was my political science teacher in college. That was not my major, but a course required to graduate from Baylor. Somehow, our personalities clicked and I found myself going to his office on several occasions to discuss life. Our friendship continued after college and when he passed away a few years ago, I had the honor of speaking at his memorial service in Waco. He always asked me questions about my family and about the ministry. He was a great encourager.

There is another list of teachers with whom I never connected. But I bet they connected with other students. I learned something from them too- simply to work hard and to do what was expected.

Parents and students, remember that teaching school is a difficult job. Most teachers are underpaid and overworked. So, how about this year, try being an encourager for teachers? Slip them a note of thanks or leave an apple on their desk.

All the teachers I mentioned were able to affect me so greatly because I let them affect me. Students, have an open heart and parents, don't involve yourselves too much in their work. They may handle your child differently than you, but so will their coaches and bosses one day. They need to learn to live with different styles of leadership in their lives.

Let’s commit to pray for our nations’ teachers. Pray for strength for them as they love on America’s kids and teens.

Pray they enjoy the apple left on their desk.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Counting doors

“Be careful how you walk, making the most of your time…” –Eph. 5:16

I have struggled my whole life to slow down. I’m not sure why exactly. I know the “sweat of the brow” curse in Genesis works on all of us guys, but I am glad we don't have to experience labor pains. But hey, that only happens to most women a few times. The “work curse” plagues us men all our days on this earth.

And the curse can wreck havoc on families. A dad (or mom) that is always busy is a parent not focused on the kids. Kids and teens need focused time on them and them alone. What we might see as worthless, meaningless time is valuable to them. Why? Because deep inside they know how valuable time is. When you slow down to focus on them, they feel important and loved.

It’s has been project time around the Staples’ home for the past month. Our home is about 30 years old and so there are usually multiple projects scheduled at any given moment. Truthfully, there have been for the 30 years we’ve lived here.

This time it involved hanging new interior doors. No big deal, right? Take the old doors off. Measure. Buy the new ones. Take hinges off old doors and put on the new. Take handle off the old door and put on the new. Put up the new door and your done. 10-minute job. Right? Wrong.

If you’ve ever tried to hang interior doors in an already existing doorframe, you know how difficult it is to get it all lined up and swinging correctly. It takes hours.

So, the two hours I allocated for door hanging turned into two days. And I was an absolute grouch through it all. Feel free to call Jeanie to confirm. I needed to install 5 doors and I wasn’t going to be happy until the project was finished.

I wasn’t much fun to be with over the weekend and I look back at the nice doors but regret the time wasted. I was certainly not careful how I walked and I wasted my time.

There’s nothing wrong with projects around the house, but my problem was that it consumed me. I’m fairly worthless as a parent when I put the project ahead of the person.

I’m thinking, “When I finish this project, then I can have peace.” Jesus says in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
If my peace has to wait until all the doors are hung, then it’s not true peace. Why? Because there’s always another project waiting as soon as the doors are finished.

Oswald Chambers reminds us that, “Jesus delivers us in trouble not from trouble.”
Be a parent that is content and at peace through the project. Be a parent that even includes the kids in the project.

If we’re counting down the doors…5,4,3,2,1, now peace, then we’re missing the opportunity. Someone said, “don't get projects done with people. Rather, get people done with projects.”

So, get the projects done, but remember to enjoy the journey, the peace, and the person in the midst of the chore. Then, you’ll be the mom and dad your kids need over the weekend.

And, you’ll find that the doors go up a lot easier.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Teachable moments

“…be able to teach… -2 Tim. 2:24

As parents, always be looking for opportunities to teach. The kids may roll their eyes, but they’ll remember the silly stories you tell and the lessons learned. Life lessons coming from mom and dad are gold to kids and teens alike. Their body language may say otherwise, but they’re listening.

Certainly look for opportunities to share about how God is at work, but also simple lessons of everyday life are important too.

Changing our own oil was big in the Staples family. In the 70’s and 80’s, there weren’t so many car oil change places like there are now and it cost more to have someone else do the work. So I always changed my oil. It was the guy thing to do.

One day, when my kids were young, I was getting ready to change the oil in our station wagon and I decided it would be fun to have the family watch me, Mr. Provider, do my duty. And they would learn how to change their own oil one day. It was a perfect teachable moment (so I thought).

With pride intact, I set up lawn chairs in the garage around the front of the car and had the family all sit and observe. With testosterone flowing and masculinity soaring, I proceeded to change the oil. I’d already drained the old oil out and removed the oil filter and after the family sat down, I put the new oil filter on and began to add oil. On the second quart, one of the kids asked, “Daddy, why is oil pouring out under the car?” I quickly looked and noticed oil coming out of the hole where the screw was supposed to be. I’d forgotten to put the oil plug back on!

Hormones ceased flowing immediately and I hurried to try to plug the leak. Oil went everywhere. I know how the folks at British Petroleum feel! By the time I got the oil cleaned up, the family was back in the house.

I told them at dinner that, “Daddy messed up.” Embarrassed, I explained to them what I’d done wrong. My kids were so traumatized that, to this day, none of my kids change their own oil. And I don’t either.

That particular life lesson opportunity backfired, but most go as planned. I am known in my family for stopping at the historical markers when we travel. We sometimes drive through the Civil War battlefields spread throughout the south. I used to wonder why my brothers and I are so fascinated with history. Then it occurred to me- our father loved history too. He would often stop at the battlefields and shuffle us all out of the station wagon. We pass on to our kids what was passed on to us- unfortunately, the good and the bad.

Pass on stories and antidotes that will be helpful for your teen as they go through life. Pass on stories your parents passed on to you. Again, your teen may act uninterested, but they will soak up the knowledge.

Look for opportunities to teach and train. Even if there’s an oil leak, you’ll be investing in your most precious commodity- your kids.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Back to school

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” -James 1:2

It’s hard to believe that it’s August and school supply lists are already posted at Wal Mart. When I was a kid, school didn't start till after Labor Day. The summer really was three months long. But no matter when it started, I was always excited to return to school.

For kids and teenagers alike, the beginning of school is a mixture of excitement and fear. Excitement to be back with friends but the fear of change, a new teacher, a new classroom and, worst of all, a new locker (with a combination).

I remember when we put Eric and Elizabeth on the school bus for the first time. Jeanie and I both cried as the bus drove away. We needed to let them go, but suddenly they were on their own for most of the day in elementary school. Sure, they had some tough days, but learning to be on their own was so good for them.

Junior high presented it’s own challenges, different for both of our kids. Organized school sports began with all its pressure. Both of our kids learned so much about peer pressure, both positive and negative. Since girls mature and develop earlier than guys, they begin the maturity process earlier than the guys and their emotional needs and self-esteem are developing at a faster pace. Most of the guys are still clueless about the girls and would prefer a Cardinal game.

High school might have been the biggest challenge. The guys catch up to the girls and everyone learns appropriate interaction with each other. Teens are walking through that awkward balance of independence and dependence. They are learning to be on their own, but still need mom and dad.

College is the literal moving on and learning to handle life without mom and dad, while figuring out what career field to pursue.

Graduate school, home school, night school, and Sunday school….

The list goes on and on. It seems we’re always in school in some way. The best thing we can teach our kids and teens is to go into school with a firm faith and an open, teachable heart. There is so much to learn.

There are all the basic disciplines of math, history and science. But school is more about learning how to work, learn and get along with people. Sure, it’s difficult to let our kids go, but all the lessons learned in the home need to be tempered in the heat of school relationships.

When I went to Baylor, my freshman year was eye opening to so many things. Baylor is a private Baptist school and many of my friends were experiencing freedom for the first time. Some handled it well, but one friend did not. Though he was a high achieving student in high school, he was very sheltered during his grade school years. He was dismissed from Baylor after the spring semester for poor grades. “Unbelievable,” I thought. But he took the freedom and ran with it, drinking, smoking, and not studying along the way.

As this new school year begins, pray for the right balance between structuring your child’s life while allowing them the freedom to fail and succeed. Whatever school your child is attending, be thankful for his successes, but also thankful for his trials.

Remember, trials aren't just good for parents - our kids need them too!

By Eric Joseph Staples ©