One of my pet peeves is when stores start to sell and decorate for a season way before that season arrives. I’m talking months before… like in mid-October when Christmas decorations appear. I start to have anxiety about all that I need to do before the holiday arrives. Another such time is what feels like early summer when the back to school items start appearing. It feels like a rush to finish summer, but as a parent that anxiety creeps back in on all that I have to do to prepare them for the school year. Doctor’s visits, school supplies, backpacks, new clothes/uniforms, shoes, haircuts not to mention wrapping your head around every mom’s “favorite” thing… school lunches.
There is something to be said, however, for this time. It is a fresh start, a new year. Happy New Year! That is right. If you are a parent, this is the beginning of your new year. With this in mind, August is the time to think through the beginning of your family’s brand new year.
This time does not just usher in the start of a new school year; it is a profound turning point for your child. It is the beginning of another year of educating and training, not just the beginning of a sign-them-up season. This school year is the beginning of one-eighteenth of your child’s training for life.
For parents, August becomes a strategic planning month. To fail to plan means that the family calendar will fill with things which the school and community throw at the family. This means the community and school becomes the lead trainers in the life of your child.
August is the month to decide what areas of training your child needs during the next twelve months. For example, are you noticing a self-centered attitude developing in your twelve year old? The question to ask yourself in the August parenting staff meeting is whether this is something you think important enough to deal with this upcoming new year (Philippians 2:4, Matthew 22:39). Loving your neighbor is a command but certainly not a natural inclination. Hence, loving your neighbor must be taught.
Once you have established that this is important enough to spend your precious time training, look at the potential activities for the upcoming year. Will any of these activities help to train this biblical mandate? Sports programs are wonderful, but they teach a child to excel physically while being at the center of the performance arena. They teach how to work together as a team, patience, endurance and many other things; but there are so many things we want to instill in our children before they leave home. Growing up, we did sports for one season and then focused on other things throughout the year. It is okay to say “no” to activities to prioritize other training.
Find a place where your child can serve others. Serving others could be for the family to volunteer a couple hours a week visiting an elderly member of the church who is homebound or in a nursing home. It could be visiting the home of a widow and helping with her lawn or dusting her house.
Is a self-centered attitude something worth dealing with? Certainly it is. Discouraging self-centered attitudes will not happen unless the parent gets out front of the “Family Year” and creates a plan to teach this lesson.
What about teaching the child to take spiritual leadership? If spiritual leadership is important, how about using your home as a place for a weekly Bible study for some of the kids from church or school. Ask the youth pastor for curriculum and encourage your child to invite friends.
It is not a matter of eliminating the sports and activities that your child is traditionally involved in each school year. It is a matter of deciding that the school and community will not dictate what your child will be doing each waking hour. It is time for discerning parents to take control of what they will train their children this coming year. Extra-curricular programs such as sports and music have their place, but these activities just cannot be permitted to take up every extra minute of your child’s time.
As parents, use August to get ready for this fresh new opportunity with your children, the New Year. Decide and plan ahead of time what you will be training your child before the temptation to say “yes” to every opportunity overtakes you. What do you need to train each of your children this coming year? What are you parenting goals? For your children’s sake, make their training a priority!
Visit parentingonpurpose.org for more advice from Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts.