All good parents want their kids to fly like eagles, to stretch out their wings of maturity and soar above the clouds of childhood. Sadly, many children get their wings too early, only to crash in premature defeat. There are some who never get their wings, and live insecurely attached to Mom's apron strings and Dad's credit cards.

Picture the flight of a responsible college-aged young man or woman beaming with Christ-centered confidence, filled with vision and purpose, humble and gentle in manner. Picture this being your child. Yes, it is possible! But you must start early, while he or she is in junior high, if possible, especially if your child is experiencing rebellion.

Let me tell you about a plan we've developed to help parents guide their children toward becoming ever more responsible young people who ultimately soar into adulthood. We call it "Take It to the Top."

The plan has as its focus certain responsibilities and freedoms. The more a child exercises these responsibilities, the more he or she enjoys certain freedoms; and the reverse is true. Picture, if you will, an elevator ride in a seven-story building. The object is to take it all the way to the top―even if it means going down before it can go up once again. Most young people, in the junior-high age range, start at the third floor.

First Stop: Third Floor
At this level, children are responsible to obey their parents and the rules of the home―no drugs, alcohol, sex, foul language, attempts to run away; weekly chores are accomplished on time; and children regularly attend church and youth group. There must be consistent deportment at school, children's grade point average is at a level determined by parents, and there are no unexcused absences.

Until these responsibilities are met, children enjoy limited freedoms. They may watch one approved TV show per week, and listen to Christian music only. There is no money, phone, or nights out at this level.

Going Up or Down?
Children who prove faithful on the third floor may take the elevator to the fourth. Here parents build upon third-floor responsibilities. New responsibilities include getting up and ready for school on time; being pleasant with parents and siblings; selecting friends with stable reputations; and maintaining a daily quiet time.

New freedoms include one night out per weekend with an appropriate curfew, one phone call per night (the call's length at the parents' discretion), one approved TV show per day, and a weekly allowance.

Children who don't prove faithful at level three, however, take the elevator down a level and experience tight discipline―perhaps even the discipline of a military school or youth home. It's yes sir and yes ma'am, plus strict adherence to rules at this level. Freedoms are cut back as well―to one phone call a week, for example.

Few descend to the first floor; that is, a state mental hospital or youth state prison. Here there's strict obedience to rules or severe discipline; freedoms are essentially nonexistent.

Up, Up and Away
Let's assume success at levels three and four, and we're on our way to the top! Building once again upon prior responsibilities, on level five young men and women consistently pursue school activity, successfully maintain a part-time job, clearly communicate plans, and vacuum and wash the car once a week.

Added freedoms include getting a driver's permit, receiving a weekly allowance, one night out per weekend with an appropriate curfew, and a phone call once per evening.

On level six, added responsibilities include keeping the car clean and serviced, and taking on a leadership role in one church or parachurch organization. Added freedoms include getting a driver's license, sharing the finances of their own car, one to two night activities per weekend with curfews, and an increase in allowance.

When young adults ascend to level seven, they have reached college age and experience the greatest responsibilities and freedoms. Responsibilities include a collegiate lifestyle free of alcohol, drugs, and premarital sex. At this level they are aiming at one solid Christian growth objective, as well as pursuing a sound career.

In terms of freedoms, they attend college, have their own car, manage their own spending money, and make their own decisions concerning hours, curfews, friends, and so forth.

When your child has successfully reached this level, you've helped him or her make it to the top. And know that your labor is not in vain; along the way you will have instilled in your child a legacy he or she is sure to pass along to the next generation.