According to authors Stan and Brenna Jones, “The closer the child says his or her relationship is with parents, the less likely the child is to be having sex. A close relationship between parent and child appears to instill in the child the desire to want to live out the values and moral beliefs of the parent.” In a national survey more than nine of ten teens agreed that among the benefits of waiting to have sex is enjoying the respect of parents.

In 10 Questions Your Kids Ask About Sex, we share one of the ways Bill and I have set out to earn the respect (and ear) of our kids is we tried to leave our TradeMark ™ on our kids’ hearts and lives with:

Traditions (things you do year after year to reinforce core principles)

Memories (once-in-a-lifetime events that mark a moment or drive home a point)

Mom and Dad—you do make a difference! It is never too late to start a yearly tradition (what kid doesn’t like a party or a present?). When you connect a principle to be taught with a positive experience, it will become imprinted on your child or teen's heart and mind. It becomes a touchstone they can come back to in the middle of decision-making later in life. Let’s look at a few things you can do as you look at the end of summer/back to school rhythm of life:

Traditions:

  • Learner and Leader Day. The week before school begins we have a fun family day, then negotiate a privileges-and-responsibilities contract. (The chart, list of things kids can do at different ages, and how we run [and reward] our kids for being Learners and Leaders is all found in 10 Best Decisions a Parent Can Make). The plus side of having a yearly tradition like this is our kids thought it “normal” to make contracts, set goals, negotiate new privileges—and eventually the privilege of dating became one of them!
     
  • Make time to get away. Have a Father-son camping trip, Mother-daughter tea, or parents-and-child dinner out, and talk through important issues—such as how to wisely handle relationships (info we share in our book 10 Questions Kids Ask About Sex).
     
  • Take your teen to dinner and share your love story, then have him/her complete the Teen Relationship contract. We begin the yearly “out to dinner to discuss relationships” at age 11 and continue each year until each of our sons got engaged. In the early years, the evening is more formal, with discussion line by line through the Relationship Contract. However, as they got older, the dialogue was more of an update or a time of answering questions or being a coach or consultant. (At age 16, when they earned their driver’s license, we gave them a set of car keys and an ID bracelet with 1 Thes 4:3 on one side and “until the day” on the other as mementos to encourage decisions of integrity in the area of relationships.)

Memories

These are those once in a lifetime, or every-few-years type activities to mark a moment of an important decision or transition:

  • Create a rite of passage to mark when your son moves into manhood and daughter into womanhood. Our book 10 Best Decisions a Parent Can Make shares how we did a walk into Manhood. We personalize our rites of passage to each child’s interests: our eldest walked to football field with mentors, our second visited a racetrack, then walked the track with mentors; and our youngest is planning his rite of passage as an outdoor adventure. Pam’s Raising a Modern Day Princess shares a girl’s rite of passage program which includes a seven week Bible study for mom and daughter and information on how to create a personal celebration party including a father’s (or step-in-dad’s) blessing.
     
  • Do “Dinner and Discussions” with your college bound student. Our Freshman Foundation questions cover five vital areas to help your son or daughter make wise choices as they launch into adulthood. For one son we walked the beach each night at sunset at a family camp. The next we took to dinner once a week for five weeks and the last one we did a once a month dinner the last five months of his senior year. All the methods worked to communicate to our sons that we cared enough to make sure they had thought through all the big decisions associated with college. (This also includes the signing of the “Farrel Scholarship Agreement” which details what “strings” of solid moral and academic choices are connected with any money mom and dad contribute toward higher education. We see help toward college as a privilege to be earned -like any scholarship- and not a young adults’ right to the parents' pocketbook.)
     
  • For kids age 5 to 11, use the Kid’s Treasure Map (and 10 Best Decisions a Parent Can Make book: the “Treasure” chapter) to help your child discover the treasure (strength or talent) God has placed inside him or her. We observed as youth pastors that those teens who had something they felt competent in by the time they were 13 soared successfully through their teens years.

More traditions and memories are found in 10 Questions Kids Ask About Sex but the overall goal is to leave your TradeMark on the hearts of your children. Just as you might etch your name into the sand on a family vacation, God encourages parents to inscribe God’s Word on the hearts of the next generation with predetermined and proactive times as well as every day, along the way, moments of influence: