We’re Teaching This:
When it comes to junk food, nearly everyone has a weak spot. Maybe for you, it’s the perfect salty bag of chips. Or maybe it’s beef jerky or those tiny pizza rolls. Maybe you have a sweet tooth and you just can’t pass on ice cream or cookies… or both. Whatever it is, we all have something that taps into our weak spot, our cravings. When it’s around us, we just can’t seem to help ourselves. And it’s more than just junk food, right? That “gotta-have-it-right-now” temptation can pop up in a lot of different areas. Gossip. Movies. Spending money. Sex… Temptation is everywhere. But what are we supposed to do about it? Most of us know that giving in never makes our lives better, so what is it about the things that tempt us that makes us feel so powerless to say no? Thankfully, Scripture has a lot to say when it comes to temptation. And while there’s no promise that it will ever go away, we can find the courage to resist it, replace it, and avoid getting hooked.
Think About This:
We all want our students to avoid temptation. We want them to eat right, make healthy choices, drive cautiously, be responsible and avoid things that will hurt them. But knowing how to help them navigate temptation can be tricky. The temptations our students deal with can look and feel different than the ones we faced as teenagers. And, no matter how much we know about their lives, there’s still a pretty good chance that they’re faced with some temptations that we don’t even know about.
Even though we can’t know everything that entices our students, helping them learn the skills to navigate tempting situations my not be as complicated as we think. Often, the best thing we can do for our student is to be intentional our own response to their tempting situations. How we respond, our actions and reactions, not only tell students what we believe about the situation but also what we believe about them. And that’s why, even when it’s difficult, we must learn fight the urge to over-protect or under-protect our student.
1. The urge to over-protect. Knowing the many temptations our students face, the billions of dollars spent to entice them to make unhealthy choices, it’s enough to send any parent into full on isolation mode. Obviously, we can’t keep them in a bubble forever, but maybe it’s a good idea just until they’re eighteen, right? Wrong. In fact, a number of publications by experts suggest that overprotection can lead students to increased alcohol use, obesity, social anxiety, and decreased ability to cope with temptation when the parent is not around. Basically, the opposite of what we want to happen.
So, what are some ways to avoid over-protecting?
- Say yes….sometimes. There are certain situations when it’s vital for a teen’s safety that their parents say “no”. But that’s not every Sometimes saying “yes” to a movie, a party, or an event that was previously off limits can communicate to your student you believe they’ll do the right thing. That you have faith in them. And, maybe more importantly, it gives them the opportunity to practice making wise choices.
- Be surprised, but don’t act surprised. Eventually, every teenager will tell you something that makes you cringe. In moments like these, it’s important to keep cool on the outside, even if you’re shaking out on the inside, because freaking out about temptation doesn’t lead students to avoid it. Many times, it just leads them to avoiding telling you about it.
2. The urge to under-protect. In a world where parents are labeled “helicopters” or “hovering”, it can be tempting to think that the best thing for your student is to take a hands-off approach. But leaving teenagers with too much freedom and not enough guidance can be just as dangerous as overprotecting them.
- Don’t check out. Sure, you’re close to the finish line, but the truth is your student needs you now more than ever. Even though your teenager may look and sound like an adult, parts of their brain are still under construction, specifically the parts that help them process risk and consequences. That’s why it’s so important, even with upper classmen, to continue to set boundaries for them, give them responsibility incrementally, and let them know that you’re there to help along the way.
- Do give them an alternative. As adults, we know that the best way to fight temptation is to do something else. It isn’t enough to say “don’t eat the cheeseburger” or “don’t sit on the couch all day.” We are most successful when we give ourselves alternatives like healthy snacks and fun ways to exercise. The same is true for our students. When we talk about temptations they may face, we’ll often find more success if we focus on the “do” instead of the “don’t”. Maybe for your student that means getting involved in a club, working out, finding a hobby, or having their friends over instead of going out. Whatever it is, helping your teenager find healthy alternatives to their temptation is a win every time.
Just like any other life skill, our students are most likely to learn how to deal with temptation by paying attention to how we deal with it. This week, choose a healthy alternative to your own temptation. It can be as simple as…
- If you’re tempted to gossip, change the subject.
- If you’re tempted to lose your temper, head to the gym instead.
- If you’re tempted to waste hours in front of the TV, work on your hobby instead.
- If you’re tempted to text while you drive, turn off your phone and listen to the radio instead.
Whatever your temptation, simply choose to replace it with something better for you for one week. Chances are your student is paying attention, and when he or she asks be willing to tell them why you’ve made the switch. In doing so, you may inspire them to find some healthy replacements for their own toughest temptations.