If you have been a volunteer teacher in Bible classes for children or teens for very long, you have probably realized there are a lot of parents in the world who are struggling. They aren’t really sure what to do. They aren’t sure to whom they should go for godly parenting advice. They may not openly admit it, but most days they feel like they are drowning with no hope in sight.
Whether or not you yourself are an experienced parent, you can help the parents of your students. I realize you may hesitate thinking, “Who am I to try and tell them how to parent?” But that’s what most people don’t realize about mentoring, it’s really not about whether you are a perfect parent yourself. Here are some truths about mentoring the parents of your students.
- You can’t force a parent to parent better. The government can tell you that. That’s why our foster care system is overloaded. You can suggest. You can share what did and didn’t work for you. You can introduce them to great parenting resources, but you can’t force them to try and improve their parenting skills.
- You don’t have to be a perfect parent to mentor the parents of your students. If you had to be perfect at anything you taught, there would be no teachers. Even the best Christian parents in the world will tell you they still made mistakes. Your skill at parenting (or lack thereof) is not as critical as your skill at discerning and sharing quality parenting resources with them. If you have adult kids who grew up to be faithful, productive Christians, then you probably should be sharing what you personally found that worked or didn’t work constantly (Yes, I know you weren’t perfect either.)
- You don’t have to be a parent to mentor parents. Oh, you will definitely hear that critique from some people. If you have a lot of experience working with children and/or a degree in a field like education, you may actually have more experience with children and expertise in knowing what they need than many parents. You can’t share what you have done as a parent, but you can share what you have found works with similar children or what you have studied. The advice I gave parents as a single adult with a degree in education is the same advice I would give after over twenty years of parenting.
- Students (with parents who are struggling) need you to help them by helping their parents. It doesn’t matter how great of a teacher you may be or how wonderful your lessons are. If your student leaves your classroom and goes home to chaos, abuse or some other less serious parenting issue, it can distract them from remembering and using what they have learned in your class. As Bible class teachers, we also know poor parenting skills can “break” these kids and make it more difficult for them to accept the Gospel message and live a Christian life.
- Many of the parents of your students secretly want mentoring but are too shy, embarrassed or proud to ask. Mentoring books will tell you to be a truly successful mentor, the person needs to want your mentoring badly enough to ask you to help. While that is true, often a person needing mentoring won’t ask, but will accept resources and other offers of help.
- Mentoring a parent can take a few minutes to many years. This causes fear on the side of potential mentors. What if one of the parents of your students begins monopolizing your time? This is when it is important to have healthy personal boundaries. Honestly, the person we fear is rarely experienced. If someone does begin taking over your life or asking you to take over their parenting for them, it’s okay to enforce your boundaries.
So, what can you do to mentor the parents of your students without insulting them? What resources can you provide that may help them on their Christian parenting journey? Next week, I will share some of my favorite resources to give parents.