Tony Miltenberger is a husband, father, and follower of Christ. He is currently serving as the lead pastor at Restoration Church Centerville, ohio.

The Best Parenting Idea We've Ever Stole

The Best Parenting Idea We've Ever Stole

Do you remember when your dad first called you a man? I don’t. It just wasn’t something we talked about or gave much thought. I remember coming back from Basic Training and life being different, but honestly – that is about it. And in no way is this my dad’s fault, this is kind of where our culture is at; we have stopped ushering people into seasons of their life. We just don’t do it well. We have countless graduations for school, but I don’t know many people that are celebrating intentional growth.   

So, Connor turned thirteen last week and we decided to do something different. We decided that we would officially celebrate him becoming a man. Not because of something physical, emotional, or spiritual, but because as parents we believed that it is our job to usher him in to this next season. Will he still make boyish choices? Absolutely. Is he still growing? Absolutely. Will he still depend on us? I hope so. So, what makes someone a man? The choice to start acting like one.

In that process we began the very imperfect process of stealing as many good ideas about the topic as possible and we landed on two things that are required: Define what a man is, and celebrate the step intentionally.

So, how did we do it?

Well, we started with something we called a “Yes Weekend” (which we stole from Jen Hatmaker). Karen and I decided that every kid would get a “Yes Weekend” with the same sex parent when they turn thirteen. The idea of the day and a half was to say yes to everything he wanted (within our budget). It was just me and him, and I let him pick all the options. Not surprisingly we ate lots of junk food, saw a movie, stayed overnight at a hotel, and did some epic skiing. It was great, and a great exercise for me to give up control. Thankfully, he didn’t test my boundaries too much, and we were able to really connect. It was so much fun.

The second part of the experience was to define what it meant to be a man. This idea was a little harder, and we realized that we needed some help. We asked the men in Connor’s life to write him a letter about what they thought it meant. Eight men total, six family members (including me) and two men who have been walking with him through church. Each man wrote a letter, and I was so incredibly touched by what they all had to say. Uncles, grandfathers, and friends all seem to lift up the best parts of him while also acknowledging the places that will challenge him in the future.  We stole this idea from John Eldredge, Charles Causey and Jen Hatmaker uses part of this as well.

We ended the intentional celebration on Saturday night with a family birthday party (I think this was our own idea…?). It was a perfect day and a half.

So, he is thirteen, so he is not going to give us much in terms of emotion, but I could see it on his face – it impacted him. How will it impact him? I guess only time will tell. My prayer is that the letters, the experience, and the intentionality will push him towards a better understanding of what it means to be a Christian man.  

I did ask his permission before writing this blog, and I asked him if he had any reflections he wanted to share. He said, “It was good.” Which, coming from a thirteen-year-old is a big statement I suppose.

In the busy world we live in it is so easy to let intentional moments slip by. It is easy to not give a birthday a second thought, but I want to encourage you: Make the moment special. Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen… whatever the age, YOU can create intentional moments of growth. Steal this idea, or better yet – improve upon it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts: What are you doing to intentionally celebrate growth in your kids?


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