I have three daughters and two younger sons. My eldest daughter got married two and a half years ago and now lives in Korea, my second eldest daughter is studying for a PhD in the UK, my youngest daughter is in her 2nd year of university, my elder son is in Year 8 of secondary school and my youngest son is now in Year 1 of primary school. From having a married child all the way down to a child who just entered primary school, God has been training me to better understand children of all ages 😊
Nowadays, my attention is drawn to my teenage son the most. As a parent, there are many new dilemmas in the current age of mobile technology. All my daughters had their first mobile phones in secondary school. But my son had his first mobile phone a little earlier, because most of my son’s friends were exchanging phone numbers and sharing WhatsApp messages during the graduation week of primary school, and I didn’t want him to lose contact with his closest friends.
But with so many other functions besides SNS, such as YouTube and countless gaming apps, I became concerned as he was on his smartphone all day long if I didn’t restrict his usage. To add, one of my close pastor friends had recently told me that his son had just barely managed to get into university due to excessive gaming, despite getting into a prestigious secondary school.
At first, I put a smartphone lock from 9pm to 7.30am and asked my son to put his phone in my room after school. In return, I allowed him certain days where he could play games during the week and allowed him more screen time during weekends. When he complained to me that I was the only father to put such limitations and that all of his friends were using their phones freely, I allowed him more screentime. But it seemed that my son would remain discontent if he didn’t have complete autonomy.
My well-meant efforts were worsening my relationship with my son and even extended to hostility toward God, so this was a serious issue. To seek wisdom, I re-read a book called ‘Between parent and teenager’ and also sought wisdom from God. Every time, my mind kept pondering, ‘How did God treat me?’. Rather than controlling us by force, God gave us complete freewill. God didn’t stop Adam and Eve from eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Although very time-consuming, complicated and tiring, God led His people to holiness by continually persuading and encouraging them towards His absolute standards.
Instead of putting restrictions which are not beneficial in the long run, I needed to keep presenting my son with a set of healthy and indisputable standards, and at the same time allow him opportunities to exercise self-control. So I asked my son to set himself a study plan and submit work according to that plan. Now my son looks at his phone the moment he wakes up and plays game in his spare time, which I disapprove of. But he tries his best to keep to his study plan and I also try my best to not take notice of him playing on his phone. Even after raising five children, becoming a good parent is still difficult. But I’m grateful that it makes me depend on God more. Also, it’s a relief that God has shown us the model way to treat people. ‘God, I’m still lacking today and so look up You alone”.