David* pulled me over to the sidelines of the soccer field at the end of the game. Talking excitedly, the words just tumbled out of his mouth. “That was weird. You’ll never believe what that girl just said to me,” he blurted. David was part of our preteen leadership group. Helping lead the soccer group at sports camp in the inner city was his assigned role on this opening day. I gave him my full attention, urging him to share more, looking for the real crux of the problem.
“It was my job to divide the kids into teams,” he continued. ”I’d picked a couple of people for each side, when she yelled, ‘Pick me, pick me!’ Then she quietly told me she would have sex with me if I picked her,” he related confidentially, eyes widening and disbelief overtaking every facial feature.
Somehow the girl’s comment didn’t surprise me. Many of the kids in this neighborhood were experienced beyond their years. I also knew that David had probably never encountered a situation like this. Understanding that this was going to be a pivotal moment for David, I was apprehensive about how this encounter had ended. “So, how did you handle that,” I asked.
Quite confidently, he stated, “I just told her I didn’t do that kind of thing, assigned her to a team and went on dividing the teams. “ Assuring him he had handled that well, I gave him a high-five and we finished the camp.
Debriefing with his mom later, though, brought up a great deal of concern from her. She shared that she was very disappointed that her son ever had to hear that remark or face that situation, even regretting he had been part of the team.
What would be your reaction as a parent? Is your parenting role to protect or prepare? Or both?
Building strong kids so they can respond appropriately to life’s situations at different ages allows them to be the ‘salt and light’ Jesus describes in Matthew 5:13-16. Walking alongside them through disagreements that require forgiveness, the heartbreak of broken friendships, the shame of sin, learning to be compassionate to those who have wronged them and even understanding the art of discernment in the face of wrong is wrapped up in the command given in Deuteronomy 6:5-9, to teach them as we walk, rest and work through everyday life. Then we will see the day when they encounter an unexpected situation, like David, where they must incorporate the foundation of faith, knowledge and wisdom to take the right stand and point others in the right way by their example. Yes, we protect, we prepare, and are even amazed when we release our kids into situations where they soar.
David’s parents had given him a strong foundation—protecting, teaching and modeling–which led him to a right response. He had become a preteen who knew how to respond appropriately to a young girl who did not have a good example to follow. Build strong character, but release them to make an impact.
*name changed for anonymity