Sir Isaac Newton and Parenting


Brad Mathias uses Newton's first law of motion to share some powerful parenting advice about counteracting the affects that our culture has on teenagers.

Remember your high school science class? Oh the joys of learning about Sir Isaac Newton's laws of motion.

Mrs. Kleiss (my amazing 9th and 10th grade science teacher) used an ancient display stand with stainless steel balls hung by strings to a brace that would allow you to pull back the balls so they would smack into each other from one end or the other, demonstrating the principle of Newtonian phsyics. So, for me, it was somewhere between doodling a Van Halen logo on my composition notebook and earnestly attempting to flick a paper clip and rubber band across four rows of comatose teens, that I learned a very important truth about parenting. This truth, unfortunately, would stay hidden, dormant in my mind for over twenty years.

Newton's Law Illustration

The first Newtonian law of motion was explained to me like this: Objects in motion tend to stay in motion unless acted upon by an equal or opposite force.“ Okay, it’s probably coming back to us all now… but what’s this have to do with parenting?

Our kids, all kids, are being constantly affected, influenced… directed by their environment. Teenagers, especially, are told repeatedly by well-intentioned, frustrated adults that they are lazy, irresponsible, disappointing. They get bullied, criticized, pressured, coerced and verbally abused… and that’s before they leave the house. In school, they are hit with huge daily doses of “not good enough,” “not popular enough,” “not hip enough,” “not smart enough,” “not pretty enough,” “not tough enough” … you get the idea.

As parents, we may get caught up in a common struggle of reacting to our kids out of a fear-based parenting pattern. We may be guilty of pushing our kids too much, interested in the results and not the person. We all know we need to challenge our teens, hold them to high standards, but what if in that cloak of parenting duty, we’re just actually only criticizing their every shortcoming, majoring on correcting their failures and minoring on affirming their successes?

We teach them to make us happy, they need to do better, achieve more, practice harder. We enroll them in year-round sports, honors classes in school, we want them to be well-rounded. We want them to be “A” students, capable in the arts and ready to conquer life as soon as possible. Wait a second ! Let’s think about this, don’t we risk creating deep and dangerous insecurities in them about who they are, where their value and worth come from and if they really can count on our love if they fail us or don’t meet our expectations?  

Combined with the absolute brutality of the public educational arena, our teen-kids may just start to spiral down. If I, as a parent, forget the emotional/psychological application of the truth I discovered in Newton’s first law of motion, I could unwittingly accelerate the creation of some serious and life-long problems within my own kids. If, on the other hand, I/we slow down just long enough to notice the physics of our families, we could begin to counter-act that downward movement by carefully applying “opposite or greater” force in a healthier direction.

I’m going to take the time today (and I’m asking you to consider joining with me) to ask God to show me/us where we need to be exerting positive, uplifting and affirming truth to our kids. I need help in getting specific… I need to know how, and when and where my kids need to be encouraged, loved and redirected. I get too busy, too focused and too distracted on correcting them. I need help in parenting my kids, I need divine inspiration to step into my teenager's life with hope, and strength and life. How about you?  

So, let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Let's help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault. (Romans 14:19 from The Message Translation)

And of course, it goes without saying… a road trip might be a great place to start to reconnect with your teenager.

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