My dog and I recently went for a nice, long walk. Along the way, we came across a large snapping turtle that was about to cross a very busy street. Being a lover of all creatures, except spiders, I wanted to help this turtle and turn it around so it wouldn’t get run over by cars racing toward it. Naturally, my reaching around behind its back to pick it up by the shell made the turtle angry, fearing I was wanting to hurt it. It quickly flung its long neck around and snapped fast and hard at me. My cat-like reflexes made me jump back just in time! As my dog sat and watched this showdown, I kept trying to help the turtle change its course, while it kept reaching for my hands with its sharp beak. Eventually, I did manage to turn it around and got it headed back into the woods from where it came, but this took about twenty minutes of determination from me and plenty of feistiness from the creature.

Here is what I learned about snapping turtles:
– They WILL stick their neck out for you, but NOT in a helpful way.
– They WILL charge for you, but not on their credit card.
– They’re just so darn snappy, and NOT with their long-clawed fingers!
I bet their tongue is as sharp as their snap and their shell, and my wit….

The same can be said of those we love, or maybe don’t even know, but we see them heading down the wrong path, or going the wrong way in life. Children who start drinking alcohol or doing drugs in high school have a much higher chance of becoming alcoholics or drug addicts over time. Girls who focus more on their physical attributes begin to promote themselves for attention, giving in to what boys often want most: physical intimacy. Each of these children believe they are OK and can handle whatever comes their way, but we know better because we can see the bigger picture – we can see down that road of life.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Ephesians 6:4

We as parents or friends, maybe even observers of these situations, strive to help, but not without a fight back. We cannot give up on our children! We must help them while we have them in our care, or at least while they are within our reach and influence. Once they are out of the home or off to college, the temptations they will encounter will be magnified from anything they have had to deal with to date.

We need to be a positive role for our children, for our nieces and nephews, for our neighbor’s kids. Through prayer and intercession, with words of kindness, by being a good witness in what the Lord has done for us and brought us through, by sharing our lessons learned, we can help them. No, we are not responsible for their actions, but the more we can be there for these kids now, the more likely they will have a resource to fall back on – such as their faith in Jesus, or family or friends – when things become difficult or overwhelming for them.

“He (every high priest) can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness;”
Hebrews 5:2

The hard part is remembering that we too once felt the way these kids do today, so we need to be understanding and patient with them. We weren’t perfect then either, nor are we now, and neither are they.

Know that in spite of our efforts, our kids will “snap” back at us in defiance, will not understand the why’s of our answers or rules, and will fight us with all they have. They have this tough outer shell that is hard to get through. This is all because they are gaining their independence and believe they can go any direction they choose, and that they know better than we do. Obviously, that is wrong, so we need to be diligent in our decisions in “encouraging” them to change their direction. If we give up, the consequences could be painful for many, with healing taking a long time.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Proverbs 22:6

Food for thought:
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”  — Frederick Douglass, abolitionist and statesman.
“Children are like wet cement: whatever falls on them makes an impression.”  — Haim Ginott, child psychologist.

The top five reasons kids get involved with drugs, drinking or other harmful activities are: 1. peer pressure 2. escape or self-medication 3. academic/performance pressure 4. dealing with trauma/depression 5. media influences.

Fun facts: Snapping turtles are most dangerous on land. Do not pick one up by the tail as that would likely break its vertebral column and cause death.

Photo by: Kari Wiseman – Box turtle