How to Parent Without Cursing the Future

Teach them His decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave~ Exodus 18:20 NIV

 A theme that remains consistent throughout the Bible is the notion of blessings and curses (Leviticus 28, Deuteronomy 30:19, Psalm 128:2, Proverbs 10:6, Malachi 2:2, 1st Corinthians 9:2). The Bible clearly communicates that certain attitudes and activities bring with them blessings and other (usually opposite) attitudes and behaviors bring with them curses.

 I, for one, have never been a big proponent of the view that the Almighty is sitting around heaven scrutinizing the actions of people searching feverishly for opportunities to bring curses down on people, their children, or their children’s children. Rather, I believe that we bring curses on others and ourselves (sometimes unwittingly) with the choices we make in this life.

 There is no area where this is truer than in the arena of parenting.

 The notion that parents bless or curse their children (sometimes without knowing it) is a biblical one (Ezekiel 18:2, Psalm 37:26, Proverbs 31:27-29, Ephesians 6:1-4). However, this concept is not just a Christian notion. It’s an idea even an idiot can grasp. One does not need a crystal ball to see that a child born to a married Mother and Father, determined to provide a stable and loving home, will have a much greater chance of success in life than a child born to a poor, drug-addicted Mother and an indifferent baby-daddy.

 It’s common sense.

 There is more to the notion of blessing children (and future generations) than simple economics or even marital status, and it’s bigger than just our kids or grandkids. No man (or woman) is an island; therefore the values one generation sows into their children impacts society in powerful ways, sometimes for generations to come. It is not excessively melodramatic to say that history can be altered (for good or bad) by the parenting choices of a single generation.

 That said, as a society we aren’t exactly hitting it out of the ballpark in this area. In fact, judging from the sorry state of our culture, we are long overdue for a gut check in how we parent our kids. I believe there are five changes we desperately need to make if we want to parent in a way that blesses rather than curses our children and our culture.

 Beginning with:

 Living lives free of addiction-

 Nothing does more to curse future generations than a drug, alcohol, or porn addiction. Period. The most productive thing one generation can for another is to stay off of drugs.

Letting kids lose-

 Educated middle-class American parents are undoubtedly some of the kindest and best-intentioned parents in the history of the world. Alas, the road to hell really is paved with good intentions. In an effort to shield children from the hurt, frustration and disappointment we all encountered as children we do stuff that looks and feels merciful and kind (like giving everyone a trophy). However, those acts of kindness keep kids from growing into adults who know how to work for what they want and who can handle the setbacks of life with grace and resilience. Kids who are not taught to handle disappointment inevitably grow into adults who act out and hurt others when the going gets tough.

 Being the leader-

 Some child-rearing “experts” have duped parents into believing that children instinctively know what is best for them. This twaddle is going to create a leadership crisis in the future because we learn to lead by following. Young children (under seven) are by their very nature immature, egotistical and for all practical purposes kind of dumb. God gave kids parents to teach them to be healthy, altruistic, thoughtful human beings (Ephesians 6:1). We do that by taking the reins and making most of the decisions when they are very young (under seven) and then coaching them into good decision-making (while still giving them freedom to fail), as they get older.  

 Being in the room-

 In order to parent well, parents need to be fully present; it is all but impossible to be fully present while playing a game on your phone or perusing Facebook. Furthermore, kids learn to be good communicators (a prerequisite for a healthy future) by communicating. No one communicates effectively while preoccupied by a screen.

 Teaching them to work-

 The Bible clearly teaches that work is good (Colossians 3:23, 2nd Thessalonians 3:10). Work is important because it keeps us out of trouble, makes us productive, teaches us to manage our time and gives us the ability to share with those less fortunate. I firmly believe that young people should have at least one job working with the public. Working with people will keep them humble and free from the sin of elitism (James 2:1-9).  

 Fearing God-

 Loving God is good (Deuteronomy 11:1, Mark 12:30), but fearing Him is better (Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 10:27, Leviticus 25:7). This is because the fear of the Lord leads to wisdom, (Psalm 111:10) obedience, (Psalm 128:1) the shunning of evil, (Job 28:28) long life (Psalm 14:27) and all of that leads to a society that thrives. We teach kids to fear God by teaching them that God is who He says He is and does what He says He will do.

 Anyone with eyes can see that our culture has serious problems. Most of our problems are a result of the choices parents have made with their children over the course of the last four decades. It is not too late to course correct, but it will take parents acting like parents again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raising a Kid Who Has a Conscience

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it~ Proverbs 22:6 NKJV

The disturbing slaughter in Las Vegas last week caused me to think about a subject I rarely tackle in this blog: parenting. It struck me as I was watching the news that anytime there is a mass shooting the first thing we do is search for a motive to make sense of the senseless. If the killer is a minor we want to know if the killer was bullied by his peers or abused by his parents. If the shooter is an adult we want to know if the shooting was racially or religiously motivated. If those scenarios don’t fit, we search madly for something else to explain away the behavior of the killer: like a job loss or a mental illness.

 Stephen Paddock’s motivations are proving difficult to pin down. By all accounts he was financially secure, not obviously political, not obviously religious and apparently not angry about anything in particular. He was also seemingly in his right mind right up until the moment he opened fire on a crowd of strangers.

 Those facts make this mess much harder to sort out, until you look for the one denominator common to all mass shooters: a shocking absence of conscience.

 The Bible teaches that all humans are born into this world with a rudimentary conscience that bears witness to two simple truths. The first truth being that God is (Romans 1:19-20). The second is that some sins including murder, adultery and theft are universally wrong (Romans 2:14). The Bible teaches that a conscience can be seared or stunted by willful sin in adulthood, poor parenting in childhood and exposure to bad teaching or evil people (1st Corinthians 15:33, 1st Timothy 4:2, Proverbs 19:18, Proverbs 29:17).

 The best time to develop a conscience and prevent the types of tragedies we saw this past week in Las Vegas is early childhood (Proverbs 22:6). Following are five simple strategies to help your child develop a conscience. Starting with:

 Teach your child to put the needs of others first- 1st Corinthians 10:24

 Many parenting programs place teaching children to put-up boundaries as the number one parenting priority. Kids do need to learn healthy boundaries, especially when it comes to inappropriate touching. Kids also need to understand that it’s okay to say “no” to a person who is taking advantage of them. However, sometimes “boundaries” is just another word for selfishness. In order to develop a healthy conscience children need to learn that everyone else is every bit as important and special as they are. This is achieved by teaching them to put other people first, taking turns, sharing when they don’t feel like it and speaking to others (including their parents) respectfully.

 Teach kids to fear God- Proverbs 1:7

 If you’re teaching your kids to love God, you are only doing half the job. Kids also need to understand that God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and that He expects people to show their love for Him through obedience to His commands (John 14:15, John 14:23-24, Luke 11:28). Kids also need to know that there will come a day when God will judge all people for everything they do, both good and bad (Revelation 20:12-13). When kids understand these basic facts it incentivizes them to do right by other people.

Expect Gratitude- 2nd Timothy 3:1-3

 Not in a “you should be grateful I fed you today, you miserable little wretch” sort of way. That is simply never okay. However, there are times when kids need to be reminded to be grateful for the things other people work hard to provide. It’s also good to expose kids to people who are less fortunate than they are. Exposure to the less fortunate will make them compassionate, thankful people. Appreciative, kindhearted people do not open fire on crowds of strangers.

 Teach kids to think about how their words and actions affect others- Matthew 7:12

 Children do not naturally think of others, nor do they automatically comprehend how their actions affect others. Kids who are not taught to think of others tend to grow-up to be the type of people who call-in sick when they’re not sick, cheat on their spouse or commit crimes without thinking about how their behavior will affect others.

 Only praise actual achievement- Proverbs 14:25

 Kids do need to be encouraged. However, telling children they did something awesome when they did something ordinary is a lie that inflates their ego and causes them to think they are better and smarter than they really are. This creates an ideal breeding ground for pride and arrogance to take root in their hearts. Prideful, arrogant people rarely care about others and caring about others is the foundation for building a healthy conscience.

 I know absolutely nothing about Steven Paddocks childhood nor do I know how his conscience became seared to the point where he felt okay about opening fire on a crowd of strangers. I do know that normal people with healthy consciences simply do not do such things. I also know that teaching kids to care about others and to fear their Creator is the one thing we can all do to prevent tragedies like this one in the future.

Where We Went Wrong With the Millennial Generation

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things~ 1st Corinthians 13:11 NKJV

 Over the last dozen or so years a countless number of articles and blog posts have been written on the subject of the Millennial generation and their well-documented indifference towards organized religion in general and Christianity in particular.

 Most writers focus almost entirely on solving the immediate spiritual crisis. Concerned parties want to reach the eighty percent who have wandered from the faith, before the entire generation is irrevocably lost to secularism, humanism, and atheism. I truly care about reaching the millennial generation on a spiritual level. However, I believe its every bit as imperative we understand how we got into this mess in first place.

 History is always critically important.

 Unless we know where we went wrong in a particular area we will be doomed to repeat the same stupid mistake until we die. Sadly, a countless number of blunders were made with the millennial generation. Parents, schools and churches all carry a share of the blame.

It all began with how my generation was raised.

Few in my generation were ever told we were special or smart when we were kids. This was true even when we did things that were genuinely special or smart. We were seldom permitted to voice our opinions or encouraged to share our thoughts. It was NEVER okay to contradict an adult. So when we became parents we did what Americans do when they encounter a wrong.

 We overcompensated.

 We told our kids a hundred times a day that they were smarter, more special and better informed than any children in the history of forever. If they pooped we threw a party, complete with M&M’s and party hats. If they shared an opinion, we celebrated that opinion no matter how irrational or poorly thought-out it happened to be. We insisted every kid get a trophy and made certain no child ever felt less than AWESOME about his or her academic or athletic abilities, regardless of actual ability.

 Educators were quick to focus on feelings rather than facts and hop on to the self-esteem bandwagon. Discipline went out of fashion and subjects like history were taught from an extremely one-sided perspective. Kids were rarely expected to examine both sides of an issue nor were they taught to judge historical figures actions and attitudes in the context of the time period they lived in. Absurd viewpoints were rarely, if ever challenged in academic settings.

 Churches and youth ministries focused on having fun, forming relationships and making kids feel good about themselves. Learning the Bible was dropped in favor of “service projects” and “doing life together”. The whole notion of sin was marginalized. Youth ministries focused on transforming children not yet out of puberty, including some who exhibited no indications of salvation into “leaders” who would “reach their generation for Jesus”. Do not judge, lest you be judged (Matthew 7:1) was the one Bible verse every high school student memorized.

 The end result of this collective madness has been devastating to our culture.

 Many millennials never let go of childish ideas about life and reality. It’s appallingly common for grown people to think that feelings are more important than facts and that if you believe something to be true then it must be. Many become anxious and overwrought when a flaw is pointed out in their thinking or when a viewpoint that differs from their own is presented. That is why we now have “safe spaces” on college campuses and in workplaces, to shield people from words or ideas that make them uncomfortable.

 Sigh.  

 The most tragic consequences of our folly have manifested themselves in the realm of the spiritual. Many millennials believe that if a Bible verse FEELS wrong to them then the Bible got it wrong on that subject. Because teenagers were placed in positions of spiritual leadership long before they were actually converted, acquired any wisdom or knew much of anything about the Bible; many are prideful and will not tolerate correction, even when the correction comes directly out of the Bible.

 Sadly, that is the root reason many millennials have left the church to “work out their own spiritual experience”. They simply cannot tolerate the fact that there is a higher authority than them, be it God or the Bible.

 We must change the way we look at life, God, parenting, and the nature of reality. It’s time to put away childish thoughts about such things and think like adults, this is especially true for Christians.

 It is time to acknowledge some basic truths: facts are more important than feelings, believing something does not make it true and only children shield themselves from ideas that challenge their thinking or hurt their feelings. While we’re at it we need to get back to the understanding that God is real and due to His position as Creator and Sustainer of all things He really does have a fundamental right to tell us what to do.

 Before it’s too late.

The Lesson We all Have to Learn at Least Once

 Be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.  Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.  Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do~ Ephesians 5:15-17 NLT

 The whole thing started with a promising, albeit peculiar occurrence. It was late last June and par for the course in Tucson, it was freakishly hot outside. I was in the garage rooting around in the refrigerator for a cold bottle of water. When (and this is weird) I was overcome with an almost overwhelming sense that our family would soon be moving back to Spokane.

 It appeared at the time that the feeling was little more than wishful hoping coupled with possible heatstroke. I wanted that feeling to be a word from the Lord or a sign, or whatever, as long as it was also a fact. Rationally it didn’t look like it would be.

We were in the initial stages of planning a move to Texas. The job that would have taken us there appeared to be a done deal. To our knowledge there were zero employment options for us in Spokane.

 Two weeks later everything changed.

 The deal driving the move to Texas abruptly fell apart and, as a result so did the job offer. One week after that, a job in Spokane appeared out of nowhere. Three weeks after that. We were going home.

 It would be reasonable to assume that any situation that came together as easily as that one did would be nothing but smooth sailing all the way to the finish line.

 As if.

 The ten months that followed were anything but smooth and easy. They were in fact some of the most challenging of my life. It wasn’t the first time I had to deal with the frustration of a move that seemed to be stuck in second gear but it was unquestionably the most difficult.

 I won’t bore you with the stupid details. It’s enough to say that the house didn’t sell quickly, effortlessly, or for anywhere near the price we listed it at. My husband and I lived in different cities and as a result the situation rapidly became emotionally and financially draining. Complicating matters further were some dynamics that are unique to our family situation. Including an eleven-year-old girl with some serious trust issues who has only been a part of our family for two short years.

 However, in recent weeks things have been looking up. The house sold. We bought another one and for the first time in nearly a year our family was living in the same zip code. Things were far from settled, but it was looking like they would be soon.  

 Until last weekend when I had to sit the eleven-year-old down and tell her that it was looking like the house deal in Tucson was going to fall through (it didn’t). If that happened we would also lose the house in Spokane. On the surface she was the image of calm serenity. However, within hours that image was shattered. She had regressed to some behaviors and attitudes we hoped and prayed were gone forever.

 Under normal circumstances, I would have attempted to finesse the situation a bit. I would draw her out, talk to her about her feelings and then gently attempt to get her back on the right track. At that moment I lacked the emotional bandwidth for sensitivity, so instead I simply informed her she was acting out.

 I explained that acting out is a common reaction even for adults. Plenty of folks choose to do all sorts of stupid stuff when they are angry or sad. I went on to explain that acting out always makes things worse and is never the wise thing to do.

 Then I told her that I would be there for her If she wanted to talk or cry, but acting out was unproductive waste of time and she needed to be done with it. Thankfully, her attitude improved immediately and we went on with our weekend. The next day I was thinking about our little talk and it occurred to me that I had been making a lot of things about me that were probably not about me at all.

 The struggles I selfishly felt were mine were at least partly about God and a little girl and what He was teaching her about life through our trials. It was about a kid who desperately needed to see that there is a different way to do life. It was probably about a kid who needed to see people running to God (no matter how imperfectly) with their disillusionment rather than looking for a thing or a substance to fix their feelings.

 It hit me that we are all prone to forget the truth that smooth and easy might feel good but it’s not always best. Tough times can be an opportunity for God shine through us, if we let Him.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Derek

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth~ Psalm 127:4

 Dear Derek,

 Congratulations, and welcome to the roller coaster. Only a few weeks in and I am sure that you have already discovered that few experiences in this life compare with the sweet pandemonium of early parenthood.

 You have undoubtedly already observed that your capacity for both love and worry has increased exponentially with the arrival of your sweet little human. The expansion for both has only just begun. As your little human grows and matures your capacity for love will grow with them. You will also worry about problems and situations you don’t even know exist at this point.

 In your message you asked if I had any advice for you and your wife as you begin your journey as parents. Thanks for asking. I am always a little dumbstruck when I discover that people actually read what I write. It blesses me beyond words when someone asks for more. I will do my best to give you something you can use.

 Four kids (two grown, one adopted) and well into the third decade of my own journey. I have concluded that successful parenting is predicated on the same principle any other productive enterprise is built upon:

 Begin with the end in mind.

 Decide now what qualities you want to see manifested in your adult children (my husband and I made a list). Once you settle on some objectives, model, teach and discuss those virtues all the time. The goal should be to mold their thinking and character around the values that matter most to God. Start early. If you want an adult child who is honest, moral, considerate, loyal and hardworking (all character traits on our list), the time to plant the seeds of those virtues is long before your son or daughter turns seven.

 It’s essential to take a long view when dealing with kids. Children mature quickly and many behaviors and attitudes that are precocious and even a little endearing on very young children (think extreme competitiveness  sexual precocity’ and disrespect), are disturbing to witness in a teenager; and thoroughly detrimental to the success of a fully-grown man or woman.

 Beginning with the end in mind is critical when it comes to sowing faith into our kids. It is never too early to begin passing on what you believe about life and God to your kids. Deuteronomy 6:5-9 is the key:

 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates…

 This passage presupposes two realities. The first is that the parents are following hard after God in a tangible and authentic way in their own lives. If you and your wife put obedience to God above your own preferences, are humble enough to admit your own failures, and are willing to receive counsel from others, your children will be more likely to embrace your beliefs. Sadly, there are no guarantees with kids, however faithfulness and humility increase your chances of a good outcome.

 The second assumption this passage makes is that the instruction and training of children will take place in the context of a close and affectionate relationship. You will discover quickly that children need and even long for firm boundaries. However, your child will also need to know with absolute certainty that you are one hundred percent in their corner all the time, especially when you are disciplining them. Bitterness and rebellion in older kids are generally the outcome of lack of healthy connection with parents.  

 I cannot overstress the importance of enjoying the ride. The early years of parenting are overwhelming and every sane parent wonders if it will ever end. The key to enjoying the journey lies in not getting bent of shape of over the little things, my Father-in-law used to remind us “sometimes spilled milk is just spilled milk”. He was right.

I wish I had been more inclined to listen to his wise counsel. 

 Finally, and perhaps most importantly, love each other well. Let your child see affection, consideration and grace reflected in your interactions with one another. A healthy view of marriage is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our kids.

 God be with you both as begin your journey!

 Lisa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Parenting Series- Four Truths Your Kids Must Know About God

Teach me your way, O Lord; I will walk in your truth. Unite my heart to fear your name. I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify your name forevermore~ Psalm 86:10-12 ESV

Few would be foolish enough to argue that accuracy doesn’t really matter. After all, no one would hire a surgeon who is not known for it. I pay my tax accountant handsomely for it. And the winner of nearly every contest in this life is ultimately decided by it.      

 I know now that lack of accuracy with something as seemingly silly and inconsequential as inputting “Street” rather than “Road” into a GPS will result in some fairly serious consequences. Like landing you on the side of town where there is a serious language barrier between you and the vast majority of the residents.

 As a culture, we value accuracy and precision when it comes to most issues. Even going so far as to threaten litigation against folks who act carelessly. Sadly, we have become a bit laissez-faire concerning the information we dispense about God. This is particularly true when it comes to children. Parents and Sunday school teachers alike tell Bible stories severely lacking in context and skip over seedy details that cause the grown-ups in the room to feel awkward or uncomfortable. We talk a lot about the love of God but leave out any information that might possibly imply that God is also a God of judgment.

 We have revised God, and in the course of making our revisions, we have succeeded in restructuring Him into an image that is much more user-friendly. Sadly, it bears little resemblance to the God of the Bible. It’s a God most of us feel pretty good about and few of us fear but this God is having little influence on how most folks think, behave or make choices.

 It’s the young who are paying the price for the wholesale editing of God’s image. Most are drowning in the cultural morass we have created with our lack of spiritual and moral focus. It’s not too late to turn things around, but we have to stop making God into our own image and become more intentional about teaching our kids the truth about God. Kids need to know that:

 God’s love is different from human love

 Kids should understand that God loves them, but they should also understand that God does not love like people love. Human love tends to be all about making people feel good. We feel loved by another person when they are going out of their way to make us feel good about what we are doing and how we are behaving. God’s love is about making us into genuinely good people. Because God wants us to be good instead of just feeling good He will sometimes allow us to experience situations that are unpleasant (Hebrews 12:6). God doesn’t do this to be cruel. He does it to build our character, bring our perspective into alignment with His and make us more like Jesus. Our kids need to be taught that God has not stopped loving them simply because life has gotten hard or feels unpleasant for a period of time.

 God does not change

 Contrary to popular belief, God’s opinions and judgments do not shift with changing times and fluctuating human attitudes (Hebrews 13:8). If God did not approve of something five thousand years ago, it’s unlikely that His attitude has evolved on the issue. Kids need to understand that current popular opinions on a whole host of moral issues will be irrelevant to God on judgment day.

God has the right to decide what flies and what doesn’t

 Because God made the Universe, He gets to decide exactly what’s right and wrong and what really works in the long run. We need to help our kids understand that when God says something we don’t agree with, we are the ones who fail to grasp the bigger picture, not God.

  God wants His people to be kind

 It is our responsibility as followers of God to speak to people about God. The key is to do it in such a way that causes people to want to get on board with God’s way of doing things (Ephesians 4:15). It is not our job to berate, rebuke or belittle folks into the Kingdom of God. Nor is okay to minimize or gloss over the consequences of blowing off the opportunities God gives in this life to repent and get our lives right with God.

 

More than anything else, our kids need to know that God is unchanging. His love for us is constant but so are His standards. It is our responsibility to share both with our kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Parenting Series- Talking to your Kids About Sex

Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love~ Proverbs 7:18

 It’s as old as the human race, and we all know that most people do it. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when most folks had the dignity to be somewhat discreet about the whole thing.

 Those days are long over.

 A teacher at a private school in Minneapolis took a group of middle and high school students, some as young as eleven, on a fieldtrip to a sex shop called the “Smitten Kitten.” My daughter and I had our own little educational moment when we stumbled upon two teenage girls on the verge of “it” in the dark corner of a store recently.

 One is confronted with “it” in slick advertisements depicting attractive fifty-something couples. As the blissful twosomes occupy themselves with adolescent-like public displays of affection, the narrator of the commercial does his level best to discourage men who may be in need of a particular product from “stopping so they can find a bathroom” or “pausing to take a pill.” Rather, they are encouraged to “make the moment right”.

 Do the makers of those little blue pills really intend for couples to “make the moment right” at the ballpark, or the symphony or while watching a movie in a park with children present?

 Seriously?

 The sad fact is that our society is obsessed with sex and if you don’t have a conversation with your kids about it, you can bet someone else will, and it likely won’t be the conversation you would have had with them. After four kids and countless years working with other people’s kids, I have learned that there is no one-size-fits-all method when it comes to the when and how of talking to kids about sex. But after some trial and error I do have some recommendations:

 Set yourself up as an expert on the topic-

Give accurate information from day one. Don’t give into the temptation to call vaginas woo-woos and penises wee-wees. Call parts what they are. Also avoid telling your preschooler some half-baked fable about where babies come from. You should not tell them everything all at once. I am all for vagueness and ambiguity with children under five. That said, what you do tell them should be factual and accurate. This will set you up as an authority that understands the subject, rather than an ill-informed bumbler trying desperately to avoid a tough subject.

 Don’t wait too long, because kids talk-

 We learned this one the hard way. Our then almost eight-year-old son announced one evening that he knew everything there was to know about sex. To our horror we discovered that he did indeed know quite a lot, most of it wildly inaccurate and kind of gross. The kid down the street, whose Dad (unbeknownst to us) watched a LOT of porn, told Alex everything he had learned from “his Dad’s shows”. My husband took our son camping the next day and set the record straight but the damage was done. If your kid attends public school or they play with kids in the neighborhood you probably need to explain the basic mechanics of sexuality sometime between the ages of five and seven.

 Don’t be afraid to link sex and marriage-  

 Separating sex from marriage has done nothing for anyone and is wrecking havoc on every part of our society. Stressing the fact that sex is for marriage is not enough. Our kids and our culture need more examples of happy, healthy, distinctly Christian marriages. Get help if you need it.

 Monitor what schools are teaching about sex-

 Most schools attempt to teach so-called values-free sex education. This works okay when the instructors are discussing the changes that occur at puberty. It gets a bit dicey once they get into the specific’s of the when, where, how and why of sexuality. Most programs mix messages, telling kids that sex is a big responsibility but that they should wait “until they feel they are ready.” They forget that few teens are mature enough to admit that they are not ready for something they really want to do. Most schools require parents to view the curriculum to opt their kids out of sex education. I have attended dozens of these pre-view nights through the years. I have never once seen more than a handful of Moms (never Dads) at these events. At the very least, you should find out what your kids are learning and talk with them about it.

 Drag God into it-

 God cares deeply about every aspect of our lives, including how we conduct ourselves sexually (1st Thessalonians 4:2-8). Sadly, even in many Christian homes God’s perspective on sex is seen as nothing more than an archaic throwback to a simpler time. We’ve adopted this view to our own detriment. Single parenthood, divorce, abortion, some diseases and a whole lot of heartbreak are quite often the direct consequences of ignoring God’s directives concerning sexuality.

 If you really love your kids, prove it by telling them things their sex education teacher won’t. Tell them that sex is a gift from God that has tremendous potential for both good and evil. Tell them that sex is incredible in the context it was intended (marriage). Tell them that outside of the context it was intended it can easily morph into a soul-sucking, life-destroying monster. Warn them of the dangers and prepare them to maturely handle the responsibility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Parenting Series: How Strict is Too Strict?

 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord~ Ephesians 6:4 NKJV

 Parenting has evolved into an exercise in excesses. Authoritarian parents take strictness and rigidity to extremes, with little thought to how unnecessary rules and lack of flexibility affect relationships. Conversely, permissive parents are excessively indulgent, seemingly uninterested in creating any sort of boundaries for their kids, allowing kids to run the show and set the standards.

 Protective parents hover compulsively over their children. These well-meaning mothers and fathers are convinced that something will go horribly awry in the life of their child if they are not with them every moment to monitor and direct every aspect of their kid’s existence from birth to adulthood. Then there are the so-called free-range parents who are convinced that even very young children are perfectly capable of maneuvering complex situations with little or no input from adults.

 There is no area where you see extremes expressed more fully than in the area of strictness. Webster’s dictionary defines strictness as: “a firm adherence to the rules.” I define strictness as not simply adhering strictly to rules but as also as having an abundance of rules that you firmly adhere to.

 My logic for tweaking Webster’s definition is fairly straightforward. When we think of strictness we tend to think of conditions that are unreasonably burdensome or oppressive. Strictly adhering to one, two or even three rules is hardly burdensome even by the most liberal of standards.

 Authoritarian parents love rules and take great pleasure in creating new ones. The authoritarian parent has rule for every situation and their solution to every new problem that crops up is to create a new set of rules. Permissive parents tend to view rules with a cynical eye, believing that rules are a form tyranny intended to stifle imagination and keep kids from learning about the world around them.

 How strict is too strict? How many rules are too many? In truth, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question. It really does depend on the age and maturity level of the child in question. Young children need lots of rules and boundaries to keep them safe and help them figure out the universe. Kids should need fewer rules as they mature and begin to understand how the law of cause and effect works in day-to-day decision-making.

 In my experience, two to seven are the training years of childhood. Parents should be fairly strict—never mean or punitive, but there should be quite a few rules governing every day behavior. During this period kids should be carefully supervised and even controlled. Children this age should be told what to do and expected to obey parental directives because they lack the wisdom and life experience to make good decisions. Most choices kids make during these years should be controlled choices. For example:

 Do you want to eat grilled cheese or peanut butter and jelly for lunch today? Rather than: what do you want for lunch today?

 Do you want to wear the blue shirt or the red shirt to Church today?

Rather than: what do you want to wear to Church today?

 Controlled choices help keep chaos to a minimum, establish parents as the authority in the home, give children a sense of control over their world and helps kids to understand what a good choice looks like.

 Eight to fourteen year-olds still need rules and firm boundaries to keep them in line. That said, parents should begin the process of letting go of control of their kids. This is accomplished by allowing kids make more of their own decisions. Kids this age need to discover the link between choices and consequences.

 Children acquire that knowledge when parents allow them to experience the full weight of the consequences of their choices. If they don’t wish to wear a coat, don’t force them. You may learn that your child has a higher tolerance for cold temperatures than you do (as I did), or your kid will learn that it stinks to be cold and in the process become responsible for their own comfort level.

 The later teen years are all about letting go of control and empowering kids to make adult decisions. Fifteen to eighteen year-olds should have minimal rules focused mostly on safety, respect and moral issues. The penalties for poor choices during these years should be painful, immediate and long lasting. A speeding ticket should result in a loss of driving privileges and perhaps a requirement to pay for their own insurance. Run-ins with authority figures ought to result in a complete loss of freedom for a season. Parenting kids this age is a balancing act between giving them freedom to make enough mistakes to learn but not enough freedom to ruin their lives or hurt other people.

 Overly strict and overly permissive parents share one thing in common: they both forget that kids grow-up to live their own lives. It’s our duty as parents to teach rather than control them. We must enable them to make good choices so that they can become the best possible versions of themselves they can be.

 

 

 

Summer Parenting Series- Should Parents Teach Obedience?

Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him~ Psalm 128:1

 One night a few months back, our adopted ten-year-old daughter asked me to explain Korah’s rebellion to her. Delighted by her sudden interest in the Bible, I proceeded to give her the highlights of Korah’s story found in Numbers 16:1-35.

 I explained that Korah and his friends disobeyed God when they attempted to overthrow Moses, God’s choice for the leader of the Israelite people. They also ignored God’s explicit instructions concerning the organization of the priesthood and insisted on doing some really important things their own way rather than the way God expected them to be done. I was careful to explain that obedience is a really big deal to God before I shared the specifics of Korah’s sudden and shocking end.

 Her reaction was not even close to the Sunday school response I was hoping for. Looking appalled and more than a bit scornful she replied…

 “That seems a little harsh of God. I really don’t see what the big deal is, all those guys did was disobey a few rules”.

 No amount of reason on my part seemed to persuade the child that the Creator of the universe has the right to demand absolute obedience of someone.

 Apparently we still have some work to do.

 After a little thought and a lot of prayer I realized that I was much more surprised by her reaction than I should have been. She is a sweet little girl who is also the product of a culture that believes three things to be so absolutely true and immutable, that even God Himself is not exempt from the consequences of violating these “truths”:

 It is a grievous sin to restrict or limit a person’s choices (even if those choices are dangerous)

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion (even if it’s demonstrably wrong)    

Expecting obedience is a form of abuse

 These beliefs have become so deeply embedded in our cultural thinking that they have profoundly influenced every aspect of our lives—from politics and education, to workplace etiquette, to how we parent our children. Everywhere we look, “obedience” has become a dirty word.

 Some well-meaning parents subtly discourage their children from obeying and demonstrating respect for adults. These parents erroneously believe that some sassiness combined with a little spirited defiance empowers children to stand-up for themselves when confronted with unreasonable authority figures. Many otherwise intelligent adults have bought into the lie that childhood obedience sets kids up to be spineless adults unable to stand up for themselves.

 Training children to obey adult authority is only dangerous when we also fail to teach them right from wrong. Kids must be taught to understand that they are only obligated to obey leaders or adults who are doing the right thing. Children should be encouraged to flee from and tell on anyone (adult or child) who urges them to do anything dishonest or sketchy. Knowing how to think and reason is the best protection from evil or irrational authority figures.

 Teaching kids to obey must be done in a context of love and logic. Kids need to understand that rules and boundaries have been put in place for their protection. If they believe that rules are arbitrary or mean-spirited, they will rebel and bad behavior will be driven underground.

 No child will consistently obey unless taught to do so. Most will become passively noncompliant, while some will openly defy authority. Both are equally dangerous; passive disobedience, left unchecked, creates an environment where folly and deceitfulness take root in a child’s heart.

 Conversely, a child who openly defies adult authority will mature into an adult who tends to be disrespectful of people and property and who may even be at odds with the law. Both passive and active defiance, left unchecked, produce an adult who is difficult to like and not worthy of trust.

 Teaching kids to obey parental authority is not a form of abuse; rather, it’s a form of protection. It protects kids because they learn through doing what is sensible and wise by following the directives of their parents. Obedience keeps kids out of trouble and makes them more likeable to other adults. Kids who are liked by others naturally receive more opportunities in life.

 In order for obedience to make sense to kids, parents must be willing to explain the reasons for their rules. The point is not to squash a child’s ability to think independently, or to make them completely dependent on their parent’s wisdom. The goal should be to help kids while they are young to develop the common sense and good judgment necessary to make good choices and lead others as they grow into adulthood.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Photo Cred goes to: http://www.theatlantic.com

Pride and the Fall

Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice~ Proverbs 13:10

 This month marks the anniversary of an event that has transformed our family drastically in more ways than I can count. This time last year a nine-year-old girl came to our home for a visit and has since became a permanent member of our family.

We have not experienced a dull moment since.

 Integrating a new member into our family has not been easy or stress-free. There has been a great deal of joy but there have also been more than a few tough adjustments on both sides. It is not easy for a kid to adapt to a new family, nor is it easy for a family of (mostly) adults to adjust to the changes and loss of freedom that inevitably comes with a young child.

 All the challenges aside, I can truthfully say that the good has far outweighed the bad. At this point we cannot imagine our family without her. Zoey has brought a whole new depth of joy and laughter to our home. She is a kind, clever, imaginative girl with many gifts and talents.

 Sadly, organization and analytical thinking are not among them.

 In all my years on this Earth I have never seen anything quite like her unique brand of disorder and chaos. In the span of a few hours her bedroom can easily devolve into a weekend cleaning project. She pays zero attention to detail, which causes her to lose as much stuff as she hangs on to and she has been known to brush her teeth before breakfast to save time.

 Her chronic lack of common sense has led the older kids to refer to her as a “Dufflepud” after the sweet but ridiculous creatures in The Chronicles of Narnia books. Dufflepuds boiled their potatoes before planting them so they could harvest cooked potatoes and washed their plates before eating to save time after dinner.

 Thankfully, there have been major improvements in these areas. That said, we still have a ways to go before she becomes the paragon of organization and logical thought that I am praying and believing she will one day become.

 So you can imagine my skepticism when she informed me that I had failed to fill out a permission slip for a field trip properly. To my shame, I didn’t even have the good sense to look at the thing before I launched into a calm but condescending little lecture. I smugly informed her that there was no way I had made an error on something as basic as a permission slip for a 5th grade field trip.

 To her credit, Zoey nodded politely and obediently put the slip into her backpack. As she was heading out the door I decided to give it a second look and discovered that she was indeed correct. I quickly apologized and corrected my error, but not before I made a fool out of myself and hurt the feelings of a sweet little girl.

 Such is the sin of pride.

 It happens to the best of people. It could be argued that the better a person becomes, the more likely they are to become prideful about it. The list of things that causes pride to dominate our interactions is as long as it is varied. Our skills, business connections, education and track record can all become sources of pride. The danger in this type of pride is that we begin seeing our selves as infallible and we resist taking input and advice from others and no one is clever enough to do life all alone.

 Perhaps the most foolish and dangerous type of pride is pride over the things that are outside our control. Pride over physical appearance, material blessings, race and background can lead to every kind of prejudice and social evil none of which has any place in life of a Jesus follower.

 The deceptive nature of pride requires constant prayer and frequent self-assessment. Prayer is indispensable because without God’s help and guidance we may never become self aware enough to want change or empowered enough to make it happen.  

 And change, as difficult as it can be, is essential. Without it, we will never become the people God calls us to be—and we might just drive away the very ones He has called us to reach.