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 Key to Dealing with Disappointment

 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit~ Romans 15:13 NIV

 I will not lie. It’s been a chaotic couple of weeks around our house. We have been in the final throes of the moving process and experienced all the standard drama associated with moving ones worldly belongings across four states and over sixteen hundred miles.

Everything and I mean everything, has taken longer and cost more than we thought it would. The electric company called last week to let us know that our first bill was sent back (they were not amused). A few phone calls revealed that ALL our mail is being returned to sender and a trip to the post office has yet to remedy the situation.

 Our new neighborhood is a place where folks take lawn care seriously and we have not figured out how to make the sprinkler system work. As a result our lawn is turning an ominous shade of brown and the neighbors have begun to cast sideways glances at us. The dogs are troubled by the recent changes and cannot figure out on a consistent basis where they are supposed to “do their business”.

 Sadly, all that pales in comparison to the drama we have experienced with one of our kids. This kid has been what can only be described as a mammoth pain in the backside for weeks now. We have been losing our minds trying to find an explanation for this behavior.

 A long encouraging conversation resulted in no discernable change in behavior. We then attempted some coaching, when that failed we moved on to gentle correction, praying for wisdom, and finally punishing the bad behavior with increasing intensity: nothing worked. We wondered if the disobedience was perhaps a result of homesickness or missing the old school or perhaps even a weird side-effect of getting less sunshine.

 After a number of increasingly more intense discussions it was revealed that at the root of the angsty misbehavior was something more basic…

 Disappointment.

 I am not sure what the kid was hoping for, and neither do they. But it turns out that living in Washington is a lot like living in Arizona only with more rain and fewer swimming pools. They were expecting things to somehow be different, more exciting, and less humdrum. At one point in the conversation they did admit that at the very least were hoping that a change in location would result in a change of expectations. We discussed the issue at length and I am pleased to report that life in Price household has finally returned to something that more closely resembles normal.

 My immediate reaction was relief that the crisis was over; relief was followed quickly by amusement. My amusement faded when it hit me that even many grown-ups have been guilty of the same sort of wishful hoping at one time or another.

 Most of us have irrationally hoped that making an outward alteration in education level, tax bracket, marital status or zip code would somehow alter more than just our education level, marital status, zip code or tax bracket. We believe deep down inside that getting married will fix our relationship problems, moving will transform us into a more interesting person or that getting a degree will give us the sense of belonging or prestige we have always longed for. When we wake-up the day after making the big change as the same person we’ve always been, reality results in…

 Disappointment.

 Disappointment is unavoidable in a fallen world. Few things in life work out exactly as we hoped or even planned they would. If disappointment is not handled properly it can transform into anger towards God. If anger is allowed to fester it will eventually grow into a cancer that always results in either a nasty case of depression or a grown-up version of acting out. We act-out (sin) because deep down inside we feel that our disappointment has earned us the right to take pleasure where we can find it. Acting-out is an ugly thing that never ends well for anyone, regardless of age.

 For Christians the key to coping with the inevitable disappointments of life begins with a willingness to surrender our dreams and desires to God. When we let go of our dreams and desires, we are freed up to embrace the dreams God has for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What the Church Must Do to Win Back the Millennial Generation

May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands, decrees and laws he gave our ancestors~ 1st Kings 8:58

  Monday morning just as I was preparing to leave Facebook and go do something productive with my life, a question popped-up on my newsfeed that I almost ignored. It was a religious question and I tend to avoid getting involved with religious questions on social media. The questions are typically stupid and the people asking seldom ask out of pure motives. As a result those questions tend to veer into debates that devolve into quarrels that inevitably end with me searching frantically for a legal outlet for my rage.

 However, this was a very good question. I knew the answer and someone I like asked it in a respectful and sincere manner. So, I fired off a hasty response assuming that would be the end of it. Rather, it was the beginning of a one of the more thought-provoking conversations I have had in a long time. One question led to another and then a few of the original questioner’s friends (all millennials) chimed in with related questions and thoughts. A plethora of differing opinions were shared but the entire discussion remained very courteous and civil.

 I emerged from cyberspace ninety minutes later, drained, but armed with what I believe are some answers to a question that has been plaguing the modern Church for the better part of a decade.

 Why are millennials leaving the church?

 For years Church leaders have suspected that too many rules and a focus on doctrinal issues have bored and offended millennials, causing them to seek answers elsewhere. After my discussion with a half dozen or so random millennials this past week I am beginning to suspect our assumptions are at least partially incorrect.

 The millennials I interacted with do not seem to have an issue with the notion of God having rules. In fact I got the sense that most of these millennials believe that IF there happens to be a God (most are still very much undecided) then it would only make sense that He would have at least a few rules for His people to follow.

 They do have questions about which rules ought to be followed (Old Testament? New Testament? Both?). And they want some sensible explanations as to why the rules matter. It’s clear that most millennials are not blind followers; they want to know the why of everything before they buy into anything. It’s also clear that they do have an issue with the lack of consistency they see in the lives of Christians and the lack of uniformity they see across denominations. More than one individual stated that it looked to them as if individual Christians just decide for themselves which rules they want to follow depending on the situation.

 They also seemed to feel that most Christians were very quick to apply rules regarding sexual behavior to others (homosexuals) but not so quick to apply rules regarding divorce and other forms of sexual sin (adultery, pornography) to themselves and other Church members. They seemed to be genuinely baffled and repelled by the hypocrisy of those double standards. As a result, they have a tough time reconciling the actions of Christians with the teachings of the New Testament.

 Those millennials who grew up in Christian homes appeared to be unfamiliar with what most would consider basic Christian teachings and doctrine (sin, Jesus, forgiveness, repentance, the Old Testament, etc.). One mentioned later in a private message that they stopped attending Church because they never really learned anything there. They also expressed frustration because no one would answer questions regarding what they saw as discrepancies between science and the Bible. Rather they were encouraged “to just believe”.

 The Christian community is on the threshold of losing a large portion of an entire generation. It’s possible to get them back, but it will require extraordinary effort from all of us. First, we need to restructure our thinking and let go of the absurd post-modern notion that no one really cares about doctrine or apologetics anymore. We also need to help our youth understand they “why” behind God’s directives. Intellectual laziness and “just believe” twaddle will not fly with a generation accustomed to getting their questions answered in seconds via Google.

 Continued intellectual development is imperative but it will only take us so far. Revival and spiritual renewal is crucial but will only come through a movement of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works in situations where God’s people are seeking to be obedient to God all the time, not pretending to be better than they really are in an effort to impress others while still hanging on to sin. It is time for God’s people to pursue true holiness—not the weird, superficial legalism we see in some circles. When we do those things, millennials will return.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Parenting Series- How to Avoid Parental Heartbreak

It has been a long week, packed with blessings, celebrations and memories. The week began with a drive from Arizona to Oregon, crossing four states (we can be stupid cheap sometimes). We stayed at the home of my amazingly gracious sister-in-law, spent one unbearably short day with my only sister, and got to know my adorable niece and nephew all over again. I was reminded that family is a tremendous gift.

 My husband and I hiked through a rainforest with the kids and were blown away by the magnificence of God’s handiwork. We spent a day in Portland. Sadly, it was much dirtier and far less charming than I remembered. We reminisced over a long dinner with old friends and were reminded that there are no friends like old friends. We ended the week at the lovely wedding of our son’s childhood friend. Witnessing the marriage of a now-adult child we watched grow up was a bittersweet reminder of how quickly time passes.

 As I write, we are headed back to Tucson and I have little to do but think. My mind keeps wandering back to some conversations I have had over the past weeks. All the folks have different stories but they do share a common bond. All have adult children that have broken their hearts.

 Some of the kids got caught up in drugs and were unable to free themselves from the trap. Others became alcoholics. Bad company and or worldly philosophies led more than a few astray. All who strayed have turned their backs on the faith they were raised in.

 There was precious little I could say to comfort these parents over the course of our conversations. Once an adult child has gone their own way there is not a lot that can be done to bring them back. The ultimate outcome of their story is between them and God. Because there are few cures for this particular brand of heartache, prevention is imperative. There are five steps Moms and Dads can take over the course of the parenting years to prevent a world of hurt when their kids reach adulthood.

 Get married and stay that way –

 Divorce wrecks kids. Children of divorce universally believe that if they were smarter, cuter or better behaved their parents would have stayed together. This false view of reality sets them up for all sorts of self-image and relationship issues later in life. Perhaps the biggest problem with divorce is that it diverts attention that should be on kids back to the parents. Parents spend a lot of time licking their wounds and searching for relationships to shore up their own shattered self-confidence in the years following a divorce. This leaves kids with loads of time to develop sketchy friendships and lots of opportunities to experiment with dangerous behaviors. To make matters worse, stepparents are rarely passionate about raising someone else’s kids. Kids sense the tension and it causes them to feel like interlopers in their own homes. If you feel you absolutely must divorce, do your kids a favor and commit to singleness (and celibacy) until they reach adulthood.

 Don’t overlook character issues-

 Inclinations towards substance abuse, self-centeredness, deceit, spiritual apathy, laziness, and the tendency to withdraw have their roots in childhood. Be aware of your child’s predisposition to certain sins and deal with issues early on.

 Be selective about which influences you allow-

 Friends, relatives, educators, television and even music powerfully influence how our kids view the world. It is vital that we know who and what is shaping our kids. Parents are sometimes hesitant to say “no” to people and things that are having a detrimental impact on their kids out of fear of appearing controlling. There are no do-overs in childrearing. Once harm is done, it’s done. Don’t hesitate to limit or even eliminate influences that are inclined to lead your kids down the wrong path.

 Don’t be a fraud-

 Do not pretend to be better than you really are and refuse to be satisfied with living a feeble, partially committed Christian existence. Deal with the sin in your life decisively (Matthew 5:30). You must deal with the sin in your life because your child’s spiritual future is hinging on your ability to model truth for them. You don’t have to be perfect but you do need to be making an authentic and concerted effort toward becoming holy.

 Commit to a Bible-believing Church-

 A good Church has innumerable benefits: it provides a good place to make friends, teaches truth, provides accountability and helps keep kids busy and grounded during the teen years. It is possible for a person to be very involved in Church and not have a relationship with God. That said, kids understand almost intuitively that our involvement with Church is huge indicator of how serious we are about our relationship with God. Your kids will likely never be more committed to God or Church than you are, so get committed to God, find a good Church and stick with it.

 There are no guarantees in child rearing. It is possible to do everything right and still have a kid who breaks your heart. The odds of parental heartbreak are significantly diminished when you strive to nurture a good marriage, seek a vital relationship with Jesus Christ, keep an eye on influences and live transparently.

 

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

Parenting 101- Foundations

The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock~ Matthew 7:25

 

Like many couples, my husband and I have entirely different priorities when it comes to house hunting. I am all about cute. I look for original wood floors, unique details, and lots and lots of windows. My husband worked in construction for years and has a far more practical (read: boring) bent; he is concerned with the condition of the roof, the energy efficiency of all those windows I am in love with, and—of course—the location.

 An older home with original molding, distinctive features and a front porch roomy enough for two rocking chairs will leave me swooning and impatient to commit. Until my practical hubby kills the moment by pointing out that my dream home has no garage, a vintage furnace, and is located between an all-night liquor store and a vacant lot scattered with hypodermic needles and evidence of a homeless camp.

 If we are lucky enough to find a house cute enough for me and sensible enough for my husband, the next step is a trip to the basement for a thorough inspection of the foundation. My man has been known to spend an hour checking over every square inch of the foundation searching for cracks and other evidence of weaknesses. If I had a dollar for every house that has been crossed of our list on the basis of a questionable foundation, I could quite possibly double the down payment on our next house.

 As vexing as I find my husband’s practicality, I do understand where he is coming from. Flooring can be changed; location cannot. A faulty foundation takes buckets of money and a Herculean effort to repair.

 Houses are not the only things built on a foundation. The character of our kids is built on a foundation. The foundation we build when our children are young will go a long way in determining the outcome of their lives.

 There are three components necessary to build a solid foundation in the life of our kids. It all starts with:

 Authority

 The daily skirmishes with your two- to seven-year-old child are not about what they appear to be about. It might feel as if you are simply having a difference of opinion over food choices, personal hygiene, bedtime, organization and obedience. In reality you are in a battle with your child over who exactly is going to be the leader in your home. You win it by kindly but assertively making the decisions about what is going to happen in your home, giving controlled choices and clear explanations for your decisions. Success will establish you and your spouse as the principal authority figures in your child’s life. This will prepare the child to accept and submit to the authority of teachers, coaches, police officers, bosses and God. If you lose, your child will become the default leader in your relationship dynamic and as a result every rule and request you make will be tested, either actively or passively (depending on the personality of your child) and your child will never respect you or any other authority figure, including God.

 Spiritual and ethical training

 Every kid needs to understand that they are not the center of the universe and that other people matter as much as they do. We communicate this reality by teaching them to not just to love God, but also to obey Him, and teaching them biblical standards of right and wrong. Without a healthy fear of God and fixed standards to guide them, kids grow into adults driven not by reason, concern for others, or virtue, but by their own egos, appetites and passions.

 Love

 Love as described in 1st Corinthians 13 is central to Christian parenting. Without love, our efforts to assert our parental authority will be perceived by our kids as cruel and controlling. Teaching kids to obey God’s precepts without modeling His love and grace in our daily interactions will lead to a skewed perception of and eventual rejection of God. Too many parents in our culture love their children extravagantly, all the while forgetting that love, if not combined with biblical training and appropriate respect for authority, produces a lonely, unhappy, self-absorbed adult.

 Successful parents look at the big picture. Good parenting is not about making kids happy every minute of the day. Good parenting is about preparing kids for the future and teaching them right from wrong. It takes a combination of authority, moral instruction and love to get the job done.