Category Archives: Parenting
What do you do when your child seems to be addicted to bad behavior? Being back at school I am reminded of the time when I was principal and there was a community of kids that wore a path out from their classroom to my office for behavior issues. My gut reaction and training was to use behavior modification on them and throw some Scripture in it to make it spiritual. The result at times was teaching them that God is pleased with them when they conform and displeased when they break school rules, which many had little correlation to the Scriptures. Though I sometimes now get involved with student issues, my approach has drastically changed. Yes, I still use the Scripture and still give consequences when it is my call, but now the strategy is to address the heart which only can be changed by the power of God.
One of my top books to recommend to parents is “Give Them Grace” by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Here is a real life where the rubber meets the road story from a parent dealing with a stubborn heart and learning how grace works with the tough ones.
PARENTING A BAD KID WITH THE GOSPEL by Jon Wood
I had reached the point of exhaustion that every parent of a disobedient child eventually reaches. I was utterly exasperated from having to explain to my 5-year old son for the hundredth time why it’s not okay to smack, hit, scratch, or spit on other children. But day after day, my wife would discover in his backpack another red-inked note from his teacher revealing the sin of the day. And day after day, I would recite the same speech to my little boy with the same set of warnings only to be further disillusioned by another teacher’s note.
Around that time, my wife and I started reading a book titled Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick. The truth Fitzpatrick communicates through scripture forever changed the way we parent our children. It’s a ridiculously simple concept and should have been obvious to a dad like me who grew up in the church. Here’s the gist of the book:
Raise your children to know and love the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It’s that simple. Fitzpatrick encourages parents to be strategic with their kids in generating daily encounters with the message and implications of the gospel. As the frustrated parent of an unruly little boy, I was looking for clever techniques to get my kid to behave better. Yet Fitzpatrick begs her readers to take the long term approach and focus their efforts on teaching children to depend on God’s grace rather than a parent’s approval.
To even the most bible-based parents, the truth of the gospel seems about as useful as a plastic hammer when trying to chisel your child from a statue of sinful rebellion to a model of loving obedience. It wasn’t until my son uttered a few tender words one night that this gospel-centered approach began to take shape in our home.
Redrawing the Battle Lines
One evening, I was berating my boy yet again for another behavior blowup. Unwilling to show the least bit of clemency, I furiously recited a list of consequences that he would bear as a result of that day’s transgressions. Then through exasperated and tear-filled eyes, my little boy looked up to me and said “Dad, I can’t stop. I want to stop but I can’t.”
My heart sunk as the sincere sadness in my boy’s voice reminded me of me. My boy was telling his dad what I had prayed a thousand times before to God. I want to stop sinning but I can’t.
That evening, my parenting tone forever changed. My loud boisterous threats gave way to a restrained and determined demeanor. I was no longer trying to convince my son to behave better, I was now determined to show him his need for Jesus. While it takes many people a lifetime to understand their need for grace, my boy had discovered his corruption at an early age. For this little 5-year old, Total Depravity was not just some theological topic to ponder, it was a quiet war that he had been waging in his mind.
From that point on, each time he came home with a teacher’s note I would sit with him to pray and confess sins. Granted, I still delivered a similar set of consequences which occasionally included a spanking but it never ended with that. We’d talk about our desperate need for Jesus to change us from the inside out and ask for His supernatural power over temptation. The battle lines in our home were completely redrawn. No longer was it Parent versus Child. It was God versus Sin, and we were co-warriors in this battle.
Eventually my son’s behavior improved. It’s likely that he would have eventually just matured out of that phase regardless of our parenting style or he would have found more socially-acceptable ways to harbor sin. Yet without those red-inked teacher’s notes declaring my boy to be a rebel, my son might only understand the cross of Christ as an historical fact to be learned and not a soul-sustaining truth to be treasured.
I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing… Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! – Romans 7:18-19,24-25 (ESV)
I saw that my blog address was posted in the Lincoln Christian School Newsletter and realized that I have not posted anything in months. I guess I better get back in my saddle and hopefully encourage parents and students who take the time to check out what God puts on my heart. I will plan on a least one posting per week and comments are always welcome. Here is a great article by Pastor Erik Raymond of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha which I believe every parent can identify with. Hope it encourages you. He writes:
My kids are growing up. This is filled with all sorts of emotions. Life presents new challenges and circumstances. This is true for any parent. But things are a little different for Christian parents. We actually believe that our kids are not Christians just because we are. Heaven is not an unalienable right like voting at 18. Our children have to actually come to terms with the God of the gospel themselves.
This presents an interesting set of circumstances for parents. We have a responsibility, a mandate even, to raise our kids in the ‘discipline and instruction of the Lord.’ (Eph. 6.4) We understand that in this same book the same Apostle says that prior to conversion we all are dead in sin, and apart from a supernatural work of God’s grace and mercy we would not follow Christ (Eph. 2.1-8).
So what do you do?
The Dangerous Trap
I think there is potentially a trap to step into here if we are not careful and thinking. If you believe that your children cannot be converted apart from God’s sovereign work of grace in their lives, youmay become complacent in praying for them and actively ‘gospelizing’ them. We may begin to think that since they are unbelievers then what you do with the Scriptures and what you do on your knees is not helpful. This type of thinking is as dangerous as it is unbiblical.
The command to train your children is not contingent upon their receptivity. Parents (specifically Dads) do not have to ask to be the leader, they already are. And so therefore they are accountable.
“But wait…,” some might say, “how is God going to hold me accountable for something that I have no ability to accomplish myself?”
This is important to think through.
The Motivating Truth
You are right, you cannot save your children. But, God never called you to save them, he has called you to care for them. You are to shepherd their hearts with the word of God (Eph. 6.4; cf also Deut. 4.9;6.7; 11.19). And you are to carry your cares of their salvation to the throne of grace for mercy and help (Heb. 4.16; 1 Pet. 5.7). It is this that you will be accountable for.
Please think through the horrible logic of being lazy in light of your children being unconverted and disinterested in biblical things. Your excuse then is that you are lazy because God is sovereign and they are sinners? The first thing I would ask any of my Reformed leaning friends is, “What are you doing about it Dad?”
So what do you do about it?
I can sum it up in a sentence: Pray like you can’t save your children and parent like you can.
Be relentless on your knees for your children. Carry them to the throne of grace daily as you petition the sovereign and good God of the gospel for mercy. And also, be faithful to bring the Scriptures to bear in regular study, instruction and application in their lives. Have regular times of family devotions. But also, be sure to integrate the glory of God in all manner of life and thinking. Bring the matchless beauty of Christ to bear on everything that you can.
This is hard work. It is however, the work of faith, the work of dependence and the work of love. It is gospel work. It is Christian parenting. You are believing that God is merciful, that his word is powerful, and that he is infinitely valuable. We cannot afford to cling to lame and ill-conceived excuses when we are talking about such weighty things as the glory of God, our accountability before him, and the souls of our children.
So get to work, in the prayer closet and at the kitchen table; plead Christ to them and them to Christ!
As one who has worked with children and teens for the past 30 years, I am keenly aware that when you see patterns in their lives change, something is up. It has been at times even spooky when I have questioned a teen, after observing a change, if they are involved in a particular sin and find I have hit the nail on the head. Check out these nuggets of truth below that were given by John Witherspoon, one of the last of the great Puritans, on how falling into sin is often a process. It is good self assessment and if a parent, great wisdom in directing your child. Thanks to Kevin DeYoung and University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan for digging this up.
Sin nibbles at our soul in small steps.
Eight steps, to be precise, according to John Witherspoon in his sermon on Hebrews 3:13 entitled “The Deceitfulness of Sin”:
1. Men enter and initiate themselves in a vicious practice by small sins.
2. Having once begun in the ways of sin, he ventures upon something great and more daring; his courage grows with his experience; and he gives himself more liberty to walk in the ways of his own heart, and the sight of his own eyes.
3. Open sins soon throw a man into the hands of ungodly companions.
4. In the next stage, the sinner begins to feel the force of habit and inveterate custom.
5. The next stage in a sinner’s course is to lose the sense of shame; and sin openly and boldly.
6. Another stage in the sinner’s progress is to harden himself so far, as to sin without remorse of conscience.
7. Improved sinners often come to boast and glory of their wickedness. It is something to be above shame; but it is more still to glory in wickedness and esteem it honorable.
8. Not to be content with being wicked themselves, but to use all their art and influence to make others so too. This is to be zealous in sinning, and industriously to promote the interest of the infernal cause. How often do we find those who have no fear of God before their own eyes, use their utmost endeavors to extinguish it before others, to laugh down qualms of their consciences, and break any reluctance they may seem to have at running to same excess of riot with themselves? (Works, 2:61-69)
From small sins to bigger sins, to bad friends and bad habits, to loss of shame and loss of conscience, to boasting in what is evil and being zealous for others to do the same–that is the devilish nature of sin’s grip on the human heart.
What was true in Scotland in the eighteenth century, is true anywhere else today.
If you have children from young age to adult, this is a must read for you and for them. I have personally witnessed this to be true and the impact of it. The thing about reading this article is not just the issue of pornography on young people but this same concept of sin stealing my spiritual vigor applies to areas of my life. As the Puritan preacher John Owen said, “You be killing sin or it will kill you.” … George
by Tim Challies
It is going to take time—decades at least—before we are able to accurately tally the cost of our cultural addiction to pornography. But as Christians we know what it means to tamper with God’s clear and unambiguous design for sexuality: The cost will be high. It must be high.
We all know the cost will be high in fractured families and heartbroken parents, husbands and wives. Already we are seeing far too many of these and each one is its own tragedy. We know the cost will be high in the countless thousands of women who are used and abused in front of cameras so they can be violated for other people’s pleasure. That is a sickening tragedy as well. But an overlooked cost, and one that will only become clear in time, is that porn is stealing the best years from a million young Christian men and women. Porn is dominating their lives during their teens and twenties. It is controlling their lives during those years when energy is high and responsibility is low, when the world lies open before them and the possibilities are endless, when they are charting the trajectories for the rest of their lives. Their dreams and their abilities are being hampered and squelched by a reckless commitment to sin.
Pornolescence is that period where he feels the guilt of his sin, but still enjoys it too much to give it up.
So many young Christians have stunted their spiritual growth through what I call pornolesence. Pornolescence is that period when a person is old enough and mature enough to know that pornography is wrong and that it exacts a heavy price, but too immature or too apathetic to do anything about it. Pornolescence is that period where he feels the guilt of his sin, but still enjoys it too much to give it up. He may make the occasional plea for help, or install Covenant Eyes (but keep a workaround for when he’s really burning up), or ask for an accountability partner. But he doesn’t really want to stop. Not yet. She may phone a friend on occasion or plan to speak to one of the older women in the church, but in the end her internal shame weighs heavier than her desire for holiness. So she continues on, night after night.
This is pornolesence, that period between seeing the sin for what it is and actually putting it to death, that period between the deep soul conviction of immorality and the stubborn commitment to purity. For some people it lasts days, but for many more it lasts for years. A lot of young people—too many young people—are growing up too slowly today. Their sexual awakening is coming far too early and amidst all the wrong circumstances, and it is delaying every other kind of awakening and maturing. It is especially delaying their spiritual maturation.
God will not allow you to soar to spiritual mountain tops while you stoop in pornographic filth.
1 Thessalonians 4:3 makes it as clear as day: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.” A Christian’s growth in holiness and his development in Christian maturity is directly and inextricably tied to sexual purity. A person cannot full-out pursue God while also full-out pursuing porn. It’s either/or, not both/and. God will not be mocked. God will not allow you to soar to spiritual mountain tops while you stoop in pornographic filth. God will not allow you to grow in Christian maturity while you wallow in your incessant pornolesence.
And I think time will prove that this is one of the gravest costs of pornography: It is stealing the best years from so many young Christians. It is stunting their spiritual growth and delaying their entrance into Christian ministry and service. These are the people who represent the future of the church—future elders, future deacons, future women’s ministry leaders, future youth leaders, future children’s workers, future mentors, future missionaries, future seminary professors, future defenders of the faith, future denominational heads, and on and on. But with each click, with each video, with each unblushing exposure to what God deems abhorrent, they choose to worship a god in place of the God. And all the while they delay their entrance into maturity, into leadership, into who and what God calls them to be.
If this is you, hear my plea: For the sake of Christ’s church, and out of love for Christ’s church, put that sin to death. Do it for Him, and do it for us.
By Erik Raymond, Pastor at Emmaus Bible Church, Omaha
There are popular surveys published that say most of the young people in our evangelical churches will walk away from the faith after high school. Further study shows that the numbers that really do are not as high as they state and that many who do walk from the faith, really did not have it in the first place. In this article, Erik does a great job summarizing the climate of a home where the Word of God is lived out and taught in a manner that will help make it stick. There are no guarantees to what your child will do, but you do not want to have regrets as a parent. Erik writes:
“Make sure you shut the door!” This phrase is uttered a few dozen times a day in my home. With the warmer Spring weather we have children coming in and out of the house all the time. We also have a dog. She is an extremely curious, 1 year-old Boxer (fawn) named Bristol, who very much enjoys being outside. If the door is left open, or allowed to close slowly, Bristol will seize her opportunity to run out the door and then she’s off. She runs down the alley, through the neighborhood, off to experience the freedom of self-discovery. We have been told by neighbors that she sometimes just joins their family on their walk or goes into their yard to play. She seizes her opportunity.
However, there are times when she doesn’t run. Actually there is only one time. This is when someone with authority is standing in front of the door or close enough to catch her quickly. In this case she just sits there waiting for us to get distracted or leave our post. She is most certainly restrained by the law and not trained by grace.
As a Dad sometimes I feel like my wife and I are standing by the door. I look at my children (ranging from 2-18) and know what I think is best for them. We try to educate, be transparent, humble, gracious, consistent, and loving with them. We want to build a foundation of thinking and understanding of the world, train them in wisdom, and help them gain understanding. However, as a parent you never feel your work is done, there is always more to do and more you could have done better.
How can we know that once our children graduate high school or head off to college that they won’t simply fly out the door and run from everything we have taught them? How do we know that they won’t abandon the God of their youth? How do we know whether or not they are complying because they have chosen the consequences of submission (blessing) over the consequences of rebellion (discipline)?
On the weekend of our oldest son’s graduation from High School here are some thoughts I have about keeping the kids from “running out the door” and away from God and their family.
1) Reverse Engineer the thing.
Who or what are you trying to make? When I look at my kids I want them to be able to do three things (concerning Christianity): 1) Read / Understand the Bible, 2) Pray, 3) Talk to people about the Bible. How do you do this? I think you have to regularly expose them to the Bible, the Sunday gathering, fellowship in the church, and family Bible reading, and discussions of spiritual things.
2) Be who you want them to be.
Many kids get frustrated with their parents because they hold them to a standard that they themselves cannot keep. Paul could tell churches to imitate him as he imitated Christ. There is some power in that statement. It’s pretty tough to tell you kids to be humble, accept correction, and follow Christ when you don’t do it. It let’s the air out of your argument. Instead, model the faithfulness that the Bible calls you to.
3) Elevate the Bible in the home.
I hope my kids will remember everything that we taught them about the Bible, but if I’m honest, I know it’s unlikely. However, I do think they could get the fact that Mom and Dad read the Bible all the time. We take the Bible seriously and believe it is actually God’s Word. This is an extremely impactful lesson for a kid.
4) Be consistent in discipline.
One sure way to exasperate your children is to change the standard of discipline based upon your feelings. Even worse, change them based upon the child. To the best of your ability, be consistent: what is wrong on Saturday is wrong on Wednesday. Kids will appreciate and be trained by this.
5) Confess your sins.
Another way to exasperate children is to never admit that you are wrong. This is also a sure fire way to show that grace is not real in your life. When you mess up–admit it, confess it, ask forgiveness. This is just normal Christianity. It does not undermine your role as a parent, it actually enhances it with and by grace.
6) Let kids grow up.
As a Dad with 3 girls I regularly fight the challenge to keep them all playing with dolls and polly pockets. I hate the thought of guys noticing them or (worse) them noticing guys. However, by God’s grace I need to let them grow up. I need to shepherd them through these next 10 years in a loving, helpful, careful, and thoughtful way. Just as it is irresponsible to let them go do whatever they want it is irresponsible to lock them up in a tower like Rapunzel.
7) Have real conversations and answer the hard questions.
As strange as it sounds talking is often hard. It often gets shelved with our busy work schedules, life events, and the overall busyness of life. But these conversations are so important in the development of the child in the home. They are also important in the establishment of trust and closeness between the parent and the child. There need to be tough conversations about ethical issues, sexuality, politics, parenting, etc. As parents we want our kids to have an opinion on these topics–don’t we want them to be formed and shape what we believe is right and true?
9) Keep your promises.
Years ago my wife noticed that we often told the kids we were going to do something (get pizza, go to the park, etc) and then something came up and we cancelled it. We decided that in order to train them to keep their word that we would not cancel commitments unless it was absolutely necessary. If we promise to do something then we will, as the Lord wills, do whatever we can to make it happen. This breeds consistency and trust.
10) Show affection.
Affection is the physical expression of love and acceptance. When I hug my kids I am reaffirming my love and acceptance of them. I am telling them that at that moment everything is good between us. I am for them. I love them. This is so important for the ongoing restating of love in a home. In our house we hug and kiss a lot. I believe it is actually more than a habit. I have had a child squeeze me tighter than normal and then ask them how things are going only to get into a discussion about something that was bothering them. The opposite is also true. A casual, formal hug is usually a sign that something is wrong. Affection is a blessing within a family to communicate this love and acceptance. Don’t miss this daily opportunity to say it.
11) Pray a lot.
A few years ago I wrote a post entitled, “Pray like you Can’t save your Kids and Parent like You Can.” Be relentless on your knees for your children. Carry them to the throne of grace daily as you petition the sovereign and good God of the gospel for mercy. This is because parenting is so hard and the stakes are so high. We must pray. This is hard work. It is however, the work of faith, the work of dependence and the work of love. It is gospel work. It is Christian parenting. And I guarantee you will not be wasting your time.
Conclusion: Embrace Your Stewardship
A lot of what is written above takes time and effort. These are two things that we often don’t have. As parents we sacrifice these on the altar of personal convenience and comfort. This is reprehensible when we remember that our children are really not our children. They are the Lord’s children; we are stewards. It is our job to be found faithful as stewards. In this light time and effort are not optional–they are mandatory.
At the same time, I know parents who have done everything talked about on this page (and more) only to have their child walk away from God after they graduate. They were faithful parents but their child chose to walk away. Making disciples is not like making a cake: you don’t just add ingredients and time and then voilia! We rely upon the grace of God to be at work in the lives of people.
When we consider our son graduating from High School this weekend I know we have not done things perfectly. I am a sinner who has been selfish and lazy. However, by God’s grace we have a son who can stand at the door, and we can say that we can walk away. We can let him walk out and do his thing, confident that he has been loved and trained by us and God. This brings me great joy as a parent.
Fathers and mothers are the most natural agents for God to use in the salvation of their children. I am sure that, in my early youth, no teaching ever made such an impression upon my mind as the instruction of my mother; neither can I conceive that, to any child, there can be one who will have such influence over the heart as the mother who has so tenderly cared for her offspring. A man with a soul so dead as not to be moved by the sacred name of “mother” is creation’s blot. Never could it be possible for any man to estimate what he owes to a godly mother. Certainly I have not the powers of speech with which to set forth my valuation of the choice blessing which the Lord bestowed on me in making me the son of one who prayed for me, and prayed with me. How can I ever forget her tearful eye when she warned me to escape from the wrath to come? I thought her lips right eloquent; others might not think so, but they certainly were eloquent to me. How can I ever forget when she bowed her knee, and with her arms about my neck, prayed, “Oh, that my son might live before Thee!” Nor can her frown be effaced from my memory,-that solemn, loving frown, when she rebuked my budding iniquities; and her smiles have never faded from my recollection,-the beaming of her countenance when she rejoiced to see some good thing in me towards the Lord God of Israel.
Well do I remember hearing my father speak of an incident that greatly impressed him. He used to be frequently away from home preaching, and at one time, as he was on his way to a service, he feared that he was neglecting his own family while caring for the souls of others. He therefore turned back, and went to his home. On arriving there, he was surprised to find no one in the lower rooms of the house; but, on ascending the stairs, he heard a sound as of someone engaged in prayer. On listening at the bedroom door, he discovered that it was my mother, pleading most earnestly for the salvation of all her children, and specially praying for Charles, her first-born and strong-willed son. My father felt that he might safely go about his Master’s business while his dear wife was caring so well for the spiritual interests of the boys and girls at home, so he did not disturb her, but proceeded at once to fulfill his preaching engagement.
I want to protect my children in a world like this, but I want to do more than that. I want to disciple my children to live virtuously, to use these new technologies for good purposes instead of bad ones. I believe this is a crucial part of my calling as a parent. To address this great need, I have put together what I call The Porn-Free Family Plan. It is a plan designed to protect my children from online dangers so that I can train them to use their devices and technologies well.
The Porn-Free Family Plan
A thorough plan needs to account for three types of device:
- Fixed devices. These are the devices will only ever be used in the home. Here we have desktop computers in the home office or Internet-enabled televisions and gaming consoles. Parents can have a significant level of control over these devices.
- Mobile devices. These are the laptops, tablets, smart phones and other devices that can be used in the home but also carried out of the home and used elsewhere. Parents can have as lesser degree of control over these devices.
- Other people’s devices. These are the computers children may use at another person’s home or the tablets other children may show to their friends. Parents can have no control over these devices.
In all of this there are two broad goals: To prevent those who want to find pornography and to protect those who do not want to find it but who may otherwise find themselves exposed to it, to confound those who want to see porn and to shield those who don’t. And while the plan is geared specifically to combat pornography, it will also help battle other online dangers.
The Porn Free Family Plan has four steps: Plan, Prepare, Meet and Monitor.
You’ve heard the old maxim: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. The maxim applies well to what we are attempting to accomplish here. A successful plan will need to account for every device in your home that combines an Internet connection with a screen. So let’s get to work.
Step 1: Inventory
You need to know exactly how many Internet-enabled devices you have in your home. To do this, you will need to take an inventory. Make a list of all your Internet-enabled devices: desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smart phones. Don’t forget the Playstation 3, Xbox, smart televisions, Apple TVs, iPods, and e-reader tablets. Even a Kindle reading device has basic web-browsing capabilities. A family recently reported that after doing this they were shocked to learn they had 22 devices to account for!
Step 2: Budget
Decide whether you are able to make Internet security a regular and recurring monthly expense. Where it used to cost money to access pornography, today it often costs money to avoid it. While there are free options available, the best services have a cost associated with them. A budget of $20-$25 per month will allow a family to take advantage of the premier options.
Step 3: Learn
Now that you have taken your inventory and have a better grasp of the devices your plan needs to account for, it is time to learn about the options available to protect those who use them. There are four broad categories of protection we have available:
- Filtering. Filtering proactively detects and blocks objectionable content. (Examples: If your child does an Internet search for “naked girls,” it will block the search; If your child mistakenly clicks a link to a pornographic web site, it will block access to the site.)
- Accountability. Accountability software tracks web sites visited from different devices and then prepares and delivers regular reports. (Example: If your child visits a pornographic web site or performs a search for “naked girls,” the accountability software will note it and include it in a report emailed to you.)
- Parental controls. Parental controls block certain functions of modern devices (Examples: Preventing the use of the Internet browser on an iPod Touch; preventing the use of the Facebook app on a tablet).
- Communication. We cannot rely on technology to solve all of our problems, so the plan must also involve regular, deliberate and open communication.
Because none of these offers complete protection, the wise plan must use some combination of all four. The Porn-Free Family plan uses the following tools:
- OpenDNS. OpenDNS uses filtering to automatically block objectionable web sites for every device connected to your home network. It is activated by making a small change to the settings on your existing router.
- Covenant Eyes. Covenant Eyes tracks the web sites visited by your computers and mobile devices and sends regular email reports; it also offers optional filtering that can be configured specifically for each member of your family.
- Parental Controls. Parental controls allow parents to disable certain functions on devices.
- Meetings. The most indispensable tool is regular, open, deliberate communication between parents and their children.
Step 4: Discuss
Before you begin to implement the plan, it may be a good idea to meet with your family to explain what you are about to do and what you hope to accomplish by it. You will be inconveniencing your family and putting rules in place that will impact them, so it may be wise to discuss these things with them. Read the rest of this entry
My work at the Christian high school has confirmed what I had understood what was happening among youth. The easy access to the internet and pornography has a hook in most of our kids. If you have teens in your home, chances are they have been exposed and many will be seeking it out with opportunity. This is a very helpful article by Tim Challies who besides being a pastor, has written extensively about technology and the use of it with discernment. He writes:
I hear it so, so often: “Help! My kids are looking at porn!” A few days ago one mom wrote to say that she and her husband had allowed their young teenaged boys access to the Internet to play an online video game, thinking they had taught and trained the boys well enough that they would be able to resist whatever temptation they encountered out there. They were wrong, and had just learned that for the past four months, when mom and dad left the house for a date or to run some errands, the boys had been looking at pornography. What should they do? How should they respond?
I have dedicated a lot of attention over the past several years to the battle against pornography and would like to offer a two-part answer. Today I will address the immediate response and tomorrow I want to help you put together a plan that will protect your family in the future, both preventing those who want to look at porn and protecting those who don’t yet know that it exists.
For today, here are some suggestions for how to respond when you learn that your children have been looking at or looking for pornography.
Different parents react in different ways when it comes to their children and pornography. Some treat it in a matter-of-fact manner while others respond with more emotion and can find themselves on the brink of utter despair. Guard yourself against those depths of despair. While this situation is difficult and painful, it does not mean the world is ending; it does not necessarily mean your children are unsaved and certainly does not mean they are unsaveable. By looking at porn they have opened up a window to their heart and you now have the opportunity to address it in a helpful way. Despair will only interfere with your ability to do this effectively.
Be Careful with Shame
There may be a tendency to compound shame upon shame, to want to ensure that your kids are feeling the shame they ought to feel. But be careful with shame. Our goal is to have the Holy Spirit convict your children of their guilt more than to have mom and dad make them feel a deep shame. It is very possible that you are feeling embarrassed or feeling a sense of failure as a parent, and this may lead you to be harsher than you ought to be. Your goal is not to convict your children of their shame before mom and dad, but to assist the Holy Spirit as he convicts them of their guilt before God.
Whatever else you do, you need to communicate with your kids. It is easy for a parent to assume he knows why his children have been looking at pornography, but I’ve learned over the years that there are a host of reasons. Some children look at porn purely out of lust and curiosity; some do it primarily to fuel masturbation; some do it out of a desire to be disobedient and act out against the authority figures in their life; some do it out of a response to abuse they’ve suffered in the past. Where the temptation will be to bludgeon your children with reasons they should not look at porn, your time will be spent far more effectively if you are able to slow down, ask lots of questions, and engage them in conversation. Find out what the allure is. Find out what need it seems to be meeting. Prepare for uncomfortable discussions about topics you don’t want to discuss, like masturbation and even abuse. Don’t let their bad behavior distract you from addressing their hearts.
Go to the Gospel
I said earlier that by looking at pornography your children have opened up a window into their hearts. They’ve opened it up and shone a spotlight onto a particular sin. They’ve shown that they are dissatisfied, that they are lustful, that they are disobedient to God and to their parents. And that’s just who the gospel is for—for the dissatisfied and lustful and disobedient. All of this presents a powerful opportunity to get straight to the gospel. The gospel offers them forgiveness, but it also offers them hope that they can overcome this sin, that they can be rescued from the guilt of the sin, that they can find a deeper and more lasting satisfaction than what pornography promises. As always, the heart is the heart of the matter.
Plead With Them
I believe that as a parent you have many opportunities to teach your children, but only a few opportunities to really plead with them. This is a time to plead with them, to plead for their lives and to plead for their souls. You are older and wiser than your children, you understand the Bible more than your children, and you know the long-term cost of a commitment to sexual sin. If ever there is a time to plead with them for their life and for their souls, this is it. Allow Solomon to give you your words:
And now, O sons, listen to me,
and do not depart from the words of my mouth.
Keep your way far from her,
and do not go near the door of her house,
lest you give your honor to others
and your years to the merciless,
lest strangers take their fill of your strength,
and your labors go to the house of a foreigner,
and at the end of your life you groan,
when your flesh and body are consumed,
and you say, “How I hated discipline,
and my heart despised reproof!
I did not listen to the voice of my teachers
or incline my ear to my instructors.
I am at the brink of utter ruin
in the assembled congregation.” (Proverbs 5:6-14)
You are battling not just for personal purity, but for their lives. Plead with them to save their lives and to save their souls!
Take Measured Action
By looking at pornography your children have violated your trust and shown themselves unworthy of it. That trust will need to be earned and regained over a period of time as they prove themselves responsible and obedient. You will need to be actively involved in training your children to use their privileges well and to use the Internet and their digital devices without this kind of behavior. You need a plan that will account for their devices and their lack of Christian character. I will turn to this plan tomorrow.
By Melissa Edgington; http://yourmomhasablog.com
It’s 2014. The days of children standing around with excellent posture in their bow ties and stiff dresses are over. Our hip and modern kids may be running around with mismatched socks and spiked up hair, but that doesn’t mean that we have to abandon teachings that help our kids be well liked by other children and adults. I’m not talking about popularity here. I’m talking about helping our kids give a good impression wherever they go. After all, the Bible says that even a child is known by his actions. Not every day is going to be a rip roaring success when trying to teach our children politeness, but if we are consistent, we will eventually see them get it right more than they get it wrong. And, when they have successful and pleasant encounters with others, we are setting them up to be more successful in life. These ten skills will serve them well all through adulthood, too.
1. When adults in the room are standing because of a lack of seating, children should stand, sit on the floor, or sit on our lap. After this has happened a few times, the kids begin to unseat themselves when they need to. It’s a beautiful thing.
2. When adults are talking, children should not interrupt. This is a tough one because we are guilted by various magazines and books into believing we are doing emotional damage to our children when we don’t drop whatever we’re doing if one of them has something to say. But, anything our kids have to say (short of the kitchen is on fire) can wait until our conversation is over. Of course, there are exceptions, depending on who we are talking to or what the situation is, but we shouldn’t be afraid to tell our children that they will have to wait. In ministry it’s been an important rule because there are times when I am in deep conversation with someone, and my children generally know to occupy themselves in that instance.
3. Please and Thank You are still cool. Compliments? Candy? Bathroom break? Just about all situations with children need plenty of pleases and thank yous. It’s always a magical day when you’re training a little one to say “Thank you,” and right as you’re about to say, “What do you say?” to your child, she beats you to it and says thank you without prompting. And then angels sing in the distance. I’m sure of it.
4. When someone speaks to a child, he should respond. I know we all teach stranger danger and everything these days, but when we are together and a stranger or an acquaintance speaks to my child, he should answer. Even if it’s just to say hello or to answer a question or to say thank you after a compliment. We need to teach our children (even if they are shy) to look people in the face and respond.
5. When they are in a quiet and still environment, children should be quiet and still. I know this is tough, and it takes years sometimes to teach this to certain children. But, we do them a disservice when we communicate that we don’t expect them to be able to be still and quiet. And, sometimes even those who normally do this well will just have to squirm and make a little noise. But, we can consistently work to show them that they are capable of sitting (and sometimes even doing nothing–gasp!) for a reasonable period of time.
6. When they receive a gift or a meal they don’t want or need, children should smile and say thank you. Like many of the others, this is a matter of thinking ahead and instructing our children before the situation arises. Sometimes when we are going to someone’s house, I tell my kids, “She has worked hard to fix us a nice meal. Whatever it is, eat it and say thank you.” If we are having a birthday party, I remind my kids that if they open a gift that they already own, they should just smile and thank their friend. These are lesson in gracious living, and the sooner our kids learn to think of others’ feelings, the better.
7. Children should not invite themselves over to others’ houses. This is such a hard one to get through to kids because they reach an age where they are all about hanging out with their friends. But, we have to teach our kids what an uncomfortable situation they put other parents in when they do this.
8. Children should not ask others for money or gifts. I’m thinking specifically about grandparents here, but sometimes children get so deep into this habit that they will ask teachers or other parents for money or food or some other treat. We need to teach our children that it is rude to ask even Granny for money or gifts.
9. Children should know basic mealtime etiquette. Teaching our kids to chew with their mouths closed, use a napkin, swallow before speaking, and use utensils properly will go a long way toward making them pleasant dinner companions. If we don’t teach these skills now, before we know it they will be in high school and won’t know how to wipe their mouths while they eat. Spaghetti face doesn’t go well with a tux at prom.
10. While being tired is sometimes a catalyst for bad behavior, it shouldn’t be used as an excuse for it. We’ve all been there. Our kids are being difficult and rude, and we think or say that it’s because they’re tired. And, it’s probably true. But, tiredness doesn’t excuse bad behavior, although it can comfort us to know that it’s probably the reason behind it.
Now that the list is complete, you’re probably wondering if my children are always polite. Well, no, they’re not. And yours won’t be either. But, the more we work with them, modeling good manners and teaching them how to behave in different situations, the more polite they become and, hopefully, the more pleasant to be around.
It should be said that there will be plenty of days that go better than others when teaching these polite behaviors. But, our kids need God’s help to change, just like we do. So, we can extend grace to them when they mess up, and we can lovingly show them how to do better next time. The core of each of these behaviors is simple kindness and thoughtfulness. So, when we encourage our kids to think of others’ feelings, then we are helping them to love others.