It has been nearly two years now that I have immersed myself once again into the culture of teenagers. Though in a Christian school environment, there is enough of the world about them that I have a pretty good idea of what is happening. One thing I would say is that teens are on overload. Their lives are far more complicated than when I was their age or even 15 years ago when I stepped away from the school culture. I can say that from the school perspective it is not likely going to get any easier.
I found this article fascinating and the results not so surprising. I share it because though it is not likely it would provoke much change in our school system, but you should think about your home life and the decisions for activities and schedule that you have control over? Think about it ..
THE FINNISH SECRET TO SUCCESSFUL STUDENT by Tim Elmore
Yesterday, I posed a question on whether a loaded childhood—chalk full of activities, high stress, and low margins—actually delays healthy adulthood. In other words, if a kid never gets to be a kid when they’re young, they’ll want to be one in their twenties or thirties. I’ve seen it far too many times.
Today, I want to share some research on one secret that educators in Finland have discovered that enables their students to experience healthy childhoods… which, in turn, leads to engaged adolescents and healthy adults. I was inspired by this information after talking to several teachers, including Kelly, who’s on a Fulbright research scholarship in Finland this year.
Every educator I’ve met who’s taught in Finland has echoed the same conclusion. Finland doesn’t have the most innovative classrooms. They do not deliver the most brilliant lesson plans. They, in fact, follow the same formulas for pedagogy that many other industrialized nations follow. However—they’ve found a way to lead the pack in many K-12 test scores and produce self-directed students who succeed more often than our American kids. You can look at the scores yourself.
Their secret? They simplify life.
Let me outline just a few examples of how adults in Finland have chosen the “less is more” approach with students (and how it’s paid off big time):
Less formal education.
Although they’ve led the way in test scores, they actually start kids in school at age seven. In America, parents often think age five is too late and launch them into pre-school. Finland believes kids need to be kids early on, so when they begin school, they are really ready (especially boys). Everything after ninth grade is optional.
While every culture has the rich and the poor, as a whole, Finland’s less materialistic than the U.S. They live in smaller houses, buy fewer clothes, and don’t overwhelm shoppers with 300 choices of cereal or bread when ten will do. Men don’t buy big trucks and women wear less make up. Simple is better.
Less classroom hours.
Unlike our schools, Finnish schools actually start the day between 9:00-9:45 am. In fact, the government is discussing legislation that would prevent schools from starting any earlier, knowing that adolescents need more sleep to perform better. The school day ends between 2:00-2:45 pm. They typically have three to four 75- minute classes a day with several breaks in between. Kids stay engaged.
Fewer teachers per student.
Unlike our schools, Finnish elementary students stay with the same teacher for six years in a row. Obviously, those teachers really figure out the learning needs of each child and have a vested interest in their success since they don’t pass a troubled kid off to a new instructor next year. They ARE the instructor next year.
This one is huge. Finnish schools have the least amount of homework in the industrialized world. Teachers actually believe kids can and should get the work done in class. According to one teacher, it’s as if faculty have an unspoken agreement: “I won’t give you homework if you will work hard on this assignment in class.”
Believe it or not, Finland actually covers fewer subjects in school and in less hours. Why? Because the parents, teachers and students trust the system and engage it. Instead of being suspicious of each other, they say to kids: This is your chance to get it. You better grab hold of it. Kids are not overwhelmed — they are engaged. One teacher said he often had to push students out of class at the end of the day because they wanted to stay and finish their projects.
Wow. Maybe “less is more” after all.
Question: How could you help simplify the life of your students? (Or child???)
I find Luke 6: 27-36 haunting at times..“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
Jesus distinguishes between the one who has been touched by the mercy of God and those who have not. I am haunted because I often act like the one who has not been and in doing so, I am no different in my actions than the unbeliever. In fact, they can look more “Christian” than I can.
And so it is with parenting. Why is it that those without Christ as the center of their home can parent so well and we who have Christ can do so poorly? There is an ingredient available to the Christian that can be distinguished from all other homes. It is the gospel. There is a difference in a gospel centered home and the unbeliever’s home. There is even a difference in a gospel centered home and many Christian homes.
How is the difference distinguished? The gospel centered home will be focused on how the gospel informs every aspect of our living and not on behavior modification. Some ways to know a home is ruled by the gospel:
1. Everyone will know that Jesus is our redemption and has set us free from the slavery of sin. Discipline will be Christ-centered with the focus rejoicing in Christ, our Redeemer.
2. All will understand that Jesus is victorious over sin, Satan, and death. It is a home where the strength to deal with tough issues will be nourished by the finished work of Christ.
3. Knowing that we are all justified in Christ where our sin has been taken away and the righteousness of Christ given to us so that we will not be weighed down by the guilt of sin but will deal with it confidently in Christ.
4. The family will know that Jesus has cleansed us from all our sins that we have committed and all that have been committed against us. The obstacles of broken relationships have been removed so that forgiveness and reconciliation are possible.
More to come….
Over the past few years, there have been several summaries of studies and surveys regarding young people (millennials) leaving the faith. The numbers reported have been staggering and the interpretations of the results are dismal where as many as 80% of these young people are reported as ejecting out of church once they reach college age.
Recently a group associated with Focus on the Family did research and found that amidst the bad news is some good news and potential hope. The good news is that what is often interpreted as leaving the faith was actually only leaving their church or denomination and switching to another. In many cases, they were leaving for the reason to find a more spiritually robust church.
The news to be grasped is that 18% of these young adults (18-29 years old) say they were raised in the church but are now not affiliated with any church and have walked away from the faith. 89% of the 18% who have walked away stated that though they were part of a church experience, their home modeled a lukewarm, nominal faith. 11% of the 18% who walked away said their parents had a vibrant faith.
So what does this challenge us with? The home is still the primary influence on producing enduring faith. Homes that have a vibrant faith are likely to teach their children how we persevere through the trials of life with the gospel. So this tells us that many who leave the faith, really never had a good grasp of it to start with from their home.
I live in a place where there are good Bible churches that have good youth groups and I now work at an excellent Christian school. All these help, but over the years I have watched young adults from these environments over and over again walk away from the faith. Sending your kids to these is a good thing but nothing takes the place of a home where faith and life in Christ are enthusiastically embraced. Even if the practice at home is far from perfect, it still stands as God’s primary plan for passing on a vibrant faith to the next generation.
The conclusions of this study were as follows:
- Bible teaching churches continue to see healthy growth even as the total church going population is in decline.
- Strong families produce lasting results.
- The search for meaning in life continues to be pursued.
- Millennials want a serious faith, not entertainment focused.
To read the complete report: http://www.focusonthefamily.com/about_us/focus-findings/religion-and-culture/millennial-retention.aspx
(For those following these posts, sorry for the long gap but things have been changing for me. Will give an update and get back on track again sometime this weekend. In the meantime …)
The following is an excerpt from Kevin DeYoung’s new book Crazy Busy, A (Mercifully) Short Book About a (Really) Big Problem
Parenting has become more complicated than it needs to be. It used to be, as far as I can tell, that Christian parents basically tried to feed their kids, clothe them, teach them about Jesus, and keep them away from explosives. Now our kids have to sleep on their backs (no, wait, their tummies; no, never mind, their backs), while listening to Baby Mozart and surrounded by scenes of Starry, Starry Night. They have to be in piano lessons before they are five and can’t leave the car seat until they’re about five foot six.
It’s all so involved. There are so many rules and expectations. Parenting may be the last bastion of legalism. Not just in the church, but in our culture. We live in a permissive society that won’t count any sin against you as an adult, but will count the calories in your kids’ hot lunch. I keep hearing that kids aren’t supposed to eat sugar anymore. What a world! What a world! My parents were solid as a rock, but we still had a cupboard populated with cereal royalty like Captain Crunch and Count Chocula. In our house the pebbles were fruity and the charms were lucky. The breakfast bowl was a place for marshmallows, not dried camping fruit. Our milk was 2%. And sometimes, if we needed to take the edge off a rough morning, we’d tempt fate and chug a little Vitamin D.
As nanny parents living in a nanny state, we think of our children as amazingly fragile and entirely moldable. Both assumptions are mistaken. It’s harder to ruin our kids than we think and harder to stamp them for success than we’d like. Christian parents in particular often operate with an implicit determinism. We fear that a few wrong moves will ruin our children forever, and at the same time assume that the right combination of protection and instruction will invariably produce godly children. Leslie Leyland Fields is right: “One of the most resilient and cherished myths of parenting is that parenting creates the child.”
By Jonathan Threlfall
I’ve been reading Worship by the Book (edited by D. A. Carson). This morning I came across a valuable insight for parents who wish to teach their children about true worship:
Kids of that age [10-12 years, and presumably younger] do not absorb abstract ideas very easily unless they are lived out and identified. The Christian home, or the Christian parent who obviously delights in corporate worship, in thoughtful evangelism, in self-effacing and self-sacrificing decisions within the home, in sacrificial giving for the poor and the needy and the lost–and who then explains to the child that these decisions and actions are part of gratitude and worship to the sovereign God who has loved us so much that he gave his own Son to pay the price of our sin–will have far more impact on the child’s notion of genuine worship than all the lecturing and classroom instruction in the world. Somewhere along the line it is important not only to explain that genuine worship is nothing more than loving God with heart and soul and mind and strength and loving our neighbors as ourselves, but also to show what a statement like that means in the concrete decisions of life. How utterly different will that child’s thinking be than that of the child who is reared in a home where secularism rules all week but where people go to church on Sunday to “worship” for half an hour before the sermon.
I was struck by the fact that children learn what they see us do. What we do consistently and passionately they see as important. Conversely, what we do inconsistently or without passion, they see as unimportant. Not only that, but we must actively interpret our actions to them. We are going to church to worship with God’s people. We are giving this tithe because everything we have comes from God anyway.
Here are seven commitments with regard to teaching our children using concrete actions:
- If I will teach my children that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation, then not only will I explain the Gospel to them, but also they will see me sharing the Gospel with others. When they are old enough, they and I will share the Gospel together.
- If I will teach my children that God can be trusted to provide for us, then we will be generous in giving to needy people together.
- If I will teach my children that corporate worship is essential, then we will consistently gather with God’s people together.
- If I will teach my children that the Bible is the Word of God, then we will read it, sing it, and memorize it together.
- If I will teach my children that marriage is a wonderful gift from God, then my children will see my wife and me treating each other with love and respect.
- If I will teach my children that sin dishonors God and always brings sorrow, I will abhor sin myself, shield my children from undue exposure to sin, correct them when they commit sin, and humbly admit it when I commit sin against them.
- If I will teach my children that God loves them, then I will do my best to show love to them–not only by providing for their physical needs, but also by listening carefully when they speak, playing with them, and treating them with tenderness.
By Jason Helopoulos, University Reformed Church, East Lansing, Michigan
Some of my greatest joys in life stem from being a parent to two delightful children. However, some of my greatest struggles in life also stem from being a parent to these same two children. There are days that I cannot imagine anything more rewarding and other days that I want to get into the fetal position and remain there for a week. Here are a few reminders for me and all the other Christian parents out there:
Affection and Love: We can never show our children too much love. I have yet to meet the adult who tells me, “My parents just showed me too much love!” But sadly, I have often heard the reverse. Shower your children with affection. May they know our warm embraces and messy kisses!
Have the Right Goal in View: As Christian parents, our goal in raising our children is not primarily to prepare them for going out into the world as fully functioning adults. Our goal, as Christian parents, is to prepare our children for eternity! This should shape all that we do in our homes.
Focus on My Responsibility: But having said that, we can’t “force” our children to be faithful, less sinful, or more righteous. That isn’t our responsibility. Our responsibility is to be faithful in our own charge as parents. In that regard, I can surely hinder or help their sensitivity to Christ, growth in sanctification, understanding of grace, and maturing in character, but I can’t guarantee it, secure it, or determine it. Let’s be faithful in what we do have responsibility for and spend less energy trying to control that which we don’t have responsibility for.
Keep Your Eyes Forward: We can be prone to look over our shoulders. What will OUR parents think? What will others at church think? What will my pastor think? Our children are disobedient and we find ourselves cringing inside and looking to see if anyone else was watching. And when we see others looking on, immediate concern grips our minds. Will they think my children are disobedient or bad? Will they think I am a terrible parent? Stop! We aren’t parenting for others’ approval. We are parenting for the good of our children to the glory of God. Let’s keep our eyes looking forward and heavenward for the good of our children and the glory of God.
Don’t Get Too High nor Too Low: Children change, so let’s not get too high or too low by what we see in our child’s character, actions, or soul in any given day or during any given period. Let’s rejoice some. Let’s mourn some. But let’s do so with restraint.
Tomorrow has Enough Worries of its Own: We can’t control today, let alone tomorrow. Be faithful today. My son taking a toy from his sister today doesn’t mean he is a good candidate for robbing convenience stores at age eighteen. We can get caught up in what they will be like next week, next year, or when they are twenty-one. Let’s just be faithful in our parenting today.
Run the Right Direction: God knows a thing or two about wayward children, so let’s seek Him who has an understanding ear. What grace we need in parenting and what grace is given in Christ. May we run to Him with our frustrations, struggles, trials, and failures. He should be our first counselor and comforter.
Parent on Your Knees: Oh for an army of parents who exercise as much energy in prayer for our children as we do in lecturing them. Prayer may be the most important and most neglected of parental responsibilities. Let us pray for and with our children–not just before bed–not just over meals, but throughout the day and for all their lives.
Show and Tell: Let’s not just tell our children about the Christian faith, but show it. Let us ask for their forgiveness when we have been irritable or have yelled at them, lead them in family worship, talk much about Christ, extend grace, be quick to point out God’s good providence, joyfully lead them to church, pray for and with them, and sing a few hymns in the shower!
Christianity not Morality: Morals are good, but not in and of themselves. Let’s teach our children and pray for a morality that flows from a heart changed by God’s grace. For many of us, our default is to slip into morality parenting, rather than Christian parenting. The former is focused solely upon outward behavior, the latter is focused upon inward change which will manifest fruit in moral outward behavior.
Lastly and Most Importantly, Count the Blessings: Let’s thank God everyday for our children. Even on those hard days, find the blessings amidst the chaos! Count every blessing that comes as a parent. Let it fill us with wonder that the Lord of the Universe has given us the privilege of having these little souls under our care. What a blessing. Thinking on that may even help us get out of that fetal position.
Thousands of books have been written about parenting and systems of controlling your child’s behavior. I was exposed to a multitude of behavior management programs in my 17 years as a secondary school teacher and administrator. There is one thing all these programs have in common – pragmatically they all work. Most are based upon behavior modification techniques of stimulus and response. The outcome is a child who around their parent or others who the child is conditioned to respond to, will behave as trained or will receive the known consequence. The child stays out of trouble in these controlled environments and the parent’s stress level is reduced.
Another common element in these parenting paradigms is a consistent correction format that in many of the Christian programs is spanking the child regimentally. The correction may include prayer, reading Scripture and then a hug. What I want to point out from the Scriptures the next few days is that the concept of the rod for correcting foolishness as used by God as a model for us is not so narrow.
Starting out, the definition of the word rod as found in the Old Testament is that is was a staff, scepter or a branch. Examples of how it was used are it was to beat cumin (Isaiah 28:27), as a weapon (2 Samuel 23:21), a shepherd’s implement (Leviticus 27:32), an implement to protect and guide (Psalm 23:4), and a mark of authority (Genesis 49:1).
The word rod is used in many forms in the Scripture when applied to correcting rebellion and foolishness which shows that God disciplines in a variety of ways:
I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men (2 Samuel 7:14)
Let him take his rod away from me, and let not dread of him terrify me. (Job 9:34)
For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. (Isaiah 9:4)
Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! (Isaiah 10:5)
I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; (Lamentations 3:1)
What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness? (1 Corinthians 4:21)
(The rod and the gospel tomorrow)
I took a different direction for class today than I had originally planned after prayer and thought. It seemed we needed to drill a bit deeper into the concept of training our children and the use of correction. So this week in the posts, I will head in that direction.
By correction I mean an instrument that enhances the instruction and training of a child. The rod of correction is meant for foolishness which is when a child has rejected the instruction and training that a parent or legitimate authority in their life has given.
The biggest mistake that parents make in the discipline process of their child is that they do not train them. 2 Timothy 3:16 informs us that the Word of God is not just for instruction, but also trains and corrects us. Training consists of taking instruction and then applying it to the child to develop the instruction into a habit. Once accomplished, the child becomes “fully trained” in the task.
An example of this process is telling your child to clean their room. What do you mean by clean? A training session would consist of showing the child how to clean their room and what you clearly mean by what defines a clean room. It is showing and repeating with the child the tasks involved. It may take a few times but eventually they will be “fully trained” so that when told to clean their room, the command is clear and understood. So should they not do so, it is a deliberate action of rebellion and classified as foolish.
Another example may be calling your child to the dinner table. This should only have to be done once and given a few minutes to respond, the child should obey. To train them may consist of dad sitting with the child before dinner and when mom makes the call to be at the table in 5 minutes, dad shows the child what they need to do at that point. It might consist of turning off media devices, putting toys away and then proceeding to the table. Dad can make a game out it and repeat the actions several times to let the idea sink in of being “fully trained” so mom does not have to repeat the call. Once done and the child does not respond as trained, it is a deliberate foolish act calling for correction.
(Next post will be the beginning of several posts on correcting foolishness biblically and spotlighting the gospel in the process)
In capturing a child’s heart, a parent is to exercise God delegated authority over the child. God has given parents the duty to rule, lead, decide, command, judge, set policy and limits to their children. He has placed you as a parent to act on his behalf to shape the child’s life as God sees fit and not necessarily as you do. Based upon that, parents are to discipline, instruct, train and correct their child on behalf of God and not their own agenda. They are to declare to the child what God has said and promote that into the child’s life.
Authority is a call to engage your child with you in charge and not acting as an adviser until the child shows maturity. A common mistake made with young children is placing too many choices with the child that they are not ready to make. For example, asking a child “what do you want to eat, wear, do, etc.?” When you do this you are relinquishing authority and teaching them they have the right to make these decisions that may lead to a loss of control and conflict over what they wear, eat, or do with their free time. When a child has been trained and shows the maturity to make these decisions with prudence, then the authority can be relinquished.
Douglas Wilson stated, “A child not under the authority of his parents (by his choice or the parent’s) is in grave danger.”
I will address ‘control’ next.
By Kim Shay, http://out-of-theordinary.blogspot.ca/
A number of years ago, as a homeschool mother, I sat with some ladies offering comfort and encouragement to another mom we knew who wanted to homeschool, but whose husband was against it. She would not go against his wishes, but it was hard for her. This woman was certain that her life as a mother was doomed to failure unless she homeschooled. An older and wiser woman commented saying, “Be careful that you don’t let homeschooling become an idol.”
This was not something I had really considered before. As I thought more and more about it in the ensuing weeks, I did see how homeschooling could become an idol. Furthermore, as time went on, I began to see that our children, themselves, can become idols in our hearts. This is not an attempt at an in-depth discussion of the topic; that is beyond the scope of any one blog post. I do want to share, though, some thoughts about the reality that our children can become idols.
Idolatry is a sin; we know that. The first two of the Ten Commandments make this clear (Exodus 20:2-7). In Exodus 32 when Aaron and company proceeded to make an idol of gold, God’s anger burned against them. We are not to worship anything but God. Our lives are driven by what we worship; if it is not God, it is surely something else. For some, it might be success; for others, it is money and possessions; some are driven by the praise of men, or even something as inconsequential as having a home that looks like something out of a magazine. And yes, for some, it can be their own children. The point is, something rules in our hearts, and unless it is God, it is an idol.
We love our children. We sacrifice for them. We stay up late with them while they are sick, tend to them and nurture them. We have inexpressible joy in them. Normally sedate women will become ferocious lionesses when someone wants to hurt their children. There is spiritual blessing in having children. It is not wrong to love our children. However, sometimes, as we love them, it is difficult to see when we have crossed the line and begun to love them more than God. Ultimately what happens is that their happiness and our good relationship with them becomes more important to us than our righteousness, our obedience, and our relationship with God. The result is sin as we seek to serve our child who has become more important to us than our God.
When our children are more important to us than God, authority in the home is affected. Unless a husband shares his wife’s tendency, there will be inevitable conflict between husband and wife. It also creates an unhealthy relationship between child and parent. A child needs love, teaching, and discipline from his mother and father, not worship. Aside from the obvious assault on God’s holiness, idolizing a child can poison a family’s relationship. In the end, a child will not thank you for setting him up an idol; he will resent you. No human being can take the pressure of being the center of someone else’s worship.
How do you know when this is happening? What are some signs that we may be making an idol of our children? This is not an exhaustive list, but here are a few thoughts.
You excuse your child’s bad behavior. It’s always someone else’s fault. You excuse their sin instead of addressing it. You don’t believe your child would ever lie to you or do what that person said he did. You blame the youth group for not teaching them better or their teachers for polluting their minds.
You can’t bear it when they are angry with your discipline. When you do impose consequences and boundaries, and they react badly, you try to appease them because you don’t like their anger. You don’t like the conflict. You will go out of our way to avoid it, even if it means neglecting to impose a godly standard.
You try to shield them from mistakes. As they get older, you interfere with giving them freedom to try and fail at things. You jump in and fix things before they have to deal with the consequences. This may take the form of constantly intervening with people to whom your children are responsible, like a teacher or a leader. Instead of letting them take responsibility for something, you micromanage how they handle it so that you don’t have to see them fall.
You struggle to let them go. Now, I realize that releasing our children to be independent is hard. I’ve done it three times now, and it was hard every time. However, when the grief begins to infiltrate other areas of our lives, and incapacitates us, we’re in trouble. If God cannot fill the spaces they’ve left with their absence, we have to wonder where our true worship lies.
In all of these situations, the root of the problem is that we are looking to our children to fill what God is meant to fill. Our hearts were meant for one God, and one God alone. If our children replace Him, we are putting ourselves at risk, and putting them on a pedestal. When they fall, which they inevitably will, it will devastate us. We are not called to neglect our children, but to love them. That, however, does not include loving them above God Himself.
Perhaps this notion seems ridiculous to you. After all, can we ever love our children too much? Perhaps you can’t believe that anyone would do such a sinful thing. All I can say to that is, “been there, done that.” Perhaps I am the only one foolish enough to get caught up in such a business. I suspect not, though. I am not unique by any stretch of the imagination. As painful as this revelation was to me, and as difficult as the fallout was, I learned so much about God’s grace; more than I’d ever seen before. And it takes God’s grace for us to love our children as we should.