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???)
The upcoming week is one to really zero-in on the work of Jesus Christ to redeem our sins through his substitution for us at the cross. Recommend to you that you take the time with your family to focus daily on the events and the meaning of them. I will post each day what happened historically in Jerusalem and other resources to remind us of Christ’s work. A great devotional tool to use (and it is free) is John Piper’s “Love to the Uttermost” which are 8 devotional readings for Holy Week. You can download them for free at http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/books/love-to-the-uttermost and start this Sunday, Palm Sunday.
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.
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.
You must be an authentic example to your children. The Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1690s, John Tillotson wrote, “To give children good instruction and a bad example is but beckoning to them with the head to show them the way to heaven while taking them by the hand and lead them in the way to hell.”
The first place to be an authentic example for your children is in your marriage for it is one of the main instruments that God designed to preach the gospel. Ephesians 5 lays out the elements of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the roles of the husband and wife. How unattractive the gospel is when a husband will not love his wife like Christ loved the church and gave himself for her and then turns around and demands his children not to be so selfish and self-centered. Or the wife who does not biblically submit to her husband nor respect his position and them demands that her children respect and honor her.
Hypocrisy has a crippling effect upon a family and it is usually pride that is behind the hypocrisy. Such pride leads to a blindness of our faults and sins. We see the sin in our children’s hearts and not the same sin in our own. It leads to being uncorrectable and the impression that you are right because you are the parent. It leads to discouragement and disobedience to the only direct command in the New Testament for parents that is given in two of the Epistles in that fathers are not to provoke or exasperate their children to anger.
Humility to the gospel leads to living out Ephesians 5:1,2 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Humility leads to living out the gospel as your failings are exposed to your children. Confession and quick resolution of wrong doings is accomplished. The home turns into a redemptive community where sin is dealt with but with grace. Discipline is happening and can be handled with gentleness.
When a home is guided by gospel-centered humility, it guards and protects the gospel and it will be continued from one generation to another as described by Paul to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:14,15, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Dave Harvey, pastor of Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pa has said, “I thought parenting was going to portray my strengths, never realizing that God had ordained it to reveal my weaknesses.”
The mistake many Christian parents make is believing that the only way that they can glorify God in their parenting is to have children who are obedient, well-behaved at all times, and can answer all the questions in Sunday school. If you read many of the Christian books on parenting, it gives you the impression that if you just follow their method, this will happen. The reality of life as affirmed in the Scriptures is that you can parent “rightly” and have children who will still bring to you heartache.
Check out the scenario of Ezekiel 18:5-10, “If a man is righteous and does what is just and right—if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity, does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord GOD. If he fathers a son who is violent, a shedder of blood, who does any of these things …”
To parent to the glory of God means that I must recognize first of all the majesty and sovereignty of God in all things. We do not always know how God has ordained a situation or a person’s life to glorify himself. Consider Peter on the beach with Jesus after the resurrection and note the way God had chosen to glorify himself in Peter’s life: “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:18-19 ESV)
The point of this for parenting is that God is too great to only be glorified by children that appear to be “good.” He may choose to glorify himself through some suffering and sin and the furnace of affliction.
Our goal as parents must include that we will strive for faithful obedience on our part and for faithful obedience on our children’s part. We must however be prepared to know that God will choose the way to glorify himself and that may be through a season of weakness as a parent.
One of the beautiful things about the gospel is that it produces a living and vibrant faith. It is our daily protection in that through faith in the gospel I have salvation, justification, peace, and an understanding of the Word of God. Through it I am being transformed from glory to glory. I have all I ever need for life and godliness, freedom from the power of sin, and my Sabbath rest in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
I can go on and on but the point is that we should want our children to possess such a faith. That their understanding of the Christian faith through the Word of God would be informed through the central meaning of it in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Next to the tragedy of a child who never grasps the gospel, is the child who may make some level of profession of faith and then walk away.
Tom Bisset in his book, ‘Why Christian Kids Leave the Faith,” lists 4 main reasons why some people leave the faith.
- They encounter troubling and unanswered questions about the faith. They see the tough issues of life and do not see a Christian answer. These can be theological questions or just questions of doubt. They may be told “you just need to believe” and so they will leave in the name of intellectual honesty. Some of the material that is available in the name of apologetics is intellectually weak and at times dishonest.
- Their faith just does not work for them. The Christian faith is presented as one where there should be peace, joy, and happiness as found in the promises of the Bible. They become disillusioned with the church, with other Christians in watching their lives and ultimately disillusioned with God.
- Other things in life become more important than their faith. The person becomes preoccupied by such things as seeking pleasures, ambitions, personal issues or just some of the hard realities of life. Pretty soon a secular view of life displaces a sacred view based upon the Scriptures. The person begins to drift just like a boat from its moorings and their faith is a beam on the horizon.
- They never personally owned their own faith. In other words, there was not authentic repentance and faith. They simply conformed to the spiritual expectations of their parents and others and did what was required to show belief such a saying a prayer and being baptized. Then when faced with the reality of life later their faith collapsed because it was thin on the outside and hollow on the inside.
This is why the Deuteronomy 6 paradigm and the preaching of the gospel to yourself and to your children every single day and into all aspects of life is imperative. If they do not see the centrality of the gospel in the affairs of mankind, it will become irrelevant to them.
I don’t want to just make this a general statement but it is possible to have a home where the parents are Christians but it lacks the central message of the Christian faith in the gospel. These parents may understand the gospel as a message for unbelievers and then teach their children that the Christian faith is about their behavior. They present God the Father in a manner that the basis of his joy in them is on how well they behave and being good is the end all of our faith.
Certainly we must provide for our children clear guidance, rules, and commands based upon the Scripture, but they lead us to understand God’s love for us is based upon the work of Jesus Christ. See some of the previous posts, “Parenting for Recovering Pharisees, Aug 31” and “Grabbing the Life-Buoy of the Gospel, Sep 5.”
On the post yesterday, a “gospel-centered home” is defined as one that every part of the home is informed by the gospel. Is this a new concept or is it a consistent theme of the Bible? Deuteronomy 6:4-9 states, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (ESV)
How did you spend your time with your children this past week? In their activities and appointments of the week, what did you teach and talk to them? Did you inform their time at home and in their activities with such a message as is found in Deuteronomy 6? Did they ask you questions that are in accordance with Deuteronomy 6? How you spent your time with your kids does show what you really want.
Tomorrow will be on setting goals for the family.
What defines your parenting? What are your goals with your children? You know what defines your parenting and your goals for your children by the way you parent and what motivates your joy in parenting. For example, are you more concerned with their behavior or their heart?
The Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15 that what is to be of first importance in our lives is that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”
This means that there is nothing of equal or greater value than the fact that God sent His Son to the cross to bear his wrath for sinners like you and your children. If so, is there anything in life we should be more passionate about than the gospel. We should be thinking on it, reflecting on it, rejoicing in it and allowing it to guide the way we look at our families and the way we parent.
So what does a gospel-centered home look like? It is one where all aspects of the family and parenting are informed by the gospel. Such a home knows such things as:
- Jesus has won the victory over sin, Satan and death. Our sin as parents or the sin of our children are parts of the battle but Christ has won the victory and a home that realizes the power of God in the gospel and Christ (1 Corinthians 1:24) sees the hope we have and are not defeated.
- Jesus is our redemption and has set us free from the slavery of sin. We may fall but we do not need to stay where we are. Christ has purchased the freedom to pursue righteousness.
- Jesus is our justification where our sin was taken upon him and his righteousness credited to us so that we could be seen as justified in God’s sight.
- Jesus has cleansed us from all sins that we have committed and sins committed against us. The burden of guilt has been lifted and the power to forgive purchased.
- Jesus is our ransom and paid the price for our sin. There is neither further cost nor interest penalty. We are completely forgiven and there are no charges against us.
- Jesus is our reconciliation where the obstacle of sin has been taken away and we have been brought to God in a new relationship.
The battle is to discipline and nurture your children guided by these truths and many other truths of the gospel. Tomorrow I will post the fundamental difference between a home that may be “Christian” but absent of the gospel.
Welcome to those who are attending or planning on attending the class I will be leading at Faith Bible Church on parenting. Also welcome to those who cannot but you are welcome to follow the class on this blog site. I have titled it “Rescue” because families these days need to be rescued from the overload of parenting information that is thrown at them. Over 75,000 books on parenting have been produced in the last decade and the church has for the most part, lost its bearings on what is truly a biblical course.
I am hoping to navigate a way through the maze and the ultimate rescue that God has provided in the gospel itself. Families are made of parents who are sinners and children who sin and God has provided through Jesus Christ the answer to sin.
The plan is to post throughout the week a review of the class along with some additional thoughts. Here is the schedule:
Week 1: Navigating a biblical course
Weeks 3 & 4: Rescuing a child’s heart
Week 5: Survival in the storms of the world
Week 6: The home as a Christ-centered sanctuary
The goals of the class are:
- To encourage parents where they are doing well and motivate changes where needed by moving forward with the gospel.
- Learn to be an authentic example of the gospel in their home and to their children.
- Learn to use the Word of God as the revelation of God and the means of exposing our sin and depravity and revealing our desperate need of a Savior.
- Help parents teach their children what it means for their children to obey them and to live well in God’s kingdom.