** This article was copied from The Gospel Coalition.com
Our son wants a smartphone with an Instagram account.
He’s 12. He’s in seventh grade. He wants to be able to text his friends, send pictures, and chat in the afternoons and evenings.
His mom and I say “no.”
We’ve opened an Instagram account on my wife’s phone that he can use to post an occasional picture or, under our supervision, see what his friends are up to during the summer. But we’ve drawn the line at him having a phone at this age and all the social media accounts that go with it.
Crazy thing is, we’re the oddballs. Only a handful of his classmates are without a phone.
I’m not judging the decisions that other parents make, so long as they are informed and involved in their children’s lives. Every child is different. Parents can use discernment and come to different conclusions on this matter. I am, however, confident that we’re making the right decision for our families.
Naturally, our son has asked the question several times in several ways: Why not, Dad? Why not, Mom?
The easy answer would be: “There’s bad stuff on the internet and we don’t want you to access it.” We could talk about sexting and pornography and all the potential dangers of being online. But I know there are certain filters and barriers that impede that deluge of filth. Besides, the potential for future, sexual temptation is not our greatest concern anyway.
No, the real reason why our son doesn’t have a phone is because we think his middle-school years will be better spent without one. The answer I’ve given, over and over again, is this: I want you to be free from middle school drama when you’re at home.
Of course, our son thinks the phone represents a new rung on the ladder, the next step toward the freedom of adulthood. We think the phone, at his age, is a step down into slavery. It traps kids, just like it can trap adults, into the social game of likes and comments and never-ending comparisons.
James K. A. Smith describes the scene for an adolescent, and it’s one that virtually any adult could read him or herself into:
“The teenager at home does not escape the game of self-consciousness; instead, she is constantly aware of being on display—and she is regularly aware of the exhibitions of others. Her Twitter feed incessantly updates her about all of the exciting, hip things she is not doing with the ‘popular’ girls; her Facebook pings nonstop with photos that highlight how boring her homebound existence is. And so she is compelled to constantly be ‘on,’ to be ‘updating’ and ‘checking in.’ The competition for coolness never stops. She is constantly aware of herself—and thus unable to lose herself in the pleasures of solitude: burrowing into a novel, pouring herself out in a journal, playing with fanciful forms in a sketch pad. . . . Every space is a kind of visual echo chamber. We are no longer seen doing something; we’re doing something to be seen.”
There’s nothing wrong or immoral in the content the teenager in the above paragraph may access. But something still isn’t right about the whole scene.
Many Christian parents are rightly concerned about the content that their kids may access on the phone. But it’s not just the content that shapes us. It’s the entire device and how it operates, and the assumptions about our world that are smuggled in with it. The smartphone has apps tailored around one’s own desires, so that the phone says, all day every day, “The world revolves around you.”
“Tools want to be used this way and not that. My phone “wants” my wants to head in a certain direction. My phone trains me to expect instant satisfaction of my infinite desires. . . . Our world is jigged by phones, computers, and tablets toward self-absorption and roving, inattentive consumption. My phone turns my self into a cellph.”
This is a big deal. It’s why I devoted the first chapter of This Is Your Time to the smartphone (“Your Phone Is a Myth-Teller”) and how we can use this newly invented tool faithfully.
Social media promises to do two things simultaneously: resolve the human longing to “be known” andthe human longing to be “in the know.” The thirst for knowledge goes back to the Garden of Eden. We want to be “in the know,” and we want to “be known and loved.”
In the book, I call this “double thirst”—when you drink something that temporarily quenches your need for water, but that “something” has an ingredient that creates in you a greater thirstiness.
When you go to the phone, believing the myth that it can quench your thirst for knowledge, you’re inundated with information that makes you feel insignificant in the bigger scheme of things. That’s when the second longing kicks in, the desire to be known. Now you go to your phone in order to put yourself out there, to post selfies and comments because being present online helps you fight the feeling that you are insignificant.
Then, there’s a deeper aspect to all this. We recreate ourselves online because we worry that if we were truly known, we would not be loved.
It will be our generation’s task to chart the way forward in what faithful use of the smartphone will be. How does the gospel shape our smartphone habits? That’s an important question, and it’s why I’ve written a chapter on this subject, and why I’m heartened to see articles in Comment as well as a new book by Tony Reinke pressing us into deeper reflection on our habits.
For now, the simple “no” is best for our son. But this discussion should lead us as parents, who are too often glued to our phones, to contemplate what we’re saying “yes” to.
* This article was copied from fulleryouthinstitute.org
How to talk to your kids about sex (with as little awkwardness as possible)
Nervous to talk with your kids about sex?
You’re not alone. Especially if faith is important to you.
According to two different sets of data, the more important religion is to parents, the more difficult it is for those parents to talk with their kids about sex.
That’s both sad and ironic. As followers of Christ, we should be at the front of the line to talk with our kids about sex. We know that sex, as something God created, is good—really good. And yet somehow with sex (as well as other controversial topics), our families have been robbed of healthy, balanced, scripturally guided conversations, the type of conversations that foster good decisions and strong faith.
This Valentine’s Day, topics of romance, love, and intimacy are bound to be at the forefront of our teenagers’ minds. Furthermore, young people today are inundated with notions and standards that fall short of God’s good intentions for sex—and they need us to help them discern what is true and what isn’t.
So how can we leverage Valentine’s Day, or other cultural references, as springboards for better conversations about sex with our kids? Here are four suggestions to help you have better “sex talks” at home.
1) It’s about listening, not lecturing.
It’s the rare teenager who looks forward to talk to their parents about sex. Not only is talking about sex with parents awkward, it usually devolves into a lecture.
Parents who are best at talking with their kids about sex bite their tongues—sometimes literally—when they feel tempted to lecture their kids. The reality is that your kids probably already have a hunch about what you might say about sex. So do your best to let them do the talking.
2) It’s about asking, not judging.
Wondering how to get them talking? Most teenagers won’t launch into a monologue about sex, so if we’re going to help them do the talking, we have to ask questions. And it’s best if we avoid the “What are you thinking? You must be crazy!” tone of voice when we ask.
In one of the parental interviews we conducted for The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, one amazing dad described inventing a family game called “What do you think will happen next?” During car trips, over dinner, or at bedtime, the dad would give a challenging ethical situation, often involving sex. And then ask his kids, “What do you think will happen next?”
So if he wanted to talk to his daughter about date rape drugs, he’d start with, “You go to a party and are handed a cup. You’re not entirely sure what is in the cup and you don’t know the guy who handed it to you very well. What do you think will happen next?”
His daughter would give her best answer. And then he’d follow up with, “Okay. So what do you think will happen next?”
She’d answer. And he’d ask the same question again.
He would do this for as many rounds as his kids would play along because he had one main goal: He wanted his kids to think ahead. And he used questions to help them learn how.
3) It’s about them, not me.
Maybe asking, “What do you think will happen next?” would never work in your family. If so, then take the cue from wise parents who use what’s happening to other people to launch their families into discussions about sex.
The bad news is that sexualization has infiltrated our culture from top to bottom. The good news is that gives us all sorts of conversation fodder.
Valentine’s Day cards. Movies. Music. What’s going on with your kids’ friends. Politicians. YouTube videos. News headlines. Clothing choices. School policies about dating.
If asking kids directly what they are thinking and feeling about sex feels too pointed and all too likely to cause your kids to shut down, start by talking about all of these topics—and other people (whether they are your kids’ friends or media celebrities)—and see if the conversation organically progresses to get more personal.
4) It’s a process, not an event.
Are you gearing up for “the sex talk” with your kids? Looking forward to crossing it off your list? Maybe even planning on having that discussion this month?
Well, it’s not about one sex talk. It’s about lots of them.
With both of our two older kids, and we’re about to do this with our youngest, we’ve bought them a book and read through it with them together—two chapters per week. Dave and I read through it first, underlining the portions we want to discuss with them, and then our child reads it.
We have intentionally made those discussions about book chapters as natural as possible. We’ll have them while we’re talking in our child’s bedroom, or sitting on the couch in our living room after dinner. We want talking about sex to feel as normal as possible.
If you want to do a special weekend away or purity ritual, by all means go ahead. Just don’t view it as a one-time event. It’s more like a series of conversations, because sexuality involves a lifetime of choices.
What other steps have you taken to leverage cultural references for better discussions with your kids about sex?
 Those two data sets are the National Study of Youth and Religion and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Mark D. Regnerus, Forbidden Fruit (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 60-73.
**This article was copied from allprodad.com
6 Short Sentences Your Child Needs to Hear You Say
In raising our five children, Susan and I have tried to consistently convey to each of them these 6 short sentences. We’ve done it with our words and our actions. And, as I write this post, I’m realizing I need to say these things even more because they can’t be said enough.
1. “I’m here for you.”
Being available for your child is incredibly important. They may not need you when you tell them this, but they’ll remember you promised to be available to them when they need you the most. This sentence is more than just giving them permission to find you when the going gets rough…it’s an invitation to them. It tells them, “I will do whatever I can to help you whenever you need me.”
2. “I’m proud of you.”
Some middle-aged men I’ve talked to have never heard, or have waited years to hear, their dad say “I’m proud of you.” And many of them thought if they just performed better, if they just made it big in sports, or if they just had a thriving money-making career, their dad just might notice. Ladies and gentlemen, please don’t make your kids wait. Tell them today.
3. “I believe in you.”
Remember back to your teen and early adult years? How confident were you in yourself? And how confident are you today in yourself? Self-doubt and second-guessing come with the territory of being human. And you can be a great source of support to your child through these struggles. Your child needs to know that somebody somewhere in this world believes in them and their immeasurable value.
4. “I want the best for you.”
This sentence has a couple of benefits. First, it tells your child that you have a purpose behind your parenting. They may not understand how you see “what’s best” and they may not even agree with you, but they will hopefully start to appreciate it over time as they see you working hard to do what’s in their best interests. I have often said to each of my kids, “I’m doing this or saying this because I always have your best interests at heart.” And they know they can always trust me. Second, it puts you in their corner. Again, they may not always see how your ideas, your standards, or your consequences are really for their benefit, but giving them this regular reminder at least assures them, in the depths of their heart, that you are for them, not against them.
5. “I will stand with you.”
I saw a video recently of a dad dancing with his daughter at a talent show. The girl had a severe and rare disorder that keeps her from having almost any muscle tone, control, or physical abilities of her own. But as her dad picked her up out of her chair and danced around the stage, her nearly inexpressive face suddenly blossomed with a huge smile. This girl knows that her dad is willing to risk embarrassment, harassment, or scorn from any person in order to be counted with her. This sentence tells your child that you are willing to be identified with them even when they’ve made a mistake or have to do hard things.
6. “I love you.”
This is, quite simply, a sentence that cannot be said too many times. Big family moment? “I love you.” Quiet and quick goodnight? “I love you.” Dropping them off at school or a job? “I love you.” Just for no particular reason at all in the middle of the day? “I love you.”
** This article was copied from crosswalk.com
3 Areas in Which Parents Must Persevere
At the beginning of a new year, we often think about the things we want to do well for the next three hundred sixty-five days. We often prove ourselves to be great at applying ourselves to our resolutions for a season, but we struggle to persevere in doing these things for the long haul.
There are few areas of our lives in which we struggle more than we do with perseverance in parenting. For a while, we spend quality time with our kids, and then we get into a busy season where our kids start getting the short end of the stick. We have consistent family devotions, then suddenly cannot remember when the last one was. We discipline them consistently, taking the time to talk to them about their behavior and not letting offenses slide. Then, we go through a period where we overlook misbehavior and then lash out in frustration because they aren’t listening to what we say.
The hardest part of parenting is not knowing what to do. Knowing how to teach and pray for your kids is not as hard as you think it is. Often, our instincts about the best way to discipline our children are usually correct, and most parents want to spend quality time with their children.
The hardest aspect of parenting is often not our lack of understanding, but our failure to persevere. As parents, what we need the most is to continue doing the little things every single day.
There are three particular areas in which we need to persevere.
Persevere in Quality Time
Our children want us more than they want stuff from us, but how often do we give our children things so they will occupy themselves so we can have time alone? We need time to recharge and spend with our spouses. Our children must know how to entertain themselves, but we also have to recognize how much our children crave time with us. Fishing, hiking, reading, playing a game, throwing a ball, or sitting around a fire to roast marshmallows provide great opportunities for us to connect with our children each day.
Our children will be more receptive to our discipline and teaching when we spend regular time with them because it flows from our relationship with them. As Ted Tripp points out in Shepherding a Child’s Heart, we parent mainly from authority when our children are young. If we find them touching something they shouldn’t, we can take it away from them or pick them up and move them somewhere else. As they grow older, we still parent from our God-given authority, but our relationship with them becomes a much larger aspect of our parenting. They tend to listen more and be more receptive to our parenting when we spend consistent time with them.
We often find that this is a joy to us as well. Our children are a gift from God. Spending time with them often leads to fun, laughter, joy, and lasting memories. Each of our children has unique personalities and are fun and funny in their own way. Spending time together brings this out, so stop thinking that you will magically “find time” to spend with them and make the time.
Persevere in Teaching and Discipline
The Bible calls parents to teach and discipline our children. Moses’ words fromDeuteronomy 6:7 provide insight into how we do this. “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.” Much of our parenting takes place in the context of ordinary life. We teach, correct, instruct, and discipline our children while we are doing the things we usually do every day.
In addition to teaching as we walk through life, we need to set aside time for teaching through family devotions. When we hear about family devotions, we shouldn’t picture Dad preaching a twenty-minute sermon to the kids. (If your kids are small, it can’t and won’t be this.) In his book Family Worship, Don Whitney offers a simple method for family devotion anyone can do whether they know the Bible well or not- read, pray, sing. Read a portion of the Bible. If your kids are small, this can be from a children’s Bible like The Big Picture Story Bible or The Jesus Storybook Bible. When they get older, progress into reading a section from your favorite translation. Depending on where your children are, you can work on memory verses or a catechism together. Then spend some time in prayer together and sing a song. These can be children’s songs like “Jesus Loves Me” or simple hymns like “Come Thou Fount” or “Be Thou My Vision.”
We must also discipline our children. Truthfully, I find it difficult to separate discipline from teaching because they go together hand in hand. We do not discipline our children to punish them for what they have done, but to instruct their hearts so they will be different in the future. Discipline should not look the same all the time, but we should tailor it to the situation and the bent of our children. While how we discipline is a matter of wisdom at the moment, disciplining our children is not up for debate. God commands children to obey their parents, and we should expect them to obey the first time that we tell them to do something. Anything other than their first-time obedience must result in discipline for the sake of your children’s souls and your future sanity.
Persevere in Prayer
Finally, parents need to persevere in praying for and with our children. Pretend for a second that you could do a perfect job parenting your children. You always kept your cool when they disobeyed and told them exactly what they needed to hear in every situation. You read the Bible to them every day and spent the perfect amount of quality time with them. You led them to friendships with the right kids and gave them every opportunity they needed. Even if you did all these things correctly, it would not guarantee that your child would become a Christian or behave properly. Only the grace of God can take your parenting and make it effective, so you must pray.
We should pray for our children and for our parenting every day. Pray God would cover our efforts with grace, forgive us where we fail, and empower us to persevere in our parenting. Pray God would change our children’s hearts by the power of his Spirit and raise them up to follow him and bring him glory. We need God, and our children need God, so we must daily plead for them before the throne of grace.
Not only should we pray for our children, but we should also pray with our children. By doing this, they learn how to pray and what subjects we bring before the Lord in prayer. They get to see our family pray for needs and how God answers those prayers. Also, our children should hear us pray for their salvation. Our prayers teach them what we value the most and by praying for their salvation, they will consistently hear about their need for Christ.
** This article was copied from crosswalk.com
6 Things All First-Time Parents Should Know
In my morning radio program “Phone Call from the Pastor” (Lifesongs 89.1 New Orleans), I told this:
This is a message to a young mother of two boys I saw at McDonald’s on Airline Highway yesterday. Your boys are perhaps 2 and 3-1/2. You say they were born 18 months apart. “They’re killing you,” I told you facetiously. “I hope you survive until they’re grown.” But what I thought was, “I hope they survive.”
Their behavior is suicidal. They are well on their way to becoming society’s worst nightmare. They are out of control.
You kept giving orders to the older one–sit down, be quiet, turn around, eat your lunch–and he kept ignoring and defying you. There was fire in the little guy’s eyes. He really did look like a miniature devil.
My heart went out to you. My wife and I raised two little boys who were three years apart. I know they can be very trying, especially on Mom. So, what I’m about to suggest to you comes from some experience with this subject.
You have maybe one or two years to turn those boys around. I know they’re young but don’t be fooled. The character you build in them now is what they will live with the rest of their lives.
So, at the risk of seeming presumptuous, I have six suggestions on how to head off those boys before they self-destruct…
1. Turn off the television.
2. Take them to the park. A big park is best so they can work off all that energy.
3. Read to them.
4. You and Dad need to stand together on the matter of discipline. If you don’t, it’s all over.
5. Never repeat yourself to a child. Tell him once. When he ignores you, pick him up and take him off to one side or in another room and lower the boom. Don’t hurt him. Just be plain spoken. Act promptly. And never make a threat you do not intend to act on.
6. Get your family in a church that loves children. You need help, a support team. You cannot raise these kids alone. You need God’s help and the strength of a family of believers.
I’m praying for you, young mother. God bless you and God help you.
Twenty year hindsight…
There’s nothing in that six-fold counsel I would change. The radio program was for only two minutes, although I frequently fudged. Still, as brief as it is, the advice is sound.
Her boys would be men now, in their early 20s. I wonder how they’re doing, what they have become, what they are on their way to becoming in life.
Should I have said something like this to that young mother? Would she have received it?
You never know. Perhaps I should. But I didn’t.
I do not believe the character of a child is permanently fixed as a toddler, even if I implied otherwise. But so much of who they are is well established by the time they are five. My wife and I adopted a five-year-old daughter, so we also know this, and could tell you story after story.
Even if your child is an adult now, don’t give up, friend. Pray and love them, and seek God’s wisdom. If you do not believe in the power of prayer, you will throw up your hands in despair. Pray or despair. Those are your choices, I fear.
I suppose I would temper one piece of the counsel I gave in 1997. It’s not enough to find a church that loves children. I’ve seen churches reach hundreds of kids, then do little more than entertain them, and they failed the adults miserably. The parents should seek God’s wisdom about a Bible-centered, Bible-teaching church where Christ is honored, where people are told how to be saved and how to live for Jesus, and that loves children, protects them and instructs them.
God bless all young parents. Yours is the most important work on the planet.
And may God bless all the older parents whose children have strayed, have not been faithful to their upbringing, and are living out the story of the prodigal (Luke 15).
And one more. May God bless the older parents who came to Christ late and see how they failed their children, and who fear now it’s too late to help them. God help these hurting parents and show them what to do now.
Let all of us be intercessors for our children. It’s a scary world out there. They should not be sent out to face it alone and unprepared.
** This article was copied from allprodad.com
How to Explain Divorce to a Child
Everything seems so perfect the day of a wedding. There is dancing, celebration, and the dream of a wonderful life together. Everyone expects their marriage to last forever. Having a relationship that lasts is hard and takes work. People get hurt, problems fester or perhaps someone wanders into the arms of another. No one expects that divorce will find their marriage—their home. However, we have all seen the statistics. It is brutally painful to see a marriage end, let alone experience one. The situation is intensified when you add divorce and children.
Children experience the most pain in a divorce. They have no control over anything and have little understanding of the why it is happening. It’s confusing, complicated, and difficult to explain. The intent here is not to debate whether or not divorce is ever appropriate, but how to explain divorce to a child.
This discussion needs to happen all together. Make sure everyone is present. Anytime parents are not unified, it creates anxiety in children. Think back to when you were a child and how you felt anytime your parents got into a fight. Obviously, a divorce brings that anxiety to its highest state because their worst fears are playing out. Being on the same page and showing respect to one another as you explain what is happening will be helpful. Be sure to coordinate what should be said and not said. It may even be good to write down talking points. Both parents should talk, not just one.
This is a time when you need to put your hurt feelings aside, regardless of who cheated or who did what to who. You can deal with all of that one-on-one. The focus needs to be on the children and what you can communicate to stabilize the situation. Any negative statement or attitude about your ex-spouse (or soon-to-be) throws the children in the middle — exactly where you need to keep them from being. Your ex-spouse may be a villain to you, but they are a loved one to your kids.
Their world is being jarred so they will need a lot of reassurance. In many ways, it is like a death in the family. A strong fear of how life is going to change will hit them. Assure them of your love for them and how that will never change. They may blame themselves or a sibling. Make sure it is clear to them that none of this is their fault. Also, reassure the areas of their life that will not change (possibly living in the same place, same school, etc.). The most important thing they need to know is that they still have two parents that love them and will take care of them.
The younger they are the fewer details they will need. However, you want to be prepared with a game plan of what details you want to communicate and what can wait until later. You don’t need to be detailed in the causes of your divorce. Keep it simple with some general concepts understanding that younger kids are going to be more black and white. Tweens will probably ask the most questions while teenagers are more aware and will probably have seen it coming. Regardless of the age, it is still painful and hard to understand. You don’t need to cover it all with one talk.
There will be unavoidable, ongoing pain from a divorce. It’s a difficult reality. Being unified as much as you can goes a long way in providing some sense of stability. Make every effort to achieve it for the sake of the children.
* This article was copied from theparentcue.org.
Throwing your heart into all you do can really make a difference. Even when you rest…rest well. When you’re home, be home. Passionately pursue your top priorities.