3 Areas in Which Parents Must Persevere

** 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.

How to Explain Divorce to a Child

** 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.

Be Together

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.

No Villains

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.

Reassurance

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.

Details

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.

5 Ways To Help Teens Deal With Life When They Feel Stuck

** This article was coped from theparentcue.org

We’ve all been there. We all have encountered struggles that felt bigger than us. And we all develop our own ways of managing emotional pain, shame, and regret. When faced with difficult circumstances, it is very normal to look for ways to cope.

Over the years, parents have verbalized their uncertainty with how best to assist their teen with effectively managing the ups and downs of life. There’s no simple response. Quite frankly, as a therapist who frequently works with adolescents, I get it. Being a teen today is tough. Teens face increasing expectations: managing multiple schedules, demanding academic loads, and competitive extracurricular activities. And above all, discovering who they are and how they fit in with their peer group and the larger world. All of which can and do cause internal pressure.

Some teens are able to successfully navigate these waters. Others may fail or buckle under the pressure. It is a normal human experience to want to escape reality.

It’s actually a great idea to take a break, decompress for a few hours in order to allow your brain to reboot and refocus. Attending a concert with friends, listening to music, going for a hike, laughing at a hilarious comedy are examples of healthy ways to take your mind off a stressful day. However, what happens when distraction morphs into something that is not so healthy? And perhaps even destructive?

Harmless distraction can often lead to prolonged engagement in activities such as video gaming, internet shopping, hours on Instagram or Snapchat, and let’s not forget the widely popular Netflix binging sessions—which wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t coincide with finals week. And then there are the extreme situations when a teen begins experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and sex to numb complicated feelings.

When any of these behaviors become a way to DISTRACT, NUMB or AVOID facing hard circumstances or allowing people to see our real selves, it can lead to feeling stuck and disconnected, causing one to spiral into more destructive behavior.

What is the remedy for stuck-ness and disconnection? Engagement. As a therapist, I love introducing my teenage clients to creative strategies to address problems that appear insurmountable. Yes, that sometimes means embracing a new challenge or even doing something they dislike— like confronting the real issues. The more we can teach our children to deal with (and not run away from) life’s challenges, the better they can realize their own unique capabilities which fosters resilience and a sense of autonomy.

Parents’ task in helping avoidant teens is complicated by the contradictory impulses of teens. They want us around, and at the same time, want us to go far away. However, the research is clear: Parents are powerful pillars of influence in their teens’ lives!

Below are five ways that can help you recognize when your teen may be feeling stuck and ways you can help them pull the plug and get un-stuck.

1. WATCH FOR WARNING SIGNS

Some “stuck”teens will display difficulty concentrating and low motivation. They may be irritable, negative, easily frustrated or prone to outbursts. Some overachieving “stuck” teens may be highly sensitive to criticism and begin to withdraw from family and friends. Since some of these signs are a part of normal adolescent development, it is important to note what appears to be a change from your teen’s typical pattern of behavior.

2. INITIATE THE CONVERSATION

Demonstrate casual interest by asking questions and reflecting back on what you’ve heard. Teens can tell the difference between questions that show interest and ones that simply appear nosy. Be present but not intrusive. One conversation starter may be: “It’s normal to feel overwhelmed. I know that you want to do well (in school/sports/making friends) so I am sure that you might feel some pressure sometimes. You are not alone. I’m open if you ever want to talk about it.” Your teen may not open up initially. The key is making yourself available for when they’re ready.

3. BE OPEN

Sharing your struggles with distraction, numbing, and avoidance may help your teen better cope with their own experience. For many parents, the thought of disclosing their own teenage antics is a nightmarish proposition. However, research suggests that parents who have an open, warm, and nurturing relationship with their children can help them to buffer stresses that can otherwise be destructive. Your teen may not show deep interest or ask many questions. Don’t worry, they are listening.

4. STAY TUNED IN

As a therapist, I can’t emphasize how important it is to plug into your teen. What does that mean? Get to know their musical taste, favorite artists, even purchases. Know the names of their friends and even their enemies. Regarding social media, I am an advocate of intermittent parental monitoring. This one is tricky; teens also need some degree of privacy. But it is a parent’s responsibility to know what is going on. The content you discover may clue you into ways to better connect with your child. Or, alert you to signs of stress. As parents, we must plug into this important aspect of teen social life. Don’t tell my teens I said that.

5. SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP

Part of our job as parents is to help our children find resources to be successful. That can include a school counselor, therapist, or trusted church leader. Remember that there are many avoidant behaviors that are simply a part of adolescence. It is helpful to consult with a professional who can assess the severity and offer assistance. One technique that I like to teach is mindfulness. Mindfulness is ideal for decreasing distressful thoughts. The ability to disrupt a cycle of negative thinking is crucial for optimal mental health and can help teens to “plug-in” in order to get “un-stuck.”

Whether or not they tell you or show you, your teen values your engagement. What are some ways that you can plug into your teen this week?

Three Simple Time Hacks for Parents

* This article was copied from theparentcue.org.

So you probably think you would be a much better parent if you had more hours in the day, don’t you?  Bummer that life doesn’t work that way. When you have another child, it’s not like someone shows up and magically hands you another 4 hours a day. Nope, now you have to manage 100% more kids (or 50% or 25% more kids) with exactly zero extra time. No wonder parenting feels hard.
To complicate things, time feels like it’s speeding up as your kids get older. Although some days feel like an eternity, as Sandra Stanley has often said, the days are long but the years are short. The kids will be in college or the workplace before you know it.
So what do you do? How do you handle the time pressures of parenting and life in the stage you’re in?
I’ve discovered a few things that really help me. I hope they can help you.
1. Abandon balance.
If you’re like most people, you’re hoping for some kind of balance in your life. A better balance of work and home, of time for yourself and time with your family or even a few hobbies.
But you ever notice this? Greatness and balance never seem go together.
In fact, most truly great people aren’t balanced people. They’re passionate people.
Passion gets you further than balance. Imagine approaching everything you did in life with passion.

Your faith
Your work
Your kids
Your marriage
Your hobbies
Your rest

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.

I think passion creates a far more compelling story than balance does.
As John Wesley famously said, “Light yourself on fire with passion, and people will come from miles around to watch you burn.”
2. Decide ahead of time how you’ll spend your time.
So you want to have a date night with your spouse, but life keeps crowding it out. Ditto with family night. Family night way too often becomes homework night or clean-up-dinner-because-we’re-running-late night. Same with your devotion time. etc etc etc.
A simple fix is this: Decide ahead of time how you will spend your week. I did this years ago when I moved to a fixed calendar. Leadership puts a lot of demands on my time, and I realized I could easily work non-stop and miss the most important things in life.
So I started booking appointments with myself, my family, and my priorities. Every Friday night became date night. Every Saturday was family day. Every Sunday afternoon was family time to rest and relax. Every Monday was a writing day—with zero meetings. Etc etc.
The value in plotting this out ahead of time is simple: When someone asks you what you’re doing Saturday, you look at your calendar and tell them as much as you’d love to join them, you already have a commitment. You don’t need to tell them it’s with your family.
3.  Stop saying you don’t have the time.
Your best friend asks you when you’re going to get that bathroom finished, and you instinctively reply “I just haven’t had the time for that yet.”
Your boss wants you to take an another project at work and you say, “I really don’t have the time for that.”
Well, that’s actually not true. You have exactly the same amount of time as every other person on planet earth. You have the same amount of time today as someone running a multi-million dollar company, as the President of the United States and as a researcher who just won the Nobel Prize. We all get 24 hours a day.
A few years ago, I made myself stop saying I didn’t have the time. Because the truth is, I did. Instead, I started saying (to myself) “I’m not going to make the time.”
That’s a massive shift in mindset, and you have to be careful not to say it out loud or you’ll lose all your friends. But when you admit to yourself that you’re not going to make the time for date night, that you’re not going to make the time to read a story to your five-year-old, or that you’re not going to make the time to exercise . . . it changes things.
So stop saying you don’t have the time. Start admitting to yourself that you’re just not making the time. Things will change.
These three time hacks—abandoning balance, deciding ahead of time how I’ll spend my time, and refusing to say I don’t have the time—have helped me spend my time far better than I used to.
Imagine spending the time God gives on the things you really should do. Now, you’re a little closer to knowing how.

Talking to Your Kids About God

** This article was taken form AllProDad.com

Picture yourself hustling in the mall to get some Christmas shopping done.  You’re hungry, tired, scrambling – and your kids are with you.  They want lunch in the food court.  You just want to get done and home as soon as possible.  While you’re holding up a necklace, wondering if your wife will like it, one of your kids asks a question out of the clear blue sky:

“Dad, what does God have to do with Christmas?”

“Wha… um… what did you say?”

“What does God have to do with Christmas?  I heard somebody say, ‘He’s the reason for the season.’  I don’t get it.”

“Uh, can this wait for your mom?”

“I heard somebody say that he was born in a manger, but I didn’t think God was born.  And if he wasn’t born, where did he come from?  And if he’s a baby in a manger, then how can he be everywhere because isn’t God everywhere?”

Are you ready for one of life’s big questions right in the middle of a shopping mall?  Want a couple of suggestions, just in case you don’t have all the answers?  Here are some things to know when you talk about God with your kids.

1. Don’t panic.

It’s OK not to know everything.  The last thing you want to do is make stuff up.  Talking about God is a serious conversation, and if you don’t have the answers at the tip of your tongue, say so.   “What a great question, kiddo.  I don’t know the answer to that.  But we should go figure it out.”

2. Know where you can find some answers.

The Bible records Jesus’ birth and the Christmas story in Luke chapter 2. This chapter can help provide some basic answers to “what” “when” and “how” kinds of questions your kids might be asking.

3. You don’t need to answer what they’re not asking.

For any dad, talking about God or what He is like or questions of faith can make you feel out of your depth.  You know it’s important, so you want to give a great answer.  However, you might have to fight the temptation to over-answer.  Maybe a simple answer might suffice.   For example, if your kid is asking what God has to do with Christmas, instead of talking about the history of Christianity or giving a short comparative religion course, you might simply say, “Christmas celebrates how God sent Jesus to live on earth.  That’s a big deal.”  Then you can see where the conversation goes.  Or maybe that will satisfy their question for the moment.  You don’t have to fit everything that ever needed saying into one conversation.

4. Make space for the conversation.

Maybe the mall isn’t the right place for the conversation.  Maybe you really do have to get home soon.  If you can’t give an answer to the question right then, do honor their curiosity and tell them when you’re going pursue the conversation with them.  For example, “Great question, kiddo.  I’d love to talk about that with you, but that’s a conversation for sitting down at home, not running around shopping.  How about if we talk about this when everybody is together tonight at dinner?”  Make sure you follow up at dinner!

5. Be a learner alongside your kids.

Maybe even follow the cues of their curiosity. [Tweet This]  One of the interesting features of the Bible’s story is that it teaches that we are supposed to come with faith like a child.  Ever notice how concerned adults are with their image and reputation?  We try to be so sophisticated.  Kids aren’t that way.  They ask open-hearted questions and enjoy mystery and wonder.  If you find yourself struggling to answer your kids’ questions about God at Christmastime, follow their example in being child-like as you find answers.  It’s an incredible story.  One that can change your whole life.

Here’s one video that explains what God has to do with Christmas.

SEMINAR RECAP – Parenting Through Technology and Social Media

Technology
For some of us that can be a really scary word.  It conjures up images of long phone calls on tech support with a stranger on the other end of the phone walking us through troubleshooting the latest must-have gadget that promised to make our life easier.  We think about paper jams at the office and “404 Not Found” error codes… what do those even mean anyway?  At its worst, technology brings up thoughts of cyber bullying.  Pornography.  Access to strangers. Lions.  Tigers.  And bears.  Oh my.

If you’re a kid, technology is an exciting word.  It means communicating with your friends.  Anytime.  Anywhere.  It means downloading the latest games.  Taking pictures.  Emojis.  And being connected to the world around you in ways that were never possible before.  Technology means freedom.  It means fun.  And they can’t wait to get their hands on it.

Technology freaks you out.  But your kids are eager and ready to jump in.  So, what can you do?  We’ve got it.  Stick your head in the hand and hope it all goes away.  Yes, that’s it.

No!  Our highest calling as parents is to engage.  If you are a parent that is reading this we celebrate your desire to do just that.  We want to help you.  So, if you are ready… read on.

How is technology affecting us?

Overexposure to technology is associated with:
attention deficit
impaired learning
increased impulsivity
decreased ability to self-regulate

Overuse of technology is associated with:
child depression
anxiety
bipolar disorder
problematic child behavior
71% of teens have done something to hide their online activity  from their parents.

9 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls are exposed to pornography online before the age of 18.

What good is technology?

Sounds scary, doesn’t it?  In reality, there are many benefits to healthy use of technology.  With each new iteration of technology there is a promise of more meaningful ways to connect with others, new ways of being entertained, of interacting with the world around us, access to information that helps us learn and new ways to help keep our loved ones safe and secure.  These are all good things.  In fact, you might say that healthy use of technology is marked by its ability to help us enhance our real lives.  Technology can make our lives better.  However, if this is true then unhealthy use of technology would necessarily detract from our real lives and cause us to become isolated.  Technology has the potential to make our lives worse.  Its all about how we engage with it.

Quick Fix versus Long Term Game

We often look for easy answers to questions.  Tell us what to do and we’ll do it, right?  When it comes to technology though what is often required is intentional, consistent, ongoing dialogue to help our children develop a healthy relationship with technology.  In the next section we will attempt to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about technology.  Be prepared for answers that will require you to be actively engaged with your kids and up-to-date on what they are doing to help them navigate this new world.

At what age should I give my child a phone?

Instead of looking at your child’s age, we would suggest that you consider a few other factors.  Specifically, you may consider whether they need a phone, whether they are responsible enough to have a phone and if they would benefit from having easier access to their friends.

Do they need a phone?

If your child is playing after school sports, walking home from school, going to the movies with friends on the weekend or if they need to be in touch for any other reasons a cell phone may be a good idea.   Although they may ask for the latest iPhone, you may consider that your child’s first phone does need to be a smart phone.  Their are many inexpensive phones that would give your child the ability to make calls

and send texts that would address the need to be connected.  This could allow you to have the convenience and peace of mind knowing that your child is simply a call or text away without giving them full access to the world of information they may not yet be mature enough to handle.

Are they responsible?

This one is pretty easy.  If your child is constantly losing things like their backpack, homework or toys then it might stand to reason that they

could lose their very expensive phone too!  Additionally, if they have a

habit of not taking especially good care of their things… well, you get the idea.

Are they missing out on any important social interactions?

Whether we like to admit it or not, the way kids communicate with each other has changed.  Kids plan the weekend activities via text, they talk about what happened at school via text, they send pictures to each other via text, they do everything via text.  In fact, a recent study found that young people between the ages of 18 and 24 send and receive an average of just over 128 text messages per day.  That is an average of 3,853 per month!

So, when you child says that they are not getting invited to things, that they are missing out on what’s happening with their friends at school and that they are feeling left out their may be some truth to their concerns.  We’re not suggesting that you need to get your child a phone or their future social life is doomed… but this is factor you may want to consider.

What is an appropriate amount of screen time? 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines previously suggested that zero hours of screen time for kids under age 2 and two hours between the ages of 2 and 18 was most appropriate.  For a long time, this was the gold standard.  But as technology has evolved, newer guidelines have been updated to incorporate the changing technological landscape and to address findings in more recent studies as well.  Among the most important changes is the idea that not all screen-time is created equal.  For example, on any give day your child may participate in any of the following:

Watching TV, reading, and listening to music

Playing games and browsing the Internet

Video-chatting and using social media

Using devices to make digital art or music

We all understand that using a computer to make digital art is inherently more beneficial than watching TV and so greater emphasis on the way that screen-time is being used should be taken in to consideration.

You might also ask how screen time (or lack of screen time) affects your  child’s behavior.  For example, if after spending an hour watching TV your child is more irritable, tired or temperamental you may consider having them spend less time watching TV.  Here are a few questions that will help you make the best decision for your child:

Are they using high quality, age appropriate media?

Is their behavior appropriately positive?

Is their screen time balanced with plenty of healthy screen free time?

If the answer to these questions is yes then you are likely on the right track.

Most importantly though, be sure to model appropriate use of technology.  Have healthy boundaries for yourself.  At the end of the day, regardless of what rules you put in place… the best predictor of your child’s future relationship with technology is what they see you doing.  So, if you have agreed upon tech-free times, locations, etc. be sure an honor those rules as well.  If your technology use is getting in the way of authentic relationships with the people in your life, some changes are in order.  Don’t just say it.  Live it.

How can I monitor screen time and what my kids are doing on their devices?

For starters, always have access to your child’s phone.  No need to be secretive about it.  Know their passcode and check their phone often.  Recently, a parent suggested that they couldn’t check their child’s phone because they changed the passcode.  Their child wanted privacy.  You wouldn’t allow them to change the lock on their bedroom door, would you?  You are the parent.  More than likely, you pay for the device.  You might even say that its your phone.  You simply allow your child to use it.  So have courage.  Have conversations up front about the kind of access you want to the device.  You can do it.  We promise.

If you are concerned about what your kids may see online their are some steps you can take to help protect them.  First, consider contacting your internet service provider to see what protections they can offer on your home network.  Second, research and implement how to setup parental controls on the device itself.  And finally, you may want to consider a monitoring service that will allow you to have further control and oversight of your child’s device.  Their are many good options and any internet search will yield some great information.  We checked out a number of these services and would suggest that you give these few a look:

FamiLoop — https://www.familoop.com

Netsanity — https://netsanity.net

Disney Circle — https://meetcircle.com

It is important to remember that these tools are simply conversation starters.  If these services make you aware of some troubling use, go talk to your child about it.  Remember, no one solution is perfect.  The best protection your child has online is you.

Additionally, be curious about what they are doing.  Use the device together with your child.  If they are playing a game, sit down and play with them.  If they want to download a new app, download the app and use it with them.  Be prepared to have lots of conversations.

If you are not sure how to start those conversations, here are a few tips to help you get started.

Conversation Starters

Always remember to ask open-ended questions.  In other words, ‘have you seen anything bad online?’ does not lend itself to a conversation.  The answer is either yes or no.  Ask questions that will spark a real dialogue.  We’ve found these questions to be extraordinarily helpful:

What have you seen recently that was really interesting?

What’s the craziest things you’ve seen your friends doing?

What is something that has surprised you?

Can you show me how? Let your kids be the expert!

You will be amazed at what your kids will share with you.  Remember, they are just as curious about what’s out there as you are.  Its a great big world out there.  Don’t send them off alone to figure it out.  Commit to go on the journey with them.

Encounter.  Formation.  Expression.

One of the things we talk about at Port City Community is the idea of Encounter, Formation, Expression.  The basic concept is that what we encounter in life will help to form what we think and believe.  What we think and believe will inevitably show up and be expressed in what we say and do.  As parents, part of our job is to help our kids maneuver in a world that is ever changing and build a solid foundation in Christ.  When i comes to technology, we need to remember that what they encounter is forming who they are.  We can’t protect them from having bad encounters, but we can help them think through how these encounters are forming their identity.  The only way we’re going to know about some of the things they encounter is to have a real relationship with them and ask them questions.  When the door seems to be shut, we need to keep knocking so we can let our kids know that we love them and want what is best for them.

Get a PDF of the seminar recap – parenting-through-technology-and-social-media-re-cap

Get the digital book “Right Click” – right-click-digital-edition

Four Questions Every Parent Should Ask About Social Media

  • This article was copied from theparentcue.org

Want to know how to engage with your kids about the subject of social media?

I have two words for you, “Be curious.”

Want to know how to do that? My approach is simple and so short it’s smaller than a tweet: “Read less minds, ask more questions.”

So often as parents, we put tremendous pressure on ourselves to guess what our kids are up to. Like CSI detectives we take clues from their lives and try to piece together what we think is really going on in their tiny little heads and hearts.

Instead of investigation though, let’s start with conversation.

I have four questions you can ask your kids.

And because parents are some of the busiest humans on the planet, I’m going to keep this quick and short, knocking out one question per blog post.

Let’s jump right in with the very first question you should ask your kids about social media.

Question #1

How are you using social media right now?

Start off by just taking a casual, informal survey of what sites or platforms your kids are using. Are they reading blogs? Are they using snapchat? Are they texting? (Remember, social media is bigger than just twitter. It’s any technology that lets you share a piece of your life with someone else.)

When you ask this question, make sure your kid knows there’s not a right or wrong answer. You’re not trying to start a cross examination, you’re trying to start a conversation.

If they’ll share how they’re using social media, ask them what they like about it? Be curious about why they use it. Is it to connect with friends? Is it to learn about new music? Are they expressing a hobby or interest through social media? Do they even use it? There’s a million ways your kids can answer this question, but one thing is for certain, they won’t answer it unless you ask.

If they don’t answer at first and open up a long, meaningful conversation that involves Chamomile tea, you should probably give up and assume you are the worst parent ever.

Or, you can admit to yourself that parenting is a marathon not a sprint. If we’re going to be curious about what our kids care about, we have to be patient.

If you get a grunt response, a “nothing” or a “I’m a toddler, I don’t use social media mom,” that’s OK.

Stay curious, and let your kids know you’re here to help them navigate the ins and outs of growing up in a connected world of social media.

Question #2

Curiosity might have killed the cat, but it’s the secret to starting conversations with your kids about social media.

It’s on us as parents to take the initiative and create a space where our kids can openly talk about the way they are engaging in this wildly engaging technological phenomenon.

In the first post we learned to ask the question,

“How are you using social media right now?”

Today, we’re going to dive into question number two: What do your devices do?

When I was a kid, if I wanted to play Excite Bike on the Super Nintendo with my friend Dave Bruce, Dave Bruce had to come over to my house. In college, if I wanted to play Goldeneye on Nintendo 64, no one could be Oddjob that’s cheating, I had to have friends come to my dorm room. Now, if your kid wants to play Call of Duty with someone in Japan they can.

We live in the age of the connected device, but sometimes we parents forget that. We forget that you can play Minecraft with complete strangers. We forget that an iPod Touch might not be a phone but it can still be used for social media. We forget that even websites designed for kids might offer them access to email.

That was a wake up call for me. My daughters were using two sites that were about dolls. One site let them email other members of the site with pre-written messages like, “Have a good day!” or “Hooray for rainbows.” That’s harmless for an 8-year-old. But the other site let them write their own messages. Without me realizing it, my kids had received their first email address. I’d love to think that every other member of that website is a kid with the best of intentions in mind, but I’ve spent too much time online to trust that.

I didn’t know about that email address until I asked my kids a few questions.

In addition to having this conversation with your kids, you should also ask Google “What do my kids’ devices do?” Spend a little time researching to get a better sense of what’s really going on with the fun devices that your family has.

The days of playing Mike Tyson Punch Out alone in my living room are over. The colors of the ’80s might have made a comeback, but the isolated devices won’t. We live in the age of connectivity. Find out how your kids are connecting by connecting with them.

Question #3

The Bible is pretty clear about the exact age that you should give a kid a phone. King David gave one to Solomon when he was thirteen. Joseph and Mary gave Jesus one at eleven, but he was the son of God, so he could probably handle the responsibility of an iPhone better than your kid. If you add up those two ages and divide by two you get 12, so easy  to figure out.

If only.

I’d never tell you the exact age a kid should get a cellphone, laptop or tablet in the same way I wouldn’t tell you what age your kid should get their license. Some kids are ready when the state says they are ready. They are mature and able to make you feel safe the minute they get behind the wheel. Other kids need more time to mature beyond the “jump-the-car-off-a-huge-dirt-piles stage.” (The poor Duke brothers from Hazzard county never reached that level of maturity.)

So today’s post won’t focus on the question, “When should your kid get a phone?” but instead will focus on a different question you need to ask your own children, “Which of your friends have devices?”

Why do you need to ask this question? Because not every parent thinks the same way. You might decide that in your house, no one gets a smartphone until they’re in high school. Your daughter’s best friend got one in the fifth grade though. So although your child might not have a phone with access to all the wonders and woe the Internet offers, she does now via her friend. You might think you don’t need to talk about technology to a fifth grader but if the friend whose house your son is sleeping over has a tablet, you need to talk about it. Earlier than you think.

So sit your kids down and ask that question, “Which of your friends have devices?”

As with any question about technology, start a conversation, not an accusation. You don’t want your daughter to think just because her friend Jill has an iPhone, her parents have made a bad decision. Or that Jill has done something wrong.

I asked my daughters this question recently and it started a great conversation about technology. They don’t have phones yet but we were able to discuss their expectations and come up with a rough plan for the future.

Stay curious. Ask questions. You don’t have to be a technology expert, but you do have to be invested if you want to stay connected to your kids.

Question #4

The other day, my 11-year-old daughter added a stock quotes widget to the dashboard of my wife’s laptop. Without talking to either one of us, she figured out how to track four stocks her class is studying.

When I asked her about it she said, “It was just easier with a widget instead of going to the NYSE all the time.” I nodded my head in agreement as if that was the most obvious thing in the world, all the while thinking to myself, “Someday I am going to work for her.”

Our kids come by technology naturally. Have you ever seen a 3-year-old use an iPad? It’s incredible. They scroll and swipe and expand like they were born with the devices. That often makes us nervous. We worry that as they get older, technology will become a dividing factor in our homes. We envision teenagers stuck on their devices, wearing headphones and being physically present but emotionally absent from family vacations as they refuse to look up from their devices.

But what if there was a simple way for us to connect with our kids who are online? I believe there is and it’s the 4th question parents should ask kids about social media. Here it is:

“Have you seen anything interesting lately?”

This question makes the Internet a two way street and I actually learned it from my own children. Right now, they often ask me if anyone has posted new cat videos on the Internet. That is without a doubt their favorite use of the Internet. Every few days they ask me that, hoping that someone in the world wide web has filmed a cat doing something humorous.

I assure them the answer to that question will always be yes. For the rest of their lives they will always be able to find a new cat video online. But as they get older, and continue doing things like tracking stock on their own, the question is bound to shift.

I will be the one asking it. I will be the one asking them if they’ve seen anything funny or silly online.  I will be the one asking if there’s a song they like or a blog they’re reading. I will be the curious one.

Maybe for you and your son it will be about extreme sports. You’ll have a shared interest in videos of people doing ridiculous motocross jumps. Maybe it will be music focused with your daughter or sports scores or any number of things.

It’s a big Internet with a lot of possible connection points. If we’ll ask the right questions.

If your kids are online or using the Internet at school already, flip the tables on them and be curious.

Don’t wait for them to start a conversation. Start one of your own by asking,

“Have you seen anything interesting lately?”

 

Parent and Small Group Leader: A Child Needs Both

  • This Article was copied from justaphase.com

Last Friday you put on some tunes and busted a move in front of your totally-mortified middle school sons. Then tonight they came home from the dance doing the sprinkler, just like you taught ’em—only they gave credit to Jeff, their small group leader. What gives?

And it’s not just your own kids, either. One of the toddlers you teach at church lost it over a missing toy on Sunday. You tried to talk her through it with no luck. In the end all she needed was a big hug from mom and the tears dried right up.

You might be wondering if you’re doing it all wrong. You’re not. 

You’re simply living the reality that kids benefit from having solid relationships with adults both inside and outside of the home. That’s because some things are better received from parents. Other stuff lands easier on the ears when it’s coming from anyone but mom and dad.

And hey, that’s just a part of what makes this dynamic duo—parents and small group leaders—so powerful. Your influence in each role matters. 

Parents lead the way. 

Besides the whole “put a roof over their head and food in their mouth” thing what, exactly, do parents offer kids that they can’t get anywhere else? Historical knowledge. No one knows a kid like mom and dad do.

Related Reading: 5 Ways to Reactivate Parents Every Year

Seriously. You can conduct all the studies and read all the research and every individual kid will still be exactly that: an individual. Every kid is nuanced, unique, special. And only the folks who are there in the wee hours of the morning and cuddled up before bedtime at night—only those people know what a kid is truly like and what they really need.

And we don’t even have to mention—but we will—that no one, and we mean no one, loves a child like a parent loves a child. It’s a magical thing.

Then why do kids need more than just their parents? Well, parents start out with this thing called low relational influence. Newborns don’t need to connect with parents as much as they need to be cared for by parents. Feed me, hold me, help me fall asleep.

But the jump from baby to toddler to graduation happens fast. Crazy fast. Which means parents aren’t really raising kids. They’re raising adults.

Managing the transition is tricky. As a parent you’re trying to slowly increase your relational influence and decrease your “because I said so” influence. It can be pretty tough to get right.

This is where the church comes in.

Churches work with kids of all ages every week. That means they have a good idea of what life will look like when a teen goes from ninth to tenth grade and a toddler becomes a preschooler because they see the shift happen year after year. With this knowledge, churches can help parents prepare for what’s ahead.

This is why Small Group Leaders are so important. Just like a parent is an expert on one kid, Small Group Leaders are experts on a group of kids in one phase of life.

As an expert, small group leaders learn everything they can about the phase of their kids. Then, and this is key, they show up. Week after week, month after month. Small Group Leaders offer a consistent, non-parental adult presence.

Related Reading: Can You Influence Someone You Don’t Know?

Studies show that kids who have regular, positive adult influence outside the home are more likely to win in life. And every kid, no matter their age, needs a leader who shows up.

Preschoolers need a consistent adult because they can be terrified of an unfamiliar face.

Elementary kids need a consistent adult because they will tell anything to a stranger.

Middle schoolers need a consistent adult because nothing else in their life is consistent.

High schoolers need a consistent adult because they only trust people who show up.

Related Reading: The One Thing Every Kid Needs the Most

And really, that’s what we’re talking about here. Adults who show up. In the home and out of the home. Because every kid needs someone who knows their history. And every kid needs someone who can rediscover them now.

Technology and Your Kids

Trying to figure out how to parent your kids in an age of technology and social meda? We are too! The PC3 Parent Network invites you to a seminar where we’ll talk about how we as parents can help our kids navigate the world in which they live in a healthy way.

We’ll be offering this seminar on two different nights so just pick one. Join us on either Sunday, November 13th or Wednesday, November 30th from 6:45 – 8:15 at PC3. We’d love for you to join the conversation as we seek to help each other lead our kids in their walk with God.

Check out the video for a quick encouragement from Brett Eddy and Rich Biagini.