THE BIBLE MEETS LIFE: Satan is real. We cannot blame our sin and problems on him, but he is ever at work to keep evil strong in the world and to encourage our involvement with sin. Christians are wise to stay alert to the devil’s work, since he is ever scheming to pull us down. The Bible presents a clear picture that Satan will not prevail in his evil. He is defeated by Christ, and he is defeated in our lives as we walk with Christ.
Genesis 1:1 – 2:3
LIFE POINT: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. He named the light day and the darkness night. That was the first day. On the second day, God separated the water and the sky. Then God gathered the water into one place so that land would appear. He called the land earth and the water seas. God made plants and trees to grow on land. That was the third day. On the fourth day, God made the sun, moon, and stars. Then God filled the water with many kinds of living things, and He filled the air with birds. That was the fifth day. On the sixth day, God said, “Let the earth have all kinds of animals,” and it was done. Finally, God made a man and a woman. God looked at everything He made and saw that it was good. On the seventh day, God rested.
LIVE IT OUT: Young children have a hard time distinguishing the things God made from things that are man-made. Take time to point out plants, animals, rocks, and other things God made. Thank God for His beautiful world.
Genesis 1:1 – 2:3
LIFE POINT: In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth. At first, the earth had no shape. God said, “Let there be light.” God called the light day. He called the dark night. God said, “Let there be sky between the waters.” And it was so. God said, “Let the water under the sky gather. Let dry land appear.” God called the water seas. He called the land earth. God said, “Let there be plants with seed.” And plants appeared! Then God spoke and the sun, moon, and stars appeared! God spoke and there were living animals in the water and sky.” God said, “Let living animals of all kinds be on the earth.” And it happened! God saw that all He had made was good. Then God made people. God made men. God made women. God saw all He had made. It was very good! God rested on the seventh day.
LIVE IT OUT: Help your child praise God for His creation. Read together Psalm 104, David’s psalm of praise to God for His creation. Help your child write his own praise for God’s creation.
THE POINT: Satan fights against us, but we can stand in Christ. • What monster or fictional villain best represents evil to you? • Where do you see evidence of Satan’s deceptive work in the world today? • What accusations does Satan bring against us? • What does the gospel have to say about Satan’s accusations? Discuss the following quote:
“The more useful we are to God, the more we will be attacked by the enemy.”(1) —Zac Poonen
LIVE IT OUT: Encourage your student to take practical steps to take his or her faith and Live It Out. Here are some ways you can encourage your students to live out their faith with Christ personally, in community, and in their culture: • CHRIST: Create a list with your student of things he or she can do to pursue Christ and grow closer to Jesus by overcoming sin in his or her life. • COMMUNITY: Darkness isn’t overcome alone. Help your student to overcome any battles he or she is currently facing with encouragement and prayer. • CULTURE: Discuss with your student ways you see darkness affecting the world and even their friends. How can you help your student to see the light of Christ and share it with the world?
(1) Zac Poonen, “33 Zac Poonen Quotes,” Christian Quotes, [accessed 21 February 2017]. Available from the Internet: https://www.christianquotes.info/quotes-by-author/zac-poonenquotes/#axzz4ZMLHuaWC.
THE BIBLE MEETS LIFE: Our lives are filled with both joys and sorrows, opportunities we embrace and difficulties we’d rather avoid. We don’t question God’s presence in the good times, although we might when life gets hard. God is with us through it all: good and bad. We are no less in God’s hands or useful as His instruments when we face challenges. God’s grace is always with us.
Conversation Starters: The Gift of Grace
LIFE POINT: Paul traveled to the city of Athens. While there, Paul went to the synagogue and talked to the people about Jesus. Paul went to the marketplace every day and told about Jesus to anyone he met. Some men heard Paul teaching about Jesus. The men asked Paul to go with them to a special meeting place on a hill. People came from all over Athens to the hill. Paul stood up in the meeting and said, “I want to tell you what I know about God. God created the world and everything in it. He made all people, and He loves all people. He wants people to love Him.” Paul told the people about Jesus, God’s Son. Some of the people did not believe what Paul was saying. Some people wanted Paul to come back and talk again. And some people believed what Paul said about God and Jesus. Paul helped people in Athens learn about Jesus.
LIVE IT OUT: Help your child make a gift for a favorite teacher at church. He can decorate a foam or wooden picture frame with stickers. Print, “Thank you for teaching me” on a paper that will fit into the frame. Let your child print his name and decorate the paper. Encourage him to give it to his teacher at church.
LIFE POINT: Paul waited in the city for his friends. He saw idols everywhere! Paul even found an idol with a sign “To the Unknown God.” Some of the men liked to hear new ideas. They invited Paul to talk to them. Paul told the men that the God who made everything does not live in a shrine. He told how God did not need anything because He Himself gives what people have. Paul said, “Don’t think that God is like gold or silver or stone that men make into idols.” He told the men how God knew when each person would live and where he would live. Paul urged the men to stop sinning and to turn to the one and only real God. The men listened until Paul told them that God had raised Jesus from the dead. Some people laughed. Others wanted to hear more. Some people believed Paul, and followed Jesus.
LIVE IT OUT: Talk with your child about her teachers at church. Remind her that they are following God’s command to teach about Jesus. Encourage your child to write a thank-you note to one or more of her teachers. Tell her to mention something specific she learned from that teacher.
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
THE POINT: God’s grace allows me to face anything life throws at me. • If you could have a lifetime supply of any product, what would you choose? • What are the risks and rewards of sharing our spiritual experiences with others? • What are some reasons God allows us to go through hardships? • What are some appropriate ways to respond when God says “no” to our prayers? Discuss the following quote:
“Grace must find expression in life, otherwise it is not grace.” —Karl Barth
LIVE IT OUT: Encourage your student to take practical steps to take his or her faith and Live It Out. Here are some ways you can encourage your students to live out their faith with Christ personally, in community, and in their culture: • CHRIST: Discuss with your student this week the grace that we receive as followers of Christ. Take time to give thanks for His continued grace. • COMMUNITY: Grace is necessary for our salvation, and it also empowers us to serve others. Consider ways you and your student may use that grace to serve others. • CULTURE: God wants to make His grace evident through us. Pray that God would use you and your student as an example to lost friends.
Helmut Gollwitzer, An Introduction to Protestant Theology (Louisville: Westminster Press, 1982), 174.
I find myself asking my kids the same questions each day. I don’t want to be predictable. I don’t want my kids to know what I’m going to ask, before I ask it…that’s when they stop paying attention and thinking they know everything that I know.
We take this philosophy at Ridgecrest Summer Camps too by the way, trying not to be predictable. We like surprise because it keeps campers on their toes, and to be honest, its just more fun for everyone. This is also true when talking to kids about Jesus. If you look at Jesus, you will quickly see that He was anything but predictable. His actions and questions consistently took people by surprise. I want kids to know that. I want them to keep listening to people when they talk about Jesus. I want them to know that there is still so much more to be learned about this Jesus… I think Camp Ridgecrest and Camp Crestridge do a great job at this.
Back to my kids. Do I do a great job at this back home? Yikes. I want to. I came across this article and while skimming it, I jumped straight to the list of questions. I want to ask better questions. I don’t want to be predictable or boring. I can’t afford to be as a dad.
What if you tried to ask your kids questions like these, rather than simply asking, “How was your day?”
What made you smile today?
Can you tell me an example of kindness you saw/showed?
Was there an example of unkindness? How did you respond?
Does everyone have a friend at recess?
What was the book about that your teacher read?
What’s the word of the week?
Did anyone do anything silly to make you laugh?
Did anyone cry?
What did you do that was creative?
What is the most popular game at recess?
What was the best thing that happened today?
Did you help anyone today?
Did you tell anyone “thank you?”
Who did you sit with at lunch?
What made you laugh?
Did you learn something you didn’t understand?
Who inspired you today?
What was the peak and the pit?
What was your least favorite part of the day?
Was anyone in your class gone today?
Did you ever feel unsafe?
What is something you heard that surprised you?
What is something you saw that made you think?
Who did you play with today?
Tell me something you know today that you didn’t know yesterday.
What is something that challenged you?
How did someone fill your bucket today? Whose bucket did you fill?
Did you like your lunch?
Rate your day on a scale from 1-10.
Did anyone get in trouble today?
How were you brave today?
What questions did you ask at school today?
Tell us your top two things from the day (before you can be excused from the dinner table!).
What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
What are you reading?
What was the hardest rule to follow today?
Teach me something I don’t know.
If you could change one thing about your day, what would it be?
(For older kids): Do you feel prepared for your history test?” or, “Is there anything on your mind that you’d like to talk about?” (In my opinion, the key is not only the way a question is phrased, but responding in a supportive way.)
Who did you share your snacks with at lunch?
What made your teacher smile? What made her frown?
What kind of person were you today?
What made you feel happy?
What made you feel proud?
What made you feel loved?
Did you learn any new words today?
What do you hope to do before school is out for the year?
If you could switch seats with anyone in class, who would it be? And why?
What is your least favorite part of the school building? And favorite?
If you switched places with your teacher tomorrow, what would you teach the class?
Thanks for being great parents. Thanks for challenging your kids to grow into young men and young women who love Jesus and love others well. And thanks of course, for letting Ridgecrest Summer Camps partner with you as you do the most important job in the world…raising your kids.
Director, Camp Ridgecrest for Boys
Ridgecrest Summer Camps
It might be difficult for some parents to read through, but here’s a top ten list that I’ve been wanting to write for a while. Over the next several days I’ll be expanding on each of these in succession, but for now, here is my top ten mistakes Christian parents of teens make:
10. Not spending time with your teen.
A lot of parents make the mistake of not spending time with their teens because they assume their teens don’t want to spend time with them! While that’s true in some contexts, teens still want and need “chunks” of one-on-one time with parents. Despite the fact that teens are transitioning into more independence and often carry a “I don’t need/want you around” attitude, they are longing for the securing and grounding that comes from consistent quality time.
Going for walks together, grabbing a coffee in order to “catch up,” going to the movies together, etc., all all simple investments that teens secretly want and look forward to. When you don’t carve out time to spend with your teen, you’re communicating that you’re not interested in them, and they internalize that message, consciously or unconsciously.
9. Letting your teen’s activities take top priority for your family.
The number of parents who wrap their lives/schedules around their teen’s activities is mind-boggling to me. I honestly just don’t get it. I know many parents want to provide their children with experiences and opportunities they never had growing up, but something’s gone wrong with our understanding of family and parenting when our teen’s wants/”needs” are allowed to overwhelm the family’s day-to-day routines.
Parents need to prioritize investing in their relationship with God (individually and as a couple), themselves and each other, but sadly all of these are often neglected in the name of “helping the kids get ahead.” “Don’t let the youth sports cartel run your life,” says Jen singer, author of You’re A Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren’t So Bad Either). I can’t think of many good reasons why families can’t limit teens to one major sport/extra-curricular activity per season. Not only will a frenetic schedule slowly grind down your entire family of time, you’ll be teaching your teen that “the good life” is a hyper-active one. That doesn’t align itself to Jesus’ teaching as it relates to the healthy rhythms of prayer, Sabbath, and down-time, all of which are critical to the larger Christian task of “seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
8. Spoiling your teen.
We are all tempted to think that loving our kids means doing all we can to ensure they have all the opportunities and things we didn’t have growing up. This is a terrible assumption to make. It leads to an enormous amount of self-important, petty, and ungrateful kids. A lot of the time parents are well-intentioned in our spoiling, but our continual stream of money and stuff causes teens to never be satisfied and always wanting more. Your teen doesn’t need another piece of crap, what he needs is time and attention from you (that’s one expression of spoiling that actually benefits your teen!).
There are two things that can really set you back in life if we get them too early:
a. Access to too much money.
b. Access to too many opportunities.
Parents need to recognize they’re doing their teens a disservice by spoiling them in either of these ways. Save the spoiling for the grandkids.
7. Permissive parenting.
“Whatever” — It’s not just for teens anymore! The devil-may-care ambivalence that once defined the teenage subculture has now taken root as parents shrug their shoulders, ask, “What can you do?” and let their teens “figure things out for themselves.” I think permissive parenting (i.e., providing little direction, limits, and consequences) is on the rise because many parents don’t know how to dialogue with and discipline their children. Maybe parents don’t have any limits of boundaries within their own life, so they don’t know how to communicate the value of these to their teen. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to, because their own self-esteem is too tied up in their child’s perception of them, and they couldn’t handle having their teen get angry at them for actually trying to parent. Maybe it’s because many parents feel so overwhelmed with their own issues, they can hardly think of pouring more energy into a (potentially) taxing struggle or point of contention.
Whatever the reason, permissive parenting is completely irreconcilable with a Christian worldview. I certainly do not advocate authoritarian parenting styles, but if we practice a permission parenting style we’re abdicating our God-given responsibility to provide guidance, nurture, limits, discipline and consequences to our teen (all of which actually help our teen flourish long-term).
6. Trying to be your teen’s best friend.
Your teen doesn’t need another friend (they have plenty); they need a parent. Even through their teens, your child needs a dependable, confident, godly authority figure in their life. As parents we are called to provide a relational context characterized by wisdom, protection, love, support, and empowerment. As Christian parents we’re called to bring God’s flourishing rule into our family’s life. That can’t happen if we’re busy trying to befriend our teen. Trying to be your teen’s friend actually cheats them out of having these things in their lives.
Sometimes parents think that a strong relationship with their teen means having a strong friendship—but there’s a fine line that shouldn’t be crossed. You should be friendly to your teen but you shouldn’t be your teen’s friend. They have lots of friends, they only have one or two parents—so be the parent your teen needs you to be.
5. Holding low expectations for your teen.
Johann Goethe once wrote, “Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat as man as he can and should be, and he become as he can and should be.” All of us rise to the unconcious level of expectation we set for ourselves and perceive from others. During the teenage years, it’s especially important to slowly put to death the perception that your teen is still “a kid.” They are emerging leaders, and if you engage them as such, you will find that over time, they unconsciously take on this mantle for themselves. Yes, your teen can be moody, self-absorbed, irresponsible, etc., but your teen can also be brilliant, creative, selfless, and mature. Treating them like “kids” will reinforce the former; treating them as emerging leaders will reinforce the latter.
For an example of how the this difference in perspective plays out, I’ve written an article entitled “The Future of an Illusion” which is available as a free download from www.meredisciple.com (in the Free Downloads section). It specifically looks at my commitment to be involved in “emerging church ministry” as opposed to “youth ministry,” and it you may find some principles within it helpful.
4. Not prioritizing youth group/church involvement.
This one is one of my personal pet peeves (but not just because this is my professional gig). I simply do not understand parents who expect and want their kids to have a dynamic, flourishing faith, and yet don’t move heaven and earth to get them connected to both a youth group and local church.
I’m going to let everyone in on a little secret: no teenager can thrive in their faith without these two support mechanisms. I’m not saying a strong youth group and church community is all they need, but what I am saying that you can have everything else you think your teen needs, but without these two things, don’t expect to have a spiritually healthy and mature teen. Maybe there are teens out there who defy this claim, but honestly, I can’t think of one out of my own experience. As a parent, youth group and church involvement should be a non-negotiable part of your teen’s life, and that means they take priority over homework (do it the night before), sports, or any other extra-curricular commitments.
Don’t be the parent who is soft on these two commitments, but pushes their kid in schooling, sports, etc. In general, what you sow into determines what you reap; if you want to reap a teenager who has a genuine, flourishing faith, don’t expect that to happen if you’re ok with their commitment to youth group/church to be casual and half-hearted.
3. Outsourcing your teen’s spiritual formation.
While youth group and church is very important, another mistake I see Christian parents make is assuming them can completely outsource the spiritual development of their child to these two things. I see the same pattern when it comes to Christian education: parents sometimes choose to send their children/teens to Christian schools, because by doing so they think they’ve done their parental duty to raise their child in a godly way.
As a parent–and especially if you are a Christian yourself–YOU are THE key spiritual role model and mentor for your teen. And that isn’t “if you want to be” either–that’s the way it is. Ultimately, you are charged with teaching and modelling to your teen what follow Jesus means, and while church, youth groups, Christian schools can be a support to that end, they are only that: support mechanisms.
Read Deuteronomy 6 for an overview of what God expects from parents as it relates to the spiritual nurture and development of their children. (Hint: it’s doesn’t say, “Hand them off to the youth pastor and bring them to church on Sunday.”)
2. Not expressing genuine love and like to your teen.
It’s sad that I have to write this one at all, but I’m convinced very few Christian parents actually express genuine love and “like” to their teen. It can become easy for parents to only see how their teen is irresponsible, failing, immature, etc., and become a harping voice instead of an encouraging, empowering one.
Do you intentially set aside time to tell your teen how much you love and admire them? Do you write letters of encouragement to them? Do you have “date nights” where you spend time together and share with them the things you see in them that you are proud of?
Your teen won’t ask you for it, so don’t wait for an invitation. Everyday say something encouraging to your teen that builds them up (they get enough criticism as it is!). Pray everyday for them and ask God to help you become one of the core people in your teen’s life that He uses to affirm them.
1. Expecting your teen to have a devotion to God that you are not
cultivating within yourself.
When I talk to Christian parents, it’s obvious that they want their teen to have a thriving, dynamic, genuine, life-giving faith. What isn’t so clear, however, is whether that parent has one themselves. When it comes to the Christian faith, most of the time what we learn is caught and not taught. This means that even if you have the “right answers” as a parent, if you’re own spiritual walk with God is pathetic and stilted, your teen will unconciously follow suit. Every day you are teaching your teach (explicitely and implicitely) what discipleship to Jesus looks like “in the flesh.”
What are they catching from you? Are you cultivating a deep and mature relationship with God personally, or is your Christian parenting style a Christianized version of “do as I say, not as I do”?
While having a healthy and maturing discipleship walk as a parent does not guarantee your teen will follow in your footsteps, expecting your teen to have a maturing faith while you follow Jesus “from a distance” is an enormous mistake.
You are a Christian before you are a Christian parent (or any other role). Get real with God, share your own struggles and hypocrisy with your entire family, and maybe then God will begin to use your example in a positive and powerful way.
To order a copy of Mere Disciple: a spiritual guide for emerging leaders, click here.
Sometimes they don’t realize it yet – that we’re trying to help, that we’re not terribly lost, that we might know something beneficial.
I remember my son looking up from a disappointing test grade, annoyed with my advice and yelling at me, “You don’t understand; math has changed!” I literally laughed out loud.
Then I looked at his study sheets. I didn’t recognize a thing. It was true. Math had changed.
This is not our middle school or high school anymore, folks, and it threatens our ability to relate. But, we can relate to the charged emotions our teens are facing. And we can better enter into the necessary, hard conversations at times by attending to those emotions rather than avoiding them.
I learned this the hard way. I can be a knucklehead as a dad. I’m great at picking up on things with other people, but it took me a little while to begin seeing what I was missing in my own family.
It’s easy to label our teens as acting out, or having attention-seeking behavior, or being manipulative, or focusing on themselves instead of God, and those may be valid issues at times. Still, when it comes time to address these issues and have hard conversations with your child, let’s replace the idea of our kids needing attention with the idea that they need a connection. And we can best connect with them by attending to the emotion before attending to the solution.
In other words, we need to slow down before we try to fix the problem.
OK, but where’s the spiritual part? In fact, a spiritual focus needs to be at the core, and it is, because the spiritual can’t really be separated from the emotional and still be healthy. When we acknowledge our son or daughter’s anger, or sadness, or excitement, or fear, we are with them right in the middle of the Truth. Even if they don’t realize it yet.
So how do we get them to go there with us or let us in to that part of themselves? Basically, we have to cultivate honesty by rewarding honesty. Remember, truth doesn’t taste good unless it’s seasoned with grace. When there has been a breach in the family rules, grace says, “You’ll be in less trouble if you tell me the truth.” Then we have to back that up.
Reward their honesty. If we lower the boom anyway, we just taught them how to not trust us at all.
Cultivate safety in conversation by being safe at other times. So when you hear something inappropriate that your teen’s friend is doing, question out loud the behavior or decision, discuss the possible outcomes, but do so without criticizing the friend. If we model judgment all the time, we’re going to eventually create a lack of safety with our own kids.
Remember to parent each kid as an individual. In our house when a consequence has to be levied, each child responds differently. One kid cries at the mention of punishment, one kid argues a position against the injustice of it all, one kid chimes “OK” and then skips down the hall, and one kid gets eyes like The Incredible Hulk. Each one is different, responds differently, needs different things. The Hulk calms down with a valid reason. The Actress wants to feel that no one is mad. The Lawyer needs time and music to relax her opinion. The Skipper apparently has her own magical fairy dust, so we just leave her alone with it.
I have found it to be incredibly important to find each kid’s “open window” for conversation. Find the time and place that makes them comfortable. It might be a consistent moment or time of day (bed time, after dinner). It might be an activity (going for a walk, playing catch). It might involve a certain structure (sitting at the table, written in an email first). Or, maybe it’s a location (coffee shop, park, the car). Whatever it is, we need to lean into those natural opportunities for hard conversations.
There are lots of roles we fill when communicating with our teens: Coach, Advocate, Crime Stopper, or Judge. It helps if I pay attention to what role I’m speaking out of in a specific conversation. Am I using the voice I intend? Am I being a Judge when it’s time to be a Coach? Am I being an Advocate when it’s time to be a Crime Stopper?
As parents, we have to concede that there are decisions and influences that we have already put into practice with our kids that didn’t work or missed the mark. It’s already in play. It’s too late for a retraction. It’s not too late for a course correction. When I have blown it, I have to make things right, repair the relationship, and move forward. And we need to give ourselves grace. We need to give our kids grace. We need to extend a love and a trust and an absence of shame to them that we haven’t even necessarily had for ourselves at times.
Death is hard
Death as a topic is unsettling. I could give you pointers on talking only about death, but under the surface of that is loss. And our kids are going to be facing loss for the rest of their lives. The formula is simple: “When there is loss – grieve.” Look at your kids and tell them to cry, shout, make a fist, hit a pillow with a tennis racket, mention who and what has been lost, and don’t avoid it.
Look at them and tell them, “Don’t let anyone rush your grieving process, including yourself.” Grieving a loss won’t hinder their life – it will free it up for the future. The space in my counseling office is regularly filled by people dealing with issues of unresolved grief that linger into adulthood. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Sex frequently makes the ‘tough conversations’ list
And given limited space here I’m going to refer rather than be too brief. There are lots of great resources to help you talk through issues of sex. Kevin Leman and Kathy Flores Bell’s book, A Chicken’s Guide To Talking Turkey With Your Kids About Sex (Zondervan 2009) is right in line with building trust, giving support, and cultivating safety. As far as your emotions, just pray for the ability to be the least anxious person in the room, no matter what.
Self-discipline hinges on understanding responsibility
And responsibility begets responsibility. Just help them bridge the gap between your desire for them to be responsible and how it fits into the greater good, the bigger picture, the endgame. Ask them, “Whose responsibility is that?” Ask to help them problem-solve a better way, or different way, to get something done. Allow them to discover how they are making a contribution, not just following a demand.
Remember, the emotional and spiritual can’t be separated. God created that, not me, not you, not our kids, not culture. God did it. So work with them – use them both to connect to your kids. Move toward emotions for connection. Move toward Scripture for solutions. Attend to both – emotion and solution – when you attend to hard conversations with your teens.
No, they may not rise and call you blessed. They may not understand why you are pouring into their lives in this way. You may feel frustrated and toxic at times. You’re human, you’re normal, I get it. So ask for help. Seriously, I don’t know how anyone does parenting without Jesus.
When I’m in the pit, Psalm 40 reminds me that He’s in the pit with me. When I’m walking the right road, Zephaniah 3:17 reminds me that He’s celebrating me. And when I’m at the top of my game and a bit arrogant, 2 Sam. 22:28 reminds me that He will humble me to keep me healthy and in step with Him.
He attends to me. He loves me well. Even when I don’t realize it yet. That’s our model for parenthood.
Toby Simers is a therapist in private practice in St. Louis, Missouri. He spent 12 years in vocational ministry, graduated from the Willow Creek Internship program, and earned a Masters in Counseling at Covenant Theological Seminary. But more importantly, he’s a devoted and growing husband, father of two, and stepfather of two.
An interesting article from Psychology Today about kids in America today.
Maybe it’s the cyclist in the park, trim under his sleek metallic blue helmet, cruising along the dirt path… at three miles an hour. On his tricycle.
Or perhaps it’s today’s playground, all-rubber-cushioned surface where kids used to skin their knees. And… wait a minute… those aren’t little kids playing. Their mommies—and especially their daddies—are in there with them, coplaying or play-by-play coaching. Few take it half-easy on the perimeter benches, as parents used to do, letting the kids figure things out for themselves.
Then there are the sanitizing gels, with which over a third of parents now send their kids to school, according to a recent survey. Presumably, parents now worry that school bathrooms are not good enough for their children.
Consider the teacher new to an upscale suburban town. Shuffling through the sheaf of reports certifying the educational “accommodations” he was required to make for many of his history students, he was struck by the exhaustive, well-written—and obviously costly—one on behalf of a girl who was already proving among the most competent of his ninth-graders. “She’s somewhat neurotic,” he confides, “but she is bright, organized and conscientious—the type who’d get to school to turn in a paper on time, even if she were dying of stomach flu.” He finally found the disability he was to make allowances for: difficulty with Gestalt thinking. The 13-year-old “couldn’t see the big picture.” That cleverly devised defect (what 13-year-old can construct the big picture?) would allow her to take all her tests untimed, especially the big one at the end of the rainbow, the college-worthy SAT.
Messing up, however, even in the playground, is wildly out of style. Although error and experimentation are the true mothers of success, parents are taking pains to remove failure from the equation.Behold the wholly sanitized childhood, without skinned knees or the occasional C in history. “Kids need to feel badly sometimes,” says child psychologist David Elkind, professor at Tufts University. “We learn through experience and we learn through bad experiences. Through failure we learn how to cope.”
“Life is planned out for us,” says Elise Kramer, a Cornell University junior. “But we don’t know what to want.” As Elkind puts it, “Parents and schools are no longer geared toward child development, they’re geared to academic achievement.”
No one doubts that there are significant economic forces pushing parents to invest so heavily in their children’s outcome from an early age. But taking all the discomfort, disappointment and even the play out of development, especially while increasing pressure for success, turns out to be misguided by just about 180 degrees. With few challenges all their own, kids are unable to forge their creative adaptations to the normal vicissitudes of life. That not only makes them risk-averse, it makes them psychologically fragile, riddled with anxiety. In the process they’re robbed of identity, meaning and a sense of accomplishment, to say nothing of a shot at real happiness. Forget, too, about perseverance, not simply a moral virtue but a necessary life skill. These turn out to be the spreading psychic fault lines of 21st-century youth. Whether we want to or not, we’re on our way to creating a nation of wimps….
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Conversation Starters How can you keep this conversation going at home? Try bouncing some of these questions around at the dinner table, as you’re driving your kids to school or an activity, or even while you’re shopping together.
For Preschoolers Help your preschooler understand that you always want what’s best for her. God always wants what’s best for her, too. Let her know that you and God will always be there for her, leading her and guiding her.
For Children Talk about a time when you helped your child learn to do something a little scary, such as swim or ride a bicycle. Help him realize that you knew the outcome and your experience and love for him enabled you to lead him to succeed. Compare this with God’s leading of Abram in Genesis 12:1-3.
For Students Discuss a time when your teen listened to your advice, even if they were unsure how it would turn out. How did it turn out? How did it turn out? What did they learn about trusting your leadership? Remind them that God has a perfect plan for their life and they can pray to discover what steps He would have them to take to prepare for it.
Some six million children in the United States are preparing psychologically to go away to sleepaway camp. Whether these departing children are camp veterans or nervous rookies, they are mentally rehearsing being away from mom and dad, their comfortable beds, their pets, favorite meals and, of course, their beloved iPhones, Facebook and video games.
During the winter their parents made the decision — and found the money — to make it possible for their kids to leave their families and their comfortable homes so that they could spend a week or two or four in a rustic, more-or-less uncomfortable cabin getting bitten by mosquitoes. They will live with a bunch of other kids, some of whom are fantastic, others quite annoying. They will eat a balanced diet of grilled cheese sandwiches and Fudgesicles with the occasional corn dog for good measure. They will play fun but aimless games like “Capture the Flag” and sit around campfires watching hilarious, dumb skits that almost no one remembers two days later (except the authors, of course). They will master skills such as archery and kayaking, horseback riding and waterskiing, none of which will impress their varsity coach or their AP Bio teacher when they return to school.
While the campers are messing about in the woods, many of their peers will be attending summer school or specialized skills programs. Their responsible, if sometimes Tiger-ish, moms and dads will be investing their money in their children’s future differently, sending them to one-week soccer and lacrosse programs, SAT prep courses and unpaid internships designed to polish skills, boost scores and impress college admissions officers. Instead of spending three weeks at an all-around camp, these children will be focused on skill-building, sometimes in three different specialized programs to which their parents drive them every day (allowing time for that all-important debrief in the car going home).
Which set of parents has it right? Or more to the point: Does an overnight camp experience still make sense in this competitive, resume-building world? From this psychologist’s point of view, the answer is a resounding YES. I believe that children develop in profound ways when they leave their parents’ house and join a camp community.
Learning to sleep away from home is, of course, a critical step on the way to independence. Part of the challenge is beating homesickness, which may be hard for some children, and which, by definition, your parents cannot help you do. Kids know they have to do this sooner or later. As my son once remarked with horror, “If you can’t learn to sleep away from home, you have to live with your parents for the rest of your life.” But beyond that, there are things that, as a parent, you cannot do for your children, as much as you might wish to. You cannot make them happy (if you try too hard they become whiners); you cannot give them self-esteem and confidence (those come from their own accomplishments); you cannot pick friends for them and micro-manage their social lives, and finally you cannot give them independence. The only way children can grow into independence is to have their parents open the door and let them walk out. That’s what makes camp such a life-changing experience for children.
Just yesterday morning, it was a Monday, we were making sure lunches were packed and teeth were brushed before Piper and I rushed out the door to take her to school. I was quickly walking into the kitchen when I stopped at the door and my eyes locked with the eyes of my youngest daughter, Lily. She was caught “red handed” pouring her breakfast into the trash can. While I fought back the smile, I just stood and stared at her. She knew right away that she was busted. Her plan wasn’t hard to figure out… quickly pour out my cereal, leave the empty bowl on the table, tell Mom and Dad that I had eaten it all. Peace of cake.
I am aware, by the way, that this is a “little lie” and not a big deal. But somehow it was significant. This was one of the first times Lily had bold-faced-lied to me, or had at least planned to lie to me on purpose. And I couldn’t be happier how it played out. Catching your kids in a lie is precious, especially if we can catch them before they get too old, and it becomes one of their habits.
Plus, let’s be honest, kids beginning to lie to us isn’t all bad. They are starting to think for themselves…to make their own decisions… and to realize that Mommy and Daddy don’t know everything and don’t see everything. This is a good step to growing up!
So what do you do? How do you react to some of their first lies? Its a challenging question with lots of right answers, so here is what I did. I made a bid deal out of the lie. Who cares about the cereal, but the lie is the thing to focus on. There were 3 things I stressed when I sat on the floor to talk with Lily, wiping the tears from her cheeks.
1. In a very calm and loving tone I wanted Lily to know how sad it made me that she would lie to me. Oh, how it hurt my feelings that she wanted to tell me something that wasn’t true. I probably tried to say this same thing in 3 or 4 different ways to make sure she understood that we did not want her to lie…ever.
2. The second thing I wanted Lily to know was that she could always tell me anything. I would always listen and help her. She doesn’t need to be afraid to tell Mom or Dad the scary or hard things. We won’t turn our backs on her. We love her.
3. The last thing I wanted Lily to know was that not only do we love her, but Jesus loves her too, even more than we do! And Jesus can forgive her just like Mom and Dad.
Simple I know. Nothing ground breaking. But if we aren’t intentional, we end up telling our kids all kinds of stuff, especially in moments of frustration.
Do you have any comments or words of wisdom about when your kids lied to you? Any great stories? What about when kids get older? Comment below…
My church is going through some “aging” pains… sometimes I feel like I’m one of the “young people” at the church, and at the age of 56, that’s not a good thing! Our church has a lot of older folks, and then, surprisingly, a good sized youth group. That’s because our youth pastor has made a concerted effort to reach out to young people in the community, engage them in their faith, and get them plugged into our church community. For most of them, it is sad that their parents don’t come as well. Yet the teenagers continue to come, despite the lack of modeling by the parents.
While church by itself is not the point, it seems clear that God has chosen to use the local church to consistently draw both children and parents to His side.
I am thankful that I had parents that made me go to church, and they went as well. There were many Sundays during my childhood that I wanted to stay home and watch cartoons, or sleep late, or do anything but go to church. But our family was consistently there every Sunday, and it was a priority in our family. Because of that modeling by my parents, I went to church enough to learn about a Savior that changed my life!
If your family has made it a priority to be in church on Sunday mornings, then God bless you, and I’m sure he does! If your family is like so many families today that try to get to church every now and then, then I would encourage you to consider making church going a priority in the life of your family. Parenting, and raising children is a daunting challenge if faced alone. We pray that your family would find a community of believers that wants to pursue our God together… Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Good advice… God bless!
Parents, we know that raising kids today is an adventure. We believe that partnering with our camp parents is a critical part of our mission. This blog is created with you in mind as we share perspective, ideas and encouragement as you play the most important role in your child's life. Thanks for letting them be a part of Ridgecrest Summer Camps!