Weekly Christian Parenting Challenges #11

School starts soon. It’s a great time to make any changes you’ve been wanting to make in your family. Here are this week’s social media challenges to help.

Monday: Fashion, and what is considered modest, changes from generation to generation and culture to culture. Your kids – both boys and girls – should think about what their clothing (or lack thereof) says to others. Is it sending a sexualized message? We all know people who would have lustful thoughts regardless of what someone is wearing, but those are the extremes and should not be used to excuse wearing clothing meant to provoke a sexual response in others. (As in, “Lust is that person’s issue, I have no responsibility to dress modestly.) Teach your kids how to be attractive without being sexual. Help them understand modesty is about an attitude as well as clothing.

Tuesday: School starts soon. For many families, it’s going to look different than in previous years. Even if everything were the same though, the beginning of a school year is a good time to reset your family schedule. Carve out time for daily family devotionals. Make time for good old fashioned family fun. Make sure everyone gets more sleep and exercise. Don’t fritter away another year of time. Use it wisely and you may be surprised what happens.

Wednesday: This area was supposed to be full of wildflowers, but the seeds planted there never reached their potential. God has given each of your kids potential. Not just potential to do well in school or become athletes or artists. Potential to be mighty women and men of God. To do the good works He has prepared for them in advance, serving others and sharing their faith. That is the potential that is most important that you help your kids fulfill.

Thursday: A huge part of childhood used to be time spent quietly playing in a playhouse, sitting in a tree or plopped on the grass watching the clouds go by. It gave you time to think, ponder the things you were learning, figure out who you were and who God wanted you to be. You were able to soak in God’s creation and realize He was out there, bigger and wiser than you would ever be. You had time to reflect on scripture and dream godly dreams. Your kids need that device free, unplanned quiet time. Teach them how to use it since it’s a lost art. Give their brains the processing time most young people don’t have today. It could make a huge positive difference in their lives.

Friday: Your kids have experienced church over the last few months like no other generation before them. We have no idea of the long term impact it may have on them spiritually. It’s crucial to have regular conversations about the reasons God wants Christians to worship and fellowship together. Make sure worship services and connecting with fellow Christians is still a high priority – even if you must do it virtually to stay safe.

Logical Fallacies Your Kids Need to Know

In discussions about any number of topics, people often resort to using logical fallacies in an attempt to prove their point. These fallacies appear logical on the surface, but are actually based on poor logic. As a result, the arguments often collapse under the questioning of someone aware of logical fallacies. 

Your children may be exposed to logical fallacies used by people trying to undermine God as well as Christians trying to convince them to obey God. It is not necessary for Christians to use logical fallacies as God is Truth. Teaching your kids about logical fallacies can help them avoid false teaching, attempts to convince them to deny God and other things that could weaken or destroy their faith.

It is crucial that you avoid using logical fallacies in your teaching of the Bible to your kids. Often a little research or re-wording a few sentences can remove the most common logical fallacies used by Christians and actually make your Bible lesson or points stronger as a result.

Below are some of the more commonly used logical fallacies. There are many more you can access online if you wish to explore this topic in more depth.

  • Fact, Inference or Opinion. While technically not a logical fallacy, it can confuse children in a similar fashion. Authors and speakers may state or imply something as if it were a fact, when it is actually their opinion. Follow up questions can often expose a fact or inference as an opinion. Inferences and opinions can be correct, but it is important to understand whether or not there are actual facts that support or undermine them.
  • Existence on the internet equates to verifiable truth. While this also falls under other logical fallacies, it is an important dynamic for many young people. They often get much of their information online. They have come to believe if a statement or source is listed on a search engine it is a reliable source of truth. In reality, anything found online must go through the same filters for truth as information obtained from other sources.
  • Correlation equals causation. This is the assumption that because two things are often found in correlation to one another that one causes the other. This may or may not actually be true and requires further scrutiny to assess causation. Example: Christianity causes mental illnesses. The logical fallacy would assume there is something about Christianity that causes mental illness because a large number of Christians have a self reported mental illness. There could be any number of reasons for the cause of mental illnesses found among Christians.
  • False dilemma. This assumes that the extremes of an issue are the only options. It is often used to portray Christianity as extremist. Example: The Bible says lying is sinful. The false dilemma would assume that therefore Christians believe everyone who tells a lie is going to Hell. This is ignoring the possibility of repentance, forgiveness and other Christian beliefs.
  • Argument from authority. This fallacy quotes an “expert” who may or may not actually know the truth. This could be anything from a secular scientist, to a famous preacher and even taking Bible scriptures out of context. There is also a possibility that what the “expert” said surrounding the quote actually helped to clarify that the speaker believed the exact opposite of the quote.
  • Red herring. This logical fallacy is usually used by someone in the course of an argument, often when they appear to be losing. It is a statement thrown out to distract the opponent and change the topic of the argument. 
  • Loaded question. This logical fallacy makes use of a question in which any answer will make the person giving the answer look foolish. It is often asked not because the person actually wants an answer to their question, but because they want their opponent to appear in a negative light. For example, if someone asked, “Where exactly is Heaven?”, any answer would be problematic. Attempting to give an exact location would cause scorn, because there is no way to prove you are correct. Likewise, responding “I don’t know” makes it appear there is not a Heaven because you cannot identify its location.
  • Possibility fallacy. This fallacy argues that because something could possibly happen, it will probably happen. This can be used for example to make people feel threatened by God in some way. God struck Annanias dead for lying, therefore he will probably strike Bob dead if he is lying, too. God may or may not give everyone the same earthly consequences for disobedience.
  • Ad hominem. In this logical fallacy, a person discounts what is said based on the person rather than analyzing what was actually said. This often takes the form of disparaging the person. Example: “Well of course the Apostles confirmed the resurrection. They had an ulterior motive.”
  • Bandwagon. This assumes that if the majority of people believe something to be true, then it must indeed be true. The truth may actually rest with the minority.
  • Either-Or. In this fallacy, a person presents two unacceptable options as if they are the only possible options. In reality, there may be numerous possible options that are better for one or both parties.
  • Argument from ignorance. This fallacy is used by someone in a discussion when they begin throwing out ideas and “facts” with no actual knowledge of whether those things have been tested or are true.
  • Circular Logic. This is when someone continually repeats their original belief as the support for its validity. Example. “That is just wrong.” “Why?” “Because it is just wrong to do that.”
  • Dogmatism. This person will not listen to any views except their own. Nothing the other person says or does will ever change their mind on the topic.
  • Emotional Appeals. This often occurs when someone trusts their emotions more than any evidence. It can also be used in an attempt to scare the other person into agreeing with them. Example: “God says it is a sin to lie.” “It just does not feel right for God to get upset because someone lied to spare another person’s feelings. Surely, God is okay with those lies.”
  • Fallacy of exclusion. Often this is used by someone who can think of one or two specific examples of the supposed truth of their argument. Those examples, however, may be the exception instead of the rule.  Example: “All Christians are hypocrites. I knew this Christian one time, who was a preacher and I caught him lying.”
  • Faulty analogy. This is an attempt to relate two things that may actually have nothing in common. Example: Christianity is the opiate of the masses.
  • Non sequitur. This is when the conclusion does not follow the premise. Example: If God were good, he would not let bad things happen.
  • Slippery slope. This logical fallacy is itself a slippery slope. Sometimes starting down a road does quickly lead to more intense consequences. The fallacy is in assuming every choice will lead to rapid, desperate consequences. Example: If we don’t have Sunday School on New Year’s Day, the next thing you know, we will never have Sunday School.
  • Lack of evidence. This is when someone claims you cannot be correct in your position, because there is no definitive, irrefutable proof or evidence. This is often used in religion in disagreements that align with, “You can not prove God exists.” and “You can not prove God does not exist.” In reality, neither side will be able to produce irrefutable evidence until Christ returns.
  • Straw man. In this fallacy, one person makes a statement so extreme, no one would agree with it in hopes of destroying the other person’s argument. Example: Two people are discussing Christianity. One person says, “Hitler was a Christian.” As if the fact that Hitler may have been a Christian, therefore undermines Christianity itself.
  • Repetition. While technically not a logical fallacy, repetition is a common tactic in propaganda. The theory is that if you repeat your message often enough and loudly enough, many people will begin to believe it is true – regardless of the statement’s actual validity.
  • Glittering generality. This is when people use a broadly defined word such as “love” without defining it in an attempt to win an argument. Example: Two people are discussing something God has called a sin in the Bible and whether or not they should speak to a fellow Christian regarding that sin.. “But God wants us to love our neighbors.” While that is indeed true, “love” in this person’s argument is used very generally. Love in this case may actually be encouraging the person to repent of their sin, not ignoring the sin.
  • Transfer. This is another technique often used in propaganda. It is portraying someone or something in a particular way in hopes that image will transfer its meaning upon the person or philosophy. It is often employed when portraying Christians in movies and books with actors and characters who appear judgmental, backward and unattractive. The hope is that those introduced to the image will transfer the negative image to all of Christianity and not just that specific example.
  • Snob appeal. This is an attempt to convince an opponent that everyone that person admires agrees with the speaker’s position. It is often most effective with people who are already in an elite circle or are in hopes of becoming part of one in the future. It is a form of peer pressure that focuses on attaining or maintaining a highly desired social status in their culture.

Is Your Criticism Aversion Hurting Your Kids?

We live in a world where everyone is encouraged to criticize, but no one is encouraged to listen. Actually, you are encouraged to listen to the person’s criticism who is speaking or writing, but no one else’s critiques matter. It’s often couched in phrases like, “Everyone is doing the best they can.” Or “No one has a right to tell me what to do.” Or the ever popular, “Imperfection shows I’m only human.”

Unfortunately, this aversion to criticism is hurting young people – and not just because they won’t listen to our critiques. We live in a world that frowns upon self examination and self improvement – that embraces imperfection as laudable. A world where people would rather experience a hundred miserable failures than listen to the constructive criticism of others.

Yet, God calls Christians to a higher standard. We are to examine ourselves and strive for improvement, growth and even perfection. (Matthew 5:48, 2 Peter 1:5-8 and others) As Christian parents, we need to examine our parenting and our children to see if what we are doing is really helping our kids build strong spiritual foundations and grow to their godly potential.

A recent article in Psychology Today, gave several reasons why parents are missing their kids’ depression. The advice boiled down to parents need to listen – really listen to their kids, and they need not look for quick fixes, but should put in the work necessary to really help their kids deal with their depression.

Yet how many parents read that article or the previous paragraph from a defensive mindset? How many excuses or critiques of the author whipped through your brain while you were reading it? How incensed were you that someone dared to criticize how you listen to your children or how you try to help them with their problems?

Now imagine, if this were written from a Christian perspective. How would you react, if they added concerns about the spiritual health of your children? Or quoted scriptures? Or made specific suggestions of ways to help them process their emotions with God’s help? Or suggested something you are doing is hurting, rather than helping your kids?

We all know that not every critique is equally valid. Yet immediately dismissing all criticism – even that which is constructive and godly – is dangerous for us and our kids. Taking a little while longer to compare it to scripture and examine it for truth and validity could save us a lot of time and spare us a lot of grief.

Godly, constructive criticism can help you catch Christian parenting mistakes before they hurt your kids spiritually. It can save you time wasted by trial and error. It can improve your Christian parenting outcomes by allowing you to learn from those wiser and/or more experienced than you.

It’s worth taking a little extra time to really listen and process constructive criticism directed at your parenting. It can make a huge positive difference in the lives of your kids. It’s worth conquering your aversion, at least long enough to listen and vet what others are saying.

Weekly Christian Parenting Challenges #10

Many school systems changed their minds this week and reinstated remote learning for the fall semester. Did this impact your family? While distance learning can add new challenges, it can also offer some valuable benefits. Here are this week’s social media challenges to help you make the best use of your time together.

Monday: Having a hard time discussing something with one of your kids? Sometimes they will avoid a conversation, but read a good book on the topic. Try to find one that’s interesting and doesn’t come across like a lecture. Even better is if you can find Bible stories or verses that discuss the issue. If they have a book they want you to read, it’s a good idea to do it. Chances are the author has influenced them and you need to understand exactly what they have read in order to interact with them from an informed place.

Tuesday: It takes self control to wear a mask, practice social distancing, not say the first thing that comes into your head….avoid sinning. Self control (or controlling ourselves)isn’t fun a lot of the time. It goes against our selfish nature. Self control is one way to live out the two greatest commands. Why? Because the Bible tells us loving God means we obey God – even when disobedience sounds more fun to us. And loving others means we can’t be selfish – by the Bible’s detailed definition of loving others. Working with your kids on self control can be difficult – especially if you struggle with it yourself – but self control is crucial for living a productive Christian life.

Wednesday: Even though the people in this museum exhibit look real, they are merely holograms. They can be made to do whatever their creator wants them to do. They have no feelings, thoughts or opinions. Your kids aren’t holograms. You will have to work hard to mold their hearts and minds towards God, because they do have feelings, thoughts and opinions. It may not be easy, but if you don’t put in the work, it’s highly unlikely they will grow to become productive Christians.

Thursday: Your kids may be feeling extra stress and anxiety with a return to remote learning. Or they may be bored because their activities have been cancelled. Now is a great time to teach them healthy ways to cope and feel free time. Art, crafts, music, cooking, exercise and more are great ways for kids and teens to spend time. They may even discover some of their gifts from God in the process.

Friday: Have you ever noticed that God has a sense of humor? There are some passages in the Bible that are just full of humor. Humor can make a bad day easier. Humor can add joy to a good day. The wrong kind of humor, however, can destroy your child over time. “Teasing” humor often involves making fun of some attribute of a person. It is not kind or loving. It whittles away a child’s self esteem. Often it is not even true…like teasing a thin child about her “fat” thighs, but then she believes it no matter what she sees in the mirror. Sarcastic humor can also be cruel or disrespectful. Make the humor in your home the kind that builds up – not those kinds that tear down.

Fun Family Bible Activity: Needs v. Wants

Let’s be honest. We leave in a greedy world. Our society wants us to believe we need all sorts of things that are actually wants. Christians aren’t immune from materialism either. So what can you do to raise kids who truly understand God’s view of needs v. wants?

Grab some magazines, random items around your house and a Bible. Tell your kids the story of David and Bathsheba found in 2 Samuel 11 and 12 and 1 Kings 1 and 2. It’s not necessary with young children to focus on the sexual aspects of the story, but rather that David felt like he needed Uriah’s wife, even though he already had wives of his own.

Explain that David was so intent on getting what he wanted, he committed several sins to get it. Explain that God wants us to understand we actually need very little. Most of the things we think we need, we actually want. Explain that when we get confused, we can often do things that make God unhappy and even sin – especially if we primarily focus on getting all of those things we want for ourselves.

Explain to your kids, you are going to play the game Wants v. Needs. Hold up one of the items you gathered. Ask your kids whether it is something they want or need. If they believe it is something they need, they should also share how much of it they think they need in a given time period. Older children can be asked to support their choices with evidence.

After a few items, give them the magazines. Have them find pictures of things they want versus things they need. Older children can examine ads to see how companies try to convince people they need something, they actually merely want.

Can your family come to an agreement about what your needs actually are in life? Now think about playing the same game if you were a family living in one of the poorest countries on earth instead of one of the richest. Would your answers be different? What if your grandparents had played the game when they were little? What if Jesus played the game when he lived on earth?

End your time by discussing ways your family can be less concerned with getting “stuff”. How can you all be more grateful for the blessings God has given you? How can you share your blessings with others who may not even have everything they need?