Raising Joyful Children

Raising Joyful Kids - Parenting Like HannahHave you ever noticed the best selling books for kids on sites like Amazon? Most have bright cheerful covers. The titles often promise there will be humor on the pages inside. Then take a look the next time you are in a bookstore at best selling books for teens and young adults. Suddenly, the books are filled with stories of last survivors, people fighting for their lives, vampires and other “dark” tales. Even the covers look depressing, with dark colors and dramatic drawings.

What happens to the children who once loved those funny, bright joyful books? Why are they making these dark, depressing books best sellers? How did they somehow lose their joy and zest for life? (A truly joyful person will rarely be drawn repeatedly to reading and watching dark, depressing things.)

I recently attended a workshop conducted by some well known family therapists. Something they shared stuck with me. Studies have shown that all things being equal, the mind will drift towards the negative. They told us to prevent that from happening, we have to purposefully recognize that tendency and make a conscious effort to switch our thinking to the positive.

Sound familiar? Is it merely a coincidence the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write Philippians 4:8? Could it be possible that the God who created us knew that for our mental and spiritual health we needed to “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (NIV)?

I understand there are many reasons today’s young people are more prone to depression and suicide. I also know we are allowing our children and teens to have constant exposure to things that are false, dishonorable, wrong, impure, ugly and deplorable. When we not only permit, but often encourage our kids to read books, watch television shows and movies and listen to music full of negative images and thoughts, we are unintentionally reinforcing the tendency the brain has to drift towards the negative.

Take some time this week and make note of what your children are exposed to on a regular basis. How much of it fits Philippians 4:8 and how much resembles the exact opposite? What are some things you and your children can do to focus and think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable? Helping your kids make that shift in their lives can also change the way they see the world and the choices they make. While you are working on it, remind them every good thing is from God. You may find that childhood joy returning to your home.

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Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19 NIV)