One of my favorite spring trees is the tulip tree. It’s one of the earlier bloomers and the flowers are just beautiful. Because it is one of the first trees to bloom though, the blooms are often destroyed by the cold before they have faded. In years where the timing of the weather and the blooming is better, the same flowers can last for many days.
Parenting, especially Christian parenting, has some timing aspects to it also. Often choosing the wrong timing for teaching your kids about something can have a negative impact on their spiritual and emotional health. If the timing is too early, they may not be prepared to handle the emotional and spiritual aspects that often come with that knowledge. Wait too late and they can be left vulnerable to the tricks Satan plays in those areas.
So, what are some of the areas in which Christian parents most often miss the timing and cause their children and themselves unnecessary problems? (“Too Early” or “Too Late” indicates the timing mistake most often made by parents.)
- Technology (Too Early)– There is a mistaken belief that letting a 2 year play endlessly on a phone or iPad will mean the child will grow up to become some computer whiz. Unfortunately, quite the opposite is often true. Playing on a computer is not the same as learning how to code on a computer. Computers are very intuitive now and take little time to master. All of the time spent playing games is actually keeping your kids from learning about the things they need to be learning – like God. It also hampers their relational and communication skills. The longer you can keep a young child from being exposed to screen time, the better. Use that time to read to your child, talk with your child, play with your child, hug your child. It’s a much better and healthier way to spend your time together.
- “Hollywood” Entertainment (Too Early)– Children are often taken to movies or allowed to watch video content that is much too advanced for them in an effort to keep them entertained (or so parents can watch them). Parents often wait for schools to teach their children how to behave without being entertained and how to entertain themselves in productive and/or creative ways. Teaching your children to learn how to sit quietly and entertain themselves without computers or video content is a vital life skill many in past generations were able to master at quite young ages. Without being provided constant video entertainment, children also improve their reading abilities, find their creative talents and much more. Yes, too much boredom can lead to trouble. Having items around that will engage them, but that they have to manipulate will help them grow and learn. Don’t forget to offer extra chores for those who claim to be bored with your non-electronic entertainment. (Note:Rating systems are designed to sell, pushing the limits of what is actually appropriate. Use sites like PluggedIn to double check content.)
- Sex, Alcohol and Drugs (Too Late.). Some parents fear that talking about these topics will actually encourage their kids to participate in them. Studies have shown quite the opposite is true. Even very young children can be introduced to the topics in age appropriate ways. There are quite a few good Christian children’s series on talking to children about sex that are broken down by age group. If you haven’t talked to your kids about these three topics by middle school, others will have done so – most likely without the input of what God wants. Uninformed children are also often vulnerable to a lot of misinformation that is passed around amongst young peers.
- Dating, Love and Marriage (Too Late). Waiting until your kids start dating to discuss these topics is way too late. Even very young children can begin understanding the idea of picking a godly spouse and what qualities that person should have. They need to be taught what God teaches about love and marriage – which is often in direct opposition to what culture teaches on the topics. Preparing your kids to avoid all of the possible traps the devil sets in the areas of dating, love and marriage will make it more likely your kids will be able to avoid them.
- God’s Plans (Too Late). Often parents are afraid to bring up baptism, thinking their child may become a Christian for the wrong reasons. And many parents never talk to their kids about the concept that God has plans for their lives He wants them to follow, and their part in finding them and doing them. The God who knows the number of hairs on our heads, cares often in very specific ways about issues like marriage, career and ministry. Teaching your kids how to find God’s plans in scripture and through prayer and the Holy Spirit, while also teaching them how to make godly choices even if they aren’t quite sure, will prepare them for a Christian life. The concept of God’s Plans can be introduced in age appropriate ways to even young children.
- Satan and Hell (Too Late). These have become taboo subjects to speak about in many Christian homes and churches. Which means Satan has free reign to trick your kids, because they don’t even believe he really exists. They have no concept of why they want to avoid Hell and go to Heaven for eternity. To them the nothingness taught by culture sounds okay, perhaps even better than “singing all day” in Heaven. You don’t have to traumatize your children, but they do need to understand Satan and Hell are real. Teens especially need to fully understand the possible eternal consequences of choosing to reject God.
Denying your kids access to things because they aren’t in their best interest is tough. Hard, complicated conversations are often avoided by Christian parents. By avoiding them though, you are allowing your kids to be taught about them by any number of people with agendas that aren’t necessarily godly. As the parent you have the right, and the responsibility, to take the lead on teaching your kids these things in the timing that is best for them. It’s worth making sure you are teaching your kids what what God wants them to know.