There is a misconception in today’s world that truth and love cannot exist in the same space. Your kids will probably be told that it is preferable to lie rather than to risk hurting someone’s feelings. Or that it is important to tell everyone they are going to Heaven, rather than risk upsetting someone by telling them they are disobeying God. Or that it isn’t loving to believe God will indeed send people to Hell for disobeying clearly stated truths in the Bible. And sadly they will watch as supposedly strong Christians take a clearly written declaritive sentence in the Bible and twist the words into a pretzel so that in the end, the sentence means the exact opposite of what it says.
The problem has been that many have done a very poor job of how they choose to share God’s truths. Or their “truth”. Love has come disconnected from truth and it seems to be getting worse every day. Fortunately, you can actively teach your kids how to keep truth and love connected – the way God intended it to be.
There are a few basic principles about truth and love that your kids need to know and practice.
Not every “truth” is actually “truth”. Just because your child believes something to be true, does not mean it is. Your child could be mistaken or wrong. Your child may only know part of the truth, but not all of it. Or it may just be your child’s opinion on a topic where everyone has a right to a different opinion (like a favorite color). Part of keeping truth and love connected is to constantly search for truth and make sure something is definitely truth before we present it as such.
Not every “truth” is equally important. God’s truths are absolute, unchanging and of eternal importance. Much of what people believe is “truth” is actually an opinion. There is no real evidence to prove whether or not it is absolute, unchanging and valid for everyone. An opinion positioned as “truth”is not nearly as important as God’s absolute truths.
Not every “truth” must be spoken immediately. Timing is crucial. Sharing a truth that could embarrass someone is perhaps best not done loudly in front of a large group of people. Your kids also need to understand that the “truths” of their opinion may not need to be shared at all. Just because your child doesn’t like someone’s outfit, doesn’t mean five hundred other people won’t love it. It’s not necessary to hurt someone’s feelings with your personal opinion.
God’s truths are absolute and do not change. We do not get to vote to change God’s commands. Current popular culture may not approve of God’s commands, but that does not mean they should be changed. God knows what is best for us. We have to trust and obey Him.
There is a way to share God’s truths with love. Most people believe they are doing the best they can. They will usually become defensive and stop listening if someone uses harsh, ugly, angry language to communicate God’s truths to them. Yes, Jesus may have sounded a bit harsh at times, but those occasions were rare. Most of the time he was very loving, but firm in the ways he corrected others.
Keeping God’s truths from someone is not love. There is a thought process that people cannot “help” who they are. It is not their fault if they want to live their lives in ways that disobey God. The fear by many Christians is that sharing God’s truths with them will make them reject God. The reality is living a life enmeshed in sin is a rejection of God. Making someone believe they are “right” with God while they are living in enmeshed sin is not loving. You are giving them a false sense of security. Sharing God’s truths in such a way that they will hopefully want to make changes and obey God is ultimately the most loving thing anyone can do.
Take the time to teach your kids how to keep truth and love connected. It is a skill set our world desperately needs.
“The goal is to die with memories, not dreams.” “A breath of fresh air is a great thing to take and an even better thing to be.” If you have spent two seconds on social media, you have probably seen motivational memes. The idea of surrounding yourself with motivational messages isn’t new. Our world has just provided more and easier ways for your kids to surround themselves with motivational messages.
Some of these messages actually mirror wisdom God has shared with us. Others promote a secular or even at times, ungodly way of interacting with the world. Have you thought about encouraging your kids to surround themselves with scripture as their motivational messages?
With secular memes and motivational messages, it can be difficult to differentiate between those which contain godly wisdom and those which sound good, but encourage things that are perhaps not so godly. The good news is that scriptures memes and images are easy to find and often free.
The Bible app allows you to take a scripture and create a meme with it using one of probably dozens of different choices for translations, backgrounds, fonts and the like. A quick Google or Pinterest search provides many more free options. Your kids can even create their own scripture art to display, using their computers or regular art supplies. Join the fun and create your own scripture memes or images and place them where not only you, but your kids will also see them.
Surrounding your family with scripture is not only great for motivating yourselves to live more godly lives, but it also helps place those verses in the long term memory, where you and your kids will have easy access to them whenever and wherever your family need God’s wisdom in the moment.
Self control is critical for the secular success of kids and teens, but it has an added benefit for Christians. Self control is a fruit of the Spirit and helps Christians avoid sinning when tempted. A child who has no self control is fairly obvious, but how do you know if your kids’ self control is improving? There are five questions you can answer about your kids, or ask them to answer for themselves that can help you evaluate their self control.
Can they make themselves do something they don’t want to do? Self control isn’t always about avoiding an action. Sometimes self control is doing what is best, even when you don’t feel like doing it. It may start with brushing their teeth regularly and grow to doing kind things for their “enemies”.
Can they keep quiet or choose their words carefully when feeling strong emotions? The Bible tells us controlling our tongues is perhaps the most difficult. Staying quiet or choosing words carefully, rather than saying everything that is being thought is a sign your kids have developed self control.
Can they disagree with someone or dislike what they did and still act with love and kindness towards them? True self control is reflecting God’s love towards everyone….even those with whom we are angry. It doesn’t excuse what they did, but it shows amazing self control for your kids to forgive, love and treat kindly someone who has hurt or annoyed them.
Can they deny themselves something they really want? The famous marshmallow test of self control has been questioned recently, but isn’t it similar to avoiding sin when tempted? Satan doesn’t normally tempt us to sin in ways that don’t appeal to us. If your kids can resist temptation, whether it’s to sin or make a questionable choice, they are exhibiting self control.
Can they work patiently towards a big, long term goal? Self control, perseverance and patience often work together. Working towards a huge goal often requires self control. Why? Because sacrifices must usually be made in order to achieve the goal. Those with little self control are unlikely to deny themselves in order to accomplish a long term goal.
Self control can fail to grow or even slip without an awareness of how well it is practiced. Teaching your kids how to evaluate their self control regularly, can help them continue to grow and improve.
One of the keys to a young person’s self control is metacognition – the ability to recognize one’s own thoughts. For Christian young people, this is also a key to recognizing when they are being tempted to sin. Fortunately, metacognition is a skill that can improve with practice. Even better, there are fun ways to give your kids practice in recognizing their own thoughts.
First thought game. This is a game we normally associate with psychology, but we aren’t using it in the same way. Throw out random words and have your kids say the first thing that pops into their minds. You won’t be analyzing their responses at all. What you want them to do is develop an awareness that outside stimuli can trigger thoughts in their minds and that they can become aware of what those thoughts may be.
Jot it down. Throw out a “wild” idea. Example: “What if we went on a year long vacation anywhere in the world?” Instead of giving you a verbal answer, have your kids jot down everything they are thinking. Once again, the answers aren’t important (unless you intend to actually do it). Jotting down words, phrases or ideas will make them more aware of their thought process than merely verbalizing them. Don’t forget them to capture thoughts like, “Is she serious?” “What about school?” and other similar thoughts.
Ask directly. Throw out a controversial topic and ask what they think about the subject. Try to choose one that won’t upset you if you disagree with their responses. To take it to the next level, see if they can tell you why they think the way they do about the topic.
“What if”. Trying to ask kids what they were thinking right before they made a poor choice rarely results in a concrete answer. Although that’s a great goal to have, try focusing on having them be aware of the process of thinking of other options. Encourage them to stop whenever they have a choice to make and ask themselves, “What if I did something other than what I am getting ready to do?” It will take verbally practicing with you first quite a bit before they can do it naturally in real time, but mastering this may help point them towards better options and intentional thinking rather than merely reacting to a choice without awareness of any cognition.
Question hour. Encourage your kids to ask their questions. If you aren’t available when a question comes to mind, train them to jot it down to ask you later. Becoming aware of the questions they have is one part of recognizing their own thoughts. You don’t literally have to spend an hour answering questions, but you should make time regularly for answering them. Remember, there is no shame in having to look up answers you don’t know or have forgotten. It’s a great way to teach them how to find reliable answers for themselves as they grow older.
“Voices” in their thoughts. Ask your kids what “voices” they hear in their heads when they want to do something. Younger children won’t be able to do this, but older ones should be able to tell you they “hear” grandma’s favorite expression or the mean thing a coach said to them. Knowing the “tapes” they have already ingrained can be helpful to you as you parent them away from any unnecessarily toxic thoughts they have allowed others to place in their metacognition collection. It will also let you know if some of the positive “tapes” you have tried to install in their brains have taken root.
Helping your kids with their metacognition skills takes time. It can really help improve their self control and avoiding sin when tempted. It’s worth making the time to help them recognize their own thoughts.
Has one of your children ever said something like, “He made me mad!” We often ignore those types of statements in our attempts to get to an accurate description of the events that are causing our current parenting issue. In so doing though, we may be encouraging our kids to ignore the responsibility to manage their emotions.
Personal responsibility isn’t very popular in the secular world. Excuses, blame and other strategies are often used to allow people to escape responsibility for their actions. Christianity, on the other hand, is all about taking personal responsibility for your actions, attitudes and thoughts and repenting of them when they are ungodly or sinful.
Emotions, or at least the intensity and the resulting actions taken because of the emotion, can be controlled. Your kids choose to allow something to not only bother them, but make them angry or even enraged. That is a choice. They can just as easily decide to let the incident go with immediate forgiveness, which they have probably done under similar circumstances at other times.
As Christian parents, we need to constantly reinforce that while the initial emotional reaction may feel as if it cannot be controlled by us, the intensity and our reaction to those feelings absolutely can and must be controlled. Learning how to recognize and de-escalate a personal emotional state is an important part of self control. Taking responsibility for creating a more positive emotional reaction and/or forgiveness is a choice. Choosing positive, godly reactions to another’s words or behaviors that may have initially caused us to begin feeling a certain negative emotion is a choice that can be made.
It won’t be easy. You are probably still working on it in your own life. Acknowledge how difficult it can be, but also reinforce that because something is difficult, it doesn’t mean God doesn’t expect us to continue working on it. Share strategies that help you and encourage older kids to share strategies they find that help them (which may also help you). If you can get your kids to accept personal responsibility for their emotions, you will be helping them have greater self control and make better choices in negative emotional states. It’s definitely worth your time and effort.
Note: In some cases, children with certain special needs or mental health issues will need the additional help of a medical professional. This post is not intended to minimize those situations, but rather encourage parents to work with their children on managing their emotional states and actions within those states.