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.
Did you know it is not a sin to disagree with others? The sins often happen with how we behave when we disagree and what we do after the disagreement. One of the most famous disagreements in the Bible is between two missionaries, Paul and Barnabas. The topic seemed critically important to both men. It appears they may have never totally resolved the disagreement. Yet, they were somehow able to continue to put God’s Kingdom ahead of their disagreement and it appears were even supportive of one another after the rift.
Your kids probably already disagree with someone about something. They may even be questioning some of your ideas about a topic or two. We live in a world that is allowing relationships to be destroyed forever because people disagree on an issue. What can you teach your kids about Barnabas and Paul’s disagreement that will help them navigate their own disagreements in godly ways? We don’t have a lot of information in the Bible, but we can probably come to some fairly accurate conclusions.
Get the facts straight…preferably from the actual person. Too often disagreements begin based on gossip or assuming we know what the other person meant or what their intentions were. Often our initial assumptions are wrong, but we have created unnecessary conflict because of them. Teach your kids to go to the source and gather all of the facts before assuming there is a disagreement.
Speak directly to the person with whom you disagree first. Teach your kids to refrain from adding to any possible conflict by gossiping or using messengers. Train them to have a conversation with the actual person with whom they believe the disagreement exists.
Listen before you speak. The Bible isn’t clear about the actual conversation between Barnabas and Paul. In general though, it’s best to listen carefully and ask lots of clarifying questions before you present your side. Doing so makes the other person less defensive and can make your argument unnecessary or stronger because you have all of the necessary information about the person’s view on the topic. Teach your kids how to be good listeners and to ask great clarifying questions before sharing their thoughts on a topic.
Be humble. Once again, we aren’t sure how Barnabas or Paul reacted initially, but it helps any disagreement to enter it humbly. Chances are great each person in the disagreement may be right about some things and wrong about others. When we enter a disagreement assuming we are totally correct and the other person is totally wrong, we will fail to find any common ground or correct any mistakes we may be making. Teach your kids to remember they may have as much to learn on any given topic as they have to teach.
Know when to agree to disagree. Yes, your kids may be passionate about the “proper” color for bedroom walls. If their friends want to paint their rooms a different color, then teach your kids to let it go. Teach them they can be friends with people who disagree with them on a variety of topics. Paul and Barnabas agreed to go on separate missionary journeys, taking different helpers. In reality, that probably allowed them to cover more territory, while training younger men to eventually take their place, than working together had. You may think the one exception would appear to be arguments about scriptural matters. It’s important to note though that although Jesus was passionate about teaching the truth, he never bullied anyone into accepting it. Your kids need to be willing and able to argue passionately about scriptural truths, while avoiding bullying those who disagree with those truths.
Practice repentance and forgiveness. Often things are said and done during disagreements that are unfortunate or even sinful. Your kids need to be quick to apologize when they have erred and quick to forgive those who have made poor choices when disagreeing with them.
Time outs are better than permanent rifts. Sometimes after a particularly heated disagreement, it feels very uncomfortable to be around one another. Or agreeing to disagree, like Paul and Barnabas, means your choices take you in literally different directions. People need time to calm down and let things go. Time and distance can help. The trick is to use the time and distance to actually work on getting to a place of reconciliation. Too many times the time and space is used to allow grudges to grow and resentment to form, creating a permanent rift. There is nothing godly about bitterness and hatred.
Find ways to reconcile. Often working together to serve someone else helps reminds people of a common, larger purpose for their lives. At other times, doing something together that both enjoy can remind people of why they were close before the disagreement. Teach your kids to find ways to restore relationships that have been damaged by disagreements and to be the initiator of reconciliation.
Teaching your kids to disagree well can help them more accurately reflect God’s love to others. It can also help them avoid destroying important relationships when inevitable disagreements occur. It’s worth taking the time and effort to teach them how to do it well.
Last weekend, I had a Zoom reunion call with about 30 people from my floor in my freshman dorm in college. Some of the people I hadn’t seen since freshman year. Others have woven in and out of my life at various times over the decades.
We were one of the most diverse groups of people you have ever met, but as we shared stories and memories, we realized what an impact those friendships from decades ago had on our lives. Some of the influences were little, like introducing us to new foods or musical groups. Others had us reconsider ways of thinking or influenced choices we made.
Your kids probably started making friends at very young ages. Those early friendships were primarily managed by you and the other parents through play dates. As your children grow older though, they will take the lead in their friendships. Some will be for a season, while others may last a lifetime. All will impact them in ways small and large.
As a Christian parent, you hope your kids choose friends who will help them grow and become their best selves. You pray for friends that will support their faith and beliefs. Are there things you should do as a parent to help guide your kids in their friendships? Are there things you should avoid? Here are eight of our best tips on navigating your kids’ friendships.
Talk about the qualities of great friends. These conversations will take different forms, but should occur periodically over the years. Ask your kids what they look for in friends. Talk about your friends and why you chose them. Share about friendships that helped you and friendships that hurt you. Remember, as much as you want your kids to choose good friends, you want them to be a good friend, too.
Be the host house. Make your house kid/teen friendly. You don’t have to own every toy and gadget. Often just the willingness to have them come over and feed a few extra mouths is a draw to your kids’ friends. It also helps if you can tolerate noise and have a sense of humor when things get a little silly.
Actively listen when your kids’ friends want to talk to you. Most young people don’t have enough adults in their lives willing to really listen to them. You don’t have to have all of the answers, just caring enough to listen and ask interested questions makes a huge difference to many young people. Plus it gives you glimpses of their hearts.
Ask your kids thinking questions. Don’t immediately give your opinion when your kids share something one of their friends said or did. Ask thinking questions instead. This is especially important if your child tends to react more than be proactive. What did your child think of what was said or done? How did they and others feel about it? What might it tell them about what the person is thinking or feeling? Some young people are more likely to reach an acceptable conclusion when you let them work it out instead of telling them. You just need to guide their thinking by asking questions that may not occur to them.
Teach being kind to everyone, but allow them to choose their closest friends carefully. Most young people don’t have what it takes to take someone making a lot of poor choices and magically turn them into someone who makes great choices. They shouldn’t, however, be unkind or exclude others from playground games or lunch tables. It’s okay for them to have friends who are kept close because they are supportive, kind and make consistently good choices.
Remind your kids they will often become like the people with whom they spend the most time. Because we were older, we were a little more qualified to pick and choose what we took away from our friendships in our dorm. Children and teens are not always that discerning. They need to think carefully if they want to be like the people in a friend group before they join it. Conformity is often expected and they need to be sure the group has norms with which they want to conform.
Avoid forbidding friendships. Often, parents who struggle with their own relationships with their kids believe their only recourse is to demand their child no longer spends time with a friend the parent doesn’t like. This almost always backfires. It either causes resentment and places additional strain on your parent/child relationship or your child goes behind your back and continues the relationship. Neither is a good outcome. Often, working to improve your relationship with your child will eliminate the need they may feel to choose friends they know will irritate or disappoint you.
Get to know the parents of your kids’ friends well. You don’t have to be friends with them, too. You do need to know, however, what sort of boundaries they set and enforce for their kids. This is especially important if your child will be spending time in that home. I can’t tell you how many horror stories I have heard over the years of kids being molested at sleepovers by a friend’s dad or given free access to inappropriate media, alcohol or drugs. Some kids will let you know when they have had a bad experience, but others won’t. Your kid will survive going to a “half” sleepover, rather than spending the night better than they will a traumatic incident. Most families are perfectly safe, but you won’t know whether or not your kid is safe until you know the parents.
Friendships in childhood and during the teen years can be a minefield. Staying involved, without controlling and micromanaging, can help your kids learn how to make friendships that will help them grow to be who God created them to be.
It seems like childhood revolves around gifts. Either your kids are receiving gifts or giving them to the endless stream of classmates with birthdays. As children being raised in Christian homes, you want your kids to avoid becoming entitled and materialistic. You want them to realize that even at very young ages, they can make a positive difference in the lives of others by reflecting God’s love to them.
An easy way to remind your kids to reflect God’s love is to teach them about the five gifts they can give to others every day. In fact, they can give these gifts multiple times each day, brightening the lives of those they encounter and helping them see how much God must love them, too.
To make it easier, each gift they can give is connected to one of the five senses. If your kids have trouble remembering, just tell them to remember the five senses and the attached gifts should come to mind.
Eyes. Give the gift of smiling with their eyes to others. There is something about a genuine smile from another that can bring a little light to the darkest of days. Why is this attached to the eyes? Because you can fake a smile on your lips, but a genuine smile is always seen in the eyes, too.
Mouth. Encouraging words. Encouragement is rare in our world. When your kids focus on using their mouths to encourage others, they will make a positive difference in the lives of everyone they encourage.
Ears. Listening ears are also a gift. Not the half listening that many people practice, but true active listening. Many kids have no one…not even a parent…who will really listen to them. Your kids don’t have to have all of the answers. Often just having someone really listen to them can make a positive difference.
Hands. Helping hands are becoming a rarity as people become more self absorbed. Are your kids quick to offer their hands when help is needed? A little help at the right time can be life changing or at least make the person’s day a little easier.
Nose. Okay, this one is a bit of a stretch, but for kids and teens, it too can prove extremely helpful. Can your kids develop a “nose for trouble”? Can they sense when a choice someone is about to make could have negative consequences the person hasn’t considered? Can they sense when someone is worried or having troubles? Awareness is an important skill set for a Christian who wants to serve others and share their faith.
If you want your kids to impact the world for God, have them start here. Giving these five gifts daily may be all God asks them to do. On the other hand, giving these gifts daily may be preparing them for other good works God has prepared for them to do. Since they have been practicing these gifts, they are more likely to notice and complete those good works when they appear, too.
Your kids are probably homeschooling now, regardless of their regular school situation. Contact with others outside your home is strongly discouraged. In most places though, we are still allowed to walk in our neighborhoods and do things in our yards as long as we don’t come close to others.
Your kids can use this time to reflect God’s love to your neighbors. There are quite a few things they can do to serve and encourage the people nearby. Encourage them to be creative, but here are some ideas to get you started.
Chalk sidewalk art. Send a neighborhood email and offer for your kids to decorate the sidewalk near their mailbox or their driveway with colorful chalk drawings. Remind neighbors to stay inside while your children work. If you have public sidewalks in your neighborhood, most localities allow chalk drawings which will wash away in the next rain. Encourage your kids to come up with cheerful designs that point people to God in some way.
Mailbox art. Have your kids make works of art and tape them to the mailboxes of neighbors. Once again, encourage the use of cheerful colors and finding ways to incorporate scripture or point people to God in some way.
Encourage a neighborhood cheer project for the kids in your neighborhood. Have your kids make fliers and distribute them in your neighborhood. Encourage neighbors to put a specific type of object like a stuffed animal or a drawing of a giant Easter egg in the window of their home where it can be seen by children taking walks with their families. Encourage the families with small children to go on a “treasure hunt” to see how many of the chosen objects they can see in the windows of homes while they are walking with their parents.
Design work out stations. Have your kids design a special workout families can do at certain spots on their family walk in your neighborhood. Space the ideas far enough apart and make them quick enough so families don’t risk exposure to the germs of others. For example, draw a hopscotch board with chalk on a corner sidewalk and tell families to hop rather than walk that distance. Or at a certain landmark, jump up and down ten times. Be creative and distribute the ideas to everyone in your neighborhood digitally or otherwise.
Share Spring. If you have flowers or shrubs blooming in your yard, share them with those in your neighborhood who can’t get out at all. Have your kids decorate containers to put the flowers in with a little water. Then put them on a doorstep of a neighbor, ring the bell and run far enough away to not spread germs when your neighbor opens the door.
Offer weekly check in calls. Have neighbors sign up to receive a weekly video call from your family. Encourage your kids to come up with stories to tell, a song to sing or other things to fill the time after making sure the neighbor is fine.
There are so many ways your kids can use this time to be creative in the ways they serve others and share their faith without endangering themselves or others. Take advantage of the opportunity to teach your kids how God wants them to live their lives.