Protecting Your Kids From Predators

Stranger danger right? As much as the idea scares young parents, it is much more likely your child will be pulled away from family, friends and God by a predator. Predators are slick, savvy and often subtle at first. Not all of them are sexual predators, but they are all dangerous in their own ways.

Thankfully, there are ways you can protect your kids from being targeted by predators as their victims or their enablers (enablers are often used to help the predator recruit more victims). Predators look for some key characteristics in their prey. If your children don’t have them, predators will often ignore them in favor of easier victims.

  • Give your kids lots of emotional and physical attention. Predators look for young people who don’t feel connected to their parents. Often these kids are run aways, but predators also target kids from families where the parents are too busy with their own lives to give their children the attention and love they need. If your child is well loved and has consistent, meaningful interactions with you and your spouse, they won’t be attracted by the attentions of a random adult.
  • Give your kids a strong spiritual foundation. Many of the things predators use to attract kids and teens either won’t appeal to young people with strong spiritual foundations, or will at least set off warning bells. Kids who have a strong understanding of what God has declared right and wrong, know something is dangerous about an adult who is encouraging them to do things they know are wrong. Most healthy adults, protect young people from those things – even if they’re not Christians and participate in them themselves.
  • Reinforce constantly that your kids can tell you anything – even if they know you won’t like it. Predators often use fear of parental reaction to manipulate young people. Make it clear that if any adult asks your child to do something they know is wrong, they will not get in trouble for telling you. Often predators will blackmail kids they meet online by threatening to tell them they were spending money on video games or something similar. Make sure your kids understand that while there may be consequences for those minor infractions, you are more concerned that they are safe and not being manipulated by someone who wants to hurt them.
  • Help your kids establish and defend healthy boundaries. They should be comfortable declining to participate in activities they know are wrong and be willing to be firm and walk away to get help if necessary. (This skill set also helps with peer pressure.)
  • Teach your kids about the lobster in the pot. Or is it a frog? Either way, the heat is turned up so gradually, the animal doesn’t realize it is in danger of being cooked and eaten until it is too late. Predators don’t usually start at the end goal. They start where the person is and encourage them to stretch their boundaries over time. Teach your kids to be watchful of anyone who keeps encouraging them to go just a little bit beyond what they know is right.
  • Teach your kids to be careful around people who make promises that sound too good to be true or who flatter them too much. “Free” things often come with strings attached. Predators will often “give” kids lots of things and then tell them they owe them an impossible amount of money. They tell the young person, they can be repaid (without parents finding out) if they will “just” …fill in the blank with send nude photos, run drugs, etc. Predators also use flattery and praise in their recruitment process. If your child is average looking, being told they have the looks to be a “top model” may feel good, but many young people have lost lots of money on “modeling” lessons from predators who knew they had no real chance in the industry.
  • Teach your kids critical thinking skills. Cults can be just as dangerous as other predators. They hide their motives in words of altruism and higher purpose. Often their actual beliefs are strange – especially compared to scripture. Kids with strong critical thinking skills will often ask lots of questions before just accepting something new. Cult leaders and other predators don’t appreciate questions as it can cause trouble with those they are already preying upon. They will often reject questioners outright as “not ready” for whatever it is they are claiming to offer.
  • Teach your kids that they may not make great decisions when afraid or elated. There are very few choices that absolutely must be made in the moment. Teach them to ask for time to think about it. If the person says “no”, there is a very good chance someone is trying to manipulate them in some way.
  • Teach your kids that drugs and alcohol do not lead to great decisions. Predators use alcohol and drugs to lower the inhibitions of their prey. They know people will do things when drunk or high they would never do when sober.
  • Teach your kids to distance themselves from people whom they regularly catch lying. Predators lie….a lot. In fact, they are pathological about it. Young people need to avoid people who lie constantly – even if they aren’t predators. They just don’t have enough maturity and life experience to handle it.
  • Don’t allow your kids to view themselves as victims of others. Yes, your kids may have had an experience when they were someone’s victim. Defining oneself as a perpetual victim makes them very vulnerable to predators. Young people who allow themselves to be defined as a victim because of any number of factors, believe they have no voice and no power. That makes them vulnerable. God can help your kids process and move away from bad circumstances so they are defined by how God sees them and not as a perpetual victim.
  • Teach your kids to recognize and avoid narcissists. Predators often use enablers to identify new prey and help groom them for the predator. For some reason, these people are often narcissists. Everything is about what they need and want. The feelings and needs of others are meaningless to them. They often act in cruel ways to anyone who questions them or asks for parity. Young people don’t have the tools to handle the narcissists of the world. They need to spend as little time with them as possible.
  • Teach your kids to think carefully if friends and family are all expressing concerns about their relationship with someone. Yes, there are rare times when they will be wrong. In general though, if everyone who loves you is concerned, there may very well be something to be concerned about. Teach them to at the very least take a break from the person of concern so they can clear their head and think clearly.
  • If necessary, teach your kids to ignore any threats to you and come tell you what is happening. In the more severe cases of predators, victims are often told their family will be hurt in some way if they tell anyone what is really happening. Make sure your kids know that you will get the help you need to be safe, but you can’t help them if you don’t know they are in trouble.

No one can guarantee your child will never be approached by a predator. Doing the things in the list above though, will make your kids much less attractive to predators looking for prey.

Teaching Your Kids God’s Principles

Periodically, aspects of secular culture invade Christianity. It’s well disguised, because it is often promoted by theologians and the ministers who are taught by them. Unfortunately, many of today’s theologians are thinly veiled agnostics or atheists and it impacts how they view scripture.

One of the most common ways of currently undermining scripture is by claiming that much of it wasn’t written to apply to us. The argument is that an Old Testament prophecy only applies to the specific group of people to whom it was given. Or that a New Testament epistle only applies to the original person or church to whom it was written.

On the surface this sounds logical. If the people in Nineveh hadn’t repented when Jonah preached, God would have destroyed them. The specific prophecy wasn’t about the country next door.

Paul’s letters to Timothy, Titus or Philemon did indeed contain specific instructions for those people. If he wanted Barnabas or someone else to do something specific, I’m sure he would have written them, too.

What these types of theological arguments often miss though, is that in addition to specific commands, God has underlying principles. He knew some things stay the same over hundreds or even thousands of years, but other things change. He also may not have cared to list each person who would ever be covered by His blessings or every single possible sinful activity in a category.

When God makes a promise or gives a warning to a specific group of people, there are often underlying principles that apply to all of His people. When God says He loves His people – even in an Old Testament book – I don’t need my name mentioned specifically to know I’m included. When God repeatedly says He detests lies and lying, He doesn’t need to list every possible way a person could lie or obfuscate the truth for the principle to be obvious.

This rejection theology also ignores the fact that almost as quickly as scripture was written down, it was passed among the people to learn what God wanted them to do. They didn’t seem to think most of the books weren’t written specifically to them and therefore didn‘t apply.

We have strong evidence the gospels and epistles were quickly passed from city to city and congregation to congregation and were considered to be inspired by God. There is no evidence they assumed the commands and principles didn’t apply to them, even if they weren’t the original addressee.

Why is this so important to teach your kids? Because ignoring biblical principles is one of the most common ways Christians currently use to excuse their disobedience and their sinful choices. Teens have always had a talent for this. (“God didn’t specifically say it was wrong to get high on cocaine.”)

The ignoring of biblical principles has seeped into the lives of adult Christians now and even into pulpits. Listen carefully for how many times someone teaching, preaching or having a conversation says something like, “I know the Bible says xyz, but…”. The “but” is usually followed by some version of it wasn’t meant for me to obey, because if God had known what I know, He wouldn’t have said that. Or even worse, implying that God did not inspire scripture.

Teach your kids to remember those conversations between Adam, Eve and the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. Remember the argument that seemed to sway Eve? Satan basically claimed, “God only told you not to eat the fruit because…” and of course, “You won’t really die.” He was trying to convince her God’s rules were not meant for her. He wanted her to believe her wants were more informed, more important, than God’s commands and principles.

Satan’s tricks haven’t changed in thousands of years. We just tend to forget what they are and to be watchful for them. Teach your kids to watch for those biblical principles and not to believe the argument that biblical principles no longer matter to God or apply to them.

4 Ways to Develop Intrinsic Motivation in Your Kids

When parents want a child to do something, they often fall back on two parenting standards, the “carrot” and the “stick”. The “carrot” is offering some sort of reward if the child obeys or accomplishes a goal set by the parent. The “stick” is some sort of negative consequence given for disobedience or failing to reach a parental goal.

The problem with both the “carrot” and the “stick” is that they are methods of external motivation. The parent has to continue supplying rewards or threatening consequences to get the child to exhibit the appropriate behaviors. While this can work in the short run, it has one large fatal flaw.

Extrinsic motivation does little to change the child’s heart. It focuses merely on the visible behaviors of a child. External consequences are a necessary part of parenting. They help remind a child that disobedience has consequences. Rewards can be helpful on rare occasions as an encouragement for a child to begin tackling a large task. Neither though really focus on developing the godly heart we want our children to have.

To help children develop that godly heart, it’s important to find ways to encourage the intrinsic motivation that usually accompanies it. A child who is intrinsically motivated and has a heart for God will still make mistakes and sin. They are much more likely, however, to grow to be faithful, productive Christians as adults.

So what do children being raised in Christian homes need from their parents to develop the intrinsic motivation to obey God? Intrinsic motivation is based on a genuine interest and ambition towards completing certain actions. To have that intrinsic motivation to obey God, your kids will need:

  • Knowledge of God. They don’t need to just know a bunch of Bible stories and other scriptures that tell them what God wants from His people. They need this knowledge of what is in the Bible to understand who God is – in general – but also specifically to them. That knowledge can begin giving them that internal, passion for loving and obeying Him.
  • Understanding of God’s wisdom and plans. Understanding how wise God is and God’s plans are key parts of both having passion and ambition for obeying God. Who wouldn’t want to go through life following God who holds all wisdom and has a plan for them to live eternally in Heaven with Him? Obviously, there are many more details, but the principle is the same. Without understanding why God wants them to obey Him, it will be difficult for your kids to internally motivate themselves.
  • Valuing God. There are a lot of aspects of this valuing of God. Your kids have to have that passion and ambition for following, worshipping and obeying God. It will come in part when they truly value their relationship with Him and want that relationship to grow stronger and deeper. If they don’t value God in their lives, they probably won’t spend a lifetime worshipping and serving Him.
  • Gratitude. It’s often the gratitude for God’s gifts, Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and everything else God has done for us that leads people to becoming Christians who are active, faithful and productive servants of God. A quick glance through the epistles in the New Testament reveals the immense gratitude the writers had for everything God had given them. If your kids aren’t grateful for God’s blessings, for Jesus dying on the cross for their sins, for the opportunity to spend eternity in Heaven with God, they will struggle to follow Him and share their faith with others.

Helping your kids develop the intrinsic motivation to worship, serve and obey God is vitally important. It’s worth taking the time and effort to help them develop hearts that are truly God’s.

Using the Bible to Help Your Kids Practice School Skills

Is your child struggling in school? Are you concerned your kids will forget some of their math or language skills during the summer vacation? Are you looking for educational activities your family can enjoy together, but that also teach them about God? Do you homeschool?

Our parent ministry Teach One Reach One Ministries has hundreds of free activities to help. Originally designed for ministries to use in faith-based tutoring, many are also things you can do at home with your own children.

For over two hundred Bible stories, we have been creating activities that also directly tie them to elementary math and language arts skills, science, health and ESL. We even have some sustenance and survival activities for those of you up for an adventure. (Of course, there are also Bible, application and service project ideas, too.)

We have hundreds of free activity ideas already uploaded to our website and will be adding several hundred more by the end of the summer. In the coming months, we hope to further sub-divide academic topics into specific skills to make it easier to find the ones you need.

All of the activities are designed by educators and are hands-on, participatory, meaningful and memorable. Most require items you probably already have around the house, while some may require purchasing a few items. So take a look around. Keep checking back as we upload new activity ideas and subdivide them by skills. You can also follow our parent ministry – Teach One Reach One Ministries on Facebook or Instagram for the latest news on additions to our website.

The best part is your kids will also learn things about God as they are practicing skills they need for school. Not to mention getting to spend more quality time with you. It’s the best sort of multi-tasking!

Should Christians Raise Victims?

Should Christians Raise Victims? - Parenting Like Hannah“It wasn’t my fault!” This one sentence from your children can test every bit of godly patience you have managed to acquire in a lifetime. Why? Because it is often followed by a long list of excuses – most of which are just ridiculous.

The reality is your child made a choice – probably not a great one from his or her response. The “it’s not my fault conversation” is merely an attempt to wiggle out of personal responsibility and consequences.

Sadly, we live in a world that actually encourages people to define themselves by their victimhood. While some people actually are the victims of crimes, manipulation and the evil actions of others, many are the victims of their own poor choices. Encouraging them to have a lifelong victim mentality is not in anyone’s best interest.

Continue reading Should Christians Raise Victims?