6 Signs You Are Raising a Victim

It’s important to understand that as a parent, you can’t always protect your kids from every bad thing that could happen to them. Sometimes, in spite of your best efforts, one or more of your kids will become a victim to an unfortunate circumstance, an illness or accident or even a crime.

When those truly bad things happen, your child will need a period of time to process and mourn the incident. That is normal and healthy. However, if they stay focused on that incident…if it begins defining who they are, then they will get stuck, unable to fully enjoy the rest of their lives.

Worse yet are children who are taught they are victims from birth. They are told in numerous ways that the world is out to get them and they will always be the victim. Once again, some people will live lives that are tougher than others. Refusing to define yourself or your kids as perpetual victims does not condone what others may do to you or them. It does not minimize the pain their words or actions cause. What refusing to see yourselves, define yourselves as perpetual victims, does is it allows you all to refuse to let those people and circumstances control you and the rest of your lives.

Refusing to define yourselves as victims allows you to process, mourn, forgive and then move on with your lives. You don’t become stuck. You don’t let it keep you from being who God wanted you to be. Yes, it may have some residual impact on you, but it shouldn’t define who you or your kids see themselves as….you should always view yourselves as beloved creations of God, with meaning and purpose.

The difference may sound subtle to you and difficult to really understand. It’s the difference between introducing yourself, “I’m Sam the robbery victim” and “I’m Sam (someone God loves and has plans for), who got robbed once.” The first sentence has Sam constantly reflecting and defining himself through the lens of that incident. The second has Sam defining himself as someone loved by God…whom God has planned good works for…that happened to be robbed once.

Not sure if you or your kids are defining yourselves as victims and not allowing yourselves to live the life God wants for you? Here are six signs of a victim mentality.

  • Continually thinking and talking about the incident long after it is over. After the initial processing and mourning period, there may occasionally be something that brings the incident to mind. It may also bring back some of those original feelings. That is normal. If, however, the incident is something thought about almost every day and especially multiple times each day, that can become problematic.
  • Constantly feeling sorry for yourself. If you or your child is constantly throwing a pity party, there may be a victim mindset developing. Everyone wants a little sympathy after a bad experience. If the pity parties are held frequently, chances are the one throwing the constant parties is developing or has developed a victim mindset.
  • Everything is always unjust or unfair. The perpetual victim also seeks perpetual sympathy. He or she tells every incident in a way that is designed for others to feel sorry for him or her. If that doesn’t work, they may try to convince the others they are also victims.
  • Always focuses on the negative. If there are two ways to look at an incident, the perpetual victim will only see the negative one. They find it impossible to see the silver lining, or see some good that came out of a bad situation. Think Eeyore on a really bad day.
  • Reframed events. If the teacher fussed at your child’s class, the teacher was just fussing at him or her. Every event is reframed so the perpetual victim was targeted. Obviously, your child will be targeted at times. If it’s constant though, you may be raising a victim or at least more investigation is warranted (for example, if a bully has actually targeted your child).
  • Acting helpless. On bad days, we all regress a bit. What adult hasn’t secretly had days when they wished they could be the kid again? Helplessness can manifest itself in a couple of ways. The first is often that there is no action the victim can take to prevent from becoming a victim again. In actuality, there may be several things that can be done to either prevent that type of incident from reoccurring or that will help achieve a better outcome if it were to happen again. If your children are constantly claiming they aren’t able to do things which they are perfectly capable of doing, that can also be a sign of a victim mindset or entitlement. Oddly enough, the victim mindset and entitlement often do appear together. Partially because often victims are told they can’t or shouldn’t do anything for themselves…particularly by predators who many times are also the perpetrators.

You can’t protect your kids from everything, but you can equip them to recover and continue living the lives God wants for them. It takes hard work and at times outside help, but it’s crucial if you want your kids to live a rich, full, Christian life.

Can Your Children’s Music Really Influence Them

Full confession. I am one of those people who tends to make up their own lyrics to songs. Mind you, it isn’t intentional. I tend to misunderstand them and choose similar sounding, but inevitably wrong words. During my teen years, I also quickly realized the lyrics of many songs whizzed past me as I did not hang out with a group that regularly used foul slang terms. The lyrics I sang were rather innocent, even if the original lyrics weren’t.

Having said that, I have heard adults for decades claim that the lyrics of songs do influence many, if not most teens. I decided to do some research. Obviously, God would prefer we listen to songs with wonderful lyrics. If, however, your teens prefer more mainstream music, could it really impact their faith journey negatively?

The first study I found was under the oversight of the Prevention Research Center. Their study Music, Substance Abuse and Aggression came to some interesting conclusions.

They found that there did seem to be a significant connection between listening to rap music and alcohol use, illicit drug use and aggressive behaviors when all other variables were controlled. Alcohol and illicit drug use (but evidently not aggressive behaviors) were also strongly tied to young people who listened to techno and reggae.

What is unclear, however, is whether listening to those genres encourages those behaviors or young people engaged in those behaviors are drawn to those genres of music. (Note: In this study, alternative, R&B, rock, pop, country, punk, heavy metal, salsa, classical, jazz and world music did not seem to have the same connection to negative behaviors. None of those sampled listened to Christian music.)

They also found that a young person’s gender, age, sensation seeking and ethnicity had some influence on substance abuse and aggressive behaviors. These were controlled for in the genres of music, but it indicates a third sphere of influence on negative teen behaviors.

Their final conclusion was that a teen’s substance abuse and aggressive behaviors could be connected to their frequent listening to the lyrics of certain genres of music containing lyrics about alcohol, drugs and violence.

Also interesting is the impact music and lyrics can have on emotions. A study by Bharucha found that people tend to listen to music to help them feel a specific emotion. So if they want to feel happy, people tend to choose to listen to happy, upbeat songs. Young people may also choose particular songs because the lyrics reflect their current feelings. When one recalls lyrics are actually poetry, this dynamic makes sense.

A study by Vastjall, found that participants reported significantly less stress in periods when they were listening to music than in periods of time when they weren’t. They concluded that even a passive listening to music can influence mood.

Music can also be used to manipulate the emotions of others. Countries have regularly used music as part of their torturing regimen. Music may be chosen for this purpose because of the tune or the lyrics. Volume was also used to create a response in those being tortured.

So what does God have to say about music? In the Bible, we see many verses suggesting we use music to praise God and encourage and teach others. Perhaps the most applicable verse to our discussion of the impact of negative lyrics would be Philippians 4:8. Paul tells us God wants us to fill our minds with things that are good, pure, lovely, admirable and the like. Why? Because the lyrics that become locked in our minds can influence us and God would prefer that influence to be positive.

Should you ban your kids from listening to anything except hymns? That type of parenting can easily backfire, if you aren’t careful. On the other hand, having open discussions between parents and teens about the music each prefers (Mom and Dad’s favorite tunes might have suspect lyrics, too!), it’s lyrics and how it may be influencing each of them can and should be a regular conversation in Christian homes.

Is Your Criticism Aversion Hurting Your Kids?

We live in a world where everyone is encouraged to criticize, but no one is encouraged to listen. Actually, you are encouraged to listen to the person’s criticism who is speaking or writing, but no one else’s critiques matter. It’s often couched in phrases like, “Everyone is doing the best they can.” Or “No one has a right to tell me what to do.” Or the ever popular, “Imperfection shows I’m only human.”

Unfortunately, this aversion to criticism is hurting young people – and not just because they won’t listen to our critiques. We live in a world that frowns upon self examination and self improvement – that embraces imperfection as laudable. A world where people would rather experience a hundred miserable failures than listen to the constructive criticism of others.

Yet, God calls Christians to a higher standard. We are to examine ourselves and strive for improvement, growth and even perfection. (Matthew 5:48, 2 Peter 1:5-8 and others) As Christian parents, we need to examine our parenting and our children to see if what we are doing is really helping our kids build strong spiritual foundations and grow to their godly potential.

A recent article in Psychology Today, gave several reasons why parents are missing their kids’ depression. The advice boiled down to parents need to listen – really listen to their kids, and they need not look for quick fixes, but should put in the work necessary to really help their kids deal with their depression.

Yet how many parents read that article or the previous paragraph from a defensive mindset? How many excuses or critiques of the author whipped through your brain while you were reading it? How incensed were you that someone dared to criticize how you listen to your children or how you try to help them with their problems?

Now imagine, if this were written from a Christian perspective. How would you react, if they added concerns about the spiritual health of your children? Or quoted scriptures? Or made specific suggestions of ways to help them process their emotions with God’s help? Or suggested something you are doing is hurting, rather than helping your kids?

We all know that not every critique is equally valid. Yet immediately dismissing all criticism – even that which is constructive and godly – is dangerous for us and our kids. Taking a little while longer to compare it to scripture and examine it for truth and validity could save us a lot of time and spare us a lot of grief.

Godly, constructive criticism can help you catch Christian parenting mistakes before they hurt your kids spiritually. It can save you time wasted by trial and error. It can improve your Christian parenting outcomes by allowing you to learn from those wiser and/or more experienced than you.

It’s worth taking a little extra time to really listen and process constructive criticism directed at your parenting. It can make a huge positive difference in the lives of your kids. It’s worth conquering your aversion, at least long enough to listen and vet what others are saying.

Fun Family Bible Activity: Needs v. Wants

Let’s be honest. We leave in a greedy world. Our society wants us to believe we need all sorts of things that are actually wants. Christians aren’t immune from materialism either. So what can you do to raise kids who truly understand God’s view of needs v. wants?

Grab some magazines, random items around your house and a Bible. Tell your kids the story of David and Bathsheba found in 2 Samuel 11 and 12 and 1 Kings 1 and 2. It’s not necessary with young children to focus on the sexual aspects of the story, but rather that David felt like he needed Uriah’s wife, even though he already had wives of his own.

Explain that David was so intent on getting what he wanted, he committed several sins to get it. Explain that God wants us to understand we actually need very little. Most of the things we think we need, we actually want. Explain that when we get confused, we can often do things that make God unhappy and even sin – especially if we primarily focus on getting all of those things we want for ourselves.

Explain to your kids, you are going to play the game Wants v. Needs. Hold up one of the items you gathered. Ask your kids whether it is something they want or need. If they believe it is something they need, they should also share how much of it they think they need in a given time period. Older children can be asked to support their choices with evidence.

After a few items, give them the magazines. Have them find pictures of things they want versus things they need. Older children can examine ads to see how companies try to convince people they need something, they actually merely want.

Can your family come to an agreement about what your needs actually are in life? Now think about playing the same game if you were a family living in one of the poorest countries on earth instead of one of the richest. Would your answers be different? What if your grandparents had played the game when they were little? What if Jesus played the game when he lived on earth?

End your time by discussing ways your family can be less concerned with getting “stuff”. How can you all be more grateful for the blessings God has given you? How can you share your blessings with others who may not even have everything they need?

Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids to Separate Facts From Opinions

One of the challenges Christians face is that the world is full of opinions. The Bible is filled with Truth or facts. The difficulty comes in recognizing the difference between a person’s opinion and someone who is relaying an actual fact or one of God’s factual truths from the Bible.

In our world today, people often state their opinions as if they are indeed proven facts. Even school textbooks often contain opinions masked as facts. Others purposely present lies as truthful facts. The lines between fact and opinion can quickly become almost totally obscured. No wonder even Christians are often confused about whether something is someone’s opinion or an actual fact.

Differentiating facts from opinions is a critical Christian life skill your children must learn. Otherwise, they will be easily swayed by arguments fueled only by opinion masquerading as facts. This can cause them to believe all sorts of lies and false teachings – accidental or intentional.

There are some fun things you can do with your kids to help them learn to differentiate between opinions and facts. Here are some of our favorites.

  • What’s the news? Grab a newspaper. Have your kids choose an article that interests them. Can they highlight the facts in one color and opinions in another? Remind them that facts must be backed up by evidence while opinions may or may not have any evidence supporting them. Older children may also want to look at an editorial and then compare the results to a news article. Which piece has more opinions?
  • But the book says… Have your child grab a social studies, economics, history or government textbook. Encourage them to analyze a chapter of the book. Can they find examples of the author’s opinion? Does the author write his or her opinion as if it were fact? If your child finds what he or she believes is a fact in the text, is there actually evidence to support the supposed fact? Can the evidence be trusted or is the author merely quoting someone else’s opinion as proof of their supposed fact?
  • What did the preacher say? Have your child jot down every statement the preacher makes that they believe is a fact. Afterwards, have them look through the Bible to see if those “facts” are accurate. Or have them write down the statements the preacher made that they believe are the speaker’s opinion. Can they find scriptures to support or refute that opinion?
  • Mother may I? The next time your child wants to present an argument to convince you to change your mind on a topic, have them present it as a lawyer might in court. Only the ground rules for their case is that they can only present facts, no opinions. Can they provide enough facts to make a strong case?
  • Should it be a law? Politicians are masters at making opinions look like facts. Have your kids analyze political ads, speeches or legislative debates. Can they point out all of the “facts” that are actually opinions? To make it more challenging, have them analyze both political parties – especially the one your family generally supports.

Sometimes opinions are accurate. They are based on evidence, facts and truth. If the person stating the opinion does not give your kids that supporting information, they need to learn to investigate themselves. This is especially important when it concerns matters regarding their spiritual lives. Giving them guided practice differentiating between opinions and facts can help protect them from being deceived by someone’s opinion.