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.

Kids, Science and God

Full confession. I am no expert in science. In high school, I had a couple of football coaches as science teachers. In college, my biology professor is what I can only describe as an angry atheist. He seemed to spend as much time bashing God and Christianity as he did teaching biology.

In spite of those negative experiences, there is something fascinating about science. Perhaps because it is a way to examine how amazing God’s creation really is. The problem is that science and Christianity have drawn battle lines that can hurt both of them.

Science has lost a lot by refusing to accept the existence of God (as a discipline – many scientists are still Christians). Christians can miss out by refusing to let children gifted by God in science to participate in the field for fear they will be pulled away from God. This means there are fewer Christians in science today than perhaps there should be.

Your kids exposure to science can undermine their faith under the right circumstances. It doesn’t have to be that way. Taking some precautions can help strengthen the faith foundations of young people who will be exposed to scientists who are atheist or agnostic.

  • Expose your children to Christian scientists and their writings and studies. There is peer pressure in science to agree with the “party line” rather than search for truth – regardless of what it reveals. There are plenty of well educated, Christian scientists, however. At times they are kept out of the journals, because of their beliefs. They, however, are reputable and have published books and studies with a different perspective on the data. Answers In Genesis is a great resource of these writings. They have free resources as well as ones you can purchase. Many are written specifically for kids and teens.
  • Teach your children about bias and how it can impact the interpretation of data. We attended church with a gentleman who had a PhD in astronomy and ran a secular university. He had a very detailed scientific argument for why the flood makes much of the radiocarbon dating inaccurate. For scientists who don’t believe in a worldwide flood (even with lots of physical evidence) radiocarbon dating is infallible. The eruption of Mt St. Helens a few decades ago rocked the scientific world because phenomenon they had claimed took millions of years to happen, happened in a few weeks during the eruption.
  • Textbooks and science teachers aren’t always up to date on the latest studies. Even scientists who are atheists are moving away from the idea of random evolution. As more instruments can detect the intricacy in creation, they have had to admit the idea of that many things happening by accident is beyond impossible. Now, they aren’t ready to embrace God – some are crediting “intelligent life” on other planets – but it’s still a huge step away from Darwin. They have made other steps towards acknowledging God creating everything as described in the Bible – like the pre-Cambrian explosion – where all types of creatures suddenly appeared at the same time. (Of course, stopping short of acknowledging God.) Your children’s teachers may have textbooks that don’t address these shifts or they may not have read more current information.
  • Continually remind your kids God’s truths are THE truth and the truths of others may or may not be true – no matter how much evidence they think they have. If you are old enough, you have seen science declare eggs, fat, sugar and other things good for us and then bad for us in an almost dizzying cycle. Each time they have had plenty of data to support their claim…until the data came out that reversed their conclusions.
  • Science doesn’t have to reject God in order to be “good” science. In fact, some scientific fields have quite a few Christians in them. If your kids are interested in science, they may find things that help us live healthier or better lives. They just need to be aware that they will need to protect their faith against assaults and peer pressure. Discuss the ways they can do that before they begin encountering a lot of people who may mock their religious beliefs.
  • Science can point your kids to God. There is a sweet kids’ devotional book Indescribable by Louie Giglio. It contains a 100 devotions that use interesting things in science to point kids to God. Answers in Genesis also has plenty of resources for kids about things like dinosaurs that acknowledge God and contain solid science. Our parent website Teach One Reach One Ministries has free science project activities connected to Bible stories for those who want a way to do science experiments with their kids while also teaching them about God.

You don’t have to teach your kids to hate science if you want them to grow up to be faithful, productive Christians. You do need to prepare them though, so those teaching them science don’t weaken their faith. It’s worth your time and effort.

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.

Top Tips for Raising Greed Free Kids

Have you seen the viral post claiming to have found a way to cure holiday tantrums over toys? Evidently, the mom struggled with her child having melt downs in toy aisles of stores because she wanted something from Santa right then.

The mom’s solution? Take a photo of the child holding the toy to “send to Santa”. She claimed the child immediately calmed down and often even forgot she wanted the toy.

As a Christian parent, I have so many issues with this supposedly wonderful idea. Beyond the implied lie to the child that she will indeed get everything she wants from Santa (the mother had no intention evidently of giving her child most of those toys), the solution feeds a greedy, entitled heart.

There are several more effective ways of avoiding the “child melting down in the toy aisle” scenario. In fact, doing these things consistently can help you raise kids who don’t become greedy at all.

  • Stay out of toy aisles and toy stores with your child. Showing kids aisles and aisles of things they didn’t even know existed, only tempts them to want those things. Why encourage greed? The only time a child should be on any toy aisle is to quickly choose a present for someone else. Even in those cases, discuss ahead of time which toy you will probably purchase, find it quickly and immediately move to the checkout or another less tempting section of the store.
  • Avoid commercial television, catalogs and other advertising. Advertising is another way children become convinced they need something they didn’t even know existed until they saw the ad.
  • Explain the family budget in age appropriate ways. Even young children can understand how hard their parents work to earn the money you have. They also need to understand that God wants us to give money back to Him and to help others first. After that, there are bills that must be paid. Your family must also save money for things like college, family vacations and to repair the car when it breaks down. The little money left is for fun things like toys. You never want your children to worry about money, but they need to understand there isn’t an unlimited supply either.
  • Limit presents to Christmas and birthdays. If they want anything between those holidays, they must earn and save the money for those items by doing extra little jobs around the house or saving their allowance. Regularly giving your kids toys for no real reason makes them think they may just get everything they want – especially if they make it clear it is something they want badly.
  • Never reward tantrums. Your kids need to understand the quickest way to make sure they never receive a toy is to pitch a tantrum about wanting it. For older children, you may have to make a similar rule about continual begging for an item.
  • Set a good example. If you constantly talk about the things you want, spend too many hours and too much money shopping for non essential items, you can’t expect your kids to act differently.
  • Make sure your family finds giving more rewarding than receiving. Make regularly serving others and sharing the things you have a family priority. Focus more on how your family can give than how your family can accumulate more things for yourselves. When unexpected money comes into your family, give God a portion first.

You won’t banish greed from your child’s life by snapping a picture of him or her in a toy aisle. You can, however, by helping your child grow a godly, generous heart. It takes more time and effort, but it’s actually effective.

3 Crucial Kindness Principles for Christian Kids

Popular culture is fascinating. Sometimes the things it supports can be absolutely horrifying. At times, they actually have a good idea. Unfortunately, the secular nature of culture often means this good idea is twisted away from God’s wisdom and can actually cause problems.

Christian kids are susceptible to accepting the world’s view of these seemingly Christian concepts. Unfortunately, when they don’t compare it to God’s complete wisdom on the topic, they accept the diluted or changed wisdom the world is promoting as truth.

The latest example is the emphasis on kindness. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being kind to others. In fact the Bible even tells us to love our enemies.

The problem is how kindness is often interpreted by the secular society in which we live. To many, kindness means we can never share God’s truths with someone because it may hurt their feelings. Once our children believe those sorts of things, they will not grow up to share their faith for fear it isn’t being kind.

There are three key principles Christian parents need to repeatedly teach their children about kindness.

  • Kind and nice are two different things. Kindness is doing what is in the best interest of the other person. Niceness is more focused on the feelings of the other person – causing the one being nice to avoid saying or doing the things the person may most need.
  • Being kind is learning to speak truth in loving ways. It may be in the best interest of a friend to know they have garlic breath before walking into a job interview. Telling them is the kind thing to do. Often though, we forget there is also a loving way to share these difficult truths with others.
  • The ultimate kindness is helping people get to Heaven. Christian young people often believe it is unkind and unloving to tell someone they need to be a Christian to go to Heaven or to hold someone accountable for their sin. Teach your kids that making someone believe they are going to Heaven when they have not become a Christian or are living a life enmeshed in sin, is actually the ultimate unkind act. They are placing someone’s possible hurt feelings over teaching them God’s truths. This should be done in kind, loving ways, but don’t allow your kids to grow up believing withholding God’s truths from others is kind.

The world will probably continue to equate kindness with niceness. Teach your kids about what God considers kindness. It can make a huge difference for everyone your kids encounter during their lifetimes.