Have you ever made a New Year’s Resolution? How long were you able to keep it? If you are like me, I’m good for a few days or a few weeks at most. Here’s the critical question. Once you broke that resolution, what happened? Most people find when they break the resolution, they give themselves a free pass until the end of the year. Why? Because no matter how badly we say we want to change, it’s hard work. We often have developed bad habits because even though they are bad for us, there was a pay out of some sort in them – usually a make-me-feel-good-in-the-moment one.
Your kids are no different. How many times have you nagged them to change a bad habit? How successful were you? Did they ever agree they wanted to change it, but still were unsuccessful? How can your kids grow spiritually and become more godly in their thoughts and actions if change is impossible?
Change really isn’t impossible. In Matthew 19:26, Jesus tells us “with God everything is possible.” So what do you need to do to help your kids learn how to make necessary changes in their lives? There are probably a lot of little things, but here are three basic concepts for them to learn:
Recently, I was having an email conversation with a woman who works trying to save children and teens from child trafficking. She mentioned something which stopped me in my tracks. She said one of the hardest things she does is trying to convince parents of the dangers of allowing their children to participate in virtual sin. It took me a minute or two to process what she meant.
Virtual sin is when anyone participates in a sin in a virtual environment. In other words, if your child regularly plays a game where part of the game is murdering people, that would be a virtual sin. If the characters are naked or nearly so or participate in some sexual acts with a child’s avatar, the child has participated in virtual pornography. Basically anything one does in the arena of a video game or online that would be sinful in “real” life is a virtual sin.
Walk into most youth centers. Listen to the testimonies given by adults. They are often sad stories of consequences from disobeying God. While those stories have a place in youth ministry, often these testimonies are ignored by the very teens for whom they are given.
Teens often feel almost invincible. Of course those adults had problems, they obviously weren’t very bright anyway. Teens know they can “have fun”, disobey a selected few of God’s laws for several years and escape unscathed.
Probe a little deeper and there is actually just a wee bit more to the story. Ask a few more questions and you will often find the teen is terrified of living the obviously dull and boring life that is the fate of every Christian. I mean look at their parents!
What those teens and frankly, I am beginning to think their youth ministers and the vast majority of the people in the Church no longer realize is that you can have the most exciting, fulfilling, adventurous life possible and still keep the “big three” commands of the teen and college years (no getting drunk, using drugs or sex before marriage). In fact, you may even be surprised at the adventures some of the people in your congregation had and are still having. They just don’t talk about it in church.
Start asking people at church about some of the adventures they have had in their lives. Ask them if they had to sin to have those adventures. If not, invite them to share their stories with your teens and possibly the teens in your church. Make it as clear as you can that it is absolutely possible to have a ton of fun (with none of those nasty consequences) and obey God at the same time.
Changing your child’s world view of the ability of Christians to have fun and still be godly, may just increase the likelihood of them doing the same themselves. I think that’s a legacy any family and any church would love to have!
Impulse control is one of the most difficult, yet most important concepts to teach your children. It is what gives them the time to think about what God would want them to do in a situation before they act and possibly sin. It is a critical skill necessary to live a life of godly self-discipline. Yet, it is a skill most of us will have to work on for our entire lives.
So what do we teach our kids about impulse control? How do we train them to think before acting? What do we teach them about how God factors into the process? There are a lot of things to consider, but here are a few to get you started:
Ask parents of teens what secretly worries them the most about their child’s teen years. They will probably mention their child’s possible sexual activity as one of the fears that can keep them up at night. Parents tend to have one of two mindsets about teen purity – either teens are going to do it no matter what, so let’s just help them be “safe” or if I dress them in maxi dresses and scare them to death (or don’t bring it up at all) it won’t happen. The results are often disastrous.
One of the biggest mistakes parents, churches and others make in the purity battle is making it all about the girls/women. The trend seems to favor the idea that “boys will be boys” so just encourage them to be careful and not produce unwanted heirs. As the mother of a girl, this will get me on my soapbox faster than you can say “birth control”.