Weekly Christian Parenting Challenges #16

How was your week? Need encouragement or ideas? Here are our social media challenges for the week.

Monday: To your kids life can feel like a maze. They need your help learning how to navigate it. Not to run it for them, but to teach them how God wants them to run it. That will take a lot of time and effort, put you have to do your part if you want them to have the best chance of spending eternity in Heaven.

Tuesday: What will your kids remember about their childhood? Probably not always what you think. What they often remember and unintentionally copy are your attitudes and actions. Making sure you are accurately reflecting God’s image makes it more likely they will. Struggling with a sin? Get the help you need to conquer it or your kids are likely to repeat the pattern. Do what you can to give your kids a godly pattern to copy.

Wednesday: Freedom means different things to different people. The Bible tells us we have freedom in Christ. Unfortunately, liberal theology is teaching that freedom means we no longer have to worry about obeying God’s commands…except to love one another. That’s not what Jesus taught. Loving God includes obeying Him…even when we don’t understand or like those commands. Teach your kids how to obey God. It will make a huge positive difference in their faith journey.

Thursday: Are your kids distance learning from home or homeschooling? Our Teach One Reach One Ministry website has tons of free lessons and activity ideas to add learning about God to your child’s day. With lessons for kids and teens, there’s something for every age. www.teachonereachone.org

Friday: Do your kids know you love them? Maybe, but they still need to hear you say the words. They need hugs. They need you spending a lot of quality time with them. They need to know you like them and enjoy doing things with them that they love to do. These are the things that really help your kids know you love them.

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.

5 Ways to Relieve Parenting Stress

How stressed has COVID parenting made you? A lot depends upon what extra stressors it brought to your home. Regardless of where you live, you are probably spending more time with your kids than ever before. You may be noticing areas where your kids desperately need your help and guidance. You may also be dealing with job changes or loss, illness and other family stressors.

Psalm 23

If you are a Christian parent, the events in the world around us should be concerning you. We live in a world that has lost its moral compass and appears out of control in multiple ways. If your kids don’t build an unshakeable faith foundation, they will most likely end up becoming part of our secular world, rather than shining a light to draw others to God.

When stress builds up, we need to find healthy ways to release it. If we don’t, we can develop all sorts of mental and physical ailments. I vividly remember a college professor going through the stress point list and informing us we should start seeing our hair fall out in clumps from the stress we were experiencing. And those stress points were from “good” stress!

Often people choose unhealthy ways of dealing with stress. Usually these involve doing something we believe will help us forget the pain our stress creates. However drugs, alcohol, excessive eating and other similar behaviors usually only add to the stress our bodies are feeling and come with their own additional negative consequences.

So what are some healthy ways to get some stress relief when you are feeling particularly stressed about parenting your kids? Here are five of our favorites.

  • Pray. Prayer is great for stress relief. God loves to listen to His children. He can handle our emotions and the thoughts we may be struggling with in our stress. Christians have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who can speak for you when your stress is so overwhelming you don’t even know what to pray. Although, you won’t hear God’s physical voice in reply, God can guide you using scripture, people and circumstances to see His answers to your questions.
  • Read Psalms. If there is an emotion expressed to God, it is probably reflected in one of the Psalms. There is something comforting about reading the Psalms – especially those that reflect emotions similar to those you are experiencing – even if the cause of them is different.
  • Phone/Text/Zoom Someone. Your best choice is often an experienced Christian parent who knows and loves you and your kids. It is even better if they have raised children to adulthood who are active, productive Christians. Barna studies have found there are definite similarities in parenting with parents who raise active, productive Christians. Learning what they did can save you a lot of time and heartbreak. No parent is perfect, but these parents have more helpful answers than most. If you can’t find that parent, find someone who has learned from their mistakes…these lessons can help you avoid the pitfalls that caused them trouble. If you don’t want advice, but just need someone to listen and be emotionally supportive, make that clear. Otherwise, expect to get lots of advice!
  • Exercise. A long walk or run can relieve stress, curb anger and clear your mind. You can even combine it with praying. The fresh air can also clear the mind and give you healthy doses of vitamin D.
  • Do Something Productive. One of the side effects of parenting stress is often a feeling of failure or frustration. You may be feeling you can’t do anything right or that you keep making the same mistakes. Learning or doing something productive can remind you that you are able to grow, learn and succeed. Don’t try something overly difficult. Cook a new fun dish or learn an easy craft. Keep a journal. Producing something can help center you – even if the results aren’t perfect.

Parenting stress waxes and wanes over time. Right now, your parenting stress may be extremely high, but it is very likely a year from now, you may feel a lot less stressed than you do now. Don’t let today make you despair about tomorrow. Avoid stress relievers that are harmful, because they will inevitably make most situations worse. Use godly, healthy stress relief strategies. Put your faith in God and keep that hope for the future bright.

Weekly Christian Parenting Challenges #15

It’s a holiday weekend. Time for family fun and resetting your family goals and schedule. Here are this week’s social media challenges to give you some ideas to consider.

Monday: There are people that will tell you science and Christianity are incompatible. The truth is since God created the world and the science behind it, science is only incompatible when scientists totally reject God and His place in the world. Answers in Genesis has lots of great science materials written by Christian scientists that will help your kids learn science without also being told they need to reject God. They have quite a few free online resources to help you explain things to your kids.

Tuesday: Notice the small sign on the window? This is a cafe in the town where Prince William and Kate attended university. If you don’t notice the small print on the sign, you would believe they actually met in the cafe. Your kids need to learn to look for the fine print, the “rest of the story”. Satan will make sure your kids will hear lots of lies meant to pull them away from God. Often these lies have just enough truth in them to make them even trickier. Make sure your kids understand that unless a total statement is true, in reality they are hearing or telling a lie. Knowing to look for the bits of deception can protect them from a lot of pain.

Wednesday:These people were thrown into the bogs in Ireland to punish them back in the Iron Age. Evil has always been on the Earth since the Fall. It may seem more obvious now, for a variety of reasons. Your kids need to know some important things about evil. Read our blog post today on teaching your kids about evil. It’s on our Parenting Like Hannah website (.com).

Thursday: Lions are known for protecting their cubs. You protect your kids, but are you protecting them from the right things? Sometimes kids need to fail to learn resilience. On the other hand, kids need their exposure to evil to be as limited as possible. Scripture teaches we are to fill our minds with things that are good, pure and praise worthy. Studies show that filling kids heads with images of violence and sex have negative effects on their brains that can literally change those young brains. So be that lion. Just protect your kids from the right things.

Friday: Your family may not have felt much like celebrating the last few months, but celebrating tied to gratitude to God for His blessings is great for your kids. So find something to celebrate and thank God for those blessings.

Fun Ways to Include God on Family Walks

There has been a lot about this year that hasn’t been so great for many. One of the positives, though, is that many families have been taking daily walks together. While they are great for exercise and stress relief, you can also use them to teach your kids about God. Not by lecturing, but by having fun as you go.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Play “Name the Blessings”. The Bible tells us God’s creation cries out His name. Not literally of course, but we were meant to look at nature and see God. What many Christians forget is that God is responsible for all of our blessings. He may not have built a house with His own hands, but He created the raw materials and gave people the gifts needed to plan and construct a home. As you walk, take turns naming the blessings from God you see. You may want to play it so that you have to find something for the next letter of the alphabet. Or see who can keep it going without repeating a blessing. Have fun with it. End your walk with a quick prayer thanking God for His blessings.
  • Take a prayer walk. As you walk, notice things or people that need to be prayed over. Perhaps it is the neighbor who has been sick or the family who just had a new baby. Maybe it’s for the children who attend the neighborhood school. You can stop and pray as you think of prayer needs and/or add them to your family prayer journal when you get home.
  • Take a service walk. Everyone appreciates a little act of love and service. My grandfather used to take the paper thrown by the street and walk it up to the door people used and leave it there, saving them a walk. Your family may want to surprise people or for some acts (like weeding a neighbor’s flower border), you may need to ask permission first. Even if the person refuses your offer of service, their day can be brightened by your offer.
  • Meet the neighbors challenge. On an average walk in my neighborhood, I can encounter anywhere from five to twenty five people. Using safe distancing practices (and masks if required), see if you can meet these people and start new neighborhood friendships that last beyond COVID. It’s hard to serve and share your faith with people unless you get to know them. You can start by having your adorable little ones wave and say “Hi!”
  • Storytelling walks. Running out of things to talk about on your walks? Try telling stories casually as you go. They can be family faith stories, Bible stories or any other story that teaches your kids about God and what he wants for them and from them.

Any experienced parent will tell you family walks are incredibly valuable. Use them to really listen to your kids and learn about their hearts. Have fun with one of the walks above. Just keep taking them as often as possible.