Reducing Your Child’s Resistance

Have you ever asked, told or suggested your child do (or not do) something and watched as your child seemed to be determined to do the exact opposite? Were you surprised, because you knew your child had agreed what he or she was now trying to do wasn’t in his or her best interest? Call it push back, stubbornness, resistance or rebellion – it is actually a natural human tendency that is encouraged by Satan.

It is the same dynamic that was in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve only had one “don’t” command (as far as we know). Do not eat the fruit of that one tree. It didn’t take much effort on the part of Satan to convince them eating the fruit of that tree was the one thing they just had to do – even though they knew terrible things would happen when they did.

So how can you convince your children to obey you and God when Satan knows just what to say to get them to push back at rules, commands and godly advice? For many young people the key is framing the commands, rules and advice as God does (but man has somehow often missed as we teach others those commands).

The most important factor in parenting push back from children is the parenting style. Authoritarian parenting sets the ground for push back and rebellion. It consists of strict rules, harsh enforcement and a general lack of a loving relationship. Authoritarian parents often tend to portray God as authoritarian also, which is why many children of authoritarian parents also tend to reject God as adults.

Permissive parents rarely have rules and are unlikely to enforce the ones they have or give any consequences when rules are broken. This style leads children to believe they make the rules and can disobey rules created by anyone else if they don’t like them. Permissive parents tend to portray God as permissive which is why these children either grow up to reject God as unnecessary or to rewrite the Bible’s commands to their liking.

The authoritative parenting style is the least likely to encourage rebellion or even strong push back. While rules may still be strict, they are enforced consistently with firm, but loving consequences when broken. The relationship between parent and child is loving and the parent is attentive and nurturing. It is the style of parenting used by God as He parents us. The rules and advice in authoritative parenting are always in the best interest of the child. They aren’t based on the whim of the parent or in an attempt to micromanage the life choices of the child. The authoritative parent tends to portray God as authoritative and their children are the most likely to become strong, productive Christians as adults.

There is another factor in reducing push back, however. If you pay close attention, God never forces us to obey Him. He makes it clear we have free choice. The choice to obey or disobey is always ours. In the book The Catalyst, author Jonah Berger calls the tendency to push back, reactance. One of his suggestions is to give people the information they need to support the rule or advice, while also reminding them of their freedom to choose.

In Christian parenting, this often looks like having more in depth discussions about God’s commands. Why does God say it is a sin to get drunk? What are the negative things that can happen when one is drunk? When does one cross the line from drinking to drunk (and how close does one really want to get to that line – when God’s definition may differ from the legal one)? Couple these conversations with a reminder that while whether or not to drink alcohol at all will ultimately be a decision they make at age 21, for now it is against the law and not an option, and you can minimize push back.

For younger children, it can help to give them options that are all acceptable to you. When the child resists and suggests an unsuitable option, reminding him or her while that option isn’t available, there are still multiple options on the table, can reduce push back. For younger children, try to provide only two or three options on your list. If you offer too many choices, the child can become overwhelmed and revert back to the simple unacceptable choice.

Finally, with older children, try to understand their reasons for pushing back. You don’t have to agree with their thinking, but understanding what it is can often help you find a way to remove the obstacle to compliance. You may find it isn’t actually about your rule or advice, but rather the timing or presentation of it. Or it may be a misunderstanding one of you has about part of the conversation or terms used by you. Getting to the root of the problem can make it a lot easier for both of you to find common ground.

The answer to push back is never to give up setting appropriate boundaries or giving godly advice. Rather it is finding ways to communicate so that your child has no desire to push back at what is in his or her best interest.

Your Children’s Search for Love

There are a lot of times in parenting that are scary. Like bringing your first child home from the hospital. The first time your child gets sick. The first day of school. Perhaps one of the scariest is when your children start dating and thinking about marriage. While they are often naive and blinded by “love”, your life experience tells you dating is a potential minefield for your children. The wrong choices can negatively impact the rest of their lives.

Yet there are things you can do years before your child even thinks about dating and marriage that will help make this minefield a lot less dangerous for your child. Here are some of our favorites.

  • Give your children lots of love – using all five love languages. By now you know the list – physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service and gifts. Your kids each have a couple of favorites, but they need to have them all from you as often as possible (and no, not showering them with gifts). Listen to tales of romantic trauma and very often there is a reference to feeling unloved by parents as a child. You can’t spoil your kids with love – spoiling is a product of a lack of enforced healthy boundaries and equating only gifts with love. Your kids need lots and lots of the other four love languages so they are not operating from a love deficit. Trying to fill that love deficit that was meant to be filled by parents is where bad romantic choices often begin.
  • Teach your children how much God loves them. There is a space in one’s heart that is meant to be filled with God’s love for us. Your children need to learn about God and understand His love for them on a deep level. Once again, this is not a permissive ”do whatever you want” love, but a love that wants what is best for each of your children – which includes obeying God’s commands. If your children understand and feel the love God has for them, yet another possible love deficit is filled appropriately.
  • Teach your children what real true love is. Love is not what they may see on reality shows, movies, romance novels or sadly often in the world around them. Real love is not based primarily on lust. It is agape love like God has for us. It is love that encourages one to be a strong Christian. That is supportive in good times and bad. It very often is said that you should marry your best friend and that’s not a bad description. True love is for a lifetime – and loves even during those times where liking one’s spouse is a challenge!
  • Model a healthy marriage. No marriage is perfect. In fact, seeing you and your spouse disagree and resolve those disagreements is healthy for your children. If you are struggling, get help. If you have bad habits in how you treat one another, break them. Whether they mean to or not, your children will often mirror the marriage behaviors they saw growing up. Make sure your children see healthy, godly behaviors. When you make a mistake – admit it and apologize to your children as well as your spouse.
  • Talk about God’s perfect plan for marriage. This is considered controversial by many, but it shouldn’t be. God’s plans are perfect. When we deviate from them for any reason, there are often negative consequences. We may not always understand or agree with everything God requires and people sometimes take a good command and make it toxic in how they implement it, but your children need to trust that God knows best. Thankfully, there are a lot of explanations and stories in the Bible of how disobeying God can cause marital issues. Share those with your children as well as any of your own insights as to why you believe God’s commands help marriages become stronger.
  • Don’t rush your children. Nothing is more disturbing than hearing a parent encourage a three year old child to kiss a child of the opposite sex as their “girl friend” or “boy friend”. Be careful about pushing your children to date or participate in sexualized behavior. Honestly, I think dating should probably begin when the child is old enough for marriage to be a possibility. Before then hanging out in mixed gender groups is a great way to get to know someone of the opposite sex without the possibility of being tempted to go too far sexually. It also can help them refine what they do and do not want in a future spouse. (When your children are old enough to marry, don’t rush them. Keep reassuring them that it is better to never marry than to rush into a marriage with the “wrong” person.)
  • As they approach dating age, talk about “red flags”. I had a friend who married a “player” as a young adult. He soon had an affair that destroyed their marriage. When I finally met him decades later, his player behavior was so obvious I was surprised she hadn’t noticed it when they were dating. She correctly pointed out that as a naive teen, player behavior can look attractive. They are often charismatic and “love bomb” you. Talk about red flags for abuse and other negative behaviors that can destroy marriages. Make sure to also discuss the positive traits that make someone a good spouse. The more clear the picture is of the person they want to marry, the more likely it is that they will choose that person.

There are many other topics you will want to discuss regarding love, dating and marriage. Starting with helping them understand what real love is can make the rest of the discussions much easier as they choose quality, Christian people to date and marry. It can make that potential minefield more like a walk in the park.

Fun Ways to Use Gardening to Teach Your Kids About God

Have you ever noticed how many parables contain some element of gardening in them? Growing things is a great way to teach your children about a lot of biblical principles. You don’t even have to own land. Container gardening works well, too. All you need is a little sunlight or even artificial lighting and any sort of container that can hold soil.

The more you involve your children in the process of planning, planting and caring for your garden, the more they will understand and remember what you are trying to teach them. Start by determining where your garden will be and what plants you will grow. If you want them to learn about plants in the Bible, you can find online lists of plants mentioned in the Bible. (Note: To be really accurate, use botanical names when ordering plants and seeds. Many modern varieties may differ from those mentioned in the Bible.)

Or your family may decide to use the produce in your gardens to serve the food insecure in your area. Talk to local food banks and ask what fresh produce would be most appreciated by their clients. Vegetables like carrots, tomatoes and peppers are fairly easy to grow and are used in a variety of common recipes. They also do well in container gardens.

If your children are older, they may want to help research not only what plants are mentioned in the Bible, but also historic recipes containing those foods and which parables, proverbs and other scriptures mention plants, gardens and/or vineyards. You and your children can also discuss how the lessons you learn while gardening illustrate other scriptures that may not directly mention plants or growing things. For example, you may want to talk about what happens when a plant is denied something it needs to grow well. Then explore what they will need to grow spiritually. What would happen if they denied themselves one of those things?

The great thing about gardening is that it is a year round process. Even in winter, planning your garden and starting seeds indoors can make it easier to garden in the Spring. What kind of preparation do they need to be able to use their gifts to serve God when He wants them to use their gifts for a good work He has planned for them? Why does procrastinating about important early tasks impact the garden (and their lives) negatively?

Gardening is a great spiritual tool for teaching, application principles, mentoring, service, faith sharing and more. So grab a seed catalog, a Bible and your kids and start planning your garden!

Will Your Kids Try to Rewrite the Bible?

Growing up in Virginia, I learned a lot about Thomas Jefferson. You can say a lot of things about Jefferson, but I always thought eccentric was an apt description. Did you know that he believed the Bible would benefit from his editing? As a deist, Jefferson thought of Jesus as a great teacher, but did not believe in miracles and other parts of scripture…. so he just edited them out. The resulting “Thomas Jefferson Bible” is a thin volume that totally changes how one would view Jesus, his authority and his commands.

Many Christians, when they first hear about Jefferson’s “Bible”, probably assume he was an arrogant man to think he should even consider editing the inspired Word of God. Yet, your very own children may one day grow up to write their own version of scripture. They may not be as overt about it as Jefferson. They will even deny they are changing anything at all. Rather, they will explain that their advanced knowledge has given them a better understanding of what the scriptures they are targeting “really” mean.

While the meaning of some scriptures may very well be debated until Jesus returns, the motivation for reinterpreting many scriptures is often suspect. It is especially concerning when a verse that clearly states “do not” do something in very clear language is taken through a series of supposedly logical loops that turns it into “absolutely do” the thing that is clearly forbidden.

Even more concerning is the underlying attitude. Someone recently asked a very important question, “When we attempt to reimagine scripture, are we more concerned about becoming who God wants us to be or is the greater concern finding a way around a verse so that we have the freedom to do what we want to do with no consequences?”

I suspect, that even if your children are correct about their new interpretation of scripture, a Thomas Jefferson attitude does not please God. Teaching our kids what it really means to make God the Lord of our life can help them avoid the temptation to write their own version of the Jefferson Bible.

Top Tips for Raising Gentle Children

Have you ever been ”playfully” punched in the arm by someone who didn’t know his or her own strength? It feels as if they had meant to deliver a knock out punch in a boxing match. Gentleness is often said to be “restrained strength”. The official definition of gentle is having a kind or tender temperament or moderation of action, affect or degree to avoid appearing harsh or severe. It is not weakness, but restraining one’s strength in consideration of others.

James 3:17 is one of several verses commanding Christians to be gentle, but I love how James frames it as an evidence of godly wisdom. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” Gentleness is also a fruit of the Spirit – evidence that the Holy Spirit is present in the life of the person.

Children have to be taught to be gentle. You’ve probably witnessed a very small child who could literally “love” something to the point of causing pain with their overly enthusiastic hug. So what do you need to consider as you attempt to raise children who are gentle?

  • There are two areas where gentleness is important. The first, physical gentleness, is usually addressed with small children, but should be monitored to see if additional coaching is needed. Children who engage in contact sports or who have certain special needs may not be aware of how painful their interactions may be to others. The second area is being emotionally/spiritually gentle. This gentleness is reflected in speech, demeanor and attitudes. Training in this type of gentleness is less common.
  • There can be (and often is) a difference between what the world considers gentle behavior and what God expects. In a world, where some have proclaimed 2023 as “The Year of Me”, gentleness is often considered a weakness, rather than a strength. Teaching your children to be gentle is counter cultural and those around them may attempt to convince them they need to practice ”self care” instead or that someone ”deserves” to be treated harshly..
  • Gentleness is a great way of reflecting God’s love to others. If your children are gentle, they are sensitive to the feelings of others. They are kind in their speech and interactions. They don’t lie to spare feelings, but rather find a way to ”speak the truth in love” – restraining the strength of truth by delivering it with sensitivity and love. (Remember, one’s opinion is not ”Truth”. It is one’s opinion and does not always need to be shared at all.)
  • How to act gently is not intuitive and must be taught. Your children learn by your direct teaching and by watching your example. To be effective, your teaching and your actions should match. Parents need to teach emotional/spiritual gentleness even more than they work with their children on physical gentleness.
  • “Sweet” and “kind” are good synonyms for gentle – especially for little ones – but use the word “gentle”, too. It is important to connect the word “gentle” because it is the term often used in scripture and to counter the idea that gentleness equates to being weak or wimpy.
  • Guided practice and coaching can help. Is your child going to be in a situation where it may prove difficult for him or her to be gentle? Try role playing or discussing strategies and what gentleness would “look like” in that situation. If your child is struggling, make up common scenarios and practice acting out ways to be gentle in those situations.

Christians should be known as gentle. Gentleness is easier to practice when one has been doing it since childhood. Taking the time to help your children be gentle now can make it easier for them to do so consistently as adults.