Teaching kids about Satan can be a bit tricky. You want your children to be watchful and prepared, but you also don’t want to make them overly fearful. Younger children can usually understand there is a being we can’t see named Satan or the devil. They can begin to grasp that Satan tries to trick them into disobeying their parents and God.
Older elementary aged kids need to begin learning some of the most common tricks Satan uses. The story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness is a good place to start (Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13). Older readers might also enjoy reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Begin having talks about how your kids see Satan trying to trick them and their friends using some of those same techniques.
For a fun activity to reinforce how Satan can use people to help trick them, start by reading or telling your (older) kids the story of the Witch of Endor. (1 Samuel 28:3-25) Explain that the Bible doesn’t make it absolutely clear, but it appears this “witch” had made money tricking people into believing she had access to spirits. Often, people would use the “advice” of the spirits to make their decisions. Using spirits as a guide for making decisions is wrong, because God wants us to have Him guide us.
Explain to your kids that there are some people today who still claim to talk to spirits or “dead people”. People have watched them carefully though and have figured out how they trick people. Tell them you are going to teach them how people “tell the future” or “know amazing things” about people they have just met. Remind them they can use these tricks for fun, but should never make people believe they can really do it or that they should make any decisions based on the information.
The trick is called “cold reading”. A person can use certain tricks to get the information they need from a person they have never met, in order to come up with a realistic sounding prediction. They can also use the information to accurately guess things “there is no way he could have known that”. (Note: There are currently several tv shows featuring “mediums” who use many of these same techniques – part of which I am sure are edited out to make it more “amazing”.)
Here are some of the common tricks used by “fortune tellers” and “mediums”:
- Explain that the person being targeted must help the medium “read the signs”. This encourages the person to help the medium when they stumble or are slightly off base in their guesses. Your kids may have heard someone say something like “It was a bit fuzzy” “I’m not quite sure what he means” or other similar phrases to get extra help from the target.
- Observe things that can be seen. You can tell a lot about a person just by observing them closely. Somebody with very expensive clothes and jewelry, for example, may be more likely to have money concerns – making it a logical focus of the reading.
- Using stereotypes for concerns. Stereotypes are dangerous in the real world, because not everyone fits their supposed stereotype. They are often stereotypes though, because a large number of people in that group do share common characteristics and concerns. So, a medium might tell a teen girl she is concerned about boys or popularity and be correct more times than he/she is wrong.
- Using statements that apply to almost everyone. Show your child the daily horoscopes. Most of them have very generic statements like “You want to be loved” or “You are worried about a new situation”. Often these types of statements are just broad enough and common enough that anyone can say they are true about them. (Especially if they want to believe the medium can tell the future, etc.)
- Use leading statements. This is the common “I see an older man on the other side who loves you” (Oh it’s grandpa!) “Yes, that’s right! He says he loves you and you are doing great!”. Or the ever popular “I see someone whose name starts with a D…” (No) “Oh, I’m sorry, maybe that was a P…” (Oh wow! My Uncle Peter!) The medium uses statements instead of questions so the person can’t immediately say, “You’re wrong”. They are also general enough, where they have a good chance of getting it right or close enough that the person will provide the extra information. Notice in the second case, just guessing a common letter of the alphabet for names gave the medium a name and a relationship.
- Using word tricks. This can be as simple as using words with multiple meanings like “watch” or “saw”. Was it a physical item or a verb? Be generic enough and the person will fill in the blanks. The medium will also repeat things the person has said earlier and probably forgotten they said. It then appears as if the medium received that information from the “spirits”.
- Giving the target positive reinforcement when they confirm what the medium says. The target usually wants to please the medium and by saying positive things when they agree with the medium, it encourages more agreement.
- Using excuses. Make what seems like a mistake? The medium will often cover for it, by saying the target isn’t cooperating or the spirits are tired. The medium may claim the event will make more sense in the future or the target just doesn’t realize the spirit really died of a heart attack instead of cancer.
- Makes a “horoscope” summary. At the end of the “reading” the medium will repeat all correct guesses and usually ends with a generic comforting statement that makes the target happy. He will often also reinforce that he had to be talking to spirits to know all of this information and if money is involved, tell the target more helpful information can be gotten in future readings.
Have some fun with it, but remind your kids the only one who knows the future is God. He is also wiser than anyone who has ever or will ever live and should therefore be the one your kids consult when they are confused or upset. Preparing your kids for Satan’s traps can also help them avoid getting caught in them.
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