Raising Kids in a Noisy World

We live in a noisy world. There’s plenty of actual noise of course, but the noise of culture can be loud and confusing – especially to kids being raised in a Christian home. Culture has decided that if they yell something loudly enough and frequently enough, it becomes accepted as truth. And unfortunately, many times culture is right.

One need only watch a couple of episodes of programming targeting kids or teens and understand the cultural agenda of the people writing and producing it. Sometimes those messages are helpful for our kids to hear. Often though, they are encouraging young people to ignore God’s truths, commands and principles.

Sometimes this noise is obvious as shows openly mock Christians and Christianity. Other times, it’s a bit more subtle as characters openly applaud the behavior of a character who is making sinful choices. On some shows, one or more characters will actually preach a sermon of sorts to viewers to make sure their point is accepted or to give kids things to say when their parents reject the “truths” the entertainment is promoting.

Recently, I watched a smattering of shows targeted for kids on a variety of platforms. What I saw and heard was appalling. A seven year old character, for example, should not be exploring his sexuality. No child that age is prepared to even think about having sex with another human being.

So how can you help drown out this constant noise from culture that is trying to convince your kids that Satan’s lies are not only true, but laudable? Censoring has been a taboo concept in our culture. People who censored what their kids read or saw were – and often still are – thought of as narrow minded and judgmental.

There actually is a biblical incident recorded of a book burning. In Acts 19, Paul was in Ephesus, where many believed and practiced magic arts. We don’t necessarily know everything that entailed, but we do know that when they became Christians, they burned the scrolls they owned that covered the magic arts.

I’m not suggesting you burn books per se, but I do believe it is important to censor what your kids read and watch. Pluggedin.com can help you decide whether a particular form of entertainment is something your kids should experience. It breaks everything down so you can make extremely informed choices.

One word of caution. It’s critical as your kids reach school age that you explain to your kids why you aren’t allowing them to read or see certain things. Memorize Philippians 4:8 as a family. Explain why God wants us to fill our minds with good things, rather than bad. Talk about how exposure can desensitize even Christians to sin, or confuse truth and lies in their minds. If you just censor without explaining in rational terms why you are protecting them, they will sneak and watch or read the item – perhaps paying even closer attention.

There is also another sort of partial censorship. There may be certain books or shows you believe your kids are too young to process and separate the godly from ungodly principles. In those instances, explain at what age you think they may be ready for it. Help them understand why you believe it is best they wait.

You can’t protect your kids from everything. In fact, over protection can sometimes make them too naive and place them in danger. There are some things, however, that kids need to be sheltered from – at least until they are mature enough to process it without being unduly swayed to disobey God. Parental censorship when done well is not narrow minded or judgmental. It’s good Christian parenting.

Giving Your Kids Feedback That Works

Lately, I’ve been watching shows about the great estates in England and their servants. I stared fascinated as the servants actually took a ruler and measured everything on a dinner table to make sure each item was placed in the exact proper place.

Imagine if one of the servants were new and neglected to use the ruler for an important dinner party. What would the owner of the estate say to the servant? More importantly, what would he say to make sure the table was set perfectly the next time?

In parenting, there is feedback or correction that helps our kids learn and grow and there is another kind that confuses, frustrates and eventually discourages them. What are those differences?

  • Helpful feedback is extremely specific and concrete. Children, especially young children, are concrete thinkers. Telling them they need a better attitude or to do something better, means very little to them. If, however, you explain that the fork goes to the left of the plate or that they shouldn’t complain when you ask them to do something, they are more likely to comply. When you give your child feedback, try to hear it from their perspective, but pretend like you are speaking a language they don’t fully understand yet. Do they actually know what those words mean to you and how to do the things you are asking them to do?
  • Helpful feedback often involves demonstrations. Sometimes showing works better than telling. Show your kids how you want them to make their beds or put away their clothes. Have them practice in front of you, giving them helpful reminders as needed.
  • Helpful feedback is developmentally appropriate. A table set by a four year old will look different from a table set by a fourteen year old. You need to consider your child’s age and abilities when giving feedback. Yes, you want to move your children closer to the ultimate goal with your feedback, but don’t push them to do things they aren’t able to do yet or let them off the hook for things they can easily master. It may take some trial and error, but you will eventually get a feel for the right balance of encouraging growth without overwhelming them.
  • Helpful feedback takes into account a child’s personality. Some kids crumble before the first word of feedback, while others need to hear it given in a firm tone before they will even consider paying attention. Being too harsh or too wish washy with the wrong child and your attempts at feedback will back fire.
  • Helpful feedback looks for the root of ongoing issues. As Christian parents, we need to be extremely aware of potential heart issues in our kids. Are you constantly having to give the same child the same feedback because the child isn’t understanding or able to do what is asked or because he or she is developing a rebellious heart? Missing the development of a rebellious heart can lead to heartbreak for everyone in the future. Assuming a child has a rebellious heart when he or she is actually just confused, can do damage to your relationship over time. It’s vital to take the time to explore the root cause with your child before jumping to conclusions and then address that core issue appropriately.
  • Helpful feedback comes from a place of love and concern. Yes, you can openly dislike your children and still teach them how to make a bed properly, but that’s not the ultimate goal of Christian parenting. Christian parents need a close, loving relationship with their kids so they can continue to be an influence, helping their kids grow to be mighty men and women of God. When your kids know without a doubt you love them and have their best interest at heart, they will accept your feedback more willingly and use it to learn and grow.

The next time you give your kids feedback and don’t get the desired results, carefully examine what you said. Structuring your feedback with the tips above in mind, might get you the results you want.

Do the Words You Use Make Christian Parenting Tougher?

Parenting can be tough. Christian Parenting is tougher still, as you try to parent against many cultural norms. Why make it any harder than it needs to be? Sometimes the very words you choose to use can escalate an already tense situation unnecessarily.

There are words that will cause an immediate, strong negative reaction in your kids. You’ve probably noticed certain words they use have the same impact on you. Some words will cause a strong negative emotion in almost everyone, like “hate”. Other words will differ from person to person.

Whether we realize it or not, our brains have noticed which words create a strong reaction in others. When we get angry or upset at someone, our brains seem to choose those words on purpose to cause as much pain as possible. (For our purposes, we will call these hot button words.)

Except, the truth is we make conscious decisions about the words we use. It’s just that it happens so quickly we aren’t always as aware as we should be of what is about to come out of our mouths. We become angry at our child’s disobedience and in addition to correcting and giving consequences, we inflict unnecessary emotional pain by using hot button words as we talk to them.

Using hot button words in parenting immediately worsens any conflict. Because of their limited self control, young children may even have what seems like extreme emotional and behavioral reactions when you use their hot button words – especially in tense situations like correction.

If you aren’t careful, instead of changing a child’s behavior, you are creating an emotional divide that will become more difficult to heal over time. You can be firm and even give consequences without using those hot button words.

Some hot button words should be obvious. It is never acceptable to call children ugly names or curse at them. Any descriptive words should be about the behavior and not implying they define a child’s character. A decision is bad, for example, a child is not a bad child. (Defining a child, rather than the choice, can lead them to believing they will only make bad choices and are unredeemable.)

When things are calm, have a conversation with each of your kids about words and phrases that cause a strong reaction in them. Some will be silly, like “moist”. Others will be those words you need to avoid when possible as you talk with your child. You may even want to share some words you would prefer they not use when they are upset with you.

There can also be household bans on certain words. In our home, “hate” was never to be used in reference to a person…especially if it were in the sentence “I hate you!” Although, we knew we loved each other, we believed it was important to never utter those words to one another – even in anger. Your family may want to work together to make a list of banned words and phrases in your home.

If you or your kids have gotten in the bad habit of using hot button words when angry, you may have to have some sort of consequence to help everyone break bad habits. It’s important to be consistent and allow your kids to give you the same consequence if they catch you using hot button words, too.

If you have been in the habit of using hot button words and phrases when correcting your children, you may find eliminating them will lessen the intensity of many conflicts. You probably sound more rational to your children when you avoid using the words that annoy them and they will quite possibly stay a little calmer in the process. Even if they still get upset, it’s great parenting to avoid calling anyone ugly names or using curse words to emphasize your point when talking to your children. Plus it sets a wonderful, godly example for them to follow in their own speech.

Free Resources for Calming Sibling Troubles

Maybe it was just my brother and I, but given too much time in close quarters and the disagreements started. Who touched whom and who crossed imaginary lines would have challenged the patience of the best world diplomats.

You may currently be experiencing sibling issues in your home. In some ways it’s understandable. Young, immature people…often in competition for parental attention and approval, can become adversaries quite easily. Add mandatory confinement for days on end and you have a sibling battle ready to erupt at a moment’s notice.

You can help your kids become loving siblings who support one another and settle conflicts in godly ways. Contrary to popular parenting wisdom though, your kids will not suddenly, somewhat magically learn these skills while beating each other to a pulp or screaming for parental intervention.

We have too many people in our world who handle conflict in violent, destructive ways now because too many parents believed they didn’t need to actively teach their kids how to resolve conflict in godly ways.

We have a couple of free tools to help you teach your kids how to be loving siblings and settle their conflict in godly ways. Teach your kids the tools and help them practice them. Forcing them to say “Sorry” as they kick the dirt and grimace won’t do the trick. Taking the extra time and effort to really work with your kids can not only make the current situation easier for everyone, but can improve many of their other relationships in the future. It’s worth taking some time while they are forced to stay home to work on the skills they desperately need to learn and master.

Correcting Your Kids When Life Isn’t “Normal”

There are times when parenting requires every bit of patience and godliness you may have acquired over the years. Being quarantined at home with your spouse, your kids and possibly random other people or animals…while at least one person is working from home and one of more of your kids is also schooling at home…let’s just say it may have created the Olympics of parenting for you.

Stressful times throw everything into at least a bit of chaos. Whether it’s COVID or a new baby, drastic changes in your family’s circumstances and lifestyle can bring a lot of extra confusion and stress to you and your kids. While your family adjusts to the larger issue, the changes in routines and other aspects of your family dynamics can be particularly upsetting to your kids.

They don’t have the life experience to understand what changes are temporary and which will be permanent. The people they normally count on to comfort them (you and your spouse) may be or at least seem to be unavailable to help them process anything. They may even be missing sleep or other basic needs as everyone scurries to cope.

Your kids may not have the vocabulary to express their emotions or frame their questions. Or they may be worried about making things worse by asking you to set aside time to help them. When young people are struggling with strong emotions, confusion, lack of sleep and major changes in routine, they often act out in some way.

While their misbehavior is understandable, you can’t afford to let it go totally unaddressed. Unfortunately, your own stress level can mean you over react in your initial response, your correction or the consequences you give. This only adds to the stress your kids are feeling.

When you find your family is entering a season of uncertainty, change or difficulties, establishing some consistent ways of dealing with the behavioral issues of your kids can help. Most families don’t have written rules with set consequences for disobeying them.

Written rules and set consequences can help your family in stressful times. Arguing and emotional blow ups can be easily minimized. The rules are posted for everyone to see and the consequences are set. It’s important to remember if you don’t calmly point to the rule and enforce the consequence consistently however, this method isn’t as effective.

Maintain your cool, no matter how upset and angry you are at your kids when they break a rule. The minute you lose your temper, they have “won”. Don’t allow them to create a power struggle either. You are the somewhat dispassionate creator, and reminder of the rules and enforcer of predetermined consequences. (This also means avoiding harsh words, name calling, cursing and screaming.)

To avoid creating the atmosphere of a mini police state in your home, make sure your kids understand this is a form of crisis management and a way they can be of help. Present this as a way of reminding your family you are a team working together to not just survive, but thrive during this season. You may even consider adding a couple of rules and consequences that include the parents.

If you feel your emotions beginning to take over when an infraction occurs, give yourself a quick time out. Tell your child to go to his or her room or that you need to step in another room for a minute to calm down before talking about what happened. While it may feel like your emotions are a bit out of control, modeling to your kids how to regain self control can actually help them when they struggle.

After you have corrected your kids and given consequences, it is more important than ever to reconnect with them. Give everyone some time to calm down from the incident. Then hug your child and have a chat.

Remember, much of this misbehavior is not as much from a rebellious spirit as a frightened child needing parental attention and reassurance. They need to know you still love them…especially if what they did made you really angry. They need you to remind them God is still there and still loves them. They need to know this season will pass.

Finally, do whatever you can to explain what is happening to your kids in age appropriate ways. Give them your best guess for how long this season might less or what your family is doing to survive and even thrive during it. If your kids are acting out from stress and fear, it can be in part because they have no idea what is really happening.

You don’t want to frighten them by giving them information they are too young to process. Leaving them in total ignorance though, can be even more stressful for some children. They may have imagined scenarios much worse than the reality.

Having a plan for when your kids misbehave in those chaotic times can take a lot of that parenting stress off of your emotional plate. This in turn can give you the mental, emotional and spiritual reserves you need to handle whatever caused the disruption.