Are You Raising a Difficult Child?

Every parent has difficulty with their children from time to time. We have all had those moments when we wondered (however briefly) if our children would grow up to be adults no one would want to be around. A recent study from UGA has shed light on the character traits that make someone a difficult person. It’s interesting how their findings paint a picture of someone who is not obeying God’s commands about our character.

So what are the traits they found made someone difficult and what are any corresponding commands God has given us in regards to those traits?

  • Callousness. According to the authors of the study, callousness indicated a total lack of caring and concern for what happened to others or how one’s behavior was impacting people in negative ways. The Bible is full of commands about how we are to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 7:12) and looking out not just for our interests, but the interests of others (Philippians 2:1-7).
  • Grandiosity. Grandiosity is an attitude of pompous superiority or pretentiousness. The Bible would probably call this pride. In the Philippians passage above, it also says we should in humility consider others better than ourselves. There are dozens of other verses commanding us to be humble or meek (often used as a synonym for humble).
  • Domination. Domination is not the same as being good stewards or having dominion over creation. Rather it is the tendency to control others in an oppressive manner. I think one could make a strong argument that the example Jesus set and commanded us to follow of serving others would be the opposite of someone who wanted to dominate others.
  • Suspicious. The authors of the study equated suspiciousness with the inability to trust others and the tendency to assume the worst motives are behind another’s words and actions. This one is a little more complicated. The Bible teaches us to trust God above people. Our kids need to know that when someone says something in opposition to what God has commanded or has revealed as truth, God is always to be trusted and believed (Psalm 118:8). On the other hand, the commands for us to forgive others should create in us a healthy wariness, balanced with forgiveness, that should encourage us to give people the benefit of the doubt in our personal interactions (1 Corinthians 13:7).
  • Aggressive. This aggressiveness is not the same as setting healthy boundaries or standing up for what is right in the face of evil. Rather, it is the tendency to lash out at others, cut into lines and other behaviors that could be considered bullying or selfishness. Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit. Jesus also commanded his followers to be as harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16).
  • Manipulativeness. Manipulation is the attempt to control others by a type of trickery. Often it involves choosing words that encourage the person to do what we want them to do – even though we know they don’t want to do it. Manipulation often involves telling lies. Sin entered the world because Eve believed a lie. I haven’t counted, but my guess is that the command to not lie is probably one of the most frequently repeated in the Bible.
  • Risk Takers. This is a tricky one also. What type of risks do they mean? God doesn’t want us to risk disobeying Him our entire lives in hopes that we can do whatever we want and still get to Heaven with a deathbed conversion. I also think scripture supports the idea that God doesn’t want us to take unnecessary risks with our health or the health of others. On the other hand, I think all of the early Christians were risk takers. They risked prison, beatings and even death for spreading the Gospel. To be an active, productive Christian, we will need to be willing to take some risks. Hopefully, we won’t need to go through everything the Apostle Paul and the others did, but if necessary, we need to be willing to take those risks.

Are you raising a difficult child? Teaching your child to obey God and helping them model their attitudes and behaviors to those of Christ means they will not be considered a difficult person.

Your Kids and Cancel Culture

I’m old enough to remember how upsetting it was to have a favorite television show cancelled mid-season. For some reason, the networks cared more about ratings than my personal preferences! Fast forward and today a person is more likely to be “cancelled” than any entertainment vehicle. Your kids are immersed in a culture that seeks to “cancel” or destroy the reputation and often livelihood of anyone who doesn’t meet their standards. Who “they” are is a bit fuzzy, but with enough social media traction, “they” have the power to destroy a person’s life in less than a week.

Cancel culture can be tricky to explain to kids. We should want to encourage each other to be more godly and discourage others from disobeying God. There are also a few people in this world who are so toxic that being around them for long periods of time can encourage your kids to disobey and even reject God. Yet is cancel culture really biblical? What do you need to teach your kids about “cancelling” other people?

  • God wants your kids to love their neighbors as themselves and treat others as they would like to be treated. Would they want those who disagree with them about something to not only avoid them, but encourage others to avoid them and destroy their reputations and (eventually) careers? Cancel culture seeks to hurt those who disagree with “their” standards. There is no love for those being canceled.
  • God believes in forgiveness and commands Christians to forgive others. Ultimately, cancel culture is about punishment and revenge. While God will mete out justice in the end, He makes room for people to learn and grow from their mistakes. When they repent, God forgives them and expects us to do so, too. Cancel culture rarely forgives those who offend it in some way.
  • God believes in redemption. Christianity is based in part on the idea that humans are capable of making drastic positive changes in their lives with God’s help. Cancel culture assumes everyone who does something “wrong” by their standards – even many years ago – is unredeemable.
  • Vengeance is for God, not people to use. Romans 12:19 is abundantly clear on the topic and it’s not the only verse addressing it. God doesn’t want Christians to avenge themselves – ever. Cancel culture is all about vengeance against people who have violated its standards.
  • Right and wrong is determined by God, not by those who can manipulate social media the best. Cancel culture by definition has a variable moral compass, because it is based on the current culture and not God’s unchanging truths. The ironic thing about those who practice cancel culture is that they themselves would have been cancelled in the past and may very well be cancelled in the future when they disagree with someone more media savvy than themselves.
  • God should always be the Lord of our lives, not our emotions or thoughts. Cancel culture has an underlying assumption that the person doing the cancelling is perfect. Their emotions and thoughts are always correct. They are not only smarter than everyone else, they are smarter than God.
  • Christians need to be careful to share the Gospel and serve everyone, but choose close friends who help them be more godly – not encourage them to sin. There is always a tendency to do the polar opposite of something that is wrong, like cancel culture. The problem is that your kids are too young and their faith too weak to accept people into their inner circle who will encourage them to sin. They shouldn’t cancel the people who don’t meet the standard of friends who will help them be more godly, however. They should still treat them with love and kindness, while serving them and sharing their faith. That is what will help people become who God wants them to be….not cancelling.

The great irony of cancel culture is that those who practice it will often speak of how they were scarred by churches who were “too rigid” and “judgmental”, yet they have become the very thing they are supposedly protesting. Teach your kids how to help people change by loving and teaching them – not treating them like a societal reject.

Fun Way to Teach Kids Manners

It’s tempting to skip teaching your kids manners because it takes a lot of time and effort. It’s easy to dismiss manners as antiquated in today’s world. Yet, at the core of Christianity is putting others before yourself. That was also at the core of manners in the past. When your kids have good manners, they stand out from the crowd. They point others to God as they show kindness and consideration for others.

So how can you teach your kids good manners, as well as why God wants us to have them and not feel as if you have spent all day nagging your kids? There’s actually a fun way that can be easily adapted for different ages of kids.

Start by calling your kids together and telling them the story of Esther, David or one of the other kings or queens in the Bible. In some of those stories, customs that could be considered “court manners” are implied or explained. Ask your kids if they noticed any actions that could be considered good or bad manners in the story.

Then read Philippians 2:3-4 to your kids. Ask them what it looks like to put another’s interests before your own and to count others more significant than ourselves. Explain that manners were created as a way to show kindness, respect and consideration to others. Mention a few manners on which you would like to focus. Ask them how each shows consideration for others.

If your kids are little, play royal dress up games. Have tea or a “royal” meal. Teach and practice manners that would enable them to have “tea with the queen” without embarrassment. Make it fun, dressing up, making paper crowns and tea sandwiches or whatever would engage your kids.

For older kids, spend some time examining manners in different countries or time periods. There’s a fun book called George Washington’s Rules to Live By you can use for that time period. Or grab an older edition of Miss Manners or Emily Post. Or have them research manners in other cultures to find ones that are similar and different.

Even older children will enjoy going to high tea or a “fancy” or fun restaurant to practice manners. Or invite over someone who grew up in another culture and have them answer your kids’ questions about manners there. Don’t forget, manners can change even from region to region in the U.S. and from generation to generation.

Focus on manners that make life better for others – including table manners! To sneak in extra lessons, focus on different aspects of manners like table manners, hospitality manners, manners when speaking to others, manners when meeting new people, etc. Then find fun ways to practice them. Don’t forget to find a corresponding Bible lesson or scripture for each one, while making those verses in Philippians your theme verse for every lesson. (The spaced repetition of the verse over time will move it to their long term memories, where it can be remembered for years to come.) Before you know it, your kids may just have wonderful manners worthy of tea with the queen!

Teaching Kids About Truth and Love

There is a misconception in today’s world that truth and love cannot exist in the same space. Your kids will probably be told that it is preferable to lie rather than to risk hurting someone’s feelings. Or that it is important to tell everyone they are going to Heaven, rather than risk upsetting someone by telling them they are disobeying God. Or that it isn’t loving to believe God will indeed send people to Hell for disobeying clearly stated truths in the Bible. And sadly they will watch as supposedly strong Christians take a clearly written declaritive sentence in the Bible and twist the words into a pretzel so that in the end, the sentence means the exact opposite of what it says.

The problem has been that many have done a very poor job of how they choose to share God’s truths. Or their “truth”. Love has come disconnected from truth and it seems to be getting worse every day. Fortunately, you can actively teach your kids how to keep truth and love connected – the way God intended it to be.

There are a few basic principles about truth and love that your kids need to know and practice.

  • Not every “truth” is actually “truth”. Just because your child believes something to be true, does not mean it is. Your child could be mistaken or wrong. Your child may only know part of the truth, but not all of it. Or it may just be your child’s opinion on a topic where everyone has a right to a different opinion (like a favorite color). Part of keeping truth and love connected is to constantly search for truth and make sure something is definitely truth before we present it as such.
  • Not every “truth” is equally important. God’s truths are absolute, unchanging and of eternal importance. Much of what people believe is “truth” is actually an opinion. There is no real evidence to prove whether or not it is absolute, unchanging and valid for everyone. An opinion positioned as “truth”is not nearly as important as God’s absolute truths.
  • Not every “truth” must be spoken immediately. Timing is crucial. Sharing a truth that could embarrass someone is perhaps best not done loudly in front of a large group of people. Your kids also need to understand that the “truths” of their opinion may not need to be shared at all. Just because your child doesn’t like someone’s outfit, doesn’t mean five hundred other people won’t love it. It’s not necessary to hurt someone’s feelings with your personal opinion.
  • God’s truths are absolute and do not change. We do not get to vote to change God’s commands. Current popular culture may not approve of God’s commands, but that does not mean they should be changed. God knows what is best for us. We have to trust and obey Him.
  • There is a way to share God’s truths with love. Most people believe they are doing the best they can. They will usually become defensive and stop listening if someone uses harsh, ugly, angry language to communicate God’s truths to them. Yes, Jesus may have sounded a bit harsh at times, but those occasions were rare. Most of the time he was very loving, but firm in the ways he corrected others.
  • Keeping God’s truths from someone is not love. There is a thought process that people cannot “help” who they are. It is not their fault if they want to live their lives in ways that disobey God. The fear by many Christians is that sharing God’s truths with them will make them reject God. The reality is living a life enmeshed in sin is a rejection of God. Making someone believe they are “right” with God while they are living in enmeshed sin is not loving. You are giving them a false sense of security. Sharing God’s truths in such a way that they will hopefully want to make changes and obey God is ultimately the most loving thing anyone can do.

Take the time to teach your kids how to keep truth and love connected. It is a skill set our world desperately needs.

Teaching Your Kids How to Disagree Well

Did you know it is not a sin to disagree with others? The sins often happen with how we behave when we disagree and what we do after the disagreement. One of the most famous disagreements in the Bible is between two missionaries, Paul and Barnabas. The topic seemed critically important to both men. It appears they may have never totally resolved the disagreement. Yet, they were somehow able to continue to put God’s Kingdom ahead of their disagreement and it appears were even supportive of one another after the rift.

Your kids probably already disagree with someone about something. They may even be questioning some of your ideas about a topic or two. We live in a world that is allowing relationships to be destroyed forever because people disagree on an issue. What can you teach your kids about Barnabas and Paul’s disagreement that will help them navigate their own disagreements in godly ways? We don’t have a lot of information in the Bible, but we can probably come to some fairly accurate conclusions.

  • Get the facts straight…preferably from the actual person. Too often disagreements begin based on gossip or assuming we know what the other person meant or what their intentions were. Often our initial assumptions are wrong, but we have created unnecessary conflict because of them. Teach your kids to go to the source and gather all of the facts before assuming there is a disagreement.
  • Speak directly to the person with whom you disagree first. Teach your kids to refrain from adding to any possible conflict by gossiping or using messengers. Train them to have a conversation with the actual person with whom they believe the disagreement exists.
  • Listen before you speak. The Bible isn’t clear about the actual conversation between Barnabas and Paul. In general though, it’s best to listen carefully and ask lots of clarifying questions before you present your side. Doing so makes the other person less defensive and can make your argument unnecessary or stronger because you have all of the necessary information about the person’s view on the topic. Teach your kids how to be good listeners and to ask great clarifying questions before sharing their thoughts on a topic.
  • Be humble. Once again, we aren’t sure how Barnabas or Paul reacted initially, but it helps any disagreement to enter it humbly. Chances are great each person in the disagreement may be right about some things and wrong about others. When we enter a disagreement assuming we are totally correct and the other person is totally wrong, we will fail to find any common ground or correct any mistakes we may be making. Teach your kids to remember they may have as much to learn on any given topic as they have to teach.
  • Know when to agree to disagree. Yes, your kids may be passionate about the “proper” color for bedroom walls. If their friends want to paint their rooms a different color, then teach your kids to let it go. Teach them they can be friends with people who disagree with them on a variety of topics. Paul and Barnabas agreed to go on separate missionary journeys, taking different helpers. In reality, that probably allowed them to cover more territory, while training younger men to eventually take their place, than working together had. You may think the one exception would appear to be arguments about scriptural matters. It’s important to note though that although Jesus was passionate about teaching the truth, he never bullied anyone into accepting it. Your kids need to be willing and able to argue passionately about scriptural truths, while avoiding bullying those who disagree with those truths.
  • Practice repentance and forgiveness. Often things are said and done during disagreements that are unfortunate or even sinful. Your kids need to be quick to apologize when they have erred and quick to forgive those who have made poor choices when disagreeing with them.
  • Time outs are better than permanent rifts. Sometimes after a particularly heated disagreement, it feels very uncomfortable to be around one another. Or agreeing to disagree, like Paul and Barnabas, means your choices take you in literally different directions. People need time to calm down and let things go. Time and distance can help. The trick is to use the time and distance to actually work on getting to a place of reconciliation. Too many times the time and space is used to allow grudges to grow and resentment to form, creating a permanent rift. There is nothing godly about bitterness and hatred.
  • Find ways to reconcile. Often working together to serve someone else helps reminds people of a common, larger purpose for their lives. At other times, doing something together that both enjoy can remind people of why they were close before the disagreement. Teach your kids to find ways to restore relationships that have been damaged by disagreements and to be the initiator of reconciliation.

Teaching your kids to disagree well can help them more accurately reflect God’s love to others. It can also help them avoid destroying important relationships when inevitable disagreements occur. It’s worth taking the time and effort to teach them how to do it well.