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.

A Great Way to Help Your Kids Recognize Influences

Social media influencers can make a lot of money convincing their followers to purchase specific items. Those posts are pretty obvious to most young people today. Can your kids, however, recognize when the books they read, games they play or media they watch are changing their world view, ideas or beliefs?

The answer is probably not. Why? Because content creators are often purposefully subtle (yet effective) in their attempts to influence the minds of young people. Your kids probably have no idea of what content creators may want them to believe or the actions they hope to inspire.

There’s a relatively simple way to help your kids be more aware of when others are trying to influence them and what those ideas are. After they finish interacting with any sort of content, ask your kids what the ad for it would look like. What is the tag line? In other words, what are the authors of the content trying to sell your kids?

Your kids may struggle with this at first. Another way to ask the same type of question would be to ask them the moral of the story. If they are familiar with Aesop’s fables, they know about the last line that sums up the lesson readers were supposed to have learned. What would be that last line for the movie, book, game or other creative content with which they just interacted?

If you catch subtle content they miss, ask them a question to see if their brains registered something they weren’t consciously aware connected. For example, let’s say a character decided to lie to a friend to spare their feelings. The creators believe this is perfectly acceptable, even laudatory behavior. When summing up the episode, your child doesn’t mention the incident. So, did it impact your child?

You can try the direct approach and ask what they thought about the scene. A more indirect way would be to present a similar dilemma. What would they do in a situation that is similar, but not exactly the same as the creative content?

Making your kids more aware of when others are attempting to influence them is an important skill set. It will help them think more critically about ideas they have unknowingly had repeated to them multiple times in thousands of different ways. Otherwise, they risk being brainwashed into believing sin is great, good is bad, and the world God wants is archaic and suspect.

Helping Kids Conquer Peer Pressure

If you dig deeply enough, you will find that many of the problems in the world today are caused by adults who have given into what they perceive as peer pressure. Even Christian adults are not immune to peer pressure, often with the same negative results teens and kids get when succumbing to it. Your kids will be more likely to obey God if they can learn to ignore peer pressure while they are still young.

Insulating your kids from peer pressure takes work. Kids and teens are wired to want to fit in with their peers. Spending most of their days together in school and activities only increases the pressure to conform. Some peer pressure can be positive, but often it encourages negative and even sinful choices. It is the rare young person who can stand up to peer pressure without any previous coaching from parents.

Coaching your kids is easier if you start when they are young. Small children often spend less time with peers and are more likely to still believe their parents are the people they most want to please. Helping older kids conquer peer pressure is tougher, but not impossible.

Here are some of the concepts your kids need to embrace to be able to stand up to peer pressure.

  • Pleasing God is more important than pleasing peers. This is perhaps the toughest one, because it involves attitudes, mind sets and hearts. Work with your kids on having hearts that want to please God. Encourage them to have their top goal be going to Heaven and taking others with them. Teach them their true worth is in God’s eyes, not with peers who may or may not have their best interests in mind. A child who puts God first and knows what God wants for his or her life will be much less susceptible to peer pressure that would lead to disobeying God.
  • Christians will never truly fit into the world around them. If Christians look exactly like everyone else in the world, there is something wrong. Your kids have to understand and embrace the fact that they should never want to be just like everyone else they know. While some Christians are well liked and even well loved because of the loving ways they treat others, they will still be excluded from situations because of how others perceive Christians. Or they will need to exclude themselves from participating in sinful activities. Popularity in the way most young people mean it should never be the ultimate goal.
  • Make decisions early. Often peer pressure works because young people aren’t given enough time to really think about what they are being asked to do by their peers. Having discussions about specific situations before they happen can help. Teach your kids how to make good choices about certain topics before their peers can tempt them to do those things. If they have previously decided something is a bad choice, it will be much easier for them to say no than if they are trying to process the options in real time.
  • Practice responses. Remember the temptation of Jesus? Jesus knew exactly what to say to reject Satan’s temptations. Help your kids develop a toolbox of helpful responses when faced with negative peer pressure. Don’t forget to also have them practice what to do if the pressure continues.
  • Develop escape routes. The Bible tells us God always provides an escape route when the temptation to sin gets to be too much to bare. Unfortunately, most kids and teens don’t know what to look for to escape peer pressure when it gets to to be too much. Teaching them options like walking away or talking to you or another trusted adult can help them find those escape routes God provides when they need them.
  • Memorize Bible verses. Teach them Bible verses they can repeat to themselves in their minds either to remind them of what God wants them to do or to remind them God will help them deal with the situation. If they practice them enough, those Bible verses will be in their minds for the rest of their lives.
  • Find a few good friends. Popularity generally encourages lots of shallow friendships over a handful of meaningful ones. Teach your kids how to find a true, godly friend. They only need one or two. Teach them to seek friends who will encourage them to obey God. Often these people are Christians themselves, but not always depending upon where you live. If your kids can’t find Christian friends, teach them to look for people who want to support them in their principles and morals even if they themselves don’t always follow those same standards for strictly spiritual reasons.
  • Have other options ready. Often peer pressure is to participate in a default activity when young people are bored. They’ve not been taught to think of fun things to do that don’t involve making poor choices. Teach your kids how to find other fun, more interesting things to do and present them as alternatives. It won’t always work, but it works more times than people realize. If the ideas are rejected, encourage your kids to go ahead and do something else that is fun, but a good choice. Saying no to peer pressure does not require one to sit at home alone, bored and sad. Teach them they can have fun doing what is right…even if they are doing something by themselves.

Avoiding peer pressure is tough. Otherwise it wouldn’t involve the word pressure. Working with your kids to be strong in the face of peer pressure will take time and effort, but it can help them avoid making poor choices for the rest of their lives.

6 Signs You Are Raising a Victim

It’s important to understand that as a parent, you can’t always protect your kids from every bad thing that could happen to them. Sometimes, in spite of your best efforts, one or more of your kids will become a victim to an unfortunate circumstance, an illness or accident or even a crime.

When those truly bad things happen, your child will need a period of time to process and mourn the incident. That is normal and healthy. However, if they stay focused on that incident…if it begins defining who they are, then they will get stuck, unable to fully enjoy the rest of their lives.

Worse yet are children who are taught they are victims from birth. They are told in numerous ways that the world is out to get them and they will always be the victim. Once again, some people will live lives that are tougher than others. Refusing to define yourself or your kids as perpetual victims does not condone what others may do to you or them. It does not minimize the pain their words or actions cause. What refusing to see yourselves, define yourselves as perpetual victims, does is it allows you all to refuse to let those people and circumstances control you and the rest of your lives.

Refusing to define yourselves as victims allows you to process, mourn, forgive and then move on with your lives. You don’t become stuck. You don’t let it keep you from being who God wanted you to be. Yes, it may have some residual impact on you, but it shouldn’t define who you or your kids see themselves as….you should always view yourselves as beloved creations of God, with meaning and purpose.

The difference may sound subtle to you and difficult to really understand. It’s the difference between introducing yourself, “I’m Sam the robbery victim” and “I’m Sam (someone God loves and has plans for), who got robbed once.” The first sentence has Sam constantly reflecting and defining himself through the lens of that incident. The second has Sam defining himself as someone loved by God…whom God has planned good works for…that happened to be robbed once.

Not sure if you or your kids are defining yourselves as victims and not allowing yourselves to live the life God wants for you? Here are six signs of a victim mentality.

  • Continually thinking and talking about the incident long after it is over. After the initial processing and mourning period, there may occasionally be something that brings the incident to mind. It may also bring back some of those original feelings. That is normal. If, however, the incident is something thought about almost every day and especially multiple times each day, that can become problematic.
  • Constantly feeling sorry for yourself. If you or your child is constantly throwing a pity party, there may be a victim mindset developing. Everyone wants a little sympathy after a bad experience. If the pity parties are held frequently, chances are the one throwing the constant parties is developing or has developed a victim mindset.
  • Everything is always unjust or unfair. The perpetual victim also seeks perpetual sympathy. He or she tells every incident in a way that is designed for others to feel sorry for him or her. If that doesn’t work, they may try to convince the others they are also victims.
  • Always focuses on the negative. If there are two ways to look at an incident, the perpetual victim will only see the negative one. They find it impossible to see the silver lining, or see some good that came out of a bad situation. Think Eeyore on a really bad day.
  • Reframed events. If the teacher fussed at your child’s class, the teacher was just fussing at him or her. Every event is reframed so the perpetual victim was targeted. Obviously, your child will be targeted at times. If it’s constant though, you may be raising a victim or at least more investigation is warranted (for example, if a bully has actually targeted your child).
  • Acting helpless. On bad days, we all regress a bit. What adult hasn’t secretly had days when they wished they could be the kid again? Helplessness can manifest itself in a couple of ways. The first is often that there is no action the victim can take to prevent from becoming a victim again. In actuality, there may be several things that can be done to either prevent that type of incident from reoccurring or that will help achieve a better outcome if it were to happen again. If your children are constantly claiming they aren’t able to do things which they are perfectly capable of doing, that can also be a sign of a victim mindset or entitlement. Oddly enough, the victim mindset and entitlement often do appear together. Partially because often victims are told they can’t or shouldn’t do anything for themselves…particularly by predators who many times are also the perpetrators.

You can’t protect your kids from everything, but you can equip them to recover and continue living the lives God wants for them. It takes hard work and at times outside help, but it’s crucial if you want your kids to live a rich, full, Christian life.

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.