Whether you’re a parent who’s currently striving to win your child’s heart back or whether your child’s still little and impressionable, this article is for you. It’s time parents recognize the masked dangers that lurk silently within the corners of popular thinking, and their main target is our children.
The problem isn’t obvious, but the symptoms are glaring
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Between the rising mental health issues and suicide rates in our younger generation, it’s time parents wake up and attack the culprit head-on.
Here’s the thing. Society wants your child’s allegiance. A system works best when everyone is compliant. But here’s the danger. Who’s to say this system is right? When we, the people, no longer have a say in what’s happening, aka “freedom of speech,” then we have immediately lost our influence in the system. And what’s a system that’s not run by the people or for the people, but rather a single powerful influence? Yeah.
This cultural problem at hand will directly influence your children, whether you like it or not. The specific problem I’m referring to is subtly telling them that thinking for themselves is not allowed, not tolerated, and not woke enough. It’s telling them that if they don’t adhere to a system that is put in place for their “good,” for “peace,” and for their “safety,” they won’t be accepted.
At the same time, culture screams that they should be who they are, but it’s subject to a certain worldly boundary, usually made by social media, the media in general, or certain powerful people and influencers, as well as their peers.
The problem will not only affect your child’s future, but their mental health, their relationships, and their general outlook on life. How? Because instead of being able to discern whether something is right or wrong based on education, logic, reasoning, and healthy guidance from their parents, they will be forced to believe something is right simply because the system says it is. And before you have a chance to reach your child once you realize they are being pulled in the wrong direction, you won’t be allowed to help them.
Culture would love to raise your children and be the stronger influence in their life. Culture would love to tell your children they need to be put in a box. Culture would love to be in control of their thinking, so there is no resistance. Culture has confused peace with mental imprisonment, and I say we do something about it.
Don’t become passive
Win your child’s heart before society does.
I like to compare parenting with working out. You get what you put into it. And that’s why the most important aspect of parenting is recognizing that you need to BE PRESENT in your child’s life. Your children will be influenced by something, whether that’s you, their peers, their teachers, social media, etc. — it’s up to you who will be the strongest influence.
This is where I would never tell you, “You just need to be more controlling.” On the contrary, being the strongest influence simply means you’re the safest space for them to go to with their questions and doubts.
The more present you are in your child’s life emotionally, mentally, and physically, the more likely your child will feel loved and valuable. And when a child feels loved and valued, they are more likely to see you as trustworthy; therefore, you will be the strongest influence. They are also more likely to succeed — have good relationships, a healthy outlook on life, and self-confidence.
As this concept seems really simple, it’s easier said than done. Loving a child is sometimes hard. Loving them means you need to sometimes discipline them. It means you have to tell them “no” and deal with the pushback. It means you have to get down in that pit with them and show them empathy for something, even if you don’t understand it. It means you need to show up and have the hard conversations. It means you need to pay attention and LISTEN to their hearts DAILY. And most importantly, it means you need to self-reflect and apologize when you wrong them and model for them a healthy person. It means you need to be governed by humility and willing to give up your comforts for the betterment of your child.
Yep. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. But it’s so worth it. At the end of the day, you will screw up. You will fail your child time and time again. But when you can recognize your wrong and show your children that perfection isn’t expected, beautiful things can happen in your relationship with them.
It all starts in the home
Healthy people are raised in healthy homes. It starts with you, the parent. So before you go trying to find a solution to your child’s misbehavior, make sure you look within to make sure their behavior is not a result of something you’re doing wrong as a parent. That could even mean adjusting your discipline and not being as strict, or it could mean the opposite — being more disciplinary. It could mean putting down your phone and having a meaningful conversation with your kid. It’s important you continue to ask yourself these questions when it comes to your parenting.
Use your loving authority for their good, not just your convenience.
Don’t leave God out of it
As a Christian, I don’t believe that my child’s faith is nurtured by our family attending church every Sunday or checking off all the religious “must-do’s” our current Christian culture has fabricated. In fact, I’m very wary of many modern-day churches. Christianity in America has become just another system we adhere to, instead of actually understanding what it truly means to be and act like a follower of God.
If you want your child to know who God is, and just how much He loves them so they make that decision for themselves to follow Him, the best place for them to learn this is in your home. If you feel ill-equipped for this task, it’s never too late. Some simple solutions are to have them memorize verses, do daily devotionals together, pray together, and simply model the love you have for Christ. Often, the best way to teach a child is to model it first.
Don’t preach at your kids. Listen to them. Don’t make them feel bad for doubting or having questions. Leave room for the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts, and don’t force faith down their throats. Trust that they are in God’s hands, and allow him to work in their hearts. The minute we become frantic about their salvation is the moment we are not trusting them to God.
Teach them that not everyone is going to like them, and that’s okay
It’s truly a beautiful thing when your child can see through YOU that being a Christian isn’t a burden but a blessing. We treat one another with love. We strive for peace but at the same time speak the truth in love and are bold about our faith. We put one another before ourselves. We serve the less fortunate. We see all as equal in God’s eyes. Christians are supposed to stand out from the crowd, but that doesn’t mean we are accepted by the crowd. We are misfits. And if you’re a family of faith, it’s important your children know this for themselves — that not everyone is going to like or agree with them, and that’s OKAY!
Only dead fish swim with the stream.
Teach them where ultimate truth can be found
We live in a world where truth is no longer truth. Truth is whatever you want it to be. Truth is relative to a person and how they feel. Truth for you one day might be different to you another day. Truth rides on the waves of our culture, instead of being based on something absolute. And as the lines continue to get more and more blurred, our children are getting more and more confused.
Confused children will look for answers. And the answers that lie beneath the surface of our morally and ethically declining society are seeking to be found by the next generation.
The evidence isn’t obvious
Upon writing this post, I knew I would need to point out the problem in a more concrete way than just spouting out how I feel. Sure, I feel devastated that I have to talk to my son about things I never thought I would at his age. I feel devastated that what we teach him in the home is of no value to the world, and that is something he will have to contend with on a daily basis. I am devastated that the God he identifies with is not accepted, and there might come a time where he may be persecuted for his beliefs. That’s how I feel.
But what’s the evidence of this problem for Christians today? Good evidence for this is challenging to come by. Statistics can tell you that church attendance declines by 30% every generation. Statistics can tell you that mental health is declining at a significant rate, year by year. Statistics can tell you that young people are suffering from depression more than ever before. But here’s the thing. Way back when there were no statistics being drawn. How can we compare our statistics in the last few hundred years, with the thousands of years before us that never went by statistics? We can’t.
Every generation has faced its fair share of challenges. There have been pandemics, genocides, events such as the Holocaust. Dating back to Biblical times — remember when Herod murdered thousands of baby boys just because he hoped Jesus would be thrown into the mix? Can you imagine this happening today in America?
Well, it does. It’s just masked as being something that’s “good” and “beneficial.” There is genocide happening, just on a “fetus” level. There is a war happening, just on a social media level. There is an illusion of peace. But peace is being confused with tyranny.
As a mom who cares deeply, not only for the physical safety of her son but for the emotional and spiritual health of his heart, I will not settle with raising a child who stares aimlessly into his phone, being impressioned by everything that is put in front of his face. I will not allow him to get sucked into the muck that tries to poison his brain and keep him from having his own thoughts, ideas, and opinions. On the other hand, in doing this, I have to be careful not to force my own opinions down his throat or try and control his every move. And that’s where the balance lies. Preparing your kids for the world they WILL grow up in, not for the one I WANT him to grow up in.
Learning this balance is challenging. You hear stories of kids turning from their faith, mostly at the hand of a legalistic church or upbringing. But if left to their own devices, children most often won’t desire to learn about God on their own. After all, children in their immaturity seek for things they WANT, not for things they NEED. At the end of the day, they will choose candy over vegetables.
So where’s the balance in guiding and teaching your kids to LOVE God, to be excited about the gospel, and to live their life serving something other than themselves?
I’ve been thinking long and hard about the “why” behind this issue. Why is it such a bad thing to have a different opinion, especially when it’s not popular? And as I’m still sludging through, trying not to get sucked in myself, I rest on this verse. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20
Teach them how to accomplish things on their own
I remember when I was little and incapable of coming up with solutions to my problems. If I was hungry, I asked my mom to make my food. If I couldn’t do something, I would ask my Dad to do it for me. Then, at a certain age, I began to learn how to do things on my own. It was a conflicting feeling — on one hand, I didn’t mind learning new things, but on the other, it was kind of nice to have everything done for me, especially when it came to cleaning my room.
Now having children of my own, I truly recognize the importance of teaching them the value of learning how to accomplish things on their own, whether that be preparing their own breakfast, tying their shoes, or cleaning up their messes.
Most parents don’t know that you can begin to teach this independent mindset as early as around 8 months old. Obviously, they will start simple, but their responsibilities will challenge them in new ways as they grow older. If your toddler spills his milk, simply have him clean up his own mess. Oftentimes, toddlers are very willing to learn new things and accomplish them on their own. They get a sense of satisfaction, especially because it makes them feel grown-up.
This is an incredible opportunity to begin to show them what they are capable of, but make sure you instruct them how beforehand. It can be very frustrating for children to try and do something they haven’t first learned to do. I remember asking my son to hang up his clean shirts on hangers around age 8. I thought he would know how, but about 10 minutes later, I went downstairs to find him crying, frustrated that he couldn’t hang his shirts up. I quickly recognized my parenting failure, assured him that it was my fault for not showing him how, and we finished the task together. I taught him how, and he was able to accomplish his part. It’s okay if things are difficult for them and becomes all the more rewarding for them when they can succeed.
Let your kids fail
But there is the other side of trying new things, and that’s experiencing failure. Your kids will fail, and that’s perfectly okay. The important thing is that they tried. Assure them that asking for help, trying again, or failing is a part of life. As adults, we know this all too well. So the goal here is to prepare them for circumstances that sometimes don’t turn out the way they want — to help them be emotionally prepared to face challenges in their life for the future.
As well as teaching your children the physical side of trying new things and accomplishing them independently, the same should be said for preparing your kids to think for themselves.
How to raise free thinkers
I know a lot of you who read this blog don’t associate with any religion or faith, and I always do my best to make this a space for everyone no matter what they believe, so that even if you don’t believe in a higher power, you can still get something out of the content. But this is where I’ll warn those of you who don’t believe in God. This is an area where we might disagree, or you might do things differently. Read on if you would like, but this is more my audience associated with the Christian faith.
As Christians, we recognize that how the world operates is oftentimes vastly different than how we live our lives according to the Bible. There are certain morals ingrained into the fabric of our faith that cause us to do things differently, and that definitely applies to how we parent. And while the world might deem us regressive, our faith has never been based on the approval of others, but rather on obedience and surrender to God.
Do you know the verse 1 Peter 3:15? “…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, but with gentleness and respect;”
If you’re aware of the turning tides in our culture, then you might have had the thought, “I wonder if my kids will be okay growing up in this world?”
And as I am an advocate of never forcing my beliefs on my child, but rather giving them the freedom to choose their faith for themselves, I also believe it necessary we equip them for the world they will grow up in, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.
Lines are getting very blurred in our culture, and if our children aren’t prepared to know how to think for themselves, defend their faith, and stand for what is right, then as parents, we will have done them a disservice. Ultimately and thankfully our children are in the hands of a loving God, but don’t you want to send them off into the world with all the knowledge and understanding of what is good, right, and honorable? Don’t you want to prepare them for what you know will be thrown at them?
Teaching your children apologetics is just a fancy way of saying that you’re teaching them how to think for themselves when it comes to their faith and beliefs. So how do we do that?
How do we teach our kids how to think for themselves, and not get tossed and turned by the waves of our society?
It’s not easy. It takes intentionality. It takes you first being the example.
But it’s possible.
Here are some things you can do to prepare your kids to think for themselves when culture is vying for their allegiance.
1. Teach them what empty words are
Our culture is all about living your own truth. But if your truth is not aligning with their truth, then it’s not okay. You are not accepted when you have your own opinions that differ from popular or “woke” ones. Do you see how backward that is? I think it’s important to point this out to our children and tell them we are called to love and accept others who have different beliefs than their own. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak the truth in love or talk to others about the truth of God when the time is right. But more often than not, loving others and simply living your own life for Christ is the most powerful tool that God uses to speak to the hearts of others — being a good example of who Christ is.
Within the woke mindset, there are words being thrown about that often look shiny and lovely from the outside, but deep down, it’s just another way of saying, “you’re accepted, as long as you believe what’s woke enough.”
For example. When people say things like, “We’re all in this together. Let’s be unified and at peace,” it’s most likely conditional to what they see as unifying and peaceful. It means that you agree with everything they are saying, otherwise YOU are the problem, and YOU are the one who is being divisive. As most people mean well with these words, the truth of the matter is that “unity” is not unity unless the intent of unification is paralleled with a massage that we all agree on.
As Christians, we are called to unity. And even in the Christian world, unity is often hard to achieve. We have separate denominations because of it. But nonetheless, as Christians, we are unified together in Christ. At the end of the day, the gospel is what unifies us.
That’s why it’s so important to teach your kids what these empty words are, and before they go unifying with others, make sure they understand what they are unifying over. If it’s unifying over something good and edifying, great!
But along with that, teach them that It’s okay to have different opinions and values than those who don’t share the same faith. That along with speaking the truth in love, we teach them that loving our neighbor is also vitally important. That being tolerant and kind to others who live differently than us is also something that God asks of us.
2. Teach them that there are some black and white answers, and that’s okay
In a culture that is governed by “my truth your truth,” it’s important we land on the fact that without an ultimate truth, truth is not the truth. Truth is not relative. Truth is concrete, immovable, and not up for debate.
Our culture doesn’t want this, because it would mean that they sometimes get it wrong. That the way they are living is not right. They like to believe that there is no right or wrong (unless it’s not what they believe), and always giving in to your feelings, impulses, and desires is something to be praised.
But the problem with this is that there is no longer a line to be crossed. If someone felt as though they wanted to do something terrible to someone else, they could, and no one would hold them accountable. There is no law. We have arrived at the time that calls evil good and good evil.
It’s important that your children aren’t deceived by this. It’s attractive. Falsities are often close to the truth and seem harmless.