It’s a refreshing thing to see a student really taking a course “by the horns” with the idea of mastering it – not just passing the class minimums. Most students would slump down in their seats and pray the professor didn’t call on them, and yet they’re sabotaging their own best interest. If you wanted to avoid the process of learning, why’d you sign up for the class?
Sometimes you meet an obstacle and you know you’re on the wrong track. Sometimes, though, the only solution is to swallow your pride, lean into the problem, and fight your way to the goal line!
General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was an adult convert to Christianity during his time in the Mexican-American War. When he died in 1863, midway through the Civil War, he was widely known in both the Confederate and Union armies for his deep faith and heartfelt prayer life.
It didn’t come naturally, though. When Jackson first came to teach at the Virginia Military Institute a few years after his return from Mexico, he joined the local Presbyterian church under the leadership of Rev. Dr. William White. Jackson’s biographer R.L. Dabney wrote how Jackson was a regular member of the midweek prayer meeting but felt he wasn’t living up to his duty:
The prayers were usually offered, under the pastor’s direction, by the elders of the church, or other experienced Christians. Dr. White took occasion, in his Sabbath instructions, to enforce the advantages of these meetings, and said something of the duty of those who could appropriately lead the devotions of others, to render their aid in that way, overcoming, if necessary, false shame.
In the course of the week, Jackson called to ask him if he thought him one of the persons to whom the latter exhortation was applicable. He proceeded to say that he was unused to all forms of continuous public speaking; that his embarrassment was extreme, especially upon so sacred a topic, in expressing himself before a crowd; and that he had therefore doubted whether it was for edification for him to attempt the leading of others at the throne of grace. Yet, he knew that, inasmuch as these concerts of prayer were of eminent utility, the general duty of participating in their exercises was indisputable, as to Christian heads of families, and other suitable persons.
“You,” he said, “are my pastor, and the spiritual guide of the church; and if you think it my duty, then I shall waive my reluctance, and make the effort to lead in prayer, however painful.” He closed by authorizing him to call upon him for that service, if he thought proper. And his diffidence in all this was so clearly unaffected, that no mortal could have mistaken it.
After a time, the pastor called upon him to pray. He obeyed, but with an embarrassment so great, that the service was almost as painful to his brethren as it obviously was to himself.
The invitation was not repeated for a number of weeks, when, meeting Dr. White, he noted that fact, and indicated that he supposed the motive for sparing him was an unwillingness to inflict distress through his excessive diffidence. The good minister could not but admit that he had thought it best not to exact so painful a duty of him, lest his comfort in the meeting should be seriously marred.
“Yes,” said Jackson, “but my comfort or discomfort is not the question ; if it is my duty to lead my brethren in prayer, then I must persevere in it, until I learn to do it aright; and I wish you to discard all consideration for my feelings in the matter.”
He was again called on; he succeeded in curbing his agitation in a good degree; and, after a time, became as eminent for the gift, as he was for the grace of prayer.
(R. L. Dabney, The Life and Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. Thomas J. Jackson, pp. 90-92)
Are we running toward our duties, or are we running from them? How are our kids dealing with the challenges in their lives?
If you look around conventions (we travel to lots of them), admittedly, you do see a lot more moms than dads. It’s not just anecdote; a study published by the National Home Education Research Institute in 1997 found that 88% of homeschool instruction comes from mothers, and only 10% from the fathers. I asked the researcher, Dr. Brian Ray, if he thought that number was higher today, and he agreed that with the rise of telecommuting and more working from home (plus some issues with the current economic downturn), there probably are more dads doing day-to-day teaching – but it’s still a small minority.
Shouldn’t he be more involved?
We’d argue that if homeschooling is going on in the family, then the father is already involved — whether he’s teaching from schoolbooks or not! The Bible often speaks about the father’s involvement as a teacher in his family:
The Bible suggests that the husband is responsible for what happens in the home, and if he agrees to the kids being homeschooled – even if he’s not enthusiastic or especially supportive – then it’s got his approval and therefore his has responsibility.
So should Dad repent and do all the homeschooling?
Not if it makes more sense for Mom to do it. The Bible says that Solomon built the Temple (look at 1 Kings 6:14) , but it’s plain there were designers and project managers and construction teams who did the work – not the King all by himself. Even if Mom is doing the day-to-day instruction, Dad is still a homeschooling Dad – even if he’s not the main teacher. Of course, the passages above suggest there’s no problem if he is doing most of the teaching.
But if your family is the traditional sort with Dad as outside breadwinner, and Mom the teacher at home, what role can Dad play? What should he play? What can Mom do to help this happen?
|Want to hear more?
CLICK HERE and check out episode 142 or our podcast,
MAKING BIBLICAL FAMILY LIFE PRACTICAL
But, it is gonna happen.
They do say they are marriage minded, which I believe. But, I’m just worried. And feeling like I’m watching an avalanche get started. And they are GENUINE when they say they want to wait, but I see it sliding faster than they can stop it.
First, it is NOT inevitable. We know many people who were sorely tempted, but made it all the way to marriage without sexual sin in their relationship. It’s important that you believe that it’s possible, because if you don’t, your son may not believe it, either. After all, you are mom.
Instead, you need to have a serious, calm, adult-to-adult conversation with him. If young adults are determined to sin, it’s very easy for them to do that, as you know. This has got to be their commitment. You can do a lot to help, though!
He needs to understand that the temptation is real and it only grows. He can’t take this lightly. “Son, God designed us to have desires that would draw us to marriage. A romantic relationship grows closer and closer until you can hardly stand not to consummate it. You’re going to be tempted to think, ‘Well, what difference does it make? We’re going to be married soon anyway.’ It does. It matters big time. Here’s why.
He needs to understand that his actions speak more loudly than his words when it comes to love. “If you decide to have sex before marriage, you are in effect saying to her, ‘I care more about myself than I do you. I care more about satisfying this physical urge than I care about you being humiliated. I care more about my satisfying my lust than I care about our baby being born without the protection of my name and our marriage.’ You are, in essence, saying, “I do not love you,” because love puts someone else’s needs ahead of your own.'” That’s not a good message to send to someone you want to marry.
He needs to realize that this sin undermines his role in marriage. “God made you to be the head of your home and the protector and leader of your wife and family, especially spiritually. Having sex before marriage says, ‘As your spiritual leader, I will lead you into sin because I want to sin.’ Son, that destroys your leadership and her trust in you to be her protector. That can damage your marriage for years.”
He needs to really get that it’s his responsibility. “Son, it’s up to you. You have to make a commitment here. Are you really a Christian? Do you really love this woman? If so, if you want to please God, if you love her, if you want what’s best for her, then you need to set some rules for yourself to make sure you stay out of temptation. You need to make sure you handle this time in a godly and honorable way.”
Sometimes, helping our guys think things through is the help they need to stand strong. They’re under a lot of temptation and it’s easy for them to justify sin. Your job is to strip off the deceit and highlight the real issues, so he can more easily make a decision to do the right thing and so he will have the motivation to keep doing it.
We have a new book for young men to help them gain a Biblical attitude toward sexuality that might help, too. It’s called Love, Honor, and Virtue and it will be officially released soon. You can grab one of our advance copies now if you hurry, though!
Hal & Melanie]]>
You’re not alone. Nearly all boys are exposed to porn before they are eighteen and the vast majority of them, long before that. When we first started talking about this, most of the parents we talked to that were dealing with this had 15- or 16-year-olds. Now we commonly hear from parents with children as young as seven to nine.
Although you’ve got plenty of company, how you handle it makes a huge difference in what happens in the future. Some parents blow it off as “boys will be boys,” but as Christians we know this kind of sin is displeasing to God. Other parents go postal, making their kids think they’ve done something that can’t be forgiven and has ruined their lives, but that’s not true. We’ve got to hit the Biblical balance of taking it seriously, but pointing them to the hope that is in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Here’s help to do that.
1. Pray. You are going into battle for your child’s soul. Don the armor of God. Get your heart right with Him. The problem is not between you and your son, even though he’s likely disobeyed you. The problem is between your son and God. That’s way more serious.
2. Remember that you are a sinner, too. When we rebuke our children, we would do well to bring to mind Romans 3:12, “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” We can’t approach them as the righteous judge, because we aren’t. It helps to have some humility here.
3. Confront the sin in love. Sit down with your child in a private place and calmly confront them with what you’ve found out. Reassure them beforehand of your love and care for them. Confront them with a concerned attitude, not a furious one. Remember, they need to realize they’ve sinned against God, not just made you mad.
4. Expect lies and deception and do not waver. Sexuality is a private matter. On top of that, we have a tendency to hide our sin. Add the two together and a child who’s never lied to you before will look you in the eye and say, “I have no idea what you are talking about. It must have been my brother.”
At that point, we would suggest you say something like this, “Son, that may be so, but we are seeing some warning signs that you are playing with a very dangerous sin. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” That’s serious. That means looking at porn is breaking one of the Ten Commandments. I am so worried about you!”
5. Give him time to respond to the Holy Spirit and repent. Often kids will lie adamantly when you first approach them, but if you give them time to think about it, the Holy Spirit will convict them and they will confess and repent. You might say, “Son, I am so concerned about you that I think you’d better reconsider your response. I’d like for you to go to your room for a while and consider this. If you’ve gotten into porn, yes, you’ll be in trouble, of course, but we’ll help you, too. We’ll help you get out of it and get right with God.” Then leave him alone for a couple of hours.
6. Explain the consequences of this sin.
7. Intervene! Porn is addictive. When people watch porn, because they can watch so much in so short a period of time, their bodies release more dopamine (a pleasure hormone) than is possible in real life. That begins shutting down the dopamine receptors, which means you have to watch more or worse to get the same thrill. Before long, you are physically addicted. You’ve got to consider a porn user to be like an alcoholic. They will want a fix!
8. Get them back in the battle. Explain the gospel. Jesus died on the cross, taking the punishment for our sins, so that we could be forgiven of stuff like this. Repent (be sorry for your sin and forsake it) and believe. If Satan can’t keep them in the sin, he wants to convince them that they are ruined forever. Sorry, but the Bible says, “ If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
There really is hope that a young man can forsake this sin and seek righteousness! We’ve written a book for young men in their teens and twenties to help them do that. If you hurry, you can grab an advance copy here.
Hal & Melanie
Here’s some help so you don’t end up in the same place:
We list several warning signs below, but understand, it’s not at all unusual to see one or two of these things in your kids and there’s nothing going on at all, but the question still bears asking. If you are seeing several of these things, then you’ve probably got real reason for concern.
1. Unusual or sudden interest in sexual topics. This is a pretty big warning sign in younger children, especially. It pays to ask privately, “Why, what brings that up?” and watch their eyes. If you see embarrassment, shame, fear, or guilt, keep asking questions and make sure they feel safe to answer. Oh, and answer their questions about sexuality in an age-appropriate way.
2. Using sexual language you know they haven’t heard around home. One mom was shocked when the mother of her son’s young pen-pal called up, horribly offended at the language in the last message her son had received. The sender’s mother called us, puzzled and worried. She didn’t know how her son even knew those words. Turns out, though, he’d recently been given an old phone to play with but discovered it could go online … and they didn’t have a filter. He had learned all kinds of things a kid his age shouldn’t know.
3. Seems to be touching himself a lot. Again, this is something you may notice when a younger boy has been exposed to porn. Some boys do seem to struggle with this, even if they haven’t been exposed. Note, you don’t need to worry about calling him out on this any more than you would if he were picking his nose. “Son, no. Get your hands out of your pants,” won’t put him in some kind of Freudian funk. Do pay attention, though, and see if it’s part of a larger pattern.
4. Suddenly changing online activities when you walk up. When you walk up and your son suddenly changes browser windows, puts his phone face down, or closes or turns off his computer, you may want to start asking questions. “So, what are you up to, buddy? Mind if I see?” Say it kindly, with a smile. You might be wrong or you might be right, but you need him to be straight with you.
5. Putting a password you don’t know on his phone or becoming very protective of his phone or tablet. If he doesn’t want any one to touch it or if he freaks out when they do, it’s time to check it out.
6. Seeing him online, but history or online time in filter is missing. There are ways to get around filters, though it takes some knowledge. If you see him online often, but you aren’t seeing similar hours online when you check your accountability software, find out why. Also, if you check the browser history and it’s clear, but he’s been online, you mostly likely have a problem. No one covers their tracks unless they’re afraid someone will follow them.
7. Change in behavior or personality. If they are suddenly irritable, touchy, or depressed, he may be just hormonal … or he may be dealing with the guilt of porn or struggling with a porn addiction.
8. Spending a lot of time behind closed doors. Although we’ve heard of a kid watching porn on her mom’s computer in the living room with everyone there, most kids struggling with porn will spend increasing amounts of time hiding away somewhere private.
9. Can’t go to sleep without phone in the bed with him. Boys (and adults) who are addicted to porn, often can’t fall asleep without watching it and masturbating.
10. Overreacts to a lack of internet access. One mom told her son she was going to take his tablet for a week as a punishment. He ran to the kitchen, grabbed a knife, and threatened to kill himself. This is not normal! Something is very badly wrong and that boy needed help. Even if it doesn’t rise to that level, if not having internet access makes your son frantic or furious, you probably ought to ask some questions.
Each of these danger signs can be totally innocent on their own, but if you are seeing several of things happening, you may have a problem or rather, your son may. Really, you both do, and we’ll talk about what to do next in our next post.
In the meantime, one of the most important things you can do to protect your family is to get accountability software on every single internet-capable device in your home – laptops, tablets, ipods, phones. Our family uses Covenant Eyes and we love it. It allows us to set filtering and accountability separately for each member of the family and the reports are super fast and easy to check. You can support our ministry (affiliate link coming!) while you protect your family by signing up for Covenant Eyes (and you get 30 days free!).
Hal & Melanie
I’m dying here. My boy continues to be violent to his siblings…one in particular…and tells us he wants out of the family. I feel like a prisoner in my own family, needing to be here to police him. I can’t even leave for work this morning. He has completely shut us off. Any advice is greatly appreciated.
First, we are very careful to ratchet down our tempers – don’t yell, don’t scream, don’t lose it. Somebody has got to be the adult around here! Just sit down calmly and tell him, “Look son, you know this kind of behavior is completely unacceptable. Period. Everyone is going to feel safe in our home, no matter how harsh I have to be to enforce that. Let’s look at what the Lord says about this.” Do you guys have For Instruction in Righteousness? It’s a terrific resource for this kind of thing.
The second thing is to enforce what we call “intense discipleship.” “Son, if I can’t trust you to control yourself with your siblings, then you will have to have adult supervision at all times. That means you don’t leave your mom’s side until I’m home. If she lays down for a nap, you lay down on the floor and read. If she goes to the bathroom, you stand outside the door. Please know this isn’t forever, but it’s to give you time to cool down and learn some self-control, because if you can’t control yourself, we have to control you.”
Lastly, as hard as it is when they are acting crazy, you have *got* to reaffirm your love for him. Tell him you love him, that you know it’s hard, that you’ve struggled yourself. Tell him he’ll get through it and you’ll help him. Tell him you know he’ll overcome it. He needs you to believe in him.
We’ve been there, done that with each of our boys. There are days you feel like you’ll go insane, but the payoff is enormous. This is a critical time in his life. It won’t last forever – but how you get through it will influence the years to come.
I’m in agreement with Melanie right down the line. You’re in a tough place and no kidding, but this is apparently where you need to be as the parent right now. Other resources (affiliate links coming!) which would be helpful are Lou Priolo’s book The Heart of Anger and Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart — they’ve been helpful to us!
Your son is in one of the transitional years where he is gaining more strength even as his emotions and decision making go frequently awry; we even see it in normally meek, subdued boys–suddenly they become prone to explosions of rage and rough behavior, even with boys much larger than them (evidence that logic goes out the window here — when we comfort them after a confrontation ends badly, they don’t seem to understand that provoking a bigger, more ill-tempered boy than themselves doesn’t even make sense).
I wonder if there might be some use getting your son involved in a strenuous activity of some sort. Our boys have played football and we honestly have less confrontation and fighting at home during the football season–they seem to work out a lot of energy and aggression on the practice field.
I would also be very aware of what he’s choosing for entertainment. A lot of action films and first-person video games seem to get our boys’ agitation levels up, and with no outlet like an active sport or vigorous work to burn off that adrenaline, they can end up taking it out on friends and family members.
Both of us:
We have a fantastic resource for parents of kids this age. It’s called Boot Camp 9-12 and it’s an online class where we discuss the challenges of parenting preteens and early teens and give you practical ideas for overcoming them. We talk about everything! The emotional rollercoaster, spiritual doubts, stumbling in school, gaming and porn, teaching entrepreneurship, Coming of Age celebrations and more. We think it would be a huge encouragement to you and we’re starting a new live class tomorrow. Check it out.
Don’t despair. We remember one angry, violent eleven-year-old who may or may not be a Young who turned out to be a very wonderful, mature Christian man. There’s hope! He needs patience, guidance, correction, love, and most of all, Jesus Christ.
Hal & Melanie
Sadly, this is happening more and more frequently. As more and more people become enslaved by porn, more of them will eventually act out their sick fantasies. Law enforcement statistics are showing this trend. It’s important that you take some basic precautions to protect your kids.
1. Trust your gut. If you feel uneasy about someone, don’t let them be alone with your kids. Sometimes the Holy Spirit is trying to tell you something and you need to listen. Or, you might be picking up on subtle signals that you can’t easily identify, but that tell you something isn’t quite right. Or, both.
2. Tell your children that no one is allowed to see them or touch them in the area covered by their underwear or bathing suit — and they aren’t allowed to see or touch anyone else there either. The only exceptions are their parents or someone their parents have asked to help them, such as a doctor or grandparent with the parents’ permission. (Oh, and their future mate after they’re married!)
3. Let them know that if anyone asks them not to tell their parents something, that’s a huge red flag that they should tell their parents right away. You might lose the chance to be surprised by a birthday present, but it’s worth it.
4. Make sure they know that if someone threatens them, or threatens someone or something they love, then they need to get adult help right away. Let them know you can take care of them and and you can protect yourself, that they need your help. Remind them that you are supposed to be protecting them, they don’t have to protect you.
5. Ask your children occasionally if anything is bothering them or if there’s something they’ve wanted to tell you, but maybe didn’t know how. Do this especially if you see any change of behavior or personality.
6. Remember that horrible things can happen very quickly. Some predators take delight in molesting their victims when their parents are nearby or even in the room. One mom said that in the time it took the kids to go get toys from the basement, her child was shown a pornographic movie on a phone by a man who was renting the downstairs apartment. It took less than two minutes for the boy to be exposed. If you are uneasy, don’t take your eyes off them.
7. Don’t be deceived. Most children are not molested by strangers but by people their families trusted. Watch out for grownups who seem way more focused on the kids than the adults. Don’t make your kids show physical affection to people they don’t want to.
8. You have a right, and a responsibility, to say No. If someone wants to take your child somewhere and you don’t feel good about it, say No. If someone is interacting with your child in a way that makes you uneasy, say No. If someone wants your child to stay overnight and it makes you uncomfortable, say No. In fact, we don’t do sleepovers at all except for grandparents or whole families, which stay together. The risks have risen enormously since we were kids and there was plenty of opportunity for sin then–it happened to schoolmates of ours. You don’t have to feel bad about saying No, either. Just say, “I’m sorry. That won’t be possible,” and move on. Your child is your responsibility.
9. You need to know that some predators are other kids. We’ve heard stories recently about kids being molested by neighbor kids while they played in the yard or while they were supposed to be playing with toys in their bedroom. It’s probably best for kids to play with friends in the common areas of the house or with adult supervision around. It’s a different world than it was when we were children and you have no idea what other kids have been exposed to. Unfortunately, you need to know that sometimes predators are siblings. This is a horrific thought, but it happens. Be aware, especially in blended, adoptive, or foster families where kids aren’t biologically related. In blood siblings, sometimes porn is a motivator.
10. Protect your kids from porn. Interest in porn can be a symptom a child’s been molested. Or, porn use can make them more susceptible to molesters. Worse still, porn can tempt them to act out themselves. No one wants to find out their child has become a predator, yet we know several really good, Christian families who’ve had to deal with that devastating discovery. Protect your kids. Get some kind of accountability software on every internet capable device in your home. We use Covenant Eyes and have used it for years. We love that it allows you to set different levels of filtering or accountability for each family member. You can support our ministry (affiliate link coming!) and try it for 30 days free by clicking here.
It’s serious. Our kids need our protection more than ever. Step up to the plate, overcome your embarrassment and go to bat for them. You won’t regret it.
Hal & Melanie
Oh, yeah! We’ve written a new book for guys in their teens and twenties. It’s called Love, Honor, and Virtue: Gaining or Regaining a Biblical Attitude Toward Sexuality. Although it won’t be officially released for several more weeks, we do have a few advance copies, if you want to grab one! Click here to check it out!]]>
As Christian parents, we probably all put right at the top of our list, “Teach our children to know and love and serve the Lord Jesus.” The stakes are high, and frankly, it can be a daunting thing to realize we have the biggest influence in our kids’ daily spiritual instruction!
Our friend Dennis Gundersen is a veteran pastor and the author of a thoughtful book called Your Child’s Profession of Faith. He’s been a friend of ours for at least twenty years, and we spoke to him on our podcast about some aspects of sharing the Gospel with your children.
How early can you teach your children about Jesus, sin, and forgiveness? “I can’t remember a time that we didn’t,” Dennis told us (he and his wife Naomi have four married adult sons). If the normal, everyday conversation in the home speaks about spiritual truth frequently, he said, then our children are going to hear spiritual truth from a young age … and often.
We need to be transparent about living out our faith in front of our children. Jesus lived out the ministry He was teaching His disciples, and His teaching style to them was often more about demonstration than instruction.
But family worship is important, too, and “practically applying it to ourselves” Dennis said. It’s important not to avoid the difficult or even “scary” topics like our inborn sinfulness and desperate need for a Savior! It’s not just “Jesus is my Friend” – we are all like sheep who have gone astray!
How to you get from the comforting messages to the need for repentance and forgiveness? “We found that all truth has roads to other truth,” he said. When we study through the Bible, “there are direct pathways between the gentle truths about Jesus and the wrath He endured on the Cross.” When you read straight through the Bible, you’ll get a balanced message. Our sin and guilt lead us back to the love of God in Christ, and the love of God for poor sinners leads us to Calvary.
How do you lead family devotions? It depends on your family, he said. If your children are all older kids and believers themselves, you might have longer and deeper devotions; but “You can cover a lot of the Bible in 10 or 15 minutes a day, if you make it a daily habit,” Dennis said. He recommends simply reading and discussing the Bible, rather than trying to find a curriculum and make it fit your family’s particular needs, interests, doctrinal background, and so on.
Some of the earliest spiritual training will probably be simple obedience. We asked him about one writer we know who says that the primary duty of children is to obey. Dennis said there is an element of truth to that; he noted that one of the most frequent statements in Proverbs is, “Son, listen to me!” And nothing opens the way for the Gospel than dealing with open sin or rebellion.
But it’s important that we parents confess our sins against our kids – and ask their forgiveness. They are very sensitive to hypocrisy and inconsistency in our actions and words. Sometimes we parents are going to react too quickly, or make unfair assumptions, or simply lose our temper with our children. It is appropriate and powerful when we admit our wrongs to our children, ask their forgiveness, and pray for God’s help overcoming these things in ourselves!
There are more great ideas on the full episode – you can get it on iTunes or listen online at the Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network!
You can find all sorts of resources for learning at home at a low, family-friendly price
– and if you act now, you can get two years for the price of one!
CLICK HERE to find out more …]]>
This is kind of a shock to us. We grew up in the South where if you didn’t take your mom’s phone calls, she’d show up at your house and stand there on your porch until you did! “Family is family,” people would say when we were growing up.
True. There are truly dysfunctional families and frankly, broken personalities to deal with, sometimes. We’re not talking about the horrible situations that some of you face where you just must walk away. We have seen some families in that shape, sadly. An abuser, for example, has broken the family trust and has no right to access to anyone.
For most of our friends, though, it’s not a matter of pathology or persecution, but a series of disputes about authority, discipline, household management, and respect for one another. Many of these things could be resolved! Breaking off contact is the death penalty of relationships, and it should only happen in the most extreme circumstances.
If you find yourself exasperated and chafing in your extended family relationships, consider this:
The way you relate to your parents and in-laws now is teaching your children how to relate to you when you’re the grandparent.
Stop and think about that a moment.
By the time your children have children, things will be different than they are now.
Dietary advice will change. When we were children, our parents were told to choose margarine over butter – it was so much healthier! When our children were little, research was just surfacing that trans-fatty acids in many margarines were actually more dangerous than butter! Depend on it, something you confidently feed your children now will fall out of favor when your grandchildren come along.
Safety advice will change. When we were children, car seats for kids were simply boosters to let them see through the windows. Seatbelts were optional and kids routinely rode unrestrained in the back of the station wagon or the bed of Dad’s pickup truck. When our first child was born, car seats were mandatory and had multiple attachment points; by the time our youngest came along, parents were required to keep children in booster seats until they were eight years old! When your time comes to load up grandchildren, who knows what contraption will be standard equipment? Will you find it irritating or frustrating to submit to new expectations that seem unrealistic, panicky, and alarmist?
Baby care advice will change. We’ve seen this ourselves over the twenty years we had babies in our house. First, they told us to always put a baby to sleep on his stomach, because he might aspirate his spit up and die. A few years later, the experts said no, always put a baby to sleep on his side; otherwise he might aspirate spit up or have SIDS and die. A few years after than, they said babies should always be put to sleep on their backs … or they might die. The advice was always earnest and urgent and ever so certain … this time.
Dear Future Grandparent: Trust us, you’re going to think the new advice is all a bit silly. After all, your kids did fine! Your children, though, will do some things differently with their kids than you did with yours. When they do, don’t you want them to have patience with you when you don’t quite get it?
We get it. We really do. DISCLOSURE: We’ve said some of those things ourselves! We’re a little (well, a lot!) older now and our perspective has changed. Now we realize there are some very good reasons for choosing to overlook these things.
We want our kids to know that relationships are worth fighting for. Every relationship between two sinners is going to involve conflict and compromise. We want our children to understand that by the time they’re adults. We don’t want them to be quick to walk away – not from us and not from their mate.
We want our kids to understand that there is more to life than the body and that relationships are more important than food. The Word tells us that
Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.
When we put what we have chosen to eat or not eat above our relationships with our family, above kindness and courtesy, we’re teaching our children the opposite of this verse.
It’s true that some circumstances are so serious, like a life-threatening allergy, that you have to handle them as medical issues and draw strict boundaries. And to be fair, it seems that some of these allergies are more common now than when we were kids … that’s real.
Much of what causes disagreement doesn’t rise to that level, though. Is it good for kids to have a diet rich in artificial colors or flavors? No. Will they be seriously hurt if they encounter them occasionally at Grandma’s house? No, again.
We want our children to learn tools for dealing with difficult people and uncomfortable situations. We travel a lot and we’ve enjoyed hospitality from people of all sorts. Sometimes, we’ve looked at our plates and had to decide – are we going to be picky and embarrass these kind hosts, or will we be gracious guests and ignore our usual preferences for an hour? When a conversation steers into controversies over politics, religious distinctives, or other areas of disagreement, have our children seen us answer softly and steer clear of arguments and offenses for the sake of relationships?
When our children see us behave like a Christian — with self-control, gentleness, and thankfulness — and when they watch us control our tempers and mouths when we’re provoked, we’re teaching them how to behave when they have challenges with other people. One day, no doubt, we’ll be that “other” person!
We want our children to learn to set loving boundaries. When we navigate awkward relationships in our family well, our children learn how to do the same. They learn how to refuse to be baited, how to change the subject, how to say no to a problematic invitation, how to tell someone to stop being a bully. and they see how to do those things like a Christian.
We want our children to respect their elders. Although it’s tempting to feel like our generation is the first to really be on top of it all, the Word of God tells us to honor our fathers and our mothers, to submit to the elders of the church, and to be subject to those in authority over us. When our kids see us honor our parents even when we disagree with them, they learn to respect the position and experience of their elders.
Ultimately, we want to show our children how we want to be treated when we’re the grandparents and they are the parents. We want a relationship with our children and grandchildren. We want to be a part of their lives. We don’t want to be cut off because we’re cranky or hard to deal with and especially not because we’ve made some kind of mistake.
If we want our children to treat us with mercy and grace that day, then we ought to be an example of mercy and grace for them now.
Give your mom a call. Invite your mother-in-law to come over. Family is family!
Hal & Melanie
I almost feel like he does it for the attention or he just doesn’t care. At the dinner table he will eat with his hands burp without saying excuse me eat really messy where stuff getting all over the place not caring to clean it up and chewing with his mouth open not saying please or thank you with out being reminded too, just has bad table manners, manners period. We will remind him to close his mouth etc things like that and he’ll say I know I know but a second later he’s doing it again when he was younger he had amazing table manners.
My husband’s getting frustrated because we took him to my in-laws for dinner yesterday we had a discussion with him before we went in about his table manners and he says I know I know ,we go in there and have issues again. It embarrasses us because my in-laws make comments of how that’s not allowed at their house but we don’t allow it either he’s just doing it. Its so frustrating and I’m trying to handle this the right way any advice on this would be great.”
There’s nothing like kids to keep you humble, is there?
We see three issues here and they each need a little different focus.
First, the grandparents. We’ve found ourselves in the same uncomfortable situation. In fact, it happened this morning! A child who definitely knows better will act like they’ve had no training at all in front of his or her very proper, Southern lady grandmother. Arrggghhh! That is so embarrassing! At this point, humility is probably the best course, saying something like, “No, we don’t allow it, either, and we’re working on it. Today is not a good day, though, is it? How did you handle things like this when we were growing up? What about when we were in public?” Getting them thinking back is likely to remind them that all children do this kind of thing at some time or another and even if it doesn’t, it shows you know what is expected and you’re trying — and allows them to be the experts!
You can learn more about how to handle this age in a godly way that protects your relationship without ignoring sin in our online class for parents of preteens: Boot Camp 9-12. It’s one of the most popular things we do!
This is a frustating age, situation, and even topic. Teaching manners to boys isn’t easy! That’s why we spent a whole chapter on it in our book, Raising Real Men, and why we called the second half of the book, Civilization for the Rough!