As a pastor and counselor, I get asked all the time, "What can I do for my kids to help them succeed?" The answer? Help them with their relationships! Success in life is summed up by the quality of our relationships as described in Matthew 22:37-39. Children may have slightly different relationships than adults, but the quality of them is equally important.
Today's topic covers relationships with outside factors that need to be monitored and carefully selected to help your children become the best versions of themselves.
Your children will have a relationship with the music they are allowed to play. I find that a significant part of the rebellion of adolescence is strengthened by the music that the young person is playing. If you as the parent pulls the rebellious music, then the child will drop much of the rebellious defiance in a week or two. I remember one young lady who was just incredibly defiant to her parents and the parents became increasingly troubled. Because the defiance moved toward extremely dangerous behavior, I suggested that the parents pull their daughter out of school, put her on independent study for the rest of the semester, and not allow her to listen to the music that she had been listening to. In about 3 to 4 weeks, the transformation was astounding. The parents told me and I could see that they had their daughter back. You don't have to let your children pick who they want to listen to. You should know who they are listening to, and you should know what those musicians stand for and what they are singing about.
I was pretty strict in this area. I had two standards as the girls were growing up. Up until they were 16 they could listen to Christian music. If it wasn't Christian, then they couldn't listen to it. When they turned 16, they could expand their musical tastes to a broader scope than just Christian. The person did not have to be Christian, but they did need to have truth and righteousness themes and values. I would not suggest that you necessarily adopt the standard that I did for my children and definitely not if they have never been exposed to this type of standard before. But I do think that parents should be aware of and feel free to restrict the music of your children if it advocates behaviors that are destructive to their child.
Social Media and Internet:
With all of the cyber bullying, internet porn, and exposure to anyone in the world who takes interest in your son and daughter, parents need to be involved and vigilant in monitoring their child's social media activity. Today's kids have to navigate so much more information and ideology than we had to, so we need to have at least some idea about what they are exposed to. I suggest talking to your kids ahead of time about what they might see and ways they can respond-turn it off, deactivate it, come and show you, talk to you about it, unsubscribe, de-friend, and so on. There are any number of safety filters you can install on your computers and cell phones as well.
You and they need to know that they can make the choice to self-limit who and what they want to be exposed to, but they need to be taught that. They should only allow people in their friend lists with similar values who are also encouragers and feel free not to friend certain kids who are vulgar or make them uncomfortable. If they are being cyber bullied, it is very important that they know to come and talk to you, where you can then determine the best course of action (I would start with encouraging them to delete their account for awhile or at the very least to step away from social media for a time and possibly have you step in). They can't get upset about what they don't see. I would also recommend setting a condition on their ability to have a cell phone, social media accounts, and so on based on them friending you. You'll be able to at least monitor a little bit better about what's going on with them and their friends. Remember, you're the one who controls their having a phone, computer, IPad....these things are a privilege to use, not a right.
One of the things that movies are designed to do is to get the audience to identify with the characters in the movies. Your children will have favorite movies because they see themselves in one of the characters. You really want to understand which movies they are enjoying and which characters they are connecting with. I remember I was helping one mom and dad with their teenage children and I was talking about movies with the youngest daughter. She said she really liked a particular movie. "Oh great," I asked, "What did you like about the movie?" She then told me all about a particularly evil character in the movie, who practiced occult ceremonies, killed people, and was really twisted by evil. That led to quiet a discussion about Satanic power and the nature of evil to distort and destroy. It was very helpful for the young lady, rather than let her embrace the character as an icon in her mind. I have found that most children want to discuss their favorite movies with their parents if their parents will actually discuss the movie with them. Don't just blast their favorite character but discuss real world consequences and be willing to look further at the implications of a movie or character.
Not everyone will adopt the standards that our family used on films. Some are stricter than my wife and I and some are looser than we were. Probably the most important thing I would say that we did was we watched the movies with our kids, so that we could discuss them rather than let the images just go into their minds. We used our discernment with the ratings systems to help our girls know which movies they could watch and which ones they could not. We did not let them watch PG-13 movies until they were 13 and then only selected ones. We don't watch R-rated movies (with the exception of the Passion of the Christ), so we did not let our children watch them either. I watched a number of movies with my girls as they were turning 12 and then 13 so that we could discuss the content and messages of movies with them. This was a really great time with each of the girls as they grew older. I would take them through a whole host of movies that they would not have known to watch and it helped us discuss all kinds of subjects.
There are many different approaches to television viewing but what I would want you to be aware of is that your children will develop relationships with the characters and shows that they view on televisions. Make sure that they are watching programs that move them toward responsibility and wise behavior. There are television shows and channels that are trying to move children to accept unrighteous and immoral actions as normal and accepted - many have already succeeded with this.
I have found that many parents who restrict their children from all TV create a sensational appetite for any kind of television in their children. There is almost an insatiable hunger for TV that is also unhealthy. I would suggest that television viewing is one of those areas where children must be taught and trained over the years how to view television responsibly. How much can be viewed and still get all the chores and homework done? What kinds of shows cause nightmares and which ones don't? How long does it take to do bedtime rituals well and really be ready for sleep? What is better than television (time with friends, hobbies, sports, game with parents, etc.)? You are the parent here.
This may not be true as much as it was in the past, but some magazines are aimed at developing a relationship with your children and influencing the way they think and, more importantly, what they purchase. We did not allow our children to read or subscribe to secular teenage magazines, because I could not guarantee what was in the magazines. A good magazine with interesting articles can always be a treat and something for special occasions. I have seen teenagers who will take the word of an advice columnist in a magazine over their parents just because it is in a magazine. It should also be noted that if you as parents have a lot of magazines that would be inappropriate reading material for your children, you should be careful where the magazines are left. I am not a fan of parents having material that would be corrupting to the children in the home. I have heard too many stories of young boys who got a hold of their fathers pornography collection or young girls who read articles that were immoral. These are incredibly corrupting to young teenage minds.
Another area that can be a great source for good or a source for corruption is the whole area of books. Help your children find good books to read. You should encourage your children to read, but it must be more than just reading. I did not want my children reading books that glorified evil or taught the specifics of evil. I wanted them to read books about people of faith, about people who pushed back against evil. I wanted my children to develop identifications with real heroes who made a difference. I also did not want my girls to read a lot of books that glorified romance or following their heart. One of the worst possible sayings for a teenager to embrace is "Follow your heart." I have repeated over and over in every way I can how destructive following your emotions can be. "Follow your head." Stay objective, feel your feelings but don't let them lead.
I hope this series has been useful and beneficial to you in your parenting journey. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how God is working in and through your life. Keep learning and growing in wisdom and in truth; I'm confident that your greatest life is just ahead.
In His service,
Pastor Gil Stieglitz
Allow Us to Bless YOU!
A free preview to:
The Keys to Grapeness:
Growing a Spirit-Led Life of Success
by Dr. Gil Stieglitz
Many people have the wrong definition of a successful life, one based upon the world's measurements: piles of money, fame, power, beauty, possessions, and the like. I want to suggest that Jesus gave us a very different definition of success. In Matthew 22:37-39, he said the two greatest commandments are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. In two short sentences Jesus tells us the secret to a successful life-success is filling our lives with loving relationships. Join Gil Stieglitz as he takes you through the practical aspects of the fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23, God's keys to "grapeness" in life and relationships.