Our children are under attack.
Yes, there are physical attacks against our children, such as predators that want to kidnap or harm our children. There are also bullies at the schools just waiting to harm and intimidate our children. These dangers are real, and we should do what we can to prepare our children to avoid predatory behavior and make them “bully-proof”.
These are not the types of attacks I’m addressing here. The attacks against our children I’m addressing are far more subtle but far more nefarious. These attacks are far more difficult to spot but far more damaging. And these attacks are far more clandestine but far more permanently damaging. They are the attacks against their values, and we must fight for what it right for our children.
Too many of us have surrendered our children to these attacks without a fight. We have allowed them to listen to music that promotes violence, profanity, rape, domestic abuse, illegal drug use and illegal drug sales, and murder, and we throw up our hands because we feel we can’t keep them away from it. We’ve surrendered them to the internet, where misinformation runs rampant, because we feel we can’t control what they do with it. We’ve surrendered them to the influences of athletes that disrespect our nation by disrespecting our national anthem then commit and glorify a life of crime, allowing our children to see them as heroes, because we ourselves can’t turn them off from our own TVs. And we’ve surrendered them to immorality, destining them to a tragic life, because we’ve put our own needs and interests ahead of theirs.
It has to stop. Our children need us to be great for them. The world at large will not do it for us.
What can we do? We seem so overmatched against all of these negative influences, loaded with powerful imagery and sound, fueled by billion-dollar industries. How can we compete with influences that are so strong and pull our children away from all of the negativity into a life of positivity and purpose? The same way you eat an elephant: one bite at a time.
I’m going to lay out the steps for winning the battle for our kids. Each one is in order, and each one must be done first before the next one can be done. Think of them as a ladder that has to be climbed, starting at the bottom step, with no skipping of steps, in order to get to the top and win. Anything less, and our children lose out. Let me say also that this is not an easy ladder to climb. It’s loaded with stress, strenuousness, and unpleasantries. Any failure on our parts to take these steps, though, and our kids lose. We must endure the climb, one step at a time, so that our children grow up to be sound, moral, ethical, principled, disciplined, respectful, successful, Christian adults. Hebrews 12:11 reminds us, “At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off big-time, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.”
Step 1: Be an active part of their lives. This seems quite obvious, doesn’t it? We actually have to physically be there with them in order to win the battle. This is much easier said than done for most people. In today’s world of nearly limitless distractions, such as the internet, video gaming, sports, work, personal hobbies, and many others, it’s entirely possible to physically be with our children without mentally being there. We’re using our mobile devices to access social media, play games, or text with friends while our children are off doing the exact same thing. The problem is that we’re all together in the same location, but none of us are actually interacting. If kids don’t get interaction from their parents, they will get it somewhere else. That could be from strangers on the internet, gang leaders, or even pedophiles. We can’t allow this to happen. Our kids need and deserve our attention. Kids have and always will spell love T-I-M-E. Psalm 127:3 lets us know, “Don’t you see that children are GOD’s best gift? the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?” I often tell my own child that life is about two things: showing up and executing. This one is about showing up, physically and mentally. All of the steps that follow are about execution.
Step 2: Inspect for what you expect. If you are like me, your kids have access to the internet on an all-day basis. They have it from their computer and they have it from their mobile devices. It is imperative that we inspect their devices to see what they are doing with them. In all fairness, you’re not nearly as much inspecting for what they are doing as for what others are doing with your kids. Your child is not likely to go to great lengths to seek out danger for themselves, but predatory people are looking for them online – all the time. You have to inspect their devices for what activities are happening. As soon as you hand them access to a device, let them know upfront that you have the responsibility of knowing what is happening with that device. Be upfront and honest with them about this process. Tell them you trust them with the device, but that there are people on the internet that may want to harm them, and, because you love them, you have to make sure that doesn’t happen. My child has never balked at this idea because it is rooted in trust and love for him. If you find something inappropriate, explain to them why it is inappropriate and help them refocus on appropriate activities. You and I are mature adults that can filter out what is acceptable use of these things and they cannot. They lack the knowledge, experience, and maturity to know what is right for them and what is not. Deuteronomy 4:9 helps us here with these wise words: “Just make sure you stay alert. Keep close watch over yourselves. Don’t forget anything of what you’ve seen. Don’t let your heart wander off. Stay vigilant as long as you live. Teach what you’ve seen and heard to your children and grandchildren.” We have to take the lead on this and know what is going on in their worlds.
Step 3: Know what input they are receiving. Every generation blames the generation before it for the world’s problems and things the generation to follow will make a mess of all the great things they’ve done. In all fairness, this really doesn’t happen all that often. There is one exception, though: each generation since the invention of recorded media has allowed more and more filth into it, and society has accepted it. If you think about the early records that came out, it was completely taboo to use profanity in music. If you think about the first TV shows, they weren’t allowed to use profanity. They weren’t even allowed to show footage of married couples depicted as sleeping together in the same bed in a bedroom. And they wouldn’t DARE show footage of a bathroom! What do you see on TV today? Murder, sex, adultery, drug use, kidnapping, gore, smut, vulgar language, and violence – and that’s on the free network channels! What do you hear in today’s music? Lyrics depicting the same. Know what you’re children are listening to and watching. Remember the G.I.G.O. reference from before? Garbage in, garbage out. Make sure the messages your children are receiving from their audio and video are positive inputs. Here’s some good advice from 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way.”
This can be tough when the input is out of your control. For example, my family and I went to a Carolina Panthers practice at Wofford College. The practice was a lot of fun, but the team played very vulgar music to a crowd filled with children. There are two ways to deal with this problem. The first is to talk with your kids about what they heard and tell them why the language in it is not appropriate. The second is to do what I call “vote with your dollar”. That means to spend your money where your values are, and withhold your money from things you don’t value, such as the aforementioned nastiness. Really want to stop the networks, sports teams, and other companies from spewing sewage? Don’t threaten to take away money from them; contact their sponsors and tell them you won’t buy their products if they keep promoting their products at these venues. Watch what happens: the spewing of sewage will come to a stop. Vote with your dollar, and vote to keep your kids free of negative input by these powerful but susceptible influencers.
Step 4: Feed them well. Yes, I know they need their vitamins and minerals. I’m talking about what you feed their minds. We already know the importance of keeping out the negativity. Now, feed their minds the good stuff. If garbage in equals garbage out, then good stuff in equals good stuff out. Reading is probably your child’s best ally here. Choose what they read. You can feed their minds the good stuff by having them read wholesome books that add value to them. Reward them for reading with the things they want for reading what you want. Dr. John Maxwell says that his father didn’t pay him for doing chores around the house; they were expected of him because he was a member of the family. Instead, his father paid him for reading books of his father’s choosing. I have applied this same principle in my home, and my son has read a number of books that have added value to him, including:
- As A Man Thinketh by James Allen
- Dale Carnegie’s Golden Book by Dale Carnegie
- How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- I Know What You’re Thinking by Dr. Lillian Glass
- The New Raising Positive Kids In A Negative World by Zig Ziglar
- Verbal Judo by Dr. George Thompson
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Point your kids in the right direction—when they’re old they won’t be lost.” Don’t just block out the negative input – add in the positive. Model for them what you expect for them Titus 2:1-7 instructs us:
“Your job is to speak out on the things that make for solid doctrine. By looking at them (elder women), the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don’t want anyone looking down on God’s Message because of their behavior. Also, guide the young men to live disciplined lives. But mostly, show them all this by doing it yourself, trustworthy in your teaching, your words solid and sane.”
You will see your child’s mind blossom, and they will become capable of making mature decisions themselves as they grow older.
Step 5: Have the tough conversations. Conversations about sex, drug use, alcohol use, and other such topics can be challenging for parents and seemingly embarrassing for children. Note that I said “seemingly” embarrassing. The truth is that they want YOU to talk with them about these issues, not their PE (Physical Education) coach. Remember, if you don’t control the conversations with your child, others will, and you might not like the input they’re sending out.
So, how do you have these talks with them? Start by telling them about drugs and alcohol and why they are bad for them. They’re bad for their minds, bad for their physical development, and bad for their health. Next, put yourself in their shoes and phrase these concepts in the ways that they will negatively impact what’s important to THEM. You want them to have good minds, good physical development, and good health. They just want to have fun. Explain to them how drug and alcohol use will negatively impact their fun. If they use drugs, they won’t be able to make the football team. If they drink alcohol, they won’t be able to drive their car. Put on their lenses to see what’s important to them, then tell them how drugs and alcohol will prevent them for getting the things in life that are important to THEM.
When it comes to talking about sex with your kids, don’t treat it as though it is something dirty. Sex is a gift from God, meant to be shared between spouses. When you talk about body parts, don’t use slang language – use medical terminology. It shows respect for the parts of the body and models to them how to speak about the same parts. Let them know about the consequences of unprotected sex: pregnancy, disease, and even death from disease. Ephesians 5:3 instructs us, “Don’t allow love to turn into lust, setting off a downhill slide into sexual promiscuity, filthy practices, or bullying greed.” Again, once you’ve covered these basics, put on their lenses and tell them how irresponsible sex will affect them from getting the things they want in their lives. If they have unprotected sex, they will run the risk of not going to college because they have to work to care for their child instead. If they have irresponsible sex, a disease could keep them from joining the baseball team because they will fail a physical. Express these things in ways that are important to them, and you will get the things that are important to you: a safe, healthy, happy child.
Step 6: Always encourage them, no matter where they are in the journey. As I listened to the 2018 NFL Hall of Fame speeches, two things stood out to me. The first was that Philadelphia Eagles Safety Brian Dawkins said that while he was growing up, people teased him frequently as being too short to play football. He said that after numerous teasings over the years, he began to believe it himself and, even after being drafted and joining the Eagles, had confidence issues and depression. On the other hand, Green Bay Packers Guard Jerry Kramer said he had been chewed out by coach Vince Lombardi on the playing field, and had returned to the locker room despondent and thinking he was about to lose his job. Kramer said that Coach Lombardi, having seem Kramer sitting alone at the end of a bench in the locker room, came up to him, put his hand on his shoulder and told him that one day he would be the best offensive lineman in the NFL. Kramer said those simple words of encouragement lifted his spirits immediately, and reassured him that if Coach Lombardi believed in him, he could believe in himself. Thus began the Hall of Fame career of Jerry Kramer.
Everyone needs encouragement. Our children need it more than others, and they need it from us more than anyone else in the world. Our children are going to make mistakes. We made them too, even if we have conveniently forgotten so. Correct the mistakes, but always encourage them that they can do great things and they will be ok. Colossians 3:21 tells us, “Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits.” G.I.G.O. is at work here also, but this time, the input is directly from you and nowhere else. When your child knows it’s ok to be imperfect and to make mistakes that can be learned from, they will be comfortable with sharing those experiences with you. Encouragement after a mistake is the most concrete evidence of forgiveness to them. Let them know, even when they mess up, that you still love them and believe in them. They will start to reach the pinnacle of actualization, that of being able to treat all of life’s experiences as learning opportunities, even failures. Thomas Edison was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive.” As an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” Encouragement creates fortitude, and fortitude creates results.
I wish I could tell you that these were the only steps needed to win the war against our children. They’re not. One could literally spend a lifetime trying to internalize all of the things necessary to create a child free of the negative influences of the world and full of the positive ones and never even truly scratch the surface. We humans are more complex than ever and live in a more complex world than ever before in history. I am completely confident, though, that if you embrace these six steps, you will be well on your way to winning the war against our children. Your child, and every child, are too precious to give up to the negativity in the world. Fight for them! Help them learn to fight for themselves! Tell those that create and permit negativity that you will not support them! Only through our daily diligence and perseverance will we win the war for our children. The battle is not an easy one, but the rewards for victory are so sweet that every second, every minute, every hour, every day, every week, every month, and every year are worth the struggle.
May God bless you, now and always.