Shelters Shatter, Luck Runs Out, but Training Overcomes: Raising Kids in This Culture

youth-trainingCaitlyn (Bruce) Jenner received the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the ESPYs.

The United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all fifty states.

41% of 13-17 year olds are on Snapchat; 71% are on one of the 7 major social media platforms.

When should parents begin talking to their children about these issues? Yesterday.

As parents, we have three basic options when it comes to our children and how they will interact with culture. We can shelter them; work to preserve their innocence by cutting off harmful influences. We can hope it all balances out; trust they will assimilate enough good from the world to offset the bad. We can train them; take an active role in helping them process and interact with the world in a Christ-centered way. While all parents will sometimes shelter, sometimes hope, and sometimes train, we will all default to one of these as our main approach.

I contend that every parent’s default mode should be to train their children to approach culture in a Christ-centered way. Yes we must shelter them from harmful influences. Yet the surrounding culture is too pervasive to be ignored and shelters can collapse in a moment. Yes we must trust they will turn out alright because we can’t control everything. Yet the surrounding culture is eager to disciple our children if we sit back and let it.

Now is the time to train our children to engage the world in a Christ-like way. The world, now especially so, is actively seeking to disciple them into its ways. The Bible instructs us to train:

Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 – And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

1 Timothy 4:7-8 – Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

It’s amazing the time, effort, and money parents invest training their children for sports. I love sports and believe they do great good. What if we applied the same level of effort and intensity we do for a game to godliness? Here’s some of what that might like look like:

We make church a priority we schedule around instead of an option we schedule over.

We are as committed to learning the Bible and growing in faith as we are to learning math and growing in grades.

We watch and listen to entertainment together to discuss their meaning and morality.

We instruct regularly on God’s design for sex, marriage and gender. Josh McDowell (who has been speaking on these issues since I was a teen) recommends beginning in kindergarten.

We discuss the culture around us from same-sex marriage to Miley Cyrus to Caitlyn Jenner to Planned Parenthood so children know how to think about these issues.

We guide into the wise use of technology and install filters, set boundaries, and monitor use.

We invest family time into studying the Bible, prayer, serving, and being a witness.

We create an atmosphere of grace so children to run to us when they fail and fall and not away from us.

I won’t lie, this is hard work. But so is everything else worthwhile in life. The very word “train” should evoke thoughts of an Olympic athlete conditioning every part of their body and adjusting every part of their life to win a medal. We should do the same for a much greater prize. (1 Cor. 9:24-27)

While children need some sheltering from the world, it is not enough. Shelters can shatter in one minute of internet access, five minutes with a friend, or ten minutes unsupervised. Our work crashes down and our child is unprepared. It is not enough to trust everything will work out. The culture is actively discipling them to follow it. Our passive resistance will not be enough to overcome its aggression.

Children are not tabula rasa – blank slates we can nudge into goodness. They are sinners who desire to “follow the course of this world” and “carry out the desires of the body and the mind” (Eph. 2:1-3). They need a Savior and gospel-centered, grace-saturated, goal-oriented training to live successfully in this life and to prepare for the next.

-Brian

(image credit)

New Study Questions Religious Kids’ Grasp on Reality, but Should It?

childwonderThe 1999 Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace, left many fans of the original trilogy scratching their heads. But as annoying as Jar-Jar Binks was, perhaps the most unsettling part of the movie was how it stripped away the mystery of “The Force.” In the first Star Wars movie (1977), Obi-Wan Kenobi explains:

…the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together…. A Jedi can feel the force flowing through him.

In The Phantom Menace, another Jedi Master reveals – through a blood test – that the force is actually caused by microscopic organisms called Midi-Chlorians which reside in living cells. There’s really no mystery about who is strong in the force. The same test that measures cholesterol can tell if a person has the chemistry to raise an X-Wing Fighter out of a swamp. In other words, the real menace of the first Star Wars prequel is that it kills the mystery and awe that existed long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Enter a new study published in the July issue of Cognitive Science. According to a Huffington Post article, the study claims “young children who are exposed to religion have a hard time differentiating between fact and fiction.” It went on to describe how researchers had come to their conclusion:

Researchers presented 5- and 6-year-old children from both public and parochial schools with three different types of stories — religious, fantastical and realistic –- in an effort to gauge how well they could identify narratives with impossible elements as fictional.

The study found that, of the 66 participants, children who went to church or were enrolled in a parochial school were significantly less able than secular children to identify supernatural elements, such as talking animals, as fictional.

Forgive me for being skeptical, but 66 participants? It sounds like these researchers went to two classrooms in an afternoon and decided to publish a paper on it. To claim all children who grow up with religious teaching may confuse fact and fiction based on 66 five and six year olds seems a stretch.

But let’s say the study is accurate. This would only concern us if we buy into two unwarranted and unproven assumptions.

First, that materialistic naturalism is true. Or to put it another way, there is nothing real beyond what we can measure with our senses and science. Commenting on this study, Yale professor of psychology Paul Bloom said, “The problem with certain religious beliefs isn’t that they are incredible (science is also incredible) and isn’t that they ruin children’s ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. It’s that they are false.” So there you have it. The problem isn’t that young children might believe a fantastic story but that they might believe the wrong fantastic story; a religious one instead of a naturalistic, scientific one. But if one doesn’t arrogantly presume religious claims to be false, there is no reason to be concerned.

Second, that one of the goals of our progress is to strip the world of a five year old of its awe and mystery. Going back to Star Wars, the introduction of Midi-Chlorians ruined the concept of “The Force” for many fans because it took the fantastic, untamable energy that bound the galaxy together and made it ordinary and measurable. Is that what we want to do to our children? Suck the wonder out of the world ‘cause science says it ain’t so? And if it’s not what we want to do, then why does this study even matter? Is the measure of a healthy five year old that he knows miracles don’t happen or that he laughs, runs, and plays while imagining adventures with dragons?

Eventually our children will grow up and have to face the harsh realities of the world. But it is fantastic awe and wonder that that makes the world better. C.S. Lewis once answered the objection that children should not be told fairy tales in his essay “On Three Ways of Writing for Children” by saying:.

Fairy stories do awaken desires in children, but most often it’s not a desire for the fairy world itself. Most children don’t really want there to be dragons in modern England. Instead, the desire is for “they know not what.” This desire for “something beyond” does not empty the real world, but actually gives it new depths. “He does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods: the reading makes all real woods a little enchanted.”**

If religious stories and fairy tales do connect with the desires of children for “something beyond” why is that bad? As they grow older they will be able to determine for themselves the truth of these stories. In the meantime, let them live in the wonder and mystery. As Albert Einstein said,

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

If all true art and science comes from the experience of the mysterious then we should spend less time studying children’s ability to define reality and more time letting them stand in awe and wonder. They may be on to something in the world that dreary, hardened, adult researchers have silenced long ago.

Things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. –Psalm 78:3-4

Brian

**paraphrased by Jon Rigney in the article “Three Objections to Fairy Tales and C.S. Lewis’ Response” posted at Desiring God (http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/three-objections-to-fairy-tales-and-c-s-lewiss-response)

(image credit)

Digital Obesity: A Crisis for Our Children

children mediaA Fargo, North Dakota woman made headlines this past Halloween for announcing she would give letters rather than candy to children she deemed to be “moderately obese.”  In the letter, she states:

“Your child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season. My hope is that you will step up as a parent and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits.”

Childhood obesity has become a national problem. Parents are increasingly seen as irresponsible and derelict for allowing their children to over-consume sweet and fatty foods. Yet there is another form of over-consumption going on among children that won’t earn them a letter instead of a Snickers – the over-consumption of media. It is not as easy to spot, but it may be causing far more harm than trans-fats.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a new policy statement last month asking parents to change their child’s media habits out of concern for their well-being. According to the recommendations, parents should make a media use plan for their family, keep screen time to less than 2 hours a day, and keep screens out of children’s bedrooms.

Why the concern? A new survey from Common Sense Media shows that 72% of kids age 8 and younger have used a mobile device for some type of media activity – nearly double the 38% who had done so just two years ago. 17% use a device daily. The average 8 to 10 year old spends nearly 8 hours a day with a variety of media; older children spend more than 11 hours a day. 84% of children are online, 75% of 12 to 17 year olds have a cell phone, and 71% have a television in their bedroom.

We may be blind to any concern because of the rapid increase of media use in our own lives. The average American consumes 63 gigabytes of media a day; double what we consumed in 2008. This translates to about 15.5 hours of media consumption per day, per American – with our ability to multitask (consume multiple media sources at one time) factored in. Like a parent who loves fatty foods, our love for media may cause us to overlook the negative consequences for our children. A Northwestern University study from earlier this year found only 30% of parents are concerned about their child’s media use and a 55% majority are not concerned at all.

Victor Strasburger, a professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico and co-author of the AAP report says children are, “spending more time with media than they are in school. They are spending more time with media than in any activity other than sleeping. You could make the argument that media have taken over the primary role of teaching kids from schools and parents in many cases.”

This statement should shock us out of our indifferent slumber. This is more significant than the problem that prompted the Fargo woman to hand out obesity letters. Media has taken over as the primary teacher of our children! The beliefs, values, habits, desires, dreams, and knowledge of our children is being shaped by the screen. Looking at the sheer number – and ever increasing – hours invested in media, it’s hard to argue otherwise. Turn on the television, browse through the internet; is this what you want to be the main influence in the life of your children? The AAP statement also noted that, “Excessive media use has been associated with obesity, lack of sleep, school problems, aggression and other behavior issues.”

To Christians, this should be of even greater concern. Deuteronomy 6:7 instructs parents to teach the obedience of God to their children in all of life, “You shall teach [God’s commands] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Ephesians 6:4 instructs us to, “bring [children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” This simply cannot happen if the media habits of our children conform to the averages. It is the smartphone that will be with them when they sit in the house, walk by the way, lie down and rise; not the Lord.

Make a media a media use plan for your family. Limit the time they spend with phones, tablets, computers, and television. Monitor what they do with special software and keep media consumption out in the open. Increase the power of other influences by spending meaningful time together as a family, investing more time in the church, and focusing more on academic, artistic, or athletic activities. Bring discipline to your own media habits to set a positive example in the home.

It is time for parents, especially Christians, to take action. If a doctor sits us down and informs us our child’s obesity will cause serious health problems if we do not act, we would be irresponsible and derelict not to change. Thus, we our irresponsible and derelict if we continue to put no limits on our children’s media consumption and allow that media to be the primary influence in our home. God has called us to so much more.

-Brian

(image credit)

Mother’s Day: Not Just for Mothers Anymore

momTraditionally, many churches go to great lengths to recognize moms on Mother’s Day.  It is a great day, but can isolate the barren, those who have lost children, single women, and those whose children have abandoned God and their parents. In your congregation this Sunday, many women will sit next to you in the pew, heavy with these quiet realities.  What about these women? Is there room for them on this special day?

Regarding philosophy of children, we are working with a broad spectrum complete with two extremes. As a I write, abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell is on trial for the murder of four babies, one adult woman and hundreds of counts of illegal abortions over the last ten years in his “house of horrors” located in Philadelphia. Americans are postponing parenthood longer than ever before to work, travel and live. Simultaneously, there is a revival and reclaiming of parenthood among evangelicals, praise God. Christian couples are more actively pursuing parenthood both naturally and through adoption. Even in this goodness, however, there is an extreme.

Some Christians don’t consider you a true parent until you birth four children in as many years. The argument has moved past birth control and on to, “Is there a reason for a woman to ever quit bearing children?” Others relentlessly chase after parenthood in hot (sometimes idolatrous) pursuit, believing life without kids would be impossible. Just as they have become inconveniences for our world, have children become ultimate for Christians?

Children truly are a blessing and inheritance from the Lord as the Psalmist wrote. However, the reality is not everyone will be a biological parent. Paul wrote the Corinthian church and told them he wished everyone was single; this path, if done in a Christ-like manner, leads to childlessness. Bareness is a recurring theme throughout Scripture and the Lord does not always choose to reverse it. If children are ultimate for Christians, how can God allow this?

In his book This Momentary Marriage, John Piper writes: “The purpose of marriage is not merely to add more bodies to the planet. The point is to increase the number of followers of Jesus on the planet.” His statement is affirmed by Christ Himself. In a speech to His disciples, Jesus said,

 “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”- Mark 10:29-30.

Here, in acknowledging that we are called away from even our children to serve Him, Jesus affirms that the gospel message transcends parenthood. It is ultimate, not children. Regardless of whether or not we are gifted with biological children, God has called every Christian to the task of spiritual parent as they make disciples.   Toward the end of his letter to the Romans, Paul made this request: “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well (16:13).” Paul recognizes the value of his spiritual mother and honors her in his letter.

Mother’s Day is a good celebration, lest we forget to include every mother. Christian woman, whatever you state this Mother’s Day – whether a van full of car seats, college tuition bills on your desk or a house all to yourself- God has called you to be a spiritual mother to someone. Maybe the kindergartners you teach Monday through Friday. Maybe some teen girls who sit on the back pew of your church. Maybe the woman in the cubicle next to you. Ask God to equip you for this task and embrace it. Church member, encourage mothers this Sunday…all of them.

-Emily

(image credit)

On Your Shelf: A Bible and an Elf

elfonshelfThat latest research confirms 2.5 million American homes have adopted a new Christmas tradition: Elf on the Shelf, a storybook accompanied by an actual elf doll.

Any family can have an elf. Elves are adopted, taken home and given a name. Once a year, during the Christmas season, families read the elf story together and their elf comes out of hibernation! He is placed prominently in the house so he can fulfill his chief task: observing behavior. Each night, the elf flies back to the North Pole to report to Santa all the good deeds and not so good deeds. It is from these reports Santa makes his final gift decisions.

The elf moves around the house all throughout the Christmas season…you never know where he will show up: the freezer, the bathtub, under the table or on top of the ceiling fan.  It is with great anticipation that children wake up to find him in his new spot each morning and with great diligence they behave well for him throughout the day. After all, Christmas presents are on the line.

As exciting and magical as the Elf on the Shelf tradition might feel during the Christmas season, the reality of being constantly observed and then rewarded based on behavior is a weighty burden for everyday life. Many wrongly believe this is how the God of the Bible relates to humanity.

Unlike the elf, God never sleeps (Psalm 121:4). He sees and has always seen all good and evil deeds on planet Earth. Unlike the elf, God does not see our physical actions only, but straight through to our thoughts and motives, hearts and souls (Jeremiah 11:20). Unlike the elf, God is not logging a report of  behaviors (Psalm 103:10-13) to determine the kind and number of gifts He will give; He is storing up wrath against sin (Colossians 3:6). Those who have rejected Him will suffer that wrath (Romans 2:8). Those who have repented and believed in Jesus will escape it, as He stands in their place (2 Corinthians 5:21).

God isn’t looking down to separate the good little boys and girls from the bad; He came down because we were all bad (Genesis 6:5, Romans 3:10). It is because we are bad God freely offers the greatest gift known to man: the free gift of salvation and eternal life in Christ (Romans 6:23). Even on our very best, most well-behaved day, we cannot earn it.

In the comings and goings of your household this and every Christmas season, consider what you most desire to impart to your family. What will you lift the highest, teach the loudest and champion with the greatest zeal? Will it be the earning of temporary gifts by offering temporary good behavior to a temporary tradition? Or, will it be the truth of an eternal God Who came for a hopeless people to exchange their bad behavior for His righteousness? The true answers to these questions will come years from now, from the mouths of our children.

In the gospel, God gave to us because he loved us, not because of our behavior. May Jesus Christ, infinitely greater than the elf, be the source of your joy and worship this Christmas.

Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!” – 2 Corinthians 9:15

-Emily

(image credit)

Cheating on the Rise: Why We Cheat and Who’s to Blame

ImageAt Stuyvesant High School – New York City’s most elite – an astounding 71 students will have to retake their Regents exam after cheating. The scandal centered on 16-year-old Nayeem Ahsan who used a cell phone to send out photos of the exam. Ahsan, along with five other students, has been suspended.

This follows on the heels of other prominent cheating scandals. Twenty students were caught in a cheating scandal at Great Neck North High School in late 2011 when they attempted to pay others to take the SAT for them. Several arrests were made in the scandal since test-takers received between $500 and $3600 to fraudulently bubble in the answers.

The stats on cheating can be discouraging. The Benenson Strategy Group surveyed 7th-12th graders in 2009 and found that 35% admitted to cheating by cell phone during a test and 52% admitted to some form of cheating using the internet. Out of 12,000 high schoolers surveyed by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, a whopping 74% admitted to cheating on an exam at some point in the past year to get ahead. According to National Public Radio, two-thirds of parents believe cheating is no big deal and that all students do it at some point.

Even educators are joining in. In Atlanta, a state investigation discovered 178 teachers and principals had tampered with tests over the past decade to improve their school’s performance.

New Yorkers were quick to weigh in on the cheating at Stuyvesant. Some argued it was a result of the pressure students feel because of testing. Others blamed an uneven application of a cell phone ban. Many attempted to exonerate the students by comparing their behavior to that found on Wall Street. Still, others felt it was an indictment of the education system which has failed to properly teach the students.

Last year the New York Times printed a discussion on the causes of cheating. Mark Bauerlein, a professor at Emory University, argued cheating “is a survival skill” for students in a high-pressure environment. Andrew Daines, a graduate of Cornell, argued students need ethics classes to provide a “philosophical grounding for goodness, honesty, and integrity.” While author Alfie Kohn claimed the problem is with classroom methods and the definition of cheating, saying, “By definition, cheating is a violation of the rules. Are those rules reasonable? Who devised them and who benefits from them?”

Ironically, no one is blaming the students or teachers who actually cheated.

When it comes to our sins we’re sure someone is ultimately to blame and we’re also pretty sure it isn’t us. The Bible acknowledges that our sins, such as cheating, can result from the actions of others. Jesus says in Mark 9:42, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” Others may be partly to blame for the sins we commit.

Yet, the Bible never absolves the sinner simply because others may be involved. James 4:17 says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” Yes, the pressure of succeeding makes cheating more appealing. Yes, new technologies make cheating easier. Yes, the failure of others to maintain high standards makes it easier to lower one’s own. Yes, the education system may not be meeting students’ needs. But it all comes down to the moment when a student decides to obtain and use illicit information to violate their integrity, beat the test, and receive ill-gotten rewards. They make the decision. They are ultimately to blame.

Why do it? Because they believe it doesn’t matter. Culture has taught them right and wrong are simply constructed by societies and individuals to suit their own ends. They don’t flow from the character of God. Thus, as long as they believe they’re not hurting anyone, there is nothing to lose. No one is keeping score and the ends justify the means. If they’re planning to be a doctor what will it matter if they cheated on a freshmen English course or a high school Spanish exam? If there is no God to give life a unifying meaning and purpose, they’re free to construct their own meaning and purpose in which right and wrong serve their own selfish desires.

A better question might be: why shouldn’t they cheat? If we are only animated pieces of meat, biological machines programmed by genetics and determined by our environment, spinning on an insignificant rock around a fiery star that will one day explode and wipe our pitiful race from the memory of the universe, there is no good reason not to cheat on a test so we can at least afford a bigger TV to watch sports on.

Students know how not to cheat. Some may unintentionally plagiarize, but no one accidentally downloads a copy of the test on their phone beforehand. They just aren’t sure why they shouldn’t.

If right and wrong are relative concepts, why bother with someone else’s definition of cheating when I’m not hurting anyone?

If I have no greater meaning in my life than what I make of it, why not employ cheating as a means to my personal goals?

Besides, I’m not to blame for my cheating. My brain chemistry made me do it. Or my stressful, high pressure environment full of bad role models.

The students are the ones who decide to cheat and are ultimately to blame for the scandals. Yet the world the culture has constructed for them gives them few reasons not to. As long as there is no God – or at least not one that is any more than a consumer product for our happiness – there is no unifying meaning and purpose to existence. As long as humans are merely products of their chemistry and environment, how can they be expected to behave any differently?  If there is no God to give an account to and no soul of which to give account, he or she who has the most toys in the end truly wins even if they were earned by cheating.

-Brian

(image credit)

Don’t Hate On the Tiger Mom

Amy Chua, Yale Law professor and mother of two, published her controversial and highly criticized memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in 2011. It chronicles her journey of parenting daughters the Chinese way on American soil. Rather than allowing children to become self-indulgent, underachieving drains on society (her perception of Western children), Chinese parenting aims for the child’s highest success in every endeavor at all costs for the glory of the family.  Chapter one opens with bullet points of things Chinese children are never allowed to do, including: attend sleepovers, watch TV, choose their own extracurricular activities or get any grade less than an A.

Since their toddler days, daughters Sophia and Lulu followed rigorous routines to pave their way to elite futures, academically and musically. Instruments dominated non-school, non-homework hours. Chua cashed in some of her pension funds to buy Lulu one of the finest violins in the world. On every vacation, the first order of business was securing the hotel lounge piano for practice. These practices were frequently punctuated with harsh remarks from Chua such as: “If you don’t get this perfect, I am going to burn your stuffed animals!” and “Oh my god, you are just getting worse and worse.” This intensity drove both daughters and Chua to shouting matches, public embarrassment and icy distance. Chua admits that being hated is part of being a Chinese parent but is ultimately worth it.

Did her method succeed? Both daughters are music prodigies, straight-A students and fluent in Mandarin. Such accomplishments might convince any parent of this strategy. One might expect her book to end victoriously with a ten step plan to copy her success. Instead, these five lonely sentences end her story:

“Given that life is so short and so fragile, surely each of us should be trying to get the most out of every breath, every fleeting moment. But what does it mean to live life to its fullest? We all have to die, but which way does that cut? In any case, I’ve just told [my husband] that I want to get another dog.”1

After accomplishing world-class results parenting her daughters, Chua is left pondering what it means to fully live in light of life’s certain end. Sure, her daughters have every success any parent could hope for, but in the quiet corners of her mind she is left wanting.

It’s easy to criticize her. We American Christian parents would never demand so much from our kids in such demeaning ways. We also want the best for our children but express it differently. Rather than berate them, we praise them endlessly. Instead of hyper-scheduling their days and months, we let them decide what they want to do and divide up taxiing duties with neighborhood moms. When it’s time to prepare for tests, think about college, compete or behave, we make deals and offer incentives (video games or cars), hoping for the best outcome. Children might forgo family dinners, church activities and even homework along the way; as long as they are well-behaved, moderately successful, attend church on occasion and are above all happy, we’ve done a good job – right? If so, why does parenting leave many Christians asking the same questions as Chua?

Both parenting strategies are problematic and lacking. One idolizes the family’s success; the other idolizes the child’s individual success. Neither strategy employs life-giving methods for God-glorifying ends. Neither strategy points parent nor child to Christ.

Because purpose and identity are found in Jesus, Christians do not have to subscribe to the world’s parenting methods. Tedd Tripp observes:

“You want your child to live for the glory of God. You want your child to realize that life worth living is life lived under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Your methods must show submission to the same Lord.”2 (emphasis mine)

It should not surprise us that “good church kids” grow up with similar habits, goals, worldviews and issues as non-church goers. God is often an add-on in Christian households rather than the focal point. While most Christian parents would affirm the quote above, their practices oppose it. Jaws drop at Amy Chua’s behavior, but are children served any better when they are affirmed as privileged, moral centers of their own universe?

Scripture consistently teaches that only God can quench the thirst of every soul, parents and children included. The Psalmist declares, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore (16:11).” In John 10:10 Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” All satisfaction, joy and purpose are found in Him, not in raising phenomenal kids or being phenomenal kids. As parents, we are responsible for organizing the lives of our children to reflect the gospel as the center of life. To do anything else teaches them the world’s offerings are better than our Savior.

Academic prestige and financial success are deceitful dreams to pass on, as are high self-esteem and extracurricular happiness. When Jesus is the goal of parenting, we are free not to demand our children bring home good grades; we are free to say no when they covet the newest, most expensive clothes. If children misbehave in public or lose another competition, we are not devastated. When they come home crying because they’ve been bullied, there is no retaliation or pumping them up about how great they are.  When a friend’s child is smarter, more popular and better looking, we thank God for the eternal, not temporal, work He is accomplishing in our children for the kingdom. God’s word is robust enough for the task and more satisfying than the world’s answer to child-rearing.

Short cuts don’t exist in raising children who worship Jesus with the whole of their being. This counter-cultural approach to parenting will cost enormous amounts of time, peer approval, affection from your children and many tears. The pay-off is a home structured around the worship of an eternal King, turning out generations who live for Him and not worldly success.

The violin and good grades will get a child far, but will they satisfy? Birthday parties and good manners are fine things, but can they sustain faith in Christ?  As Chua observes, we all die…will getting another dog fill the void until that day and in the days that follow?

-Emily

(image credit)

  1. Chua, Amy. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, pg. 229.
  2. Tripp, Tedd. Shepherding a Child’s Heart, pg. 71.