Training Kids to Live Right

by | Nov 24, 2010 | SpiritLed Living

Want your children to make righteous choices in life? Because of the heavy influence of our culture, you’ll have to put extra effort into raising them up.

Not
long ago I sat with my son, Tate, and five other class council members
and their moms at a crowded restaurant eating taco salads and burgers as
we finalized our plans for the junior-senior prom. I (Cyndi) knew I had
to address the dancing problem before we left the meeting.

In my
son’s high school there are two dances a year, the Christmas dance and
the junior-senior prom. Parents sponsor both events. Since Tate was
junior class president, I was the unofficial chairperson for the dances.

Though
the Christmas party had gone flawlessly, several parents had been
alarmed by the suggestive way some of the couples had danced. I was
determined not to allow the dirty dancing at the prom.

“Before
we go,” I said, “I need to say something. I felt like the Christmas
dance went great, except for one thing. Several of us were really
disturbed by how a few of the kids were dancing, and we need to talk
about it before prom.”

My son spoke up, “Well, none of us were doing that.”

“Oh, I know. But I am responsible for what went on there. I can’t let it happen again.”

Blank
stares met mine. No one seemed to understand, let alone agree with me.
As I looked back at Hailey, Jessica and the others, I knew I was looking
at the best kids in the school–leaders, honor students and all but one
from a Christian home.

Yet there was no alarm over the indecent
and vulgar behavior I had referred to. The teens expressed alarm only
when they realized I intended to take some action about it.

“I’ve
been thinking of what to do. We could attach a note with the tickets,
explaining our expectations, or I could make an announcement at the
dance.”

“No, Mom!” Tate said with panic flooding his face and terror in his voice. “Don’t do that. You can’t do that.”

After
an emotional discussion, we finally agreed that if there was a problem
we would have the DJ stop the music and make an announcement.

I
walked to the car alone, barely able to hold back the tears. Five years
earlier my oldest son and his date had left their prom early because
they had been disgusted by some of the dancing. I was expecting these
kids to feel the same way. None of them did.

What a difference
five years had made. Where was their moral outrage? And what could I do
as a parent to stem this tide? I still have a child in middle school.
What will she face in a few more years?

Josh McDowell, author of
Beyond Belief, explains it this way: “We have recently noticed a radical
change in our youth. I’m talking born-again Christian kids in our pews.
In the last 15 years the culture’s had a greater impact on our
Christian young people than the church or their parents.”

We see
this influence in their behavior: what they wear, how they talk, what
music they listen to. But the critical impact has come in how they
think.

Most parents of these young people believe in absolute
truth (truth that is the same for all people, in all places and at all
times). But a survey taken in 2001 found that 91 percent of Christian
teens do not believe in absolute truth.

So what do we do about
it? As parents, there are four steps we can take to help our children
withstand the pressures of our day.

BUILD A RELATIONSHIP
Teaching
the truth is vital, of course. But truth cannot be given in a vacuum.
It is best received in the context of a relationship, primarily with
families and especially with fathers. A trusting, loving relationship
with our kids paves the way for our teaching to be heard and accepted.

“The
more we can help families, especially dads, to build that loving,
intimate relationship with their child, the easier it will be for that
child to believe,” McDowell says.

Kids see God through the filter
of their parents. If those parents are absent, abusive, critical,
passive or performance oriented, the children will believe God is the
same way. There is no getting around it. Despite the many demands for
our time, we must make time to build relationships with our children.

The
best way to connect with your child is to do what I (Cheri) call “get
on his turf.” In other words, find out what your child enjoys and do it
with him.

When my sports-oriented son hit pre-adolescence I
realized he wasn’t going to sit down on my terms and chat. So I started
asking him when he came in the door from school, “You want to shoot some
hoops?” or “Chris, want to play pingpong?”

Out in the yard, he’d
slowly begin to open up and tell me what was going on at school or on
the basketball team, or he’d talk about a friend or test. I’d get to
hear what he was thinking.

For your child it might be golfing,
cooking, kicking a soccer ball or doing crafts. It doesn’t have to take
long or cost much. Just find out what his “turf” is and get on it with
him. Then watch the relationship grow.

Often our children need
something as simple as someone to listen to them. Leslie, a high-school
senior, said: “My parents are great in lots of ways. I wish sometimes
they would just listen to me without freaking out or bombarding me with
questions.

“I just want them to hear me, not criticize or judge me. It keeps me from talking to them as much as I would like to.”

“My
parents never talk to me unless it’s about my grades or how I did on a
test,” one college-age girl recently said. “I wish they would just ask
me about me, how I’m doing. What I’m feeling or thinking.”

When we take time to build relationships with our children, we open the door for them to receive our teaching.

TEACH KIDS THE TRUTH
Along
with maintaining a close relationship to their children, parents must
be intentional about teaching God’s truth. In the past, what children
learned at home and at church was reinforced in the community and even
in the media, but not any longer.

Because our kids are bombarded
with messages that are in conflict with our Christian faith, we must
shore up our efforts to ground them in the truth. There is great value
in church and Bible class attendance, but we cannot rely on those alone
to make sure our children are being taught all they need.

As
Christians, our ultimate standard is God and His Word. We must be
students of the Bible, allowing it to permeate every area of our lives.
Then out of our own spiritual resources, we will have a platform to
teach our kids.

In addition to knowing God’s Word, we must be
able to give our children credible evidence for believing it. One survey
revealed that 58 percent of Christian teens believe all religious
faiths teach equally valid truth. Because our children are immersed in a
society where truth is relative, they question how they can know our
faith is valid and why they should believe it over another.

We
can answer that. For example, the Old Testament contains 60 major (333
total) prophesies predicting the life and death of Jesus. All of these
were written at least 250 years before Christ’s birth.

The
crucifixion of Jesus was prophesied 800 years before crucifixion was
even practiced. Today resources are plentiful for parents to “be
prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason
for the hope that you have” (1 Pet. 3:15, NIV).

But don’t stop at
just teaching God’s truth to your children. Go further and explain why
God requires standards. Tell them that because God loves us, He asks us
to give up the things that can do us harm.

In years past, parents
have tried to instill truth through daily devotions. At the pace most
families live today, “daily” may be too much, so start small. Begin with
a weekly family night.

Heritage Builders, a ministry of Focus on
the Family, is a resource for just such evenings. Each Family Nights
Tool Chest book helps parents teach a Biblical truth in a creative way
while making the event a fun time for kids of all ages.

In
addition to planned family times, look for life’s teachable moments. Use
the times when you are with your children–riding in the car, cooking
or throwing a ball in the yard–to talk to them about what’s happening
in their lives. Listen with spiritual ears and ask God to help you be
alert to any truth you can share.

There is also an increasing
number of parent-child conferences available to equip parents and youth
to maintain high moral standards. Yada-Yada-Yada is one such conference
that encourages moms and daughters to attend together. Promise Keepers
promotes father-son attendance. The National Center for Fathering now
hosts Father/Daughter Summits in many cities.

These ministries
and others like them are coming alongside parents to give them
nuts-and-bolts ideas on how to help children live righteously in an
unrighteous world.

BE A ROLE MODEL
If we want
our children to accept our faith and live by a different standard from
the world, we must model that standard. Paul Baker, who has been in
youth ministry since 1986 says: “Parents tell their kids to be honest,
but then they go and fudge on their income taxes or call in sick to an
employer when they are not. Kids will reject a parent’s teaching when it
doesn’t measure up to their living.”

Here’s a good example. Most
parents know that movie theaters require you to purchase the drinks and
snacks you consume in the theater from them. Yet, how many parents
sneak in pop or candy in order to avoid the high theater prices?

I
(Cyndi) was guilty of this sin, justifying it by saying that I was not
cheating the theater out of any money because I was not going to pay $2
for a candy bar. But when I found myself asking my kids to hide candy in
their pockets while I hid canned pop in my purse, something seemed
amiss.

Our family discussed the practice of sneaking candy and
sodas into the movies and decided it was wrong. We believed we were
better off to err on the side of being too principled than not
principled enough.

One of the most powerful tools of influence we
have as parents is our example. And one area in which adults
desperately need to set an example for their children is in the area of
taking responsibility for our actions rather than blaming or
rationalizing. Baker says he sees this as a glaring weakness in many
kids today.

“When I talk with kids, it’s never their fault. If
they receive too much change from a cashier then they say it’s the
clerk’s fault–not theirs, and they feel no responsibility to return it.
When they get caught for some misdeed, they excuse themselves by
saying, ‘Everyone does it.'”

As parents we have to evaluate our
own behavior. Do we blame police for setting traps when we’re caught
speeding? Do we let our “over age” children pass for “under age” to pay a
lower price at restaurants? God can help us see our own failure in
these areas and turn to Him to cleanse and transform us when we ask Him
to shine the light of His truth in our lives. We need the power of the
Holy Spirit to be godly parents.

PRAY FOR YOUR KIDS
Finally,
we must pray. If we think that just reading another book or attending
another seminar is going to prevent our children from succumbing to the
downward moral slide, we are fooling ourselves. We are in spiritual
warfare against an enemy that wants to devour our children. Our greatest
influence is on our knees.

We can teach and train our children,
but we cannot change their hearts. Only God can transform a young life
and make a child willing to stand for righteousness in the midst of the
darkness of the youth culture.

Develop a habit of praying for
your children daily–for the pressures they are facing, for their
protection, for God to draw them to Himself. Begin praying the
Scriptures over your child. Take time in the evening or before they walk
out the door in the morning to pray over them.

Join with other
parents and pray corporately and strategically for your children through
a ministry such as Moms in Touch (mothers who pray once a week for
their children and their schools). Now more than ever we need to be
diligent in our prayer efforts, crying out to God for our kids to
“become blameless and pure…in a crooked and depraved generation”
(Phil. 2:15). The stakes are too high not to.


Cheri Fuller is an inspirational speaker and award-winning author of The One Year Book of Praying Through the Bible (Tyndale) and 41 other books. For her resources visit www.cherifuller.com.

Cyndi Lamb Curry
is a speaker and writer. Her book Keeping Your Kids Afloat When It
Feels Like You’re Sinking (Regal) is designed for parents who want to
help their kids deal with grief and loss from death, divorce, illness or
deployment.

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