Thursday, April 20, 2006

God is Smart... or... the "duh" factor...

So how do you raise children without constant rule-making? Some of you have written comments or sent me emails asking how we got our kids to go to bed at a decent time or come back home at a good hour without making bedtimes and curfews. Here's the way we did it:

We instilled very early in our children the concept of consequences. Within age appropriate limits, they were able to make decisions but they also had to bear the consequences. Consequences have largely been removed from our children's actions and that is a shame. Once upon a time if the child responsible for maintaining the fire failed at his duty, the house was cold, food was uncooked, and he had to deal with the disapproval of his family until the situation was rectified. Bring consequences and God back into the mix.

When God is entered into the equation, children learn that there is a metaphysical as well as a physical component to every decision made. If a child stays up too late, they still have to get up at the right time in the morning, go to school (or begin homeschooling), and show progress in their studies. If they could not maintain their grades or alertness, we removed benefits and extras. For instance, while they may not have had a bedtime set, the TV, computers, game machines, etc. were stopped at the same time each night. Quiet time then ruled. They could read, do homework, perhaps join in a family game, but there was no electronic stimuli to keep them up. Usually, once the noise was disconnected, the yawns set in and they went to bed. If their grades didn't stay at a decent level, we would work passages from Proverbs on work, rest, and growth into our discussions and devotionals. (and when they succeeded at school, raised grades, or did well we celebrated lavishly!)

And here's another key: we bound ourselves to the same rules. If the children saw us being slothful, not following through on promises, and not studying or improving ourselves they had every right to bring it up!

We also taped shows (no Tivo or DVR back then, kids) that we normally wouldn't watch. We would then play them back with the kids and hit the "pause" button repeatedly and ask questions: what if people really acted like that? Would you be their friends? What's going wrong here? This all started when my little girl was watching a rerun of Magnum PI with me one day and Magnum shot a guy. "He just shot that guy," Kara said. I allowed that he had done that very thing. "Why did he shoot him?" she asked. I told her that the man was a bad man. "So we're supposed to shoot bad people?" she asked again. I gave that a good think and decided that she had put her finger on a real issue with the show. It was a short step from there to watching an episode of "Friends" and asking: would you be friends with someone, or want to date someone, who has sex with that many people? We did research to show that to live in those apartments in NYC and have those clothes and that lifestyle, each of the Friends would have to make over $250,000 a year. Every unreality, we emphasized. We talked about what the consequences of their behavior really would be. (With that many sexual partners, we would have STDs, a lot of embarassing moments at the grocery store when you ran into old lovers, broken hearts, anger and violence, etc.)

Covering it all were words from the Bible to show that God is smart. He decreed a way of life that included work, rest, play, joy, worship, and growth. His law also prohibited things that hurt us; things which He handily arranged into lists such as Proverbs 6 and Galatians 5 (things God hates, fruit of the flesh). For each item that God hated, we asked "why" and found out that God was smart -- everything He prohibits is something that really, really hurts us. That's the "duh" factor. God is smart, kids. Well, duh!

We even used I Love Lucy reruns: what is making their life one crisis after another? A lack of God. If they just treated each other kindly and told the truth every single crisis would be averted (the same works for Flintstones and a lot of other shows). We would play a "how would having God in the house solve this problem" games with TV shows. The more we did this, the more the kids learned that God really IS smart and the more we listen to Him, the fewer crises in our lives (at least, self-inflicted crises).

Use the Proverbs. Use the Psalms. Use the lists of sins and graces throughout the New Testament. Apply them to everyday life. More examples as we continue. May God bless you as you journey towards heaven with your children.


At 4/21/2006 08:29:00 AM , Blogger David U said...

3 words.......WRITE A BOOK!!! :)

Great stuff, bro.


At 4/21/2006 03:05:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

my first response to a Blog:

I second the book notion!!

At 4/21/2006 03:16:00 PM , Blogger KentF said...

Great stuff Patrick. I've been trying to help a 32 year old man who is essentially living on the streets - 15 years of really bad decisions adds up over time.

At 4/21/2006 11:04:00 PM , Anonymous renee cutts said...

My rule is, if it's not fit for the teens to watch, it's not fit for me to watch either. Some things out there are not fit for anyone to watch, period, ever. "Whatever is pure..." doesn't seem to hold much weight anymore.

We make game of watching the Science channel, National Geographic, even the History channel in discerning the fact from the fiction against a Christian worldview. This also keeps them abreast and readied to defend their faith against whatever new weapon the worldly might try and aim at them. We try to understand those theories better than the atheists that believe in them.

The younger children are kept from the violent and rude or overtly mystical children's shows that seem to make up the majority of what's out there. I've allowed them to watch a portion long enough to explain why they are not desirable viewing. I do believe it is important that they understand the whys and why nots but unsupervised or unrestricted exposure can cause harm in the formative years and even in the teen years.

I've listened to the teens talk and the young men, especially, are having a very difficult time not getting trapped into phonography because it is so easily accessible in just about every media out there.

If your children have internet and cable, use those parental settings, you can't be sure what trap Satan has in wait if you are not watching over your children. I think you hit the nail on the head about being WITH your child.

If you are there to unspring the trap, it can be a life lesson, but if you're not, they could be in immortal danger. You can't cut them off from the world or they will be defenseless when they have to go out there on their own but there is a balance that must be measured carefully.

Our on-line computer is in the kitchen on the built in desk, grand cental station, no televisions in the bedrooms, it's in the family room, rating locks on, and computer history reviewed daily. Most movies are reviewed and ordered by mail on a family accessible list. No IM-ing but good ole email, and blogging, and forums are safer and encouraged.

I think you are wise, don't just say "no", talk to them about the dangers. Mine are fed a diet of age appropriate books for application of the why nots. There is a great book that Joshua Harris wrote for boys and girls, "Not even a hint" and Leslie Ludy wrote for girls, "Authentic Beauty" and another for boys "God's Gift to Women" by Eric Ludy that I think every Christian teen should read.

At 4/22/2006 03:54:00 PM , Blogger salguod said...

Thanks for the clarification, Patrick. That's kind of what I figured you had in mind, but wasn't sure.

I'll tell you, this is already making a difference in my relationship with my girls. I react to less and let them find their own way, supervised, more.


At 4/24/2006 12:14:00 PM , Blogger CrazyJo said...

That's such good advice, Patrick. Since my own son is only one, I wonder, could you do a post on how to start training at that young age? What worked and didn't for you?
And I also put in my request for a book! This is such good stuff, and it needs to be shared with more than just the online crowd.

At 4/25/2006 03:15:00 PM , Blogger carrie said...

Thank you for all of your advice. I have a 3 year old son and it is nice to be able to get support from others that have "been there and done that". Please keep all young christian families in your prayers as I feel raising christian kids is only going to get harder as the world becomes more harsh. Thanks again!

At 4/26/2006 07:12:00 AM , Blogger Annette said...

Wow...where were you when my kids were little! Although I think we have done a reasonable job raising our kids, I look back and see things that I would change. I wish I had the kind of guidance that you have been sharing.

I agree...write a book! Christian parents are STARVING for this stuff. Much of the solid wisdom out there in the Christian community still stands. However our generation of parents and kids are dealing with media and internet issues never dealt with before. These addtional issues need to be addressed. Those that are navagating it sucessfully such as yourself need to share with the rest of us.

In the mean time...keep sharing your parenting experience. Thank you!!!


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