This morning I received a prayer request for a young man that is out partying it up, working part time, and in trouble financially. He is the son of a Christian couple that are church goers, happily married and decent folks. I spent a day last week with another young guy in the same predicament.
You can't look at one of of these teenagers/young adults without asking yourself, how does the child of a solid Christian couple become more interested in the ways of the world, than Jesus himself? It is easier to see it, if a kid is the child of divorce where one parent is off in the weeds, while one has a working faith. Kids from single parent families are even more at risk.
So why do kids make bad decisions? I have a few ideas.
First of all, we are created for real relationship. The lack of healthy relationships is part of the problem for our kids.
Genesis 1:28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.
Even after Noah survived 40 days of rain, the Lord's plan was to populate the earth with His beloved.
Genesis 9:1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.
Populating the earth tends to overlook the obvious. Couples have children who need to be trained, parented and molded into adults. It amazes me when parents say, "kids need to have as long a childhood as possible - one free from the reality and pain of the world." Are you kidding, a life where the parent waits on kids hand and foot until they are "of age" is not healthy. And based in the divorce rate in the US, it appears that childhood is lasting well past age 40. I agree with Dr. Phil, "We are not raising kids, we are raising adults!"
Look, I am all for protecting our kids from danger. For the record, I am appalled at some of the training that is proposed for elementary age kids regarding sexuality. There is just stuff that they don't need to know until later on in life. We do need to shelter them from certain influences, while we teach them about those things, and put them in context of Christianity. Christianity has a lot to say about sexuality.
I happen to know Christian parents that allow their kids unbridled access to television, computer, music, movies and video games. The deluge of media, when not in context of the Christianity, is very influential and often counter to the Bible. It needs to be a privilege that kids earn, and one that is highly monitored. Do you know what sites your kids visit on the web, what's on their iPod, what movies they are watching, and who are they online with? Do you know their friend's parents?
Christians all know that according to Proverbs 22:6, that we should train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it.
Therein lies the key - yet most Christians do not know what type of training a Jewish child received, so it is a shock when kids depart from it. We innocently think that we need to teach them a few Bible stories, maybe some memory verses, how to sing Jesus Loves Me, and wrangle a decision for Christ out of them at Vacation Bible School. All this is accomplished on Sunday morning between 10 and 11 am and in one week during the summer.
If we take a brief look at Jewish culture, we'll see that "training" was done daily in Hebrew schools. I guess that it is akin to a contemporary Christian school. And during times of occupation and exile, it was done at home - like our homeschooling is done today. Training was immersion in the things of God, and scriptural context for other non-spiritual disciplines such as math.
The Jews NEVER would have put their children in Greek or Roman schools.
I am not coming down on you for having your kids in public schools. I am just trying to provide insight into the training that the Hebrews gave their kids - like Mary and Joseph. Think about it. If we dip our kids in the world five days a week, and only once in church - for an hour no less - what do you think the predominant color will be?
Training did not end there - it also took place at home. Deuteronomy 6:1-9 is a wonderful description of home life and the training that went on there. It describes the head of the house explaining the law; the commands of God to the children at the table. It was a place for the parents to remind their kids of what God did for them. Honestly, if you don't have any testimonies to tell your kids about, you might want to take a closer look. I'm just sayin'. The table was also a place for the husband to pronounce blessing over his wife and family.
The family is not only about children, the entire dynamic that goes on between the husband and wife is a great predictor of our children's future behavior. When husbands and wives work through their conflicts, and treat each other with respect, it often shows up in the kids. A peaceful environment, not one free of conflict, but one with peaceful resolutions to inevitable conflict, is the best place for kids to be trained. Working out boundaries in a family can be tough - even tougher in a blended family - but it is essential.
Family rules and boundaries come out of godly wisdom and biblical mandates. Kids need to know what the limits are, and the punishment for crossing the line. There are limits set for kids at different ages, such as computer use and curfews. Children need rewards for good behavior as well as chores within the family. Each child is an individual and will require different methods of parenting - but reaching kids effectively is always worth it.
The Bible is very clear about the sins of the parents being visited upon their children and grandchildren. And just because your kids didn't see you drinking, smoking or being promiscuous, doesn't mean that a generational curse will not rear its ugly head. They need to be spiritually discerned and broken.
Let me be the first to admit (with my wife sitting in the front row, raising her hand shouting "amen, brother"), I don't have a perfect family or marriage. I am, however; convinced that Mary Anne is the best thing that ever happened to me, and we are committed to each other. My kids know that God exists, the older ones have been saved, yet; like many of us, they have made decisions that would not reflect that upbringing. I only wish I had the wisdom I have tried to share in this blog, 25 years ago.
I ignorantly depended on Christian schools, churches and para-church organizations to train my children. What I failed to see was that my own example was a more powerful teacher than them all. I further underestimated the power of family curses which can be broken with prayer.
I have made some adjustments, but the biggest one is this: the dinner table is the altar of our family. For all of us, it is a sanctuary from the cruel world outside. It is meant to be a place of peace, a place to be who we really are, a chance to look into the eyes of those that love and care for us, and never a place for discipline. We try to talk about our lives on a day-to-day basis, to be known, to talk about what God wants, and how He has been faithful to us. My wife often reminds us to be grateful - some days it's hard to shake off a tough day at work.
The table, it is simple, but powerful place. We don't have cell phones, rude talk, or swearing. We say grace and ask God's blessing on our family, our marriage, our kids, our puppies and Charlotte's fish - especially Randy who has grown to be huge! We laugh some days, and occasionally cry, but we are there. Sometimes all of us including the older girls, some days just the three of us.
As a family we battle against the lies of this age just like so many others. We do persevere knowing:
- Kids are not adults at 18, nor are they on magically on their own at 21. In fact they are our responsibility until they marry.
- Kids don't have to fight with the same sex parent when they become adolescents.
- Fathers need to lead.
- Husbands and wives need to express their love to each other. That's how kids learn how to love - especially the love that Jesus has for his church.
- The big issues need to be discussed out of sight of the kids.
- Parents need to be on the same team when it comes to discipline.
- Couples need time alone without the kids.
- Boys left to their own devices will be boys when they are older - the same is true with girls.
- Kids don't magically know how to handle money, be reliable and take care of things if they never learn it from you.
- Girls shouldn't have to fix cars, but it is a good idea if they know how.
- Parents are not friends with their kids.
- Giving your kids wings is a bad idea if you haven't taught them how to fly.
And finally, what about kids in trouble? It all takes wisdom, love and perseverance. Use your leverage while you have it, that's all I can say. Once you lose your leverage, you'll have a hard time training your children. Make time for your kids, and if they are on the right path, make time for someone Else's kids - it will change the future for you, for them, and for the church.