by Julie Hiramine
On a field trip to Williamsburg, Virginia, with my children, I noticed the cobblestone streets. I thought it must have been a painstaking process to lay those stones-one by one-on those streets. In much the same way, we parents and pastors are paving the way for our children to grow from preschool into adolescence. As with the cobblestone streets, there are many stones to be placed in our children’s lives, and we-the “good guys”-are not the only influences looking to lay stones. Our culture is poised to set as many stones as possible.
Now is the time-when our children are young-to solidify our connections with them before the world and its philosophy start making a bigger impact than we do. While teaching our children in the midst of our culture, a significant objective we parents have is to invest time with these precious little (or not so little) ones. We can help them learn to interpret the culture and discern the messages they are bombarded with every day-messages about sex, relationships, wealth, media choices, love, etc. How do they learn to focus on God’s design when so many competitive voices make everything sound unclear?
The answer is to regularly connect with our children about all these issues in our culture. We do this by talking with them, setting boundaries and providing positive input.
God has designated each of us to be the expert for our own children. Although we might be more comfortable letting someone else talk with them about sexuality and other topics relating to relationships, God assigned us this job. We need to begin this instruction while our children are young and not fear that we will rob their innocence if we give them information. Ignorance does not equal innocence. If we tackle the subject in bite-sized, age-appropriate pieces, we will actually do more to protect our children’s innocence. As Jesus said in John 8:32 (NIV), “…you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
The National Study on Youth and Religion recently conducted an in-depth study which included interviews with parents and teenagers across the country. The study concluded that “Adults inescapably exercise immense influence in the lives of teens-positive and negative, passive and active. The question is not whether adults exert influence but what kinds of influence they exert.” This finding confirms the key role of parents in teens’ lives-and, I believe, also in the lives of young children.
It sounds simple, but one of the best ways to build a strong, influential relationship with your children is to spend time with them. The reality is that in our modern culture children are spending more time with media than they are with their parents or church family. On a ministry trip to Indonesia a couple years ago, I was presenting a parenting seminar that lasted a few days. After the first night, after I spoke to the parents about doing simple things like having conversations with their children on a predictable and regular basis, one woman came back with a story for me. She said she went home from the seminar the night before and started implementing my advice right away. Instead of coming home and going to bed, she woke her twelve-year-old twin boys so she could talk to them. Many hours passed as mom and sons connected with each other. The next morning when the boys woke up, instead of running straight for their video games (which is what they normally would have done), they went straight for mom. They could not wait to keep connecting!
I share this story because so often we feel our kids just don’t want our involvement. When the truth is far from that! Here were two adolescent boys who were addicted to video games, and all they wanted was to talk to their mom after she initiated the connection. The older generation has huge influence over children-and it’s time we as pastors and parents take advantage of it!
Fathers play an especially important role in connecting time. Dads, each day is like a watch ticking time away. Find activities you enjoy doing with your children on a predictable basis. My husband, for example, appreciates a clean car. He has come to view going to the car wash not as a chore in his already busy schedule, but as time to spend with one of his daughters. Our children are not always looking for an amazing outing like going to Disneyland-they just want to spend time with us! Do not let all the demands you face cause you to let time with your treasured little ones slip away.
The second way we can have an influence amid all the resounding voices of our culture is to set boundaries. Our children need to hear the word no very clearly during their growing years. Children who never hear the word no find it virtually impossible to say it themselves. And there are certainly going to be situations in our culture that call for a firmno. Don’t be afraid to deny something entrance to your home or your church. Parents and pastors, you are gatekeepers. And there are a lot of enemies afoot, in the form of TV, music, games, online activities, etc. We as gatekeepers need to be diligent to keep our eyes peeled and our ears opened. As soon as that new movie hits the theaters, we need to do our homework: yes or no? And we can’t sleep on the job! The enemy is prowling outside our homes and churches just trying to sneak things past us. It’s a constant battle, but one that God says we can win, if we rely on him for help. “For thus says the LORD: ‘Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken, and the prey of the tyrant be rescued, for I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children.'” (Isaiah 49:25 ESV)
Finally, we must give positive input into our children’s lives. Take notice and commend their growth in the fruit of the Spirit and their ability to exercise discernment. Carefully evaluate areas where growth has taken place and tell them that you see progress! But there must be a balance between setting clear boundaries and giving positive input. We tend to lean one way or the other too heavily, depending on the child. Remember that an emphasis on rules without developing relationship can lead a child to rebellion while focusing on relationship without teaching respect for rules only confuses a child.
Our job as positive influences is critical because the goal of the media is to recruit children and mold them into mindless soldiers, numbly obedient to the culture. Our goal, however, is to train thinking, resolute soldiers in the army of Christ who will make an impact for the Kingdom of God. Let us begin in our churches and our homes today!
The concept of this article was taken from Julie’s message “Establishing a Pure Foundation.” Julie Hiramine is the Founder and Executive Director of Generations of Virtue. She is currently homeschooling her five children and lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Conesus, New York. Please visit the ministry’s website atwww.generationsofvirtue.org for resources to equip you and your children in the battle against the negative elements of our culture.