Ten Steps to Talk to Your Children About Values
- Thursday, April 12, 2001
A very shy, young man about 16 years of age approached our display table where we had books and compilation Christian music CDs for sale. When my assistant asked what kind of music he enjoyed, he meekly responded, "Whatever my mother wants." He wasn't kidding! Here was a young man who was probably old enough to drive, but he didn't have (or was afraid to have) an opinion that differed from his mother's. It's tempting to think, how wonderful that is today! A teen whose opinions were still in submission to his mother! On the other hand, I thought, this was a kid who still didn't know how to have an opinion of his own.
Later, at the same convention, a mother asked me for scriptures to make her 17-year-old son stop wearing baggy pants! Styles and clothes aren't my area of expertise, so I wasn't about to get into that battle. But I was thinking, "At what age was she going to let her son dress himself?"
Here were two parents who thought they were doing the right thing for their children by trying to make all their decisions for them. If they don't tell their children what to think, God only knows what they will think, right? Is that what God really meant when He said to train up our children? We are commanded to teach our children how to think biblically (Deut. 6:7; 11:19). How do we do this? Let me answer that question by asking you another question.
Would you send your children to a school where every test they took was multiple choice and all the right answers were already filled in for them? Would you send your children to a school where all they had to do to get an "A" was to sign their name on the test? No? Why not? After all, they could make the Dean's List every semester simply by signing their name!
You probably realize that your children wouldn't learn anything at a school like that. Your children would never be challenged to think. And yet how do we treat our children when it comes to biblical and moral issues? "Do this. Don't do that. Christians don't/can't/shouldn't (fill in the blank)!" Are we teaching our children to live for Jesus or are we simply teaching them how to sign their name? I'm afraid most parents spend more time trying to get their kids to conform to their own image instead of His.
Did you realize that research indicates the majority of young people raised in Christian homes will not live for Jesus as adults? How can this be? We gave them the right answer in Jesus Christ. We have God's truth in the Bible. Why are the majority of our children not living for Jesus as adults? I believe there are two major reasons. First, Christians have a tendency to tell their children what to think instead of taking the time to teach them how to think. Second, the entertainment media tends to undermine nearly every Christian value we hold dear.
We are in a spiritual battle for the souls of our children. The entertainment industry aims its weapons at the heart and soul of our families. In the media's hands, TV programs, movies, videos, music and computer games are the weapons aimed at our homes and hearts. Their philosophies and messages are the ammunition that shoots down Christian morals and beliefs. We shouldn't be surprised that so many young people are entertaining themselves to (spiritual) death. The Bible warns that if we continue to entertain ourselves with the empty philosophies of this world, instead of what Christ has taught, it will undermine the joy of salvation and can eventually destroy our faith in Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:8).
For many Christians the primary strategy in this battle is to hide our children in the "foxholes," to shelter them from all worldly media. But this is no longer possible in a media-saturated America. Nor will this strategy win the battle at hand. You can't hide from the spiritual war of life, but there are things we could and should do as parents to win the battle for our children.
Concerned parents often ask me how I handled this battle when my children still lived at home. For one thing I tried to never fight with my daughters about their entertainment. After my wife and I set our family guidelines, I allowed my daughters to listen to any song, go to any movie/video, and play any video game they wanted to ... as long as it was within the family guidelines. I didn't see it as my responsibility to keep the "bad" stuff out of our home. It was their responsibility to prove to me that what they watched and listened to was worthwhile to be in our house. You can do the same thing.
Our family developed a simple plan to teach our children how to think biblically. It's not extra-biblical. It's not some ecstatic experience. It's simply common sense. Ten Steps To Talk To Your Children About Values is a simple biblical plan to help you teach your children how to think biblically. I urge you to consider these steps as you develop a "battle plan" for your family.
1. Start on your knees.
I want to challenge you to pray diligently for your children for the next 30 days. Most Christians already pray for their children. If you are praying two minutes a day, may I suggest you pray five minutes? If you pray 10 minutes, may I suggest 20? I want you to double the amount of time you are presently praying for your children. Don't just ask God to "bless our children," but pray specifically for them. Ask God to encourage them to be spiritually strong and morally pure. Ask God to surround them with godly friends and to help them make godly choices. Pray that their entertainment choices would encourage spiritual growth.
Instead of continually confronting your child about your concerns, try asking God to give you the right opportunity to talk with your child about any concerns you may have. Here's a good rule of thumb: if you are spending more time confronting your children than you are coming to the Throne of God about your children, your priorities need to be readjusted. Remember that nothing of eternal value is ever accomplished without prayer.
2. Establish your limits.
While you are praying for your children for the next 30 days, discuss with your spouse some suitable entertainment limits for your home. If you really believe that the entertainment media is a negative influence on your family, how much of the enemy's influence are you willing to accept in your home? How much time should be spent watching television? What kind of movies and videos will you allow? How about computer games and the Internet? The average child will test his parents' limits, and if those limits vary from day to day, it becomes very confusing to the child. Confusion leads to anger and anger to fights and fights to rebellion.
Your goal in establishing limits is to give your child a sense of security through a consistent understanding of what is acceptable in your home. You can't assume that a child "should know better." For example, "Don't watch so much TV!" is not a helpful standard. You must be specific with children. A better example might be, "We will have no more than two hours of television a day or 15 hours a week."
3. Evaluate your own entertainment.
It is not helpful to keep your child from listening to the empty philosophies of most secular music and television programs, if you're going to entertain yourself with the empty philosophies of R-rated videos. Parents may justify watching this material by saying they don't watch R-rated programs while the children are up. I'd like to remind you that morals don't change after 9 p.m. And it's not only videos. Most of the philosophies in today's television programs are worse than much of secular music. Also, you may not listen to secular rock music, but what kind of music are you listening to? Usually, parents justify their listening because it is mellower than what their children are listening to. It may be mellower, but is it moral?
Make sure your own entertainment fits within the guidelines you are setting for your children. If it doesn't, as my father used to say, you are speaking out of both sides of your mouth. You are saying one thing and doing another. You might not see the hypocrisy of your actions, but your children and God do.
4. Explain your limits to your children.
At the end of the 30 days of prayer and discussing guidelines with your spouse, have a meeting to explain what you have decided. My suggestion is to have your limits in writing, ready to post on the refrigerator, with a copy to hand out to each family member.
This is not a time to impose a new set of harsh rules on your children. This process has taken place so that you will be able to redevelop your relationship with your children. They have been watching you pray for wisdom while discussing guidelines. More importantly they have watched you change your own entertainment habits for the past 30 days, before attempting to impose any changes on them.
This 30-day period is also the time for you to work on your relationship with your children. In other words, let them see that you are taking this seriously and it's not just another way for you to "beat your children into submission." Since you have been setting the example, they will be less likely to give you grief about the new family guidelines.
5. Challenge your children to think biblically.
How do you challenge someone to think? Are you thinking about the answer? Good, then you know the answer. That's right, you ask them questions without giving them the answer immediately. To get someone to think biblically, ask him a question based on Scripture or a scriptural principle. To get someone to think biblically about entertainment, the following Scripture has proved to be very effective. Colossians 2:8 says in the Living Bible, "Don't let others spoil your faith and joy with their philosophies. Their wrong shallow answers built on men's thoughts and ideas instead of on what Christ has said." This verse best describes today's entertainment industry. Think about it. Isn't today's music some man or woman's thoughts and ideas recorded on a CD? Aren't television programs, videos, and movies just someone's thoughts and ideas about life, love, violence, rebellion, sex, and drugs recorded on film or videotape and fed to us as entertainment?
With that understanding, what are some good questions to ask your children about entertainment? Here are some suggestions:
How's your faith in Jesus? Do you ever think that you lost your salvation? Do you wonder if there is a God? Is Jesus God? Is there a heaven? Is the Bible true? You say that your faith is strong? Good! How is your joy? Do you have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control? You remember the "Fruit of the Spirit" described in Galatians 5:22-23? Why doesn't it radiate in your life? Maybe you have been letting the entertainment media undermine your Christian walk (faith and joy) with its empty philosophies.
6. Talk about rock.
When I use the term "rock," I'm referring to the whole secular entertainment industry. If you don't talk to your children about today's entertainment, who's going to? What a perfect opportunity to discuss values and issues of life from a biblical perspective. They are all there.
A lot of parents don't want to know what is going on with today's entertainment. They say, "I just tell them to turn it off and don't let them go to R-rated movies." Is that enough? Think about this: Research shows that young people want to talk about entertainment and parents want to talk to their children. Why not talk about entertainment with them? Help them understand what is good, bad, and ugly.
Remember, to have real communication there must be some common ground. Why not let your knowledge of their entertainment become the common ground? When you know what they know, they no longer will be able to "pull the wool over your eyes" about some TV program, movie, or music group. Where are you going to find the information that you need? I thought you would never ask. Check out our Web site at www.AlMenconi.com. If we don't have the information you are looking for, we will tell you where to find it.
7. Understand the Teeter-Totter Principle.
This is a simple template based on Colossians 2:8, to help you decide what entertainment is appropriate for your home and family. Think of Colossians 2:8 as the fulcrum (center point) of a teeter-totter, which also explains what's on each end of the teeter-totter: "Don't let others spoil your faith and joy with their empty philosophies, wrong shallow answers based on men's thoughts and ideas (Teeter) instead of what Christ has said (Totter)."
The emptiest thoughts from man can be found in the Satanic Bible, which has two basic principles:
1. Do your own thing/live for yourself
2. Deny biblical values
These ideas can be summed up in five words as "Live for yourself; deny Jesus." They form the end of the "teeter" portion of the teeter-totter.
On the opposite "totter" end, we have what Christ taught: "Anyone who would be my disciple must deny self, take up his cross and follow me" (Matthew 16:24), which can be summed up in five words as: "Deny yourself; Live for Jesus."
So each side has the same five words, but completely opposite teaching. "Living for self; denying Jesus," is man's idea of wisdom, but "living for Jesus; denying self" is God's idea of wisdom. With these statements on opposite sides of your teeter-totter, put the philosophies of your entertainment on it and see if it "teeters" or "totters." Just like the teeter-totter you used to play on as a child, the side with the most weight will sink to the bottom.
[Click here to read a more thorough explanation of the Teeter-Totter Principle]
8. Answer their excuses.
Most young people have an innate ability to deny the obvious. "It's not that bad." "It doesn't affect me." "I don't listen to the words." These excuses are repeated like a mantra in homes around the world. But are they right? Let me offer a response that puts the burden of proof on them.
Ask, "How do you know?" and wait for their response (see #5 about teaching someone to think). I have heard every lame excuse under the sun. "I'm not a Satanist." "I haven't killed anyone." "I don't take drugs." "I'm still a virgin." "I hear language worse than that in the locker room." The Bible doesn't say that you will become a Satanist if you listen to satanic music. It doesn't say you will kill someone if you play video games. It doesn't say you will take drugs, have sex, or curse if you watch the wrong programs or listen to the wrong music. It says that if you entertain yourself with the empty philosophies of this world based on men's thoughts and ideas instead of what Christ said, you will struggle with your faith and your joy in Jesus.
How is your faith in Jesus? Do you ever think that you lost your salvation? Wonder if there is a God? How is your joy? Does the Fruit of the Spirit radiate in your life? What are the values of your entertainment? God's Word warns us if we choose to entertain ourselves with the empty philosophies of this world, we will struggle with our faith and joy in Jesus.
9. Explain the value of Christian music.
It is impossible to properly explain the value of Christian music if you aren't setting the example by your own listening habits. How can you tell your children they should be listening to godly music, if you don't listen to godly music?
I want to challenge you that while you are in prayer for 30 days (#1), and talking with your spouse about your entertainment guidelines (#2), that you find at least one song that illustrates your faith in Jesus. Find the song that moves your soul every time you hear it. It's the one that is able to reach your most innermost being and relate to the Holy Spirit of God who dwells within you. It is the song that will explain your love for Jesus. My "song" talks about praying for our daughters and their future husbands. Every time I listen to it, it reminds me why I love my family and why I am grateful to God for them.
When you find "your song," ask your family for five minutes so you can share with them why you love Jesus. Tell them you would like to use a song to share your testimony. Take one minute to explain why you chose the song, and the remainder of the time listening to the song while they read the lyrics with you. It is important to have everyone read the lyrics while the song is being played to focus their attention. After you listened to it together, ask them if they understand why you love Jesus. I have had thousands of people tell me that after listening to my song they not only had a better understanding of my family and me but also had a better understanding of why I love God. I believe your family will have the same response to your song.
10. Go on a Christian music diet.
My final challenge to you is to eliminate all your entertainment that is on the negative side of your teeter-totter (see #7) and only listen to Christian music for the next 30 days. This should help you find that special song to share with your family (see #9). Look at your own teeter-totter. Is it teetering when it should be tottering? I'm not saying that everything that isn't Christian is wrong, but you need to ask yourself if your walk with Jesus is everything that you want it to be? Maybe your entertainment has been undermining your walk.
How can we set the example for our children when our mind is in the same mire as theirs? How do you know if you will be able to set good biblical entertainment guidelines (#2), if your entertainment is having a negative influence on your decisions? If you think that I'm advocating that you brainwash yourself, you are absolutely right! Remember brainwashing isn't some communist term. Follow the logic: Brain wash, wash brain, clean brain!
Try this for 30 days and see if it helps you as you attempt to set biblical guidelines. These suggestions aren't magic. They won't lead to some extra-biblical experience. They won't even make you more spiritual. They're simply common sense. When you focus on things above you will be at peace (Colossians 3:1-2). Are you at peace? Ultimately the problem isn't immoral entertainment and the answer isn't Christian music. The problem is sin and the answer is Jesus. These 10 steps are simply suggestions to help you set biblical entertainment guidelines for you and your family.
Used by permission. For more information on Al Menconi Ministries, click here.
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