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Posts Tagged ‘Christian parenting’

I bet many of you have never seen Rebel Without A Cause (1955), although most have heard of it and some even know it to be a classic coming-of-age film starring James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo. As I have been writing about parenting/grandparenting these last few days, this film keeps popping into my head.

To tempt you a bit to rent the film or downstream it on Netflix, let me just say that the three teen idols of the 1950s all play troubled teens from good families. Jim Stark (James Dean) has a painfully weak, ineffective father and a dominating mother; Plato (Sal Mineo) is pretty much abandoned by his parents, and Judy (Natalie Wood) has the most “normal” parents, but she is the one that has haunted me the most through the years.

Let’s talk about Judy!  She is a beautiful girl, popular, fun, and successful at school—so what’s her problem?

The tell-tale scene for me is when she comes home to her good family and she tries to connect with her father, who appears to be uncomfortable around her. She practically begs him to hug her or let her sit on his lap like she did when she was a little girl, but he is so uncomfortable with her sexuality that he pushes her away—both physically and emotionally.  This refusal of affection pushes Judy into the arms of Jim Stark, and they sneak into a vacant house and, with Plato, create their own ersatz family where their needs for love and relationship are all met!

No, this is a 50s movie so they don’t sleep together, but the comfort Judy finds in her new boyfriend’s affection is not really sweet. It’s painful to me because I know her father’s rejection drove her to this point.

And this is the point I want to share with you, especially you fathers, something about raising children that I believe to be true and that we certainly practiced in our home. To be physically affectionate with your children will help them remain pure and holy until they leave father and mother and are physically loved by their marriage partner.

For some parents, showing physical affection is the most natural of all acts they do as parents—but not for all parents—especially some dads—especially those dads whose fathers never touched them except to punish them.  Even if this is you, your children need for you to change the channel, to learn to show them your love in ways they can feel.

(We are so highly sensitized to abusive touching and fears of child molestation that I find myself wondering if we can even talk about this; nevertheless,  I’m asking you to read this article within a framework of healthy relationships that would result in healthy and wholesome physical loving.)

Most of what I know about anything female, I learned from my wife Sherrylee. She was the one who  taught me how important physically touching our children was, beginning with changing their diapers and rocking them to sleep, then reading to them in your lap and wrestling with them on the floor.

How a parent expresses affection changes as the children change—but it should never cease! When our older son was just starting school, we would always send him out the front door with a hug, but when he started second grade, he thought he had outgrown that. The game was to let him get out the door, then run after him, catch him, and give him a hug before he went one step further.  The game was fun for both of us for a while. He’s 37 now, happily married with three of his own children, so he usually gets the hug when he comes in, but the grandkids get the hugs as they leave!

When your girls become teenagers and ever so self-conscious about their bodies, the uninhibited expressions of physical affection between fathers and daughters can disappear—as they did for Natalie Wood’s character—and too often with the same results!  I don’t think I can tell you exactly what works and what doesn’t work for you and your daughters, but I do believe that you can continue to show each other love and affection physically. Maybe your kisses move from her cheek to just the top of her head. Maybe sitting in your lap becomes just a snuggle-up on the couch. Like I said, physical expressions of affection are given their meaning by the people who do them, so how you have defined your early relationship to your children will dictate how your later relationship can be expressed.

Children, then teens who are not hugged by their mothers and/or fathers seem almost driven to look for someone else to touch them! One of the best and most wonderful things you can do to make it easier for your teenager to be pure and holy is to hug them a lot! Show them as much affection as you and they are comfortable with.

Solomon the Wise once reminded his readers in his blog that there is absolutely a right time to embrace someone (Ecclesiastes 3:5)!  Without plagiarizing Solomon, that’s what I want to say too! Hug your children, and love on them a lot!

And don’t be afraid!

 

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Your parents spanked you when you needed it. Her parents thought spanking was child abuse. Your parents were strict about bed times. His parents let him stay up until he fell asleep on the floor!  Your parents never left the kids overnight with grandparents until they were at least three years old. He wants to leave the six-month old for one night with your parents.  What do you do?

Challenging? Challenging is hardly the right word because the parenting scripts that we inherit from our parents are so deeply embedded that we sometimes don’t even know they are there until suddenly, you say to yourself, “Oh my! Did that just come out of my mouth? I sounded just like my mother!”  Even more threatening though could be the reaction: “Oh no! He just sounded like his dad!”

Most couples are challenged quite early in their marriage to begin the task of working with their own parental scripts and figuring out what parts to keep, what parts to change, and what parts to discard.  Here are just a few simple observations from our own experience.

1.  Talk to each other—a lot—about how it was in your homes! My mother was strict with us but did not raise her voice. Sherry’s mom raised her voice to discipline the kids. So Sherry would raise her voice, and the kids would be fine—but it would drive me crazy!  Knowing that it was just part of her inherited script rather than “seriously irrational behavior” made it easier for me to understand and her to evaluate.

2. Don’t be afraid to defend your own script, but don’t fall into the trap of defending your parents! If you had wonderful parents, it is natural to want to imitate them—and rightly so. Just make sure that what worked for them is still appropriate thirty years later in a completely new family. And if your spouse feels the same way about a different script from his parents, keep the conversation about your children, not about your parents—or his parents!

3.  Don’t let your discussions become either YOUR way or MY way! Try to frame the result that you want as “what God wants US to do for our children.” The ownership of our own scripts can cause us to stubbornly, proudly, selfishly, insist on winning—even to the detriment of our children. It’s not about YOU. It’s about them!

4.  Remember the temporary nature of your decisions. Our kids, at least, went through ups and downs in their development that were mildly unpredictable.  Just about the time we would pat ourselves on the back for discovering the right parenting posture—because the kids were responding so well—they would change and our approach would seem all wrong now.

I know this is where many parents get frustrated. It’s like good parenting is always a moving target.  All the more reason to stay close to the kids, be around, listen to how they are today, and don’t hold on to previously effective parenting modes out of principle. Do so only if you both still feel they are appropriate with your children as they are today.

5.  Sometimes you adopt, sometimes you blend, and sometimes you concoct! We adopted Sherrylee’s grandparents’ admonition for our teenagers: “If it is not a sin, let them do it!” We blended most areas because our parents actually gave us similar scripts so it wasn’t too hard. But to deal with our children and what to do with them in cross-cultural situations, for instance, we had to create because we didn’t have any script from either set of parents for those situations.  Don’t get stuck in Either/Or thinking. Your kids are special enough to deserve your exploring creative options as well.

The Best Advice We Ever Received

Perhaps the best piece of advice that Sherrylee and I ever received was from an older missionary who told us that if the kids know that Mom really loves Dad and Dad really loves Mom, then the kids will turn out OK.  I know that’s a pretty simple script and won’t fit every single case, but in general, we believe it to be true, so my last piece of advice for blending your parenting scripts is

Love each other. Treat each other with respect, with honor preferring one another.

Does that sound familiar?

 

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I just watched a CNN video report about a website at the University of Chicago that provides hook-up opportunities for students, hook-ups being casual, no-strings-attached sexual experiences.  Two hundred students have signed up already because it’s “a lot of fun,” and a good way to “unwind.” Chastity is curable if detected early is one of the taglines on the site! (View the CNN report )

According to the Center for Disease Control report in 2009,  46% of high school students reported having sexual intercourse. Across the U.S., 5.9% of students reported having sexual intercourse before age 13. Furthermore, 13.8% of high school students reported having had at least four different partners–and females students reported greater sexual activity in the last three months before the survey was taken than males.

If you wait until your kids are teenagers to become concerned about purity and holiness, you are years too late!

Here are some suggestions for you who still have young children to consider!

1.  Mom and Dad must model purity and holiness consistently and not just in the area of sexuality. As I have said before, I think this means pure speech, pure jokes, pure media, pure computing, pure friendships, pure work ethics—just holy living! Hypocrisy—even perceived hypocrisy– will completely erase all of the good words you and all the Sunday school teachers in the Bible-belt might say to your child.

2. Be black-and-white about what is pure and holy! No matter who is doing it, sexual intercourse outside of marriage is wrong! Getting drunk is wrong. Vulgar (unholy) language is wrong! Looking at pornography is wrong! As adults, we recognize how to deal with borderline stuff, so we allow judgments and finer distinctions, but children need big, black-and-white boundaries until they know good from evil. Save your discussions of gray areas or exceptions until they are much older.

3.  Optional boundaries—actions that are not in violation of God’s law, but not good for children– may be better taught as “family rules,” not God’s rules. We did this with drinking alcohol. We decided with our first child to never keep alcohol at home or serve it at home. We did not want to send the message that it was a sin to drink alcohol because we did not believe that. The message we wanted to send was that children—especially teenagers—should not drink alcohol. 

You may have to make decisions about gambling, types of clothing, movie ratings, certain types of hangouts, even certain video games and maybe some verbal expressions. The danger of making something God’s rule without it really being concretely commanded by God is that as the children get older, they may come to a different opinion about biblical teachings and feel like you have either not been truthful or accurate with them.  In either case, young people are tempted then to lump all of “God’s rules” into one big pile and get rid of all of them.

4. Help them choose friends whose parents have similar values to yours. You should try to be very consistent about this as long as you can because your influence over friendships tends to diminish with each year of school.  This also means being aware of the people YOU choose to be friends with—and with which values they are raising their children.  Don’t sacrifice your kids to your own friendships.

By the way, this is where “family rules” can help you keep your kids from learning to be judgmental towards other parents or children who have different “family rules.” Just remember, family rules do not replace God’s rules; they are just training wheels until the child can ride the bike by herself.)

 

In the world we live in, even we Christians almost feel embarrassed to use words like purity and holiness. Chastity and modesty seem like words our grandparents might have used.

As you pray for wisdom to be a good parent, ask God to give you quiet strength to be pure and holy and to give your courage to use the words with your children—not in a preachy way. Maybe you could teach them the old but simple song Purer In Heart, O God

Purer in heart, O God, help me to be;

May I devote my life wholly to Thee;

Watch Thou my wayward feet, Guide me with counsel sweet;

Purer in heart, help me to be.

 

Purer in heart, O God, help me to be;

Teach me to do Thy will most lovingly;

Be Thou my Friend and Guide, Let me with Thee abide;

Purer in heart, help me to be.

 

Purer in heart, O God, help me to be;

That I Thy holy face one day may see;

Keep me from secret sin, reign Thou my soul within;

Purer in heart, help me to be.

(Words: Mrs. A.L Davison)

Don’t worry about the King James’ English. It will help your kids when they have to read Shakespeare in the 8th grade!

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