Growing up in today’s culture requires building habits from a young age that, when practiced, will sustain and equip kids to face the pressures, traps, and lures of a society that has lost its fear and concept of God—a society, in fact, that promotes a worldview in which any idea, no matter how illogical or deranged, is expected to be supported, celebrated, and promoted at any cost.
Parents have the God-given responsibility to raise kids who know what they believe and why they believe it (apologetics). We are called to mold and shape our children by instilling in them a Biblical worldview that makes sense of the world around us. We are also called to model and teach how to practically live a God-fearing, joy-filled, humble life that exalts Christ and is in step with Biblical purity and principles. Here are six habits your kids need to build right now:
1. Do not make the Internet your life.
This can be seen as a daunting task, given that so much of each of our lives is lived on some sort of social media or technology platform. Yet there is a difference between what is useful and what is harmful. God calls us to make the most of our time and to spend our time, talent, and resources for His glory and the benefit of others. By introducing your kids to volunteer opportunities (the possibilities really are endless!) and having them read through several books a year to edify their minds, they will begin to see that there is so much outside of themselves that they can grow through, take part in, assist with, and give to those in need.
By remembering that we will give an account of our lives to God when we stand before Him, kids can realize the narcissism exhibited in wasting away in front of a screen and will be motivated to make each day count.
2. Learn healthy coping mechanisms.
Stress is a factor for people of all ages. Without kids learning healthy ways of coping from a young age, they are susceptible to numbing, uncomfortable feelings through entertainment (which also masks feelings of boredom). This can lead to addiction, secrecy, and the pursuit of a selfish life. It ties into the me-mentality.
If people don’t know how to cope with stress, it will affect many aspects of their lives. If they don’t have a plan for dealing with the unexpected, the demanding, and the inevitable stresses brought by the roles and responsibilities they have in life, it will breed laziness, decisions made on a whim, regret, and a vicious cycle of bad habits which take place during trying times and then continue because they get used to the momentary high they feel when escaping into their “drug of choice.”
3. Keep open communication lines with trusted adults and mentors.
People need accountability, and kids are no different. They should be encouraged to dialogue about their feelings, thoughts, and what is on their mind by being taught the importance and value of honesty and asking for help when they encounter a problem or issue. They must be taught that secrets kill. When people keep secrets, it mars their character. They begin to lie in order to hide what is going on and end up wearing a mask and putting on a different face depending on who they are with. Secrecy causes bad choices to remain and grow. Secrets hinder people from living lives of integrity. They chip away at our sanity, mental health, relationships, and walk with God.
Kids must be taught that it is better to feel embarrassed or ashamed when admitting their sin to trusted adults and mentors who can help them deal with the issue at hand, than it is to put on a happy face, pretend everything is fine, and suffer the death of all that is good in their lives as the addiction or problem continues and begins demanding more of their time, energy, possibly their money, and dignity over time.
4. Learn what true love is.
True love is honest, meaningful, special, not based upon emotion and feelings, committed, humble, values the individual, includes friendship and communication, being transparent and real, getting to know the person, growing together as individuals and as a couple, mutual submission and servitude, respect and kindness, a relationship that is Christ-centered, Bible-applying, and entails one man and one woman whose lives are characterized by surrender to God in all areas, continually working on themselves and in turn, having a better relationship made possible through God, the Bible, accountability, and the application of God’s truth to the relationship and each person’s life.
Lust contradicts the beauty of true love and is in total opposition to it. It is selfish and self-serving, manipulative, impure, tries to get its way no matter the cost to the other person, values the body, does not require relationship or communication, belittles our humanity, increases heartache, prevents intimacy from forming, is not authentic, discards the person once the body is used, promotes sexual satisfaction without emotional connection or spiritual integrity, lacks patience, does not prize dignity or preserve human worth, spits upon God’s design for sexuality, hurts more than it delivers, and does more damage than delight.
5. Learn how to train your eyes and take your thoughts captive.
“All sin, not least sexual sin, begins with the imagination. What feeds the imagination is of utmost importance in pursuit of righteousness.” –D. A. Carson
The Bible tells us to filter our thoughts through the grid of Philippians 4:8. The same should apply to what we watch, read, and listen to. By taking our thoughts captive, we train ourselves to not fantasize or play make-believe with an overactive imagination. A thought life and what our eyes view play a significant role when it comes to forming attractions, feeding desire, fueling lust, executing action, the labels we form, how we see ourselves and others, and ultimately the choices we make.
“Guard your thoughts, and there will be little fear about your actions.” –J. C. Ryle
What we think and what we view are powerful forces that have the potential of spreading like wildfire and bringing much destruction if left to desire without accountability. It’s stepping foot into territory which will never be satisfied and can lead us down paths we never thought possible. We should beware what we think about and view, as it paves the way for porn consumption.
Kids should be taught early about the power of our thoughts and what we visually consume because our bodies respond to these (stress, anxiety, and fear prove this point). They need to be taught about Biblical sexuality, God’s purpose and design in giving us a sex drive, and how to glorify God with our bodies, minds, and imaginations.
Children must know why they shouldn’t view specific entertainment or allow their thoughts to run rampant. Unless they understand, Biblically speaking, the why of the matter, your teaching or admonition will be regarded as little more than a strict parent saying no to having fun.
6. Make God your highest priority in life.
When the Lord becomes our top priority and we put Him above everything, our freedom isn’t stifled; it’s made genuine and true. Through Jesus, we are in right standing with our Creator and find our identity in Him (therefore not seeking to find ourselves in a worldly sense through counterfeit ideas, cheap ideals, and distorted passions). We base our decisions upon His infallible word and avoid the unpleasant consequences of a life lived with no regard for Christ. We rejoice in tribulation, learn valuable lessons, live simply, and grow in character and maturity. We find real purpose, joy, contentment, hope, and rest.
Parents and children alike, I encourage you to make the following prayer by Betty Scott Stam your daily cry to the Lord. He is worthy of our trust and thanksgiving, is perfect in all His ways, and always has our best interest in mind:
“Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my time, my all, utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt, work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.”
Parents, I exhort you to begin implementing these six steps with your children. Safeguarding our kids from the world, the flesh, and the devil, honors God, equips them, and comforts us in knowing that we have taught them well and given them a great foundation for a godly and principled life that esteems Christ and honors His word.
Even if you didn’t start this from the time they were young, it is better to get a late start on building such habits in their lives than to assume all hope is lost because they are approaching their teen years.
“Praying for your kids is some of the best time you’ll ever invest. Prayer is a powerful privilege!” Elizabeth George