Parenting with Presumption…

Sometimes I presume too much, I think I know what’s going on when I don’t have a clue.

Ever have a moment of clarity when you realize you just totally and completely blew it with your kid ? 

I recently returned from a long weekend trip with my wife to find the house and in particular the kitchen a mess. (The dishes were stacked higher than the countertop and we could see random pieces of food floating in the murky water stagnating in the sink hole)

My wife and I were exhausted from a particularly draining weekend on the road and found ourselves blasting into our sixteen year old for failing to do the dishes when we got back. Pent up anger and inner frustration spewing out onto the closest scapegoat around.

warosu.org

warosu.org

We jumped to some presumptive conclusions about what we assumed to be his lack of responsibility and concern for our family, believing he ignored the needs of our home so that he could enjoy himself freely during our absence. Explained in passionate detail and multiple angles for crystal clarity for a solid fifteen minutes of parental interrogation. (You know what I mean 🙂

With the evidence so clearly observed in the sink….We accused him of being lazy and self-centered, immature and apathetic… etc. His response…silence. He closed himself up emotionally, took his verbal lumps and went angrily to bed, not saying a word.

Later as I felt something about our parental tirade wasn’t totally “right” and asked God about the issue with the dishes the night before… my spirit was uneasy. Could we have missed some vital detail? I decided to ask our son about it the next day.

He refused to talk about it. So I began to push a little bit for him to tell me what he was “feeling” about all the drama we had experienced the other night and if we (his mother and me) might have over-reacted or missed something in our discussion with him… ?

After a prolonged silence…his faced clouded up and his eyes filled with tears…I watched as his shoulders slumped and his body began to shake, knowing my son, I realized with certainty…we had misjudged him… and badly.

As we listened and he quietly talked, it was very clear, we – his parents;  were totally wrong about what we thought had happened!  In our frustration and haste to correct, we had wounded our son’s heart and unjustly accused and presumed to know of his intent and character. It was worse than being an idiot, we were now officially parenting jerks! With each of his slow, quiet tear drops, I felt the shame of regret flood my own face.

After asking for his forgiveness, (which took some time) he shared with us how much stress he really was struggling to live under. The pressure of high school academics combined with a deep desire to please us (his parents) was squeezing him.  He had stayed in his room for an entire weekend to study for the upcoming college entrance exams. On deeper inspection, we could see hadn’t been watching TV and slacking off… he had been working.

baggagereclaim.co.uk

baggagereclaim.co.uk

His one highlight he had hoped to share on our return..,  a special effects photo project he had carefully arranged, ready for us to see when we got home… yep you guessed it, he had set it carefully out for us to see in our KITCHEN!

SNAP ! CRAP !!!

Oh man, I realized suddenly… not only did we NOT see his hard work and effort on-display in the kitchen, we had only focused on the dish mess and what we perceived he did wrong, instead of celebrating what was so obviously done so right!

SNAP ! DOUBLE CRAP !!!

We missed more than that though… we didn’t see or feel a fraction of the immense stress he had been carrying around our home – hidden behind his teen mask of alternating moods and hormone melancholy. We mis-judged his motives, faulted his personal integrity and questioned his maturity ! All done in the space of a heart-beat and all of it dead wrong.

How many families out there know what that feels like ? How many of us have lived out a similar experience of pain and rejection between parents and kids, some lasting for a lifetime, all because of a moment of presumption?

We went critical instead of supportive in our parenting perspective! We didn’t honor and encourage him, building his confidence as the young man he was and needs to become. Instead, in our haste and pride we smashed him and his wounded heart to pieces all over our kitchen floor…and if God wasn’t so merciful, we wouldn’t have even known our error.

source -totstoteensmagazine.com

source -totstoteensmagazine.com

Sometimes we  just need to “own” our messes as parents, asking forgiveness of our kids. No excuses, no explanations…no justifications allowed, just humbly accepting and admitting our mistake and trusting our heavenly Father to make up for all the mis-steps we make as parents.

Pastor B.

Parents, how old… is old enough ?

Smartphones, cell-phones… ipods-pads-tablets and snap-chat, common currency in today’s pre-teen cultural exchange. From the school bus to the family sofa, kids are using technology younger and younger every year. The tsunami of media has fully crashed into the pre-teen world with a vengeance and we parents are left trying to learn how to sink or swim in the backwash. As a media executive (Bema Media – Franklin TN) I work with video, music and online assets every day. I live this stuff and I’m all too aware of how much I don’t know.

How do we navigate this rushing wall of water we call media ?

Netflix, Hulu… snapchat, twitter, vine, instagram, YouTube and megashare all providing instant and mature content for anyone with a wi-fi signal to download, stream or snap. Kids today are not only being bombarded with millions of new home videos, selfies and R to XXX rated images…more often than not, an average ten-year old will get to “decide” for themselves today what is or isn’t appropriate to ingest with just a smart phone and five minutes un-supervised.

As parents, we are often left confused and disoriented by the almost infinite variety of online options being marketed to our pre-teens and teens. The viral marketing of ideas, brands and values is becoming the daily hot topic of every kids conversation. From the latest music video to the funniest pet or baby post on twitter, kids are combing through the very best and the very worst of mankind’s creative extrusions.

It’s a frightening landscape for parents to traverse safely and for most of us, no matter how aware we think we are of our kids online activities… we’re woefully out of touch and way behind their learning curve.

Knowing the patterns of an average pre-teen and their use of technology might be a good thing to consider before you go and sit down with your sixth grader to ask some basic questions.

Basic Facts:

Media activities make up more than a quarter of a 6-12 year-old’s waking day. (*source DIS magazine – tween tech article) It’s clear that our pre-teens are now entering a virtual world that we may not even realize exists.

Other sources suggest that tweens are now consuming an average of 80 hours of media a week, and doing so with three separate media forms simultaneously. (Mobile phone- iPod – laptop – TV – PlayStation/Xbox etc..)

birmingham.myscoop.us

birmingham.myscoop.us

Pre-teens are consuming media faster than we ever have… they are experimenting and learning how to visualize, create and share their lives, ideas and passions with technology. The smart-phone is not going away, and the use and abuse of these amazing micro-wonders must be at the top of any parents awareness at all times.

Setting some Ground rules:

Parents we will need to consider carefully at what age we “allow” our kids to have access to these mind-bending portals of poetry, art, history…culture and stranger danger. How amazing will be the world our kids inherit, and how deep and dark it may become.

As long as they live with us, we’ll need to help them understand the dangers and avoid the pitfalls of an online mine field. Keeping a close eye on their browser histories, online “friends” and file sharing… is a MUST. To develop your own ground-rules is an important step in raising pre-teens and teens in the digital age.

A clear sign of responsibility, privilege and independence… granting a pre-teen or teen the right to have their own smart phone is a huge rite of passage today and for parents not a decision to be made lightly or from a consumer “peer” pressured perspective 🙂

Take the time to understand your child’s world, listen to what they listen to… watch what they watch and pay close attention to their social patterns of communication. Everything from sexting to homework cheats and dangerous bullies are in those lives… it’s our job to discover those “good” and “bad” influences and enforce some clear-cut boundaries appropriate for their age.

iShine For Tweens ishineministries.com/

iShine For Tweens ishineministries.com/

Having “the TALK”

This blog is a reminder to re-engage and have the “talk” – no not the sex talk, the “tech” talk. Helping our kids learn and grow is always a parents priority – but in our world, teaching them safety and protection online is a first step in developing their own “thinking process” for filtering out the bad and allowing the good.

What an amazing opportunity we have to help our kids discover truth and faith and values… don’t hate technology, embrace it… WITH them.

FYI – I didn’t get my girls smartphones until they went to college. My son, a junior in High School… still uses a flip phone cell. You can slow this down…but it’s very hard. In the end, instant communication can be a bit too much drama for the average parent to endure, but you know your kids the best. We can’t police their every action…but we can be clear on what’s right and wrong and work with them to “filter” out the crud and protect their hearts and minds for adulthood.

May God provide you with deep reservoirs of wisdom and insight as you seek to keep your kids on the path of life !

Peace and Grace,

Pastor B.

Teaching them to “filter”

Tweens and Tragedy, A tale of technology at work for good

How does a tween process tragedy ? How should they ? Do they even notice the world around them beyond their Wii or Facebook or iPod’s ? As adults, we are horrified and in awe of the magnitude of it all… as we watch helplessly as  the cable news world broadcasts 24/7 revealing image after image of near cataclysmic destruction.  

As a parent I’m very concerned about the people of Japan… a tragic  world event that has rocked us all by the power and ferocity of its impact as we see the effects sheer devastation from friday’s earthquake and resulting epic tsunami as it hurtled over the countryside. Shocking, mind-numbing videos of walls of water and towns simply wiped off the map.

It’s impossible to process with our adult minds, yet alone a growing preteen’s who is functioning only from a very sheltered and limited concept of the tragedy and brevity of life.

So in the midst of this terrible event… is there really a way technology can help them reach through the self-absorbed haze of adolescence and see the real world beyond the virtual ?

Yes, I believe there might be…

Surprisingly, the answer may be found to some degree in the technology we are so cautious to let them access. Facebook, Twitter and social media are always working to expand our kids minds and awareness beyond their bedrooms and pre-teen drama. It’s just usually in a “bad” way.

When I talked with my own kids about this tragedy, my son was very sober. He has a very close school friend who recently had to move to Tokyo, and the recent tragedy combined with my sons growing awareness of the reality of such tragedies (2010 Nashville floods) had begun to move him from the passive typical pre-teen to an alert and appropriately concerned young man. He is really connected to and anxious for his friends well – being. Not just his friend, but he’s aware that this tragic event really happened. That those people were really displaced or killed and it is not just a movie or a tv reality show that’s playing right now on the television…its life beyond U-Tube.

The power of connectivity through technologyallows all of us to be “personally” invested in the welfare of others. Regardless of how we connect, Facebook, Twitter or email…they all allow us to stay connected to our friends and family in ways we could have never anticipated and ( I believe) in doing so, technology has shown us Parents a potential “silver” lining to the online revolution of this generation.

My son is actually engaged, he is active in seeking out news on this tragedy. His friend is in the center of this catastrophic loss and he is very aware of how dangerous and serious this event is for the people and nation of Japan and beyond. His world view has been expanded and his compassion and awareness of the needs of others is at an all time high. That is a good thing. His world is expanding beyond his own cares and concerns and I am grateful for that.

So much so, that he commented to me last night… “Dad, some of the kids at school are complete idiots…they have no idea whats going on in Japan, and whats worse… they couldn’t care less because it doesn’t affect them in any way.” I have no doubt that’s true for some, but not all. I believe we have a golden opportunity in this disaster to gently re-direct our kids attention from themselves to others and to begin to consider what “they” might be able to do to help.

So, parents…before we completely remove all social media and technology from our pre-teens lives… let’s be careful to consider and “LOOK FOR” the potential positive benefits of its presence in our homes. As with all things… in moderation and with consideration for the content and priorities of real life in mind.

I’m not a huge advocate of technology as I’ve seen it negatively impact families and homes in very dangerous ways when out of balance, but I am cautiously optimistic on this particular facet of its existence. It could be a huge catalyst for growing our pre-teens awareness of the world beyond our borders and the need for increased compassion and sensitivity to those less fortunate.

Here’s to keeping on the road and in between the lines… and when you read this, please consider taking a moment to stop what your about and pray for the welfare and safety of those families and lives affected by the recent earthquake in Japan. If you’re a parent… go ahead and ask your kids to join with you when you do. It will show them your faith in action when facing tragedy and loss, a priceless lesson of hope and trust when life gets beyond anyone’s control.

Peace out,

b

Faith or Fame for your tween? Beware the Disney parable…

Watching Miley Cyrus saturday host SNL sobered me a bit as I realized how much she really has changed. In just over six years she had gone from a fun and energetic, wholesome child star to a jaded and worn young woman. From the grocery store checkout rag’s to the primetime interviews… Miley’s family has been the focus of countless millions as they have been literally torn apart by her quote “successes”.

What happened ? It appears that somewhere in all of the success and stardom her values shifted dramatically. Her youthful innocence was replaced with something much different. Something darker and more destructive has touched her family, ironic as it seems… this destruction of family is one of the common denominators with most if not all child tv pop stars.

Why did it happen ? Somewhere along the way… her parents lost their ability to influence her more than the environment she was allowed to live in. Miley’s parents were affected by her success as much or more than she was… and it destroyed their home. The roots of their values, beliefs and faith were not deep enough to withstand the tsunami of her exploding popularity, wealth, influence and stardom.

What can we do to prevent similar loss in our families ? Stay close to God’s word, and to each other. Simple, but profound. By staying close to God’s word, we stay close to “reality” and in doing so, maintain perspective on who we are and how much life is not about us. When we skip that step, we start to immediately drift into another reality. One dominated by the influence of media, popular culture and the despair of a self-absorbed life. When we stay close to God, our roots of faith grow deep and wide… preparing us and our families for whatever may come.

Where do we go from here as a generation? As parents of faith, our first duty is to be intentional about our faith and guard our own hearts and mind. Time with God is irreplaceable and powerful. It restores our hearts and minds and prevents us from the presumption and deception of living  lives without the influence of the Holy Spirit. When we model our faith in our homes, we’re leading our kids to find a source of life and purpose much deeper than ourselves.

Our kids, our pre-teens need us to maintain our connection with our faith and our values. When we falter, we open them up to being influenced by someone else, for purposes that will ultimately destroy our lives. I Peter 5 describes the Devil as a ravenous lion, its true. He has plans to steal, kill and destroy us and our kids. The first line of defense comes on our knees and in the word of God.

I grieve for Miley, her family has been swallowed up by the very thing they so desperately wanted. Fame. As parents, we need to exercise some caution in our life choices… no matter how awesome the opportunity.  When we pause and pray before acting… we include God in our choices and in doing so we avoid the devastation of our very lives. I’m confident the opportunity to star as Hannah Montana seemed perfectly harmless on the front side, but in the end it led to a path full of pain and loss.

For all of us its the same…, we are in need of a savior, and in accepting His help, we must learn to accept His will. When we choose to let God pick… we’re protecting our families in ways we will never truly appreciate until eternity.

As a media executive in the pre-teen and teen world of music and television, I’ve seen this mediacentric scenario many times before. But it’s not exclusive to media…many parents want to live out their hopes and dreams through our kids and we never hesitate to encourage them to pursue their desires to the fullest.

From the performance pressures of little league to dance class to those pushing for academic scholarships… we as parents are risking the same outcome as the Cyrus family when we don’t offer a healthy life perspective, one full of faith, balanced in activities and content with whatever God provides.

God protect us from getting our own way ! Here’s to encourage us all to carefully steer our kids through their tween years knowing that we must model our faith and hope in something more than ourselves… Keeping it on the road and in-between the lines of life.

Peace out,

brad.

Snow Days, Sledding and Scattegories !

Snow Day today! My tweens went crazy AGAIN..its like the ninth snow day in two months and for south Nashville that’s an epic winter. My son immediately grabbed his coat and went straight to the garage for our neon orange plastic sleds.  We hit the back yard for some rare Central Tennessee sledding time. As is often the case with my kids, sledding can become a very competitive sport, complete with intense racing, longest distance travelled contests and best rider titles being won and lost over and over. When it was finally done,… we all had won.  

That’s the stuff that life is made of. If we’re not careful we miss them. Been kinda stuck on this theme lately as I have a growing awareness that our lives are made up of beautiful moments that we either take the time to enjoy or brush by them in a hurry to get somewhere else. As the parent of three, I’m learning these events are often the most critical for our families to embrace. I sometimes think that church, or devotions or correction are more necessary than sledding, but in the end if my kids don’t understand that I genuinely value them more than the work I do, then I’m in real danger as a dad.  

After sledding, we dumped our still damp jeans, boots and hats at the back door and cozyed up in the living room… it was immediately suggested that we have some “board game” time. Not a movie, not “american idol season whatever”, but “Scattegories” was chosen. So to my surprise we quickly dusted off ours from the hall closet and had tons of fun eating butter popcorn, cookies and whatever junk food we could get our hands on. For the next two hours we talked, played, burped, joked and generally goofed off until we had all had enough. The snow continued to fall outside and as the day-light faded to night, we never turned on the television again (except to check if school was out for tomorrow :). It was awesome and it was real, and I almost missed it.

This morning we hit the road to do our traditional “Cracker Barrell” breakfast on snow day mornings. We ate way too much, laughed too hard and I missed getting all but two of the pegs on the triangle game once again… but man oh man, we connected as a family.

Parents; we must push “PAUSE” sometimes. For somewhere in our crazy over scheduled lives…its vital we slow down the pace a bit and remember our  kids will only be with us for a very short period. It’s already flying by so fast… 

I needed to remember the big picture of parenthood. My greatest privilege, responsibility and joy in life should be to share the precious time I have been given with my three unbelievably beautiful kids… wisely.

I was/am so grateful for being able to take a time “out” for a snow day and to share the happiness of life with them one more time. Our days on earth here are so short, “as only a vapor”  King David says in the Psalms. I forget that far to often.

So, I’m hopeful my “Snow Day” story can serve as a simple reminder for all of us for anytime of the year…, before we rush out to make our next planned business meeting, community event or obligatory school function. Let’s be sure to reconsider our commitments from this parenting perspective of time, and make sure that when the next opportunity comes… we are able to jump into the world of our kids and leave our grown-up distractions behind for just a moment. My chance came as a snow day, what will yours be?

 It doesn’t matter what it is, only that it is. Lets all agree, its important enough to our homes that we intentionally make the sacrifices of our time to invest in the lives of those who matter the most. Our families.

For those who can’t sled or find a board game, no worries… just discover your tradition for your family and be ready to guard it and keep it alive with your kids. It helps us all on the journey of life as we seek to keep our kids in between the lines and on the road of life.

Peace out,

brad.

Tweens And Faith

Tweens and Faith, a battle we cannot afford to lose

“In matters related to style, swim with the current, in matters of principle, stand like a rock” Thomas Jefferson –

Why Tweens and Why Now?

Current Christian and social research has confirmed that 90% of American kids will form their lifelong values and beliefs before the end of their thirteenth year. That means if you’re pre-teen or tween (ages 7-13) has not made a faith commitment to Christ before the end of their eighth grade year… there is a 1 in 10 chance they ever will. Multiple recent Christian and Secular social studies have shown the devastating impact of this reality… 88-90% of college bound students leave the Church never to return.

From Fox News, USA Today, CNN and the New York Times, experts are noting the tremendous changes occurring in our current tween populations. Identity crisis common in adolescents is raging into grades 4,5 and 6 much earlier than previous generations. Secular companies (Viacom, GE, Toyota, Apple, Disney, Revlon etc..) are targeting tweens as “decision makers” in their homes. Mainstream marketing has directly focused on pre-teens for marketing campaigns designed to make “consumers for life”. Mainstream corporate America has responded much faster than the church as a whole.

They have a much stronger conviction to reach this age group with their truth, than most Christians do. The principles of belief formation are clearly believed by secular companies as they regularly invests billions in their ad campaigns used to engage and convince tweens their products will change their lives for the better.

It’s clear the body of Christ is in need of a “wake up” call. Parents, pastors and teachers are all beginning to notice the lower attendance rates of their younger members. College age ministries are dropping off due to lack of interest and children’s ministries are still focusing on VBS and basic bible stories while the mainstream media is engaging our kids with “Hannah Montana”, “Wizards of Waverly Place” and” i-Carly”. Online Facebook and U-Tube are visited by 90% of pre-teens daily. Current media studies show an average of 48 hours per week for tween kids to consumer media in one form or another. On average, the families of faith based kids spend an hour a week engaged in faith based activities like church or youth group.

When kids do get to church, the pre-teen ministries of most denominations are limited to volunteers who try to entertain or feed the kids into compliance. For serious leaders who are trying to engage this age, finding effective pre-teen middle school Christian teaching resources is hard as very few options are available at all.

Parents are privately struggling with the chaos of the early adolescent in their homes, something we’re seeing in almost every social or economic group today. Children are being bombarded with a variety of media and instant communication technologies that by in large are accelerating the life values and beliefs decision making process before their emotional & physical maturation occurs fully. Kids are simply being “aged” earlier than ever before in our history. Texting is now considered a clinically “addictive” condition, with the average thirteen year old texting 3,000 times a month. Many admit to texting 300 or more times a day!

We believe the time is now to adjust our focus and philosophy for tomorrow. To make a dent in these trends we must intentionally and strategically reach this pre-teen generation with the truth of the Word of God.

Media and entertainment have replaced families, faith and the voice of the Church with false promises of fulfillment and moral relativism… together we can and must make an immediate impact on our pre-teen and teen cultures with a dynamic and relevant message of Hope and Faith in Jesus Christ.

Reference Resources for Concerned Parents and Pastors… http://www.barna.org/teens-next-gen-articles/403-how-teenagers-faith-practices-are-changing and www.ishineministries.com both sites have great practical links to other faith based parenting blogs and websites ! (Check them out)

Road Trip Parenting… Practical Life Action Steps:

1) Educate yourself on the situation;

– Lifeway Christian Resources has done an extensive study on the beliefs and trends of today’s teen and college students.

– Barna Research Group has repeatedly studied this growing trend of pre-teen and tween faith

– National news groups have run hundreds of articles in the recent ten months reviewing and documenting the media and pre-teen / teen cultural changes in our society.

– Google it – you’ll be surprised by how much is out there.

2) consider your own statistics;

-What has you’re experience been in recent youth and children’s ministry impact?

-Are you seeing the same basic trends as others for loss of active members after 18 yoa?

-Have you noted the changes in tween activities and overall interest in faith based services and events?

-How are you’re families, parents doing with this sudden increase in technology at home?

3) Embrace the problem, rather than isolate;

– Many faith based families will “over-react” to the modern changes of technology – “Don’t”

– Learn to use technology with your events and activities, visual learning is KEY to tweens.

– Music is a critical component of their culture, using modern Christian music is helpful and engaging to tweens who may not be aware such an option even exists.

– Use age appropriate “Sampling” of popular movies, television and u-tube videos to make a values statement in your ministry times.

– Talk about the common “myths” of popular television and film as they relate to tween culture and identity issues.

4) Sponsor a live event or concert to engage the parents and kids with an alternative for their entertainment and your weekly youth ministry.

Several Options exist:

– J12 ministries does a weekend event for the whole church (Jesus at 12)

– CiY – (Christ in Youth) does a national tour in the spring for churches

– Deliberate Kids works with 8 yoa and younger audiences

– Go Fish – work with 3-8 yoa kids with basic bible truths

-iShine Live – engages tweens and teens ages 7-14 with a Disney style concert and ministry event.

5) create content if you can’t find it.

– Instead of ignoring the problem, find interesting information and create simple studies from media content you have personally reviewed –

– Engage your kids with facebook, u-tube and Myspace by adding your children’s ministry or youth group to the social online world. BLOG!

– Go missional – active participation in faith building activities is a “key” component to transfer of faith from one generation to another. Living it vs. studying it!

This is a lengthy post, first given as a lecture presentation in Washington DC in January 2011 to the Salvation Army Youth Leadership forum. Its meant to only serve as a “starting off” point for youth leaders, pastors and concerned parents who need ideas and information to engage this generation for Christ. Blessings to you in your own sphere of influence. For more information or support, contact www.ishinelive.com