Category Archives: Parenting

The Spiritual Discipline of Parenting: Children in Church

I have a friend over at Caught By Christ who wrote a good article on having your kids in the pews.  I commend this article to you and have some additional reflections.

I am a big believer of children being in church. This is shocking I know. But, I am also very cognizant of when my children are being very loud in worship.  Other children could be just as loud as mine and I don’t notice it very much. But, if it’s my children, I start trying to get my wife’s attention. After I’ve gotten it I give her the look to have her try and calm them down. I understand why people with children don’t take their kids to worship. Their noise level may jump exponentially for minor reasons.

As I think about this I have to remind myself that worship is not all about me and my children.  This is my selfish desire to think that somehow my children will have such an impact on what is going on in worship, that it will somehow throw off what God is doing.  It seems to me that this might turn out to be a good spiritual discipline.  By having my children being formed in church I am giving them access them to God’s Word and Sacrament, which many don’t have. When they start to make noise and I want them to go to the nursery, I must stop and remember I am upholding my baptismal promises for them, they have to be there.  I am taking them to worship and it’s not about me or my children. Worship is a messy event.  When my children are loud I have to let go and realize that my children, or I, have not become the center of attention.  So here is the spiritual discipline: take your children to church and when they are noisy remember that this worship is centered on God, people won’t focus on you, and rely once again on God. People are generally very kind to parents with children.

Live with the messiness of worship, loud children and all.  It helps me to remember that I and my children are not the center of the universe, even though it could feel that way when their fighting over a hymnal.

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Dealing with Death

Today is All Hallow’s Eve and with all the skeletons lining the yards of homes I can’t help but think about death.  My mind wanders to how I will experience with my children the death of those that we love, because if there is one thing I know, we all die.

Some have a the sensation of fleeing the scene of a loved ones impending death.  I have seen this a lot over the years.  The usual rationalization is, “I want to remember them the way they were,”  or, “I don’t want to see them that way.”  My problem with this response is the “I” portion.  Someone’s death is not about you, it’s about the dying person. They way you remember someone is up to you, but until they die, they still have personhood, and can probably hear you.  Don’t cut the relationship off prematurely because you are uncomfortable.
I have seen this rational extend to children.  Parents don’t want their children to see the family member in a poor state.  So, they block their children from seeing the loved one, or they don’t them go to the funeral, with the best interest of the child in mind.  The rational is usually that they want their child to remember the loved one as they were, not as they are now.  I don’t really buy this rational. I think it’s more about discomfort then protecting a child’s memory.

I have also seen people skipping the part of loss and pain and going right into hope in Christ’s resurrection and hope for life with God.  We tell children that their loved one is better off in heaven and miss the part where they won’t be coming over to play anymore.

We are a culture that do not know how to deal with death.  I propose that we just confront our own discomfort, name it, and work through it.  Talk to our children openly about it when the time comes.  They won’t have the world shattering existential crises you are imagining. Be honest about missing the person, the pain of loss that you feel, it will hopefully help your own children own their feelings later on in life.  Hopefully they won’t be retreating when your dying, with a lame excuse like, “I want to remember you the way you were.”

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Taking Parenting Personally

How do you parent?  I am assuming that your parenting choices are the result of deeply held values, what works best for your child, and probably how you were raised.  You might belong to a community or have friends that raises their children in a similar manner or an online support group.  You might have read some books and have some deep reasoning for how and why you parent the way you do. How do you feel about the Furber Method or Attachment parenting? Very different styles here. Do you spank? Do you think spanking is abhorrent?

Now, what happens when you meet and talk to someone that parent’s differently than you?  How do you react to them telling you that the way they parent is the exact opposite of the way you parent?  

My brother and I are pretty different in the way we parent our children.  Jeremy is very into routines and we are not. A few months ago we were have this conversation about parenting and I noticed that I was getting offended at the way he parents.  After further reflection it was because it was as if the way he parents was judgement on the way I parent.  Now, you could say that this is just sibling rivalry, but we are mature enough to process the conversations that we have. So I asked him how he was feeling about our conversation. It turns out he was also taking it very personally.

I have also noticed that when I talk to most people about parenting, there seems to be some tension.  It is as if the way I parent is a judgment on their parenting choices. Maybe it is a judgment?  I mean after all I have chosen to raise my children in a certain way because I think that is how to facilitate making thoughtful and mature adults.  But then, most of our choices could be seen as judgments against other peoples choices. This really is no way to live.

So I want to propose some rules on how to talk with others about parenting.

1. Listen.
2. Ask questions.
3. Don’t judge.
4. Only talk about your own parenting choices.  Don’t talk about others “poor” choices. That is probably a good rule of life too. It’s not nice to bash others.
5. Don’t take is personally when someones parenting choices contradict yours.
6. Be nice and respectful.
7. Be aware of how you are feeling when you are talking about parenting.

It seems that these are just good rules of conversation in general.

How has your experience been talking to others about parenting?

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On Sexting

Recently my wife and I had the rare opportunity to spend a night away from our children. One of the great things we did was saw a movie together.  Through some negotiating and compromise we agreed on Crazy, Stupid, Love. We both really liked this movie.  It was an all star cast and the story line probed the depths of human desire to be connected to each other. (This is a spoiler alert!) 

In tying up the story line between Jessica (who is a high school senior) and Robbie (who is in the 8th grade) there is scene at the end of the movie that is the reason for this blog post. Jessica hands Robbie naked photos of herself and says something to the effect of, “This will get you through high school.”

Because it was the end of the move and the way the music was playing it was obvious that the viewer is supposed to be endeared by this act of naked picture sharing. What passes for endearing is great indicator of what society has deemed socially acceptable.

This made me want to reflect and research the common use of sexting between adolescents. For those of you who don’t know sexting is texting naked photos of yourself.

Here is what I have found.  I got this quote from Psychology Today:

One survey suggests, 1 in 5 teens admitted to posting sexually explicit pictures on-line. To help understand teen sexting behaviors,” The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl .com conducted a survey with 653 teens (ages 13-19) to explore the sexual use of sending or posting sexually suggestive messages or texts.  Some of their findings are listed below:

Teens who say they have sent or posted a sexually revealing photo or video:

  •  20% of all teens
  •  22% of teen girls
  •  18% of teen boys

Teens that have sent sexually suggestive messages:

  • 39% of all teens
  • 37% of teen girls
  • 40% of teen boys
  • 48% admit to receiving suggestive messages
Gone are the days when foolish decisions are relegated to the past.  All one needs to do is break up with their girlfriend/boyfriend and those naked pictures become a site for everyone to see.  Today’s adolescents can be making decisions that could be affecting them for a long time to come.  Here is a great article on what to do The Devastating Aftermath of Sexting.
In wanting our adolescent to develop healthy sexual identities we must talk about the lasting implications sexting may have. Adolescents are not, for the most part, capable of thinking about how their decisions can stay with them. One author writes in Sexting 101:
You see, there’s a special part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex (aka the CEO of the brain) that is responsible for problem solving, impulse control, and weighing out options.  Unfortunately for teens, this area of the brain is not fully developed.  In fact, it doesn’t fully mature until the early to mid twenties.  So, while we expect our teens to know better, the fact is there’s some physiological reasons teens think they’re invincible.
There is this whole world of sexual exploration and exploitation that was not  around when parent’s, like me, were in high school. With these new technologies comes new consequences and teens brains are not fully capable of understanding this.
Now, I am not advocating unplugging the internet or confiscating your child’s phone.  I do, however, advocate having a relationship with your child that is open and honest enough to enter into the quagmires of life together and help guide them to a responsible adulthood.

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Hurt: Time With Adults

I’ve been reading Chap Clark’s book Hurt recently and have been deeply disturbed to learn some of his research.

In his chapter, “Abandonment-the defining issue for contemporary adolescents” he quotes a study found in Patricia Hersch’s A Tribe Apart,

“In all societies since the beginning of time, adolescents have learned   to become adults by observing, imitating and interacting with grown-ups around them,” write Mihaly Csikzenmihalyi and Reed Larson in Being Adolescent. “It is therefore startling how little time [modern] teenagers spend in the company of adults.” In their study Csikzentmihalyi and Larson found that adolescents spent only 4.8 percent of their time with their parents and only 2 percent with adults who where not their parents.

This really shocks me.  My initial gut reaction was this information could not be true.  They are around adults all day: teachers, parents, coaches, etc.  But then I realized that this is mostly time of instruction or receiving tips on how to do a particular activity better. This is not beings-in-relationship.  I then start think about the adolescents in the youth group that I serve.  Many have school until 3pm and extra curricular school activities after such as sports, band, theater, etc.  By the time they get home they have 3 hours worth of homework.  They don’t have the time and parents don’t make the time.

Clark wrote a little earlier in the chapter that many parents take exception to this abandonment.  Many would say that they have sacrificed everything for their children by taking them to and from school, practice, competitions, and concerts. He writes,

This statement is in of itself yet another subtle form of abandonment.  We have evolved to the point where we believe driving is support, being active is love, and providing any and ever opportunity is selfless nurture.  We are a culture that has forgotten how to be together.  We have lost the ability to spend unstructured down time.

His findings definitely ring true.  In reflecting on this book I find that I have to be conscious of this in my own parenting and also that youth ministry is really important.  It shouldn’t be one more thing on an adolescents activity list like soccer or band practice. Youth groups should be a place where they are interacting with an adult(s) in a real and personal way.  A place where they know that no matter what there is an adult who is willing to spend some time with them focusing on them and where they are at in life.

Chap Clark, Hurt (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005).

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