Helping Your Child Develop Convictions
About the Guest
Can you tell if your child’s convictions are real or pretend? If not, then you’ll want to join us today for the broadcast when Christian school headmaster Karl Graustein, father of three and author of the book Growing Up Christian, gives parents a few tips for helping their children develop lasting convictions.
Can you tell if your child’s convictions are real or pretend?
Helping Your Child Develop Convictions
Karl: There is evil all around. You don't have to go very far in this day and age to find evil that our kids are easily exposed to or one or two clicks away from it. So we, as adults, need to not use our ignorance as an excuse to not stepping in. If we're not as savvy with the technology, we're not as aware what the content of the music or the movie or the show is, we have to do our homework, we have to be faithful. God calls us to be faithful.
This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, August 22nd. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. How can we, as parents, be on the alert and stand firm in the faith and keep pointing our children in the right direction as well? We'll talk about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. You know, if you go to young children, and you observe their behavior, oftentimes what you see in their behavior is those kids are doing what they think is going to please Mom and Dad, right?
Bob: When kids get into the teenage years, they become a little less concerned with pleasing Mom and Dad, you'd agree with that.
Dennis: No doubt about that.
Bob: They are starting to develop their own convictions, or at least they're looking around and exploring some options and oftentimes those options are influenced by their own flesh or by the peer culture that they're in, or by what the broader culture is presenting to them.
I think one of the challenges we face, as parents, is trying to figure out how can we tell if the convictions that we seem to see in our child's heart, are real convictions or if it's just kind of a temporary thing they're experimenting with or if they're just trying to please us. You know, how can you tell when a child is locked in what they really believe?
Dennis: Right, and how can you help them lock in on that belief and make what starts out as your convictions, a transfer of faith, so it becomes the child's convictions? And we have with us the author of a book called "Growing Up Christian." Karl Graustein joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Karl, welcome back.
Karl: Thank you for having me.
Dennis: Karl is the head of school at Covenant Life School, which is part of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He has three children. He and his wife, Jennifer, have been involved in ministry for a number of years, and he's been involved with youth for 15 years. So you've been observing young people today and, Karl, you're watching parents who are way ahead of you in this race, make some sloppy handoffs. What do you think is the biggest mistake in terms of helping your child develop convictions that parents are making today?
Karl: I'm glad that you mentioned that I have a chance to observe this. I haven't had a chance to walk through it personally, but I know it's totally different on the parent, and it seems like a good number of parents don't adjust their techniques of parenting as their kids grow up. And I'll even see this with teachers at our school. Obviously, in the elementary years, you are teaching directly and training and modeling. The middle school years, often a challenging time of transition, where we need to be transitioning into not just the modeling but also a teasing out of the motives behind a lot of actions, and then in the teenage years we need to be helping young people wrestle with the why behind most of our actions.
Just think of what the goal is. I think back to the years when my mom would take me and my brother to the Blockbuster to rent a movie, and our thinking was, "Is this movie one that mom will approve?" We'll read the back, will Mom approve it? No, she won't. We'll put it down. Oh, she might, we'll bring it over to her. No, we go get another one, and then finally we get two or three, and then we make a family decision regarding a movie.
Well, as I got older, I would have to go as a representative in our family, take the car and drive to Blockbuster and get the movie, and I'd have to be thinking through a lot of the same issues. And now, though, as I am 36 years old, and I am getting a movie off of Netflix, and I’m ordering it, I'm not about to call Mom. I'm not about to say, "Mom, is this okay if Jen and I watch this movie tonight?"
Dennis: I just want you to know, as a parent, I don't want you to call.
Karl: It just seems ridiculous, right?
Karl: Because the goal is to go from teaching, modeling, to drawing it out of the young person so that they are ready when they are adults.
Dennis: Okay, I'm not going to hold you to this. It is going to be a matter of permanent record, Karl, and somebody is probably in the archives is going to say this, maybe your Mom …
Bob: It's going on your transcript.
Dennis: Mom or Dad, they may say this and remind you of this, but your oldest child is six. When are you going to let them make their own choice when it comes to movies?
Karl: How about when they're 36?
As a parent, you have multiple goals. You have a protection that God calls you to protect your child. Wow, that is a great privilege of growing up in the church, growing up in a Christian family – you are protected from much. And we haven't even talked about that, we've talked about the training and teaching we've learned, but we're protected from so much.
So I think – I suspect that my oldest will probably make some of those decisions in her late teens, but it won't be early in her teens, it will not be you're totally on your own going to the movies with friends, great – have fun, come on back, whatever happens happens. No. We need to seize those opportunities.
But I don't know how I will act as a parent at that time, and I'll pray for God's wisdom in that.
Bob: When she is 16 or 17 or 18 or 19, because late teens, you know, to a teenager, can mean anytime after 13 – those are the late teens.
When the child is in her late teens, it's likely she's going to want to make some decisions that you're not comfortable with.
Dennis: You think?
Bob: Are you, as a parent, do you think at that point you'll say, "All right, that really is your decision," or do you think you'll say, "Hang on, stop, nope." What do you think you'll do?
Karl: I would guess I'll be more of the second – "Hold on, stop." But that is where, as a teacher, as a parent, I have to go before the Lord, and I have to really do business with the Lord, because He is the one I stand before, as a parent, as a head of school, I'm going to be accountable for every careless word, for my leadership, all those things I'm accountable for. But, remember, my goal is not just for today, it's not just for tomorrow, but it is to equip my oldest and each of my children for life. So each of these decisions will be part of that.
So if it's a relatively minor issue, I may use that as a chance to see what kind of conviction she has, what kind of decisions she makes, and as she proves herself more trustworthy then there are more freedoms that come. And I see that our parents wisely do that, the parents that I observe in our church and school, where they will give more freedoms when responsibility is demonstrated and pull back freedoms when it's not. The question is when all freedoms have been pulled back, and the child is still 18 to 20, what do you do? And that's a challenging situation for any parent to be in.
Dennis: Well, again, I go back to the biblical metaphor of what the Bible compares children to – like arrows in the hand of a warrior. The arrows were not intended to stay in the quiver, they were meant to be hooked up to the bow, pulled back, and let go. And if you're not letting your children go, if you're not looking to that end point when you're talking about, then when they're 20, they're not going to be able to make the right choice. But, but, when they are in their late teens, 17, 18, and they're still living at home, and they are about to go to an NC-17 movie, or about to be exposed to pornography – in my opinion, that's what NC-17 is, then, as parents, I think you raise a very valid point. The family, the biblical family, does protect their children from evil.
Dennis: Do you want to comment on that – how you see children not being protected today?
Karl: Well, there is evil all around. You don't have to go very far in this day and age to find evil that our kids are easily exposed to or one or two clicks away from it. And so we, as adults, need to not use our ignorance as an excuse to not stepping in. If we're not as savvy with the technology, we're not as aware of what the content of the music or the movie or the show is, we have to do our homework, we have to be faithful. God calls us to be faithful.
Dennis: Well, I know one thing that you believe we, as parents, need to be aware of, and that's the assignment that we're given of modeling for our children and that, ultimately, teenagers are going to mimic us. Do you really believe that what parents believe in their convictions are really the beginning point, if we're going to be effective in equipping the next generation?
Karl: Absolutely. I think most of my convictions today are very similar to my parents' convictions. But our similarity is because they are based on the same source, and that is the Lord and the Holy Word of God as the source.
Yet it was so helpful, and it is so helpful, to have the model of my parents. For instance, I remember daily, when I would wake up in the morning, I'd walk across the dining room to the bathroom, I looked over my left shoulder, and I would see my dad sitting in the living room with his Bible open. He would either be reading it or praying or making notes, and he – I don't remember any morning my dad ever saying, "This is what I was doing today. This is what I was reading today." I'm sure it fed many of his conversations, chapel messages he shared. But, you know, that example of seeing my dad daily in the Word of God was such an example to me, and it has challenged me to have that practice of daily time with the Lord, because I saw the practice, I saw it modeled, I saw the effects of it as a genuine, joyful Christian walk, and I wanted the same.
And I found that as I spent time in the Word of God, I found the same thing. This is the living Word of God, and it was speaking to me, and it speaks to me daily, and it prepares me for my day, and it is part of the process of me growing as a Christian.
Dennis: If there has ever been a time for parents to be embracing the truth of Scripture, it's today. Because this is a culture that denies absolute truth, and our teenagers are walking off into high schools and ultimately college and adulthood that doesn't embrace the Ten Commandments or that there is any standard that is good for all of society. Comment on that and what you're seeing today among teenagers.
Karl: There is no doubt that we live in a post-modern world where we are post-truth; that is, there is no absolute truth, and that is the world that we live in today as our young people go off to college and go to a secular college. They will be hit flat in the face with that, and they need to be ready for it, where the foundations of their faith will be attacked. If there is no truth, then the Word of God is not true. If there is no absolute truth, then maybe God doesn't exist, and you don't get anymore fundamental than that.
And when God is removed, let's not be surprised when we see how a godless society lives, because God changes everything.
Dennis: Yeah. Have any kids come back to you as head of school and come back and said, "Mr. Graustein, man, I went to school, and I was in a science class, I was in a biology class. Wow, they completed denied God in a philosophy class." Have they come back and had conversations like that?
Karl: I haven't had too many do that, but I have had a few. The most compelling thing for me – I had a friend who actually told me, as he went to his psychology class at the local community college that he actually intentionally chose to study at the last minute hoping that it wouldn't sink into his long-term memory.
Dennis: Now, that's a new …
Bob: That's a creative …
Karl: I'm not sure I want to reinforce that in all subjects, but it was a good practice for him to survive this. He needed to give certain answers to pass the test, but they were not answers he wanted to embrace or live by.
Bob: You know, teenagers really lock into the issue of legalism and hypocrisy, and you start talking to them about moral standards or about truth, and they'll get – they'll push back on, you know, "Where does it say that in the Bible?" and "We're not supposed to be legalists," and "That sounds hypocritical to me."
As you work with teenagers, and they throw up the, "Well, that sounds legalistic to me," or "You're being legalistic" – what do you say to them?
Karl: Good question. Well, legalism – I would view it as trying to earn your salvation through these types of behaviors, and we are not to do that. We are saved by faith alone, by grace alone, it is through the saving work of Jesus Christ and believing in Him. But Scripture also calls a Christian who is saved to live according to moral standards, and I will be the first to acknowledge, there are some gray areas, some difficult topics, that everybody needs to wrestle with and have peace, before God, in how they act.
Teenagers will be quick to mention hypocrisy. When they see hypocrisy, they will point it out, and they will really hold onto it. They actually may not point it out to the people who can actually solve the problem, but I've had students who would come and say, "I heard this rumor what's taking place at school. Nothing was done about it, and this is wrong, this is hypocritical." The reality is, one, I may have not heard of the rumor therefore how could I have acted on it? Second, the rumor might have been false, I did pursue it, but, at the same time, if I am inconsistent, that's going to put stumbling block in front of the teenager that is very hard.
So a parent or a teacher or anyone in authority calling a young person to act in a way they're not personally doing, that is a stumbling block that is going to be hard for anyone to get past but especially a teenager.
Dennis: You know, hypocrisy, for a teenager, is an easy target. I mean, they can look around and find plenty of fresh, living illustrations of people who aren't walking the talk. But God has His way of bringing real life and confronting them with issues that are undeniable that test their faith. And, for you, that occurred 20 years ago when your father awakened you with jarring news that ultimately tested your faith.
Karl: Yeah, it was the summer before my senior of high school. It was August of 1988, and my dad came into my room that morning and woke me up to have to share the difficult news with me that my best friend had been killed in a car accident that night, and this best friend was someone that grew up right across the street from me. He was born six months before me, and we were best of friends, went through kindergarten through 11th grade together, playing games, sports, and just a very, very close friendship. And that was the most significant trial that I had faced up until that point in my life – 17 years old and having to deal with the loss of my closest friend, looking forward to our senior year.
And so in the weeks and months that followed, because I still grieve over that loss even to this day, but in the weeks and months, those first few years, are such a significant challenging time for anyone, and my dilemma, my questions were just things like, "I thought all things worked together for good for Christians." And Trevor was a Christian. This didn't look too good. Okay, he's in heaven, but this isn't good for us who are here, and other questions like, "He honored his parents. I thought the reward is long life," and so I started asking God why, why, and then it changed more like "Why, God, why are you doing this?" And my question, my words switched from a question to a charging God that He is somehow needing to be accountable to me for His actions.
And I was on a slippery slope at that point, and I was just struggling with very real struggles in my emotions and all, and God just broke in, and He began to give me Scripture. He said, from Isaiah 55 that "my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways are not your ways, and, yes, I do work all things together for good, but you might not see it. You might not see it today, you might not see it this month, this year, this lifetime," and I still don't know why the Lord took Trevor.
But I praise God that He somehow redeemed that time, and that was a trial for me that actually made my faith stronger. In our first segment we talked about the difference between my brother's faith and my faith; that I was saved maybe at age four; he's 34. One of the things he mentions is I went through a trial like this, and he didn't. He was away, actually, three or four days after the death, he actually went off to college for his sophomore year of college, and so he didn't have that daily struggle.
It forced me to look at the very foundations of my faith, and this is how our glorious God redeems trials; that He uses us to make us strong, and we can consider them joy because of that. Although, I am also aware that many people turn from God in those times, and am very grateful that His Holy Spirit broke in for me and actually made me stronger as a result of this terrible loss.
Dennis: You know, I reflect back on raising our six teenagers, and I don't think every one of them lost a classmate, but several of them did, and what it provides for the parent is perhaps not instantly, at the moment it occurs, but in the days that follow, it provides a tremendous teaching time.
Karl: It does.
Dennis: And I think most parents in these moments feel inadequate because we don't have the answers, we don't have all the explanations, but we do have enough truth from the Scripture to be able to say to that person who knows Christ who dies, that death is just a sting, and it's a quick passing from this place that we know to another place we don't know called heaven, and that's the promise of the Scripture in taking our children to those passages like 1 Corinthians 15 and reminding them of the truth about death and what takes place there can really provide some great times of instruction.
I think what you're talking about here in your book and what you're charging parents with, Karl, is to, first of all, understand today where young people are coming from – the dangers are real and that we, as parents, need to stock close to them. We don't need to control them. We do need to release them; let them begin to develop their own convictions, and we need to know what our convictions are as we raise our kids so we can pass on the truth of God's Word, and I think a great application of what we're talking about here is for parents to get a copy of your book, and perhaps begin reading it with their child. And perhaps get a copy of what Barbara and I wrote to equip parents to develop their own convictions, a book called, "Parenting Today's Adolescent," and, Karl, I appreciate you, your ministry, and your faithfulness, and I appreciate your writing and helping parents today because, trust me, I think parents need all the help they can get. Thanks for being on the broadcast.
Karl: Thank you for having me. It's been a joy to be here.
Bob: Yeah, I think there are going to be a lot of parents who are going to find help in getting a copy of your book, "Growing Up Christian," and then, Dennis, the book you and Barbara wrote called "Parenting Today's Adolescent." We have both of these books in our FamilyLife Resource Center. You can go to our website, FamilyLife.com. On the right side of the home page, there is a box there that says "Today's Broadcast." If you click the button that says "Learn More," that will take you right to the area of the site where you can get more information about the resources that are available from us here at FamilyLife Today.
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Well, I hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us on Monday when we're going to talk about things like whining or complaining or not doing what Mommy said to do. Ginger Plowman is going to be here. She's written a book called "Don't Make Me Count to Three." We'll talk with her about what parents can do to help their children learn how to obey. That's coming up Monday. I hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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