Jen Wilkin explains how our children's possessions, entertainment, friends-entire lifestyle-should display Christ in sharp contrast to the unbelieving world around them.
Jen Wilkin explains how our children's possessions, entertainment, friends-entire lifestyle-should display Christ in sharp contrast to the unbelieving world around them.
Bob: Every parent wants to make sure his or her child is well cared for / well taken care of. Jen Wilkin says, “We need to understand that what is best for them is that they learn that enough is often enough.”
Jen: Enough is a concept that we are losing in our culture as well. We have parents who—because of guilt of not being around the kids enough or whatever it is—they begin to sort of purchase their approval by giving them whatever they want whenever they want it. Why?—because we think we are going to satisfy the child—but studies show that, when you give a child what they want exactly when they want it, that you don’t create a child who is satisfied—you create a child who is insatiable / who is never satisfied.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, April 20th. Our host is Dennis Rainey; I’m Bob Lepine. We’ve got some interesting thoughts for you today, like the idea that sometimes depriving your children of what they want may be what’s actually best for them, even if they make it hard for you.
We’ll hear more from Jen Wilkin about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. As we raise our kids today, we want them to fit into the culture; but there’s a difference between fitting in and being conformed to a culture; isn’t there?
Dennis: That’s right, Bob. They can’t adopt the values of the culture; so you have to equip your children to know how to think, how to act, how to behave, and how to train their hearts so that, when they’re facing circumstances that they hadn’t planned on, they’ll know what to do; because their heart has been trained to obey God.
Bob: This is something we’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this year, because we are hoping to launch, in 2018, a movement. We’ve talked about parenting for years—
—you helped develop a parenting conference back in the ‘90s. We’ve talked about it often, here, on FamilyLife Today; but we’re starting to put together some resources that we think can have a powerful impact in the lives of moms and dads and in the lives of the next generation.
Dennis: We want to equip one million parents, in the next three years, with a practical, biblical game plan for each of their children—to help you anticipate what your child is going to face, and to know how to respond according to the Scriptures, and then train your children how to think, which what we’re talking about today.
Bob: Yes; we’ve got a movie coming out May 1st and 3rd called Like Arrows. We’re also releasing, the first of May, a new video series called FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting™, eight sessions for small groups to go through together. It’s available for pre-order now at substantial discount, by the way, if you order before May 1st. There is also going to be an online component—there’s going to be a free course, online, that couples can go through together if they’d like.
Then, this fall, you and Barbara are releasing a book called The Art of Parenting.
This is all with some purposefulness and intentionality so that moms and dads, who are raising the next generation, can be intentional and strategic about what they are doing.
Dennis: And we’re going to hear today from a mom, who is in the process of raising her children. Jen Wilkin joins us as she gave a message at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s Parenting Conference, back last August. Bob, she’s on target as she talks about parents equipping your kids to know how to be aliens in this world—how to think, how to behave, and how to go with an offensive game plan.
Bob: Yes—how to fit in without being conformed by the culture. We’ve already heard her this week talk about how this way of thinking ought to affect your children’s activities and how it ought to affect their speech. We pick up today as she is dealing with issue number three.
Jen: Number three, possessions: “The alien child will not own what other children own; or more precisely, the alien child will not own what other children own when they own it.” In our homes, we should be cultivating a sense of delayed gratification. Why?—because we are a people of delayed gratification / we await something better. This, to me, is probably the most potentially devastating element of what technology seems to be doing to our children’s brains. They are losing their capacity to wait; and God help us, as parents. We are often handing them the means to do it.
When we raise children, who do not know how to wait, we stand very little chance of being able to help them become disciples who know how to wait for the Lord, who know how to be patient with others in their suffering or in their sin.
This is a basic skill of being a Christ-follower, so we should look for ways to teach delayed gratification.
I will tell you straight up—when I heard that Amazon was developing drones so that they could just drop my package on the front porch as soon as I thought I wanted something, I was like: “I am in! Can we get the Girl Scouts hooked up with that?”—[Laughter]—“because I want those cookies, and I want them yesterday.”
You think about that—a big piece of that is modeling. One of the things I had to tell myself, as a young mom—because I had to take all four kids to the store with me—and one of my favorite things was how people would stop me and say, “Are they all yours?” [Laughter] It was all I could do to not say: “Who picks up extra toddlers to go to this—who?—of course, they’re all mine! Don’t you think, if I had any other option: ‘Hey, kids, let’s go to the store. Let’s bring some friends along.’” [Laughter]
Sometimes, my time in Target was a little frantic; right? You’re just like randomly grabbing things fast—“You got to get me out of here before something explodes”; right? What I began to realize was that I needed to stop. I needed to pick things up and look at them, and you know what I needed to do?—put them back. My children needed a visual way to learn that just because I might want it doesn’t mean that I get it right then. We thought about ways that we could show them: “Hey, we want this,”—and in many cases, we have the money for it—it’s not a “No”; it’s a “Not now.” That’s a good concept for our children to understand.
That means that we will raise children who view possessions in a different light. They will value last year’s possession and not always want this year’s. They will understand the difference between “more” and “less” and “enough.” Enough is a concept that we are losing in our culture as well.
We have parents who—because of guilt of not being around the kids enough or whatever it is—they begin to sort of purchase their approval by giving them whatever they want whenever they want it. Why?—because they think that we are going to satisfy the child—but studies show that, when you give a child what they want exactly when they want it, you don’t create a child who is satisfied—you create a child who is insatiable / who is never satisfied.
We talk to our children about needs versus wants. Here’s the thing—I’m not saying that you never give your child the nice thing—you know how they’ll come and they’ll be like, “I just really want this.” You’re like, “That’s the dumbest thing,”—in your head, you’re like, “That is such a dumb thing to want”; but they really want it—like it’s a pair of tennis shoes that cost 450 bucks. You’re like, “Okay; at Target, I can buy you tennis for $32.”
What do you do? You meet them halfway, because they are going to learn a great lesson if they shell out the difference between what you’re willing to pay and what the item costs. They will either gain enjoyment from the item that is equivalent to what they paid for, and they will learn a lesson about how to spend money that way—
—or they will wear the brand-new tennis shoes, that are white, in a giant mud puddle and realize that probably they weren’t the best use of their money; but they get to learn something about stewardship themselves. You can partner with them and have them take some responsibility over their possessions by asking them to contribute once they have money in their little bank accounts.
Another thing for us that was kind of critical was—we delayed cell phone usage as long as we possibly could. I know it’s not as easy to do that as it was when my kids were coming up, but we allowed them to have a cell phone in the eighth grade. We bought them one of those go-phones, and they had to pay for it. It was awesome—they would get sucked into someone’s group text. They are getting charged 15 cents every time some kid sends a text, and they were dying. What it did—is it taught them to use the phone for needful communication only because—
—P.S.: That’s what phones are for! [Laughter]
Then, later, when they hit high school, we did give them a smartphone before they left for college. You know why?—I don’t want you going to college and getting a smartphone for the first time when you’re not living under my roof. So, we gave them opportunities, as they were appropriate. My kids would say: “Well, I need a phone. How am I going to call you if I’m in trouble?” I’m like: “Every single one of your friends has a phone. I am not worried that you can reach me if you need to.”
Another thing that I saw a lot of—that I was even aware of in myself—was that, once my child had a phone, I was more likely to say, “Yes,” to a situation I was not that comfortable with under the assumption: “Well, they can just call me if anything goes wrong.” The phone can give us a false sense of security.
So, we weigh possessions differently than other people do. We may say, “Yes”; we may say, “No”; we may say, “Not now”; we may ask them to partner, when they are able, in the expense; but we don’t always have to have the newest thing, and we don’t have to have a ton of it.
We talk about giving as well.
Fourth: “An alien child will not watch, read, or listen to what other children watch, read, or listen to. An alien child will view entertainment differently.” If you are waiting for me to give you a list of what your kid can watch and can’t watch, you are going to be sorely disappointed; because I am not a fool, and it’s your job. It’s your job to discern what it is that your children should be watching—more importantly, how much they should be watching.
Here is the thing that I need you to understand. Anytime we sit down with entertainment, we are making a choice between doing that and doing something else. I would say what other speakers have said—that long car trips were a time when most of our best conversations happened. We have an 11-hour ride out to my parents’ home in Santa Fe.
I would tell the children: “You can have a movie in the morning and a movie in the afternoon on this trip.” They were like, “Okay; that’s cool.” Everybody else is basically watching shows the whole trip when they go somewhere—but whatever. Then, they would choose The Sound of Music because it’s three-and-a-half hours long. [Laughter] But we need to understand that when you’re—that’s an example of, when you’re all in the same place together, that is an opportunity to train or just to have a conversation.
Oftentimes, we are trading training for entertaining. If you are waiting for a table at a restaurant, and you hand your child the phone instead of sitting there and seeing if a conversation bubbles up, you have just chosen entertaining over training. It doesn’t mean that you never do that; right? You might do it sometimes; but if that’s what characterizes you—is to medicate waiting with entertaining versus training—you might end up raising a child who, anytime they are faced with waiting, finds a way to medicate it. The medications get scarier the older we get.
So, training versus entertaining—long car trips are not a time for everyone to just zone out in their own little entertainment world. Part of the time, they are for sure; right?—like when everybody is totally freaking out. But if you think, “I can’t survive a long car trip unless my kids are plugged in somewhere,” I’d ask you to reevaluate that you are trading a precious time when you do that—so, training versus entertaining.
Another thing that I’ve noticed in our society is that entertaining is no longer a shared value. In other words, we go on a car trip—Jimmy’s got music on his phone, and Susie’s got her music on her phone or her screen in front of her. Mom’s listening to something, and dad’s listening to something else. Even when we are at home, a lot of times this is what happens; right?—like someone is in one room watching something / someone is in another room watching something. Entertainment is ceasing to be a shared value—
—it is seen as an individual thing that we do.
What if we didn’t do that?—like what if we all sat down together? What if, when you were in the car, you all listened to the same music? What if, when you watch the movie, everybody watched the same movie?—and you reinforced that idea that: “We are walking by the way together. This is something we are doing together.” It wasn’t just about enjoying the entertainment; it was about enjoying our enjoyment of the entertainment together.
We live in houses that are designed to push us apart many times—everybody has their own room; everybody has their own TV; everybody has their own everything. One of the great gifts of having all of these kids that came at the same time was that we couldn’t move to a house big enough fast enough, and we were all on top of each other. It was a gift from the Lord—it was gift from the Lord.
Now, my son did go off to college and have to tell his friends who KC and the Sunshine Band were because none of them had ever heard of it. [Laughter]
We were like, “Sorry; not sorry,” because we all shared the same musical tastes. It was a great way for us to build an identity, as a family.
Fifth, friends: “An alien child will not invest in the same kinds of relationships that other children do.” We train our children to recognize character. We train them to flee from drama and disorder. The best way to train your child to flee from drama and disorder in relationships is to not have them in your home. We had a rule that no one gets to press the drama button in our house.
I’ve got two girls; I’ve got two boys. I would love to tell you that the girls were where the drama came from, but that is actually not true. It does not seem to be a gender-specific thing. Boy drama looks more like WWE [World Wrestling Entertainment]. Girl drama looks more like flinging a hairbrush at somebody across the bathroom. It’s the same motive; right? So, we said: “No one gets to push the drama button. You can come tell me what’s wrong, but you cannot flip out.
“If you flip out, you can come back when you’re done flipping out. Then, we will talk about it. No one gets to push the drama button.”
Then, you send children into their schoolroom relationships, and they begin to realize that a lot of people don’t have that rule. They gravitate toward the children who have more self-control around their emotions. They begin to recognize character and to flee from drama and disorder.
This is a really an important piece—work to make the home their primary place of belonging, and how is the best way to accomplish this? We ask our children to be friends with one another—siblings can be friends. This is such an important thing to me. Sibling rivalry is accepted by us as the way that the home should function. I’m telling you that you may not be able to neutralize it, but you must not normalize it.
You know why?—because we are part of the family of God, where we are to view ourselves as brothers and sisters partnering in kingdom work.
There are 54 “one another’s” in the New Testament that we cannot hope to fulfill if we have adversarial relationships with one another. Is it any wonder that there is fractiousness among the brothers and sisters in the church when so many of our homes have said that fractiousness between brothers and sisters is all we can hope for?
My husband was best friends with his sister. Her senior year, he attended a dance as her date. They have pictures of them, in high school, holding hands at Disney World—in high school! [Laughter] It’s okay to say it makes you uncomfortable. [Laughter] My brothers locked me in the closet, so I had no frame of reference for this. If I hadn’t seen it in Jeff’s family, I couldn’t have hoped for it; but I’m here to tell you it’s a thing, and it’s the best thing.
So, when our kids were fighting with one another, do you know what we did? We said: “Guess who’s not going over to anybody else’s house?—you guys—because until you can get along with each other, you don’t need to go anywhere else; because these are your best friends.” I know they were thinking in their heads: “That is not my best friend. I would murder this person if you left the room right now.” [Laughter] But we said it again and again: “This is your best friend,” “This is your best friend,” “This is your best friend.”
You know why?—Jeff had the funniest conversation with the kids one night. He was like, “Hey, do you know who my best friend was in third grade?” They are like, “No.” He goes: “Neither do I. I’ve got no idea where that guy is, and neither will you. [Laughter] You know who you are always going to be with? These people—these four people in this room—the four of you are going to take care, Lord willing, of Mom and Dad as we age. You will have these people forever—for the whole length of your life on this earth. Don’t you want them to be your best friends?”
They are each other’s best—like I can’t even believe it worked. I’m so faithless! [Laughter]
The three that are down at Texas A&M—the three that are down there go to family dinner together and FaceTime with the one who is still at home—and sit there and just laugh their heads off. It is the sweetest thing, and I did not think it was possible. I’m standing here to repent and to tell you that it is. Expect it and work toward it with faithfulness.
What’s the bottom line? You probably see this coming. The only reliable way to raise an alien child is to be an alien parent. You, yourself, must drive to know, love, and serve God with everything that you have. More important than right relationship with your child is right relationship with your heavenly Father. It is your only hope of right relationship with your child, because think about this—before your child ever learns to read a Bible, they will read you.
Any parent can point a child toward conformity and comfort. You point them toward Christ—Christ who was, Himself, the most alien and strange of all.
When I was young mom, I was talking to another mom, who was a little further along from me about a situation I had with my son. I didn’t want him to see this movie that was being shown at a birthday party that he was going to, but I was really embarrassed to talk to the other mom about it. I was asking her: “Do you think I should just send him?—I should just let him go?” Her name was Aileen Mulcahy. Aileen had four children, who were just a little bit older than mine; and she listened to me very patiently. I think she must have concealed what she was really thinking until I was done. Then, she said: “You know, Jen, I believe that I will stand before God and give an account for the way I raise these children; so I don’t care what that mother thinks.” I have carried that with me.
My reference point is different. The alien family is not concerned with fearing what other parents think; they are concerned with the fear of the Lord. Alien parents trade the fear of man for the life-giving fear of the Lord, because life is too short to spend fearing the wrong things and the wrong ways. As Christian parents, the most hopeful thing we can do is lift up our own eyes and train the eyes of our children to behold our Savior, alien and strange. He is coming on the clouds. When He comes, may He find the family of God, and your family, and my family desperately hoping and yearning to look like Him.
Bob: Well, again, we’ve been listening to Jen Wilkin with Part Three of a message on parenting.
Parenting flows out of our own character and our own walk with Christ. We can’t parent better than we are, so we have to make sure that we are walking with Jesus before we talk to our kids about walking with Jesus.
Dennis: And children, in case you haven’t noticed, are redemptive. [Laughter] They press you hard against God.
Bob: They do; yes.
Dennis: And if you haven’t been pressed hard against God because of your kids yet, I’m going to tell you—I’m not a prophet, but I can tell you—after Barbara and I had kids in our home for over 28 years—now, we’ve been parents for longer than that—
Dennis: —I guess 43 years, because we’re still parents now. We know much about how our children press us against God to be more and more dependent on Him.
Bob: —which is obviously key to this whole equation of parenting—along with mentoring from couples who have been through it—some biblical instruction on the subject.
I’m just thinking of the themes that get addressed in the new video series that we’re releasing in a couple of weeks called FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting. It’s eight sessions that take you through what the Bible teaches about parenting and helps you focus on where your priorities need to be, as a mom or as a dad. The series will be available
May 1st. If you want to pre-order, you can save $50 off the cost of the DVD kit. Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to find out more about FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting.
Then, keep in mind the movie we’ve got coming to theaters, May 1st and May 3rd—two showings only—it’s a movie called Like Arrows. We think of it as Session Zero for FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting video series. Some theaters are already starting to sell out; so if you want to reserve tickets, you ought to go online now to FamilyLifeToday.com. You can type in your zip code and find out theaters near you where this movie is going to be showing.
All of this has, at the core, one goal; and that is, we want to see moms and dads equipped to raise the next generation with Jesus and the gospel at the core of all that you’re doing. Again, find out more at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, please keep in mind—please pray for couples who will be attending Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways this weekend. We’ve got getaways happening in Anchorage, Alaska; Branson, Missouri; Portland, Maine; and Ventura, California. We’ll have thousands of couples joining us this weekend, including some pastors and their spouses who will be attending. In fact, I’ve been mentioning our Pastors’ Scholarship Fund. Thanks to those of you who have contributed to help provide funding so that we can continue to send pastors and spouses to these getaways at no cost to them.
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We hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church. Then, we hope you join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk to a dad and his adult daughter about what they would do differently if they were going through the dating years again. Daniel Anderson and Jacquelyn Meza are here to talk about, maybe, some new ways of thinking about guiding your kids through the dating years. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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