A worried mother (sitting on the edge of the couch): I’m worried. Pastor K–– was on the radio again telling us how we need to protect our children from the wrong ideas in the world.
Father: For years you’ve had us listen to tapes by Pastor K––, posted clippings from Media Bias News all over the refrigerator. . . .
Mother: . . . But children are so gullible.
Father: (putting down newspaper): Last week you were worried that Jacob was becoming a vegetarian. The week before that you were up in arms about his saying that we should recycle our trash.
Mother : (nervously pushing the newspaper to the precise center of the coffee table): But the other day Lydia said she liked the Volkswagen Beetle because it was energy efficient – just after I had her read The Lie of Global Warming!
The mother in this story is worried. She loves her children, and she is concerned that they might turn into Secular Liberals the moment they leave home, so she tries to inoculate them against every wrong idea. “Sounds good,” you might say, but is this what she should be doing?
Father: Dear, they’re not kids anymore – they’re twenty and twenty-one. Don’t you think we should have faith in our children? We’ve given them a foundation; they should be able to decide for themselves.
Lately we have talked to many worried parents who are still trying to shelter their adult children. While we believe that it is important for Christian parents to shelter young children, our family has learned – as your authors have grown to adulthood – that parents need to stop telling their adult children what to believe. Parents have a lot of influence over their children, and this is good. Parents want their children to turn out well. But as children get older, parents need to give their children room to use the worldview tools they have spent so many years cultivating. Above all, parents should stop worrying and have confidence that God will make up for their failings.
1. An inquiring mind. This is a character quality you can ask God to give your children. You may not be everything a good teacher should be, and you may leave holes in their schooling, but that will not hinder them much if they have this one thing.
Peering into things. Opening doors. Enjoying adult conversations. Asking why. Wanting answers. These are all natural things children do as they develop inquiring minds. Here we are describing a person who is hungry to use his mind – hungry to understand things.
2. A family that discusses things. When we get together in the evening for Bible study, someone always has something to talk about. It must be dull to live in a family where discussions never go deeper than the weather and baseball scores. Friendly debates stimulate an atmosphere of ideas, and ideas become important to us. These conversations will make innumerable little connections in children’s minds.
3. Appreciation for opposing viewpoints. If you hear your children ridiculing viewpoints that they disagree with, then you have a problem on your hands. Teach your children not to be so caught up in their own viewpoint that they are unable to discuss both sides in a respectful, honest manner.
4. A chance to fail. The mother in our story second-guessed her daughter the moment she made the comment about the Volkswagen Beetle. What do you think this did for her daughter’s self-confidence? Older children need to know that their parents are not micromanaging their worldview. An inquiring mind is going to make mistakes, and children should not be afraid to be wrong now and then. They need to know that their parents have confidence in them.
5. The truth. We believe God has brought forward effective communicators for Him in every generation. It is your job to expose your children to what these leaders have to say. This means spending your time and money to make these experiences happen for your children – by attending conferences, watching videos, and reading books.
6. Knowledge of logical fallacies. You cannot inoculate your children against every wrong idea that may crop up in their lifetime. Children need to tell the difference between good reasoning and bad reasoning on their own.
7. A loving home where parents and children respect each other, even when they disagree. This does not mean that children are allowed to disobey their parents. This means that older children know they are free to have their own views, and that their parents will still love and respect them for who they are. For example, if one of your children decides to become a vegetarian and the rest of the family does not embrace those eating habits, don’t ridicule his convictions. You want to support him, even if you think he is a little off his rocker. We need to show our older children the same grace that we would give to any other adult.
What can we do to help the worried mother in our story? We might take her to see all the children we know who have become mature, intelligent Christians. All of these children went though stages when they questioned things – that is part of exercising an inquiring mind. But God used this to strengthen their personal convictions. This mother, like all the worried mothers we know, can be confident that her children have more than her help to find their way in the world – they have God’s help.
First appeared in Homeschooling Today magazine, May-June 2004.
Copyright May 01, 2004, all rights reserved. 6508 views