“But Mooommm! Everyone else is doing it!”
If I had a pebble for every time I’ve heard this argument, my pile would be higher than the Great Pyramid. But everyone else is doing it is not a good argument. It’s poor reasoning for your 12 year old; it’s terrible logic for my 7 year old. It’s just a poor excuse, period. I can’t help but smile when I remember the standard parental response: “If all your friends were jumping off a cliff, would you do it too?” Do you remember trying to bluster your way through the response to that question? It’s tough to argue that jumping off a cliff is a good plan.
I find myself wondering: If this is such terrible logic for our kids, why do we so often employ the same argument with our Heavenly Father? Why do we, as lovers of Jesus, live culturally rather than Scripturally? Should not everything we do, say, see and hear be held to the light of Scripture? Why do we do things that are clearly sinful, using the excuse that everyone else is doing it?
Hold the phone! This is an post about teaching our kids to guard their own hearts, right?
Yes, it is. This post is about teaching our children to steward one of their most valuable resources: their heart. It’s part of a series about stewardship. However, instruction is all about modeling. We have to model the behavior and values we want to see in our kids. So, I’ll say this as gently as I can: You first, Mom and Dad. You go first, and the kids will follow. Perhaps you are doing a superb job of guarding your own heart. Perhaps, though, you might hesitate to do the things you do if Jesus was visibly standing beside you. What if you could see Him seeing you? I find that, for me, guarding my own heart is a constant battle. We live in a society and a time when we don’t even have to walk out the front door to be bombarded by sin.
Guarding our hearts is like applying the oxygen mask on a plane… Just as we must put on our own oxygen mask before turning to help our kids, we must guard our own hearts before we try to teach our kids to guard their own.
So, once we’ve examined our lives for ways to guard our own hearts, how do we teach our kids to guard their own?
Again, the key to guarding our hearts is to hold everything to the light of Scripture. Our kids must know what the Bible says. We need to be reading it to them – over and over. As they grow, they should be reading it to themselves as well. In addition to our family Bible study, we read Proverbs nightly as a family and our kids read two chapters of the Bible a day. Easy, right? I discussed the importance of Scripture in Counterfeit Bills and Wild Trains in 2010. This familiarity with Scripture will help our kids recognize danger.
Children need to know that there is a real war taking place – right now – over their very souls. They themselves are warriors. Ephesians 6:10-20 talks about arming ourselves for battle. In our family, we’ve spent a lot of time discussing the importance of armor with our younger kids. We’ve talked about the fact that the fact that the devil is a prowling lion and that they must be aware and alert. (Do this at an appropriate age and in an appropriate manner – we don’t want to cause nightmares; we want to equip our kids).
I could write months worth of posts on this topic. I can’t think of anything Ed and I discuss more frequently in our home. Perhaps we have a pinpoint focus on this aspect of child training because we fell so short of guarding our own hearts during our youth. We’ve seen the dark side, and we want our kids to walk in the light. There’s really no set way to do train our kids to guard their hearts. It requires two-way discussion, our intervention, our careful introduction of media and books (see my thoughts on that in Wild Horses and Metal Bikinis), and diligently seeking teachable moments. It requires integrity on our parts as well.
So, if we’re going to teach our kids to guard their hearts, what does that mean? What should we be guarding against?
We could argue and debate ad infinitum about how to guard our hearts, and the finer points of what that means. I’ll leave that argument to someone else. It’s a discussion worth having, but I trust that you and your spouse will pray, and that the Holy Spirit will be your guide. The following list is from Scripture… I’m just pulling out some of the sins I think we need to especially prepare our kids to deal with in this culture:
- The Occult – All things of Satan, including (but not limited to) witchcraft, sorcery, astrology, vampires, horror, psychics, Tarot cards and Ouiji boards.
- Sexual Sin – Including lust of the heart, “serial monogamy”, pornography, modest dress, and actual acts.
- Covetousness – Envy, theft, greed, idolatry and the like.
- Sins of the Mouth – Course and vain speech, gossip, slander and lying.
- Wrath – Anger, sarcasm, gratuitous violence, and so forth.
- Pride – Self-righteousness can be one of the ugliest traps a Christian can fall into. It utterly destroys our witness for Christ to the unbelieving world.
- Sloth – I think this is a pervasive American sin.
- Gluttony – I’ll address both sloth and gluttony in my ‘stewarding our health’ post. Again, another very American sin, and one that destroys our witness. (Ugh!)
- Desensitization to sin – We don’t even have to be sinning for this one. One of the insidious things about today’s humor is that it helps us laugh at sin. Which, in turn, hardens our hearts. Our kids need to be aware of this!
Again, this is not a definitive post on teaching your kids to guard their hearts. This is a lifelong issue. We, as the people God chose to steward His little creations, are responsible for training our children to protect one of their most valuable possessions, their heart.
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. ~ (Jesus) Luke 6:45
~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.