In trying to decide what to write about, recent memorial events kept 'popping' up in my mind. Which lead me to think about these events in light of being a parent. Yesterday, my husband allowed my tenderhearted son to watch images of the 9/11 tragedy. I began to ponder questions such as these: How much should we show our children the things that occur in this world? Should we talk to them about such things? At what age would they be able to handle them?
These are questions that every parent should face. There are extremes to this line of thinking. I once knew a woman who had – at the time – children ranging from 10 to 20's, one of whom was married with a child on the way. This woman admitted to me that she had never talked to her children about abortion and even shielded her children from hearing about it. This was a homeschooling “Christian” mother. I was shocked. Why would you shield your children from such things. They need to know what is going on in the world. If you don't tell them, the world will give them their slant on it and they might believe a lie.
I also know a mother who took her young children (how young, I can't recall) to an anti-abortion rally. Her son grew up to be a strong advocate for pro-life.
These are two very extreme circumstances. While I do not advocate either necessarily, I do think that we need to teach them – using the Bible as our guide – all things about life and godliness. After all, all things about life and godliness are in there. “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:” (2 Peter 1:3) Even matters of sex, especially how to avoid fornication, are taught in the Bible therefore we should be teaching these things to them.
At what ages? This is up to the parents to decide. Ask your husband and especially pray for wisdom. In our home, we have gradually introduced new concepts. My son was 3 when I was pregnant with our second. It became a natural thing to talk about the 'seed' which daddy planted and began to grow in a special womb in mommy's belly. In our daily Bible reading together our son was 5 or 6 when he first asked what a 'harlot' was. We explained that there is a special blessing that God designed for husbands and wives to enjoy. A harlot, then, was a woman who allowed men who were not her husband to have that special blessing with her. In doing this thing, she and the man sinned because it was not God's plan for them to do this.
There have been little tiny bits of information given since then, but this is what we have discussed with our son so far and he is almost 10. As a mother, I often yield to my husband more for dealing with matters of discussions with our son. My daughter has not been as inquisitive as our son has been. Every family is different and every child is different.
In matters of tragedy, teach your children that sin brings pain and suffering. When people choose not to live by God's laws there is tragedy. Sometimes that means consequences are suffered on both sides – by evil people and good people. “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44-45) When someone chooses to drink and drive, for example, sometimes the good people get hit by that drunk driver and die. Our job is to teach our children such things as love, forgiveness and living righteously for God's glory despite our circumstances. Pray for wisdom in dealing with such matters and use the Bible as your teaching tool.
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5)
We will come back to God as a Father next time, I want to deal with a situation that happened this week that reminds me of what we talked about last week. If you missed last week's article or any of the other Father Fridays just click fathers under the categories to the right.
A couple of days ago my wife came to me with a problem. Our 9 year old son had borrowed her Kindle to use the dictionary for his Bible lesson. When she got it back and turned it back on she found that the dictionary was at the entry for 'sex'. Time to panic! Tell him he can never use a dictionary again! Tell him he can never borrow the Kindle again! What if he had typed that in on the computer's internet search box? (Let me just take a moment to encourage all of you dads, and moms, too, get an internet filter if you don't have one. Safe Eyes is a good one, you can adjust it to your family's needs. Sometimes you can get a discount, so search for a coupon code. It is a better investment than you can imagine.)
After the initial panic we discuss real possibilities and what to do. I imagine all the reasons that it could have happened. Surely that word was not in his Bible lesson. Maybe someone simply hit the next page or back a page button and he was really looking at a word on another page. One of the words was in the s's. My wife quickly went back to the last search and found that sure enough, he had typed it in! He intentionally went there, no accident here. Why can't they make those words 17 letters long and impossible for a 9 year old to spell instead of 3 easy letters? More panic time! Our son is going to become a rapist or a serial killer, he is already a sex-addict, he was around some teen boys last week what did he hear from them, what are we going to do?
After this second wave of panic it was time to be rational again. I always try to do the actual speaking, acting, and parenting during these brief periods of lucidity. I was not in a position to talk to him so I told my wife to just ask him about it. His explanation was not totally acceptable, but did open the door. He was supposed to find a synonym for 'vex'. My son is a rhymer (We have often had to tell him that just because a word sounds like another perfectly good word does not mean that the second word is a good word to say. This has been going on since he was about 3.) and vex made him think of... ... you guessed it 'sex'. So he looked it up. Now the question is what do we do?
I realize that there are innumerable answers to that last question because of the variables involved. My wife always bemoans the fact that there is not a parenting book that tells you exactly what you should do in specific situations. The reason is simple, however, no two families face the same situations. We instead must take principles and apply them to the unique circumstances in which we find ourselves. That is not situational ethics, but our standard of ethics applied to situations. I once proposed this dilemna to a Bible class: Two men, Bob and Bill, are both driving 65 mph Bob is breaking the law and Bill is not how? We came up with about a dozen possible explantations that were all different and the consequences are different. How many possibilities can you think of? (As a class we came up with about a dozen.) As parents the challenge is to gather information about the situation, think about what principles apply, consider the possible consequences, and then act in the way that will be true to Christian principles and actions while bringing the best result. No wonder we make so many mistakes as parents.
So, what did we do? This time my wife asked him about the situation and got his explanation. Then she told him that if he had questions about things like this he should ask us and not go to some other source (This brought a question of 'What are genitals?' Followed by the simple explanation that they are what makes boys boys and girls girls). She reminded him that he was only to do what he had been told to do and what he knew was ok with her Kindle or on any computer. He didn't get a spanking or any other punishment this time, but a warning that there would be punishment for future misdeeds. Were we too soft? Are we stifling his curiosity? Time will tell.
I don't know about you, but one of the things I rely on in my fathering is my memory of what I thought and felt about things when I was a child. I remember those things that the grownups would not talk about and how curious I was about them. I also remember the appeal of something that was forbidden. Human beings are naturally curious and it's a good thing or we would not have most of the inventions we have today. Of course that curiosity also brings dangers. I believe one of the best ways to deal with this universal problem is to help children quench their curiosity in a safe and healthy environment by giving them accurate information on a simple level and then more details as they grow older and more mature. I believe this is similar to the approach God has taken revealing His will a little at a time over a period of hundreds of years rather than all at once. Paul even talks about the Old Law as a schoolmaster to bring people to Christ.