Home » Parenting

Category: Parenting

The one thing that is changing my life…literally.

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11).

I remember sitting in a classroom at Lipscomb University in the Fall of 2006 and in walked this tall professor whom I had never met and the emotion I felt at the time I remember now with crystal clear distinction: terror. Not because of the professor (turned out to be one of my favorites) but the class I was taking seemed almost impossible for me to tackle. It was Biblical Hebrew. That’s right. Not only did I agree to take this class but I also decided to pay for it (paying…present tense first person singular) with what little money I had. So there I was; married to a pregnant wife, a full-time youth minister and a father of a one year old.

One thought ran through my mind: “How the H-E-double hockey sticks (cute for a youth minister) am I going to get through this?” What got me though was the discipline to study flash cards, memorize and parse verb stems, understand what letters came before stems and after and why. In other words…hard freaking work. I made straight A’s in Hebrew 1, 2 and two semesters of readings because I studied my tail off (and because my professor was graceFULL) and showed up through the tough and the good times.

I can’t speak for everyone but when I look at my own failings in life it usually falls in one of two categories:  1) Something happened beyond the scope of my control and I lacked the skills to deal with what was in front of me or, more than likely, 2) I was undisciplined. Think about the many times you tried to lose weight, quit drinking, stop smoking or not go after that same type of guy. Why did you fail? If you are honest with yourself it happened because you lacked discipline.

I know the responses well because I have said them so many times.

“I get so busy…”

“I get so stressed…”

“The pain is too much…”

“I am not seeing any results…”

When I quit doing good things to improve my life (and I have quit many things) it was because I lacked the brass to push through the pain and discomfort of what it would take to get to the goal.

Jocko Willink, a former Navy Seal and current leadership guru wrote this about in his book  Extreme Ownership which he co-authored with Leif Babin:

“The test is not a complex one: when the alarm goes off, do you get up out of bed, or do you lie there in comfort and fall back to sleep? If you have the discipline to get out of bed, you win—you pass the test. If you are mentally weak for that moment and you let that weakness keep you in bed, you fail. Though it seems small, that weakness translates to more significant decisions. But if you exercise discipline, that too translates to more substantial elements of your life.”

Think about what this means to every facet of your existence. Take a relationship with God. When I was a minister people used to tell me how they couldn’t grow closer to God and they felt like he wasn’t there or didn’t care or whatever. When I asked, “How much time have you spent trying to meet with him?” The answer to that question just about every time was, “not much.”

Eric Greitens in his book Resilience said this: “We all need something to struggle against and to struggle for. The aim in life is not to avoid struggles, but to have the right ones; not to avoid worry, but to care about the right things; not to live without fear, but to confront worthy fears with force and passion” (p. 17).

I wish I would have learned this concept quicker in my life. My dad is quick to tell me I am a slow learner and I like to do things the hard way. Call it stubbornness but in the end, it’s sheer stupidity. The ancient writer of wisdom said this: “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid” (Prov. 12:1).

Your preacher might be nice and say “you’re not making wise decisions” but what he really means to tell you is that you are acting stupid.

What would our lives look like if we practiced discipline? What steps do you need to take right now to become more disciplined? Jocko said in his podcast somewhere that there is no secret to getting discipline as one simply needs to just do it. Over and over again.

Our finances…more stable

our marriages…less volatile

our parenting…more purposed

our work environment…less anxious

our faith…more stable.



Lord help us.

Here is what I said to my child when they did not make the team.

One of my kids didn’t make the team he or she (purposed ambiguity) was trying out for and they were completely upset about it. Heather called me at the office to tell me the news so I had some time to prepare myself as to what I might say. I am the type of parent that does not like to shoot from the hip (although some situations call for that) and so I started reading some articles as to what one might say to their kid when they did not make the team. I saw some really good articles and so what I said below might help a parent out there down the road. Please know that what I said may not have been the best thing but it was how I approached this situation. Also, I have included some things that I did and did not do so hopefully you can glean from that.

I told them that I was truly sorry. I felt their pain and the raw emotion of, essentially, being told that he or she was not good enough to make the roster. It hurt me too because I know how hard my child worked at trying to make the team. They were devastated. The rejection was quite real and there was no dancing around it. Rather than curtail the rejection I decided to rest in it for a while and let the emotions…the tears…come rolling out. I held back my tears as I watched my child cry from this disappointment. I know some parents would want to make their child laugh or possibly distract them from the pain or completely avoid it altogether but I resisted that urge and we both sat there a little broken.

I encouraged my child to resist the urge of making excuses. “Dad, the coach didn’t even take the time to look at my skills and if they would have…” I listened, affirmed and then gently said, “It’s over and there is nothing we can do about this. All we can change now is how we respond moving forward and playing the victim card will not get you on the team now and certainly won’t get you on the team in the future.” That stung a little and my child may be right about the unfairness of the situation (I could tell that the coach probably had in mind who he or she wanted) but I can’t know this for sure and the only thing I do know is where we move forward from here.

I talked a little bit about adversity. No parent or child enjoys adversity. It is not like we love the moments where our hopes and dreams (misguided or not) are crushed. If I am close to a sale and they don’t follow through rarely do I jump up and toe-tap with kindergarten-esk flamboyance. Yet, failing is important. There is no better teacher than losing and, despite what the everyone-gets-an-award culture says, it will drive us to become better if we use it to our advantage. I told my child this as they rolled their eyes at me gazing out the window as if outside had all the answers. I quoted Henry Ford and said, “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” I got another eye roll. (See Jocko’s video below. I use this for myself when defeat is in front of me)

I asked them, “What are you going to do about it?” They responded, “I don’t know.” Typical. It’s hard to be objective when defeat is not yet in the rear view mirror. Click To Tweet So, I tried another route, “Do you want to make the team next year?” They responded, “Yes!” “What are some things you can do between now and then that will improve your chances?” That rolled the ball in their thinking and they responded, “Practice more. Get better. Work hard.” I could see the wheels turning then and so what turned out to be a disaster, became the fuel that may drive them to succeed later.

I reached out to some folks for wisdom and help. I know squat about some of the sports my kids are into so I need some help from people who know a lot more than I do. I want to leverage their skills and my child’s desire to work so that they will be in the best position for tryouts next year.

I did not reach out to the coach. There may be a place for a parent to reach out and get some positive feedback as to why their child did not make it, but I am not that parent. At this point, I understand that there is much parody in sports and with only so many spots available eventually people can’t make the team. Plus, I always give coaches, teachers and others the benefit of the doubt knowing my kid is not the best at everything he or she does. I am OK with that. Some parents aren’t and will pitch a fit because their sweet Johnny deserves a spot on the team, or first chair in the orchestra or solo in the concert when clearly, they are not there yet. Again, all I can do right now is control how we move forward.

There you have it! I may have screwed up but that is what I did. What are some things you have done (or not) when your child did not make the team?

Here is the Jocko video…enjoy.

Six Things You Need to Know About Large Families

I have a large family. I have a wife and four kids. I look at other families and realize that we are not in the norm. One website put it this way:

As of 2014, the U.S. Bureau of the Census counted about 81 million families in the United States. The average family consists of 3.13 persons in 2014, down from 3.7 in the sixties. This is reflected in the decrease of children in family households overall.[1]

I understand that there are other families with more kids but I just do not see a bunch of those. I would say that once you get to about four kids you probably have a large family. Two kids is about the norm and three seems to be the cutting off point (pun intended if one undergoes surgery J). Not only did Heather and I have four kids but we did so in a short span of time. We had four kids in four years and two months. Time and time again I hear people make comments about our family when they see us walking about. Most of the time we get white-eyed looks from people who snicker to their spouses grateful they do not have to endure what we are “going through.”

I thought it might be good to share some things I wish people knew about those who have large families. I do not speak for every family but I think many large families will resonate with what I have to say.

  1. Everything, and I mean everything, is multiplied.

Think about how much laundry you need for the week and multiply that by six. For the sake of mercy I find myself wearing clothes twice just to save my wife from doing any more laundry. We are never caught up with laundry because we always are on the go. But everything in our family has to go through the “Times-Six or Times-four” test in order for us to agree to it. Christmas presents (x6), fast food (x6), sports (x4), school fee (x4), sports fee (x4) and movies (x6). Then you can imagine the amount of trash and the sheer mess six people make in any given week. It is astounding how much our grocery bill is for each month. I know…some of you masochists are thinking to yourself, “Wait until they become teenagers Robbie.” I think I will wait but for now my kids still seem to eat like malnourished horses finding their first meal. It is really quite breathtaking.

  1. Time is an absolute luxury.

I love seeing the cute Instagram photos of people going on a walk in the woods with their families on a lazy school afternoon. The truth is that during the school year and in most situations we do not have time to do things. We make time for things that are important and so after church, family sit down supper, homework and sports then there really is not much ancillary time.

  1. Date Nights are almost impossible.

See numbers 1-2 above. People mean well when they say they will babysit for you but for a while we did not do this because a) we are control freaks and b) it is just too much on one person. Then you have to pay double the babysitting and it is just not possible. We are just now getting to the point where we can start to think about the possibility of taking a date night somewhere in our schedule.

  1. We do know how this happened.

This has to be one of the most awkward statements people make when they find out you had kids quickly in succession. What possess people to break the barriers of normal decency and ask (while nudging you in the side), “You know what causes that don’t you?” Then they smile. I used to smile and give the buddy wink but now my goal is to make people feel really awkward. One person asked me that question and I answered it this way: “I know how it happened. Passionate sex.”

I said it folks. Sex. Making love. That is how it happened. That is how it happens every single time. And if I didn’t have the little surgery we probably would have about nine kids by now. Why? Because believe it or not we still practice! How’s that for awkward? Bet you won’t ask another person this again!

  1. We do not want your pity.

On a serious note, I do not like it when people dish out their pity on us. “Wow. That is really tough on you guys. I can’t even imagine.” Seriously? We knew what we were getting ourselves into (see #4 above) and we have so many friends who simply cannot have babies and so this is truly a luxury. We are blessed beyond what we could imagine and the more kids we have the better. Think of all the fun we get to have while these little crazies run around all over the place. We laugh a lot, cry a lot, get upset and rejoice a lot and everything in between the full gamut of our emotions.

  1. It is not as difficult as you think.

“How in the world do you do that?” I get that question when people find out I have four kids. The answer is easy: we just do. Life is not about freaking out at what is presented in front of you but making the right adjustments to work with what you got. There are some weeks we wonder what we got ourselves into but we always get through it. It does take a dedicated marriage to make it happen though. Single moms or dads raising four kids is really tough. Again though, you just do it. Heather and I are not whiners nor complainers by our nature. We get stuff done and begin the next task at hand. That is just the way our DNA works.

There you go. I hope you understand big families now. Keep in mind that we do not think we are better than folks with only a couple kids or those who do not have kids. Yet, like Paul, we just try to learn whatever situation we find ourselves in to be content.


[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/183657/average-size-of-a-family-in-the-us/

What do I say to my kids about church and politics?

Who did you vote for dad?” That was the question my fifth grader posed to me a couple of months ago during the peak of the presidential race. If parenting is one of the hardest jobs then I am neck deep in the most difficult task I have ever known. Teaching my children not to urinate on the wall is a breeze compared to trying to help them make sense of the confusing world around them. It is made even more complex when they hear snippets from their friends at school. Some of the worst things people can say about a person filters its way into the listening sphere of a child’s worldview. I am not good at the proactive dad thing. Too often I react to something they said or heard and most of the time it is damage control. That shouldn’t always be the case but, to be quite frank with you, I am either too tired or just plain apathetic to engage the conversation.

So what do we say to our kids when much of the church and the country is split on what they perceive is right and wrong? How do I help navigate my child to make informed decisions about what they do when it comes to their lived-theology in the geographical landscape they choose? Below are some thoughts I am sharing that are raw, unfiltered and less nuanced than normal. I hope you will give me some latitude as I am doing this for the first time and I imagine, like most things, when I look back on these words I would change some things. But below is how Heather and I are trying to approach parenting kids who believe in God and also are citizens of a country.

First thing we do is to try to instill a Christocentric worldview. What does that mean? When Jesus came to this world he made great strides to do nothing except His Father’s will (John 6:38). Part of following Jesus is that we are sojourners in a land that is never going to fully represent our home. Jesus would say we are “not of the world” (John 17:16) which I take to mean that physically we are here but spiritually our home is somewhere else. So that means we try to teach our kids to approach this world not as Americans but as those trying to bring the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. That means we are going to hopefully respond to situations differently than someone who does not have a Christocentric worldview.

Secondly, we allow them to have open conversations with people they disagree. We have not modeled this well but it is a core value Heather and I share. Just because someone lands politically different than I do does not make him or her an enemy. Looking back at heated discussions I had in the past I am reminded of how much I have changed over the years. It is important for me to keep an open mind and modeling that for my kids is chief on my list because I always want them to learn. Politics and religion are two things people shy away from discussing because, I am convinced, they are unwilling to budge and learn something.

Thirdly, when things go our way we do not gloat and when things do not go our way we do not grumble. So my son asked me who I voted for and I told him, “Gary Johnson.” He responded, “Who in the world is that?” I explained to him why I chose him and how I think he lined up with some of the core values I stand for and my son at least seemed to understand enough not to ask more questions. In the last three elections the candidate I have voted for has not become president. You know what? That’s ok. I have prayed fervently for Clinton, Bush, Obama and I will do so for Trump. The barrage of tweets I have seen from fellow Christians in this political race has been embarrassing. On one side there are folks who tweet everyday blasting Trump threatening to move to Canada or advocating an all-out boycott. On the other side there are folks who blast people rubbing it in their faces that Trump is president chiding the “liberals” who need to man-up. Both sides are wrong. Nobody is free from criticism as Trump has deserved his share but also nobody is refused prayer. I choose to pray for Trump with the understanding that I disagree with many of his choices like I have done so with Clinton, Bush and Obama.

There you have it…unfiltered.

What would you add?

Cherishing the Parenting Moments…All of Them

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their opponents in court.

Psalm 127:3-5

I came to the office today with the stark realization that my kids are growing up way too fast. This realization did not come without warnings though as myriads of people, with a twinkle in their eye, told me to cherish each moment because “before you know it Robbie they are gone.” Cue Harry Chapin “Cats in the Cradle” song and the tears will flow like a river. I find myself cherishing the little intricacies of my kids’ lives as if their graduation date were tomorrow.

A couple examples.

Our church does not have services on Sunday nights and so that leaves our family a full day to spend with each other. The humidity was low as was the temperature and so I decided to mow the lawn. I get a few lines up and down and I look and my oldest son had grabbed the weed eater and started edging without me asking him to do it. Then I had to change the oil in my truck and he came up and said, “Can I help you daddy?” We changed the oil together and I fielded probably twenty questions about what we were looking at underneath the truck. Nothing magical happened but it was a moment that I will cherish for a while.

This morning I dropped off my kids at school and there are many Mondays when they leave my truck kicking and screaming. Today they left in an amazing mood and my youngest son (who is always the last one out of the truck) got out of the truck smiled and said, “I love you.” I responded with, “I love you more” to which he responded with, “I love you the most.” Then, after the traffic folks gave me the all clear to leave, I drove off slowly looking at my kids with a proud glance at how amazing they are and my oldest daughter turned around, looked at me, smiled and waved.

Parent win.

Why am I sharing this with you? Parenting is tough. There are so many instances I can share (my kids will eventually share) where I am impatient, quick-tempered and just plain dumb as a parent. But I am starting to cherish all of the wonderful moments that are slowly slipping by. If raising my kids is like simmering food in a crock pot then I am close to the second half.

So now I cherish the moments when I am cleaning out the mulch bed because in it are water bottles, small cars, footballs, baby dolls and every other small toy imaginable (and my Yeti tumbler). I cherish the moment when I am scrubbing the couch because my daughter spilled all of her cereal for the 50th time. I cherish the moment when my son hits a golf ball into the back of a neighbor’s truck window.

The Psalmist is right: Children are a heritage.

My advice to all of you going to prom.

Prom season is in full swing and it seems this rite of passage event for teenagers is everything a person could possibly imagine! The build-up is immense to prom for every teenager. A wishful girl can only hope that her suitor will somehow ask her to prom via some elaborate plan that ends with the letters P-R-O-M and a question mark at the end on poster board. If she is lucky there will be someone to take the picture so they can both share it on Instagram (their parents will share it on Facebook).

What ever happened to picking up the phone and calling a girl? Heck, even writing a note in a check-yes-or-no fashion!

The build up for prom is crazy!

The money on a tux, dress, make-up, limo rental, dinner, flowers, hospital deductible…kidding.

It is indeed a sight to behold all the money that goes into this. No matter how much I poke fun at the lunacy known as prom it seems this is a rite-of-passage for teenagers that my kids will probably want to attend. Unless your kid goes to a Christian school, then the name for it is called “banquet” which is prom without the dancing.

Same idea.

So if you’re going to prom (or you have a son or a daughter who is going) I have three pieces of advice for you.

#1 – Don’t be stupid

In the past year students in and around Nashville have died from drug deals going awry to overdosing on substances. If alcohol or drugs are involved then get your tail up and leave. You are too young and you have too much life ahead of you for you to simply throw it away on doing dumb things. I am going to be as transparent as possible with this next bit of advice that goes along with this point: keep your pants on and your dress down. Sex is a beautifully wonderful thing when done in a marriage covenant. Keep it under control and practice purity. Even if you are not a Christian, there are plenty of wonderful reasons to remain pure.

#2 – Have fun

The lie you are told is that you can only have fun by doing stupid things. I have done my fair share of stupid things but for the most part I have had the most amount of fun in my life in times that weren’t surrounded by idiotic mistakes. Laugh. Enjoy time with your friends. Make memories. Take plenty of pictures. Be silly. Pretend you know how to dance while people laugh at you.

#3 – Realize your identity does not come from prom

So you didn’t have someone make an elaborate plan to ask you to prom. So you didn’t even have a date or maybe the date that you had turned out to be a dud. Maybe the food was awful or your dress was not the way it should have been. It rained on you and your $150 hairdo looks like doo-doo. You know what? It really does not matter. My dad used to say, “Life is full of disappointments and this one is small in the grand scheme of things.” I don’t remember much from the two banquets I went to. I wore a chorus tux to one and the other seemed to be a huge façade to me. What I do know is I am here, alive, doing well and living life to the fullest and it has NOTHING to do with prom. My identity is who I am in the eyes of Jesus not society. Period.

So there you go. My two cents worth of advice as a youth minister, friend and father. Enjoy.

Youth Sports: Why your kid will not be pro and how to be realistic about it.

Years ago when my oldest son played his first few games in Spring baseball I was so proud of him galloping (maybe more like trotting) down the first baseline. Now we are in our fifth season watching him play baseball and we have had three other kids participate in sports in either the fall or the spring. I have noticed that every Spring I start getting a bit anxious with all the running about. As long as our kids are having fun we are going to support them in their extracurricular activities. Yet, the operative word is “support” and not “live vicariously” through them.

Every year I am surprised at how much money parents pour into their child to give them “an edge” in their sports. This past weekend I saw a dad who I frequently saw on the ball field and asked him what team he was on in the rec league we have. He said they are not doing the rec league but are on a traveling team that meets in a city that is 45 minutes from his house. He said, with a smidgen of pride in his voice, “I told my wife, I will see you in July.” It wasn’t the time or the place but I wanted to sit him down and ask him, “What are you hoping to accomplish with this?”

I think deep down many parents naively think little Johnny or little Susie are going to turn pro with all of their money and efforts. They will then reap all the benefits of their geographical meandering and financial gymnastics by watching them on Sports Center. It’s all worth it right? The problem with mom and dad’s thinking is that it is not based on a little thing called REALITY. The NCAA published some statistics on the amount of high-school athletes who will play in the NCAA and will eventually turn pro. The results were staggering:

  • Baseball: Out of 482,629 only 6.9% of those will make it to the NCAA and only 8.6% of NCAA players will turn pro.
  • Men’s Basketball: Out of 541,054 only 3.4% of those will make it to the NCAA and only 1.2% of NCAA players will turn pro.
  • Women’s Basketball: Out of 433,344 only 3.8% of those will make it to the NCAA and only 0.9% of NCAA players will turn pro.
  • Football: Out of 1,093,234 only 6.5% of those will make it to the NCAA and only 1.6% of NCAA players will turn pro.
  • Men’s Hockey: Out of 482,629 only 11.2% of those will make it to the NCAA and only 6.8% of NCAA players will turn pro.
  • Men’s Soccer: Out of 417,419 only 5.7% of those will make it to the NCAA and only 1.4% of NCAA players will turn pro.

So if your “star” athlete is in high school here are the percentages they will have at making it pro based on the figures above:

  • Baseball: 0.6%
  • Men’s Basketball: 0.04%
  • Women’s Basketball: 0.34%
  • Football: 0.10%
  • Men’s Hockey: 0.76%
  • Men’s Soccer: 0.08%

Let that sink in a bit. I know your child is different and will beat the odds but if you are realistic (I think you should be) your child will more than likely not make sports their vocation (as an athlete at least).

As a Christian dad this informs me to some observations that steer our family in a healthy way.

We will not compromise our commitment to God when it comes to sports. If they miss a practice or game because they are going on a mission trip or retreat then we could care less. If the coach benches them then at least they understand what it means to sacrifice for their faith. Don’t misunderstand me though because I am not saying every parent who involves his or her kids in sports eschews a relationship with Jesus. Both can be done even at the highest level (Tim Tebow anyone?). If we are funneling money into sports but withholding it to our local church then what example are we setting for our kids? I saw this on a website for a typical cost for travel baseball:

In the first year of the __________, we’re targeting a player fee of $3,000 for the season. This, of course, doesn’t include unofficial costs like travel, meals, lodging, etc. But that’s the amount that will come from each family through our organization to pay our own fees to keep the team going (Emphasis mine).

No thank you.

We will not scald coaches, officials or other players. Some parents should be ashamed of themselves the way they scream at people from the stands. I mean who cares really? “That girl elbowed my girl in the face and the ref missed it.” You’re right he missed it. He is a human being. Keep it classy folks and refrain from speaking critically of others especially in a tone that rivals a grizzly bear’s growl.

We will support local leagues over travel leagues. I firmly believe that athletes will rise from the top based on God-given skill and not being on an elite travel team that has a weird name and too much neon. Furthermore, when they are younger they really are not physically developed enough for it to make much of a difference. I remember a kid who was on travel leagues from the time he was 8 and nobody could catch his fastball. Much to my surprise he was in the rec league when I was 14 and everybody was still afraid of him. I went up to the plate and he pitched to me and I let it go by me. I thought, “Is that all you got?” He hummed the baseball again and I made contact with it and I am pretty sure that ball still hasn’t landed. I hit another home run on him in my next at bat. I never once played travel ball. We let our oldest play all stars one year and he was miserable by the time it was over. I think we will use discernment in this if any of our kids make all stars because we want our kids to enjoy summers with the church and with us.

We will use sports and extracurricular activities for what they should be: a catalyst for fun and social development. My kids learn so much from sports like teamwork, friendship, laughter, fun, dedication, perseverance, victory, defeat, camaraderie and disappointment. All of these are things Heather and I want our kids to learn and sports can be a wonderful place for them to learn these things. Yet the same heat that melts butter can also harden the egg. What can be a beautiful experience for a kid can also be a burden for them. Consider the clip below (language warning) from Friday Night Lights where a dad cannot accept his son “dropping the ball.”

Hopefully you understand the tone of this post and this in no way a slam against parents who do travel ball, multiple sports, or things like that. I guess my intention with what I advocate is a more sensible approach that maximizes the time with your family and allows them to just simply be kids. I understand there are people who disagree with this post and I am sensitive to that. I am not trying to place an either/or type of dichotomy but simply give you some principles to think about.

Play ball.


IMAGE CREDITS: ScaryMommy.com

When should I let my kids use social media?

Looking through my Instagram feed I noticed I got a new follower. I recognized the name but did a double-take because I thought surely this person is not who I think it is because they are too young. I checked out their profile and it was this person: at the time they were eight years old. My kids pressure me all the time to have “Insta” (as they word it) profiles like their friends and so as a parent I feel the tension other parents must feel.

Here are some of my thoughts about when to let your kids have social media profiles and how to coach them on it.

First of all, age requirements.

Consider this infographic from Linneyville.com for age requirements.

Minimum Age Requirements: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Secret [INFOGRAPHIC]

Furthermore Twitter has some pretty strict guidelines about accounts used for those under 13:

Our Services are not directed to persons under 13. If you become aware that your child has provided us with personal information without your consent, please contact us here. We do not knowingly collect personal information from children under 13. If we become aware that a child under 13 has provided us with personal information, we take steps to remove such information and terminate the child’s account. You can find additional resources for parents and teens here.

The age requirements do not stop kids from accessing accounts as all they can simply just enter a birth date older than theirs and, Walla!, they created a profile. Of course, there is something to be said about truth-telling versus lying but that might be a whole other post.

But even then…

Secondly, it is generally understood that 13 is the age when kids start understanding the world around them.

Commonsense Media has an excellent article worth every word called, “What’s age appropriate for a 13-year-old?” (They also have a column on the left panel highlighting each age for what’s appropriate) A couple of things caught my attention in this article:

Cognitive development: At this age, teens’ thinking begins to include perception and insight. They can grasp more abstract concepts and are capable of thinking of hypothetical situations.

Social and emotional development: Young teens can be very self-absorbed, as they’re increasingly aware of their own feelings and are prone to focus on conformity and the importance of appearance — not unexpected, given that acceptance by their peers continues to be of utmost importance. But at this age they’re also capable of ethical decision making. Expect a wide variety of mood swings — in rapid succession.

Kids understand the ramifications of what they are posting at 13 more than they do as an 8-year-old.

At this age [8-RM], kids may be exploring digital worlds, but chances are they don’t yet understand how their seemingly anonymous behavior can have a real effect on real people. They need to learn that anything they post can be copied, pasted, altered, and distributed to vast invisible audiences. They also need to understand that not everything they read online is true or respectful (like inappropriate comments on YouTube, for example). – Source

They are beginning to develop the learned skill of discernment. Sinclair Ferguson has a good definition in his article for Ligonier entitled, “What is Discernment?“:

But what is this discernment? The word used in Psalm 119:66 means “taste.” It is the ability to make discriminating judgments, to distinguish between, and recognize the moral implications of, different situations and courses of action. It includes the ability to “weigh up” and assess the moral and spiritual status of individuals, groups, and even movements. Thus, while warning us against judgmentalism, Jesus urges us to be discerning and discriminating, lest we cast our pearls before pigs (Matt. 7:1, 6).

When kids are young they do not have the capacity to discern well. The danger of this is understanding the difference between a friend and a predator. Teenagers have a huge eye on having “likes” for pictures, tweets and posts. I was scrolling through a picture on Instagram with my nine-year-old daughter watching and she said, “Whoa! Dad, that pic you posted has 45 likes!” I was literally #smh when she said that.

Of course, you as a parent get to decide for your own kids when the time is right. As long as you are coaching (see below) them on safe practices and they understand how to use it responsibly then I think it would be ok. Again, I can only speak for my own kids on the “13”-year-old rule. Here’s the deal though: sometimes it is ok for your kids to go against the grain when it comes to culture. They need that.

How to coach them on it?

  • Time: They should not spend hours posting, updating and tweaking their social media profiles. Moderation is the key. It is with you too you know?
  • Location: A friend of mine shared this rule with me and I thought it was wonderful. No cell phone usage in their rooms. If they are trying to hide what they are doing then maybe they need to rethink what they are doing.
  • Safety: I don’t think it is good for them to have followers they really do not know. I am a hypocrite as I have plenty but when they are young there is really no need.
  • Keep Track: Parents should be allowed to follow their kids’ profiles and check up on them. Period.
  • Stay Privy: Know the new apps teens are using. Use this “Popular App Guide” for Parents that will help you. I also think you can sign up for free webinars by clicking here.
  • Teach, teach, teach about the dangers. From cyberbullying, to predators to pornography they need to have you as their coach. One of the best posts (although dated a bit) I have seen is from Kathleen Costanza on, “How to teach your students to think before they post.”

IMAGE CREDITS: kernelmag.dailydot.com

10 Ways to Help Your Child Stay Faithful

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). You ever read that verse and think to yourself, “But what about all of those kids who were ‘trained’ and left the faith?” When a youth group kid graduates high-school and unplugs from a church I feel like such a failure. Where did I go wrong? Did I say something wrong? Those, and many more questions haunt me for years. At the end of the day the Proverb writer is not making a sweeping law that will surely come to place rather he is making a general statement that will most likely be true. Otherwise many of the proverbs would contradict each other (e.g., Prov. 26:4-5).

All of that to say that this blog post seems a bit presumptuous in its attempt. What I list below is not a guarantee that your child will not waiver from his or her faith. I wish there were such a formula. At the end of the day we are responsible for our own decisions and that includes our faith. What I offer is based on over a decade of observing parents in a ministry setting. Feel free to add to these.

#1 Encourage Questioning (Matt. 7:7)

This should be a given but the families where I saw some of the most push-back when it came to the faith were those that fostered a legalistic approach to Scripture. “Don’t ask,” they would say. “It says what it means and means what it says. Plain and simple.” If it is so plain and simple then why am I questioning it? I saw on one site where a guy did a list of the questions Jesus did and came up with 135 in Scripture. 135!!! Ask…seek…knock.

#2 Become Involved (2 Tim. 2:4)

If you are not bought into the kingdom of God then how do you expect your kid to? Jesus said that nobody can serve two masters and here you are trying to do just that. By “involved” I do not necessarily mean simply attending all of the services (even the Pharisees do that…see point #4 below). I mean plugging into a ministry that involves your blood, sweat and tears.

#3 Pray and Read Scripture With Them

Of course your not having a “read the bible in 90 days” fest but you are trying to instill in them spiritual disciplines. And it takes discipline to do this. Pray before a big game, a test, a meeting with the principal, a long trip, a difficult decision. When they get older ask them to pray for you and specific things you can pray for them about.

#4 Practice What You Preach (Rom. 2:20-24)

Kids catch on real fast to hypocrisy. Let’s just say it is wired in our DNA. Here is something to think about when it comes to training your children in righteousness:

You cannot lead your children to a place spiritually where you have never been. Click To Tweet

Let that sink in a bit.

#5 Make Forgiveness a Priority (Eph. 4:31-32)

They are going to screw up royally. They are going to do things that will make you upset and even some of them might end up in jail. Forgive them. Think the father of the prodigal son type of forgiveness. Think seventy times seven forgiveness.

#6 Allow them to struggle (1 Pet. 5:10)

Nobody likes to watch their kids struggle. If you do then you are a sadist and get some help. Yet, I have seen many parents pacify their kids years after they needed a pacifier. We learn from our mistakes and if you keep your child from making mistakes (even spiritual ones) then you are setting them up for spiritual failure. I think this leads me to the next point…

#7 Quit Controlling Their Lives (Gal. 6:5)

I was talking with a parent one time and they said, “My daughter wants to go to the baptist church and I am not sure what I need to do. What do you think?” I said, “Let her go.” Many of you reading with this will disagree with me about that but if you teach them well then this will be another opportunity for them to grow. Parents these days manipulate their child’s lives to get what they think is best for their kids. I was grateful for my parents who let me struggle (point #6) and encouraged me to own up to the decision I made.

#8 Allow Them to See You Wrestle with God (Gen. 32:22-32)

Every follower of God needs a “penuel” moment like Jacob, where we wrestle with God. Maybe it’s when you lost a job and then a family member got sick all at the same time. Your son or daughter looked at you in this pivotal, defining moment in your life and instead of quiet reflection they heard angry and questioning prayers. This is good for them to see. If they read Scripture enough they will see it there.

#9 Help Them Develop a Christian Worldview (Rom. 12:1-2)

This world freaks me out everyday and the climate our kids live should terrify us. I see many parents pushing an American worldview instead of a Christian worldview. Click To Tweet We are told not to conform to this world and part of that means deconstructing the way we see this world (or even Christianity) and allowing Jesus (the real Jesus) to be our lens. More and more our kids need to hear us say, “Son/Girl, that’s just not right. (Why?) That does not have God’s intent behind it.”

#10 Make the Love of God Visible to Them (1 John 4:19)

That assumes we understands what they love of God looks like. The seen love of God is a posture that should be as natural your children as the light of day. Click To Tweet I mean that. They should see the love of God through you as you encounter difficult situations, finances, difficult people, television, friendships, etc. It must be a default response.

Those are my 12…what would you add?


Tim Tebow, Virginity and Grace

I am sure by now you have heard of the news of Tim Tebow and Olivia Culpo breaking up because, reportedly, he will not have sex with her.[1] The New York Daily News reported:

“She had to break up with him because she just couldn’t handle it,” said our insider, “He still hits her up, but she just can’t deal with the sex thing. He’s pretty adamant about it, I guess.”

From that the onslaught of memes, gifs and backhanded comments have come at Tebow’s expense. I guess this should not surprise us, as when you have such a polarized view of sex it will only lend itself to an onslaught of criticism. This kind of report is only an indicator that our culture is such a sexually charged culture. Sex is in music, TV, video games, commercials, billboards, social media and every sort of outlet you can imagine.

Tim Tebow is weird and I like it and wish more people were like him but I want to emphasize something very clear:

Virginity or the loss of virginity does not make you any more or less a Christian…Jesus does. Click To Tweet

Massive campaigns (Purity Ring) and other mission efforts make virginity seem like the crème-de-la-crème of Christian virtues. If you have slipped or messed-up in this area then you are damaged goods. Jen Pollock Michel wrote a post a couple of years back called, “Virginity Isn’t Our Holy Grail” that speaks to what I am saying (long quote):

Implicit in what I’m reading about purity from Bessey, and a host of other women, such as Elizabeth Esther, Rachel Held Evans, and Carolyn Custis James, is a broad concern over how the church handles and presents God’s teachings on sexual sin. This topic matters a great deal, considering that nearly 80 percent of self-proclaimed Christians are having sex before they are married.

The church has been pushing purity standards for ages. Esther refers to the shame she carried with her as a virgin into her marriage because she’d kissed a couple of boys before her husband and because she had masturbated. Esther would argue that the church’s restrictions are becoming more rigorous, and by outlining its own capricious rules, the Church has inevitably constructed a “new and improved virginity.” But is there such a thing as hyper-purity, a sexual standard more rigorous than God’s? Referring back to Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, where he insists that lust is equivalent to adultery (Matt. 5:27-30), I’m not so sure.

God’s purity standard is effectively impossible to meet. We can, though, fall guilty of making God’s grace small by making sexual sin big, whenever the church insists that non-virgins are cast beyond the reach of grace. Sexual promiscuity is not the unforgiveable sin. Let’s not forget those featured in Jesus’ genealogy (Judah, the man who slept with his daughter-in-law, mistaking her for a prostitute; David, the king who murdered the husband of his mistress), nor those winning mention in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith (Rahab, the prostitute who sheltered the Israelite spies, and Samson, the man with a weakness for beautiful women).

The Bible, in weaving its long history of redemption, is not a storybook of heroes. Failure, even sexual mistakes, has not once tied God’s hands. He accomplishes what he wills through the worst of us. But unfortunately, virginity has arguably become a modern-day idol of the church. According to Tim Keller, idolatry is fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. Virginity, which is rightly good, has unfortunately become ultimate, idolized in some churches as, in Bessey’s words, become “a barometer of our righteousness and worth.” Virginity is not a moral merit badge. Whether or not we have had sex before marriage, we are all lawbreakers (James 2:10). None can feel superior ¾ not even the virgins among us.[2]

To be fair, Tebow is not advocating that he is some superhero because of his virginity but the onslaught of media coverage seems to think that virginity is the mark of a true Christian. The mark of a true Christian is the outward reflection of an inner realization that Jesus, through his grace, has ransomed that person from a life of darkness. He is like the publican who simply uttered: “Have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13).

I will try my best to teach my children healthy sexuality but with that comes a teaching of hearty grace.

Once again my friends…all is grace.


[1] http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/confidential/tim-tebow-find-zone-article-1.2447008

[2] http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2013/february/virginity-isnt-our-holy-grail.html?paging=off