Bayou City Women’s Everyday Conversations podcast and Everyday Sacred blog have teamed up this month for series on modern parenting. We want to raise our children with an end goal in mind, and protect and reach their hearts along the way. Whether or not you’re a mom, we hope this series encourages you to live into the believer’s call to discipleship and intentional living, and that it would be a sweet reminder that we are created for relationship. You can read last week’s post here: Ask, Seek, Knock.
Is it only my imagination? Maybe so, but lately, it seems everywhere I go, I see toddlers and littles in elevators, grocery stores, doctor’s office, or cars with devices in their hands, their little eyeballs glued to an image on a screen. I fear we are failing to teach our babies and children how to negotiate the “stuff” of everyday life without electronics? I fear we are using electronics as perpetual “anytime” pacifiers. This may give us some measure of peace and quiet in the short run. But at what cost in the long run? The potential loss of opportunities for healthy dialogue and teaching them life skills is so steep. And the same can be said for our tweens and teens. At each tender age, technology, while wonderful in so many ways, can debilitate our children relationally. Over exposure to electronics reduces their ability to reason and make sound judgments, and to communicate effectively. We certainly want to leverage technology for good when it comes to our children. But overexposure and overuse can have a negative impact on our ability as parents, to reach their hearts and to be in close relationship with them. Our culture wants to replace us as the #1 influence in their lives. How better to do that than through an electronic device that hammers them with ideas and images which breeze through largely unfiltered. It’s one-directional. We need to fight back. But how do we do that? There are two overarching steps we have to take.
First, we need to set boundaries for electronics and social networking. And we need to be sure to follow through. If we don’t teach them to manage their devices, then those devices will surely manage them. Psalm 16:6 says: “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Boundaries and household rules are good things. They are not designed to make your children (or you) miserable, or cheat them out of an experience. On the contrary, Psalm 16:6 embodies the very opposite of that. Boundaries and household rules allow our children the privilege of growing up in a place that is safe both physically and emotionally, which is indeed “a delightful inheritance.” And in the specific case of electronics, boundaries and rules create opportunity for imagination, creativity, and learning that are otherwise seriously hampered. So for instance, as parents we should be diligent in setting appropriate age limits for owning phones or having a social network profile. There should also be rules of etiquette in place for posting on social networking sites. Time limits need to be enforced. And there should always be ‘no phone zones’ like the dinner table or the classroom. Just as for phones and computers, monitor their television time and content. And on that note, allowing a television in your child’s bedroom is rarely a good idea. As a general rule, utilizing common areas for computers and televisions greatly simplifies this matter for parents.
Secondly, we need to make sure that as a family we are spending quality time together. Because if we are only instituting rules and boundaries, but we never spend quality time with our kids, then we lose credibility with them. We cannot expect them to follow a set of rules that we have implemented, even out of a heart of love, if we are not willing to meet them right where they are and love them with the gift of our time. Ultimately if we want to instill in them the principles of God’s word, and the love of Jesus, we have to actually be with them, enjoying one another’s company and encouraging family traditions. One of the best-kept secrets of parenting is dinner around the table. The positive influence this one event can have on our kids is practically immeasurable. Also write them encouraging notes, take them to coffee (or ice cream), and dialogue with them about their day. Read all kinds of books together (including the Bible), or apart, and come back later to discuss what you have read. Pray out loud with them. Just enjoy their company.
Undoubtedly, there is a plethora of work and activity all around us demanding our time and attention, much of which draws us away from our children. And much of that work and activity is vitally important. But likewise, we need to be keenly aware of the many and varied demands vying for our child’s attention. It is our hope and our desire to always point our children toward Jesus. Nevertheless, our enemy, the devil, is set on pointing them away. Let’s not have that! One way we can fight back is to manage their exposure to electronic devices, television and Internet. Another way is to spend quality time with them. I believe that as we make deposits into their spiritual and emotional bank accounts, it will be harder and harder for this world to make heavy withdrawals.
As a parent, one of my most encouraging scriptures can be found in Galatians 6:9 and I think it is so very applicable here: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Jesus is in our corner. Indeed, Hebrews 7:25 tells us that he is in heaven interceding for us. That should make us shout with joy as a parent. We are not doing this alone. If God is for us, who can be against us?