Mattel has launched a new Barbie that has pink hair and permanent tattoos on her. Even if Mattel says it’s more of a collector’s item intended for adults rather than children, parents are concerned that it is not a good role model for girls.
Do I really want my little daughter playing with a punk Barbie? Probably not. But I am not going to be suing Mattel for selling it. Toy makers ought to consider the impact they have on children’s perceptions of reality and the values they are inculcating, but as parents, we are ultimately responsible.
I remember that my parents never allowed us to play with a game called Dungeons and Dragons. And I am thankful that they were careful about the toys we played with and the TV shows we watched. For example, we were not allowed to watch the Simpsons. I’ve caught a couple of shows as an adult and they are hilarious, but it is a show that portrays so many wrong values. For instance, you have a passive father who is unable to lead himself or his family, and a disobedient and rebellious son who is conniving and irresponsible. My young, impressionable children don’t need to be watching this kind of stuff or other cartoons that distort God-ordained family roles or wrongly program their world-view.
However, the real battle is not the toys we buy or the shows we let our children watch. It is equipping them to exercise wisdom. How are they going to survive if they are dependent on us to determine what is good and not good for them? While they are young, we can filter through what they are exposed to, but eventually, they must be able to discern right from wrong on their own.
Since Edric and I have yet to see how our children will turn out in the future, I would like to talk about how my parents helped my siblings and I to develop wisdom. By God’s grace, all of us are walking with the Lord and following him (and I pray we will be faithful to the end because it is only by his grace). And I am not saying this to give credit to ourselves but to emphasize the importance of teaching our children to be wise. Here are some things you can do with your kids…
Tell them to ask God for wisdom. God loves to give wisdom to his children, it is something he freely and delightfully bestows on those who ask for it. My parents told us to pray for wisdom when we were young. All of us did this, clinging onto the promise in James 1:5 which says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
When King Solomon asked for wisdom rather than riches and power, God was so pleased he gave him all three. The irony is that Solomon may have been wise but he made some foolish personal choices that caused him to have a divided heart.
1 Kings 11:1-6 “King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. 2 They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. 3 He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. 4 As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. 5 He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done.”
Sadly, for all the wisdom of Solomon, he chose to follow the desires of his heart rather than to follow God. This tells me that wisdom does not fortify our children from foolish choices. Our children must not only be wise, they must fear God.
Communicate a correct view of God to your children. We can grow up with all kinds of misconceptions about God. We may think him loving, but forget he is holy and wrathful towards sin. Or, we may think him to be a cosmic kill-joy, impersonal, distant, and not see him for the personal, tender father that he is. As A.W. Tozer said, “what we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
I am grateful that my parents taught us to have a high view of God, to understand that as loving as he is, he is also holy, awesome in power, and able to bless those who follow him and curse those who do not. This gave us a healthy fear of God. We were motivated to serve and follow him because we loved him, but we were afraid to sin against him. This doesn’t mean that my siblings and I never made mistakes. We did! But, thanks to the intentional instruction of our parents, the compass of our hearts was aligned in the right direction. We wanted to pursue God’s will and we wanted to avoid the painful consequences of foolishness.
Proverbs 9:10-11 says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
Teach your children the law of sowing and reaping. Galatians 6:7 gives this warning. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” My parents would often say, “you are free to choose, but you are not free to escape the consequences.” They did not parent us with a choke hold. We were given many liberties as young adults because the harder work of preparing us to make wise choices happened during our childhood. One example of the “harder work” my parents had to do was to discipline us. Without exception, my siblings and I were spanked when we disobeyed.
Did we resent our parents for it? Not at all. Spanking was a consequence for two things — disobedience and disrespect. We were not spanked in anger, publicly humiliated, or beaten as a punishment. Each one of us knew that there was a spanking belt that hung behind my parent’s bathroom door to be used in the same way (one to two swats across the buttocks) in the bathroom and only after a very serious conversation about what we did wrong. After five minutes or less, the whole ordeal was over and we were repentant and sorry. There would be alot of hugging and I love you’s exchanged.
Being disciplined was painful, but it was the kind of pain that saved us from greater pain. And as we grew past the elementary years, spanking was replaced by natural, logical consequences or withdrawal of privileges.
Proverbs 19:18 “Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.”
The law of sowing and reaping also applied to blessing. In the same way that we connected wrong choices with negative consequences, we connected right choices with blessing. We didn’t want to merely avoid consequences, we wanted God’s hand to be upon us, to have his favor and to experience the “fullness of life” that he promised. Blessing vs. Curse
Grow in faith and character as a family. Reading Proverbs is a great way to start. It is like an inexhaustible instruction manual for wise living. The introduction to Proverbs captures its very purpose.
“The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—let the wise listen and add to their learning,and let the discerning get guidance— for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.” Proverbs 1:1-6
My dad would conduct weekly family bible studies on Proverbs. He would go over a Proverb, extract the meaning of it, and ask us to share our insights. After this, we would all talk about how we could apply it in our lives.
These family devotions were moments of meaningful dialogue and heart conversations. We used this time to minister to one another, share our triumphs, struggles, and heartaches. It allowed us to keep one another accountable, too. We would end with prayer, for decisions that had to be made or difficult circumstances that had to be endured or faced.
Build the habit of reading the Bible and reading through it every year. I suppose my dad is somewhat an exception when I say that he literally spent hours studying the Word of God daily. It was a blessing that he was an entrepreneur with the option of more time. And as a pastor, he was often preparing messages and bible studies, so he was in the Word alot. I am sharing this because I can’t even begin to explain the impact his devotion to Scripture and prayer had on me. I saw first-hand that faith is intensely personal and that the Word of God is an inexhaustible treasure of truth and principles for living. Not every parent may have as much time to devote to studying God’s Word, but the point is that we need to model the daily habit of growing in the Lord, delving into his Word and praying as a way of life. We may not all be church leaders teaching from the pulpit, but we can all lead and impact the most important church — our home, family, children.
Memorize scripture as a family. My parents taught us key verses that became ammunition against temptation, strength during times of difficulty, promises to hope in, or words of encouragement to share with someone in need. Admittedly, I am terrible with bible references, but I know so many verses by heart because we learned them as a family. (Just don’t ask me to give you the reference because I will need biblegateway.com for help! I love that keyword search function!)
Psalm 119:11 “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
The earlier our children hide God’s word in their hearts, the better! Last Saturday, during an event called Sword Fight — a bible-fest for homeschoolers — I watched a young girl, Paige, recite lengthy passages from the Bible. When I asked her mom, Dawn, how she was able to commit so much scripture to memory, she told me about Sing the Word. Here is a clip of her daughter reciting all the verses she learned from A to Z. Paige Ong recites 26 Bible verses from memory at age 5
Give your children a basic foundation in apologetics. Our children need to know the basis of faith, that it is objective and sound, not faith for the sake of faith. My parents made sure we understood who Jesus is and that he is who he claimed to be. They gave us the foundations of what we believe — answers to questions like who is God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit? Can we really believe in the resurrection? Is the Bible accurate, reliable, and trustworthy? How can one be assured of salvation and why?
I know apologetics sounds intimidating but the apostle Peter commands all of us to be able to defend the hope that is in us — to be certain of what we believe so that when difficult times come, we will not waiver.
1 Peter 3:14-15 “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.”
If you need help with apologetics, these sites are great tools for uncovering the basis of faith and truth: Jesus – fact or fiction, Answers in Genesis for Kids and Parents , Find answers to your faith questions with investigative journalist, Lee Strobel.
Involve your children in ministry. When my siblings and I were kids, we got to attend my parents’ bible studies, outreach activities, and even counseling sessions (depending on the gravity of the case). This exposure to ministry allowed us to observe and learn from the mistakes and right choices of others. It made us realize that Satan has the same strategy to bait and destroy people, but the packaging of the temptation is customized for each individual.
Avoid hypocrisy at all costs. The other day, Edric and I were discussing how we need to be vigilant about the example we set for our children. We cannot be the type of parents who say one thing and do the opposite. I can’t remember where I got this quote, but I think it poignantly illustrates the problem of hypocrisy. “As Christians, we often shoot each other on the battlefield of life.” Are we shooting our children down and destroying their convictions because we do not practice what we preach? Are we causing them to stumble?
Matthew 18:6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
After being homeschooled I went to an American Christian school where most of the kids were children of missionaries. It was a great school and I made some wonderful friends, but it was sad to see that a number of kids were not committed Christians. They were children of missionaries! In my opinion, missionaries are like the marines of Christianity. I had such high regard for these people who left everything to bring the gospel to third world countries. And as I tried to understand why the kids did not share the same convictions as their parents, many times it was because the parents were not the same people at home as they were out on the mission field. At home, they were cranky, short-tempered, or too busy to be intentional with their kids. While these parents did not represent the majority, I witnessed enough damage to learn a valuable lesson about parenting. Hypocrisy is a faith-killer in the lives of our children. It will turn them off. While I believe in the power and grace of God to remedy our failings, do we really want to take a chance on the lives of our kids?
If our children are to grow in wisdom, they must see true wisdom in us first. James 3:17 says, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.” May we all exercise the wisdom from above and see it bear fruit in the lives of our children. Then, we won’t have to worry about things like punk Barbies!