Teaching Children to Make Wise Choices

My kids like to use the IPads and computers for games. For about 4 months they were banned from gadgets so we could finish our homeschooling year. But after I gave birth, online educational programs and apps were a big help to keep the kids productive while I was busy with Catalina.

We stuck to certain parameters.

1. Is the game or app educational?
2. Will it help to develop an important skill?
3. Will it allow you to grow in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and men? (Luke 2:52)
4. Playing games have time limits attached to their use.

Our kids know my apple ID and password. But they don’t abuse it. They will always ask for permission before getting an app, even if it is free. And they know what their boundaries are in terms of criteria.

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About two years ago, my second son, Edan, got hooked on Plants vs Zombies. He was obsessed with it. It was the first time I became concerned about letting the kids use the iPad for fun. I felt like we had opened a Pandora’s box as a family and let in the game monster. Edan of all my other children seemed to have a greater tendency towards addiction. He was more vulnerable.

In fact he admitted to me recently that the danger of computer games for him is he thinks about them even when he isn’t playing.

Every child is different and as parents we need to know what their strengths and weaknesses are. Elijah, for example, can self regulate and say, “Okay, I don’t want to play with gadgets for a week because I don’t want to get addicted.” And he can busy himself with reading and other interests.

However, Edan is different. He has a harder time controlling his desire for gaming. So we need to help him and avoid putting him in predicaments where he can “feed” that side of him.

A few days ago he came up to me asking if he could install a certain app. It was a game. It wasn’t educational. I struggled as a mom. Edan is a good son. By God’s grace, he is obedient, too. When he asked me, I could see the DESIRE in his eyes. He wanted the game and his happiness seemed to hinge on my response.

So I gave him the opportunity to present why he liked the game, to hear him out. And then I asked him very gently and thoughtfully, “Is this game educational?”

He answered, “No.”

“Is it a business game? Will it teach you business principles?”

“No.” His shoulders hunched over and he seemed disheartened.

“Will it help you to grow in wisdom, stature, favor with God and man? (Luke 2:52)

He shook his head and started to tear.

“Do you think you should get it then?”

When I asked this, he started to cry out loud. He already knew the answer.

Oh my heart broke as a mom. I hugged him. I knew it was important to him and he wanted the game very badly. He had taken a step of faith when he asked me. And a part of me was tempted to give in and then to remove the app later
on if it really was destructive.

But I had to be consistent. I had to consider his greater good and not just his present happiness. So I said something like this…”Edan, mommy wants you to enjoy playing games. I like you to have fun. But you need to find a game that will help you to develop a skill. It can’t be for entertainment purposes only. So why don’t you find something that is educational and present it to me as an option?”

Well, he was able to find an incredible app called Paper 53. It’s a great app for artists. Edan understands balance and symmetry without having learned these concepts so I know that he can hone his artistic abilities. When he showed me the app, I heartily agreed to get it for him because it would be a profitable use of his time.

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I wanted to share this because we need to teach our older children to make wise choices, to weigh the pros and cons of a decision. When they are younger, we can pull off the “obey because I said so.” But this has to change as they grow up. We don’t want them to obey on the outside but harbor resentment and rebellion on the inside. So it helps to get them to think through their decision making process, especially when it comes to dealing with the desires of the heart.

My parents used the same approach with me when I was interested in dating someone who would have been a poor choice. They took me out to dinner and asked me the right questions. Over the course of the conversation, just like Edan, I cried, but I knew what I had to do. I was able to arrive at a discerning conclusion and I did not entertain the guys attempts to pursue a relationship with me. I was 15.

We don’t want to raise children who have an underdeveloped capacity for sound judgement. So it helps to start off with clear principles that we want to live by as a family. And then we need to teach these to our children, reinforcing these principles by our own adherence to them and our consistency in upholding them in the home. When they are in predicaments that can lead to a violation of a principle, the asking-questions-part comes in. Let them consider whether their choices or actions favor those principles or go against them so they take ownership of their decisions. It also helps when we communicate trust in their capacity to make wise choices that please God because he is present in their lives.

A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, But a man of understanding draws it out. (Proverbs 20:5 NASB)

PARAPHRASED FOR PARENTING: “The intentions in the heart of a child are like deep waters but a parent of understanding draws them out.”

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When He Feels Like A King

(Written with permission from Edric and recently edited to remove the cynical parts that I felt were unnecessary and detracted from the main point. Ahhh, the blessings of blogging!)

Some weeks ago, I wrote an article about husbands and their cave man time. I understand that Edric needs occasions during the week to unwind and do something that refuels his “tank.” Recently, hanging out with his cousin playing NBA on a PS3 has been it. He will get together with him once a week or once every two weeks and they will go for hours and hours challenging each other. Meanwhile, I stay at home with the kids and chill with them. After they go to bed, I have my own version of cave man time — meditative silence. No one needs me, no one is clamouring for my attention. Being alone like this gives me opportunity to write, research, and read. Heaven.

As much as I have wanted to give Edric his man-space, when I found out that he and his cousin had organised a PS3, NBA tournament with a bunch of other guys, I wasn’t thrilled. I was worried that it would become something more frequent.

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The thing is, about five or so years ago, Edric had an issue with computer gaming. He had a nightly habit of using the PS3 he had to play NBA. I was worried about the example he was giving to the children and his own spiritual health. It seemed to make him edgier and more abrasive as a person, probably because he was pumped up with adrenalin and testosterone. So I actually prayed really hard that the machine would break.

A few weeks later, the PS3 had a supernatural encounter with ants. They infested the console and destroyed it. Edric tried to get it fixed two or three times by a questionable and strange genius who worked in Shoppesville, Greenhills. The guy named “Val” happened to have long nails on one hand or finger (one of those) which he probably used to unscrew bolts on all sorts of gadgets. Yet, for all his celebrated ability, the best he could do was get the console to work for 5 minutes. The fan would overheat and shut down after 5 minutes and Edric would have to re-start it. Of course, this was ridiculous…so ridiculous, Edric decided to sell it. Yeah! He knew I had prayed about his gaming and we laughed about the entire incident because it turned into a comedy. The great news was, he didn’t replace it and for years and years and computer gaming was not in his radar.

When he started playing again, not as a daily habit or in the addictive sense, but as an occasional fun activity that he can enjoy with friends, I made it into an issue. He said, “Remember you wrote about cave man time? Your reaction to playing computer games seems like a contradiction to what you said in that article.” At that moment, I wanted to delete my cave man article, and all articles he could possibly cite! He was using it against me, but I knew that he was right, too. Guys really do need their creative outlets and it’s a blessing that Edric’s happens to be something “safe.” What is playing a sports game once a week (and outside of the house) for a couple of hours if it will de-stress and energize my husband? I was being a bit irrational…maybe even hormonal.

On the day of the “big” tournament, I watched Edric as he ate his breakfast that morning, as he chatted with his friends over the phone while discussing last minute details for the tournament venue. His countenance was marked by an obvious delight and excitement. My heart started to soften.

Look at his smile, I thought. This really fills him. It’s clean fun. He’s not the kind of guy that has a vice that you need to worry about. Be happy for him. You spend time on facebook and amazon from time to time. That’s pretty useless. Okay, okay…whew, let me process this.

I decided to do the one thing that always works to calm my spirit. I prayed! “Lord, if my heart is wrong, please change it. If Edric is wrong then please convict him. I don’t want this to be a continuing source of tension between us.”

My attitude did change! It was strange. Edric said he would be done before midnight and I wished him a great time. “Bring home the trophy, babe!” I called out and meant it!

That night I enjoyed being with the kids. They all bunked in our bedroom. I actually fell asleep before some of them did…like 9:30pm. But at 2:30 am, I woke up and realized that Edric wasn’t home yet. Since I expected him to be back before midnight, I tried to call him just to check and see if he was alright. He did not answer so I figured he was still preoccupied with a game. It’s amazing that I didn’t feel like panicking. I just texted him. “Are you safe? Are you okay?” He replied, “Sorry I missed your call. Yes, don’t worry. On my last game.”

I found out that he got home at 3:45 am. And miracle of miracles, I didn’t feel like rubbing it in. He had a class to attend at 8:30 am and it was a wonder that he was able to make it. Anticipating that his fatigue would surely kick in by noon, I prepared him lunch to eat in the bedroom; turned on the AC so it would be comfortable when he arrived; and when he got home, I asked if he was alright, if there was anything I could do for him, and informed him that the room was prepared so he could rest. He looked at me like he had just had an alien encounter. “Who are you?” he asked jokingly. “Are you my wife? What did you do to her?” He couldn’t believe I was so supportive and understanding. He went on to say, “Why are you doing all this? You are treating me like a king. I like it!”

I really couldn’t understand it either. I was cheerful, sing-songy, asking him about how the tournament went like I was really interested…Why was I so supportive and understanding? It was flabbergasting. Of course, the answer was it simply wasn’t me. It was the Holy Spirit giving me a desire to take care of him and serve him. For those of you who have followed this blog, you know that service is my least favorite language of love, but it is the one thing that my husband appreciates most from me. So this was definitely not me, it was God’s grace!

I WANTED him to feel like a king. And you know what? He was the one who said, “I played too long last night. This is not sustainable. I can’t do that again. We really have to impose a time limit with the guys.” That was from the Lord, too! There must really be something to this gentle and quiet spirit that the Lord asks wives to put on! ;)

A woman in our church shared about “killing your husband with kindness.” She was married to an infidel and adulterer, but instead of harboring bitterness and anger towards him, she was an outstanding example of what it means to be a Christ-follower. As a result, her husband repented, turned his life over to the Lord, and became a pastor with a ministry that is incredibly effective.

In reference to this, Edric used the same line with me as he was sitting on the bed, drinking his warm soup. “You killed me with kindness, hon.” And we both laughed. (He really isn’t a bad husband at all so the statement didn’t exactly apply, but I knew what he meant.)

For the rest of the day, I made sure the kids didn’t disturb Edric because he needed to catch up on sleep. After he woke up, he was beaming. He couldn’t wait to spend time with me and he kept talking about how blessed he was that I took care of him.

Do I like computer games now? Nope. But I know my husband and I trust that he has his priorities in order. More importantly, I know that God holds him accountable. It is in the Lord’s department to bring about conviction.

I love the Lord and I love Edric. I want to support and respect Edric because God asks that of me, even when I don’t always like his choices. I’ve tried the vindictive route too many times, where I use angry silence, nag about what is right, withhold intimacy, or speak and act in disrespectful ways to communicate my disappointment. (Women have many weapons of mass destruction but they tend to backfire.) Truthfully, I am blessed with a wonderful, godly husband. But when I see areas that concern me, I’m learning over and over again that prayer is the best way to minister to him. Prayer is power not only to change the heart of the one I am interceding for, but the power to change me, too!

God knows I need to improve on being a gentle and quiet spirit. It’s a moment by moment challenge. One day I can write an article like this and seem like such an angel and the next day, I am the complete opposite! But such is the Christian life. I can do nothing apart from the Holy Spirit’s enabling. Prayer keeps me connected to him.

Prayer helps me to treat Edric like a king — honored and held in high regard as he should be. And let me just add that when my husband feels like a king, I get treated like a queen. It is certainly a nice bonus!

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