Normal isn’t working, especially in our families.
Think about it… What’s normal look like in our families?
Disconnected: Parents and kids don’t talk, don’t share, and don’t have relationships and are living alone under the same roof.
Overcommitted: Kids have two-hours of practice and three hours of homework and parents are exhausted just trying to keep up.
Debt: Kids playing with (and breaking) expensive toys that parents paid too much for on a credit card that will continue to be a financial burden for months to come.
Unloved: With increasing commitments, overwhelming stress, and vast distractions our kids are leaving the home to look for love and finding it in places we don’t want them to.
Do you want a normal family? I don’t.
In my last blog I shared ways that every family needs to be different. I’m convinced the six things I shared are absolutely necessary for every family.
Here’s the tension about being different: When the Holy Spirit leads us there is no cookie cutter kind of different.
Today I’m going to share some topics every family needs to thoughtfully and prayerfully approach, because without a plan we’ll live outside of God’s design in the default of normal.
Prayerfully consider how your family will approach these topics:
#1 – TECHNOLOGY
There’s no simple answer to technology these days.
For parents just a generation ago the question pf technology was answered as simply as “How many hours of TV will you let them watch each day?”
These days we need to consider television, tablets, laptops, phones, internet access, social networks, and how they all work together.
Here are few questions you need to have answers for:
At what age will your kids be allowed to own certain kinds of technology like tablets or laptops?
How and when will they be able to use them once they have them?
How old will your kids be when they get a cell phone?
When will you let your kids have social network profiles? How are you going to monitor them?
Will you have technology-free nights as a family to encourage more interaction?
These are important questions to answer NOW.
In the heat of the moment, as your kids grow older and normal families do what normal families do, the pressure will mount to be normal when there is no family identity that’s created around a different plan.
If you haven’t identified your unique brand of freaky, you’re kids and your family could become victims to normal.
I learned this lesson coaching football. Before the season starts, a good football-coaching staff will go through different scenarios and decide what they will do when they get to that moment. They do this so they can look at the problem objectively, without the stress and influence of the moment. The benefit of this approach is simple: when decision has to be made, the decision has already been made.
Technology isn’t evil and it can be a powerful tool, but when it thoughtlessly consumed it has a devastating effect on family culture. Your prayerful approach to technology will have a powerful impact on your family.
For further reading, I’d suggest “Alone Together” by Sherry Trukle.
#2 – MONEY
You don’t have to look very far to see the evidence that we’re raising kids that have no concept of money or financial management.
The greatest reason this is happening is that we, as parents, can’t manage our money. We’re living beyond our means, buying stuff we don’t need to impress people we don’t even like, and going in debt at an unprecedented rate.
Why is that an important issue? Because however we address money, we pass that on to our children!
“Good people leave an inheritance to their grandchildren, but the sinner’s wealth passes to the godly.” Proverbs 13:22 (NLT)
Here are a few questions that it’d be good to talk about and pray through:
As a family, will you give your kids an allowance or have them work for you on commission?
Will you help your kids save for their first car or will you buy it for them as a present?
Are you going teach your kids to give and save before they spend?
How are you going to help your kids understand and feel the dollar value associated with their purchases?
I hope you’re with me on this… I don’t want what’s normal for my kids financially. Since we don’t want normal, we’re going to have to be different, and that different is going to be far better!
For further help on this matter we suggest, “Smart Money, Smart Kids” by Rachel Cruze and Dave Ramsey.
#3 – EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
I believe that there is great value in the immense offerings of extracurricular activities today: youth sports, martial arts, competition cheer, dance, music lessons, gymnastics, art lessons, and the list goes on and on.
As a kid I feel like I benefitted from the competition of youth sports. I learned how to win and lose, how to work for something, and that it’s ok for other people to be better than me at things. Those are powerful lessons!
What’s changed drastically since I was kid is the amount of time needed for these activities. What was one practice and one game a week has turned into three or four practices and two or three games a week. That’s a significant change in the level of commitment for our time!
Here’s something that you need to understand about the emergence of all these options: someone is making money off of providing these options for your child. These organizations will put the pressure on you to make decisions for your child and their level of commitment.
Let me remind you of something: As a parent, no one can commit your family to something except you.
Even with their increasing commitment, I think that many of these options can be wonderful things for our kids.
Here are few questions you need to prayerfully and thoughtfully consider:
How much time are you willing to give for each child for an extracurricular activity?
How many nights will you commit to be home each week?
How many activities can each child be involved in? During each season? During the year?
How much money are you going to invest as a family into these activities?
How are you going to balance your other commitments and your commitment to these activities?
When there’s a conflict between your commitments, what takes priority?
Here’s why these questions matter significantly: You’re teaching your children what matters in life in the way you navigate these options. The way you spend your time is a value statement to your children.
If you give their secondary activities primary importance, you’re teaching them to find value in the wrong places. That’s normal, and we don’t want to be normal!
Eternally… If we don’t teach our kids to find their ultimate meaning and significance in Jesus, we’ve missed the point entirely.
For further reading, we’d suggest “Boundaries” buy Cloud & Townsend.
#4 – CULTURE
There’s never been more ways to connect to culture.
We can watch TV shows on Netflix and Hulu. Listen to albums on Spotify or download them from iTunes. We can stream movies over the internet.
With all of that access comes the good and the bad. The freedom of the internet has given a rise to a remarkable amount of uncensored media, and the dangers that lie there for our kids cannot be understated.
There are few things questions that find more basis in the Scriptures than how we interact with our culture.
In the Old Testament, God created a different culture in the nation of Israel. They stood out. They were different. They had different customs, and through that difference God created their identity.
By the time Jesus shows us, that difference is primarily defined by distance: the God-followers stayed away from those who didn’t follow the religious laws. That wasn’t necessarily how God wanted it to be, so Jesus showed us a different way.
Those “God-followers” called Jesus a “friend of sinners”, because Jesus closed that gap and lived with those who were far away from God. (Matthew 11:19)
Here are a few questions to prayerfully consider when it comes to media and culture:
Will you watch movies with your kids or let them watch movies for themselves?
What kinds of ratings will you let them watch? At what age?
Will you have conversations about what they watch and listen to?
How are you going to stay connected with the music they listen to?
Are you going to stay away from mainstream culture as a family or are you going to be a part of mainstream culture?
* * * * *
These conversations are going to make a huge impact at creating a family identity, and where that identity is strong your kids will be strong.
What did I miss? What else do we need to talking about?