One of the great challenges today might be that adults and children think different things will cause them to flourish. Contentment vs. entitlement. Authority vs. freedom. Other-centeredness vs. self-centeredness.
Many children believe five lies because of what technology has taught them. Young parents might believe the lies, too. Spiritual maturity is a factor in how deeply the lies snare us.
As I describe each lie, reflect on how you’ve seen it in your life and/or your children’s. Add practical ideas to the things I suggest here. Truth will free them to better honor God and others. (For more complete explanations of the causes of each lie and many more recommendations than I have room for here, please see my book Screens and Teens: Connecting with Our Kids in a Wireless World, published by Moody Publishers in 2015.)
Lie #1: I am the center of my own universe.
Social media can cause children to believe this lie. If they’re old enough to post, they’ll watch to see how many “likes” they get. Many teens may ignore everyone else’s posts while expecting others to pay attention to theirs. When I point this out to them, many laugh nervously.
Young people can answer the phone if they’re in the mood. They can buy just one song (rather than needing to buy an entire album) and they can watch what they want on their own handheld device.
We must teach that God is the center of the universe and we must provide evidence from Scripture and our observations of how the world works. We must teach and reinforce that all people have value. We must call self-centeredness sin and teach children how to be other-centered. (Notice how often I used the word “teach” in this paragraph. I never said “tell them.”)
Lie #2: I deserve to be happy all the time.
Technology has taught children there are many reasons they should be happy. For instance, everything should be easy and they can always get a higher score on a game. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want children to be unhappy. They just need to understand happiness isn’t guaranteed.
We must prioritize joy over happiness, contentment over entitlement, and effort over laziness. We must allow some consequences to be in effect rather than rescuing them from all hardships.
We can model and teach the difference between wanting something and needing something. We can model our dependence on God and cultivate thankfulness.
We can also teach them how and why to wait on God. This might be among the most important things we do. It doesn’t come naturally to them.
Lie #3: I must have choices.
Because of the drop-down menus on our devices and all the websites, television channels, movies, apps, and other things available, our children think choice is their right.
We can provide choices when we can, but let’s model and explain better standards than happiness, especially when making important decisions. Children will benefit from being taught about decision making, cause-effect thinking, and how to handle it well when they make unwise choices.
Lie #4: I am my own authority.
As with the other lies, there are several causes for this one. For example, there’s no clear standard of right and wrong in our culture. Sadly, in too many homes, parents aren’t parenting and many kids are making their own decisions.
Television shows and movies often have no authority figures in them or the authority figures are shown as out-of-touch and clueless. This is especially true for traditional family authority figures like dads. Authority figures from government, schools, and the church have failed us.
We must help children see that God’s boundaries are because of His love for us and His authority is designed to protect us. We must help them learn to hear and respond to God’s voice. We must be wise and godly authorities. This can include apologizing when we make mistakes and teaching truth rather than sharing advice and opinions.
Lie #5: Information is all I need so I don’t need teachers.
Not only do children think they don’t need us because they’re their own authority, but they also may dismiss us because they think information is all they need and they can get that on their own.
They do have easy access to lots of information. We can teach them how to sift, sort, synthesize, and share it. What’s accurate? Complete? Biblically sound? Healthy? Not biased? What other standards should we use?
Once they choose what information to keep, how do they synthesize it all so that what they learned in a blog or textbook or from a lecture or conversation with mom all works together? How do ideas influence other ideas and how do they form conclusions and learn to ask compelling questions? And, even though they think they’re the center of the universe, how and why might they want to share what they know with others? They need us!
They also need us because we can help them understand the differences between information, knowledge, and wisdom. God wants us to ask for wisdom (James 1:5). We’re not taught to ask Him for information. And, we know from Proverbs like 3:13 that wisdom blesses us. Let’s model this.
It starts with us
Have you seen yourself in these lies? It’s not uncommon. This vulnerability can increase our compassion for our children. When we work to make changes in our own lives, we’ll have credibility when approaching them about theirs. Truth will win!
Kathy Koch, Ph.D., is the founder and president of Celebrate Kids, Inc., of Fort Worth, TX. She has influenced thousands of teachers, parents, and children in 30 countries at conventions and school- and church-based trainings. Her website is www.CelebrateKids.com and her blog is www.DrKathyKoch.com