What are the challenges particular to raising this generation of kids?
I heard a national parenting expert and best-selling author of three books answer that question last month. I am still chewing on his advice and wanted to share it with you. The author is Leonard Sax, MD PhD of Why Gender Matters, Boys Adrift, and Girls on the Edge.
His crucial advice to parents of boys
If you are raising boys, the most important advice he gave was to monitor their video games. Apparently, there are games designed for adults that are frequenting the hands of children as young as fifth and sixth graders. These games are rated M for "Mature." The most popular example among this age group is Grand Theft Auto.
In games like Grand Theft Auto, there are moral inversions. That means the gamer is rewarded for bad behavior instead of good. Examples from this game include making money by shooting police officers, and paying for sex with a prostitute and then killing her afterward to get your money back. My jaw completely hit the floor as I listened.
The problem is the prevalence in which these games are being played by a young, impressionable audience. Dr. Sax cited research that correlated playing these games for over three hours a day with a moral decline in the gamers. His advice was not only to monitor the games we might purchase and learn the rating system, but also monitor what games are available at friends' houses.
While I know little about gaming, I have two cousins with gaming and computer coding backgrounds. They said what is particularly intriguing about Grand Theft Auto is its design and artistry. It is on a whole new plane of gaming, which is apparent to those playing it, and thus it's all the more impressive and alluring.
Some may argue that video games are no different than watching a violent movie. But the difference Dr. Sax cited is that instead of simply watching violence in a movie, the gamer is actually doing violence in a video game. The onlooker goes from a passive to active role. And the video game design makes this shift that much more real - and dangerous.
It's important to note that Dr. Sax did not advise against all video games, however. There are some games, like Fifa Soccer, that are rather innocuous. The key is the time allotted for children to play them and their content.
His crucial advice to parents of girls
If you are raising girls, the most important advice he gave was to monitor their social media. It poses more danger for girls than boys because girls are statistically much more likely to become depressed while using it. The reason why is that boys tend to post an array of good and bad pictures on social media, illustrating a full range of experiences. Girls, however, tend to only post the positive.
He provided an example of boys and girls going to a party. The party isn't fun. A boy may post a picture of throw up. A girl, however, might take 100 pictures of herself smiling with her friends so that she can post the best picture on her feed. Meanwhile, another girl who wasn't invited to the party sees that feed from her bedroom. She feels excluded and like her life is much less exciting than her peers.
There are a couple of ways that parents can help. First, they can help put social media in perspective for younger girls. Parents can point out that pictures get airbrushed, everyone feels excluded sometimes, and life isn't always happy. Life has ups and downs, and while girls may be posting one positive moment to the next, real life is more of a mixture of happy and sad, and that's normal.
Another way that parents can help is by monitoring social media activity. Dr. Sax suggested parental controls, like Net Nanny, so that parents can watch what their children are doing on the internet as well as what they're sharing. Surprisingly, he advised parents against giving iPhones if they do provide cellphones. The reason being is that children can easily deactivate parental controls from the phone without a password. Wow.
I hope you found this information helpful like me! To learn more expert advice, go to my blog at noellekirchner.com.
Above: Amy Julia and Me
I want to introduce you to a seminary friend of mine, a friend who has gone on to write and touch thousands. Amy Julia Becker is a regular blogger for Christianity Today on Thin Places, and an author who has now published five books. But most importantly, she's a mom who wants faith to make a difference in her parenting.
Her newest book is entitled Small Talk: Learning from My Children about What Matters Most. The title certainly intrigued me. But AJ's story does too. She is a mom to two girls and one boy - and her first daughter was unexpectedly born with Down Syndrome. AJ has gone on to become an influential Christian voice on disability in our generation.
For those of you who are familiar with her writing, you know that she does not shy away from tough topics. I appreciate how she tackles some pretty meaty theological issues in her book, but under the guise of ordinary mommy life. From fights in her minivan to venting frustration by eating nachos and drinking wine (haha), AJ presents a very real glimpse into her family, and her insights on a variety of topics are a gift.
I love how children can give us snapshots of the holy through their unfiltered candor and innocence. Sometimes things my boys have said have brought me to my knees, even as I hear their little voices muddle through a prayer. I am reminded of how Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to children (Matt. 19:14). After reading Small Talk, you will believe it.
Favorite chapters of mine include Rest, Disability, God, Spirit, and Laughter. This week, you can win a free, signed copy of her book! Register by clicking here. The contest will end tomorrow at 12 pm EST on Thursday. All entrants will receive an invitation to join my email listserv - just click on the link that will come in your email if you want to accept! Be sure to visit my blog for some favorite book snippets I've shared exclusively there this week!
Above: Zondervan, 2014
The other night I was in the city. As in New York City. As in crazy hustle and bustle and I hadn’t even left Penn Station yet. Everyone was filing off of the train, eager to board the escalator that wasn’t working (again), to start the long climb up the stairs and into the corridor. Picture someone climbing in front of you, to the side of you, and right in back of you to the point that if you really thought about it, claustrophobia would definitely get the best of you. But you don’t have time to think about it. You just look down and keep climbing.
I was about to start mounting the escalator, I mean stairs, in this oh so familiar scene when someone did the extraordinary. Someone looked up. A young man with his hands full looked up, noticed a woman to the side of him, and stopped to let her go ahead. She nodded quickly in acknowledgement as strangers do.
That young man’s simple act of courtesy may seem so small. It may seem insignificant. In fact, you may be wondering, “Why does it bear repeating at all?” I’ll tell you why: Because to a mother, it means everything.
I am a busy mom of two little boys. A fellow mom embarking on a similar venture once stated, “My goal is to raise little gentlemen in the world. The world needs more gentlemen.” And just like that, a parenting goal of mine was born.
I have been tempted to think that we craft the future trajectory of our children in the big things. It’s alluring to get hung up on the schools we choose, the sport or instrument they play, and the friends they associate with. Yes, all of these choices matter. But I wonder if we overlook the cauldron of their character in an effort thrust ahead.
Character is crafted in our everyday decisions. When we choose wisely time and time again, we develop it. It does not matriculate from big accomplishments. In fact, it can best be demonstrated when there is no accolade to be gained at all. One of my favorite quotes on character reads, “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him” (Malcom S. Forbes).
Character is something that we as parents need to intentionally nurture. We can be the people who are looking now so that our children can make the right decisions when no one is looking down the road. They will remember what we taught, encouraged, and applauded so that our voice will be a guiding one when we are not right there beside them. Our job is to catch the little things: the sharing we witness at a play date, the self-sacrifice we observe for a friend, or the unprompted concern we see demonstrated for a stranger.
But fostering character in our children involves even more. It means cultivating a home culture where respect for others is the norm and manners still matter. Yes, this mom of a three-year-old who throws his food on the floor as a sign that he’s not interested, still believes that teaching manners is worth the fight – I mean effort.
Last month, KJ Dell’Antonia wrote a piece entitled “Why Schools Should Undermine Moral Teachings” for The New York Times Motherlode. She argued that it was a parent’s job to teach “morals, values, and opinions” to their children, and the school’s job to encourage students to question them. This is how a society can mature, self-correct and stay on the “right side of history,” she says. While there is value in teaching our children independent reasoning, her argument means that we as parents have an even more important job to do.
Because you see, I want to raise boys who look up. Everyone else was just climbing, climbing the stairs of Penn Station that evening, but there was one young man who stopped and looked up. He evaluated his surroundings, chose to break the norm, and showed someone else a sign of respect. No one was applauding him. In fact, some people were pushing him from behind to keep moving. But he chose chivalry instead.
I do not want to be the kind of parent who wants her children to keep climbing, climbing in life oblivious to what’s going on around them. And superior to any reasoning power is the value base that informs it. Yes, I want great things for my children. Yes, I dream big dreams for their accomplishments. But it’s funny - the things that will one day make us the most proud just might not be what we expect.
"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6
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