The most toxic temptation for the modern parent is to seek control over their child’s on-line experiences and worry about their exposure to harmful and shame inspiring ideas and images.
As parents, we know that the modern child can easily access people, information or images through smart devices, and we must accept that we have less control over our children’s life experiences than previous generations. The desire to protect the innocence of children is significantly frustrated, and can easily become a misguided motivation full of torment.
When the aim of a parent’s prayer for the cyber-powered child is to help her realize the power of her faith as a personal thing, and to strengthen your own confidence in God’s sovereignty and your child’s ability to learn how to exercise free will wisely– it is possible to strengthen your role in your child’s life as a trusted resource to impart wisdom. When we pray, we are further qualifying our spiritual authenticity to be present in our children’s lives as a safe harbor for all experiences good and not good. And the children are seeking this authenticity from us (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
Deny your fearful impulses
My faith informs me that parenthood is a divine appointment, with the almighty authority that comes from the heart of God. It is the same mustard seed of faith that makes a free society possible: God’s sovereignty and man’s free will (Aa).
(A) God’s authority + (a) man’s authority =
Aa (genuine authority)
Your role as the parent is to teach them about the obedience that brings about liberty to steer their own ship in life.
In that sense parents are household executives and children are emerging executives. We are all learning executives with power (free will) over our own hearts and minds. I have found that when I choose to be in alignment with God’s will (Aa), it is possible to govern the home with discipline that may be perceived by children as empowerment. This is the genuine authority that is God’s love expressed as boundary-setting (house rules) that also become points of conversation about what is happening in your child’s life, and then it is possible to impart wisdom. The first empowerment experience for your child happens when they choose to obey. The challenge for the modern parent then is to choose not to surrender that authority to fear and worry which prevents open communication at home necessary to impart wisdom about obedience.
“To love another person is to see the face of God.” ― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables.
How to pray for your child
Below are some tips for how to pray for your child to be a resilient and confident user of smart devices and keep an open dialogue with parents.
Step 1: Focus on God’s promises for humanity: charity, forgiveness and grace.
They apply to your family today. Below are some examples of God’s promises from Scripture, with my interpretation of how God’s grace strengthens your parent heart with confidence of God’s sovereignty over you, your relationship with your child, your family and your community.
- Jeremiah 31: 16-17 (My interpretation: God’s eternal promise to return us and our children to our own boarders [heart and mind] when we are faithful to Him. This means that we must honor free will as He does – especially when disciplining children. When we put our trust in God and shed fear emotion we can then be an instrument of peace and make home [realm of heart and mind] the place to be, and allow God’s grace to pull us ALL closer to Him in the restoration process.)
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (My interpretation: This scripture describes the universal values and characteristics of the trustworthiness every human seeks in a relationship. It is the nature of God, who is love. It is the character we want to embody as good citizens, spouses, parents, children, bosses, leaders. It makes us safe people with whom to be in relationship.)
- James 1:5 (My interpretation: God grants wisdom generously to the sincere heart. We can pray for the hearts of our children and spouses to be touched by the Holy Spirit and receive wisdom about their distraction from the important relationships that keep us secure: God and family.)
- Romans 12:2 (My interpretation: When we apply our faith, we are thereby expressing God’s will for us which is peace of mind to overcome the undue influence of the world by renewing our minds to be in relationship with Him first and then others in all circumstances.)
The challenge is to embrace your faith as the primary “app” for the heart and mind every day. Think on these things (Aa). You will see opportunities to strengthen your family bonds around your God-given liberty to set boundaries for correct thinking and conduct, and enforce house rules as empowerment, and make your home a safe place to be open and honest about what is happening in the cyber and physical realms.
Step 2: Let go of the desire in your heart to be in control of your child’s life experiences on and off-line.
The desire to be in control of your child’s life experiences is rooted in fear, not love. And so it is important to remember that every day we will encounter experiences that inspire fearful thoughts and we have to decide whether or not we are going to allow those thoughts to govern our hearts and minds.
For example, if your child is being cyber-bullied, then you and your child are experiencing the torment of a lie which is being acted out by others who chose not to resist their own fearful impulses; these bullying acts do not come from the heart of God. So I have found it helpful to consider that Christ has delegated the authority to everyone who believes on Him, the power to forgive; that is to let go of the lies that have become real experiences murdering the truth about who we are as children of the Lord, and pursue the good instead, that is rooted in God’s promises.
One of the ways to pursue the good in a situation of bullying is to seek justice for all, not vengeance towards the aggressor. God grants and honors free will, and so it is true that under the right circumstances and the wrong thinking (i.e., believing the lies) we are all capable of becoming the aggressor, target or bystander in a bullying circumstance. Our faith gives us the power over our own heart and mind to overcome evil with good by the grace of God, and it is possible to help our children set a similar standard for themselves and their peers. This is how we can model a peaceful society. By holding individuals accountable with a merciful and hopeful heart – not a condemning and punishing heart (which inspires fearful thoughts and disturbs the peace).
Pray for your child to have the mind of Christ: Philippians 2:5 – Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
For more about confronting the bully at school, go to: Reviving Parenthood.
Step 3: Respond to shame-inspiring experiences with a non-judgmental heart.
Accept that your child has the capacity to learn how to forgive the things that happen that are not of God’s promises – such as choices resulting in bullying, exploitation and addiction. To forgive is to hold your self and individuals accountable with a merciful heart full of hope that comes from choosing to obey the boundaries of God’s will which liberate the soul.
So how do you respond when your child does something or becomes engaged in some situation or circumstance that is not lovable? How do you expect to handle trauma and shame-inspiring experiences? When we pray for our children, consider that your child is the answer to prayer. That in our children we can seek and find the face of God in every circumstance, no matter how tragic, depraved, elated or joyful. To borrow a phrase from Les Miserables, this is what it means to love another: to see the face of God. And when we pray to see the face of God in our own children, they too will be able to recognize the heart of Christ in your parenthood with authority that cannot be taken, but it can be surrendered to fear.
Because God grants individuals sovereignty over their own intellect and will, something is only true if you allow it in your own mind – no matter what is happening in the world. So if your daughter is being cyberbullied because she sent a naked or sexually explicit photo of herself to a love interest who later decided to distribute it, does that make her a slut? If your son is hooked on oxycontin, does that make him a drug addict?
Well that depends upon what you choose to believe and more importantly what your child chooses to believe about him or herself. My faith informs me that Jesus knows all about it. Cyberbullying and the sexting are reflecting untruth about who our children are in the form of very real experiences because we typically act on our beliefs. So when a lie becomes a real experience murdering truth and inspiring shame, addiction and trauma, how will you respond?
Through prayer we have the authority to declare the truth by God’s grace that our children are not criminals and victims. They are a divine idea in the mind of God. Declare God’s grace over everything. Declare it with the authority of your faith by thanking God for these problems that are a part of His divine plan to redeem and restore what is lost or destroyed by believing the wrong things. The forgiveness and grace of your prayers inspires repentance (turning to God), which is choosing to change your own course to rise above undue influences by His grace.
Resources for the power of prayer
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.
- Cyber safety for kids and families on TheFish103.9FM
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- Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner
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Jodie Stevens, hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM The Fish offers insights and lessons learned about faith and recovery from addiction. Check out her blog, Genuine Life with Jodie Stevens, weekday mornings on the Family Morning Show.