The biggest challenge for parenting today is that the technology can become a huge distraction, and the children are at risk of having their cyber-powered peer communities becoming a single point of reference for life. Nevertheless parents are the primary teachers for life, and formation of faith is first learned at home. So how can parents impart their faith when kids can easily believe that everything they think they need to know about the world they can simply “Google”? (I call this the “smarty pants syndrome”).
Three things parents can do to impart the spiritual wisdom of their faith
1. Focus on God’s promises*. The main thing parents need to do is dispel the notion that they have control over their children and the technology. Actually, we don’t. Parents do have divine authority to govern the home, and educate the child. And yet fear inspires a desire to control the child. So my faith informs me that God is good and He is sovereign over good and evil; and He only allows what ultimately serves His purposes (Romans 8:28). The most strategic thing the modern parent can do is control their own thoughts and actions as teachers who lead by example in response to their tech savvy children. I have found that it helps to focus on God’s promises to restore and maintain the confidence that comes from Divine Love, from which fear distracts us.
Below are some of examples of Scripture that help me focus on the Divine Love of Christ as a mindset for victory.
- Jeremiah 31: 16-17 (My interpretation: God’s 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.) To learn more about boundary-setting as a liberating not oppressive experience at home, go to: Reviving Parenthood.
- Romans 12:2 (My interpretation: do not be conformed by the lies in the world that can become a real experience murdering the truth – i.e., the things cyberbullies says about you, rather renew your mind with the truth of Christ – that you are made with lovingkindness and you are not a victim unless you choose to believe the lies).
- 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.)
By focusing on God’s promises, it is possible to establish a mindset in responding to the power and control issues of tech savvy children with forgiveness and grace, and train your child NOT to give up power to the bully, the drug or the device.
“To educate is to enlighten the mind and warm the heart to the love of God.” – St. Joseph Marello
2. Get interested in who your child is and what interests him/her. This means that you must refrain from judging their interests, or approaching your child with an agenda, and let them share with you what is happening in their world. Since it is not reasonable to expect you can know everything about the new apps emerging and constantly changing, the relationship with your child is your trump over technology. Being genuinely interested in what your child likes to do and what apps she finds useful or has a desire to try, and you are honestly not trying to control outcomes, it is possible to maintain an open dialogue.
3. Impart your spiritual wisdom. Invite your child to know how your faith has informed you about a situation or circumstance. Get your child thinking critically about his interests and point them back to their own relationship with the LORD. So if you see gossip on their smart phone, for example, ask your child how they would feel if they were the subject of the things being said. And then encourage them to think about ways that they can redirect the conversation and repair relationships, or how they may choose to handle things differently in the future. Your child has access to wisdom that comes from the heart of God and free will (James 1:5). That is a relationship we must honor in the process of educating and instilling discipline.
To learn more about imparting the spiritual wisdom and discipline of your faith, check out the Fresh Start manual that guides parents through the process of creating a family culture that builds trust by imparting the wisdom of your faith, inspires open communication, and promotes individual resilience so your child can be more secure in the social network.
(*Note: Indeed the origin of liberty is freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. And yet we are not comfortable talking about our faith in the public square or in the home be it Christian, Buddhist, Muslim or atheist. And since spiritual and religious beliefs are the elephant in the room, please allow me to declare this about myself and my motivation. I consider myself to be an American with a heart for Jesus Christ. My Christian faith is my choice to embrace the spiritual wisdom of my parents. I was raised in Oakland, California in the Catholic faith. My dad was a devout Catholic, and my mom was raised in the Methodist tradition by her mother and her father did not declare affiliation with any religion. My faith as a mom was shaped by how my parents formed a united front to raise their children respecting their faith as a personal thing not to be micromanaged by the other. They instilled two thoughts that serve me to this day: 1) something is only true if you allow it be true in your own mind, and 2) in order to succeed, you must apply yourself.)
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 (videos)
- Follow Joanna @CyberParenting
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- Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner
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- Email: Jullien@surewest.net
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.