Parents these days are obsessed with trying to make sure we don’t allow anything in our kids’ lives that might harm them physically or mentally. If it seems unsafe, we keep our kids away. It seems like a no-brainer: if it might hurt them, we don’t want it around.
But, all too often we overlook the things in our kids’ lives that may seem harmless, but are actually spiritually damaging. Here are five ways that we Christian parents may be spiritually harming our children.
1. Allowing them to have unsupervised access to TVs and computers. The people who make television shows (even kids’ shows), movies, and websites do not care about your child. They likely don’t share the same values as you do. What is on television today would’ve been rated R when we were children, yet we allow our kids unlimited access to programs that actively teach them the opposite of God’s truth. Even the programs for tweens and older children on Channels like Disney and Nick are filled with boyfriend/girlfriend drama at the very least, and gender identity issues and other much too adult topics in some cases. We have to be aware that these programs are designed to form a worldview in our children that Hollywood finds good and acceptable. This worldview is not in line with Christianity–not at all! I’m not saying that we should keep our kids in a bubble, but if we’re going to allow them to watch TV, it should be in our living rooms, where we can see what they’re watching and we can talk to them about what they are seeing that is contrary to the Bible.
Giving kids unsupervised internet access is not just a bad idea–it is extremely dangerous to their spiritual health. Pornographers are desperate to hook your child on their industry. Children can accidentally stumble upon pornography (thanks to the sneaky ways of the industry), and once they see those images, they can’t un-see them. Their mind is suddenly awakened to the fascinating world of pornography. Other times they are introduced to pornography by friends. Cell phones are a major source of pornography exposure. All of our kids’ devices and computers should be equipped with good filters and internet accountability software. We can’t assume that our kids “would never do that.” The world is a tempting place, and pornography is destroying families as I type this. We must be vigilant in doing all we can to keep our children from falling into this sin trap. Pornography is a deep, shameful pit that is so difficult to climb out of. It’s so easy to purchase simple filters. Let’s not enable our children take on a lifelong sin struggle like pornography addiction just because we feel like we can trust them. It’s okay to trust our children–but we CANNOT trust the industry that is waiting at every turn to draw them in.
2. Arguing in front of them. Husbands and wives argue. It’s a fact of life. It happens. But, when arguments arise, we should make every effort to wait until the children aren’t around before we “discuss.” This is partly because children have a tendency to blow things out of proportion, misunderstand things that they hear adults say, and get extremely stressed and even frightened when their parents argue. If it happens a lot in our homes, we’re hurting our kids’ sense of security and peace. It can make it difficult for us to be good examples of love, joy, peace, patience, and all of those other fruits of the spirit that are generally not on our radar in the middle of a marital argument. Unless we are excellent communicators, our arguments can end up being examples of how NOT to solve conflict and how NOT to treat people you love.
Plus, most things we argue about as adults are adult issues, and not suitable for the kids to be in on. We shouldn’t put children in the position of taking sides or in trying to decide who is right and who is wrong. Arguing in front of them hurts their spiritual development because our marriage should be a picture to them of the kind of love that Christ has for us. The Bible makes it clear that this is the purpose of marriage on this Earth. So, we should strive to make our marriages examples of sacrificial love.
3. Teaching them morality instead of loving obedience. As parents we have a tendency to have lots of rules for our children. We have eating rules and dressing rules and talking rules and cleaning rules. We have play rules and sleep rules. And, we think that when we get our children to obey the rules we are preparing them to be good Christians. But, if we don’t teach our children the deeper truth behind the rules, we are failing our children, spiritually. Rules are good–in most cases they are designed to protect us. But, the reason we obey rules is not just so we won’t get in trouble or so we won’t get hurt. It’s because we are called to be obedient to God and to the authorities He has placed in our lives. When we are children, those authorities are parents. Thus, when we obey our parents, we are obeying God. And we obey out of love for those who love and take care of us.
4. Staying home on Sundays. Life is so busy these days. We feel it, too. Even Saturdays are filled with so many activities that suddenly we parents realize that we have no down time with our families. And, the easiest thing to cut out sometimes is church. You may miss one or two weeks, intending to go back soon, but then you get accustomed to the sleeping in on Sundays, to the lake days that start right about when your pastor stands up to begin his sermon. Pretty soon you realize that you haven’t been to church, well, since last Easter. And your kids have no church home or spiritual family to call their own.
The Christian life is not meant to be lived in solitude. It isn’t designed to mean just as much to be out on the lake “enjoying God’s creation” as being in worship with brothers and sisters in Christ. Christianity is hard. We need each others. God called us to be there for each other, to spend time together in worship, to make listening to the teaching of His word a priority. Even Jesus went to church! And we think our families don’t need it? Oh, what a sad thing it is for Christian parents to wake up one morning with a child who is a senior in high school, suddenly realizing that they let sports, hunting, academics, and many other things take priority over church attendance. And, soon they see that they will send their child out into the world alone, with no foundation to stand on, no notion of what it means to be part of a church family that prays for you, tends to your needs, and shares in your struggles. Just because they weren’t diligent in teaching him that a Christian community matters. And, by the way, even if you don’t realize it, you are suffering spiritually, too, when you stay at home on Sundays.
5. Allowing them to play violent video games. I remember reading somewhere several years ago that the average American child will see 200,000 violent acts on television by the time they are 18. If your child plays violent video games that number is much, much higher. When we allow children to get engrossed in these imaginary worlds where they are the heroes (or the bad guys), and are not just shooting, but blowing the brains out of , slicing up, and pulling intestines out of other people (or aliens or zombies or whatever), we are letting them dwell on these vile and ungodly things for hours at a time. Many of the violent video games also contain sexual content as well. I realize that most kids who play these games will not end up acting out violence in real life (although some will), but they are certainly not dwelling on what is pure, noble, right, and lovely when they engage in pretend violence and sexuality. Our goal as Christians is to set our minds on things above, to be holy like God is holy, and these violent video games are certainly a stumbling point as we reach toward that goal.
I’m sure that you could add many other ideas to this list, but I will close here for now. No one is perfect as a parent or a Christian, but we can be more intentional about directing the spiritual development of our children. We want to teach our children to love God and to strive to be like Christ, and we want to be holy examples for them to look to. We know how to protect our children from physical harm. Shielding them from spiritual harm is another important calling. These five areas are pretty good places to start.