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Leading Your Kids In a Changing World

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Americans have always had disagreements about what’s right and what’s wrong and which fundamental principles should guide us as we make those calls. But it seems that the divide between two ideological camps is growing wider by the day. We live in a rapidly changing world—and that’s a tough world to grow up in!

It could be a classroom debate about religion, sex outside of marriage, or care for our environment. These are turbulent times, and the questions raised every day are big ones.

Now more than ever, your children need to be fully-grounded in the values you hold dear, and know how to respond when those values are challenged because they will be.

Making sure your kids know the difference between right and wrong and how to apply that wisdom to contemporary problems, is just half the battle. You also need to equip them with the ability to express themselves in a winsome way that will influence others. They have an opportunity to impact their peers in a positive way when it comes to moral or values-based questions. Here are 4 ways you can ready your child to know what she thinks and express it well!

1. Start far earlier than you think you should.

It’s much easier for a child to be comfortable and grounded in a core value if that value has been taught and demonstrated from their earliest memory. If you want your kids to know that there is a God and that he loves us and calls us to live life a certain way, you need to start talking about that idea daily in the toddler years. As they develop a sense of the world around them, their young minds can grasp—and firmly grab onto—more than you think. As your children get older, mentors can play an important role in developing their sense of values.

2. Teach your children core beliefs outside the context of a contemporary debate.

The rhetoric in our culture is emotionally charged by loud 24-hour news channels, protests in the streets, and people shouting one another down over issues of all kinds. It can be really difficult for your children to grasp an unchanging truth in the midst of all the noise. For example, don’t try to teach them about the sanctity of life for the first time in the context of the abortion debate. Just teach them how life is a precious gift given by God from the time they’re small and then help them interpret the political debate through that lens later on.

3. Help them understand that those who disagree aren’t necessarily enemies.

Many in our culture have forgotten how to sincerely disagree without being mean. This is one of those things that is modeled more easily than its taught. Do you stand in front of the TV mocking and putting down the talking heads who espouse views contradictory to your own? Do you make political leaders with which you disagree the butt of every joke? Or do you keep enough emotional distance and maturity to be able to say, “I totally disagree, based upon…” without making it personal? Show your children how to maintain ideological integrity without being hateful or hurtful and to show simple respect to everyone. You can even model this behavior in the way you debate with them!

4. Discerning which hills to “die on.”

In military speak, a “hill to die on” is one that absolutely must be taken or the war is lost—making fighting to your last breath a reasonable choice. The obvious implication is that not every hill is this important. The same is true with the debates of our day. Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where the principle is so clear and the stakes are so high that you can’t back down. But, most of the time, you can agree to disagree and live to “fight”—or influence the person in question—another day.

For instance, if you go for the throat when debating with your coworker about same sex marriage and perhaps even “win” the debate, but so alienate him that he never wants to be in the same room with you, have you really won? This is an important idea to impress upon your kids as they mature and find themselves engaged in more conversations where the opinions are diverse and passionate. Of course, they should speak their minds about what they believe, but there’s a way to do that which is resolute, humble and grounded, yet winsome. Don’t train them to win the battle and lose the war.

Dana Hall McCain writes about marriage, parenting, faith and wellness. She is a mom of two, and has been married to a wonderful guy for over 18 years.


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