So, what do we do to combat this overindulgence and make sure our children are well grounded with heads that are screwed on straight? While it would be nearly impossible to cover everything, please allow me to share some things that I am learning. And remember, I am working on this too. I have in no way perfected these methods. We can agree that we are all works in-progress -- and there is no shame in that.
Firm FoundationThe foundation, of course is a firm faith in the One, True God of the Bible. This should go without saying. Alas, I have said it anyway. Romans 2:15 states that we were created with God's law written on our hearts and that our conscience bears witness of God's law. Whether we acknowledge that or not is a different matter. We are without excuse (Romans 1:19, 20) when it comes to knowing that God exists (He does) and if we have a right in whether or not to obey (we do not). We have do a choice; which is different than a right. Food for thought.
Diligence in teaching our children to love Jesus, when we rise, when we sit, when we go places (Deut. 6:7 and Deut 11:19) helps our children to not depart from the faith (Prov 22:6). As an aside, dear reader, don't get caught up in the misunderstanding that that verse is talking about the prodigal child coming back to the faith. Not departing means never leaving the faith in the first place. Another discussion for another time, perhaps.
Without this firm foundation, our efforts (and the suggestions below) will be in vain. The world is teaching your child their version of the truth, you can count on it. Teaching them who God is will lead to an unwavering faith that will shore them up when the world is against them. And, more importantly, it will point them to a right relationship with God.
Practical ApplicationBesides teaching a firm foundation there are things we can put into practice that will help counteract the chaos if you find yourself caught up in the cycle of making your home "entertainment central." These suggestions may be painful to hear and more painful to follow through with, but it will be worth it.
Delayed Gratification. This is a tough one since so much is geared toward having what we want when we want it. Fast food, express lanes, intimate relationships without the benefit of marriage, two day shipping, 140 characters or less . . . the list goes on.
~~ ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ~~
No one ever died from delayed gratification.
My opinion? The anticipation of something amazing increases the pleasure of finally receiving that amazing thing. There are many instances in my life where that has proven to be the case. A hard fought victory is much sweeter than a quick and easy one.
I'm just sayin'.
Smaller parties. Not every party has to be a blowout. Have a friend or two join you for your child's birthday dinner and cake. Take one or two children to the local pool or bounce house instead of the entire neighborhood. Watch home movies instead of going out. Play minute-to-win-it type games where the props are easily gathered and the laughs are sure to be plentiful.
Growing up, I rolled my eyes at the suggestion of any activity that only involved my parents and my brother. Yet some of my most poignant memories are of just the four of us. One of my most cherished memories is one of my brother and I laying on the floor with the upper halves of our bodies in a huge cardboard box, legs and slipper-ed feet hanging out and gazing at a beautifully it Christmas tree. My parents were sitting on the couch behind us. Dad has his arm draped around Mom's shoulders and they were probably sneaking in a kiss or two. Pure contentment bathed those moments. Excited anticipation and the security of a loving family were the overriding emotions. I have no idea what I got that particular Christmas -- and my point is that it wasn't about the presents.
Cutting down on screen time. It never ceases to amaze me that when the electricity goes out, people exclaim over the great memories they made when they were forced to interact with their family members face to face -- even if it was with a flashlight between them!
We have a saying in our house: Too much tv is bad. Too much reading is good. My children love to talk over their books with me.
In great detail.
Sometimes until my eyes glaze over.
But I love it when they talk books and not tv. Their imaginations have taken off and expanded all because they read instead of watched. Playing a board game with the family is so much more fun than holing up inside your own little world. Spending time together is where we learn about ourselves and our children and they learn about us.
Not making sports an idol. And this is where I lose some of you. Our culture is obsessed with sports and the athletes that play them. There is something seriously wrong with a society that is willing to pay athletes obscene amounts of money, but not pay soldiers a decent wage and then take away health care on top of that. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Luke 12:34). Sports should be an extra curricular activity, not the goal in life. That's all I am saying.
Limiting social media. My children (and I for that matter) are so much more content when we aren't regularly involved with social media. There are fewer chances for falling short of an unrealistic ideal when we aren't constantly comparing ourselves to someone else. There are other benefits to limiting social media, of course: another post for another time.
Teaching our children a good work ethic. We have to teach our children how to become indispensable to the company they work for. My kids are learning that you show up early, work your tooshie off, don't complain and then you get paid a fair wage. Not an inflated one to suit your ego. And then when you own a company yourself, you treat your employees the way you want to be treated.
Which leads me to . . .
We have elevated certain types of jobs over others. Sometimes there is disdain associated with jobs that aren't computer related or jobs that don't require a college degree. What the heck? We aren't all created with the same talents and gifts. There is nothing wrong with honest work in whatever form it takes. There is no person who is 'less-than' because he or she holds a job that you personally wouldn't want to do. Doesn't make you better or them worse.
This is what it comes down to: We all eat, sleep, poop, and have to fill our fuel tank. The jobs that allow us to do those essential things are the most important jobs as far as I am concerned.
Sanctity of life. It is quite evident that we do not value the lives of the unborn, the homeless, the abused, the sick, the aged, the widows and the fatherless. They are the first to be forgotten because their voices do not ring loudly in our ears. We must teach our children and retrain ourselves to be aware and compassionate toward our fellow man. We need to give of ourselves to others. Not because it will enrich our lives, though that is often the case, but because it's the right thing to do.
We are, in fact, told that caring for the widows and fatherless (and keeping ourselves unspotted from the world) is what pure religion is all about (James 1:27). Notice: not man-made religion, but pure religion. How we implement pure religion in our families may look differently from the family next door, of course. Sponsor a child, visit the sick and the aged, volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate goods to a battered women's shelter, or answer phones at a crisis pregnancy center. But do something, anything -- or even better, all these things.
I hope this post encourages you to re-examine your family goals. A peek into what it can be like when we step off of the crazy cycle of making sure we are entertained every moment of every day. Perhaps developing a family mission statement gives you something to aim for and follow through with as you grow your family in faith.
Counting it all joy,