Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Monday, September 23, 2013
My preteen daughter would not talk to me. I was traveling around the country speaking to thousands of parents, teaching them how to communicate biblical values to their children. But my own daughter was barely speaking to me. I felt like a hypocrite. I was an “expert” in communication, yet I couldn’t communicate with my own daughter.
Either I needed to find a different line of work, or I needed to find a way to encourage my daughter to open up and communicate with me. More importantly, I didn’t want to lose my daughter.
I remember thinking, What’s wrong with her? She’s just eleven. How bad could it be? I was certain I could give her a few words of wisdom and get her back on track.
So, I asked Annie what was wrong. Her response was a cold, “Do you really want to know?” Uh-oh! I thought this was going to be a little misunderstanding I could fix in a few minutes. Not so. I closed the door to her room and sat on her bed. She looked me in the eye and said, “You’re just a chore-giver, Dad.”
Just a chore-giver! She could not have hurt me more if she’d hit me between the eyes with a two-by-four.
How about all the soccer, volleyball, and softball games I attended? How about playing catch and going to her school programs? Didn’t that count for anything? I desperately wanted to argue and defend myself. Thank God I didn’t.
I quietly listened as she explained how she saw me as someone only concerned with getting the chores done so people would think I was a good parent and my children were under control.
She said I never took time to listen; I only gave instructions. As I listened to her this time, I realized she was right. I was full of advice, directions, and criticisms. After all, people paid good money for my advice. I wrote books filled with my good advice and I was giving it to her for free.
Maybe, just maybe, she didn’t need my advice all the time.
I thought of reminding her that her mother assigned as many chores as I did. As she talked I realized she didn’t see the chores from her mom as a negative. You see, her mother took the time to develop a solid relationship with her first. Her mother seldom offered advice unless she was asked. My daughter saw her mother as her friend. Chores from a friend are not a negative experience. Chores from a chore-giver are punishment.
The problem wasn’t the chores; the problem was I didn’t take time to cultivate a trusting relationship with my daughter by listening to her carefully and appreciating her many good qualities.
When I began working to develop a deeper relationship with her, the chores didn’t seem to be such a problem. Now, as an adult, she doesn’t even remember our conversation. But it changed my life.
That conversation was more than twenty years ago. Raising children in today’s world isn’t getting any easier. In fact, as I watch Annie raising her children, I realize she has to deal with issues that weren’t even invented when she was a child. Like all parents, she works to keep the areas of communication open while popular culture is pulling on the fabric of her family’s values.
In 2002, a study commissioned by the Southern Baptist Convention, and later validated by Christian pollster George Barna, showed anywhere from 65% to 75% of young people raised in Christian homes do not live for Jesus Christ as adults.
How can this be? Either Christianity doesn’t have the right answer, or we are conveying the right answer improperly. I believe it’s the latter. Let me explain.
We are in a spiritual war and one of the most effective weapons aimed at us is today’s entertainment. It’s tempting to dismiss entertainment as simply amusement. But, while Christians are entertaining themselves, they are often learning to conform to the immoral values of this world. In other words, much of the Christian community is entertaining itself to spiritual death.
God’s Word clearly warns us to avoid such dangers. “Don’t let others spoil your faith and joy with their philosophies, their wrong and shallow answers built on men’s thoughts and ideas instead of what Christ has said” (Colossians 2:8 my paraphrase).
The vast majority of today’s entertainment is based on some man’s or woman’s philosophy. Before it was a song, movie, TV program, or video game, it was someone’s philosophy. Paul is warning us. If we continue to entertain ourselves with philosophies of this world that are against biblical values, these philosophies will eventually undermine our faith in Jesus and the joy of our salvation.
How is your faith in Jesus? How is your joy? Faith and joy are fruits of the Spirit. Could it be your entertainment is undermining your walk with Christ? How about your children’s faith and joy? Could their entertainment be instrumental in undermining their relationship with you and with Christ?
Deuteronomy 6:7 commands us to teach our families about God: Whether we’re at home or on a journey, from the time we awaken to the time we go to bed. Instead of teaching His values in this manner, we too often let the enemy teach his values to our children through the world of entertainment.
We are losing our children in this spiritual war without even realizing we are in a battle for our families. Because immorality is presented in such an entertaining manner, we believe it doesn’t affect us—but that just isn’t true. There is a direct relationship between an individual’s entertainment choices and his spiritual choices; between an individual’s entertainment choices and his relationship with others.
Reconnect will help you become more aware of what is happening in the secular entertainment media (music, movies, television, video games, the Internet) and the influence they have in our lives.
- You will learn how to respond to this influence in a biblical manner without alienating your kids.
- You will learn how to set biblical guidelines for making wise entertainment choices.
- And, most importantly, you will learn how to Reconnect: When Your Kids are Connected to Everything…But You!
Al Menconi, Al Menconi Ministries, Parenting, Parenting help, Christian parenting, Christian parenting help, Parenting advice, Christian Parenting advice, Parenting tips, Christian parenting tips, Entertainment advice for parents, Entertainment advice, Christian conference speaker, Christian counselor, Change your life, Change your world, Put a new song in your heart, Keep Kids Safe In the digital age, Keep Kids Safe in the Internet age, The Christian Music Diet, It Doesn’t Affect Me, Stop the world I want to get off, purpose in life, worship God
Monday, September 9, 2013
Boys also harmed by teen 'hookup' culture, experts say
Abigail Pesta NBC News contributor
Parents are being confronted by the new “hookup culture” surrounding sexting, and how boys are courting their partners in more directly than ever. Experts Dr. Robyn Silverman and Lola Ogunnaike weigh in on the troubling trend.
Edgar Su / Reuters file
Him: "So, are you good at hooking up?"
Her: "Um idk. I don't really think about that."
Him: "Well, I want my d--k in your mouth? Will you at least be my girlfriend."
It's the kind of scenario that's playing out among teens across America, illustrating an increasing confusion among boys about how to behave, experts say. In the casual-sex "hookup" culture, courtship happens by text and tweet. Boys send X-rated propositions to girls in class. Crude photos, even nude photos, play a role once reserved for the handwritten note saying, "Hey, I like you."
According to new research, boys who engage in this kind of sexualized behavior say they have no intention to be hostile or demeaning — precisely the opposite. While they admit they are pushing limits, they also think they are simply courting. They describe it as "goofing around, flirting," said Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist and school consultant who interviewed 1,000 students nationwide for her new book, "The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age."
How the hookup culture affects young people has long been debated and lamented, in books and blogs, among parents and teachers. A general consensus is that it harms girls, although some have argued that it empowers them. The effect on boys, however, is less often part of the discussion.
Conventional wisdom tends to oversimplify the situation to something along the lines of: Boys get to have sex, which is really all they want. They are seen as predators, and girls, their prey.
Reality is far more complex than this, in ways that can affect young men socially and emotionally well into adulthood, according to Steiner-Adair. It's "insufficient, superficial and polarizing when boys simply get cast as aggressors and girls as victims," she said. In her view, girls can certainly suffer negative consequences from the hookup culture. Her point is: Boys can, too. "It's such a bad part of our culture to think that boys aren't also harmed," she says. "We are neglecting the emotional lives of boys."
In interviews and focus groups, Steiner-Adair talked with boys and girls ages 4 to 18 at suburban public and private schools, with consent from parents and schools, about their relationships and influences. Kids from the fourth grade and up shared their private texts and Facebook posts, unveiling the dating landscape. In one case, a boy sent a naked snapshot of himself to his girlfriend, with a suggestive caption. The girl, who had never seen her boyfriend naked, was shocked, and said she felt the relationship had suddenly lost its innocence. "I was so mad about that," she said. The girl's reaction, in turn, surprised the boy. He really liked her. His behavior, said Steiner-Adair, was "aggressive in a way that boys don't understand."
Steiner-Adair also saw the string of texts between the 15-year-old girl in English class and her suitor. The girl described the conversation as "a stupid, disgusting exchange," adding that it was "typical for the boys at our school." Still, the girl became intrigued when the boy revealed in a subsequent note that he liked her. The girl wondered if she should tell him how his initial approach had offended her. Then she started to cry, questioning whether it was worth the effort.
Teenagers have never been known for their social grace. But this generation is navigating adolescence with a new digital tool kit — Facebook, Twitter — that has the unintended side effect of subtracting important social cues, according to Steiner-Adair. Nuance and body language are lost in translation.
She also noted the influence of online porn. Students across the country asked Steiner-Adair about graphic images they had seen. One boy said, "I don't get it — why would a woman get turned on by being choked?" A girl asked her if it was normal to have anal sex.
Another boy showed her pornographic notes that two of his friends had secretly sent to a girl from his own Facebook page, including, "Your challenge is to go for weeks without d--ks in all four of your holes." When the boy found out about the prank, he wasn't upset, but amused. "This is just my friends being idiots, basically," he said. "They were just trying to be funny." Steiner-Adair asked why the exchange had turned so nasty and the boy said, "It didn't turn nasty. That's the norm for our generation."
To be sure, some boys have always been crude. The new extremes, said Steiner-Adair, can be damaging. Boys don't benefit, she said, from learning to be demeaning toward girls or to treat them as sexual objects. She said boys often expressed a desire for a deeper connection with girls, but felt confused about how to make it happen. They are "yearning for intimacy that goes beyond biology," she said. "They just don't know how to achieve it."
Andrew Smiler, a developmental psychologist, agrees. He examined some 600 studies on masculinity, sex and relationships for his book "Challenging Casanova," concluding that most young men are more motivated by love than sex. Pop culture helps spur the disconnect between what young men want and how they often act, he argues, citing as an example the show "Two and a Half Men." "The jerk gets all the laugh lines," he said. "The nice guy always looks like a sap."
That theory is debated. Steven Rhoads, a professor who teaches a class on sex differences at the University of Virginia, said he analyzed decades worth of research on sexuality and biology for his book "Taking Sex Differences Seriously" to conclude that men and women are "hardwired" differently. Hookups have deeper psychological costs for women, he said, noting that anecdotes from his students back up the research: Female students often tell him they are hurt by casual sex in a way that male students are not. The boys don't know it, he said, because the girls don't want to tell them.
For boys and girls alike, crucial lessons in how to relate to each other are getting lost in the blizzard of tweets and texts, experts say. The cues kids would pick up from a live conversation — facial expressions, gestures — are absent from the arm's-length communications that are now a fixture of growing up. The fast-paced technology also "deletes the pause" between impulse and action, said Steiner-Adair, who calls texting the "worst possible training ground" for developing mature relationships. Dan Slater, the author of "Love in the Time of Algorithms," agrees. "You can manage an entire relationship with text messages," he said, but that keeps some of the "messy relationship stuff" at bay. "That's the stuff that helps people grow up," he added.
The key to developing solid relationships lies partly in early education, said Steiner-Adair. To that end, some schools are launching classes focused on social and emotional issues, with teachers talking about gender, language, social media and healthy relationships.
Also critical, according to Steiner-Adair, is family time spent away from screens. In her research, teens often said their parents were embroiled in work or personal interests and simply not available. Some parents said they were intimidated by their children's complaints and exploits, and didn't want to seem ignorant or helpless. The heart of the matter for families, she said, is good old-fashioned talking — the kind you do face to face.
Abigail Pesta is an award-winning journalist who has lived and worked around the world, from London to Hong Kong. She has written for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and Newsweek. Follow her at @AbigailPesta.