Am I Raising Judgmental Kids?

As I’m soldiering through these tween years, I have a new respect for mommas who’ve raised well-balanced, know right-from-wrong adults who also have a deep, true genuine love for everyone.

It’s not easy. Here’s how this has played out in our house:

We teach them our core values. The things we want to stick. The things we think are decision-making foundations. Things that are important to us.

We repeat them over and over. We model them. We use our own past mistakes to try and teach them why we want them to do better than we did.

Here are a few important values for our family:

Sex is a gift for marriage. Wait until you’re married, it will be safe and enjoyable.

Respect your body. God created you and lives in you. Don’t use drugs, show too much skin, etc. Protect your mind and heart from destructive stuff (including images on screens).

Persevere. Don’t quit. Follow the dreams God puts in your heart. Work hard. Don’t ever be lazy.

Integrity. Don’t do the right thing for recognition. Do the right thing because it’s the right thing. Even if you stand alone, stand up for the right thing.

They eventually get it. You notice it in their behavior. You hear them repeating one of your statements. Those core values are engrained in their little hearts. It’s black and white. There are no shades of gray (sorry, I couldn’t resist). This is right, that is wrong.

Then, they see things. They hear things. And some of it doesn’t match our family values.

Our trying-to-figure-it-out tween says, “You know my friend at church? She showed me an inappropriate picture on her phone. Should I still be her friend?”

“When I saw the news today, the singer I love with that cute new song was wearing an outfit that showed a lot of skin. Now, I don’t even know if I like that song.”

And, here comes the judgment.
(*By the way, I altered those scenarios to protect my tween and the other parties involved.)

They’re learning to make decisions based on our core family values and when others don’t follow those same rules, they start to judge.

This is what I’ve discovered in my mothering journey: the talk that happens next is equally as important as instilling those core values. Because, this is when we teach them to love.

We tell them — no one is perfect. We all mess up. It doesn’t make it right, but we are not supposed to judge. God tells us to love. The one-liner I use a thousand times a week is “We’re all still learning.”

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:13

That verse is good. That verse in action is even better. My kids need to see me love people who’ve offended me. It’s even more important to show them how to love. They’ll see me loving someone with whom I don’t agree with on a certain value, and they’ll learn to love everyone.

So, I want to hear from you. I’m still in this journey trying to figure it out. How do you keep the balance of instilling foundational truths important to you, while also teaching your kids to love those who don’t follow the same values?

A Man Who Walked by Faith

The young husband, father, Noble Peace Prize recipient, and Bible-preaching pastor changed history with his courage to stand up for the right thing.

I always tell my children, “It’s okay to stand alone for the right thing.”

A man who walked by faith, and we’re still inspired by his words:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

“Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.”

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor political, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

And, where did his inspiration and foundation come from?

He was grounded in his faith. He genuinely knew the most perfect love – Jesus – and he passed it on. He didn’t just read the Bible, he followed the example of Jesus’ life and radically lived a life of love.

When I read his quotes, I see his faith.
“…let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God.” 1 John 4:7

“There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear.” 1 John 4:18

“Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.” Romans 13:10

“Love your enemies … Our Father is kind; you be kind.” Luke 6:35-36

“Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.” Romans 12:9

“Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.” 1 Peter 4:8

“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us.” John 4:17

“And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.” Colossians 3:14

“The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love – so you can’t know him if you don’t love.” 1 John 4:8

“’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:31

What other inspiring MLK, Jr. quotes or correlating Bible verses would you add to this list?

10 Ways to Keep your Kids Safe on Instagram

My middle schooler recently earned Instagram. She had been asking for several years, but I kept saying “no.” A situation came up at school, and she did not cave to peer pressure. It was the perfect reason to reward and give her more freedom.

The time had come.

But, it still came with rules.

I like the word “cyberparenting.” Here’s how I define it — a new branch of parenting that wasn’t required of our parents. We’re the first generation of parents who have kids in elementary schools with smartphones. One click to access anything in the world. It’s important to get it right.

For us, we refuse to say “no” to all technology. It’s here. It’s required for homework. It can be used for good. But, it’s SO important to be diligent. I’ve learned to walk hand-in-hand with my children as they learn to navigate through this digital world.

Not gonna lie, it’s a lot of work. So, parents, we need to come together, learn from each other and share information.

These are our family rules. It works for us. Every parent gets to make decisions for his/her own family regarding social media. Each child is different. I respect every parent’s decision, but I’d also like to create more discussion about how to cyberparent.

So, here’s how we implemented Instagram:

1. Learn it first. I was on Instagram six months before I let my daughter have her own account. I had friends (who have older daughters) who walked me through it and answered my questions.
Alert: You need a mom friend who has kids older than your children. They’ll give you a heads-up of what’s coming your way. These dear friends of mine (Merideth and Holly) warned me about Instagram use among middle school kids.

2. Make the account private. By having a private account, strangers can only see the profile pic and bio. Your followers have to request to follow you. In the app, go to your profile page. Click the settings icon in the upper right corner, scroll down to “private account” and turn it on.
Alert: Even as a private account, everyone can see your pic and bio. I don’t allow my daughter to use her last name, the full name of her school (only an abbreviation), etc.

3. Follow your child. You already have an account (per Step 1) so follow your child.
Alert: You don’t have access to their direct messages and search history as a follower. This leads to Step 4. Be aware, they will communicate through the direct messaging feature.

4. Know your child’s password and check his/her phone. We have a rule that my daughter’s cell phone gets checked in at the end of the day (we don’t allow any screens in bedrooms, bathrooms or behind closed doors). So, her phone goes to our mudroom every night for charging. I often check her timeline, search history and direct messages.
Alert: The search history can be cleared and the direct messages can be deleted. Make sure you trust your child! Also, when you search within Instagram, the parental controls of the phone settings do not work because you’re inside an app. Porn will not be blocked, but should be reported as it is not allowed (see Step 10 for a porn-proof resource).

5. Turn “Location Services” off. Close the app. Go to your phone’s settings. Per Instagram’s help center, you turn it off here: Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Instagram. You can set to “Never” or “While Using the App.” I recommend “Never.”  If you do not turn off “location services” for Instagram, the picture could give anyone who follows your child an exact address of his/her location.
Alert: It only shows up here if you’ve added a location within the Instagram app before. If it’s not there, try adding a location in Instagram on a picture (you don’t have to actually post), then go back to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Instagram to turn it off.

6. Only allow followers your child knows in real life. This is a biggie for us. If my daughter can’t tell me who it is and how she knows them, they can’t follow her. Non-negotiable.

Also, most tweens think more followers = popularity. We talk a lot about our purpose on Instagram. We want to share pictures with a few of our friends. Jesus had 12 disciples. We don’t need thousands of strangers knowing our business. I tell my child, “Be selective in who you let into your world.”

7. Don’t allow your child to follow older kids you don’t know. Our rule is my daughter can follow people at school who are her grade and one grade above (again, who she knows in real life). Other than that, they must be a family friend or high school mentor at church. Personal preference.

8. Approve who your child follows. She only follows kids she knows in real life (see Step 7), and I also encourage her to follow pastors, motivational speakers, etc. who I follow and trust. The goal here – to fill her Insta-feed with positive things. I love when my daughter texts me Scripture she saw on Insta! LOVE.

9. Teach that Instagram is real life. I always tell my child, “If you won’t say it to her face, do not type it as a comment.”

Report bullying and inappropriate pictures. Do not talk to strangers. Do not share personal information, including your cell number. We also have family rules (for any screen) – no pictures in bathing suits or less, no pictures with your tongue sticking out, etc. These are important to us, customize them for your own preferences.

10. Teach integrity. I can put rules in place, set all the parental controls, but if my kids want to see bad things, they’ll find it in this digital world. My main goal of cyberparenting – teach them moral values, integrity and to guard themselves. I tell my kids, “You (and only you) are responsible for what enters your brain. Protect it. Bad images are hard to get out of your head.”

For us, the Bible is our moral compass. It determines right and wrong.

“I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart. I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me. A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will know no evil.” Psalm 101:2-4 (NASB)

I also highly recommend Good Pictures, Bad Pictures to porn-proof your kids (for ages 6+). Excellent resource!

What other rules do you use to keep your kids safe on Instagram?

Alert: In the app store, Instagram is rated for 12+. If you google the terms of service for Instagram, it clearly states you must be 13. When opening a new account, though, a birthdate is not required. You are only required to check the box agreeing to all terms.