Intentional Parenting: Autopilot is for Planes by Sissy Goff, David Thomas, and Melissa Trevathan is a treatise on how to discover what to do as an outgrowth of parents’ relationships to God than simply instructing parents what to do.
Though the book focuses on the hearts of parents, it is not overly theoretical and abstract. The authors make a concerted effort to make the material practical with real stories and pointed questions throughout each chapter. What they have to say is well-worth reading, but their practical suggestions make it invaluable.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. As I glance back over my highlighted sections, it is eye-opening to see how much these statements address me as a person as much as they do me as a parent. And that’s the authors’ goal. Who I am as a person will naturally and directly determine who I am as a parent.
I connected to two main principles: Being a Grown-Up Parent (Chapter 3) and Being a Spiritual Parent (Chapter 9). The authors make it clear that a child’s confidence comes in large part from seeing us be adults and act like parents. And their idea of being a “spiritual parent” is not following a list of “spiritual things” parents do, but rather modeling our personal dependance on God for our children to see, and thus know it’s important for their lives.
The book is written more with parents of adolescent children in mind, but is certainly helpful for parents with children of any age. I especially think it’s a helpful resource for those who might counsel parents. It would make a great resource to put in their hands.
The Internet is simultaneously one of humanities’ greatest inventions, amazing blessings, and dangerous threats. We are always one click away from danger no matter our age, gender, profession, naivety, or blamelessness. We must make sure we interact with the same godliness online that God expects in all other ways of life.
We frequently hear of children who are harmed by brutal and sick individuals who gain access to their lives through the Internet. We should do all we can to close up those loopholes.
As parents, you have the right–and responsibility–to know exactly what your children are doing on the Internet…no matter how old they are. You should have the same access to their accounts (with passwords, etc.) they do. You should talk openly and honestly about their online friendships, habits, and overall safety. But when you do, do your best to model the attitudes in yourself you wish to see from them. If you’re condescending and not understanding, you shut those doors of communication down.
But the most urgent arena of concern for your children on the Internet is that of sexual sin, specifically pornography.
The statistical likelihood of your child facing a child predator online is slim. But the chances of your child NOT viewing pornography online in some capacity is about 3% for boys and 9% for girls. That includes those who unintentionally stumble across it. If your child wants to find it, there’s a 100% chance he or she will. It’s just that easy.
The good news is that God forgives and cleanses no matter the depths of sin (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
More good news is that you don’t have to know everything about the Internet and computer technology to protect your child’s heart from spiritual threats such as pornography.
The most powerful weapons at your disposal are spiritual and internal; they should be aimed at his or her heart. Pray for them. Model purity, consistency, and propriety before them–online and off. Talk openly and honestly (with common sense) with them about temptations, sexual sin, and God’s purpose for sexual intimacy in marriage.
Would you rather them to hear the truth from you and God’s Word or error from the world and Satan?
There are other weapons that can assist you from an external perspective, as well.
The best place to start is http://covenanteyes.com. Covenant Eyes specializes in Internet technology that provides a safe surfing atmosphere for the entire family. They feature two softwares: Internet accountability software (browsing is monitored around the clock and reports are sent via e-mail to accountability partners) and Internet filtering software (specific sites are blocked and attempts to access blocked sites are logged and sent via the accountability reports). These softwares simply run in the background, but cannot be disabled without also disabling access to the Internet. This “two-pronged” approach is the best external solution, especially for homes with children. Covenant Eyes charges for using their services. While they are not free, they are more than reasonable. Amanda and I have used the accountability software for years and we pay for an entire year of service for less than what most Internet service providers charge for one month. There are a few free services out there, but research suggests the paid services are much more efficient and effective. If you recognize the legitimacy of this most dangerous threat, is any price too great?
Additionally, the Covenant Eyes website also features a wealth of resources for all kinds of Internet safety and protection. They have numerous (free) e-books, articles, statistics, podcasts, and a well-maintained and regularly-updated blog. No matter your relationship to the dangers on the Internet, whether totally naive or buried in addiction, there’s something to educate, challenge, and help you.
Every child born in our part of the world is a “digital native.” He or she will never know a time with less technology. He or she will never be less tech-savvy. He or she will one day view smart phones like many of us view rotary phones.
In a matter of a few decades, computers have moved from warehouses to business centers to living rooms to briefcases to front pockets. We as adults and parents will never be on the edge of technological advancement like younger generations. But that’s no excuse for letting this powerful tool destroy their souls. May God help us to use the Internet responsibly and ensure our children do the same.
I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman? (Job 31:1)
Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)
“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)
The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him. (Proverbs 20:7)
Over the summer, we carried 25 young people & adults (and met up with 25 more from Northport and 9th Ave in Haleyville) to Climb Nashville for an indoor rock climbing lock-in. Teens typically get excited for lock-ins of any kind. But we had a particularly fun time climbing and “hanging” out together.
All 50 of us got together around 2AM and sang a few songs, then discussed what things we witnessed throughout the night that could help us in our spiritual lives. Here are five of the things we talked about as a group:
1) We need others to do difficult things. The only way I’m remotely safe high up on a wall (with no padding below) is if someone else is below belaying for me. A belayer uses a clip that utilizes gravity as a brake in case the climber slips off the wall. He or she just hangs there until they start climbing again or are let down slowly by the belayer. So, first of all, we need someone else to make sure we don’t fall. Next, we need the encouragement provided by the belayer and others on the ground. We heard the sound of “you can do it” and “hang in there” throughout the night. Hearing positive words of praise helps us reach the top. Finally, we need others to help us find ways out. It’s easy to get so focused on everything going around you that you don’t see the next hand or foot grip. But the person below—who has a different perspective—can see things you don’t see. He or she can help you navigate out of a difficult situation.
Similarly, God has never intended for Christians to navigate through life alone. There are times we need one another to keep us from falling, “whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death” (James 5:20). We also need encouragement daily from one another, “exhort one another every day…that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). Finally, we often need the advice of others because they can see thigns we don’t see, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” (Proverbs 19:20).
2) The best time for distractions is not while you’re on the wall. One of our teen girls was climbing while her older sister belayed for her (I won’t mention names). When the younger sister was almost to the top, her older sister below screamed, “Did you remember to get the cooler off the bus?” When you’re confronting fears and reaching new heights, the last thing on your mind is whether or not you “remembered the cooler.” It’s easy for us to get distracted spiritually. We can’t afford to get distracted by criticism, hypocrisy by others, frustrations, or fun as we work in the kingdom. Nehemiah recognized this when he told Sanballat and Tobiah, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3). How many times have we abandoned the work of the Lord to check if we “got the cooler off the bus?”
3) We learn best by doing. The Climb Nashville staff taught the group of belayers in about 20-30 minutes. They utilized a hands-on approach and made the students put into practice what they learned in order to be certified to belay. In a more traditional classroom setting, it may have taken much longer to instruct that group of people about procedures and potential problems. We do a good thing by emphasizing Biblical learning; we need to teach the Bible in a classroom setting. Many who neglect this opportunity weekly should re-evaluate their decision. But we must also never forget that we grow most and best by daily doing what our God teaches. “But the one who looks into the perfect law,the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts,he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:25).
4) It’s not the real thing. Indoor rock climbing is an exciting thing to do. The night we spent doing it allowed us to challenge ourselves and have fun doing so. It’s a great way to learn and gain experience in a controlled and safe environment. But it’s not real rock climbing. We don’t actually go anywhere. We get to the top, then turn around and slide back down. Likewise, some of the things we do within the church and especially in “youth ministry” are intended to train young people and families in a controlled and safer environment. They’re still very real experiences, but they’re not intended to be the end in and of themselves. We should pray for opportunities to put the spiritual habits we build into practice in the world around us. “Pray also for us, that God mayopen to us a door for the word,to declare the mystery of Christ” (Colossians 4:3).
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
The shortest distance between children’s hearts and Christ is their parents (Deut. 6:6-9).
From the beginning of creation, God designed the world to operate through parents raising children, who then become parents who raise their children, etc. Modern societies spend countless hours and dollars attempting to transform current generations into upstanding citizens. Yet God’s design places them into the care of people who are relationally and emotionally in the best situation to protect them, teach them, and introduce them to Him.
They are blessed to listen to you pray thanksgiving for their food.
They are blessed to see you show affection to your spouse.
They are blessed to interrupt your quiet personal study of God’s Word.
They are blessed to notice your graceful and calm response to difficulties at work.
They are blessed to discuss perplexing spiritual questions while you’re in the car.
They are blessed to ask you about sensitive and embarrassing things they hear at school.
They are blessed to cry on your shoulder when you tell them about death, pain, and loss.
They are blessed to observe that your commitment to the Lord guides your every decision.
They are blessed to approach God’s throne while you tuck them into bed each night.
They are blessed to receive the discipline you lovingly provide.
They are blessed to hear your words of praise more often than words of correction.
They are blessed to witness your example of service to the Lord and others.
They are blessed not just to have someone. They are blessed to have you.
The ugly side of this blessing is that parents are also the shortest distance from their child’s heart to hypocrisy, apathy, resentment, and rebellion. Each day’s decisions are building something in their hearts. You have the opportunity to ensure what it is.