This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I’m Emily, here with my sister-in-law, Laura. Today we are talking about outside influences, and the influence that we have in our child’s life.
Before we jump into that, we thought it was important to mention that it’s good and necessary for mom to stay in the Word of God, so that she can have her mind transformed by truth and in turn, she can influence her children in the gospel.
We hope you guys go check those out. If you are not sure how to get started in the Bible study, we have some posts and things to help with that.
Should we jump into influences Laura?
Laura: Yes, please. This is something that Emily and I consistently talk about, wanting to protect our kids, yet release them to go out into the world. Understanding that balance can be really tough.
As we were processing through and preparing for the Ask Us Anything show, one of the questions that kept coming up from all of you was a question about, “How do I deal with my in-law’s bad influence, or a sister’s bad influence, or the kid at the park’s influence?” That was something that Emily and I have thought about quite a bit, and that we know it’s a concern of all of yours as well.
We wanted to chat through a little bit about: Well, who really does have the most influence on your child? How do you deal with those outside influences on your child?
Emily: Yes. Like Laura was saying, our default question is like, “Well, what's the balance between how much I should protect them, and how much I should expose them at a certain age?” Rest assured Laura and I are not going to be able to answer that today. [laughter]
Laura: We don’t know.
Emily: [laughs] I think it’s so varied with each situation.
Laura: Yes, exactly.
Emily: But instead, we’re going to look at some gospel-motivated principles that are helping us as we’re considering outside influences in the lives of our children. Hopefully it will be encouraging to you, and maybe even start the ball rolling as you are thinking of specific situations you have in mind, that you're not sure how to deal with.
Laura: As we look to the gospel of course, we can look at creation and see that God made all things to be good, for all things to bring Him glory. Adam and Eve worshipped God alone; they had nothing to be ashamed of. They walked perfectly in step with God until the fall.
On that day, Adam and Eve were influenced by Satan, and sin infiltrated everything that they did. They became tempted to disobey God, and had a general unbelief, “Does God really have the best plan for me?” They doubted Him and they started to seek fulfillment outside of God’s boundaries.
We know now that Satan is the ruler of this world, he prowls around like a roaring lion. He’s looking for ways to kind of “knock us off our rocker” and make us change our course. He will do anything he can to distract you from worshipping and trusting in God. That might be through obviously terrible, horrible things, but also through really good things. He likes to take the truth and twist it just enough so it’s hard to recognize that it is still sin.
Emily: One thing I love about redemption and looking at what Jesus did is the fact that He always responded to everything perfectly. We see that Jesus, when He goes out into the wilderness, before He starts His ministry, Satan attempts to influence Him toward sin, just like he to Adam and Eve did in the garden.
But Jesus does not give in. He responds exactly the way He should, and He goes about His whole life this way – being in the world, among the influences, but not of the world. He always did God’s will so He did not deserve to be punished for sin, but He was, on our behalf.
When we trust in Him, then we receive a new heart through the Holy Spirit, and when that happens, we’re able to discern spiritual things. Suddenly we can start to see the difference between the schemes of Satan and the things that influence us towards evil. The things that are of God, and the things that God loves and He commands.
We also have some power - although we will not be perfect in this life - to resist the temptation that outside influences bring. We look forward to a time when Satan is crushed and judged and God makes everything new and there is no longer any influence toward sin.
Laura: So, what does all this mean for training up our children? Well, as we were prepping for the show, we realized there are a lot of ideas out there for how to protect our children from outside influences. Many of them can be found in the Bible, and many of them are also given out by wise teachers and leaders in the Christian sphere.
There are lots of different things that you can do. We’ll include some of those resources in the show notes, so you can go straight to the source and see for yourself. But today we’re sharing a few different things to keep in mind as we're processing these truths in a biblical manner. Processing how to protect our children from outside influences that we would consider to be harmful. I’ll let Emily kick us off here.
Emily: Yes, as Laura said, this is not the extent of what could be said about influences. But the first thing we feel is important to remember is that our children are going to be influenced towards ungodly things. We can’t prevent it as much as we want to. I really like what Paul David Tripp says on this - the hearts of our children have loves, and what our children love will determine what they worship. And what they worship will determine what they do.
In other words, our children will be influenced towards ungodliness because they are sinners in need of a Savior. We see in Proverbs there's a lot about this: Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” Anybody who's been around a little toddler can see that’s pretty evident. [laughter]
But anyway, because we are parenting children who were born to worship and might not yet worship Christ, we shouldn’t be shocked or surprised when they are drawn to ungodly things or bad influences.
Laura: One thing that we often think about as parents is that, “Oh, our family, we’re good. We’re good in here. But the world out there, that’s totally evil and that’s bad.” We feel like we have to protect them from the things “out there.”
But reality is, sin lives inside our homes. Like Emily was talking about from the Tripp quote, sin is inside our child’s heart. It is the most wicked and rebellious thing that they are going to have to deal with.
I don’t know about any other moms out there, but I am willing to bet that we all can all raise our hands and say, “Hey, we’re not perfect either, and at times, we are not a great influence on our own kids.” We lose our temper, we speak unkindly, we are selfish, or seek our own comfort.
At times, we are a negative influence on our child. It’s important to remember to put that in perspective, that we are all sinners. Even your child’s siblings, if they have them, those children are sinners, and will influence your child towards things that may not be biblical.
Emily: Yes, I know a lot of times we notice that at the dinner table, in particular, when behavior seems to go through the crowd like a fire [laughter]. But the good thing about us having a lot of influence over our children, inside our homes, is that we also get to be a powerful vehicle to influence them towards Christ.
One thing to keep in mind, I heard this quote recently that I thought was really good from John Stonestreet. He says, “Culture has the power to make things seem normal.” He actually describes culture as an undercurrent. It’s like when you think you're floating on the ocean and you're not going anywhere, and then all of a sudden you look up and you’ve moved far away from your towel.
There’s an undercurrent that’s pulled you away and you don’t even realize it. This is what culture does for our children. But we actually have the power to shape that undercurrent and Lord willing, to be drawing them towards Christ through the normal things in our home.
Laura: Yes, exactly. I have always appreciated the example of “defensive discipleship” versus “offensive discipleship.” In defensive discipleship, you wait for the bad things to come. You assume that everything’s pretty much good, but then if there's a fire, you think, “Okay, I guess I’ll put it out.”
But offensive discipleship really prepares and trains our children, knowing there is their sin and rebellion is everywhere even inside ourselves – especially inside ourselves. Offensive discipleship trains people in the gospel, and like Emily was saying, it works to make things that are biblical, normal.
I got this concept from another article that I will link to in the show notes - I am not this wise! [laughter] But I have always appreciated this example and thought I want to have offensive discipleship in my home.
Emily: Yes, and we have used this example on shows before but I love it, so we’ll use it again. [laughter] Matt Chandler talks about how we put kindling around the hearts of our children by, again, making things normal for them and teaching them in the ways of the gospel, and raising them up in the Lord. But, we can’t light their fire, right? The Holy Spirit comes in and does that.
Anyways, I think that’s such a good picture, like you're saying Laura. To be on the offensive, so that when the Holy Spirit is working there is already so much kindling that our children are going to have.
Laura: Exactly. With that, it’s not just the input. It’s also teaching your child about the output. We want to both put godly or positive influences in our child’s life. But we also want to train our children in discernment. This is our jobs as moms (and it’s dad’s job too). But it’s our job to train our children up in the way that they should go.
We can train our children in truth, but we also need to train them in that discernment piece, moving information from the head to the heart. We’re training them in the biblical thinking and what's normal in our homes, but we also need to help them translate that into biblical living. It’s just thinking about, “Hey, how do we move the indicative over to the imperative?”
Emily: That was awesome! [Laughs] I love it; it’s so good. Recently I heard this example of a parent – and this is maybe for a little-bit-older kids – but taking movies with children and showing it to them with the express purpose of discussing them afterwards. Being like, “How did that make you feel?” “Do you think that those were true things?” “Were those not true things?” “Where do you find that in scripture?”
I don’t know if you could do that with Paw Patrol or something, [laughter] but you might be able to!
But I love that concept of teaching them discernment, and asking them whenever they see something like, “Hey, do you think that that aligns with what we’re learning in God’s Word?” A super simple thing.
Then another thing we can do, like Laura was saying, just bringing in good outside influences in our children’s lives; thinking about things like, who are their friends, and who are the people that they are surrounded by the most? I feel like that can go a long way towards offsetting some of these random bad influences [laughs] that we’re not necessarily planning for, if that’s not their norm.
Laura: Yes, this can be church friends or mentors, or recalling thinking about who's going to provide childcare for your children. Really sussing out who those people are and what they're about. Also just finding quality friends through … I guess I had friends growing up that I was like, “Oh they're a family friend.” That meant that my parents were friends with their parents and therefore we were friends. [laughter]
That is a wonderful way to build in great friendships for your children, and other grandparents or family members that are believers. As much as you can, surround people who love Jesus so that they can see all these different people, and the way that they have a unique walk with the Lord. It will encourage them to develop their own personal relationship with God as well.
Emily: Another thing which we already kind of touched on this, talking about teaching our children discernment. But I feel like using these negative outside influences as an opportunity to talk about the gospel is super important as well.
Again, these things are going to come up when we’re not expecting it. We shouldn’t make our kid feel like, “Oh you heard something crazy at the park – stop, don’t repeat that!” Like, “Lets not even talk about it. Lets shut it down.” Instead, it’s a great time to have that conversation and ask, “Well, why do you think that child said that?” Or, “Do you think that’s something you should say? Why or why not?”
Let it be a conversation and let it be a training ground so that they can understand why, or why we don’t do things, versus this, “Ah, we don’t talk about it.” [laughs]
Laura: Yes, we all have been there where your child has been exposed to something that you probably wished that they wouldn’t have. Whether it’s seriously harmful or not, we’re all just like, “Oh, I wish that they wouldn’t have seen that.”
I remember the first time my son saw Aladdin, he was like a year old and it was a scary part. He didn’t see the whole movie, but it happened to be on when we were in a room, and it was one of the scary parts. I remember I was up all night, just tossing and turning thinking, “He's going to have nightmares for the rest of his life!” Really dramatic. [laughter]
Emily: He's scarred for life from Aladdin. [laughter]
Laura: It was pretty traumatic. [laughter] You know, feeling like, “How could that have been on? How could they have let that show be on?” and all this stuff. [laughter]
But reality is, he was much too young to really probably be impacted by that. But things happen. That’s what I am trying to say. No matter what kind of bubble wrap you put your child in, things happen.
We as Christian moms have to be prepared to have discussions about those things, and to not, as Emily’s saying, sweep it under the rug. We have a secure identity in Christ, so we are able to talk to our children about what happened in that moment, and then how that affects their heart. We want them to know that someday – Lord willing, this won’t happen, but reality is it will – they will get into trouble, they will be exposed to things by choice or not. But they can come to you and they can confess and they can repent.
You want to create and foster a space that says, “Hey, come talk to me. I want you to know that we can always be open with each other.” You can model the welcoming attitude of Christ so they don’t have to be afraid to share what happened, or to look to you to say, “Mom, what do I do with this now?” You can point them to Christ in that moment.
Emily: Yes. That is gospel culture right there when we don’t have to be defined by what we've come in contact with or what we've done. Just that repentance piece, all of that, is living off the gospel in our homes and allowing our children to enter in.
We thought we’d leave you guys with some final questions because we've probably left you with more questions than answers. [laughter] Now, we’re going to leave you with more.
The first question is, considering your family culture, what are your children being influenced by at home? Thinking about that, “what is ‘normal’ question?” Are we living out an authentic life of discipleship? Or are we not really modeling what that looks like?
This may things like reading scripture in front of them, praying, involving them in spiritual conversations. Maybe it’s singing songs or hymns at home, or prioritizing the family of God. Again, how are we making those things normal so that they can notice when an outside influence is not normal?
Laura: Our second question is, how are you addressing influences with your children at the heart level? Reminding them and remembering that the biggest problem that they have lies inside of them, not outside of them. How do we pray for our children to help them to know to worship God? How do we protect them from harm by seeking that wisdom from the Lord?
This one is very much what we were talking about, when we said we should be able speak to our children when something happens that we would prefer didn’t happen. Then, how are we shepherding their heart? How are we parenting them to understand they are always worshipping something? What is it at this moment that they are worshipping? Is it God or is it something else that they see in the world around them?
Helping them to discern those idols; that’s a huge role for you as a mom. That will also help to protect them as they grow, and you're able to help them to spread their wings, right? Spread their wings and fly! [laughter]
Emily: So good. Another one, what practical things can you do to surround your children with godly influences, in all different settings? Again, going back to looking at friendships, looking at who you're spending the most amount of time with. Honestly, how can you bring in people from all different generations and all different walks of life, who are living out the gospel so your children can see it in a lot of different contexts, and know that is doesn’t look just one way.
Laura: Finally, do you believe that God is control of all things, and that your identity is secure in Christ? If your identity is rooted in the Lord, you don’t have to be anxious about what grandma just said to your son that day, if it was ungodly. Because you can trust that God is in control, and that He is using every circumstance, every moment to draw you and your children to Himself.
That is a great truth, just trusting that God is sovereign over your life, and that you don’t have to topple over just because some wind blew on you. You can instead stand secure and firm and trust that God is going to take care of these things and that He is overall.
Emily: So good. Hopefully, there were some thoughts there that can help you process, help us process - [laughs] I feel like I am learning about this too – how to deal with outside influences in the lives of our children.
If you want to get more resources on this topic, go to our show notes at risenmotherhood.com and you can also find us on social media at Risen Motherhood on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. We’ll probably be talking more about this and sharing resources over there.
Yes, thanks for joining us today guys.