3 Truths About Today’s Kids You Need to Know

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By Dr. Scott Turansky
Dr. Scott Turansky is co-founder of National Center for Biblical Parenting, a powerful ministry for families and churches with over 150 trained presenters, three video-training programs for churches and 15 books on parenting. Dr. Turansky is married to Carrie and has five children and four grandchildren. biblicalparenting.org

A few years ago, a survey from The Barna Group revealed that there is one issue on which most adults across America, Christians and non-Christians, agree: our nation’s children are not being adequately prepared for life. The survey, based on interviews with more than 1,000 adults nationwide, reported that less than one in every five believes children under the age of 13 are being well-prepared for life emotionally, physically, spiritually, intellectually or physically.

As leaders in children’s and family ministry, we have our work cut out for us. If you want to help bring about significant change in the lives of children, then you’ll want to know these three fundamental truths about kids today.

Truth #1: Our Children Are at Risk

Children are under immense pressure today. Temptations exist on every side. They live in a world where life skills are required earlier and earlier in order for them to face the daily challenges of life. Kids often face issues they don’t know how to handle, including drugs, sexuality and even suicide.

Even when they aren’t encountering evils like those, they face technology, social media and an information age that continually confounds their youth. Many kids are ill-equipped to face the realities of our current world.

Truth #2: Kids Are Most Powerfully Influenced by Parents

All children need therapy. And the best therapists for kids are their parents, if they have a good plan. Whether children are being raised in traditional families or blended families; whether they are being raised by a single parent, foster parents, adoptive parents or even grandparents, we all have the same parental responsibility in common: To prepare the next generation for success.  

But parents today often rely on worldly or ineffective training tools. For example, an overemphasis on reward and punishment appeals to the selfishness in children. It causes kids to start asking the wrong questions about life: “Are you going to pay me for that?” “What’s the minimum I need to do to get my reward?” Young people who have been raised with, “I’ll give you what you want if you do what I say,” end up with an entitlement mentality and often respond with disrespect and a demanding attitude.

Truth #3: Kids’ Lives Are Changed by Heart-Based Parenting

Many parents think that working with the heart of a child means having more dialogue or more spiritual interaction, or showing more affection. Those are good things, but the heart is much bigger and requires more, which opens the door for a broad range of solutions. In fact, when parents make the leap from reward-punishment to a heart-based approach, major changes take place in a short amount of time. It truly is miraculous.

Examples of this from my own ministry include Joey and Karen 

·      Joey, age 10, had a huge problem with anger, erupting with hate speech and emotional drama. His parents decided to use a completely different approach to parenting Joey. Emphasizing more relationship, visioning for change, and quite a bit of firmness, they saw amazing change in their son in just four weeks. They said: “We are seeing changes we didn’t think were possible! We still have occasional challenges, but he’s a much more peaceable boy now.”

·   Karen, age 8, had challenges with ADHD, was quite impulsive and had a hard time focusing to get things done. Parents went to work using a therapy strategy we call an Instruction Routine. It contains five steps for the parent and five steps for the child that script how instructions are to be given and received in order to maximize training. Dad and Mom each practiced it 20 times a day, and it had the desired effect. Karen started developing a greater internal sense of obligation in her heart—the internal feeling that provides the basis for all responsibility. After several weeks of this training Karen, reached an important tipping point where the obligation in her heart exceeded the urges she was experiencing. The result was a greater ability to demonstrate self-control, amazing even her teachers at school.

Sometimes parents emphasize the “what” but don’t teach kids the “how.” They tell their kids to be kind or respectful; but how do you be kind to an annoying brother or respectful to a parent who is being harsh?

Those questions reveal another heart-based strategy called “training,” which for many parents is a significant move away from a justice mentality that says, “You did this, so you get that.” When parents train their kids to do the right thing, their parenting becomes much more positive. Relationships improve, tensions are reduced and great things happen in family life.