We drive them to school.
We sleep under the same roof.
We watch every one of their games, concerts, and melt-downs.
We may even have the regular opportunity to share meals with them.
Yet we often have no idea who they are.
We used to think we knew our children, but no more. Perhaps you’ve felt what many parents have verbalized to me about their teenagers:
“They’re not the kid I used to know.”
“What happened to my baby?”
This is all too common a parental conundrum, and it happens in many ways for many reasons. But right now, you’re likely less concerned about how it happened than you are about fixing it. And, for some reason, sitting down and asking your son “How’s school,” “Is something bothering you,” or “What are you thinking about?” just doesn’t seem to work anymore.
The encouraging reality is that our children communicate to us who they are in everything they do. They even scream their deepest heart issues to us with their silence.
With this thought in mind, I’d like to share 4 vital ways to remove your child’s mask and start the glorious process of knowing your child and helping them become the person God wants them to be.
Each concept below is phrased as a question, but you won’t be asking your child these questions – it’s possible they won’t even know the answers! The answers are for you to discover by truly understanding your kid. They’re designed to get you thinking about your daughter’s non-verbal communication and help you pull back the curtain to your son’s world.
Of course, you can watch and observe all you want, but please note that the best way to know your child is to talk with them. This is a vital part of any relationship. The people we like the most are the people we talk to the most. However, it’s likely your son or daughter may be hiding something very dear to them, and as I mentioned earlier, they may not even know why they act and talk and feel the way they do. Discovering the answers to these questions may seem like an impossible, Sherlockian task, but our great God described the process in Proverbs 20:5 –
Are you ready to draw out your child’s heart?
Here we go.
1. What do my child’s speaking and spending habits reveal about their passions?
Log on to Facebook. What are your friends writing about?
When you really stop to listen to what people say, you can readily figure out what’s important to them. Where I used to work, the lunch table resonated with sports jargon and tales of student woes. Occasionally God’s goodness and His all-sustaining grace came up . . . but not often, and not for long.
Listen to your kids talk – especially when they’re talking with their friends. This includes social media and texting. In fact, they’re often far more honest with their fingers than they are with their mouths. Not friends with your kid on Facebook? Change that right away.
Look at your co-workers bank statement. What are they buying?
Likely, your business peers talk often of their new purchases. Whether it’s as simple as new shoes or as dynamic as a vacation home, what people spend their hard-earned money on reveals their priorities. How can some people buy canned corn for their children while they wear designer sneakers? Why do addicts often live in squalor while paying obscene amounts of money on drugs? It’s what’s important to them.
Your son may not tell you with his mouth that he loves himself more than anyone else, but if all of his petty cash is spent on him without a thought for the other people in his life . . . you know what’s important to him.
You often don’t have to ask someone what they think about God. The fact that they never talk about Him or invest their most precious resources in His cause tells you everything you need to know about their relationship with Him.
And that leads us to the deeper reality . . .
2. What do my child’s words and actions say about their thoughts on God?
The Wilds Christian Camp and Conference Center coined the phrase
“You do what you do and say what you say because you want what you want. And you want what you want because you believe what you believe about God, His Word, and yourself.”
No truer words were ever spoken.
However, understanding that my daughter’s stealing money from kids at school is not merely an indication that she wants more money, but it also reveals that she believes her desire for money is more important than her peers’ right to keep their money, and furthermore exposes the fact that she doesn’t believe that dad and the school’s rules about stealing are important enough to follow, and – in the end – betrays that she thinks God’s way of living life clearly doesn’t work . . . is not a natural conclusion.
However, there are four vital caveats to accurately interpret a person’s motives:
- You’re not automatically right just because you think you are. It’s tremendously easy to miss important details, not know what the Bible has to say on the topic, or simply assign wrong motives. For this reason, you must always bear in mind the following –
- Only God knows a person’s heart. All we can do is observe and make informed assumptions. But, that’s all they are – assumptions. And we all should know how dangerous assumptions can be when they’re wrong. You don’t really “know” why she did what she did until she (or God) tells you.
- Therefore, any and all assumptions must be biblically informed. Too many parents make statements like, “You did that because you wanted to hurt us!” Maybe. Maybe not. I guarantee there’s no better way to shut down your child than by telling them they did something for a reason they didn’t. However, when people sin, it’s a biblical fact that they don’t love God and others they way they should. Stick with the biblical facts.
- When it comes time to confront your child, be careful with your words. Don’t pretend to be God’s mouthpiece by telling him why he argues unless you’re actually going to quote Him James 4. Even then, it’s better to ask questions – guiding them to God’s truth so they can better understand themselves as God sees them. Lastly, it’s always wiser to say something like “It seems the issue is . . . .” or “It appears you said that because . . . .” than to tell you them “You did this because . . . .“
Our words flow from our hearts and our actions grow out of our beliefs. But weak-eyed mortals need divine help to truly understand motives (theirs and those of others). For this reason, the Bible needs to be your interpretive guide.
3. What is my child’s entertainment teaching them?
In the same way I need understand what my child’s words and actions reveal about his views on God, I also need to be aware of the pressures my child encounters from the outside. I Peter 5:8 tells us that Satan wants to destroy our children. He’s not content to let your daughter ruin herself, he wants to be an active participant in her demise.
I believe the second greatest destructive influence on the life of your child is what they use to entertain themselves. This doesn’t merely encompass movies, music, the internet, and books (though each of those is HUGE); it includes other pastimes such as sports and malls.
The world is voraciously preaching its philosophies, shouting its opinions, and cramming its agenda down your child’s throat! Do you know what the culture is teaching your children? What are the themes of the songs? What worldview does the movie promote? What is your son being exposed to in the locker room at basketball practice? How do food companies lie to our children about the purpose of food and how it’s to be consumed? What motives are your daughter having hung above her as the main reason for winning? What does the world want your kids to believe about the way they dress?
Your children are being attacked on every front. Understanding the specific attacks will help you prepare your child to overcome them (if they’re unavoidable) or help you see where certain forms of entertainment need to be radically amputated from your child’s life.
But keep in mind that often the most subtle dangers are the ones that slip silently under our radars. As long as a movie doesn’t have gratuitous violence and nudity, is that enough? Errant philosophy is frequently more damaging than flagrant sin because most people realize that murder is wrong, but “following your heart” sounds so right (though tragically unbiblical)! My child is more prone to buying the life-destroying lie that following her heart brings happiness than she is to murder someone.
As you remove the mask of sinful entertainment, it will become much easier to understand why your child is desiring what they desire, talking how they talk, or going where they go. This is because “the heart issue is an issue of the heart.”1
4. What idols are your child and their peers being tempted to worship?
We’ve now come full circle.
Everything about my child’s life is a veritable tome of the heart. Your daughter sends nasty texts to her friends about the odd girl in class because she’s bought countless lies fed to her every day by the Master Deceiver and his world system. But why did she buy those lies in the first place? Who would be tempted to hurt the people they love the most simply to benefit themselves? Answer: Someone who loves themselves the most.
When your son clicks on that porn site he’s not being asked to worship the feminine form, he’s being tempted to abuse the feminine form in a hedonistic ritual of self-worship.
When your daughter cheats on that test, she’s not being tempted to worship good grades, she’s giving into her own selfish desires to be the best, or to make people think something of her that isn’t true, or to simply have something she doesn’t think she can have on her own. In the end, she’s worshipping self.
Like you, your child is an all-out, every-day, in every-way worshipper. He’s worshipping God or he’s worshipping himself.
Everything your child does, says, feels, and wants, shows you who she serves. If the actions are sinful, it’s because the thoughts and intentions are sinful. If she doesn’t want to talk to you, there’s a problem. If he’s unkind to his younger siblings, that’s a problem. Thankfully, there’s this really great book that has the ability to reveal those thoughts and intents.
But the Bible will remove other masks as well. Your daughter may not like to talk to you because you may be unapproachable, and perhaps your kid’s younger sister is painfully annoying . . . but when you take the steps to really understand what makes your child tick by removing the masks using God’s Truth, you will find (by the grace of God) areas where you, your child, and the rest of your family can grow.
And isn’t that exciting!
Have you reached a crisis point with your teen son? Check out Victory Academy for Boys for in-depth help.
1. Greg Mazak