3 reasons we don’t let our children play video games*

3 reasons we don’t let our children play video games*My oldest son was stirring his Oreo milkshake, eating one methodical bite at a time at the local fast-food joint recently, when the conversation turned to his friends.

“I’d much rather spend time at his house than mine,” my son said, referencing a boy his age he had just visited. “Our house is boring.”

I could have been offended, but I wasn’t. Instead, I took a bite of my strawberry sundae and let the discussion progress naturally, free of any knee-jerk reactions.

“He has videos games,” he said. “We don’t.”

A thousand thoughts swirled in my head that went unsaid: We have a large yard. We have a basketball goal. We have a bicycle for every member of the family. We have a basement. We have a large television set. We have a Lego collection that would rival Legoland’s. Besides, what about those starving children in Africa who don’t have any toys?!

But I didn’t say any of that. Instead, I drove the discussion in a different direction: “If we had video games, what would you do less of that you do now?”

My son was stuck. If he answered truthfully – reading? playing outside? doing homework? – then he would be playing into my hands. Thus, we called it a truce, went home, and had a great game of hoops at our old “boring” home.

The Entertainment Software Association reported this year that exactly 50 percent of Americans own either a dedicated video game console or a handheld system.

My household, though, isn’t one of them. Even though we allow our children to play video games at other homes and we let them play the occasional iPhone game of Candy Crush, too, we don’t own a video game console. Perhaps that will change in a few years, but for now, we’re holding off.

Here are three reasons we’ve chosen to have a house free of video games: Continue reading

3 things I’m teaching my son about peer pressure

3 things I’m teaching my son about peer pressureScripture tells us that life is like a “mist” – here today and gone tomorrow – but nothing captures this like childrearing.

My oldest son is now nine, but it seems just yesterday he was saying his first sentence (“I see lights”), taking his first steps (on a porch of a Cracker Barrel), and spelling his first word (“P-O-L-I-C-E” – he was infatuated with law enforcement).

He subsequently rode his first bike, lost his first tooth, and passed his first test.

It was incredible, and it all happened lightning-fast.

Now he is on the verge of his tween years, which will place him on the doorstep of his teen years, when will then launch him into adulthood.

And even though he still wants to be with me virtually every minute of the day, the time is fast approaching when he might want just the opposite. During those years – filled with pimples and voice changes and awkward moments – he will be tempted to spend more time with his friends than his family. And during those moments with his pals and perhaps even a girlfriend, he’ll be faced with peer pressure like he has never experienced.

I’m already seeing glimpses of this future. Just the other day he heard a boy his age say the f-word. Not long after that, he saw an older boy walking down the sidewalk, smoking. And then there was the time he heard some college students – at a sporting event – mock God.

For the first few years of his life, we encouraged him to play with other kids. Now, we sometimes urge him to stay away from other kids. And I can pretty much read his mind as he thinks: “Why are some boys and girls different from me?”

Honestly, I am prepared for the days when he thinks his dad is no longer cool. But I don’t want him ever to be ashamed of Christ and His teachings.

So, when he asks me a question about his friends and the subject turns into a conversation about peer pressure, I try to make three main points: Continue reading

3 simple ways to teach children gratitude

3 simple ways to teach children gratitudeAt some point, every home with young children experiences ingratitude. It’s just part of post-Fall childrearing — alongside 2-year-old temper tantrums and 2 a.m. bedtime visits.

I thought about that recently when my two oldest boys (ages 9 and 5) started grumbling as their mom was baking cookies for a special church function.

“You never make these for us!” they complained.

Never mind that the kitchen cabinet was full of other types of cookies they could eat, and that they get desert for virtually meal, and that mom also was busy preparing dinner – a fabulous meal all of us would soon enjoy.

No, they wanted the special cookies – the cookies they’ve never had — and they didn’t want anyone else to have them, either.

They then joined together to whine in unison: It’s not fair!

You can imagine how the subsequent parent-child conversation went. It included stories of starving African children who rarely get a full meal – much less desert and (definitely) not specially baked cookies.

By the time the conversation was over, our children were wishing they had never complained at all. And they could (nearly) point to Africa on a globe.

Of course, it’s easy to criticize my two sons for a moment of ingratitude. If we’re honest, though, we all have moments like that – moments when we lust after our neighbor’s new car, our friend’s new home, or simply the latest-and-greatest Best Buy gadgets. It’s a problem as old as, well, Scripture. When Jesus healed the 10 leapers, only one returned to give thanks (Luke 17:11-19).

How, then, can we instill a spirit of gratitude, thankfulness and contentment in our children? There are lots of ways to do it, but here are three ways to start: Continue reading

‘Dad, can I buy this?’ (3 things to teach your kids about greed and shopping)

‘Dad, can I buy this?’ (3 things to teach your kids about shopping)

I was getting a haircut at the local budget salon a few months back when my 9-year-old son – who had just received his own trim – started growing restless.

“Dad, can I have your phone?”

Normally the answer is “no,” but his choice of magazines in the waiting area was too adult-oriented, and, besides, there are a few educational apps on my phone that he enjoys.

The rest of our trip to the salon was uneventful – he kindly grabbed a few suckers for his siblings and we ate a snack on the way home — but later that evening, after he went to bed, I discovered an unwelcome surprise in my email.

“Thank-you for shopping with us!” the email, from Amazon.com, read. “We’ll send a confirmation when your item ships.”

Umm, what item?

The LEGO Star Wars Millennium Falcon, of course. The expensive one with 1,329 pieces, ready to assemble. The one with Rey, Finn, Han Solo and Chewbacca. Even BB-8!

I didn’t share Amazon’s excitement, though, and I hadn’t ordered any LEGO toys. Continue reading

3 lessons for kids AND parents from ‘The Lego Batman Movie’

3 lessons for kids AND parents from ‘The Lego Batman Movie’

Hollywood certainly knew what it was doing when it combined two of the favorite things of most U.S. kids — Legos and Batman — into an animated film.

The Lego Batman Movie grossed $53 million in its first weekend, slightly less than projected but more than enough to guarantee we will get a sequel.

My nine-year-old son and I laughed hysterically throughout the movie, and then walked away with a few lessons about life. Yes, The Lego Batman Movie actually has a plot – and a pretty good one, too.

Here are three lessons families shouldn’t miss when watching Lego Batman: Continue reading