Ask The Source

Answers for Tough
Parenting Questions

Got a tough question? You’re not alone! Chances are good that our team of parents might be going through some of the same issues. Scroll through the topics below and click on the link that best describes your need.

If you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, then

use the form below to ask any question related to parenting.

FEATURED QUESTION:

I have just stumbled on your site, and you have some really good stuff going on. Many of your articles and resources are interesting and seem to come from a much more healthy perspective than many other Christian sites on the subject. I really like what you are doing. However, there has been one issue on which I have not yet been able to determine your stance. That is the issue of video games. I have seen some articles that seem to take a very anti-game stance, but all written by a single person. Could you give me a little more information about your stance regarding video games?

-Sam

ANSWER:

Sam,

Thanks for the email.

First, I’m happy to share with you some resources and tips about using discernment with today’s video games. We definitely don’t have an anti-game stance. (I’m actually curious as to which article of ours you read that you perceived as “anti-game.”) As a matter of fact, we’re about to add a GAME REVIEWS section to our websites. We are merging and absorbing the content from www.Reviews4Parents.com in the next month.

As for articles about our stance, the best place to find articles about anything to do with MEDIA, YOUTH CULTURE, and POP CULTURE is our YOUTH CULTURE WINDOW page. Just jump on our site and click on the WINDOW on the front page to see our current article, or access the entire list of articles on our YOUTH CULTURE WINDOW page which you can access from the ARTICLES, HELPS & ADVICE drop down menu. Here’s the direct link: http://www.thesource4parents.com/YouthCultureWindow/default.aspx

On that page, if you scroll down, you’ll find a few articles on video games over the years. You’ll find a recent article written by David R. Smith in January, 2011 titled, The Dominance of Video Games. In that article, he brings you up to date with what parents will find in popular games today and even outlines four pointers at the end of the article to help you make solid decisions for your family. I encourage you to read that article.

I agree with David. My own son Alec loves video games. When he was a kid, there probably wasn’t a day of the week that you wouldn’t find him playing with Mario or Donkey Kong in our house. We quickly found that we needed to set some guidelines (in our house, we limited our kids to 1 hour of games on weeknights, 2 hours on weekends) and always looked into game content before buying games. There were times where we couldn’t tell from reviews whether a game was appropriate or not. In those situations, we rented the game and I played it with Alec. I remember on a few occasions saying, “Sorry Alec, I don’t think this one is appropriate.” Alec was usually good about that, because I had taken the time to look at the content with him.

In the years I’ve spent helping parents, I’ve found that parents who are pro-active about setting guidelines and then actually sitting down with their kids and playing some of the game with them… those parents are not only informed, but are playing an active relational role in their kids’ lives.

I hope that helps just a bit!

God Bless,
Jonathan McKee

Jonathan’s Answers to Tough Questions About Music

QUESTION:

I use your site a bunch (thanks!) I’m a single mom with two teenagers. I’ve tried to raise them both in church and making decisions based on God’s word, but it’s very hard with the influences surrounding them. Lately, they want to download music that they call “clean,” but it’s not. How do I know what’s clean and what’s not

Julie

ANSWER:

Julie,

This is a great question, and one that I hear over and over again during my parenting seminars. “Mom, can I download Cee Lo Green’s new song? It’s called Forget You. It’s clean, I promise.”

Clean.

What a relative term. The “clean” of 40 years ago is definitely different than the “clean” from today. In the 60’s, a “clean” song might say It’s In His Kiss, while a song from today might declare I Kissed a Girl. Savvy parents will know, those songs aren’t talking about the same thing; one is fairly innocuous, while the other pushes the envelope in both lyric and video image.

But which is which?

I faced a similar question in my own home just last year. I wrote about it in this Youth Culture Window article. Basically, my oldest daughter wanted to download a song she thought was “clean.” After all, it had no swear words in it, and it didn’t refer to women as b*tches or hoes. Good start. But is that enough?

So, Alyssa and I did what we always do when we don’t know if a song meets our standards: we research it. This is simple to do on Google. Just type in the artist’s name and the title of the song and scores of webpages will offer you a listing of the song’s lyrics. Click on any of them to read through the song’s message for yourself. But that’s only half the research!

Since most tunes these days come with a music video, I usually open up YouTube or Vevo and search for the artist’s song by title. (Again, just typing in the name of the artist and song will usually get you what you need.)

Finally, after collecting all the information we can, we talk. Talk. Not lecture. Not condemn. Not judge.

Talk.

In this instance, I took a risk and let Alyssa make the final decision. She loved the song! Who wouldn’t? It’s catchy as heck! But she had also been confronted with the less-than-holy messages in the song that didn’t gel well with her understanding of truth, love, and relationships.

In the end, she took a pass on the song. I was greatly pleased with her and her decision.

Julie, I recommend the same process for you.

Define what clean means for your family. Does it just mean the absence of obscenities, or does it encompass the absence of contaminating messages? In other words, if a song doesn’t have a single swear word in it (Rihanna’s S&M), but is nothing more than an advertisement for bondage sex, will that meet our standard of “clean”? I used Cee Lo Green’s song at the outset of my answer to you. His song is actually entitled F**k You, but also has a “clean” version that goes by Forget You. The same point is there, even if the verb heard is “forget” instead of “f**k.” (Besides, ask 100 kids who are familiar with the song, and most of them will know that the “forget” version was originally the “f**k” version.) Since you are the one who is responsible for your family, you should get to be the one who sets the standard.

Do your research. Like I said earlier, the Internet will be incredibly helpful here. You can review the lyrics and listen to the entire song yourself before paying 99 cents for the tune… and even more when those messages take root in kids’ minds and hearts. Don’t skip this crucial step. Not only will it help you make decisions on a song-by-song basis, it will give you a “big picture” understanding of the direction much of music is headed in.

Talk about standards and choices continually. You won’t win this war by winning one battle. There will always be another “clean” song wanted by our teenagers that’s not so clean. Get in the habit of setting standards instead of decrees. In short, help them understand what you want for them – and why – and then give them the tools to achieve that end. This might include showing them relevant Bible passages (like Philippians 4:8), or teaching them discernment skills. Hey, a great way to develop solid decision-making skills for life is to start by making solid decisions concerning music!

Julie, like you, I wish it wasn’t so hard to determine if a song is really “clean” like the label says it is. Spotting “dirty music” isn’t nearly as simple as spotting dirty shoes. Fortunately, we have tools at our disposal that will help us find the dirt on “clean” songs so that dirt doesn’t get tracked into our kids’ lives.

Jonathan’s Answers to Tough Questions About One on One Time

QUESTION:

Hello. I’m not sure who to address this inquiry to as I’m not sure who is reading this e-mail! But I’m hoping to get a couple of recommendations as to a good study/devotional to do with my [very rebellious] seventeen year old daughter. She is not open, so it will be somewhat forced, but I’m hoping to find something that will relate to her where she is at. I appreciate your insights.

-Gina (Big Horn, WY)

ANSWER:

Gina,

Great question. First, you’re not alone. A lot of parents out there are dealing with teenagers who are rebelling in various ways. I’m glad to hear that you would like to do a study or devotional with her.

Here’s a quick little hint, and then some resource suggestions for ya:

HINT: Relationship first. If you want to be able to have some deep conversations with your daughter, then start with light and fun conversations. Find a place she likes to go (breakfast? French fries after school? Ice cream?) and sit in a booth with her and just chat with her. Ask her fun questions about her week, what she enjoys doing, etc. (I spend two chapters talking about this and I provide a bunch of discussion-starting questions in my parenting book, CANDID CONFESSIONS OF AN IMPERFECT PARENT.)

After a few times taking her to ice cream or someplace fun, tell her, “This is fun. Let’s find a time where we can do this weekly. We’ll go to a place of your choice, and we’ll spend half of the time just talking about whatever you want to talk about. And during the second half of the time, I want to go through this book” (or whatever resources/study you decide to go through).

That brings up the resources.

There are tons of ways you can go here. There are some books that you could read together (“Read a chapter and we’ll get together and discuss it next week), there are Bible books (“Read Mark chapter 1 and we’ll talk about what we read next week) or there are curriculums and discussions available. Our website “The Source for Parents” has some great current discussions starters using media as a springboard for discussion that might just do the trick. Here’s two good ideas:

MUSIC DISCUSSIONS: From our www.TheSource4Parents page, access the dropdown menu at the top left of the page where it says FREE RESOURCES & IDEAS. Choose MUSIC DISCUSSIONS. That page is full of fairly current songs (some from the last month or two… some from a few years ago) that you can discuss. Each of these discussions provides questions you can discuss with your daughter, a scripture passage and some direction where to take the conversation. There are three simple questions at first, then some more questions for “deeper discussion.” So you can customize the discussion to be as long or as brief as you desire.

MOVIE REVIEWS & QUICK Q’s: From our www.TheSource4Parents page, access the dropdown menu at the top left of the page where it says FREE RESOURCES & IDEAS. Choose MOVE REVIEWS & QUICK Q’s. That page is full of current movies that you can discuss. We don’t review every film, but at any given time we usually have discussions/reviews posted for numerous films in the theatre and on the NEW RELEASE wall at your local rental store. Each of these discussions provides questions you can discuss with your daughter, a scripture passage and some direction where to take the conversation.

I think you’ll find both those resources to be very helpful. And they’re both free.

Another great free discipleship resource is on our youth ministry page HERE. (You can read a description about it and download it near the bottom of that page.) It’s a free discipleship guide called WELCOME TO THE FAMILY. I’ve discipled many kids with this book, including my own. It’s designed to be done together, reading and answering questions, filling out answers as you go. I tried to go through a chapter a week with my kids. Really good little book.

I hope these resources and ideas help you a little bit in this time with your daughter.

Thanks for the email.

Keep up the good work!

God Bless,
Jonathan McKee

QUESTION:

Some teens from my youth group said to me the other day, “I don’t understand God. If He knows everything and knows what’s gonna happen to me, and knows that I’m saved, then if I sin, what does it matter? I’m already saved right? So I just wanna have fun and this Christianity seems at times a bit boring.”

I was glad they were opening up to me but I was also not ready to give an answer (or the right answer for that matter). Can you guys help me with this?

Thank you,
Denis

ANSWER:

Denis,

Thanks for the email. That’s a good question. Kids can ask some real “whoppers” at times.

I think the best thing to do with a question like that is first, “acknowledge that it’s a good question and encourage him/her for asking it.” Tell him that he’s not alone. Others have wondered the same thing.

Then try to see if he/she would be willing to look at the answers with you.

One place to the find the answer is the scripture. In Romans 6 Paul has just been laying out the fact that we are set free by Christ. And at the beginning of Romans 6 he asks the same question that kid just asks. He asks, “So… since I’m free, does that mean we can go on sinning, because then Jesus’ grace and forgiveness just goes on covering me even more?”

Then he answers his own question by saying… “no, that would be stupid. Because we are no longer slaves to sin. We’re free from that way of living. Don’t let sin rule in your body anymore.”

We touch on this a little bit in our MUSIC DISCUSSION on Bruno Mars’ song and video Grenade(which most of your kids will know) here: http://www.thesource4ym.com/musicdiscussions/MusicDiscussions.aspx?id=46

If your group is interested in the discussion, see if you can follow up with an invitation to search the scriptures for truth like this weekly. “Hey, this was fun. Do you guys want to meet together every week for a Bible study and we’ll continue to dialogue about where the truth lies, and we’ll have some fun at the same time?”

I hope that helps just a little bit.

Keep up the good work!

God Bless,
Jonathan McKee


Jonathan’s Answers to Tough Questions About Video Games

QUESTION:

I have just stumbled on your site, and you have some really good stuff going on. Many of your articles and resources are interesting and seem to come from a much more healthy perspective than many other Christian sites on the subject. I really like what you are doing. However, there has been one issue on which I have not yet been able to determine your stance. That is the issue of video games. I have seen some articles that seem to take a very anti-game stance, but all written by a single person. Could you give me a little more information about your stance regarding video games?

-Sam

ANSWER:

Sam,

Thanks for the email.

First, I’m happy to share with you some resources and tips about using discernment with today’s video games. We definitely don’t have an anti-game stance. (I’m actually curious as to which article of ours you read that you perceived as “anti-game.”) As a matter of fact, we’re about to add a GAME REVIEWS section to our websites. We are merging and absorbing the content from www.Reviews4Parents.com in the next month.

As for articles about our stance, the best place to find articles about anything to do with MEDIA, YOUTH CULTURE, and POP CULTURE is our YOUTH CULTURE WINDOW page. Just jump on our site and click on the WINDOW on the front page to see our current article, or access the entire list of articles on our YOUTH CULTURE WINDOW page which you can access from the ARTICLES, HELPS & ADVICE drop down menu. Here’s the direct link: http://www.thesource4parents.com/YouthCultureWindow/default.aspx

On that page, if you scroll down, you’ll find a few articles on video games over the years. You’ll find a recent article written by David R. Smith in January, 2011 titled, The Dominance of Video Games. In that article, he brings you up to date with what parents will find in popular games today and even outlines four pointers at the end of the article to help you make solid decisions for your family. I encourage you to read that article.

I agree with David. My own son Alec loves video games. When he was a kid, there probably wasn’t a day of the week that you wouldn’t find him playing with Mario or Donkey Kong in our house. We quickly found that we needed to set some guidelines (in our house, we limited our kids to 1 hour of games on weeknights, 2 hours on weekends) and always looked into game content before buying games. There were times where we couldn’t tell from reviews whether a game was appropriate or not. In those situations, we rented the game and I played it with Alec. I remember on a few occasions saying, “Sorry Alec, I don’t think this one is appropriate.” Alec was usually good about that, because I had taken the time to look at the content with him.

In the years I’ve spent helping parents, I’ve found that parents who are pro-active about setting guidelines and then actually sitting down with their kids and playing some of the game with them… those parents are not only informed, but are playing an active relational role in their kids’ lives.

I hope that helps just a bit!

God Bless,
Jonathan McKee