My Favorite Easter Clip

Ben-Hur-meets-JesusEaster is just around the corner… some of you are still preparing lessons or discussions, or even looking for ways to engage in meaningful conversations with our kids about the amazing sacrifice Jesus paid for us.

Year after year I return to this clip from the Academy Award winning movie Ben Hur.

I love the mystery and power of Jesus they created in this scene:

(Click here if you can’t see the embedded HD YouTube Clip)

Here is some scripture and discussion questions to help you unpack this scene as well.

And here’s another one, from Spielberg’s heart wrenching film, Amistad. Here’s the clip, scripture and discussion questions.

Posted in Faith, Movies | Leave a comment

Bonding or Boundaries PART 2- Contest Winners

Bonding-Boundaries-SignLast week I wrote a post discussing the two vital ingredients in parenting: bonding and boundaries. Bonding is the side with nurturing and play, where boundaries is structure and discipline.

In many parent child relationships, parents seems to sway toward one over the other, despite the fact that both elements are necessary. I asked you to comment and see which side you seem to “err” toward and which side you see more (I posted those winners this morning in that post).

First, let me say that in no way do I see this as a ‘poll’ as to where the majority lies in the US. My audience of readers is in no way a random sample. If you want to peek at a random sample, I think McAfee might have discovered the way most US moms and dads parent in their study last summer, where they simply concluded:

The majority of parents (74%) simply admit defeat and claim that they do not have the time or energy to keep up with their children and hope for the best.

Boundaries aren’t exactly popular right now when they take so much effort… and they make parents the bad guy.

This is a growing trend in the US. “I don’t like to see my kids sad. So I won’t burden them with rules and discipline.” (low boundaries)

Combine that with the parent who also swoops down and saves their kid from any harm. Their goal is to see their kid happy. This only raises kids who have never experienced the struggle of making decisions for themselves… and sometimes even failing.

Funny, when reading the comments of my first post, It almost seems like we in the church tend to sway towards boundaries, almost becoming that overprotective parent. Maybe it’s because we’ve seen that overwhelming majority of parents who let their kids do whatever they want… and we don’t want to be them!

I think I was that parent for a while. The disciplinarian. The drill Sergeant. I swayed toward lecturing instead of listening. Monologue instead of dialogue.

Mistake.

Don’t forget the bonding!!!

Parenting is such a blend of both bonding and boundaries. Moses might have just nailed it in Deut 6 when he implored us to remember to impress these values to our children when we get up in the morning, when we walk along the road, when we go to bed at night…

He paints a picture of a parent walking through life with their kids dialoguing about truth.

Dialogue, not monologue.

Are we having these dialogues about real life? Are we listening? Or are we too busy grounding them for not cleaning their room?

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Shy, Teased, Isolated…Teen Killer?

Alex-Hribal-school-stabbingWhy?

It’s the one question no one can really answer at this moment describing the rampage 16-year-old Alex Hribal embarked on yesterday at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, PA. One can only speculate.

His attorney is saying he is just a normal kid. Most are saying he was “shy”, “quiet” and “small.” Some are already using words like “bullied” and “teased.” Like Alex’s classmate who described the teasing as “relentless” at times.

“They just said things. They’d ride him and ride him, and today was the day that he snapped.”

I felt a unique twinge in my spine when I read that quote… because I remember that feeling. I know that emotional state well, not from studying youth culture, or writing and speaking about bullying, but from hearing the jeers and pokes from my classmates in my early teen years.

How many young people can just sit and endure ridicule?

How many “snap” like Alex?

We have yet to discover why Alex snapped, but I’ve studied a long list of names—kids who “snapped” and engaged in a rampage of mass violence. Luke Woodham, 16, killed two students and wounded seven on October 1, 1997. He and his friends were labeled by many as outcasts. Or how about Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Andrew Golden, 11, who sat in the woods outside Westside Middle School on March 24, 1998 and shot at their classmates and teachers as the school emptied during a false alarm.

Columbine’s Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are probably the most well known assailants, killing 13, wounding 24, and eventually turning their guns on themselves. This explosion of passive aggression might have resonated with likeminded individuals across the continent more than many realize, because an echo of similar outbreaks happened in the next days, weeks and months:

April 28, 1999, Taber, Alberta, Canada
Just eight days after Columbine.  One student killed, one wounded at W. R. Myers High School in first fatal high school shooting in Canada in 20 years. The suspect, a 14-year-old boy, had dropped out of school after he was severely ostracized by his classmates.

May 20, 1999, Conyers, GA
One month after Columbine.  Six students injured at Heritage High School by Thomas Solomon, 15, who was reportedly depressed after breaking up with his girlfriend.

Nov. 19, 1999, Deming, NM
Victor Cordova Jr., 12, shot and killed Araceli Tena, 13, in the lobby of Deming Middle School.

Dec. 6, 1999, Fort Gibson, OK
Four students wounded as Seth Trickey, 13, opened fire with a 9mm semiautomatic handgun at Fort Gibson Middle School.

I’ve poured over these lists in the last decade, read the bios, watched the videos. I find it intriguing to note some of the common denominators.

Shy.

Teased.

Isolated.

Mental issues.

Ignored.

Those words could almost be listed as a pattern or progression. Shy kids are teased, and, in turn, isolated. Think about it. How many kids do you know who are going to cross that social barricade and sit next to the awkward kid who people are giggling at?

Speaking from personal experience, this kind of jeering and isolation is tough on a kid’s psyche. It’s not surprising when mental issues emerge. Yes, this might be a ‘chicken or the egg’ argument… who knows if the mental issues were already there, causing the social backwardness, or vice versa. Regardless, the traits are all there.

At this point the situation only spirals. The social awkwardness often increases. Who is going to invite this kid to their birthday party? Ignored, he will only seek out isolation even more, making every effort to avoid any contact… because connection with others usually ends badly.

This shy, teased, isolated kid will be left to work out his feelings of anger and resentment on his own. Some of these kids take their own life… some attempt to take the lives of others.

Hope
As I think about this archetypal bullied, teased, isolated kid and the pain he or she is going through, I don’t give up hope.

Last year a film slipped through the cracks. This film was not only a gem in modern cinema, it revealed an effective cure, a happy ending to this seemingly hopeless plight. The film is The Way Way Back, a story of a shy lonely kid who might have just gone unnoticed until a caring adult who worked at a water park happened to notice him.

And that was the key.

Notice.

A caring friend noticed someone who didn’t even necessarily want to be noticed. But the friend pursued… and the rest is history.

Jesus modeled this. It’s hard to miss. The woman at the well, John 4. Zacchaeus. Luke 19. The bleeding woman, Mark 5 (“Who touched me?”). The list goes on.

Jesus noticed people who didn’t necessarily want to be noticed, then he connected with them, with no worries what others were thinking.

What if we took time to “notice” the shy, the teased and the isolated?

What if we set our own selfish aspirations aside for a moment and truly “looked to the interests of others”? (Philippians 2:4)

How would Alex’s story been different if someone had noticed him, crossed that social line, sat next to him and said, “Hi, my name is Chris, can I eat lunch with you?”

JONATHAN IS THE AUTHOR OF OVER A DOZEN BOOKS INCLUDING THE BRAND NEW GET YOUR TEENAGER TALKING

Posted in News, Youth Culture | 1 Comment

Bonding or Boundaries

Bonding-Boundaries-SignParenting is hard! (WINNERS TO CONTEST POSTED BELOW)

I study and write about youth culture and parenting almost every day. It seems so nice and simple when I’m reading articles and typing words on the screen… then my 16-year-old gets home from school!

Huge difference between theory and practice.

I have never… emphasis on never… met the perfect parent. And I’m still learning lessons daily with my own kids, age 16, 18 and 20. But people still always ask me:

“What’s the secret to being a good parent today?”

I always laugh and think, “Ha… do you want theory or practice?

Allow me to let you in on a little bit of my thinking where, imperfect parent that I am, theory is slowly becoming practice in my own home. It’s nothing more than a balance of bonding and boundaries.

Bonding includes nurturing, hugging, wrestling on the floor, connecting over coffee and engaging in meaningful dialogue with our kids. Boundaries include teaching values, setting fair and helpful guidelines, and enforcing discipline when necessary. These two practices are equally vital and important, and at times they seem to be at odds with each other. That’s why most parents seem to gravitate toward one or the other.

In my speaking to parents over the last decade I’ve witnessed this polarization time and time again. If parents sway to one side or the other, they become either the over-protective parent (aka, the “helicopter” parent), or the overly-permissive parent (aka, the “peerant”).

If a parent is strong in bonding and weak in boundaries, these kids don’t learn values or discipline. Their overly-permissive parents are so busy being their “friend,” they don’t ever take time to be the parent and say, “No, that’s not good for you.” These kids learn more values from friends and entertainment media than from their parents. These parents often look back in regret.

But if parents sway to the other extreme they can become mere drill sergeants or disciplinarians. These over-protective parents often never give their kids a chance to learn to make good choices on their own… every choice is made for them.

It’s hard to find this balance.

If I were being completely honest, I’d have to confess that I was too strict with my oldest. I focused on rules and discipline so much that I didn’t give him the chance to learn to make choices on his own… and it hurt our relationship.

I really changed with my second child, giving her the chance to make more and more choices, especially during her last two years of high school. I even went to the extreme of instituting ‘no rules –when 17 ½.

Now, with two kids in college and one at home, I find myself focusing on our relationship (bonding), but constantly looking for any opportunity to teach values and decision-making skills (boundaries). Sometimes these two can intersect, like our Wednesday time after school where we meet at our favorite Mexican restaurant, talk a lot about life and go through some scripture together (currently we’re in Ephesians).

I’m constantly searching for a balance between the two.

So what about you?
Which way do you lean, and candidly, how’s that working for you?parent-books

And if you’re not a parent, which parent do you encounter more?

CONTEST WINNERS:

CTP

Jason Tarnowski

Kim Armstrong

 

Posted in Parenting, Personal | 30 Comments

Tim Hawkins Greatest Bits

Christian Comedian Tim Hawkins kills me!

I first heard him at an event we spoke at together. He had the crowd rolling on the floor! Tim’s really good at helping us laugh at ourselves. Hilarious.

In December he put out a greatest hits DVD… the first 6 minutes are on YouTube. I couldn’t resist sharing this with you.

(Click here for the video if you can’t see it embedded)

He has the DVD available on his site.

Posted in Church, Humor | 1 Comment

5 Days of Get Your Teenager Talking- DAY 5

talking-with-teensEach day in my blog this week I have given you a little somethin’ you can use to provoke meaningful conversations with young people. (Click here for Monday’s, Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s, or Thursday’s.) My brand new book, Get Your Teenager Talking has 180 conversation springboards that “get teenagers talking”… I thought I’d share some with you. Here’s one more:

Conversation Springboard No. 5:

Which kids are happier: those who eat whatever they want, drink alcohol, and smoke, or those who eat healthy foods and live a healthier lifestyle?

A recent study suggests an unhealthy lifestyle is linked to unhappiness. In fact, in their analysis of five thousand young people between the ages of ten and fifteen, researchers discovered Continue reading “5 Days of Get Your Teenager Talking- DAY 5” »

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

5 Days of Get Your Teenager Talking- DAY 4

talking-with-teensEach day in my blog this week I’m going to give you a little somethin’ you can use to provoke meaningful conversations with young people. (Click here for Monday’s, Tuesday’s, or Wednesday’s.) My brand new book, Get Your Teenager Talking has 180 conversation springboards that “get teenagers talking”… I thought I’d share some with you. Here’s another one:

Conversation Springboard No. 4:

What makes someone popular at your school? Continue reading “5 Days of Get Your Teenager Talking- DAY 4” »

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5 Days of Get Your Teenager Talking- DAY 3

talking-with-teensWhenever I bring up the events at Columbine, young people become immediately engaged.

Each day in my blog this week I’ve been giving you a little somethin’ you can use to provoke meaningful conversations with young people. (Already posted two- click here for Monday’s or Tuesday’s.) My brand new book, Get Your Teenager Talking has 180 conversation springboards that “get teenagers talking”… I thought I’d share some with you. I’m giving you one each day:

Conversation Springboard No. 3:

A videotape was discovered of the two Columbine killers—the two high school boys in Colorado who killed thirteen people on April 19, 1999. The two angry boys turned on the camera a month before their shooting spree and started bragging about their plans to kill everyone and how their parents didn’t have a clue Continue reading “5 Days of Get Your Teenager Talking- DAY 3” »

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5 Days of Get Your Teenager Talking- DAY 2

talking-with-teensEach day in my blog this week I’m giving you a little somethin’ you can use to provoke meaningful conversations with young people. (Click here for yesterday’s.) My brand new book, Get Your Teenager Talking has 180 conversation springboards that “get teenagers talking”… I thought I’d share some with you. I’ll give you one each day:

Conversation Springboard No. 2:

If the power went out in our city for a day (and you forgot to charge your battery-operated devices), what would you do? Continue reading “5 Days of Get Your Teenager Talking- DAY 2” »

Posted in Books, Internet, Parenting, Smartphones/Cell Phones, Social Media, Youth Culture | Leave a comment

5 Days of Get Your Teenager Talking- DAY 1

talking-with-teensEach day in my blog this week I’m going to give you a little somethin’ you can use to provoke meaningful conversations with young people. My brand new book, Get Your Teenager Talking has 180 conversation springboards that “get teenagers talking”… I thought I’d share some with you. I’ll give you one each day this week:

Conversation Springboard No. 1:
A nationwide survey asked people about the appropriate use of cell phones in social settings such as mealtimes, meetings, and in classrooms. The answers varied considerably by the respondent’s age. The younger the person, the more they perceived texting as permissible in social settings. For example Continue reading “5 Days of Get Your Teenager Talking- DAY 1” »

Posted in Books, Parenting, Smartphones/Cell Phones | Leave a comment