Posts by tylerrobbins:
- Stop and pray with our kids over their difficult situations. Often.
- Don’t solve every problem for your kids. Encourage them to pray about it and leave space for Him to work. Follow up.
- Require your kids to obey. Our kids need to be practicing submission to parents now so they can submit to God later (my son came up with this one).
- Model your own submission to God in your prayers and decisions.
- Depend on the Holy Spirit yourself to guide your actions, your ethics and your small daily choices. Tell your kids how he changed you or answered prayer by letting Him lead.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. John 14:16-17
I like black and white. I like right and wrong. I like problems that have answers.
I don’t like guessing. I don’t like blind trust. I don’t like subjectivity.
I’ve preferred logic, reasoning and evidence for as long as I can remember. Before I accepted Christ in my life, I was agnostic because I didn’t think there was any evidence for God. My Christian life since then has marked by studying apologetics and learning the truth about God, Jesus and the Bible. I believe seeking after truth is Godly, and wanting to understand justifications behind my faith is good, but lately I’ve wondered if I’m pushing out the Holy Spirit and his role in my life. We worship a God of truth, but we also worship a God that cannot be comprehended. We worship a God that imcomprehensibly created the vast heavens, and yet equally incomprehensibly lives inside of us and changes us from the inside out.
So I was intrigued lately when I came across the book “The Forgotten God – Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit” by Francis Chan. I’ve been aware lately that too often I ignore the role of the Holy Spirit in my daily life. I’m prone to long dry spells where I’m not experiencing anything close to the unpredictable, miraculous, uncontainable aspect of the God that promises to touch my life life and change me.
Chan suggests that one of the reasons comes down to an issue of control between us and God (doesn’t it always?). We are creatures of control; from the time we’re born we demand that our environment suit us. We don’t naturally like to compromise, adapt or be led. Much of our daily stress comes from situations where we feel out of control. We feel more in control when we have answers to our problems and plans to execute.
We like control so much that sometimes we even invent problems to solve . Time Magazine recently had an article about the popularity of puzzle games, e.g. Soduku, Crosswords, Angry Birds. If life is so full of problems already, why do we seek out new ones to solve? It comes down to control – life rarely presents problems that can be definitively and completely solved in a few minutes like a puzzle. It’s a great feeling of control and satisfaction.
But what about when it comes to us and the Holy Spirit – who’s in control? Are we being led by the Holy Spirit, or are we trying to lead Him? If we construct our lives, schedule and activities without consulting Him, we are doing the leading not Him. Maybe we’re open to Him joining in if He wants, but is there room for Him to fit in? If we’re so busy and in control of our calendar so that every moment is scheduled, we are missing opportunities for the Holy Spirit to direct us. His work will still be accomplished, but not necessarily in us or through us.
If it’s hard for us, what about for our children? How do we teach them to let the Holy Spirit lead? How do we teach them to trust, submit and release control to Him? This is one of those spiritual disciplines that is much better modeled than taught, and here are just a few ways to help keep the focus on the Holy Spirit. Maybe you have some other ideas.
It’s not an easy change to make, giving up control of our lives to the Holy Spirit. There’s a reason the Bible uses phrases like “die to yourselves” and “crucify the flesh”. Giving up our own desires or habits, or leaving something comfortable, can feel like a part of us is dying. But if we submit to Him, it’s never as painful as we fear, because the Holy Spirit changes us from the inside out, and His desires eventually become our desires. It is unlikely our kids are going to walk a life of submissive service to the King, depending each day upon the Holy Spirit, unless we are parents learn to do the same and model it for them.
Lately I have been reading a couple of books about introverts: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. There are different understandings of introverts and extroverts, but it’s generally accepted that they prefer different levels of external stimulation to feel “just right”. It does not mean that introverts are always recluse or hermits – introverts might have strong social skills and enjoy parties and meetings, but after a while wish to be at home with less external stimuli. As an introvert myself, it has been helpful to understand the gifts of reflection, analysis, concentration and independence that God has given us.
Both books detail experiences of introverted people straining to adapt to a world that celebrates extroversion. We tend to admire the dynamic speaker, the confident sales person, the rapid decision makers, life of the party types. Less celebrated are the quiet thinkers, the analysts, the socially awkward, the people perfectly content to be home alone with a book.
There are also some sad stories of parents trying to mold their introverted children into bold, assertive, and dynamic young adults. Statistically, 1/3 to 1/2 f us (and our children) are on the introverted side of the continuum, yet we sometimes struggle with attempting to “cure” our kids and make them more socially dynamic. Even as an introvert, I still have found myself worrying about my son’s ability to “succeed” when he is resistant to being in groups or talk to strangers. I just asked him yesterday what his ideal day would be if he could do ANYTHING, and he told me that his first choice would be a day where he could be at home and just spend time together and hang out. He’s always been nervous talking to strangers or calling people on the phone. I’m learning that my job is not to mold him into the world’s ideal, but to foster his God-given personality and strengths while still looking for opportunities to help him get more comfortable in social situations.
I like to look at the Bible to see whether these character traits were validated. I think it’s important not to look at the Bible through the lens of today’s psychology, but it’s clear that God values many of the characteristics we associate with introversion: Mary, the mother of Jesus, was reflective and “treasured all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:5). Another Mary, Martha’s sister, chose to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him rather than fill it with activity (Luke 10:38-42). Jesus himself sought to get away from the crowds to ensure he had time with the Father.
At the same time, introversion is not an excuse for fear or timidity or avoidance of social interaction. God calls some introverted people to still become confident leaders. Moses resisted God’s call because he was “slow of speech” and wary of the spotlight (Ex 4:10). His fear ultimately led to God’s anger and blessing Aaron as his mouthpiece. Paul also felt the need to remind Timothy that the Holy Spirit is one of power and not timidity (2 Tim 1:7), perhaps because Timothy was too shy and cautious? It was a good reminder to me that God endows us with a personality and a temperament, but as with so many things in our spiritual life we are called to find balance and let the Lord grow us and shape us for service to Him. Two of God’s primary desires for us are to love each other and to bring His gospel to the world. Those necessitate significant interactions with people, and an introverted life of complete solitude would not be effective for accomplishing His mission.
If you have an introverted child, it’s important to understand that many institutions like school and church thrust them into uncomfortable situations and even reward extroverted values. Contemporary Evangelical church services are often geared for extroverts with raucous music, forced greeting time, and no time for contemplative prayer. There’s nothing wrong with these things by themselves, but introverts can sometimes feel out of place and disconnected in these situations. We should help our children and show the balance at home that includes focused study of His word, meditation, and concentrated and quite prayer time with God.
As parents, we need to be discerning with our children. Introverted kids might receive messages that they are “too quiet”, “too shy”, or are loners. So it’s important for us as parents to help them see the Godly traits they exhibit – ability to study His word, to enjoy analyzing and asking questions, to form relationships and witness to those who reject being “sold” the gospel. God has given each of our children unique temperaments that require us not to change them but to help them find how their strengths can be used to serve Him and bless others.
If you’re interested, there’s lots of fun tests online to see if you or your child is introverted. Here’s one.
Author: Tyler Robbins
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. – Joshua 1:8
If you’re anything like me, this is the time of the year you’re already faced with failure of your New Year’s Resolutions. Stumbling out of the gates in your goal to exercise more, eat less, and be consistent with daily time with God. Some people like to spend late December telling everyone their resolutions, presumably putting the pressure on themselves to maintain through accountability. I always preferred to tell no one and fail silently!
For years it’s been a goal of mine to spend every day in God’s word, but before last year that desire was never strong enough to overcome the pull of my daily pressures and diversions. Something always came up, which is another way of saying I continued to choose other things as more important. Reading the Bible consistenly is difficult – What did I last read? Where did I leave off last? And where is my Bible?
Last year, heading into 2011 a friend turned me on to something that gave me some new hope – Daily Audio Bible. Knowing my schedule, amount of time I’m in the car, and the fact that my Smartphone is ever-present with me, I decided to turn to this ministry which was started by a guy named Brian Hardin. He has been reading through the entire Bible every year for 6 years now and posting it online for us to listen to. He makes it available through a podcast, through an iPhone or Android app, or directly on the website. Every day you get a bit of Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs as you work your way through the entire Bible. The ministry has grown to include a Daily Audio Bible for kids, and for adults in multiple other languages.
Brian claimed at the beginning of the year that if you went through this journey with him it would be life changing. That was certainly true for me, but not for the reasons I expected. I hoped that having someone read it to me would make the Bible come alive on a daily basis. Some days it really did, but not most days. I hoped that I would leave each daily reading deeply enriched spiritually; satisfied that God had spoken to me. Some days I felt like He really did, but not every day. I hoped that I would daily ponder the truth and wisdom of God’s word, but most days when it was done I quickly moved on with the pressures of life.
But something else happened that I didn’t expect. I stuck with it. I stayed with God’s word and kept it close to me. I decided to make it a part of my life. I checked in with God every day and I give Him a chance to speak to me. I went in looking for a daily mountain-top experience, and instead got a daily refreshing cup of coffee with the Creator of the Universe.
That last paragraph had a lot of I’s in it for a reason. While the Holy Spirit ultimately is the transformer of our life, I have a part, we have a part – we have to push other things out and let Him in. We have to actively crowd out the distractions of this live to make time for Christ. We need to choose Him over this world. By doing so you make space for a relationship with the Creator of the Universe, and day by day you forge a deeper connection with Him. Hopefully you’ve done that in a major way at some point in your life, but more importantly hopefully you’re doing that continually every single day of your life.
The other thing I discovered as I went along is that spending daily time listening to his Word kept bringing me back to God’s center on a daily basis. Each day away from God’s word we drift unnoticeably away from Him. You might not see it for days at a time, but left unchecked for weeks or months you will find your thoughts and actions further and further away from Him. I came to see two of my morning rituals similarly – I would step on the scale to check my weight, and spend time listening to His Word to check my spirit. Each would allow me to measure myself on a daily basis and do minor course corrections.
We all know how hard habits are to form, and the older we are the harder they get. One of the gifts we can give our children is helping them to instill a habit of daily time with God. This can start young, even before they can read, spending daily time talking about God and praying with them. As they get older, it’s really important to ensure our kids have a daily time with God before they move on to all the other activities. I knew of one friend that would not let his kids watch any TV or computer/phone each day until they had first done their quiet time.
If you’re not in the habit of being in God’s work daily, maybe the Daily Audio Bible will help you like it helped me. Even if we don’t get through the Bible in a year, spending daily time with God helps us to be an example to our kids as we encourage them to do the same. And even if we haven’t mastered that discipline ourselves yet, we should make it a goal of ours to impart to our kids a habit of spending time daily with God and His Word.
Customized Daily Reading Plan: http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/readingplans/
What if I handed you a “special phone” and told you that you can use it anytime, anywhere and you would have a direct line to talk to President Obama, the most powerful man in the world. At first, most of us probably wouldn’t use it, right? Maybe we’d be too intimidated, or we wouldn’t want to bother such a busy guy, or we’re not sure what to say…
But what if, after you stared at the phone for a few days, it started to ring? On the other end is the President, asking how things are going, encouraging you to call him any time. He seemed to care about your life, wanting to help with anything he could, and continued to call every day to encourage you to call him.
We have something even better. Jesus Christ gave us the amazing opportunity to talk not to the most powerful man in the world, but the very creator of the Universe. That we have the personal and attentive ear of the actual Creator amazes me constantly, and likewise shames me that I take it for granted and don’t go to Him constantly.
Prayer is the simplest thing in the world, and yet deep and mystical and confusing. The ability to talk anytime, anywhere, about anything to God is so simple and difficult to screw up. But we sometimes get hung up in not knowing what to say, or feeling like we’re talking to the ceiling, or trying to figure out the right formula to get God to answer our prayers. All this can be frustrating, and it’s why I love Romans 8:26, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” Sometimes when we don’t know how to express our prayers, the Spirit talks to God for us!
I have heard many times “Prayer doesn’t change God, it changes us”. I guess the sentiment is that prayer helps line up our desires with God’s, but this statement was always disturbing to me and demotivating to pray. But the Bible says in James 5:16-18 “…The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” The Bible is filled with stories and encouragement to pray for God to open the hearts of people, to intercede for others, to change circumstances, and to pray with a strong belief that God will answer (Mark 11:24). If we don’t believe prayer is powerful, it won’t be.
We need to be teaching our kids the power or prayer, and modeling for them how to pray in all circumstances. Many times our kids don’t know what to pray for, so we have used the helpful acronym A-C-T-S (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). My daughter revised it to words she could understand easier (Asking, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supremeness!). I guess if you are particular about the order, then instead of A-C-T-S this would be S-C-A-T!
I found this summary and categorization of every New Testament statement on prayer helpful and encouraging. Hopefully the more we understand about prayer, the more we can teach our kids to make it an active, vibrant, and powerful part of their growth with Jesus.
Some other good resources: “The Power of a Praying…” series
Next week’s author: Kim Ashbaugh
Author: Tyler Robbins
Tyler has been married to Mrs. PPP for 14 years, with son Nathan, 10 and daughter, Rachel, 9. In addition to serving as PPP technical support, Tyler works for an Internet company and serves as an Elder in New Harbor Community Church in Benicia, CA.
The other day my wife caught my son lying to her. She said something mean to his sister and his sister told on him. When my wife asked if he said it, he denied it. She asked again, he denied again. She kept pushing, and it turned out she was off by one word on the thing he was accused of saying, so my son felt justified in denying it.
It still shocks me when I find out my children lie at all, much less to me and my wife. I guess I assume they are too innocent, our bond is too strong, or they would know better than to choose wrongly. Usually we don’t witness firsthand when they do something wrong, so we’re forced to take their word for it, or decide between two conflicting stories. Sometimes when I confront my kids on something I suspect they did wrong, they get so defensive and self-righteous that I am left doubting their guilt. I wonder if they have even deceived themselves on their way to deceiving me.
The nature of sin is so deceptive. We are often blind to it. In our hearts most everyone believes they are good, so much so that many times we are reluctant to see our own sins. I began to reflect on the things that I say. What kind of example am I to my kids about holding up the truth. Do I ever lie? Do I seek to always tell the complete truth, the whole story? Have certain small lies or exaggerations become ok? Have I spun a situation to paint myself in a better light to my boss? Have I made a promise to my kids I knew I couldn’t keep? When the phone rings, have I told my wife “Tell them I’m not here”? Have I complimented someone when I didn’t believe what I was saying.
Yes, I have done these things. Sometimes I’m aware of them, but many times the awareness is so fleeting it can be easily dismissed. I deceive myself. And consciously or not, I set a standard with my behavior that is lower that what I believe God would want for me. I want to reset that standard, for me and hopefully my kids. I shouldn’t be satisfied with not just telling the big lies. I want to get rid of the small ones, the innocent ones, and half-truths. I want to raise that bar of integrity out of the grey area, and raise it for my kids in the process.
God’s standard for the truth is very high. Not only is the Bible very clear that lying is an abomination to Him:
16 There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:
17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood,
18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil,
19 A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.
But we are also taught in Matthew and James to not make our words carelesso make our words meaningful.
12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but let your yes be yes, and your no, no; so that you may not fall under judgment.
But God doesn’t even stop there. True integrity requires us not just to avoid saying false things. In Ephesians 4:15, we are taught that we should speak the truth in Love. Sometimes we are called to prayerfully, lovingly, say something to someone, even when we might prefer not to.
As with so many situations, being a parent and seeing the deficiencies in my children makes me much more aware of my own deficiencies, and how God must view them. He wants us to maintain the highest standards of conduct, and to pass that down to our children, and nowhere is that reflected more powerfully in the integrity and truthfulness of our speech.
Next week’s author: Jeanne Cook
Author: Tyler Robbins
Tyler has been married to Mrs. PPP for 14 years, with son Nathan, 10 and daughter, Rachel, 8. In addition to serving as PPP technical support, Tyler works for an Internet company and serves as an Elder in New Harbor Community Church in Benicia, CA.
We’re losing our kids. They’re leaving the church.
I read a study that 70% of teens leave the church by their freshman year of college. Almost all of them indicated that life changes, such as moving to a new area, school or work schedule, friends, etc. contributed to no longer wanting to go. More than half also indicated some problem with the church, such as the members being judgmental, hypocritical, or not feeling connected to the church, pastor, or sermons.
Of course, the ultimate goal of faith in Christ is not simply attending church. By itself that’s just a religious act. We want our teens to have a vibrant, dynamic relationship with Jesus and serve and fellowship with other believers. For these teens leaving the church, I would bet their relationship with Christ is suffering or non-existent.
As parents, we share much of the blame. Forcing our kids to perform religious practices such as going to church means nothing if we are not imparting our faith to our children. As Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says — “Impress (God’s commandments) on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road …” As parents, are we just going through the motions ourselves? Kids can spot a hypocrite a mile away – I know, my kids call me out regularly. We need to be living examples, working out our faith in front of them, talking to them about the power of a relationship with Christ, the wisdom of God’s word, and helping them to apply it to their everyday lives. Are we teaching and training our children to have a daily conversation and lasting relationship with the creator of the universe? Because once you have that, it’s pretty hard to walk away from it at any age.
We’ve recently started hosting a small group at our house, called Back to the Basics. One of the topics we explored was Forgiveness. What topic could be more applicable to a family? We’ve been able to have so many conversations about it with our kids. As parents, we ourselves need to learn the power of asking forgiveness rather than just saying I’m sorry, and then teach it to our children. We need to teach them to forgive even when it’s hard and they don’t feel like it. And we need to teach them the incredible lesson from Matthew 18:21 about the servant who owed huge sums of money to his master, begged for mercy, was forgiven, and then proceeded to choke his fellow servant who owed him a pittance. Our children, like us, need to learn the depth of the forgiveness God has extended us, and that we are required to extend that to others.
Kids grow up and leave church for lots of reasons, and likely most of them are not walking daily with Christ. We have an incredible opportunity while they are with us to show them that our faith is not about going through the motions. We can shepherd them into a relationship with the Creator that becomes as natural and important as breathing. If we succeed, I am betting that is something they will never walk away from.
Next author: Kim Ashbaugh
Author: Tyler Robbins Tyler has been married to Mrs. PPP for 14 years, with son Nathan, 9 and daughter, Rachel, 8. In addition to serving as PPP technical support, Tyler works for an Internet company and serves as an Elder in New Harbor Community Church in Benicia, CA
As yet another sign of getting old, I have been starting to think a lot lately about my legacy. Not with respect to how the world will remember me – I still have a few years to go before my mid-life crisis. But how will my children remember me? Was I just a nice dad that worked hard? Was I just a dad who played with my kids after work and took them on fun vacations? Or instead, will their memory be that I gave them a treasure that will impact them their entire lives? Did I provide them an example of Godliness and live out the values I taught them? Did I pray them not only into the Kingdom, but into a life of dedicated service to the King.
If my kids only remember me for the fun things we did, or a couple of funny stories we shared or sayings I had, I will have failed them. Good memories and a happy childhood are nice and all, but I will have missed the point of why God entrusted their lives to me. I don’t want to squander this opportunity.
I’m sure my ego and pride play a part in desiring my kids value me and what I’ve taught them. Maybe that’s ok if God uses those things to motivate us for His purposes? Paul says it’s ok to boast if you’re boasting in the Lord. So maybe it’s ok to be selfish for the things that God desires, like having your children follow Him and impact the world greatly for Him.
I have also been humbled enough to know that I only get partial credit. Regardless of my efforts, they will make their own decisions about their beliefs, and that’s between them and God. I can take neither blame for their failures, nor credit for them becoming far greater witnesses than I, as I frequently pray they will.
I hope to be around long enough to see my kids not only become vibrant, faithful, dedicated followers of Christ, but to make great sacrifices and do great things for Him. That is the legacy I want to leave them with.
Next Week’s Author: Kim Ashbaugh
Author: Tyler Robbins
Tyler has been married to Mrs. PPP for 13 years, with son Nathan, 9 and daughter, Rachel, 8. In addition to serving as PPP technical support, Tyler works for an Internet company and serves as an Elder in New Harbor Community Church in Benicia, CA.
14 If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14
Recently we’ve been trying to address some behavioral issues with each of our children. Initially, it started with my daughter who, when not getting her way or feeing unfairly treated, began to throw major tantrums. She’s always been emotional, but these were over the top even for her. She was inconsolable. We could not seem to do anything to calm her down short of giving in to her demands, which we would not do. Rationalizing with her went nowhere, arguing with her was impossible. Taking away all of her normal privileges, even for a week, did not phase her.
My son’s issues are a bit different. He, at 9 years old, has pretty much figured the world out. I say that with only a bit of sarcasm, as he is a little too smart for his own good and is already quite difficult to reason with. As a result, he thinks he knows what’s best and is all too happy to let us know how incorrect our decisions are. He especially pulls this on my wife, and, this is the real problem, does so in a very disrespectful tone.
We’ve struggled for a while with trying to correct these behaviors, especially with my daughter. Nothing seemed to work. We really buckled down, stepped up the punishments. Didn’t work. We talked to her when she was calm, asked her how we could help her when she got like that. We developed some good ideas together and tried them. Still didn’t work. Melanie prayed with her often about it, and she really was remorseful, wanted to stop, but simply did not know how and the tantrums continued.
Finally, when I was out of ideas I decided I should pray about it too. As a Christian all I can say is “Duh”. I’m not I shared with my children that we all have weaknesses, and that our faith is more about letting God work through our weaknesses and gaining self-control through the Holy Spirit. I shared with them my own weakness (hint: my son and I are very similar), and prayed with them that God would soften all of our hearts and help us to work on our difficulties.
We saw an amazing transformation in our children following that time and the subsequent prayers we shared. Both children’s hearts really softened. My daughter did not have a tantrum for several weeks (until tonight in fact, reminding me that more prayer is needed!). My son really owned up to his disrespect, and desired to be better and prayed on his own that he would be more respectful of his mom. It was very sweet to see, and we talked with the kids about the power of prayer to change us.
I don’t share this to convey how spiritual we are, or that we have things figured out. Just the opposite, as I’m humbled that it took me so long to “resort” to the thing I should have done from the very start – talk to my kids, instruct them from God’s word, and pray with them. Pretty simple. I feel like a dummy for only doing it when I ran out of my own ideas. I think God used the lesson perfectly in our family’s life to remind me that God wants me to lead my family spiritually, and to do that with all humility, bathed in prayer.
Next author: Melanie Robbins
Author: Tyler Robbins
Tyler has been married to Mrs. PPP for 13 years, with son Nathan, 9 and daughter, Rachel, 8. In addition to serving as PPP technical support, Tyler works for an Internet company and serves as an Elder in New Harbor Community Church in Benicia, CA.
I recently read a New Yorker article about a study conducted in the 60’s, in which they tested 4 year old children’s capacity for self-control. In the study, the child would be given a marshmallow and an offer: you can eat the marshmallow right now, or choose to wait a few minutes while the tester stepped out of the room, and when the tester returned the child could eat two marshmallows instead. Also, at any time the tester was out of the room, the child was free to ring a bell that was sitting on the desk, and the tester would quickly return and the child could eat the one marshmallow, forfeiting the second one.
The children handled the challenge differently. Some of the children would eat the marshmallow right away. Many more would employ various delay tactics – like covering their eyes, turning around, or even hiding under the desk. Some would even stare fixatedly on the treat, or hold it and stroke it like a treasured stuffed animal. Only 30 percent of the children were successfully able to resist for the entire time, about 15 minutes.
Years later, the researchers followed up on the hundreds of children tested, and discovered a very strong correlation between how the children fared at the marshmallow test and their subsequent behavioral, academic and later career and life success. Low delayers, the children who rang the bell quickly, had far more behavioral problems, struggled in stressful situations, and had more weight and drug problems. Further, children who waited the full 15 minutes scored, on average, 210 points higher on the SAT than the children who could wait only 30 seconds.
We and our children are growing up in a marshmallow world that feeds our desire for immediate gratification. It’s a world where our sensory natures can be fed immediately by just reaching for the remote, computer, portable gaming device or SmartPhone. We are too easily bored – we surround ourselves and our children with constant entertainment. Next time you go to a movie theater on a Friday or Saturday night, watch the teenagers who all have their cell phones out and are all staring at them. We are impatient. We get frustrated when fast food takes too long. Snail mail was too slow so we got fax and then eMail. eMail was too slow, and so now we have instant messaging and texting. While I am as guilty as anyone at for multi-tasking and expecting immediate results, this article reminded me how important it is to practice self-control in our lives, and to teach it to our children. God repeatedly implores us to have self-control. It is one of the indicators of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Gal 5:22-23), something both men and women are instructed to have (Titus 2), and in Titus 2:12 we learn that the Holy Spirit “teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” Self-control is required not just to live healthy, successful lives, it is required to grow in our Christian faith and is one of the key indicators of the Holy Spirit’s influence in our lives.
I think it is fascinating that this early test of a child’s self-control ended up being a powerful predictor of that person’s success into adolescent and adult years. Clearly as adults we are not much better when it comes to resisting immediate gratification. Yet, I thought it was also exciting that a substantial subset of people that failed the marshmallow test as a 4-yr old also learned to become high-delayers as adults and had substantially improved their lives. How they did this remains the topic for future research, but I believe God does not let us settle for hopelessly giving in to every whim and temptation like a 4 year old. Instead, God gives us many methods and tools by which we can resist temptation:
Watch and Pray (Matt 26:41)
Know that God has provided a way out (1 Cor 10:13)
Flee from it (1 Cor 6:18, 1 Tim 6:11, 2 Tim 2:22)
Keep your eye on the goal and do not forfeit the bigger prize (1 Cor 3:8, 1 Cor 9:24)
It is especially important to practice these skills in the daily, little things. If we continuously choose immediate gratification, eating the dessert we don’t need, turning on the TV instead of opening our Bible, going out to eat because it’s just easier, we are practicing selfishness and lack of self-control many times a day. If we never practice resisting small temptations, how can we expect to react when it’s ‘game on’ and the real temptations come our way? And how can we learn to choose Godly self-control, when the reward is not even a second marshmallow, but something much more intangible like holiness?
As a parent, I want to model self-control for my children and help them learn to practice it daily. I also want to teach them the skills and reasoning behind patience. Again, I think it’s the daily little things where this must be practiced – helping them to refrain from the snack before dinner and learning they won’t perish. Limiting their time on TV, computers, video games, etc, so that their minds continue to be creative without external input. Helping them to learn to save their money to buy something later for themselves or for someone else. We can talk to them about people they respect, whether it be relatives or sports stars, and explain the perseverance and self-control it took for them to get there. There are also daily examples we can point to of people failing because they could not exhibit self-control. We can even let them suffer the consequences of their own lack of self-control, be it failing a class or losing a friend, rather than punishing them ourselves or trying to step in and help solve it for them.
The distractions and temptations available to our children today mean we have to work harder than any generation of parents before to help teach our children self-control and perseverance. But if we can teach them these skills early in life, and model them as parents, our children can thrive in their lives and Christian faith.
Tyler has been married to Mrs. PPP for 13 years, with son Nathan, 9 and daughter, Rachel, 7. In addition to serving as PPP technical support, Tyler works for an Internet company and serves as an Elder in New Harbor Community Church in Benicia, CA.
Six months ago my wife and I had a brief moment of insanity, adopting two mischievous, hyper, un-housebroken puppies into our home. At the same time, I was starting a new job, so there would be little time to do any meaningful behavior training, though I suspect more time would not have made this story go much differently.
The puppies, I’ll call them Chewy and Poopy to protect the guilty, first showed appreciation for their new home by christening every room countless times with a combination of poop, pee, diarrhea, and vomit, and possibly all four at once by the look and smell of it. Meanwhile, they decided that our spacious backyard was not enough, and repeatedly scaled our 6’ fence in order to meet the neighbors, the neighbors’ cat, and most importantly, the neighbors’ cat food. Usually, the trip was short, and before we even knew they got out would show up at our front door ready to start the game over again. That is except the time they roamed the neighborhood for a couple of hours before finally being rounded up by the local police. I had to go downtown, shamefully identify my dogs, and bail them out of puppy jail. I had a half a mind to leave them there overnight and let them consider the consequences of their actions.
Behavior-wise, that was relatively mild compared to the myriad of items they have chewed up or destroyed in our house and the backyard. They started unimaginatively chewing shoes and slippers, but soon graduated to gnawing holes in the baseboards and door trim. They mulched two large books, scattering fragments of the pages to the four corners of our yard. The chewed holes in a BBQ cover, patio chair, and even our trampoline. They seemed to take particular delight in completely upending and emptying 10 large flower pots we had planted with fresh flowers that same day.
Needless to say, I have been thinking a lot about ‘punishment’ the last few months. What options, humanitarian or otherwise, did I have at my disposal? Other than making me feel better, would yelling ‘NO!’ or swatting them on the hindquarters really accomplish much? How do you train a creature that so clearly has an unrepentant sin nature to behave differently? And how much punishment is too little, or in this case, too much?
Luckily, I’ve had no shortage of teachable moments to work all of this out. Early on I recalled an important lesson a dog trainer taught me years ago with our first dog. He used a training collar (the ones with the blunt spikes), and during training sessions would encourage me to really give it a firm tug when the dog didn’t follow a command. He said some people have a hard time with training collars because they don’t want to hurt the dog, so they just mildly pull at it to no effect. He asked a question I always remember – what’s more cruel to a dog – a few painful corrections early on that quickly teach them to obey, or hundreds of mildly uncomfortable corrections which never quite have the same effect? His point was to take quick and decisive action against wrong behavior, rather than poorly dealing with it over a long period of time.
Also, I wondered how long after the crime was committed could I hand down the punishment? I don’t know how much dogs remember, but I imagine it was hard for them to figure out why I was yelling at them for laying there peacefully, hours after inflicting their damage. The punishment also had to be straightforward. it was clear pretty early on that dogs have no concept of the silent treatment. I was not going to guilt them into behaving.
Also, when they misbehaved, I had to figure out what my motives were in the punishment? Although I selfishly wanted to punish them simply for being bad, I knew my main goal was to prevent it from happening in the future. My punishment had to be purposeful, with the goal of them learning the correct behavior by seeing my displeasure over the wrong behavior, resulting in permanent behavior changes.
At the same time as we’ve been dealing with these puppies, my wife and I have been re-doubling our efforts to correct some behavior issues with our 7 and 9 year old children. Nothing serious like pooping on the carpet, but consistent issues like disrespect and poor attitudes. Character issues that, left unchecked, are un-Godly characteristics now and could get worse. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the similarities and differences in disciplining my children and puppies, and these are some of the things I’ve come up with:
· Punishment=Discipline=Training – punishment has a negative connotation, but it is an essential part of training our children. It’s also no coincidence that Disciple is the root of Discipline. How can we shun one while we try to become the other?
· Motives – certainly good behavior is a mutual goal. But more importantly with my kids, my goal is that discipline would bring holiness and a healthy submission to us as their parents. It should be a respectful, joyful submission, one they can transfer to other authorities, and eventually to the Lordship of Christ. Our American culture, which promotes unashamed independence and denounces any form of submission as weakness, is a real detriment that I want to help my children to overcome. I want them to learn the satisfaction of self-control, the strength that comes in making yourself weak, and the beauty and virtue that comes in elevating their Lord and others above themselves.
· Rules – at my kids’ age I have the advantage of being able to explain the ground rules to them in advance. Puppies and young children have to learn by experimenting, but my kids have no excuses. We clearly explain to them the rules, what’s expected of them, and what the consequences are. We have found that explaining the rules carefully to them beforehand, as well as the consequences of breaking them, means there is very little arguing when they later choose to break them. We have set disciplines for each successive correction throughout the day, escalating a combination of losing privileges along with timeouts and sentence writing. I believe this is a Biblical model, allowing us later to introduce concepts of Old Testament Law, how it reveals our sin when we choose to knowingly break God’s rules, and how grace can be shown when punishment is deserved but not received.
· Swift and Decisive Discipline – it’s been interesting to me how conflicted I feel handing down discipline to my kids, much more so than to my puppies. I’m not sure ‘it hurts me as much as much as it hurts them’, but it does hurt knowing I will be making them sad or disappointed to lose a privilege they enjoy. For instance, in response to a conscious misbehavior, I still default to telling them to stop repeatedly, never quite wanting to escalate it and hand down the true punishment that will disappoint them, or worse – affect me. But I have also seen that a swift, severe consequence really has a positive impact on their behavior next time. In the end the behavior is corrected much sooner than when we only mildly address the problem.
We often explain to our kids that they are not the only ones having to learn these lessons through discipline. We let them know that we too are in submission to our Father, and are trying to learn to follow His rules and desires for our lives. We too can be disciplined when we fail to do so. We talk about why we want them to learn these lessons now, when the stakes are low and a lifetime of stubbornness and habits do not yet need to be overcome. And we talk about why God and we discipline our children in love, so that as His childen we would be able to lead holy and productive lives, as written in Hebrews 12:6-11:
6 the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Next week’s author: Melanie Robbins