Sunday, November 30, 2014

Impending, Unavoidable, Irreversible, Overwhelming Doom: Teenagers and the 24 Hour News Cycle

Have you ever really listened to the first few moments, top of the hour or commercial "tease" into the news?  If you listen carefully, each of these messages seem to indicate...

...impending doom
...unavoidable destruction
...irreversible damage
...overwhelming concern

Every major weather system is the worst ever.  Every election cycle brings our country to the brink of destruction. Every sickness is the president's fault.  Really?  By the way, after you are "teased" into viewing, the news channel's promise of impending, unavoidable, irreversible and critical doom is typically downgraded or reversed.

Certainly, there are real concerns that need to be addressed in our country and world.

However, a clear and sensible conversation seems terribly difficult to have in a culture that seems more concerned with market share and political affiliation (liberal and conservative) than covering the news and promoting dialogue.  This type of news coverage NEVER ENDS.  It is called the 24 Hour News Cycle and it creates opportunity for great misunderstanding and misrepresentation.

What does this have to do with teenagers? A great deal!

Teenagers have their own 24 Hour news cycle.  It is found on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other social networking locations.  Honestly, it NEVER ENDS and it creates opportunity for great misunderstanding and misrepresentation.

If you are an adult, think back to your teenage years for a moment.  If you had drama at school or an extracurricular activity, you could take a break from the pressure by going home or a trusted friends house for a while.  Even though a "tacky" note or picture could be circulating around your friend group, in many cases, those could be destroyed.  A moment of peace could be found.

Today, things are much different.  If today's student has drama at school or extracurricular activity, it can be hard to take a break from the pressure at home or a house of a trusted friend.  Why?  Unlike the "tacky" notes and pictures of the past, the world of Social Media NEVER ENDS.  The Teenage news cycle runs 24 hours.  A moment of peace takes intentionality-something teenagers often lack.

So what do we as caring adults in a student's life do?  Let me suggest two things:
  • Wait to introduce your younger children/teenager to Social Media.  I know, I am suggesting you become the uncool parent.  Remember, our job as parents is not to be cool but help our children become healthy, functional, productive adults.  I see a lot of elementary students with very expensive electronic devices.  And, even though age limits are set by companies, parents allow their children to be on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. because other kids are being allowed onto these sites.  Here is a fact, once you start, it is hard to say "no" to social media.  It really is alright to push back phone and media usage until later teenage years.
  • Do not let your student keep their phone (and other social media devices) in their room at night.  Yes, the uncool parent theme continues.  Especially with phone usage, a student will text, game, tweet and Instagram all night long if allowed.  This is not healthy and leads to a whole list of cascading consequences to mental and physical health.  Negotiate a time that is acceptable and comfortable for you and your teenager.  Oh, in the negotiations, you are the adult and always carry the majority. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cut the Shoot

It is time to share another video (I know...cheep blogging material, but I had to share)!

Tripp and Tyler are a well known (in Christian circles) sketch comedy duo (  Their material is fun to watch and often contains a gotcha message Jesus followers need (may not want) to hear.  This is one of those videos.

 (If it does not play, the link is Shoot Christians Say)

Whats the point?  Could it be that our language keeps us from communicating a clear message to the world ("christian" and otherwise) we are trying to impact with the message of Jesus?  Yes.

I love talking with those who are easy to read and communicate their feelings without the churchy qualifiers.  I find that type of communication authentic and reflective of many of the psalms that state raw, unfiltered truths about life and the experience of living in a fallen world.  That type of honest communication also allows for a deeper, more relevant discussion of faith.

Here are a few suggestions for dropping the Shoot Christians Say:
  • Don't defend. There are times shoot is shared because we feel like God is being attacked by someone we are talking to and we do not have an answer for their complaint.  Remember, it is alright to say nothing or...get ready..."I don't know" when God (or you) is being attacked. 
  • Don't deflect. There are times shoot is shared when we feel cornered by someone asking about (sometimes prying) our personal life and/or walk (used in the most authentic sense here) with Christ.  Yes, it is not responsible or recommended that you open up to everyone who asks you questions. However, there SHOULD BE someone in your life with a high level of clearance and openness is a given.
  • Don't destroy. There are times shoot is shared because we want to gossip about the evil in someone's life but we have no intention on talking with that person directly.  In short, don't talk about someone if you do not have the intention of directly visiting and/or finding help (that you are directly involved with) for that person. 
  • Don't discombobulate (sorry, I wanted a "d-word" for confuse).  It is easy to confuse the simple message of Jesus with a myriad of marketing angles. If you do not believe this, next time you are driving down the road, read all of the signs wanting you to come to their church. I am not against marketing!  I am against anything that discombobulates (confuses) the simple message of Jesus.  Oh, often more confusing than a billboard is the "insider" language we speak to each other about our programs and events. 
The world has enough conflicting and confusing messages floating around about Christ and His people.  Let's do our part to end the conflict and confusion by cutting the shoot.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Don't Get Worked!

I come across all types of messages, pictures and conversations while perusing (I have been waiting to use this cool word) social media sites.  The picture below is a dandy and highlights a way too common failure in parenting.

Staged?  Certainly (at least I hope so).

Exaggerated?  Certainly (at least I hope so).

Truth?  Certainly (I know so).

Kids of any age, especially teenagers, will look for ways to get what they want.  They will ask one parent and then ask the other if the answer they receive from the first is not the answer they wanted (read that sentence again).  While every home experiences this common kid/student practice, homes that are blended, single-parent, separated, grandparent and/or adult guardian led can be particularly subject to being "worked" by the students in their care. 

If you are reading this and are the parent/guardian who trumps the other parent/guardian with the "yes," this is a problem.  You are not being cool, better and/or more understanding.  You are causing damage to your student's future understanding of how the real world works and actually hurting your kid.  Oh, and you are being "worked."

If you are reading this and are the parent/guardian who is being trumped by the other parent/guardian, you have a part in this "working" as well.  Is there a reason you are being trumped?  Are you allowing for dialogue with your other parent/guardian or does everything have to be done your way?  This too causes damage and impacting your student's understanding of how the real world works. can parents/guardians prevent being successfully "worked" by their kids? Here are a few suggestions:
  • Check with the other parent/guardian.  It can be as easy as a phone call or text.  When asked by your student to do, buy, go, etc. something, take a moment to check with the other parent/guardian.  If there is disagreement, tell your student you will give them an answer later.  It is okay for your kid to wait for an answer.  You are the one in charge.
  • Talk with the other parent/guardian before a question is given.  What are your feelings on dress, parties, music, movies, friends, etc.?  Talk about your values concerning each of these topics before your kid asks to do, buy, go, etc.
  • Respect and support the opinion of the other parent/guardian.  In other words, if a student says, "Can I go...?" and you ask, "What did your mother say?"  Support your spouse/guardian.  Be on the same page. This is a particularly difficult thing to do if you are in a divorced, separated or single parent situation.  Still, it is important that both father and mother have a civil and productive conversation on what is best (yes, this can be subjective) for the student(s) you have a responsibility.  If respect and support are difficult, find a counselor or trusted adult that can mediate a civil and productive conversation so that both parents/guardians can be on the same page.
While being "worked" is a natural hazard of parenting a student, a little "work" by parents/guardians before goes a long way.