failing-grade-mNot many of us particularly want to fail at anything in life…and for me that goes for anything from my marriage, family, career…and all the way to checkers and video games.  Bottom line…I like to win!  And if we’re being truthful, well…don’t we all?  We live in a society where we reward people for just about anything, and in fact, in our attempt at fairness and equality, we’ll give out medals and ribbons just for showing up!

Now for the record, I do think there’s some benefit to downplaying the ‘win-at-all-costs’ attitude, especially for those parents that try to live vicariously through their children.  But I also think our society has gone a little overboard with the paranoia that not rewarding a 17th place finish may just hurt little Timmy’s feelings and crush him for life!  It’s a delicate balance for sure as a parent to reward and strive for the right things, yet to also acknowledge the realities that not everyone wins at everything in life.  We’re dealing with that in the lives of our children right now.  Yesterday we were at a family bbq and games night at our church, and there was a game where you could win a glass jar with a goldfish.  One of our kids won…the other came up short.  You would have thought it was the end of the world to not take home a $.50 goldfish!  But to offset the remorse of the kids who didn’t get a goldfish, they did end up walking out with a ‘consolation’ prize for…yep…just stepping in line and trying.

Again, I think it’s good to offer rewards, but when our kids are raised in an environment that can’t tolerate any mention or notion of failure, it really causes me to ask; “what kind of kids are we raising, and will they be able to handle the inevitable rejection and failure that awaits us at some level in life (school tests, job interviews, rejection letters from post-secondary schools, dating relationships, sports…)?”  I mean, even the bible makes it pretty clear that it’s not the goal of a devoted Christ-follower to just be in the race, but to strive and press on towards the prize (Heaven, a life in pursuit of Christ…hearing God say “well done good and faithful one…nice work!).  At some point you have to make a decision as to whether or not you’re gonna actually get in the game and do something…there’s not much fanfare mentioned in scripture for those who simply ‘participate.’  But that’s a discussion for another post!!

So I found it refreshing today when I found this article from Rhett Smith waiting for me in my inbox.  Rhett is a professional counselor and author, and contributes to numerous article on family and parenting with the Fuller Youth Institute.  His article adeptly addresses the same question I asked above, and elaborates on the theology and fear of failure, as well as what parents can do to actually embrace failure as sacred and fertile ground for growth in our lives, and our kids.  You’ll also find some helpful action steps to take as a family so you can start the process of assessing failure as a tool to move ahead, not behind!


url-7-600x385The title alone should cause some neck hairs to stand at full attention, but after reading a recent Nerve magazine article, it’s definitely another reason why teens need godly adults in their lives to help them identify truth & health vs. deception & moral corruption.

The author, Kate Hakala, uses input gathered from teens about the top 10 reasons they feel that hooking up with a stranger is actually a good thing.  The author holds nothing back, and obviously her own morals are severely lacking.  It’s a shame that people are buying into this, but then again, a lot of her research is coming from the perception of teens themselves…or at least that’s the angle she’s taking…I’d like to see the source research on this where it was teens that actually responded, vs. college/university students and younger adults.

Now might be time for some of us parents to have a morality chat with our youth…not dwelling on the obvious of what’s accepted and happening, but rather on the ‘what ought to be’ and the consequences of walking outside God’s moral boundaries.

FRANCIA RAISA, DAREN KAGASOFF, SHAILENE WOODLEY, KENNY BAUMANN, MEGAN PARK, GREG FINLEYThe title is almost an oxymoron!  Although the average teen likely has a few things going on in their lives that they work hard at keeping well-hidden, they also seem to work equally hard at wearing their life on their sleeves.  The emotional ups-and-downs of a teen are like watching a Leafs game…so much promise, so much expectation, so much frustration, so much overachieving, so much underachieving…arriving late, leaving early, frenetic pace, lethargic tempo, controlled system, out-of-control-in-your-face…you get the picture!

As you can see, it’s no secret that most teens have a lot going on in their lives to process…and that’s just the emotional aspects to sort through, let alone the relational, physical and spiritual elements.  I’m not going to try to tackle all the above elements of the teen life, but I am focusing in on one huge element…their online and social media lives!

Just where exactly is the “average” teen spending their time online?  This infograph from the crew @ zone alarm certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, but does shed some helpful perspective, in my opinion.  Thanks also to Kolby Milton @ Youth Ministry Media for the original source outlet.

A Couple of Nuggets to Chew On…

Trust vs. Awareness: a whopping 91% of teens said their parents trust them online vs. 56% of teens indicating their parents don’t know what they do online.

Teens Aren’t Shy: 32% of girls said they chatted with total strangers online, while 24% of guys did the same.

Too Revealing: 69% of teens indicate their online location…while some locations may be bogus, many teens I know do reveal their legit location.

So What?
Parents and youth leaders need to engage teens in conversation about their online habits.  If no one is going to ask them what they’re looking at/doing, generally they ain’t gonna share it voluntarily!  Just like adults need accountability, the same holds true for youth and teens…even more so.

One way we can help teens with setting online boundaries is to talk with them about who they ‘friend’ online.  Most see it as some kind of popularity contest and status level, but the vast majority of online ‘friends’ tend to be nothing more than mere acquaintances with no real investment in our personal lives.  Parents shouldn’t feel bad about inquiring about these areas with their teens, and teens shouldn’t feel threatened or that their privacy is being violated.  Open-ended and honest communication is the key…on both ends, but ultimately teens need to respect the authority and care their parents have with them.

Social Media Guidelines for Students and Job Seekers

rockwellThe world we live in is void of innocence…plain & simple.  Just flip the flat screen or smart phone on…take a glance at the news…switch on your ipod or itunes store…heck…just take a stroll in the mall and watch culture unfold before your very eyes.  There’s not much innocence left in our world.  Provocative attire, violence and chaos, disillusioned worldviews from celebrities & world influencers…and that’s just on Global, Teletoon and TVO!

I might be over-exaggerating a little, but today’s culture is definitely exposed to a much broader range of in-your-face social messages vying for our attention…especially with Gen Z.  As the parent of a 9, 7, and 2-year-old, although I embrace the advances of technology and culture, I also feel a nervous tension of the world of change, expectations and exposure awaiting my kids.  Our 9 year-old daughter is already gradually entering the stage of laying aside her dolls, stuffed animals and lego…and gravitating increasingly towards the world of ipods, fashion…and yes…boys!  She still has a solid level of innocence within her, but with each passing week of exposure to social media, school, friends and the world-at-large, that innocence begins to subtly erode away.

So at what point did we start to, somewhat, loose our little girl?

Today I read a post from Jonathan McKee addressing this very question.  His post, Tossing Aside Innocence…in 1954, is a reflection of a visit he took to a local art museum, and upon viewing a particular painting, blogged about his observations.  The painting was Norman Rockwell’s 1954 classic simply named Girl at Mirror (above).  It’s a great piece of art for youth and parents to reflect on with each other about the struggle young girls face (and boys too) face when innocence intersects with increased cultural exposure & pressure.

Notice her fragile hands, the tossed aside doll, the open magazine with the ‘mature’ model, the beauty accessories beside her…all precursors of the conflict and tension that resides within young people as they break out of their sheltered innocence, and enter the arena of self-perception and the battle for self-esteem.  And if Rockwell captured the plight and tension of young girls in 1954, how much more have those tensions ramped up in our digital and social media-driven age of no-innocence?

What are your thoughts as you sit back and gaze into this timeless snap shot of culture in motion?

more_storesIt’s often been said that “you are what you eat“, and while that’s true, it’s probably equally true to say “you are what you listen to.”  Music has always had a profound impact and influence on our past, and current generations, and that influence is growing stronger and more intense as the digital age advances.  Music not only “soothes the soul”, but is also opens the access panel into the very heart and soul of ourselves, and our culture.

If you’re looking for any level of understanding into the world of teen music and pop culture, then one of your first stops needs to be iTunes.  I’m not saying iTunes is the ideal place for youth and families to figure out what’s appropriate to listen to, or to use the top 10 lists to create your latest playlists.  But what I am saying is that, good or bad, iTunes is THE place youth 11-18 are going to find their music preferences…so if you want t understand a particular culture, you need to know where they’re hanging out, and why!

Jonathan McKee recently posted his top 5 observations about today’s culture from iTunes, and I thought it was a worth-while post to send your way!  Here’s a quick sneak peek into his observations, and if you’re still interested…make sure you read on…!

From Jonathan’s post...

1. TV is Still Huge! A quick peek at TV ratings will reveal The Voice already is one of the top 5 shows watched by America in any given week (it usually lands at No. 3, right under The Walking Dead and football, and always lands among the top 10 shows watched by 12-17 year-olds). But The Voice isn’t limited to a one-screen experience. Following the steps ofAmerican IdolThe Voice sells its performances on iTunes immediately after the show. Hence the blip on iTunes’ charts every Tuesday.

2. “Just Lose Control”
Sure, some music today is straight up raunchy. But I’d say that most of the songs that really last on the charts are the club hits that basically are singing, “Live for the moment, it feels so right, lose control, girl I wanna be with you because you look so good…” To young people, these lyrics are harmless, but they objectify women as sexualized objects. In addition, these songs clearly reveal the focus on the temporary thrill… the quick fix, with lyrics like “lose control” and “drink it up.”

3. Eye Candy Sells
If you pop on iTunes right now and click on Music Videos, you’ll see a music video from Pitbull for his song Don’t Stop the Party. If you click to watch the 30-second preview for that video, you’ll see a huge party, along with shots of naked (with just enough covered to keep it “clean”) and scantily clad girls lying on a bed like they’re in Pitbull’s “harem.” If you wonder about this song’s popularity, Bud Light is featuring the song with excerpts of the video for a new Bud Light commercial during the football games (which are the number one viewed television broadcasts watched by families right now).

4. iTunes is Teaching Kids a New Kind of “Clean”
The and Britney song has an explicit warning, because it repeats two curse words. But Pitbull’s pornographic music video has no warnings anywhere.

Trust me, there is no logic to it. LMFAO wiggled their junk in front of our kids all last year without any “explicit” warning” whatsoever. Meanwhile, a song with the word “sh*t” in it will be declared “explicit.” Where this gets amusing (or sad) is when parents use the “explicit” warning as a gauge as to whether a song or music video is acceptable or not. In other words: and Britney song= BAD

Pitbull Music Video= GOOD

5. Humor Lasts
Yes, sex sells. And yes, those club hits really are popular. But nothing seems to sell like a good dance song with a little bit of humor.

Take the hit song and music video Gangnam Style, for example. This music video has been at the top of the iTunes charts since August! I constantly ask teenagers why they like it. Their first response is always the exact same. They laugh and say, “It’s hilarious!” Then they say something about it being a great dance song or wanting to learn to dance like Psy (I do love his dance moves).