Editor's note: This post by Kristen Welch originally appeared on her website, We are THAT family. It has been reprinted here with her permission.
I’m horrible at directions. I can’t read a map, and I’m at my navigating best when someone is showing me exactly where to go.
One time I described what goes on in my brain when I see a map to my bewildered husband who had drawn a perfectly uniform grid on a napkin to help me get from Point A to B. I said, “Is this how you see things? In a neat, tidy grid?” He shook his head.
I scribbled all over the paper and said, “This is how I see it. It’s like a nest in here,” and I tapped the side of my head.
No matter how you see the road of parenting, it’s hard to navigate without a compass.
When my son has something heavy on his heart, he is restless. After the third time of letting me know he couldn’t sleep the other night, I patted the bed and said, “Spill it. What’s bothering you?”
It didn’t take long for him to tell me that the book he checked out from the library for his English project had a few cuss words in it.
And it bothered him.
I hugged my sweet kid and my first thought was That’s it? That’s what was bothering you? But I didn’t because for his entire life, I’ve taught him those words were wrong and asked him not to use them. It’s only to be expected that he would have an internal red flag when he saw them in a book.
It was his moral compass giving him direction.
Now, you and I both know that cuss words are A Thing in middle school. Kids are given just enough freedom to express themselves and many, many children try on cursing for size. I was raised black and white and cussing was on the top 10 list of sins you should not do. But I long for grace to be the banner we wave in our home, not rules. So, we talked long about what this was really about. We talked about the way he felt when he discovered one of his nice friends curses occasionally, “It makes me wonder if he is a Christian.”
“Do you think I’m a Christian?” I asked. He nodded his head.
“Have you heard me say a cuss word?” and we both knew the answer. It’s not a common every day thing, but cuss happens y’all.
We talked about grace and not generalizing, but also about the importance of acknowledging when something upsets his moral compass and speaking up about it when it’s necessary.
The next day, he got a new book from the library without cuss words. He also decided that he would offer more grace to his classmates.
How we give our children a moral compass:
We teach them absolute truths
Truth is absolute. There are definitely absolute truths or standards by which to live our lives and raise our kids. The Bible is filled with truth: There is a God, God is love; actions have consequences (Romans 1:18). Truth is absolute; it is not subjective. Truth doesn’t shift when our culture changes it’s mind.
“In a society where ultimate truth is treated like a fairy tale, an outdated idea or even an insult to human intelligence, the motto of the day becomes, “WHATEVER!” Believe whatever you want. Do whatever seems best to you. Live for whatever brings you pleasure, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. And of course, be tolerant. Don’t try to tell anyone that their whatever is wrong.” -Linda Keffer
When we teach our kids these truths, we need to take a principle like “don’t have sex before you get married” and offer a precept (a scripture that tells us this) with it. When we couple these together, it reveals a characteristic of God that says he loves me and wants me to experience purity in my mind and body and relationships and so he protects me with the absolute truth. ("Teaching from Right From Wrong" by Josh McDowell)
We Let those absolute truths be our guide
It’s so easy for our children to question what truth is in our constantly changing world, especially when there are being fed lies by our culture, especially in media. Lies that say they have to be sexy or thin or tolerant. We live counter to cultural lives by not jumping on every new norm that presents itself in society.
It’s okay to say what we believe, to stand up for biblical principles no matter what we read or hear in our society. When we teach absolute truths from the Bible, we let those truths guide us.
Present opportunities to fall in love with Jesus
As a teen, some of my decisions to remain pure, not cuss-party-drink-or-date-boys-that-do, were driven by fear and not always by relationship. While I want my kids to have a healthy fear of mamma and daddy and God, I mostly want them to make choices because of their relationship with God, out of a desire to honor and follow him. It goes beyond attending church once a week and doing moral stuff. Our kids need to see us pursuing a relationship with God; they need us to lead them in devotions, teach them how to pray, home school them in the ways of God.
If our kids don’t have a moral compass, they will feel lost in the world, constantly changing how they see truth. Our kids are going to make mistakes, just like us. It’s how we learn how to get it right. And when we offer grace, we show them more of Jesus.
It’s not an easy road to navigate, but if we ask him to guide us, he will.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company