Teaching Kids Discernment

Small children, teens, and grown-ups want to trust their parents. There is no age limit for this desire. Parents are supposed, to tell the truth, protect their children, and especially to young children are supposed to be right. We obviously know that no one is right about everything. However, children develop a blind faith in parents that they really don’t want to be challenged.

As I became a dad, I have become amazed as to the strength of a child’s faith. The image that comes to my mind is of a child that I saw on a diving board. Her dad swam out to the center of the pool. From being within hearing distance of this event, it was made known that this was the little girl’s first time. She had no evidence that dad would be able to save her. She had never experienced this before. However, when her dad lifted his arms to catch her, she dove into his arms. You could tell she was scared, but her faith in dad was greater than her fear.

Children need to believe in their parents for their sense of security. Through provision and love, this bond grows quickly. This bond is protected. As an educator, I found that most students (I will say 90% in my observations) will not side with an idea that opposes the beliefs of their parents. When we get into debating ideas, many will defend the ideas, beliefs, and proclamations of parents without any sources of merit. To begin questioning ideas or beliefs is not comfortable. It almost comes across like a taboo. Many of these students feel as if I am inviting them to betray their parents. Why?

I have challenged teens with a thought process. 1. Is there anyone that is always right?…no. 2. Does everyone make mistakes?…yes. 3. Have you ever been wrong about something or someone?…yes. 4. Do you know anyone that is perfect?…no. 5. Could your parents have wrong about something they have taught you?…silence. When one or two students finally say “yes”, things get dicey.

As parents, we want our kids to have faith in us. However, it is important that when we are wrong or unsure about something that we let it be known. We need to teach our children that questioning information is okay. We also need to show them the importance of qualifying information. This has nothing to do with love or the lack thereof. If we don’t teach discernment, our children can potentially fall victim to unfounded and false information. So how do we begin?

The first thing to do is to install a passion for truth and learning in your child. This (in my opinion) should start with books. We also need to separate emotions from facts. Being wrong is an opportunity to learn. Celebrate when your child finds the answer to a problem or question. As a child, I can remember doing bible drills at Sunday school. Learning how to find the verse or find the answer is important. When kids find or discover answers, they remember them more than when they are merely told. 

Finding a resource is not proclaiming a feeling. You don’t have to be emotional in researching information. This allows for the bond to stay strong with the parent without the demand for the parent having all the right answers. Information that merely stirs emotions can be dangerous. Hitler was quoted saying, “I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few”. We need to teach kids to seek the truth. They need to have a discerning spirit. Develop games for learning. Learn together. Encourage your child to teach you something. Doing so minimizes the chances of your child falling victim to false narratives and misguided information.

Have a show-me attitude. The world is at your fingertips with modern technology. Show your kids how to research and discover. Teach them about taking someone’s viewpoint with a grain of salt. They need to know what questions to ask and when. This is developed over time. Through this process, they can come to know dad as a man that seeks the truth. To me, this is a much stronger bond than the idea that dad always knows best. The truth is that many times, you won’t have the answers. However, you can find them together.

A discerning child is a strong child, much less likely to be taken advantage of. If you don’t strive to develop this in your child, then they can be swayed more easily by emotion which is not a solid foundation for learning. Celebrate their questions and search for truth. They can only benefit from doing so, and you move closer to being the best dad possible.


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