Dangers of the “Don’t-Use” Parenting Strategy

“Don’t-use” parenting works well on two of the three concerns that all parents share. It keeps our kids from self-destructive behavior and offers us a measure of peace.

It goes something like this:

  1. Your brother got a BB gun when he was 14
  2. He proceded to shoot out every piece of glass in your barn
  3. You’re not getting one. End of discussion

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 9.21.33 AM

Ahhh, but this can be short-sighted. The third concern we share is the future, when our children become “adults” with full freedom and responsibility for their discernment….or lack thereof.

My dad – a normally long-sighted parent – walked into the family room one evening and apparently my middle brother (it’s always the middle kid right?) was watching something dad disagreed with. Dad calmly walked to the TV, picked it up and walked onto the back deck, yanking the cord out of the socket as he went. Four steps and he was to the back railing where he dumped it overboard, a crash landing on the yard below. It sat there all winter.

The three of us boys are now in our 50’s. But we’ll fully admit that the problem of discernment didn’t get fixed that day. Merely a delay. In fact, a delay on steroids.

There’s the problem. You don’t just add “Discernment 201” at the local university for $500 per credit hour. That window is shut and the opportunity to learn within the loving/firm tension of good parenting is gone. The clock is expired. Game over.

Parenting within tension creates 1) an opportunity to “use” and 2) an opportunity to “abuse.” But what we’re after is 3) “discernment” (the joining of knowledge and experience). And this of course brings us to our current technological challenge.

Oh…..for the days of black ‘n white TV and the short-sighted option of dropping it off the back deck. Speaking of TV’s, maybe it’s time to review iParent.TV and choose your next “discernment experiment.”



How to Create a Family Technology Plan, Part II

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” -Mark Twain


Guest blogger Kelli O’Dell joins us again today:

If We Can Do It, Anyone Can

Does drafting a family tech plan sound like fun to you? Me neither.

If you’re like me, you don’t even have a plan for tonight’s dinner, much less an all-encompassing family technology plan.

But I promised in an earlier post that I would do it. And provide “full-disclosure”. So I will; tactical steps first, colorful responses last…

Three Starter Steps

  1. Make an appointment. Ours: “Monday night at 7pm”.
  2. Pick a plan. We discovered blogger Ryan Smith at yourbestfamily.com and read his  “Tech Plan Starters”, a list of suggested items to include on our plan, together. For other plan options, check out this site.
  3. Make it specific to your family’s unique needs. We filled in the blanks on one of Smith’s free, downloadable and editable templates.

That’s right. Did it, done. With the planning part…

Simple. Not easy.


As we all know, having a plan is not the same as doing a plan.

It took us approximately 40 minutes to hammer out our plan. Two parents, two teenage boys and 6 devices between us later:

“Touchy subject. It’s like our devices are places we store our friendships, and it feels like you’re messing with my friendships, but this was good because I think we worked through wrong assumptions on both sides.” -son, age 14

“It was just super boring. And at an inconvenient time. I want to go play soccer and now we’re almost out of daylight. I don’t care if you have my pass code. I already deleted SnapChat and if you just  start following me on Instagram you’ll see everything.” -son, age 13

Progress Not Perfection

Well, we did it. Was it pretty or fun? No. And we expect a bumpy ride and a fall now and then, but at least we have a saddle on the horse. And if you aren’t a fan of metaphor, the horse is technology and the saddle is the family technology plan.

Does your family have a technology plan? What successes or challenges have you experienced?

Walking Away: Hope for Parents of Faith-Rejecting Children

“Why do you want me to take this quiz? I’m not even a Christian.” (The quiz? “What Kind of Millennial Christian Are You?” The question: asked by my not-always-agnostic son.)

walking away


Our firstborn, a son. Free-spirited. For the most part, gloriously so. In the 21 years of being his parent, I’ve never once seen him self-conscious. Clothing is regarded a necessary evil, as are seat belts and shoelaces. No respecter of persons, he will just as eagerly shake your hand as President Obama’s; admirably guileless.

Imagine raising Jungle Book’s Mowgli and you’ve bulls-eyed the years of shock and awe parenting we’ve enjoyed.  Such adventures should have prepared us for his declaration—and growing conviction since—of agnosticism toward the end of his high school experience. Nope. More shock. No awe.

His doubts and discontent with our traditional values quickly catalyzed into a full-blown Rumspringa of a senior year; self-emancipated well ahead of his actual commencement, he was hardly home and when he was, things were tense.

We hadn’t prepared for this. Dating issues, poor grades, the cost of college tuition, porn and substance abuse, yes. “God is dead”? Not so much.

“How we do this? How do we beat the fear? Our worldview damns our unrepentant, seat belt-eschewing son to eternal hell. What kind of parent doesn’t feel the urgency with stakes that high?

Do we require him to go to church if he lives here? Charge him rent and ignore his Sunday habits like we would a tenant? Excommunicate him like John Piper did with his son? What about his brothers? How do we not neglect them in this crisis?

We wrestled these questions out in good community; where people talk like this. Painfully, but eventually, we moved to a place of grace; mostly toward ourselves: it wasn’t our fault.

Ex Nihilo


These days, our son still lives at home, works hard at his job, and is saving for the security deposit on an apartment. He continues with the indiscriminate hand-shaking. The blunt-force honesty too. What’s new is the parental clarity, 100-proof and adversity-born. We’re back-to-basics:

  • FAITH: God still operates Ex Nihilo, creating everything He makes out of nothing. Our son’s salvation will be the same as ours; a seeking and saving of a sheep gone astray.
  • HOPE: We wait and pray. God’s mercies are new every morning.
  • LOVE: It never fails. We anchor our faith and hope on that. Our wild but not-yet-free son often hears this from me as he heads out the door: “I love you. Wear your seatbelt…and call on the name of the Lord if you’re in a jam; he’ll come running.”

What circumstantial or relational “nothingness” will you entrust to your Ex Nihilo God?