Monday, August 27, 2012

The Birds, the Bees, and Boys: Teaching Your Boys About Sex -- Part 2


     In The Birds, the Bees, and Boys:  Teaching Your Boys About Sex -- Part 1, I discussed how to form and model a healthy, Biblical view of sexuality, tips on talking about sex, and other topics leading up to puberty.  Now for the nitty-gritty of puberty.  There are plenty of books and websites out there to tell you all about the stages of puberty, but I'll offer a summary based on what I have read and researched as well as personal experience with my own sons.  Please remember that the ages listed below are approximate.  Each boy is different.

1.  Puberty doesn't happen overnight
     For boys, puberty begins as early as age 9, with 10 being the average, and ends between ages 14 and 18 with 16 being the average.  Puberty can take up to 5 years from beginning to end.
     When a mother tells me, exasperated, that her ten-year-old son is suddenly being very emotional, angry, easily frustrated, and contrary, basically giving her fits -- I usually mention puberty, and she then looks at me like I've lost my mind.  However, those hormones are beginning to rage and flood the system.  It will ebb and flow.  This is not an excuse for bad behavior, but it can help a mom (and dad) be more patient and understanding.  

2.  First signs of puberty -- body odor and raging emotions
     First, around age 10, look out for one of the first signs -- body odor.  One day, my oldest son came to me and said that his underarms smelled really bad.  I replied, "Are you sure?"  That was a brilliant response, I know, but I was a little shocked that this would happen at age 10.  I told him that this is part of growing older, that both of his parents have to wear deodorant to prevent this problem, and that he needs to make sure to wash his underarms with soap when he bathes.  I bought him deodorant (not anti-perspirant) just like his father's and showed him how to use it.  Then I started to panic because I had no idea puberty started so early in boys!
     Again, because the hormones are becoming active, you may notice your son exhibiting behaviors that you find confusing or frustrating.  Namely, he may begin to cry about things that normally wouldn't bother him, get angry for no apparent reason, and become irritable and grumpy.  Honestly, I thought this was just a girl thing, but it happens in boys as well -- probably not to the same extent, but it happens, and it's all hormone related.

3.  Growth spurt
    After puberty has begun, you may notice a huge growth spurt which causes your son to be tired and hungry all the time. During puberty, boys will put on about 20 to 30 pounds and grow 4 or more inches in a year.  His chest will widen, and he will thicken out into a more manly body.  My own son grew 12 inches in 2 and a half years.  Twelve.  Still blows my mind.  The doctor always asks if he has leg pain.  My son, although exhausted all the time, did not have growing pains but many do.
     Make sure your son learns how to make healthy food choices and then let him eat.  During this time, I began transitioning away from having him ask me for a snack, and I stocked the fridge and pantry with choices he did not have to ask me about:  yogurt, cheese sticks, natural applesauce, pretzels, and mandarin oranges.  If he is hungry, he can eat any of those snacks without asking as long as it's at least an hour or so before a meal.
     A visitor in my home once commented on the huge stack of cereal boxes stacked on the top shelf of my pantry.  I explained that the boxes would last just a few weeks.  I currently have, no joke, 24 boxes of unopened cereal in my pantry.  Why?  My oldest eats 4-5 bowls of cereal in the mornings when going through a growth spurt which means we eat a box of cereal every 3 to 4 days.  When cereal is on sale, I buy it!
4.  Slamming doors and glasses
     Along with the growth spurt comes strength.  With great strength comes great responsibility!  (Sorry, had to.  Spider-man fans know what that's all about.)  Honestly, if another mother had not warned me about the strength issues, I would have thought all those, "I-didn't-mean-tos" were untruths.  However, because of an increase in strength, he will begin to slam doors, slam glasses down on the table, and hurt younger siblings on accident.  Your son will take some time to get used to his new-found strength.  You have to remind him to remember that his body is much stronger and to be careful.  It will pass, but it takes a while.  My son, now 13, no longer slams doors or glasses, but he has accidentally broken things and still occasionally hurts his brother because he's so much bigger and stronger than he used to be not so long ago.

5.  Other physical changes:  hair, genitals, voice change
     Beginning around age 11 to 13, boys will begin to develop hair under the arms, in the groin area, and later, on the face.  As puberty goes on, the hair will become thicker and begin to become more like that of an adult.  At this point, your son may suddenly have an intense desire for privacy while changing clothes -- especially in front of you, his mother.  Although you won't (and probably shouldn't) be looking, his penis, testicles, and scrotum will all begin growing and maturing.  
     Also, the voice starts changing anywhere between ages 10-15, and the completion of the voice change will be between ages 14-16.  The average age for the voice to begin changing is 12 1/2.  However, as I said earlier, my oldest son's voice began changing at 11 1/2.  

6.  Zits
     Hormonal changes causes the skin to get oilier.  Because of the extra oil combined with dirt, dead skin cells, and bacteria, your son will most likely start to get pimples.  Most young boys do not wash their faces very often.  Once puberty starts, it's time to teach your son to wash his face twice a day (and after exercise).  Buy him some face cleanser that is not girly looking and some Stridex-type cleansing pads, and teach him how to use them. Show him what the T-zone is on the face, explain that extra oil is normal for teenagers, and help him get in the habit of proper skin care.

7.  Emotions
     Until puberty is over, your son will experience intense emotions:  anger, frustration, pleasure, confusion, awkwardness, moodiness, etc.  He may get upset easily and test his boundaries.  Try to remain calm, especially when he's irrational.  He may also be forgetful and distracted.  A child who used to be on top of things may suddenly forget all sorts of things.  Be patient -- remember how you were when pregnant and had all those hormones surging!

8.  Sleep disturbances and his body clock
     My son woke up every day at 7:00 a.m. - happy  - for many years.  As puberty hit, all that began to change.  Now, he no longer wakes up happy, and at age 13, can barely drag himself out of bed in the mornings.  His body clock at night also shifted, and he frequently complained that he could not sleep.  It is a proven fact that the hormone melatonin which kicks in around 10 p.m. in adults, causing us to fall asleep, doesn't kick in until much, much later in teenagers.  One study said the melatonin in teenagers, on average, kicks in at 1:00 a.m.  Again, be patient.  Your teenager needs his sleep but has a hard time getting it sometimes.  My son told me yesterday, "It's weird.  I'm so tired, but when I go to bed, sometimes I just stare at the ceiling for an hour."  

9.  Erections and ejaculations
     As your son goes through puberty, he may experience erections more often than he used to. This can be a bit disconcerting for him.  His father should assure him that his erections are normal and that he will have more control over his penis as he gets older.  
     Between the ages of 12 and 15, boys are old enough to have ejaculations -- semen shooting out of the penis.  This often happens during the night, thus the name nocturnal emissions or wet dreams.  If your son wakes up and thinks he wet the bed and is going through puberty, have your husband talk to him about nocturnal emissions.  He may wake up with his bed and underwear a little wet.  Wet dreams are normal, and there is no reason to be embarrassed by them.  His father may want to mention that this is one step towards manhood and fatherhood although he still has lots of growing to do - physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

10.  Awakening desire
     Boys will often start noticing the opposite sex during puberty, and they might start having feelings of desire.  Sometimes these feelings are a bit scary.  Instead of telling your son he is lusting, tell him that these feelings are good and God-given.  God made him male and visual.  He should try to keep his mind pure and realize that these feelings will be, eventually, channeled towards his wife.  Again, it's not the feelings, it's the timing.
     However, I do want to warn you.  We all know that there is some horrendous, deviant stuff on the internet these days, and the last thing we want is pornography shaping our child's sexuality.  Do not be naive.  The computer must be monitored at all ages, but especially when your son is going through puberty.  The increase in feelings of desire coupled with images on the internet can be dangerous for your son.  Looking at cheerleaders and girls in bikinis can quickly morph into something way worse on the internet.  As soon as your son shows signs of puberty, put passwords on all computers, even if it is in a public room in the house so the computer can not be used in the middle of the night or when you are not at home to monitor its use.  Be careful, be vigilant, and be smart.  Remember, Satan is a roaring lion seeking out who he can devour -- do not underestimate this temptation.

11.  FATHERS  
     Fathers are absolutely critical during puberty.  Boys will start to push against mom because of hormones and the desire for independence.  At this point, your husband may want to transition from saying, "Don't talk to your mother that way," to "Don't talk to my wife that way." 
     Whenever possible, dads should step in and show how to apply deodorant, etc. because boys really need their dads when all this begins.  Puberty can be scary, and boys need to know that their dads went through this as well.  Fathers need to help their boys navigate these years.
     Of course, there are fathers who refuse to do so, and there are fathers who are not available.  If this is the case, pray to our heavenly Father for wisdom, and do what you can.  On the flip side, moms need to back off and allow dad to step in.  I will say, sometimes I feel my husband may be being too hard on my sons, but I need to allow him to do what he feels is best as a man and as a father to our growing boys.  
     Finally, my husband came up with a great idea last year.  Every night after my oldest son's  small group, he picked him up and took him to McDonald's or somewhere to talk over a milkshake or burger.  They talked about puberty, body changes, or just life.  Oftentimes, they discussed a chapter in a book for boys on puberty (I'll talk about the book later.)  It was a great time for both of them.  

12.  The last word
     Finally, don't stop touching your son.  Once your son goes through puberty, he may try to withdraw from his mom physically.  However, keep hugging him, patting him on the back, and giving him quick side-hugs.  Tell him you love him often.  Even though mom needs to back off and let dad step in more during these years, he still needs his mom.  He needs to know that you love him and care for him just as much as he needed it when he was three years old.

Questions?  Ask, and I will do my best to answer.  Comments?  Feel free, but be nice.  I think the more we talk, the less "squirmy" and uncomfortable we'll feel.

Stay tuned for The Birds, the Bees, and Boys:  Teaching Your Boys About Sex -- Part 3.  I'll discuss a great book for boys called How You Are Changing.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Birds, the Bees, and Boys: Teaching Your Boys About Sex -- Part 1

     When I first decided to start blogging, I planned to write about boys and sexuality as one of my first posts.  I have asked so many questions and have been asked so many questions, and as a mom of two boys, I wanted to share what I have learned.  However, this subject is very uncomfortable for me, and therefore, I have postponed writing about it, coming back every once in a while to see if it will all fall into place.  Despite starting an outline over ten months ago, it never fell into place.  I don't think it will, so I give you what I know.  Please note that this is meant for other moms of boys, although numbers 1-4 below apply to all children.

     I grew up in a house with my parents and three sisters.  However, God saw fit to make me the mother of two boys.  One day, puberty came creeping into our house when I wasn't looking, jumped out of the shadows, and scared me to death.  I wasn't the only one taken by surprise.  When my son's voice started changing at the age of 11, my husband thought a stray baseball may have damaged his vocal cords.  It wasn't until I heard that tell-tale "squeak" when he was yelling and searched "boys voice changing age" on Google, that I realized what was going on.
     Over the last few years, I have been asked lots of questions about boys, puberty, sexuality, books about puberty, etc.  Here, I'll share with you just a little of what I have learned.

1.  Form a healthy view of sexuality yourself.
     What does the Bible say about sex.  According to Rob Jackson on the Focus on the Family website, "sexuality provides at least three basic lessons that our children can understand. Sexual union exists: (1) to make babies, (2) to nurture a mommy and daddy's love, and (3) to point us back to the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." (See the full article here.)  Sex is a gift from God, but timing is important.

2.  Model a healthy view of sexuality.
     How do you relate to your husband?  If you treat him like he has a disease every time he tries to kiss you when the kids are around, what type of message does that send?  Children need to know that marriage is the place where it is ok to show physical love.  Do we tell our children that they should wait to be married before having sex?  Then make sure the picture that they are getting is that the married physical relationship is a great one.  I'm not saying that you need to be pornographic in front of your children, but don't be afraid to show affection in front of them.  In fact, show affection on purpose.
     Also, monitor what your children are watching on television and seeing on the internet.  Watch the magazines that you bring into your house.  Many televison shows display young, attractive people in serious physical relationships outside of marriage.  Many magazines and now, even books, tout unmarried sex as awesome and exciting (and, well, it is, but it isn't God's plan or timing).  I could lecture about how such magazines and tv shows are bad and seriously undermine God's plan for sexuality, but I'll state it simply:  just keep it out of your house. Period.  That is not what you want forming your kids views on relationships, marriage, and sexuality.

3.  It's not just "the talk."
     Teaching your kids about sex begins when your child asks the first question.  It's a lifestyle.  Just as Deuteronomy 6:6 says that you are to teach the Lord's commandments "when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up," so it should be with questions about sex.  However, your answers should be age-appropriate using kid-language without giving too much too soon.  For example, there is a story about a young girl who asked her mother where she came from.  The mother, thinking it was time for "the talk," took a deep breath and told her daughter everything she felt she needed to know about sex.  Her daughter, taken quite by surprise, wrinkled her nose and said, "Eww.  I just wanted to know where I was from because Susan said she's from South Carolina."
     If your child asks a question, don't freak out, condemn your child, or act frightened.  Take a deep breath, remain calm, and even ask to think a moment before answering.  Remember that sometimes, especially when young, they need very basic information.  I heard another story about a boy who asked what "Sex" meant.  After his father explained intercourse, he said, "Well, why in the world do you have to check 'M' or 'F' on the form?!"  If your child asks where they came out, you can say, "God made a special place in the mommy for babies to come out," and surprisingly, for the young, that's all they need to know.  Also, asking, "Why do you want to know?" can give you insight into what they are thinking or why they are asking.  Start with the minimum when young, realizing that more is needed as puberty approaches.
     As an example of "giving the minimum information", last year at Christmas time, my husband was reading the Christmas story.  He read, "How can this be since I am a virgin?"  My husband stopped and said, "Mary didn't understand how she could be pregnant since she had never slept with a man."  My youngest, then nine years old, exclaimed, "WAIT!  Is that how you have a baby -- by sleeping next to a man?"  His dad replied, "Well, the man and woman sleep together in a special way."  My son replied, "Like chickens and roosters?"  My husband stated, "Well, yeah.  They sleep together and hold each other in a special way."  My son was fine with this explanation, and I have to say, I was practically hysterical, laughing in a pillow, but the point is, kids usually don't need all the nitty-gritty, just the basics.

4.  It's not just "the talk," but you do need to talk.
     Talking about sex  and remaining calm when asked off-the-wall questions has been quite difficult for me.  However, we must do it anyway.  You cannot be prepared for what they will ask, but tell yourself, now, that you will answer their questions calmly without shaming them or acting horrified.  If you are really thrown for a loop, ask, "Why do you want to know?"  That will give you some much needed information and give you time to think.  Don't be afraid to say, "That's a good question.  I really don't know the answer to that" or "Let me find out and get back to you," and then don't forget to do so.  Sometimes, it is appropriate to have the father answer the question for your son.

5.  Boys and their body PART.
     For the mother of a very young boy, nothing is more surprising than to find her four-year-old fondling himself in the bathtub with an erection and a look of satisfaction on his face.  Yes, it happens, and it is so very normal.  I only say this as a heads up because I remember distinctly "freaking out" and my husband replied very simply, "Well, it feels good."  So, when it happens, remind your son to not do this in public because that is something private.  Don't punish him for doing it or take him to the doctor.  Take a deep breath and remain calm.  Maybe even go around the corner and laugh.
     Speaking of body parts, at my husband's suggestion, we have always used the actual term, "penis" rather than "whippersnapper," "pee-pee," "winkie,"  or whatever other word you'd like to use.  Of course, this is up to you as the parent, but at some point, you should just state that it is technically a "penis" without blushing and move on.  After a while, using the word will become natural. 
6.  Little boys are curious about "private" parts.
     I know of another mother who was quite distressed that she found her four-year-old looking at women in swimsuits and felt he was lusting.  She wanted to know how to help him avoid sexual temptation and was disturbed that he had started such behavior at such a young age.  However, at this age, he is most likely simply noticing that women have breasts and that men do not and wondering why.  This is an opportunity to start talking about how God made men and women differently, but such discussions should not be about lust and avoiding sexual temptation.  That is too much, too soon.  Instead of helping him avoid such thoughts, you'll put things in his head he's never even thought about and will not understand.  At puberty, yes, he'll understand.  Before that, no, he is most likely NOT lusting.
     When boys start noticing differences between the sexes, it is time to discuss private parts.  Explain that he should never show his private parts to anyone other than his parents and the doctor.  Explain that a woman has different private parts from men because God made them differently.  Everything covered by a bathing suit is a private part.  Then leave it at that.  Acting ashamed, disgusted, embarrassed, or angry will actually cause him to think, later, that sex is dirty and shameful and something we don't talk about, and despite how uncomfortable it sounds, you want him talking to you about it when he is a teenager if he has questions.  Talk about it matter-of-factly and move on.  

Questions?  Ask, and I will do my best to answer.  Comments?  Feel free, but be nice.  I think the more we talk, the less "squirmy" and uncomfortable we'll feel.

Next, see The Birds, the Bees, and Boys: Teaching Your Boys About Sex -- Part 2.  I'll discuss puberty and what to expect when, followed by The Birds, the Bees, and Boys: Teaching Your Boys About Sex -- Part 3, a Book Review.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Wondrous Things of God: Life Cycle of the Monarch Butterfly

     There is something truly amazing about an egg the size of a pen point containing an itty-bitty caterpillar that will eventually become a monarch butterfly.  I never tire of watching the process and have multiple milkweed plants surrounding my house.  Only a majestic and wondrous God could come up with such an awesome process.  Really.  
     I have seen a caterpillar, early one morning, hanging upside down in his 'J,' transform into a chrysalis.  It's like his old body literally turns inside out, and in a matter of seconds, he is a wet, green, gold-flecked chrysalis.  In about 10 days, the chrysalis blackens, and then you can see the wings inside.  Finally, he pulls himself out, wet, dripping, and shriveled, but after a few more hours, he takes to the wind, a beautiful orange butterfly.  Amazing.  Beautiful.  Wonderful.  I never tire of it.

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Who's the Hero? Thoughts on the Hunger Games Series

Do not continue reading 
if you plan to read the Hunger Game books or if you have not finished the books!

     I just finished the Hunger Games series last night.  I closed the final book and tried to name the emotion I felt.  Satisfied.  I was satisfied.  
     Suzanne Collins is an incredible writer who created a page-turner with surprises so shocking that I actually gasped out loud once or twice.  However, she is not writing from a Christian point-of-view and that makes working out the tension between good and evil (sin) difficult.  She writes of a society gone terribly wrong with no Redeemer in sight.  That makes swallowing the story line and facing the incredible evil a problem, and although Katniss sparks the revolution, she is NOT the hero.
     Although Katniss is willing to die for her sister, her positive qualities are limited.  She feels compassion towards the Avox she did not save, and Rue, the little girl who reminded her of her sister.  Although she is smart, intuitive, resourceful, brave, and fierce, she is also quick to anger, selfish, distrustful, and suspicious, and she knows it. The girl on fire, fueled by hatred and revenge, becomes a murderer, a survivalist, a manipulator, yet her behavior is completely understandable considering she almost starved to death when 11, watched her mother descend into deep depression, broke the law daily to save her family, and acted as an adult simply to survive the cruel society into which she was born.  The girl's got baggage, but it's important to remember, she is a girl, and she is a survivor.
     Gale is no better.  He starts out angry and then becomes vengeful, creating traps that play on human sympathies in order to kill others.  Even Katniss is uncomfortable with his methods.
     Peeta, on the other hand, is the only one in the series who seems to have a grasp of what the society has done and is capable of doing to ruin all that is good about humanity.  In book one he says, "'I don't want them to change me in there.  Turn me into some kind of monster that I'm not.'"  Despite President Snow's "hijacking," it is Peeta who is able to NOT become that monster.  When even Katniss stoops so low as to  call for a Hunger Games for the children of the Capital, Peeta, arguing with Haymitch, is appalled at "the atrocity he could become party to."  (Book 3).  While Gale is the one who brings Katniss the arrow to assassinate Snow, Peeta is the one who takes the nightlock from her.  
     Peeta.  I closed the book, and I was satisfied because of Peeta.  In the end, he redeems her.  He loves her unquestionably, faithfully, and unconditionally.  He never gives up on her.  He cares for her and those around him.  He does what is right, what is good.  He sees beauty in the darkness.  He never kills anyone in the book unless by accident, even when brainwashed.  Peeta.  It sounds like Peter, to me, and if so, it means "rock."  Peeta is a rock -- unchanging, steadfast.  Peeta is hope.  Peeta does not become the monster, never crosses that line, redeems Katniss with his love, and in the end, redeems the humanity that has become reduced to a Darwinian world of the strongest and most deadly survive.  Peeta makes Katniss and the world around him a better place, and that is why I am satisfied.

     For a different opinion, see Why the Hunger Games is Flawed to Its Core.  I respect N.D. Wilson very much, and I've read all his books.  However, I don't agree that Peeta is a wimpy, passive guy.  He's a teenager trapped in a hopeless system.  Yes, I would have loved it if, in the first book, Katniss cut out her arm tracker and saved the other tributes from the bad tributes, but then what?  The Gamemakers could have killed her off quickly, and then the books would be over.  Finally, I disagree that revolutions aren't started by small things like berries.  In that moment, she decided it was better to kill herself and Peeta than to let them win, to force her to do the unthinkable -- kill her friend.  That was a huge act of courage that could indeed spark a revolution if such a terrible world existed and that entire world was watching live, but that is just my opinion.  

NOTE:  Considering the darkness of the books, I think parents need to be very wary of allowing children younger than 13 to read them.  By the third book, the author is describing the tributes being used as sex slaves, and we must remember -- the tributes are children.  Alcohol and drug abuse, brutality, murder, evil -- all of this is dark and takes maturity to work through.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mommy Diary -- Who Am I?

     I came across this journal entry a few weeks ago written when my boys were almost 4 and 21 months (they are 13 and 10 now).  After working as a high school English teacher and the office manager of a hotel management company, staying home with whiny kids and little adult interaction was, well, hard.  I've pondered this journal entry, read over it a few more times, and thought, maybe, just maybe it might help a mom who is struggling like I was.  2 Cor. 1:3-4  says, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." May you be comforted.

April 8, 2003
     Yesterday was such a bad day.  My kids whined all day.  I kept losing my patience.  I didn't get anything accomplished.  I went to bed feeling defeated -- a failure as a mother. 
     Depressed!  My husband constantly reminds me that 1st and foremost, I'm staying home for my children -- not a clean house.
     Why can't I get that through my head?  I constantly evaluate my days -- my worth and value-- by the fruits of my labor.  What I can see that I got done -- but when I die, I want to say that my children know the Lord -- that we did our best to teach them about Jesus and His word -- that we tried to teach them honesty, character, integrity, determination, responsibility.
     Lord, help me to see it -- to remember it -- to believe it.  Help me to forget about clean toilets (well, not forever) and get it down to my bones that I am here for my children -- I am home for them!  Then Lord, if you want to teach me how to keep a spotless house, so be it.  If I never learn, give me a peace about it.
     I mean, I want a house that is clean, comfortable.  I don't want to be embarrassed every time someone stops by -- but I need balance -- and I need to go to bed after a day when nothing got accomplished with peace because I took good care of my children.
     Lord, help me to be patient.  Especially with my oldest son with all his energy and three-year-old inquisitiveness.  

I am...

*John 1:12-13 -- a child of God
*John 3:18 -- not condemned
*Ps. 139:13 -- created by God
*Ps. 139:14 -- fearfully and wonderfully made
*Ps. 139:16 -- seen by God before I existed -- all my days are ordained by God
*Romans 8:16-17 -- God's child, heir of God, co-heirs with Christ
*Col. 1:13 -- rescued by God from the dominion of darkness
*Eph. 2:8-10 -- saved by faith -- not by works -- created to do good works
*2. Cor. 5:17 -- a new creation
*Rom. 12:1  -- a living sacrifice
*2 Cor. 5:21 -- the righteousness of God

Stop looking to the world for affirmation.  If I really believed these Scriptures....I would stop feeling so incompetent -- so ugly -- so guilty all the time.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and I am not condemned.

Note:  My only edits are in italics -- I removed names.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Commercial for Commercials -- Using Commercials to Train Your Kids in Critical Thinking

     Usually, our family is not much of a television watching family.  However, we have watched the Olympics every night since the opening ceremony.  We have been eating in the living room (which we never normally do) and rooting for the United States with all our hearts.  Watching the Olympics has given us lots of opportunities to discuss hard work, adversity, perseverance, determination, and many other virtues.  On the flip side, the commercials are giving us opportunities to teach our kids some other lessons.  Take, for example, the following scene:
     A man walks into a bar and orders a beer.  A girl notices his choice in beer and is instantly attracted to this man.  She walks over to this man, alluringly.  My husband and I crack up laughing.  
     Actually, we really did crack up, and our kids wanted to know what was so funny, so we asked, "What is this commercial saying?"  Buy this beer -- get this beautiful girl.  Then we discussed, "Is that realistic?  Do you really want to date a girl who is attracted to you because of your beer choice?  Is a bar the best place to meet the girl you want to spend your life with?  Where would be a better place to meet a girl?"  It was an interesting conversation, and my husband and I still crack up every time we see this commercial.
     Today, I was thinking about our discussions about this commercial and others and realized that such discussions are good in other ways as well because we need to teach our kids to think critically about the world around them.  The world bombards them with so many messages, and so much is simply untrue.  Today, I saw this:

That's a really a funny "quote," but at the same time, incredibly sad.  
     Our kids need to know that they should not believe everything they read in print or the internet.  They need to be aware of how advertisers are trying to sway them -- manipulate them.  They need to understand how television shows are insidiously chipping away at family values and replacing them with ideas that are not Biblical by using emotional manipulation and humor.  They need to realize that many people do not hold the same beliefs as they do and how to handle opinions that explicitly contradict their own.  
     As our family watches commercials, I'm thinking about how we can examine the messages those commercials are trying to send in order to help my boys know better how to evaluate the world around them critically with the ultimate goal of strengthening and developing their faith.  Yep, we can train our kids even when watching commercials.

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 6:5-7