How Should Kids Respond to False Ideas
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We want our children to be able to recognize what is true and what is false. But how should our kids respond to a false idea when they recognize it? In this episode, Elizabeth Urbanowicz talks about how to guide our children to know when to appropriately respond to a false claim and how to do so.
Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.
Now, our question for today says, "How should we teach our kids to respond to false ideas when they recognize them?" It's a great question. My advice is teach them to run for the hills. I'm just kidding. Obviously, that's not the right thing to do, but the first thing that we need to do is make sure that we equip them to recognize false ideas. That's the first half of the battle.
There's two ways in which we really recommend doing this, and if you've gone through any of the Foundation Worldview curriculums, you understand this. The first thing that we really recommend that you do is they need to be grounded in Scripture. Our kids can't recognize ideas that are false if they don't know what the truth is, so the first thing we need to do is we need to make sure that they're grounded in Scripture. I don't mean just teaching them Bible stories and having them memorize random verses, I mean immersing them in the entire narrative of Scripture so that they understand God's big story from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, that they understand that big story, they understand major themes that are woven throughout that story, they understand where promises of Jesus are woven throughout that story so that they understand that story backward and forward. Also, recommend teaching them skills to actually soundly read, interpret, and apply Scripture so that we make sure that they are immersed in an appropriate and correct understanding of the biblical narrative.
Then the second thing that we recommend at Foundation Worldview is actually systematically training them to carefully evaluate ideas. Again, those of you familiar with our curriculums, you know that we do this in two ways. One way that we do this is by actually teaching them what do other worldviews believe about big questions like about God and truth and life and humanity and morality, and so actually looking at, "Okay, what does the biblical world you teach? What do other worldviews teach so that kids can compare and contrast them?"
Then the other way we do that is by actually teaching them how to systematically evaluate an idea. The way that we recommend doing that is by actually teaching them, in our curriculums we call them the "careful thinking rules," which are basically the laws of logic, so teach your kids the laws of logic, and how to recognize claims that are self-refuting, claims that do not align with the laws of logic. Then we recommend directly exposing them to logical fallacies, teaching them how to recognize a logical fallacy, and then how to evaluate the strength of evidence that is used to support a claim.
Okay, so I know this was a lot, but if you're interested in more, we have so many webinars and blog posts on foundationworldview.com that you can go to look at, "Okay, how do I immerse my kids in Scripture? How do I train them to evaluate worldview ideas? How do I train them to systematically evaluate every idea that they encounter?" We have tons of resources on those. We also have our Studying the Bible curriculum, our Comparative Worldview curriculum, and our Careful Thinking curriculum, which do just that.
Once our kids are equipped in that way, then the question that was asked is, "How do we teach them to respond once they recognize these false ideas?" I would say we need to break this down into two separate categories because sometimes they're going to be exposed to false ideas in the media, and sometimes they're going to be exposed to false ideas in relationships, okay, so we need to train them to respond in different ways depending on is this an idea that just came at me through the media, or is this an idea that's coming at me through a relationship?
Now, if it's through the media, if they're recognizing a false idea in something that they're watching, something that they're consuming, some questions to ask to know how to respond, a first question is, "Is this false idea strong or vile enough for me to stop engaging in this?" If we're watching Pocahontas and Grandmother Willow is telling Pocahontas to listen to her heart and that's the false idea of following your heart to determine morality, we need to recognize that that's not true, but that might not be strong enough or vile enough for us to say, "We're never watching Pocahontas again."
If our kids are engaged in watching something where this idea that morality is subjective is just rampant all over the place and it's glorifying sex outside of marriage, and it's glorifying other things that don't honor God, that's probably strong enough for us to say, "You know what? It's not wise to engage in that form of media because that's just going to shape your ideas in ways that aren't true."
I remember this even growing up. When I was growing up, the show Friends was very popular, and almost all of my friends in high school were watching Friends. I remember asking my mom if I could watch it, and she said, "No," and I remember asking her, "Why can't I? There's really no cursing and there's no sex in it. There's no sex scenes." I distinctly remember my mom saying, "Elizabeth, they might not be showing you sex scenes, but watching that show is going to impact the way in which you view sex and sexuality and those ideas that it's going to present are not true."
As an adult now, I'm so grateful that she protected me from that when I was in high school because she's right that that show would've drastically impact the way that I viewed sex and sexuality, and so as a high schooler, it was far enough deviating from God's design, the narrative that was spoken, that it wouldn't have been healthy for me to watch that, and so we want to make sure our kids are saying, "Okay, is this idea something that we just recognize is not true, but we can continue engaging in it?" Or is it something that's strong enough that we should say, "You know what? We should not be engaging in this"?
Then we also need to ask, "How embedded into the narrative is this idea?" Because if this idea of following our heart is embedded throughout the entire series, or the entire movie, again, it might be something that we need to say, "You know what? This idea is so strong in this movie or in this show, we probably should stop engaging with it."
Then if it's an emotional appeal, a lot of times our culture doesn't so much reason, it just feels, and so then asking, "Is the emotional appeal in this movie, or in this song, or in this series, is it strong enough to make me start believing this lie?" Because sometimes what filmmakers do is they just make it so that we so emotionally relate and engage with this character that we start to believe that whatever this character wants to do is true.
I mean, think about how many movies where someone is trapped in a bad marriage and then they meet the right person, and emotionally, we're just like, "Yes, they should be with that person. Leaving their spouse is the right thing. They should just be happy." We say that not because we believe that affairs are biblical, not because we suddenly believe that adultery is not a sin, but because we've been so emotionally engaged with this character that we feel for them, we empathize with them, we just want them to be happy, where we know that what's biblical is for them to remain faithful to the person that they have pledged before God and their family to be faithful to for life.
While our kids probably aren't engaging in media that's encouraging affairs, or adultery, we need to think, "Okay, is the emotion behind this so strong that my children are going to be swept away into this narrative?" We need to ask them that, "Is this speaking to your heart so much that you're going to be tempted to believe a lie?" I think those are really important questions for us to have our kids asking when they encounter a false idea in the media.
Now, when they encounter a false idea in relationships, which they're going to a ton, we need to train them to ask good questions so that they can really understand what is this friend, or acquaintance, or teacher, whoever really saying? So, training our kids to ask good questions, and then to actually listen, okay?
"Hmm, that's an interesting idea. Can you tell me more about what you mean by that? Okay, how did you come to believe that that's true? That's interesting. What evidence do you think there is to support that idea? Well, have you ever thought about any other ideas? What if you're wrong? Can I share with you what I believe is true?" So, training our kids to ask these questions so that when it's a relationship, when it's not just something they're viewing on a screen, they can ask good questions, seek to really listen, and understand that person, and then learn to speak the truth in love. How do I actually speak the truth in a way that's kind, but also isn't fearing, "What is this person going to think of me?", but is actually doing what's best for this person?
Now, when our children are in relationships where they're constantly faced with false ideas from someone, we need to think of, "What level of influence does this person have over me?" Because there's people in our lives who directly influence us, and we're not so much influencing them, but they're influencing us, like parents directly influence children, children don't so much influence parents, and same with teachers and teachers, coaches, anybody in a position of authority over us is influencing us. People that we look up to, people that are mentoring us are just influencing us. Then there's friendships where we're mutually influencing one another, we influence that friend, they influence us.
Then there's other relationships where, whether it's with a peer or with someone younger than us where we're strictly influencing them, but we're actively working not to have them influence us, so we need to think with our kids, "Okay, this person who's consistently presenting you with false ideas, are they influencing you? Are you both influencing one another? Or are you just influencing them?" Because if a person is consistently presenting you with false ideas, that needs to be one of those relationships where you are just influencing them, and you're seeking to influence them, but you're being very careful not to allow them to influence you. A lot of times, that means limiting the amount of time we're going to be spending with that person, you're not spending a ton of time with that person, or you're really making sure that we're loving that person well, but that we're guarding our thoughts and intentions in these relationships.
I mean, just think of yourself. The standard that you have for communicating with your neighbor's probably a very low threshold. You don't get to choose who your neighbors are, but then your standard for having a close friend is very, very different than your standard for communicating with a neighbor because a close friend is someone who you're going to influence them, they're going to influence you. It's a close relationship, so you have a higher standard of things that you're looking for in those close friends. Then when you think about choosing your spouse, hopefully you had even higher standards of what you expected of someone that you would marry than even of what you would expect of a close friend because your spouse is going to be influencing you in a deep and intimate way, and so we want to help our kids think through, "Okay, these relationships that we have, what's the level of influence?", and especially if it's someone that's consistently presenting them with false ideas.
Those are the things I'd recommend. First, we need to just equip our kids to recognize false ideas, give them the skills that they need. Then we need to help them think through, "Okay, what's the difference between media and relationships?" With media, we need to determine, okay, is this something we can just recognize as false and continue engaging in? Or is it something that's so deeply embedded in the story, or it has such a strong emotional appeal that we actually need to stop engaging in that media? Then with friends, how can we ask good questions? How can we listen? How can we speak with truth and love? Then depending on how often this person is presenting us with false ideas, what relationship does this need to be? Is this a mutual influencing, or do we need to be really careful that just we're influencing that person, and they're not influencing us?
Well, that's a wrap for this episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast. As always, my prayer as we leave this time together is that God would richly bless you as you continue to intentionally disciple the children that He's placed in your care. I'll see you next time.
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