Reasoning with an Emotionally Driven Child

January 03, 2023

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In this episode, Elizabeth Urbanowicz explores how to reason for the faith with a child who tends to be driven by their emotions or feelings. We'll look at helping them understand the concept of truth, how to discern it, and ultimately checking if their emotions or feelings towards something aligns with what is true.


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Elizabeth Urbanowicz:
Hello, friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today.

Our question today says, what is the best approach to reason and teach evidence for faith to a non-reason/emotion driven child? Great question because we know that so many of our children, especially little ones, are so emotionally driven. And then, in this world that we live in, that is very emotionally-driven and that just believes that our inner world, our feelings are king. A lot of times we even have many older children and teens, maybe even young adults who are very emotion-driven.

And so what I would always recommend when working with a child who very heavily relies on emotions, and even any child in general, is just to start with the concept of truth because that's a concept our world is so confused about today. What is truth? Is there such a thing that something can be true for you but not for me? Is truth the same for everyone? Does truth change from person to person? Are you just supposed to live your truth or speak your truth? The concept of truth is just so convoluted in this post-modern culture in which we live, and so, always recommend that we start off just defining truth as truth is what is real, truth is what is real.

And then if you're looking for an activity to go through with kids just talking about truth, if you go to the Foundation Worldview website and you request a sample lesson from our comparative worldview curriculum, you can get a free lesson on this concept of truth that will give you a whole treasure hunt activity that you can do with your kids, just guiding them to the conclusion that truth is what is real.

The second thing that we need to do is then equip our little ones or our big ones to discern the difference between truths and emotions. That truths are objective, meaning they're not dependent on my thoughts, feelings, or desires. A really simple example of this is when we say Earth is round. Earth is round is a claim that's objective. If I believe Earth is round, Earth doesn't suddenly become round. If I believe Earth is flat, it doesn't suddenly, puff, flatten out. The shape of the Earth is outside of the control of my inner world, so truths are things that are outside of the control of my inner world. They're objective. Where, my emotions, they're completely controlled by my inner world. There's something that happens inside of me. My emotions are going to be different than your emotions which are going to be different than the next person's emotions. So our emotions are subjective.

And so, then, once we've equipped our kids to understand the difference between truths that are objective and emotions that are subjective, we need to then equip them to ask the question, does this emotion point me towards the truth or does it point me away from the truth? Because sometimes our inner feelings actually do point us to what is true. Other times, they point us away from the truth. Because we don't want to teach our kids that emotions are a bad thing. Now, what we do with our emotions can be a bad thing, but having emotions in and of themselves is not a bad thing.

Having an emotions, having emotions is part of being human, part of being created as an image bearer of the holy God. So emotions in and of themselves are not bad. However, from the biblical worldview, we know that on this side of the fall, our emotions, along with our intellect and our will, have all been corrupted by the fall. Therefore, we need to filter every desire, every thought, and every action through the lens of scripture. So we want our kids to be consistently asking the question, does this emotion point me towards the truth, or does it point me away from the truth?

An easy place to begin implementing this with our kids is when we're disciplining them. Now, in the heat of the moment, when they're upset about something, it's not wisest in that moment to ask, now, does this emotion point you towards the truth or away from the truth? We probably will not get a very healthy response at the time. But once our children have had time to cool down and we're actually talking through a discipline situation with them, that's a great opportunity to ask them this question, this emotion that you had, this anger that you had, this sadness that you had, this frustration that you had, that point you toward the truth, or did it point you away from the truth? Or you can even ask, what parts of it pointed you towards the truth? Maybe your child was genuinely being treated unjustly, and that emotion pointed them towards the truth. But then, that emotion led them to believe that what they needed to do was lash out in anger, which that did not point them to the truth.

One thing that you can do is to talk to just help our kids understand that emotions can't actually change objective truths. You can talk to your child about the different feelings your child has towards you. Sometimes your child feels very happy about you. Sometimes they feel very relieved to see you. Sometimes they feel very loving towards you. Sometimes they feel very angry. Sometimes they might feel frustration or sadness. But then you can ask your child, these emotions that you feel towards me, are these feelings that you have at different times, do they change the truth of my love for you? No. No matter how your child feels about you or toward you, your love doesn't rest on their feelings, and we want to help them see that, that your love for them doesn't rest on their feelings. And then talk about how it's the same way with God and His Word.

There are times that we believe the biblical worldview is true. There are times when we're excited about reading scripture. There's times when we feel like God loves us. Then there's times where we feel confused. We have doubts. We feel angry towards God. We feel like God isn't there. But no matter whether our feelings toward God and His Word are positive or negative, God's love toward us or the truth of His Word, it doesn't change because the truth of who God is and His plan for the world doesn't rest on our emotions. It doesn't matter what we think, feel or believe about God, God is going to remain God. Now, what we do think, feel, and believe about God does matter for our lives, but the truth of who God is or the truth of His Word doesn't rest on our feelings. God doesn't change along with our feelings.

Once we've laid this foundation of truth, talked about what truth is, what's real, the difference between truth and emotions, then discerning, does this emotion point me towards the truth or away from it, that's when we can then bring in scripture and talk about scripture, the truth of scripture, the truth of the biblical worldview actually resting on objective claims.

A great place to take our kids is 1 Corinthians 15, because in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul makes a lot of objective claims about the Christian worldview, that Jesus lived, that He died, that He was buried, that He rose from the grave. And then Paul even shows that if Jesus has not risen from the grave, if that objective claim, Christ rose from the grave, is not true, He says that we of all people are most to be pitied. We're not just to think, "Oh, well, at least I lived a good Christian life." No. If Christ hasn't been raised from the dead, we are wasting our time. That comes from scripture doesn't just come from my mind or from your mind, that actually that's what the Apostle Paul says, that if Christ has not been raised, we of all people are most to be pitied.

And so, then, go through an exercise as a family of examining the evidence for the resurrection. If you're working with kids 12 or younger, go through the book Cold-Case Christianity for Kids. It just shows how cold-case homicide detectives solve cases and how you can apply those same criteria for figuring out a cold case and then looking at the evidence for Jesus' resurrection.

If you're working with kids 13 or over, just go through the adult version of that book. It's a simple read, Cold-Case Christianity. It's a great resource for actually looking at the truth of the biblical worldview. If you want some more information on that, if you check out a recent webinar that I did with the author of that book, detective Jay Warner Wallace, we did a webinar on helping our kids understand the historical reliability of scripture. So highly recommend you check that out.

Also, another thing I would recommend is just continue this conversation, continue this conversation on why we can trust that scripture is true, why we can trust that Jesus rose from the grave, why we can trust that the biblical worldview actually aligns with reality. Continue this conversation. Continue reading books like Cold Case Christianity. Go through curriculums like our comparative worldview curriculum at Foundation Worldview, things that are going to show your kids that we don't have some blind, irrational faith in scripture, that faith is not a blind, irrational leap into the dark. Biblical faith is putting our trust in God, who we cannot see, because everything we can see points directly to Him.

And as you're having these conversations with your kids, as you're reading book, as you're working your way through curriculum, remember that discipling these kids God has placed in our care is a marathon. It's a marathon. We're in it for the long haul. It's not a sprint of trying to, in 30 seconds or 30 minutes or even 30 days, convincing them that Christianity is true. It's a marathon. And so, your child might not trust in Jesus for another 10 months or 10 years or few decades, but continue to be faithful with what God has entrusted to you and pray daily for these children that God has placed in your care, that God would stir the affections of their heart toward Him, that God would let them feel the weight of their sin, the emptiness of life apart from Him, and that they would choose to turn from their sin and trust only and always in Jesus who is our only hope in life and death.

Well, that's a wrap for today. But as always, as we go forth from this time together, my prayer for you 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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