School Days, School Days
About the Guest
It's that time of year again! Will your children be prepared? Barbara Rainey, a mother of six and grandmother to many more, encourages parents to prepare their children for school, not just by buying them new shoes or backpacks, but also by teaching them how to respond should someone bully them. Parents don't know what challenges their children might face during the semesters ahead, but they can always be proactive with their children by covering the basics.
It’s that time of year again! Will your children be prepared? Barbara Rainey encourages parents to prepare their children for school by teaching them how to respond should someone bully them.
School Days, School Days
Bob: It is almost time for back to school—which means it’s almost time for back to peer group—which could mean trouble. Here’s Barbara Rainey.
Barbara: Yes, you need to stand guard over what they are being exposed to but you also need to teach them how to respond when they do encounter drugs, and alcohol, and all of that. How are they going to respond? That responsibility is really squarely on the shoulders of moms, and dads, and grandparents who are raising kids. That’s who’s responsible to prepare those children, no matter what the circumstances might be, to help them know how to respond.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 6th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re about to shift gears into the school season. We need to start getting our focus ready, as moms and dads. We’ll try and do that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. I was about to say, “It’s that time of year,” but I guess that depends on where you live because “that time of year” for back to school is different if you live in some parts of the country than if you live in other parts of the country.
Dennis: Yes, I don’t quite get it. It seems to me that school is starting, in some cases, earlier than ever and seems to be ending later than ever before it starts again in the fall.
Bob: When I was growing up, you didn’t start school until after Labor Day. I mean, everybody—the day after Labor Day is when school started.
Dennis: We were done before the month of May was over.
Bob: That’s right; but now, I know in the south, people are starting school in the next week or two and all the way through into early September. So, moms and dads—I don’t know whether folks listening to this are thinking about back to school because it’s right around the corner or whether it’s still a few weeks off and they’re saying: “Let’s not talk about it. Let’s keep vacation going for a few more weeks, at least.”
Dennis: Yes, I think as we talk about going back to school, I think I’d kind of like to challenge moms’, and dads’, and grandparents’ thinking about how they’re about to do this. Whether you’re a single parent mom or dad or you’re a mom and dad raising the next generation—about to send them off into school—I kind of want to sound the alarm here and say: “You know what? This is not business, as usual, for parents. These are incredibly challenging days.”
I was thinking about a passage I haven’t read in a while, Bob; and you know which one it is—it’s Ephesians 5—we used to quote it pretty frequently, here on FamilyLife.
I haven’t quoted it recently; but it says in verse 15: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil.” I think more than ever, because of the change that has occurred in our nation over the past decade—10 to 15 years—this is not a business-as-usual culture. We have to train, equip, and prepare our children to go up against a formidable foe. The culture is no longer friendly to biblical values and people who embrace them.
Bob: We have your wife joining us on FamilyLife Today—always nice to have Barbara in the studio. Welcome.
Barbara: Thank you, Bob.
Bob: This time of year—again, I’m thinking back to my own childhood or even when our children were being sent back to school. I remember there was a little bit of excitement around the fact that we were going to get some structure back into our schedule. Life was going to return to a little bit of a routine—
Dennis: And for the most part, Bob, there was a lot of innocence, back when you went to school / I did too.
Bob: You’re going to see your friends that you haven’t seen all summer. I mean, there was something that you looked forward to—you didn’t admit that to anybody else at school. [Laughter]
Barbara: Of course not.
Dennis: Right; right.
Bob: [Sounding disgruntled] “Oh, we have to start school again!” But you kind of looked forward to being back in that routine. We were not facing what Dennis is talking about in terms of challenges to our worldview as we reengage around school.
Barbara: Yes, I think today parents have more responsibility to prepare their kids for what they are going to face in school than our parents did, or even maybe we did with our children. It’s not just about getting a new box of crayons and getting a new backpack and new shoes—it’s also about: “How are you going to teach your child to respond if he or she is bullied?
“How are they going to respond if someone is unkind to them or if they are learning something that isn’t truthful, based on the way that you’ve been raising them?” I think there’s more preparation that needs to be done, from parent-to-child / grandparent-to-child, before they start off than ever before.
Dennis: The days were evil 40 years ago / 50 years ago.
Barbara: The days have always been evil—
Dennis: They have.
Barbara: Just different kinds.
Dennis: Yes, that’s right. It seems today, from an escalation standpoint—just by way of comparison—when you and I were going back to school, back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, the issues were sex / alcohol—maybe some bad people who drove cars and offered you chewing gum.
Bob: There was cheating on tests—there were all kinds of issues going on.
Dennis: Yes, but you take a look at today’s issues—and I just jotted some of them down—sexting; sexual predators on the internet; date rape; sexual assault; porn on all kinds of little portable screens; video content; violent video games; addictive behaviors; gender distortion, resulting in confusion: “Is gay okay?”; transgender —not to mention movies and TV that are now all stretching the limits of what’s decent against what’s vulgar.
Here we are raising children—who used to have this period of innocence—Barbara read a book, when we were raising our kids—that was entitled The Hurried Child. I think, if we were hurried back then, what do we call it today?—the jet-sled child?—I don’t know.
Dennis: But it’s at the speed of the internet that it’s coming to our children. As parents, we have to prepare our children as they go back in—whether it’s a private school, a Christian school, public school, or even a home school—because you’re not going to be able to insulate them from everything that’s taking place.
Bob: I’m thinking a lot of moms and dads, who are listening to us talk about that and they’re saying, “I’m glad we’re home schooling because we’re not going to have to face a lot of what you’re talking about, just by virtue of the fact that our kids are with us most of the day.” So do they need to be on guard in this culture? What does that look like for home schooling parents?
Barbara: Well, I think probably the circle is a little smaller because moms and dads who home school control that a little bit more; but you just don’t know what your kids are going to be exposed to—if they spend the night with someone, at church with someone, or if your home-school kids are older and they go to a movie with some friends. You just don’t know what’s out there.
So, I think the preparation work really needs to be the same for home-school families, and private school, and Christian school, and public school. I think the public-school parents probably need to be a little bit more vigilant because their kids are in and out of situations probably that have more possibilities for error and exposure to things you wouldn’t like than the home school on the other extreme.
Nonetheless, I think all kids today in this culture—because of the internet, and movies, and all of the hand-held devices—I think all parents need to be preparing their kids.
Bob: Well, a lot of moms and dads look at this and say: “Okay. Our strategy is going to be insulate/isolate. We’re going to wall off the culture as much as we can.” That’s not a good long-term strategy.
Dennis: As Barbara and I were talking about coming into studio—we were discussing it last night—and I said: “You know, as never before, these days are really challenging the chests/the courage of parents. Are they going to be able to stand firm for what they believe in the midst of a culture that has moved the ancient boundaries?”
Not only have the ancient boundaries been moved, but some of those who have moved the ancient boundaries are parents themselves. They are parents of your children’s peers. Some of your children’s peers are in home school—they are being home schooled as well—and those parents don’t have the same boundaries, the same beliefs, and the same core convictions.
I think courage is an important theme today for parents—just to kind of pull back and go, “How are we doing?” because what is courage? Courage is doing your duty in the face of fear, in the face of obstacles, the face of challenges. So what is your duty, biblically? Deuteronomy 6 spells it out—it says we have to teach this when we rise up / when we lie down. It needs to be on the doorpost of our house. It needs to be embedded in our families if our kids are not going to become a victim.
Barbara: Really and truly, as you think about it over the eons of history, there have been periods like this when being a Christian and raising your kids the way you wanted to raise them wasn’t always easy.
I think we are in an unusually—what feels, to us, like a really difficult time—but God has called parents, all along, to teach their children the truth and to prepare them to face the world in which they will grow up, and be adults, and have their own families. In some ways, it is different; but in some ways, it’s the same.
It’s the same challenge that we’ve had forever and ever and that is—to raise up children, who know Christ, and who love Him, and who will pursue a relationship with Him on into adulthood. As Bob was saying a minute ago, some parents feel that the best way to do that is to insulate them and protect them. That is a choice / that is a way to do it; but on the other hand, the other choice is to expose them, in little pieces, to the world and then teach them how to respond to that.
It’s really kind of a balance—yes, you need to protect your children / yes, you need to stand guard over what they are being exposed to—but you also need to teach them how to respond—when they do encounter a bully, when they do encounter a lie, when they encounter a “truth” that goes against the way they’ve been raised. When they encounter drugs, and alcohol, and all of that—how are they going to respond?
That responsibility is really squarely on the shoulders of moms, and dads, and grandparents, who are raising kids. That’s who’s responsible to prepare those children, no matter what the circumstances might be, to help them know how to respond.
Dennis: I think what parents need to understand is—you just never know where the battle is going to come from and how your kid is going to get exposed. You could do your best to protect them but—we went to public school—we chose that route. We know that not all Christian parents choose that route; but we felt like we wanted our kids to learn how to be lights in the world, and how to represent Christ, and stand firm for their convictions.
I’ll never forget our daughter, Rebecca. You may remember how old she was—I feel like she was probably a freshman or sophomore in high school. She came home from school one day—and here’s the thing—she felt the freedom to tell me this story. If she hadn’t have told us, I wouldn’t have been able to have protected her; but she said, “At school today, a boy asked me if I was sure I was a girl.”
Now I’m going to tell you something—if it occurred back then, you know that there’s more confusion and questioning about gender and sexuality today as never before, even casually, in the culture. He made some comment about my daughter’s body. I said, “What was his name?” She told me; and I said, “I wonder if he’s in the school directory?” Sure enough, the number was there—made a phone call. His dad answered, fortunately—I really am glad his dad answered. I said: “I’d like to speak with your son. I’m Mr. Rainey.” And he said, “What about?”
I said: “Well, your son made a derogatory comment about my daughter’s body; and I didn’t appreciate it. I’d just like to have a man-to-man conversation with him. I’m not going to beat him up or anything. I just want him to know he needs to respect her, as a creature made by God.” Now, I think my daughter was overhearing this conversation.
Barbara: Yes, she was.
Dennis: So it was good for me, from an accountability standpoint, because that kept my emotions in control—but it also was good for her to hear that her daddy and her mommy wanted to protect her and teach her how to think about herself, as a woman. I’m going to tell you something—if we needed to do that back then—I mean, that was 25 / probably 25 years ago, approximately.
Barbara: Probably—in the ‘90s probably.
Dennis: Yes. So, you know, I think parents need to be ready and keep an atmosphere of open relationship with their children as they head off to school and say: “You know what? Nothing’s off limits with Mom.
“Nothing’s off limits with Dad. You need to know—you just need to share with us what’s going on.” They won’t share everything—you can’t count on that at all—but what you want to do, when they do share, is hide your shock because you will be shocked. That was not the only conversation like that we had as we raised six, all the way through high school. But you have to hide your shock—kind of bite your lip and go: “Can you believe this? I’d like to ring that kid’s neck.”
Barbara: But you can’t say that.
Dennis: You can’t say it! You can’t express that. You’ve got to create the feelings of protection and you have to be a courageous parent and resist doing nothing.
Bob: Did you ever get that young man on the line?
Dennis: Yes. I had a good conversation with him. And I did just what I said—I talked to him and I said: “This is Mr. Rainey. Just wanted you to know I didn’t appreciate how you referred to my daughter and her body. She’s a woman. God made her, and you need to respect her. You should apologize.”
I think he did—I don’t know—but the point is—it’s not a time to exert force or put somebody down—it’s a time, I think, to engage in what’s happening in our world and represent a biblical viewpoint, without pulling your Bible out and thumping somebody on the head.
Bob: Yes. Barbara, in some places, it wouldn’t be a fellow student, asking the question, “Are you sure you’re a girl?” but there’re some isolated school districts where that is becoming part of the curriculum for students to question their gender identity. There’s discussion about gender fluidity. That’s not the case in most school districts. It’s unlikely that—if your child is stopping and asking himself or herself questions: “I wonder if I really am supposed to be a boy? I wonder if I’m gay,”—they may not bring that up with Mom and Dad.
How do you stay engaged / how do you stay connected with your kids as they’re probing these kinds of things if they’re not bringing it up with you?
Barbara: I think the moms and dads need to encourage, and build up, and strengthen what you do see. With our sons, one of the things I consciously remember doing with our sons, when they were growing up, is helping them know that learning to help clean the kitchen for instance, helping me bring the groceries in from the car when I would go grocery shopping—we had volumes of bags to bring in—teaching them that it was good for them to help me because, someday, they were going to be married and they would have a wife. This wouldn’t be a foreign concept to them when their wives said, “Would you help me bring in the groceries?” I think, when you talk to your sons about what it means to be a man, and—“Someday, this is what you will face, as a man, or as a husband, or as a father,”—you’re reinforcing how God made him, as a boy /
and the same thing with a girl too—you’re teaching just by way of example and everyday conversation those qualities that are inherent in being male and female. Plus, you’re—as a parent, you’re looking for their talents, and their gifts, and their strengths, and “How can you enhance those and help them develop those?”
I think so much of their identity comes from how you, as a parent—being the most important adult in their life—how you perceive them, how you see them, what you reinforce / what you emphasize, what you praise, what you notice and what you encourage. I think the real responsibility is largely on the mom and dad.
Now, that doesn’t mean your child is not going to have some questions or not going to be questioned like our daughter was; but the more you’re open with it, the more they will feel the freedom to come to you. But they’re also going to have fewer questions, I think, if you, as the mom and dad, are strengthening that which is true about your son or your daughter.
Dennis: Bob, one of the things that Barbara has done, because she feels so strongly about this subject of courage, is she put together a series of devotionals that families can read. I think one of the most important things that families can do, as they prepare to go back to school, is make this theme of courage—that is: “Doing your duty in the face of fear,”—make that a discussion point before your children go off into battle. This devotional, Growing Together in Courage, is just simple—it is seven simple stories that could be read aloud in the coming days, before school, that stimulate a conversation about: “What is courage? What does it look like?” and “Are you ready to face some of the issues you’re likely to face in school?”
Barbara: To me, one of the best reasons for reading these stories together, as a family, is that your kids are probably not going to consciously think, “Oh, I’m going to do this because mom and dad say so,” but they might remember the story that they read about Sophie. I can’t remember Sophie’s last name, but she is one of the stories in the book. Or they might remember the story of someone else. That hero or heroine might inspire them when they find themselves in a situation that calls for courage when they are in school.
I loved giving my kids stories of other people’s lives that would inspire them because I knew that they wouldn’t always necessarily want to do it the way we raised them. Having other role models was always an important thing for me.
Bob: The goal is to spark conversation around the subject of courage so that the story becomes an illustration of how we’re to live.
Barbara: Yes. The kids then feel emboldened like: “Okay, if there’s a bully at school, I can be courageous,” or, “If someone challenges me on something, I can be a courageous person.”
Dennis: Billy Graham said, “When one man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.” I think, in some regards, these stories are infectious—they give us a picture from another era / from different circumstances certainly. The story Barbara’s talking about is Sophie Scholl, who lived in Germany during Hitler’s takeover. It’s a great story because, even though we’re not being overtaken by an evil empire like Hitler, we are in a battle around ideas and beliefs.
Barbara: Yes, exactly. Just as I was saying earlier, other centuries / other cultures have faced difficulty, just like we are today. The common denominator is that we all need courage. These kids who lived in Nazi Germany needed courage to get up and go to school every day. Our kids need courage to get up and go to school.
The more we can help them understand what that looks like, and what it means to be courageous, and they can be inspired by somebody else’s life, I think the easier it is for them to be courageous when they need to be.
Bob: Yes. Of course, we’ve got copies of your book, Growing Together in Courage, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Our listeners can contact us to get a copy of the book. They might want to get the entire four-pack—that has Growing Together in Courage, Growing Together in Truth, Growing Together in Forgiveness and …Gratitude. You can go through one of these books every couple of weeks and reinforce a different character quality in your child’s life.
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link that says “GO DEEPER.” Look for the information about the Growing Together series from Barbara Rainey. You can order the books individually or as a four-pack. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Or call if you have any questions about the Growing Together series. Our toll-free number is 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, what we’ve been talking about today is just a reflection, in miniature, of what FamilyLife Today is all about. We are here each day to provide you with practical biblical help for your marriage and your family. We think that family life is important—I’m talking about your family life, not about us—we think it’s formative, we think it shapes the next generation, and we think there are some challenges that go into having a strong godly family. So, we’re here every day, providing you with help and hope as you seek to strengthen your marriage and strengthen your family relationships.
We’re grateful for those of you who partner with us to make this ministry possible. FamilyLife Today is listener-supported. More than 65 percent of the funds we need to operate the ministry come from folks, like you, who make a donation, from time to time, or who donate each month as Legacy Partners. We’re grateful for that partnership.
If you can make a donation, right now, we’d like to send you a copy of Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s book called Two Hearts Praying as One. We believe prayer is foundational for a marriage relationship. In fact, we’re going to be talking more about that in the coming weeks. We’d love to send you a copy of this book to help you pray together, as husband and wife.
You can go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com to make a donation. Just click the link in the upper right-hand corner of our homepage that says, “I CARE.” You can make an online donation or request the book from Dennis and Barbara or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation. Or you can mail your donation to us at FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
And by the way, if you’ve not given a gift for the year—when you make your donation today, we’re going to include, along with the book from Dennis and Barbara, a prayer card so that you can be praying for your family during challenging times.
That’s a special gift to those of you who are making your first donation for the year, here, during this month. We’re grateful for your partnership with us.
We hope you can join us back again tomorrow when we’re going to continue to talk about back to school and how moms and dads can get themselves ready and get their kids ready for what’s ahead. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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