Fox Rejects John 3:16 Ad

Posted on: 02/4/11 9:19 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Wow… that’s too bad.

Fox just rejected a Super Bowl commercial that shows a guy looking up the meaning of John 3:16– good commercial by the way. Check it out:

(If you don’t see the embedded video, jump on my blog to see it)

Hmmmmm. How do you feel about this?

According to the Hollywood reporter, the network rejected the spot because it advanced specific beliefs. I guess there are several ways to look at this. First- we might think that’s really unfair. But on the other hand… how would you feel if there were commercials for Buddhism or Hinduism? (Funny side note: I had to ask my son Alec how to spell  Buddhism. He spelled it right the first time. I asked him, “How did you know that?” He said, “Well, after seeing that in our school textbooks a million times, I know how to spell Buddhism, Islam, Hindu, etc… but I’ve forgotten how to spell Christianity!”  LOL)

(ht to Todd Pearage)

Tough Parenting

Posted on: 01/25/11 4:31 PM | by Jonathan McKee

A lot of buzz about the parenting style of Amy Chua, Yale law professor and self-described “tiger mother.”

Amy claims to be raising her kids “the Chinese way.” She forced her daughter to practice the piano for hours on end until she got it right. She called her other daughter “garbage” after she behaved bad. She gives new meaning to the world “strict.”

But let’s be honest. Discipline isn’t easy. Maybe that’s why so many parents are curious about Amy Chua’s methods. Time Magazine goes into great detail about Amy’s parenting style in their cover story, Tiger Moms: Is Tough Parenting Really the Answer?

Other columnists are reacting to Amy’s style. New York Times columnist David Brooks even calls her a “wimp,” claiming that she is taking the easy road.

I believe she’s coddling her children. She’s protecting them from the most intellectually demanding activities because she doesn’t understand what’s cognitively difficult and what isn’t.

Practicing a piece of music for four hours requires focused attention, but it is nowhere near as cognitively demanding as a sleepover with 14-year-old girls. Managing status rivalries, negotiating group dynamics, understanding social norms, navigating the distinction between self and group — these and other social tests impose cognitive demands that blow away any intense tutoring session or a class at Yale.

So what’s the answer parents are looking for?

Most parents seem to float to one of two extremes: the ultra tough disciplinarian, or the “anything goes” parent. The tough parent wants to raise healthy, disciplined kids (plenty of research to back up setting the bar high). Sadly, a number of these parents get so focused on their child’s “performance” that they forget to reveal consistent love and nurture. So swings the pendulum to… the “anything goes” parent– a severe over-reaction. This parent feels that any discipline is lacking in love and nurture, so… anything goes.

I’ve seen kids from both extremes.

I’ll be honest. I’m biased. I’m a recovering “ultra tough disciplinarian. I was always very strict with my kids, all under the umbrella of love. That’s easy to “just say,” by the way. Many strict parents claim, “Oh, my kids know that the reason I am so strict is because I love them.” Oh, really? When is the last time you told them that. Better yet… when is the last time they perceived that?

I know this well, because at times, I was waaaaaay to hard on my son Alec. Yes, he was in need of discipline. And yes, I meant well. But the bottom line was, he wasn’t feeling very loved when Dad was always talking in harsh tones.

Sorry. Tough love expressed as just “tough” is not good enough. Love also needs to be expressed by noticing, listening, and investing. These activities might be as simple as hanging out with our kids and having conversations with them (not one-way conversations).

I’m still strict. But I’m also very relational with my kids now. Parents can’t expect to enforce rules without a relationship. It’s only out of the hours of time I spend with my kids laughing, talking, and just “hanging out” that I’ve earned the respect from them when I say, “No.” It’s a tough balancing act. And I’ve learned a few tricks to avoid always saying, “No.” Sometimes I ask them questions and lead them to discover the answer by themselves (I go into more detail about this in my discipline chapter in my new parenting book coming out this Spring).

Right now on our site we are featuring a helpful article about discipline from my friend Jim Burns.

Which way do you lean? Are you a tough parent, or anything goes?

Inside the Teenage Brain

Posted on: 11/29/10 1:26 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Ever wonder why teenagers might be better than us in video games, but seemingly inept at simple decision making and reasoning?

If only we could take a peek inside the teenage brain.

Well… they have!

Parade magazine featured an excellent article yesterday about the teenage brain. I’ve written on the teenage brain before— especially the fact that teenagers lack the neural circuitry in the frontal lobe necessary for decision making. Teenage brains are a “work in progress” until they are in their 20’s. (That explains a lot, huh?)

This new Parade article encored that research, and also shared a few other interesting tidbits:

  • The skills you practice as a child and pre-teen become much sharper in the teenage years; and those practiced reluctantly, if at all, will diminish on your brain’s hard-disk drive. “The brain is very efficient, allowing you to become more adept at the life skills you’re going to use — which is why these are the years to set good work habits in place,” notes Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute and author of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs.
  • The frontal lobes, and particularly the prefrontal cortex, are one of the last areas of the brain to develop. Researchers now believe that the prefrontal cortex — responsible for things like organizing plans and ideas, forming strategies, and controlling impulses — is not fully developed until the late 20s. (The article I wrote above cited research that said “early” twenties. Interesting that it’s now the “late 20s.)
  • Beginning in puberty and continuing into the early 20s, adolescents need from 8.4 to 9.2 hours of sleep on average a night.
  • Teens and adults used different areas of the brain to process what they were feeling. Teens rely much more on the amygdala, a small almond-shaped region in the medial and temporal lobes that processes memory and emotions, while adults rely more on the frontal cortex, which governs reason and forethought.

Lori and I talked about this article quite a bit when we read it. I was encouraged by a few things:

– Sometimes I second-guess myself when I’m not only teaching, but enforcing good work habits in our home. I wonder, “Am I being too strict?” It’s good to hear that this window of time sets these good work habits in place for the rest of their life. I even asked my son Alec (17) his thoughts on the issue. He said, “Looking back, I’m glad you made me get off my butt and do some of this, because I probably never would have done it myself.”

– Lori and I make our kids go to bed at 9PM. They always complain, “9PM!!! None of our friends have to go to bed at 9PM!” But when their alarm goes off early, they’re always grateful!

– It also seems interesting that research keeps showing “full maturity” to be later and later. Early twenties, now late twenties. I can’t help but wonder if we’re pampering this generation too much, helping them not grow up. I’ve always experienced great results when I “raised the bar” just a bit with my kids, both in ministry and in parenting.


Stuff You Can Use

Posted on: 11/15/10 9:29 AM | by Jonathan McKee

I’m clocking out early today to get alone and write (I have to finish my last two chapter of my parenting book this week), but I wanted you to see some helpful new resources on our web sites.

1. David just finished an intriguing new Youth Culture Window article titled, The Gospel According to Hollywood, giving you a peek into celebs like Gaga, Bieber, Perry and Cyrus as they talk about their “Christianity.” David challenges parents and youth workers to talk with their kids about these claims and he gives us a few ideas to teach truth. Be sure to check that out, using the new “rating” and “comment” features on that page to give us your two cents on his article.

2. The second resource is featured in the SPIRITUAL GROWTH RESOURCE OF THE WEEK section on the front page of (I don’t know how many of you look at the front page of our site weekly, but it always offers new Youth Culture Window articles, OUTREACH resources of the week, SPIRITUAL GROWTH resources of the week and more). It’s a brand new discussion from our MUSIC DISCUSSIONS page using David Crowder’s “Everything Glorious” to talk with your kids about Demi Lovato’s recent struggles and how we can build strong and healthy self-esteem.

3. is almost completely finished. If you haven’t seen it yet, take a moment to look around. The site is live and kicking, with only one page to finish up (ASK THE SOURCE). You’ll see some 4YM favorites like the Youth Culture Window articles, the Slang Dictionary and my blog, but then you’ll also see some new stuff like MUSIC DISCUSSIONS specifically for parents and an amazing PARENTING HELP page with articles from Jim Burns, Wayne Rice, Al Menconi, David R. Smith and myself.

That should keep you busy!

Talking with Our Kids About Demi

Posted on: 11/2/10 2:56 PM | by Jonathan McKee

So sad… the word is already out that “Sonny with a Chance” star Demi Lovato just checked into rehab for emotional issues, possibly for self mutilation and an eating disorder.

Demi is a huge name with kids, tweens, and even teens. Both of my own girls (13 and 15) have talked about her and seen her show countless times. This news will be a huge blow to kids across the world– yet another Disney Star/role model in rehab.

New York Daily News reports:

Teen Disney star Demi Lovato stunned fans when it was announced that the star had dropped out of her Jonas Brothers tour gig to seek help treatment for “emotional and physical issues,” according to her representatives.

The “Sonny With a Chance” and the “Camp Rock” star has struggled with eating disorders and cutting herself in the past, according to the Associated Press, although it’s unclear if those are the reasons why she left the tour.

Click here for the entire article.

The timing of this is interesting– young people are really struggling with self esteem right now. David’s Youth Culture Window article released just two days ago, The End of Their Rope, an article about bullying-related suicides, was a heart wrenching read. So many young people are looking for belonging and acting out in harmful ways. David offers some great advice about dialoguing with kids regarding bullying, teasing and suicidal thoughts.

As parents or youth workers, we might want to use this news about Demi to talk about self esteem with our young people.

Some resources to talk about this:

We’re in the process of writing up a MUSIC DISCUSSION using Crowder’s song “Everything Glorious” (I talked a little bit about how those lyrics can launch a powerful discussion about self esteem here). We have talked about the subject before– “How do we respond when bad things happen?”  On our MUSIC DISCUSSION page we used The Fray song “You Found Me” to talk about how we can find God in the midst of tragedies. On the same MUSIC DISCUSSION page we also used a song from the artist Ferras, “Hollywood’s Not America,” to talk about the search for fulfillment. Years ago we used a clip from the film “Mean Girls” to talk about self esteem as well, using I Peter chapter 3. January 2009 we talked about girls drinking their problems away. We even discussed that using Pink’s song “So What” here. In that song, Pink reacted in anger and self destruction.

Keep Demi and her family in prayer through this tough time.

(ht to Trazy for sending me the article)

Reaching a Campus

Posted on: 10/27/10 4:05 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Youth workers constantly ask me, “How do I get on-campus at a public school?”

In my Connect workshops I always ask youth workers this question: “How many of you go on campus regularly and try to get to know unchurched kids?” “How many have ever done this?”

A few hands trickle up… usually less than 10 percent of the crowd.

As we talk about the subject more in the workshop, I find that this fact isn’t necessarily because youth workers don’t want to… a lot of it is they don’t know how.

In my book GETTING STUDENTS TO SHOW UP I devote a whole chapter to campus minsitry, and in my book CONNECT  I spend quite a few chapters walking through the process of meeting “unchurched kids” on their turf. We provide a few articles and podcasts on the subject as well on our website- talking about the process. Even still, we are asked the question frequently: “How can I get on campus?”

Todd Pearage, one of our THE SOURCE team members, answered that question in an email recently and I wanted to share one of his stories with you:

Four years ago I arrived at a new church in a new area and one of the first things I did was make an appointment with the school superintendent. I went in dressed professionally and introduced myself. After a few minutes of small talk he asked what he could do for me. (He was a bottom line kind of guy – most administrators are because of their busy schedules). At that point I said, “Absolutely nothing, I just wanted to say hello, introduce myself and let you know if there is anything I or my church can ever do for you or the district, please let me know”.

I expected him to give me the ol’ thank you, don’t call us, we’ll call you speech. But something amazing happened. He sat there, looking at me. Then he leaned back in his chair looked me right in the eyes and said, “Todd I’ve been doing this job for over 35 years and you are the first youth pastor, pastor, priest or clergymen that has ever walked in here and NOT asked for something”. With that he shook my hand and said, “I’m looking forward to getting to know you”

That conversation was the first of many. So as you go in to that meeting think about how you can serve the school, not how they can serve you.

I hope that’s a small help.


Keep up the good work!

I’m Too Sexy for My… Costume?

Posted on: 10/25/10 1:45 PM | by Jonathan McKee

“What do you wanna be for Halloween?” Taylor whispers to her friend Kayla in her 6th grade history class.
“A naughty nurse! What about you?”
“A racy referee!”
Whatever happened to good ol’ princess costumes? Anyone? How about a clown?
Halloween costumes are becoming smaller, racier and sexier. These kinds of provocative costumes have always been available for adults, but have you noticed how frequently they are being marketed to our teens and tweens in the last few years?
My 13-year-old and 15-year-old girl love costumes, so they are quick to grab the “Party City” costume insert in the paper each week during the month of October. Have you seen these ads? Some of these might as well be in the Victoria Secret catalogue. Alyssa picked up this week’s little costume insert and saw a picture of this girl in the little blue outfit highlighted on the back of the ad (the picture on the right). She laughed and asked me (and I quote), “What’s this costume supposed to be, girl in slutty blue dress?”
It’s funny. Many of the costumes don’t seem to have a point, other than to be short and provocative. Sadly, parents are “lowering the bar” and purchasing these kinds of costumes for their daughters. This is yet another instance when parents should read the American Psychological Association’s report, The Sexualization of Girls and consider the consequences that go along with lowering our standards like this.
Jump on Party City’s costume website and look at the most popular costumes they market to our teenager girls. Girls can choose from costumes like the Teen Girls Racy Referee Costume. Or for those who want to pay tribute to our soldiers, why not get your daughter a Teen Girls Sassy Sailor Costume.
As a dad of two teenage girls, I can assure you… there is no way they are leaving my house wearing something like this! Sadly, many parents allow this. You should have seen the average dress size at the Homecoming dance I chaperoned a few weekends ago. Some of those dresses would have made Katy Perry blush.
We need to stop lowering the bar.
Many teenage girls aren’t going to just consider costumes for teenagers (they’ll let our tween girls do that—kids always dress up one age group. That’s why some of the girls in my daughter’s junior high school PE class wear thongs), they’re going to look at the costumes for adults. That opens up a whole world of choices for young girls. Now they can dress up as Mile High Captain (my 13-year-old asked me why she was called that. Sigh.) or Dirty Cop. offers a bunch of really crude and racy costumes as well, costumes like “Gropin Granny” or “d**k-head,” a costume where guys dress up as… well… yes, the male genitalia (Yeah, I didn’t include a pic of that one). I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. This costume is probably pretty accurate to what we’ve all become dressing up our females like we do.
If a man wants to buy a sexy costume for his wife when the trick-or-treaters are gone and the kids are asleep, have fun! (hmmmm… that gets me thinking) …but can we please stop marketing this stuff to our kids?

What Are Kids Learning from “Like a G6”

Posted on: 10/14/10 4:09 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Okay, I’d love your thoughts on this video. Kids cheered when it came on at the dance I chaperoned the other night, it’s at the top of all the charts… all kids know this song right now! The song is Like a G6. It’s got a great beat and is really catchy.

Adults keeps asking me, “What does that mean? Is it code for something really bad?” lol  As far as I understand, “G6” is a really nice jet (yes, as well as a nice car. But I think they are referring to the 50 million dollar Gulfstream G650 in this context.), and the song is just saying that they are “fly like a G6.” In other words, when they “get those bottles poppin” they are “amazingly cool like one of the nicest personal jets around!” In slang usage, only something really good would be described as “G6.” (“Want to go hang with some girls in Tyler’s Escalade?” “Oh yeah! That would be so G6!”)

The sad part about this video is that it is all about the drinking. Heck, I’m Irish, and my first thoughts were, “Dang, this is a lot of drinking!” Funny, the school played it at the dance the other night, but kicked kids out for drinking. (Nice example of sending a double message.)

Check out the video and post your comments below using the blogs comment feature. Remember, each day someone comments, their name goes in the hopper once again for our contest this month. (Contest Details here!)

Stories from Mom’s Protecting Kids Online

Posted on: 10/13/10 11:00 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Last week I shared with you about a lunch I had with an FBI agent who was picking my brain about kids in today’s culture, the dangers they face, etc. This guy has helped develop a piece of software that helps parents monitor their kids’ browsing habits online. Many of you jumped onto the site to sign up for their free beta-test.

I told you that I’d provide you with some stories of real moms and dads who tried out this software called Parental Options. Interesting stuff. Here’s a few:

1)      My  husband and I were attending a  prayer vigil  at our church.  Our time slot was from 11:00 pm to midnight.  At about 11:30 pm, my cell phone began to vibrate.  Parental Options was sending me an alert that our son was on the computer.  We set usage parameters for his computer until 10:00 pm, and he was on the computer while we were away from home.  I sent a text home and the computer was turned off.
2)      There are a number of times where the software has helped us to know just how much time was spent on Facebook and other interesting websites vs. getting homework done.  We expect our kids will multi-task but it is an eye opener for us (and them) when you can take a look at something that is recording the frequency (and duration) of toggling between a word document and Facebook for example.  Healthy conversations are a result.  Parental Options software has facilitated our ability to talk about the content available via the internet just as we would about TV or movies.  Our kids are not navigating this part of their lives alone.
3)      My daughter was engaged in IM chat in Facebook around 2am with someone that she had just met at school.  (She was up doing homework). The Parental Options program highlighted all of the words in the chat conversation that are “grooming” words (words that signal that a person is trying to get to know someone, and establish a trusted relationship with them).  The program was teaching us what to look for when reviewing her activity. 
4)      I got the software just to check on my kids’ internet browsing from time to time.  Unfortunately, I found that one of my boys had visited some pornographic sites. (Parental Options says that viewing browser history alone isn’t completely reliable because kids can use multiple browsers and erase some history while keeping the rest. I didn’t know that.) 
5)      My son was playing an online game and chatting there with a “friend” from school.  This “friend” was bullying him and using language that would tear apart anyone’s self confidence. This was caught and addressed because the software highlighted some of the words that were used in the conversation. ( At this point, not all bullying language will be highlighted because people can be vicious in such diverse ways.  But, with the software running, you always have the opportunity to scan the chat and ask your child about the person they were interacting with.)   

Here’s the web site where you can read a little more about it:  …I’m pretty impressed with what I have seen so far.

Helping Parents Protect Their Kids Online

Posted on: 10/7/10 5:00 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Okay, I just had a fascinating lunch with an ex-FBI agent (friend of a friend) who developed some software that helps parents monitor their kids’ browsing habits online. He was picking my brain about many of the dangers teenagers are flirting with today, and what I teach at my parenting seminars equipping parents to teach good discernment. Fun conversation. This guy had some amazing stories of child predators he had caught.

Let me just say that this software he’s working on has my attention! (And they’ve got a free version that they’re allowing me to share with you for beta-testing. More on that in a minute.)

As you might imagine, parents are always emailing me asking me, “Do you know of any software that will protect my kid online?” “How do I know what my kids are saying on Facebook?” Or sometimes parents ask me, “Do you have anything that will keep my teenager from browsing porn!”

These kinds of software packages are interesting. I’ve seen a lot of them. I gotta admit: I really like the ones that provoke conversations between parents and their kids.

The company that this guys started is called They are sincere and passionate about empowering parents with the necessary tools to help their kids learn how to use the internet and social networking  wisely. The cool thing is, as I mentioned, this team of retired FBI agents and parents have designed a software package that is now open for free beta testing.

I appreciate that their software is intended to promote conversations between parents and kids about their activities on the computer; they emphasize that it  is not spyware. Their goal is that by installing the software, clients would receive the direct benefits of their experience and knowledge of the many hidden dangers of the Internet.  Another bonus is that you can log in to your child’s account from any location.

Go ahead and take a peek at their free Beta test where you can try it out for free for a while:

Next week I’m going to chime in a little more about this. I have a friend that tried the beta-version with her daughter and she had some fascinating experiences with it (and her kid is really a great kid too). More on that next week.