If you hang around parents long enough you’ll find that there are certain “mommy moments” that we all share. Kid running down the street naked? Check (mostly for boy moms…). An embarrassing family secret shared with the entire elevator by your darling little chatterbox? You betcha.

And it’s practically a Christian mom rite-of-passage that just when we’re about to switch out the light, your little Einstein suddenly goes final-jeopardy-mode with some obscure theological concept. Sure it’s probably a stalling technique, but one of the blessings we have as moms is pointing them back to the truth of Christ, even as we wrestle them into bed.

The thing is, just giving answers is not enough. Someday they’re going to get hit with a challenge and we aren’t going to be there to help. That’s why a vital part of healthy discipleship is equipping our children with the skills to navigate tough questions on their own.

Fair warning, this isn’t a skill that’s learned by letting them go nuts on the family tablet. Depending on the topic they’re looking up, things can go south quickly. That’s why we at Mama Bear love to help you foster the little question-askers in your lives.

First, before we dive in, if you haven’t read Alexa’s blog How to Respond When Your Child Stumps You with a Question, check it out. We, but the flip side of that coin is preparing our kids to not only know how to research, but to research well. (Because the internet will let anyone with a computer create their own blog! We’re looking at you, flat-earthers 😜)

Second, you’re going to have to adjust these to the age and stage of your child. Bigger kids can and should engage with heavier topics. The littles of the group are going to operate in the “observer” role in the beginning, but give them opportunities to practice these skills with increasing regularity under your guidance.

Ready? Let’s take a look at 5 tips to help your child be an information sleuth!

Tip #1 Research takes time

We live in an Instacart culture. With a few clicks we can have the world delivered to our doorstep. The problem with this luxury of convenience is it’s caused our patience and attention spans to atrophy. Often this means that if the answer to our kid’s question isn’t in the tagline of the first Google article, they just give up and move on. (Like the other night… during our homework session…*face palm*)

Our kids need to know that good research involves more than watching a YouTube short; it takes time, effort, and these crazy things called books. This skill is best passed-on by modeling first, especially when they’re little. When your child asks a question, instead of immediately popping off with the answer, say, “That’s a great question! How do you think we can research this?” #mamabearapologetics #discipleship Click To Tweet

When they shrug their shoulders, show them how to look up their question on multiple sources: digital and physical. Show them how to navigate popular websites like Got Questions. Grab a few books off your shelf and show them how to use an index (one you could practice with is our latest book Honest Prayers for Mama Bears). And don’t forget to point out the glorious footnotes. Seriously folks, I may sound like your high school librarian, but footnotes are worth their weight in gold! Don’t let your kid miss them!

This training might sound old-fashioned, but it causes our kids to pause and process what they’ve just heard, rather than falling for the nonsensical appeals of impassioned media starlets. So yes, it’s worth the effort.

Tip #2 Find Trusted Christian Sources

No surprises here, but when it comes to seeking answers to biblical questions, we should head to Scripture first. Translations like Life Application Study Bibles, Apologetics Bibles, and Cultural Background Study Bibles, which contain translator and commentary notes, are beyond helpful in these situations. There are also great ministries that have blogs, podcasts, and articles that address the most common questions believers have. (Check out our updated Recommended Resources Guide.)

But not everything that sports the title of “Christian” is solid. (There are supposed “Christian” witches, after all!) Teach your children to “test” their sources by looking at the background of the ministry. Is this organization tested, proven, transparent, and/or backed by leading philosophers, experts, and apologists? Is what’s being said supported in Scripture? Are disagreements over conclusions given charitably and with evidence? Are those behind the ministry trained, and if so, by whom? Remember: degrees are nice but that doesn’t mean the person holding them will always speak truth. Which is why we test everything, including our pastors and favorite authors. #mamabearapologetics Click To Tweet

Tip #3 Read Original Sources

A few days ago, I was reading the outraged opinion of a writer1https://www.kansascity.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/sam-mcdowell/article288517451.html who couldn’t believe that NFL kicker Harrison Butker wanted to make wives the servants of their husbands. The problem? That wasn’t what he said, but the only reason I found that out was because I went to the original source: the transcript of the commencement speech. If you don’t want to read it, you can watch the full speech here.

Today, it’s all too common to take a person’s second-hand perception as truth, rather than reading the original source itself. Don’t let your kiddos fall into this trap. Whenever possible, when a question is asked, go to the source. Take into context the setting, the people with whom it was being spoken to, the motivation behind the teaching, and the present application of objective truth principles today. If reading an article, see where the author got their information, especially when bold claims are made. With a little bit of practice, your little one will start to sound like a nerdy version of Tom Cruise, “Show me the sources!!”

Tip #4 Research the Opposition

There’s a pithy saying about what assuming leads to, which I won’t be sharing here because it’s a little sassy. But take it from me that assuming the motivations, conclusions, or intentions of someone who doesn’t agree with you is a quick way to make a fool of yourself. Sadly, our culture has turned this mistake into the standard form of interaction.

Don’t like someone’s views? No biggie: reduce them to a label and then commence destroying them and everyone remotely like them!

You don’t need a WWJD bracelet to know that’s definitely NOT what Jesus would do! As Christians, we understand that big conclusions about life have a history. Learning that history will help us understand why someone believes what they do, but it doesn’t make that conclusion right. Instead, we need to nurture truth-based empathy in our kids, and we do that by hearing what the other side has to say.

As they learn, have your kids reflect on why a person might come to this conclusion. What (if anything) did they share about their background? How did an experience cause them to question or reject a stance? What philosophical stance do they hold that’s shaping how they view evidence? Once our kids can understand what’s motivating the beliefs of another, then we can help them understand the other person while remaining rooted in truth.

Tip #5 Practice How to Respond

Just like a chess player anticipates the moves of their opponent, so we should anticipate the objections of someone who doesn’t share the biblical worldview. Not so we can slam them with our Bible knowledge but to nurture good discussion should the conversation go that route. It’s also helpful for our own spiritual growth, too!

Kids have a natural ability to speak truth (sometimes too good!) but they’re not so great with tact. That’s why practicing how to discuss the topic with others is key to avoiding awkward conversations. How would you respond to Flora Feminist’s who doesn’t think that the unborn have the same right to life as an adult? What would you say to Nihilist Nick when he denies that the universe was made with telos (purpose)? How would you engage with Social Justice Susie as she defends the Marxist concept of oppressed versus oppressors?

We can’t know everything, but aquatinting your child with counter-arguments will help them not be phased when their lunch room evangelism encounter doesn’t end like a Christian Hallmark movie (or a scene from God’s Not Dead).

Practice and Repeat!

Mamas, Satan is going to make you feel like training your kids how to research is boring or unimportant. This is a lie. Don’t let social media or YouTube steal your attention from the fruitful harvest growing within your home. Bring up your children in training and instruction of the Lord.

When they are small, show them how you research a topic and check to make sure the sources are valid. As they grow, help them evaluate the resources they’re using. Watch videos of someone who doesn’t agree with you and evaluate the claims being made. Let them see you wrestle with a question. Show them that there is more than just one page on a search engine. Most of all, make the most of as many opportunities as you can to grow in the knowledge of the Lord.

Check out our newly updated Recommended Resources Guide! It now includes sections on Gender & Sexuality, Practical Apologetics, and more!

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