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Posts tagged ‘Parenting’

9 Tips For Helping Your Child Manage Anxiety

SOURCE:  Helena Negru/Lifehack

Parents want nothing more than to see childhood remain a time of carefree wonder and joy for their children, an age of innocence wherein the troubles of the wider world are kept at a safe distance by caring adult oversight.

As such, the parents who have anxious children are faced with a difficult dilemma: How do they protect their children from the multitude of relatively “normal” activities (e.g. going to school, socializing with friends) that provoke anxiety and fear while also ensuring that they experience life fully and develop properly? How do they help their child manage anxiety?

There are no easy answers to the above question. Psychologist Tali Shenfield, PhD suggests that parents first evaluate the level of child’s anxiety with a free child anxiety screening test and then, depending on test results, use the following anxiety management strategies:

1. An “empathy first” approach

When most parents hear their child expressing irrational fears, their first response is to assure their child that, logically, there is nothing to worry about. While this act is well-intentioned, it’s usually ineffective; the brain of any anxious individual – young or old – is too engaged in the “fight or flight” response (wherein activity in the prefrontal cortex, the “logical” part of the brain, is suppressed) to properly process new information.

What an anxious child therefore really needs is a parent who simply feels with him- one who pauses with him, joins him in taking a few deep breaths, and then validates his emotions as being acceptable.

Once you have empathized with your child and he has visibly calmed down, then and only then should you look for possible solutions. Do this while engaging your child: Ask him what he thinks would help him to feel better and overcome his fears.

2. Avoid making your child feel like a problem to be fixed

Children – even children without chronic anxiety – frequently struggle with fears of being “different” from their peers or unacceptable to their parents. If your child feels like his anxiety means something is “wrong” with him, his issues with worry will only increase as he will be plagued by constant self-doubt.

To prevent the above from happening, avoid labelling your child (i.e. don’t call him an “anxious person” or a “worrier”); instead, explain to him fear’s historically beneficial role in protecting us from harm (i.e. our instincts once helped us to avoid predators in the wild).

Ideally, you should teach your child to see worry like a tool: It’s useful in some situations, but in others, our brains are simply reacting to “false alarms” due to instinct. Tell your child that it’s possible to learn a few simple methods for recognizing these false alarms and for dealing with them effectively.

3. Consider using play to help your child understand his anxiety

Role playing exercises, such as having your child create a character which embodies his worry, can help your child learn how to dismantle his anxieties. Use a toy (such as a doll or stuffed animal) to represent the character your child creates, then you and your child can sit together and practice talking the character out of his misplaced fears. Make sure that every time the character succeeds in overcoming his anxiety during the stories created for him, he ends up with a “happy ending” as a result.

4. Teach your child how to centre himself in reality

Our fears have a way of distorting reality, making situations appear much scarier than they actually are. To help your child overcome the mind’s innate tendency to exaggerate objects of worry, teach him to:

  1. Recognize worried thoughts as they happen. Visualization is useful here: Tell your child to imagine thoughts floating above his head in “thought bubbles,” then ask him to practice catching the fearful thoughts as they pop up.
  1. Deconstruct the thoughts he catches using factual evidence. Emphasize to your child that feelings are not facts. When faced with a worry, tell your child that he should weigh up factual evidence for and against what his mind is telling him (for example, if he fears failing a test, he should review the many times he has passed tests over the years and remind himself that he has studied thoroughly, making failure unlikely).
  1. Debate with his thoughts (if necessary). Using the facts he has just gathered, you child can debate with the worried thoughts his mind is producing until he eventually wins and overcomes them.

5. Allow your child to worry

The more your child feels as though he should be able to simply shove his worries away, the more he will believe he is somehow failing when he cannot. You should therefore avoid saying things like, “There’s no reason to be afraid” and instead encourage your child to express his worries.

Creating a “worry diary” is an excellent strategy for getting your child to vent what’s bothering him; have him spend 15 minutes a day writing down any worry that is weighing on him – no matter how small – and allow him to share those worries with you if he wishes. At the end of the 15 minutes, have him literally close the book on his worries and set them aside.

6. Affirm the importance of remaining in the present moment

Like anxious adults, anxious children spend a lot of time preoccupied with “what ifs.” Instruct your child to try to catch his “what if” thoughts and replace them with “what is” thoughts. For example, if he’s thinking, “What if my new friend stops liking me?” he should pause, focus on nothing but his breath for a few moments, then look around and take in “what is”: The sun shining as he waits for the bus, the sound of the birds in the trees, the feeling of the warm air.

Intentionally returning one’s focus to the present in this way (by focusing on sensory perceptions) is a form of Mindfulness, a popular therapeutic practice which has been repeatedly shown to lessen anxiety.

7. Help your child take “baby steps” in order to overcome fearful situations

It is usually impossible – and always unhelpful – for an anxious individual to avoid everything that is causing him anxiety. Instead, your child should try the “ladder” approach: Overcoming fearful situations by working up to them in a succession of small steps.

If your child is afraid of dogs, for instance, have him start by observing a familiar dog (one that belongs to a friend, for example) from a distance, then have him walk closer to the dog while it’s safely leashed, then have him try to pet the dog while another person is still holding the leash, and then finally, let him interact with the dog briefly while it’s off its leash. If this process is repeated a few times with a few different friendly dogs, your child will likely overcome his terror.

8. Have your child create a “calm down” checklist

Ask your child to write down a series of steps to take when he needs to calm down (e.g. pause, breathe deeply, count to ten, evaluate the facts of the situation, etc.), so that he has something clear to refer to when he begins to feel panicky and confused. Make sure that your child carries a copy of this checklist with him until he memorizes the steps.

9. Don’t blame yourself for your child’s anxiety

Many parents of anxious children wonder if they have somehow “caused” their child to become excessively fearful, but this is usually not the case: Genetics and environmental factors over which parents have limited control (bullying at school, for example, or a traumatic accident) often lie at the root of childhood anxiety – not “bad parenting.”

It’s important to avoid blaming yourself for your child’s anxiety; the more you do so, the more emotional you will become about the situation and the less able you will be to help your child stay calm (your own worry will eventually cause you to become reactive, which will affirm your child’s idea that there is something to be afraid of). Instead, see yourself as your child’s ally, a member of his team as he fights against anxiety.

Remember, being compassionate to yourself, as well as to your child, is essential when creating a calm, loving, and healthy home for your whole family. If you find yourself struggling to cope with your child’s anxiety, don’t go it alone – seek the aid of friends, family members, and if necessary, a mental health professional. With the right support, you and your child can triumph over irrational fears and live full, happy lives.

20 Questions To Ask Your Child

Source:  Patti Ghezzi/School Family

One day your child tells you everything, from the consistency of the macaroni and cheese in the cafeteria to the hard words on the spelling test to the funny conversation she had with her best friend.

The next day…poof.

Parent: “So, what’s going on at school?”

Child: “Nothing.”

For many parents, the information they receive about what’s happening at school ebbs and flows, especially once their kids hit 10 or 11 years of age. Even younger children may be reluctant sometimes to share the details of school life.

It doesn’t mean that something’s wrong or that you’re somehow missing a key piece of the parenting puzzle. It may simply be that your child is asserting independence and craving a little privacy. “No one tells parents this,” says Peter Sheras, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Virginia who specializes in adolescent relationships, family relationships, and stress. “Parents feel they are not very good at parenting.”

Of course, that’s not the case. You might just need to tweak your approach. Don’t interrogate, Sheras says. Kids don’t want to be grilled. Be subtle; be patient. Learn to listen intently to the words your child does offer. Watch your child’s body language and demeanor. Avoid yes-or-no questions if possible, and be specific. Try escalating—starting with simple questions and gradually delving into more sensitive topics.

If all else fails, wait it out. Try again later with a different approach, such as choosing a different time of day to start a conversation or taking your child out for a burger before asking questions. In a place where she’s comfortable, she might feel more talkative.

Don’t start the conversation with “We need to have a talk,” Sheras says: “That’s when a child dives under the table.”

Here are some questions that can help you get started.

  1. “I know you were stressed out about that math test. How did it go?”
  2. “I’m really proud of how well you’re doing in school. What are you studying these days that really interests you?”
  3. “You seem to have some good teachers this year. Which one is your favorite?”
  4. “If you could make up a teacher from scratch, a perfect teacher, what would he or she be like?”
  5. “When I was your age, I really didn’t like social studies. I just didn’t see the point in studying how people in Russia lived or what kind of languages Native Americans spoke. What subject are you really not liking these days?”
  6. “What’s your favorite time of day at school?”
  7. “What do you think about your grades? How does your report card compare with what you were expecting?”
  8. “We used to have the meanest boy in my class when I was your age. I still remember what a bully he was. Do you have anyone like that in your class?”
  9. “I’ve been reading a lot in the news about kids picking on other kids. What about at your school? Is that happening?”
  10. “I’m hearing a lot about bullying on the Internet. It sounds a little scary, but I really don’t know what it’s all about. Can you tell me about it?”
  11. “I noticed a few new kids in your class. Which ones have you been able to get to know? What are they like?”
  12. “I know it was hard for you when Kenny transferred to a different school. How’s it going without your best friend around?”
  13. “Who did you sit with at lunch today?”
  14. “I’m sorry you didn’t get invited to Sarah’s birthday party. I know you’re disappointed. How have things changed between you and Sarah now that you’re not in the same class?”
  15. “I really like the way you choose such nice friends. What qualities do you look for in a friend?”
  16. “I know you really like your new friend Caroline, but whenever I see her she’s being disrespectful to adults. Why don’t you tell me what I’m missing? What do you like about her that I’m not seeing?”
  17. “I can tell it embarrasses you when I insist on meeting your friends’ parents before letting you go to their house, but it’s something I need to do as your mom. Is there a way I could do it that would make you feel more comfortable?”
  18. “How’s it going with your activities and schoolwork? What would make it easier for you to manage your schedule and responsibilities?”
  19. “I feel like I haven’t talked to you in ages. How about we go for a walk and catch up?”
  20. “I’m sure I do things that embarrass you. What do I do that embarrasses you the most?”

Talking with your child should be an ongoing process. Keep the dialogue open, and be available so your child can find you when she feels like chatting.

One final piece of advice from Sheras: “Keep talking even when you think your kids aren’t listening,” he says. “Your children are listening whether they act like it or not.”

6 Tips to Reduce Stress for the Working Mom

SOURCE:  Lisa Lakey/FamilyLife Ministry

When my youngest started preschool, I took my first job outside the home in nearly 10 years. I was frazzled, guilt-ridden, and late everywhere I went.

I was in the school drop-off line one morning when the license plate of the car in front of me caught my eye. “L8AGAIN” it read. My first thought was, That should be mine. Those seven characters summed up most of my days as a working mom.

When my youngest started preschool, I took my first job outside the home in nearly 10 years. I was frazzled, guilt-ridden, and late everywhere I went. (Okay, maybe I’m still working on all three of those.) After spotting a shirt in a local boutique with the phrase “World’s Okayest Mom” emblazoned on the front, I joked with my kids and husband that that was me. The best mom ever at just getting by.

But behind the laughter of the moment, there was something else. Fear, doubt, and a hefty dose of self-pity overwhelmed me. I didn’t really want to be an “okay” mom. I wanted to be the absolute best mom. You know her. The mom who has it all together—perfect hair, perfect smile, perfect kids. She probably only feeds her family made-from-scratch, organic, non-GMO meals. She would hate to know how often I drive through Chick-fil-A. I can’t even remember what GMO stands for right now.

To be honest, I just want my kids to get the best of me, although that isn’t always what happens. But I have learned that trying to be the perfect mom will always backfire. I might not always be the best mom, but I am always the mom my kids need—me.

Thanks to some loving reminders from other working moms, I have picked up a few helpful tips along the way:

1. Plan, plan, plan.

I am a terribly late person. Punctuality is not my strong point. So naturally, one of my greatest struggles as a working mom is getting myself and everyone else where they need to be on time.

I’ve had to extend myself a bit of grace in this area more than a few times and completely reevaluate my routines. I take a planner with me everywhere I go, and I jot down appointments, parties, deadlines, etc. as soon as I can. I plan a week’s worth of meals at a time (usually) and thank God for the stores in town that offer online grocery ordering.

2. Let go of the excess guilt.

Forgot to send your daughter to school in red for spirit day? Toss that guilt to the curb. Shamed over sending a bag of cookies and juice boxes for your son’s snack day at preschool? Let yourself enjoy the fact that for one brief moment you were just a tad cooler than Luke’s mom who always sends organic carrot sticks and overpriced bottled water.

My point is, there will always be moments where our best inner mom just doesn’t shine through. We’ll mess up, make our kids mad, forget stuff, and so on. But we’ll also get so much right.

Like loving our kids. Moms, we are great at that. So don’t let the less-shiny moments bring you down. Learn from the moment if you can, then shake that guilt off, pick up your “Supermom” cape and move on. Just be intentional in the moment you’re in.

3. Ask for help.

Yep, I feel you. This tends to be a hard one for us moms. We like to sport our bedazzled capes and fool only ourselves into thinking we can do it all. But the hard truth is that we can’t. We weren’t meant to.

So don’t feel any shame asking for a little help when you need it. Ask your husband for help getting the kids to bed. See if another mom could give your daughter a ride to dance. In a culture that has all but destroyed the proverbial “village” it was supposed to take to raise our children, it’s time to rebuild it.

4. Find a working mom friend.

I adore all of my friends—working in or out of the home, kids or no kids. No matter what your life stage is, the following will always be true: We need someone who gets where we are and who won’t judge our struggles.

I need close connections with other working moms who are struggling with the dilemma of taking off for sick days and field trips. Those who can understand the horror you feel coming home to a meal you intended to slow cook all day, only to discover you didn’t plug the darn thing in. No judgment, ladies. Back to Chick-fil-A we go.

5. Stop with all the comparisons.

You can’t be Luke’s mom, so get over it. You weren’t supposed to be. I tell my daughter all the time she was “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). I don’t want her to think she has to be anyone other than the amazing girl God created her to be. So why should I?

God made you with a purpose, mom. He knew just what your future kids would need when He created you. Trust that He knows what He is doing. Just be you.

6. Find time in your busy schedule to connect with God.

When I neglect to set aside time to read Scripture or pray, all of the above points are harder. If I don’t go to God in prayer, I try to carry all my burdens myself—every ounce of guilt, all the comparisons I hold myself to, all the ways I will never measure up.

Connecting with God is the most important thing I can do not just for my family, but for myself. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden,” He tells us in Matthew 11:28, “and I will give you rest.”

One day not long ago, I was fishing through my purse for my keys before leaving the office. I found an M&M, an earring I thought I had lost, and something sticky that I didn’t waste time on identifying (it’s probably for the best).

But amid these small pieces of my life, there it was. Attached to a tangle of keys was a purple butterfly my daughter had given me—“#1 Mom,” it read. I’ll take that over “World’s Okayest Mom” any day.

Asking Forgiveness From My Kids … Again

SOURCE: FamilyLife Ministries

My kids need to grow up with the knowledge that I require a Savior just as much as they do.

I yelled at my kids tonight.

It started before the mouthwash spilled all over the floor, my jeans, and my new shirt.

That I have an issue with anger and emotional control is not something I’ve kept secret. But it’s still painfully destructive in my own home: “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down” (Proverbs 14:1).

So when my blood pressure had returned to an appropriate range and I determined the mouthwash only minimally soaked my front, I called all of my kids to our little loveseat. Some of them crawled out of bed. They piled around me like puppies. And I took the time—again, like I have to do so often—to apologize to them and ask for forgiveness.

Then, I led us in praying and repenting to God. It was duly needed for all of us.

I thanked my kids for forgiving me—also not so bad a quality to practice—and ended with tickling them into screaming laughter.

As I backed out of their room in the dark later, I yowled in pain after stepping on an electrical plug someone had left in the doorway. My second son was quick on the draw: “Still love me?” He collapsed in giggles.

None of this, I’m afraid, undoes what I did.

I wish I could take away my eruptive lack of self-control, or the way I morphed instantly into a drill sergeant. I wish I could subtract what I modeled for my kids. But what still remained in my power were two words: “I’m sorry.”

Their sin doesn’t justify mine

A family that practices repentance keep short accounts with each other, apologizing quickly and sincerely. The point of apologizing to my kids even when they’re in trouble isn’t at all to detract them from their sin. They need to grow up with my willing confession as the norm, to give them the knowledge that Mom requires a Savior as much as they do. An awareness of the log in my eye—even when my children or spouse are the offenders—is biblically commanded (Matthew 7:1-5).

So take it a step further, even, than those two critical words. Deliberately ask for forgiveness, and then humbly and verbally extend forgiveness: “I want you to know that I completely forgive you, and that I believe God forgives you, too.”

I guess it can sound a little hokey when we’re not used to using such language in our homes, but that’s my point. Should it be?

Call me an idealist, but I’d like this replication of Christ’s words to become the norm, a chance to apply the gospel to myself and to my loved ones daily.

Parenting: Making “Getting Ready For School” Work

SOURCE:  Prepare-Enrich

First-day Blues

It’s 7:00 AM on the first day of school for your kindergartner. She is sound asleep, it’s still dark outside and you have to wake her up to prepare her and yourself for the adventure this day will surely bring.

You’re anxious. Let’s face it; you are terrified to let your baby leave your sight. She is not getting out of bed as fast as you would like and even though she picked out her outfit for the day, the weather changed overnight and you clearly cannot send her to school in shorts and sandals.

She finally awakes, and much to your surprise, she isn’t hungry for breakfast; you can’t let her leave the house on an empty stomach. You’ve read all the studies about fueling the brain and body. In typical childlike fashion, you can see the temper tantrum that will erupt and the tears that will certainly follow.

What is that noise? Is the bus at the curb already? Oh no, you wanted to take a picture of her stepping up to the bus waiving back at us with her cute, smiling face.

Drat! We missed the bus!

Time to pack up the car. You drive your child to school late, hungry, cold, and with a red nose and swollen eyes from crying. You are a wreck and now you have to go to your job.

That first day of school commemorative picture of her will not be anyone’s fondest memory.

But wait – it doesn’t have to be like this.

Here are some helpful ideas to make getting ready for school a win-win for all whether it’s the first day or well into the semester.

Do whatever you can the night before:

Plan out two outfits, using the weather forecast as your guideline (maybe even special new jammies the night before the first day of kindergarten).

Provide a special bed time snack, along with a bedtime story. No scary stories on this night.

Offer, then plan to serve healthy breakfast items – ones that can be easily prepared in the morning. Check and then re-check the backpack.

The week before school starts, set an alarm a tad earlier than usual to get her used to the fact that it may be dark when the alarm goes off.

After that first day of school, talk about what you both can do to get ready for the next morning. You might have her help you make a “getting ready for school” chart to hang on the fridge or place on her bedroom door or bathroom mirror. Include all the tasks, step-by-step.

Have a Family Meeting

Family meetings are beneficial in times of change, such as the first day of school.  There are many websites devoted to the idea of family meetings with content to guide you.  Use your planned family meeting ideas life-long.

Need some help deciding the format for a family meeting?  This is how we, at PREPARE/ENRICH, define a family meeting:

A family meeting is a time for all family members to get together and to share and re-connect with each other.  Spend­ing time together helps family members feel supported and it can become an important family ritual.

Guidelines:

Includes all family members who are old enough participate.

Establish a regular time and place when the entire family is together, such as after a family meal.

Encourage discussion by everyone. Do not criticize and critique.

Allow the speaker to finish their thought before offering your comments, observations or input.

Ice Breaker Questions: (use age-appropriate terminology)

What do you feel was the best thing that happened to you or our family today (this week or recently)?

What was the worst thing that happened to you or our family this week?   What could we have done differently to resolve the issue?

Have conversations that encourage, support, and offer solutions. You might be surprised at how close you become as a family on many levels at any age for any of the daily issues that surface.

Unfortunately, your job as a parent is to prepare her to leave you. Start her off with the best possible skill set, because before you know it she will be grown and out of the house – on her way to an adventure of her own.

Lastly, remember to celebrate your accomplishments.  For your first family meeting, go out for ice cream!

How a Parent’s Affection Shapes a Child’s Happiness for Life

SOURCE:  Sandi Schwartz/Gottman

How often do you hug your children?

We all live busy, stressful lives and have endless concerns as parents, but it is clear that one of the most important things we need to do is to stop and give our kids a big loving squeeze. Research over the past decade highlights the link between affection in childhood and health and happiness in the future.

According to Child Trends – the leading nonprofit research organization in the United States focused on improving the lives and prospects of children, youth, and their families – science supports the idea that warmth and affection expressed by parents to their children results in life-long positive outcomes for those children.

Higher self-esteem, improved academic performance, better parent-child communication, and fewer psychological and behavior problems have been linked to this type of affection. On the other hand, children who do not have affectionate parents tend to have lower sself-esteemand to feel more alienated, hostile, aggressive, and anti-social.

There have been a number of recent studies that highlight the relationship between parental affection and children’s happiness and success.

In 2010, researchers at Duke University Medical School found that babies with very affectionate and attentive mothers grow up to be happier, more resilient, and less anxious adults. The study involved about 500 people who were followed from when they were infants until they were in their 30s. When the babies were eight months old, psychologists observed their mothers’ interactions with them as they took several developmental tests.

The psychologists rated the mother’s affection and attention level on a five-point scale ranging from “negative” to “extravagant.” Nearly 10 percent of the mothers showed low levels of affection, 85 percent demonstrated a normal amount of affection, and about six percent showed high levels of affection.

Then 30 years later, those same individuals were interviewed about their emotional health. The adults whose mothers showed “extravagant” or “caressing” affection were much less likely than the others to feel stressed and anxious. They were also less likely to report hostility, distressing social interactions, and psychosomatic symptoms.

The researchers involved in this study concluded that the hormone oxytocin may be responsible for this effect. Oxytocin is a chemical in the brain released during times when a person feels love and connection. It has been shown to help parents bond with their children, adding a sense of trust and support between them. This bond most likely helps our brain produce and use oxytocin, causing a child to feel more positive emotions.

Next, a 2013 study from UCLA found that unconditional love and affection from a parent can make children emotionally happier and less anxious. This happens because their brain actually changes as a result of the affection. On the other hand, the negative impact of childhood abuse and lack of affection impacts children both mentally and physically. This can lead to all kinds of health and emotional problems throughout their lives. What’s really fascinating is that scientists think parental affection can actually protect individuals against the harmful effects of childhood stress.

Then in 2015, a study out of the University of Notre Dame showed that children who receive affection from their parents were happier as adults. More than 600 adults were surveyed about how they were raised, including how much physical affection they had. The adults who reported receiving more affection in childhood displayed less depression and anxiety and were more compassionate overall. Those who reported less affection struggled with mental health, tended to be more upset in social situations, and were less able to relate to other people’s perspectives.

Researchers have also studied the benefits of skin-to-skin contact for infants. This special interaction between mother and baby, in particular, helps calm babies so they cry less and sleep more. It has also been shown to boost brain development. According to an article in Scientific American, children who lived in a deprived environment like an orphanage had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who lived with their parents. Scientists believe that the lack of physical contact in the orphanages is a major factor in these physical changes.

Finally, numerous studies on the effects of massage show the positive benefits it offers to reduce anxiety in children. Massage is also a good way for parents to connect to their children, both physically and emotionally. Starting in infancy, a parent can begin to massage their child, which can create a strong bond. Studies have shown children and adults who receive massage experience less anxiety during academic stress, hospital stays, and other stressful events.
So, how can you bring more hugs into your family’s day?

From the moment you bring your baby home from the hospital, be sure to hold, touch, and rock them in your arms. Spend many precious moments caressing your baby so that their skin can touch your skin.

As they get older, be playful by doing fun activities like dancing together or creating silly games like pretending to be a hugging or kissing monster.

Set a reminder to make sure hugging is part of your daily routine. In the recent Trolls movie, the Trolls wore watches with alarm clocks that would go off every hour for hug time. If that’s what it takes, then set yourself an alarm. Or make sure to give your kids a hug during certain times of the day, such as before they leave for school, when they get home from school, and before bedtime.

Another interesting idea is to use affection while disciplining your child. As you talk to them about what they did wrong, put your hand on their shoulder and give them a hug at the end of the conversation to ensure them that, even if you are not pleased with their behavior, you still love them. If your children hit their sister or brother, hug them and explain how hugging feels better than hitting.

Finally, be careful not to go overboard and smother your kids. Respect their individual comfort level, and be aware that this will change as they go through different stages.

It’s Not Your Job to Entertain Your Children

SOURCE:  Family Life Ministry/Jenae Jacobson

There’s more to mothering than keeping your kids amused.

I fear that we are headed down a slippery slope when it comes to one aspect of parenting.  And we at least need to start talking about it.

For some reason we have this strange belief that it is our job to entertain our kids all. the. time.

In case you aren’t convinced … feel free to browse Pinterest for a few minutes or visit one of the amazing blogs with activities for children. I, too, am guilty of spinning my wheels day after day, trying my hardest to provide fun experiences for my children … all in the name of being a good mom.

Yes, we want our kids to have a happy childhood with a variety of experiences. But this certainly doesn’t mean that the mark of a good mother is spending all her time creating and engaging her kids in those activities.

My goal as a parent is to raise my children to know, love, and emulate Jesus.  Entertaining them is not what should take up the majority of my focus. My focus should be on others, just as Jesus’ was. After all, the two greatest commandments are loving God and loving others.

So, what is a mother to do?

Meet their needs of feeding, changing, and bathing? Yes.

Teach our children? Yes.

Engage with our children in play? Yes.

Enjoy our children? Yes.

Play with our children? Yes, although not every minute of the day.

Encourage our children to think of others before themselves? YES!

Laugh with, tickle, and kiss our sweet babies? OF COURSE!

Entertain our children every minute of the day? No.

The fact is, when we make it our mission in life to make sure that our children are entertained and having fun, we are teaching them that life is all about them! It also can prohibit children from using their imagination and creativity to come up with something fun to do on their own.  This is a problem with my firstborn—I continually entertained him from birth to 2 years of age, when his little brother was born, and now he has a hard time playing on his own.

Rather than going out of our way to find ways to entertain our kids, let’s go out of our way thinking of opportunities that we can serve and love others together.

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This article originally appeared as a post on MomLife Today®, FamilyLife’s blog for moms.

Chores, teamwork and high expectations: The 15 habits that raise responsible kids

SOURCE:  Dr. Laura Markham/Motherly

We all want to raise responsible children. And we all want to live in a world where others have been raised to be responsible, a world where adults don’t shrug off their responsibilities as citizens. So how do we raise our kids to take responsibility for their choices and their impact on the world?

You begin by seeing responsibility as something joyful for your child, instead of a burden.

All children want to see themselves as “response-able”—powerful and able to respond to what needs to be done. They need this for their self-esteem, and for their lives to have meaning.

So, you don’t really need to teach them to handle themselves responsibly in the world; you just need to teach them they have the power to contribute positively and relate to them so they want to do so.

If you focus on helping your child take charge of his life, and support him as necessary to learn each new skill, your child will want to step into each new responsibility. Instead of your holding him responsible, he becomes motivated to take responsibility for himself. It’s a subtle shift, but it makes all the difference in the world. The bottom line is that kids will be responsible to the degree that we support them to be.

Here are 15 everyday strategies guaranteed to increase your child’s “response-ability” quotient.

1. Raise your child with the expectation that we always clean up our own messes.

Begin by helping your child, until she learns it. She’ll learn it faster if you can be cheerful and kind about it and remember not to worry about spilled milk.

Encourage her to help by handing her a sponge as you pick one up yourself, even when it’s easier to do it yourself. As long as you aren’t judgmental about it—so she isn’t defensive—she’ll want to help clean up and make things better.

So when your toddler spills her milk, say “That’s ok. We can clean it up,” as you hand her a paper towel and pick one up yourself.

When your preschooler leaves her shoes scattered in your path, hand them to her and ask her to put them away, saying kindly “We always clean up our own stuff.”

You will have to do this, in one form or another, until they leave your home. But if your approach is positive and light-hearted, your child won’t get defensive and whine that you should do the cleanup. And when kids hear the constant friendly expectation that “We always clean up our own messes…Don’t worry, I’ll help….Here are the paper towels for you; I’ll get the sponge…” they become both easier to live with and better citizens of the world.

2. Kids need an opportunity to contribute to the common good.

All children contribute to the rest of us in some way, regularly. Find those ways and comment on them, even if it is just noticing when she is kind to her little brother or that you enjoy how she’s always singing. Whatever behaviors you acknowledge will grow.

As your children get older, their contributions should increase appropriately, both within and outside the household. Kids need to grow into two kinds of responsibilities: their own self care, and contributing to the family welfare. Research indicates that kids who help around the house are also more likely to offer help in other situations than kids who simply participate in their own self care.

Of course, you can’t expect them to develop a helpful attitude overnight. It helps to steadily increase responsibility in age appropriate ways. Invite toddlers to put napkins on the table, three-year-olds to set places. Four-year-olds can match socks, and five-year-olds can help you groom the dog. Six-year-olds are ready to clear the table, seven-year-olds to water plants, and eight-year-olds to fold laundry.

3. Remember that no kid in his right mind wants to do chores.

Unless you want your child to think of contributing to the family as drudgery, don’t make him do chores without you until they are a regular part of your family routine and one that your child does not resist. Your goal isn’t getting this job done, it’s shaping a child who will take pleasure in contributing and taking responsibility.

Make the job fun. Give as much structure, support, and hands-on help as you need to, including sitting with him and helping for the first thirty times he does the task, if necessary. Know that it will be much harder than doing it yourself. Remind yourself that there’s joy in these tasks, and communicate that, along with the satisfaction of a job well done. Eventually, he will be doing these tasks by himself, and that day will come much faster if he enjoys them.

4. Always let children “do it myself” and “help,” even when it’s more work for you.

And it will always be more work for you. But toddlers want desperately to master their physical worlds, and when we support them to do that, they step into the responsibility of being “response-able.”

So instead of rushing through your list, reframe. You’re working with your child to help him discover the satisfaction of contribution. That’s more important than having the job done quickly or perfectly. Notice that you’re also bonding, which is what motivates kids to keep contributing.

5. Rather than simply giving orders, try asking your child to do the thinking.

For instance, to the dallying child in the morning, instead of barking “Brush your teeth! Is your backpack packed? Don’t forget your lunch!” you could ask, “What’s the next thing you need to do to get ready for school?”

The goal is to keep them focused on their list, morning after morning until they internalize it and begin managing their own morning tasks.

6. Provide routines and structure.

These are crucial in children’s lives for many reasons, not the least of which is that it gives them repeated opportunities to manage themselves through a series of not especially inviting tasks.

First, they master the bedtime routine and cleaning up toys and getting ready in the morning. Then they develop successful study habits and grooming habits. Finally, they learn basic life skills through repetition of household routines like doing laundry or making simple meals.

7. Teach your child to be responsible for her interactions with others.

When your daughter hurts her little brother’s feelings, don’t force her to apologize. She won’t mean it, and it won’t help him. Instead, listen to her feelings to help her work out those tangled emotions that made her snarl at him.

Then, once she feels better, ask her what she can do to make things better between them. Maybe she’ll be ready to apologize. But maybe that will feel like losing face, and she would rather repair things with him by reading him a story or helping him with his chore of setting the table, or giving him a big hug.

This teaches children that their treatment of others has a cost and that they’re responsible for repairs when they do damage. But because you aren’t forcing, she’s able to choose to make the repair, which makes it feel good, and makes her more likely to repeat it.

8. Support your child to help pay for damaged goods.

If kids help pay from their own allowance for lost library books and cell phones, windows broken by their baseball, or tools they’ve left out to rust, the chances of a repeat infraction are slim.

9. Don’t rush to bail your child out of a difficult situation.

Be available for problem solving, helping him work through his feelings and fears, and to ensure that he doesn’t just sidestep the difficulty. But let him handle the problem himself, whether it requires offering an apology or making amends in a more concrete way.

10. Model responsibility and accountability.

Be explicit about the responsible choices you’re making:

“It’s a pain to carry this trash till we get to the car, but I don’t see a trashcan and we never litter.”

“This sign says parking is reserved for handicapped people, so of course we can’t take that spot.”

Keep your promises to your child, and don’t make excuses. If you don’t follow through when you promise to pick up that notebook he needs for school or play that game with him on Saturday, why should he be responsible for keeping his promises and agreements with you?

11. Never label your child as “irresponsible”

Never label your child as “irresponsible,” because the way we see our kids is always a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, teach him the skills he needs to be responsible.

If he always loses things, for instance, help him develop the skills he needs. For instance, teach him to stop anytime he leaves somewhere—his friend’s house, school, soccer practice—and count off everything he needs to take home.

12. Teach your child to make a written schedule.

It may seem like overkill, but in our busy 21st-century lives, all kids need to master this skill by high school, or they simply won’t get everything done.

Begin on weekends during middle school, or earlier, if their schedule is busy. Just take a piece of paper, list the hours of the day on the left, and ask your child what he needs to get done this weekend. Put in the baseball game, piano practice, the birthday party, and all the steps of the science project—shop for materials, build the volcano, write and print out the description. Add in downtime—go for ice cream with dad, chill and listen to music.

Most kids find this keeps their stress level down since they know when everything will get done. Most important, it teaches them to manage their time and be responsible for their commitments.

13. All kids need the experience of working for pay.

All kids need the experience of working for pay, which teaches them real responsibility in the real world. Begin by paying your 8-year-old to do tasks you wouldn’t normally expect of him (washing the car, weeding the garden), then encourage him to expand to odd jobs in the neighborhood (walk the neighbor’s dog or offer snow shoveling service in the winter), move on to mother’s helper/babysitting jobs when it’s age appropriate, and finally take on after school or summer jobs. Few settings teach as much about responsibility as the world of working for pay outside the family.

14. Create a no-blame household.

We all, automatically, want to blame someone when things go wrong. It’s as if fixing blame might prevent a recurrence of the problem, or absolve us of responsibility.

In reality, blaming makes everyone defensive, more inclined to watch their back and to attack than to make amends. It’s the number one reason kids lie to their parents.

Worse yet, when we blame them, kids find all kinds of reasons it wasn’t really their fault—at least in their own minds—so they’re less likely to take responsibility and the problem is more likely to repeat.

Blame is the opposite of unconditional love.

So why do we do it? To help us feel less out of control, and because we can’t bear the suspicion that we also had some role, however small, in creating the situation.

Next time you find yourself automatically beginning to blame someone, stop. Instead, accept any responsibility you can—it’s good practice to model this by overstating your responsibility, without beating yourself up. Then, just accept the situation. You can always come up with better solutions from a state of acceptance than a state of blame.

15. Teach your kids that, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, they not only have the right to be an individual, they have an obligation to be one.

Studies show that people who take responsibility in any given situation are people who see themselves as willing to be different and stand out.

That’s the kind of kid you want to raise.

50 Things You Can Say to Make Your Child Feel Great

SOURCE:  Janel Breitenstein/Family Life Ministry

A list for parents who want their children to know their love and God’s love.

1. I’m proud of you. And even if you weren’t so fantastic, I’d still be proud.

2. I believe you.

3. The way you _____ is such a perfect addition for our family. God knew just what we needed when He gave us you.

4. I know you and I haven’t been seeing eye-to-eye lately. But I want to let you know that I accept you whether I agree with you or not, and I’m committed to working on our relationship so we both feel understood and secure.

5. I can’t believe how _____ you are. I can’t imagine the plans God has for you!

6. You know, you may not feel very _____, but God knew exactly what He was doing when He made you the way He did, and it was just how He wanted to express Himself. I love you just the way He made you. And I wouldn’t have wanted Him to do it any differently.

7. No matter how royally you mess up, I’ll always be glad you’re mine, I’ll forgive you, and I’ll love your socks off.

8. I saw how you _____. I’m so proud of you.

9. I forgive you. And I won’t bring this up again, okay?

10. I want to hang out with just you tonight. What do you want to do?

11. I remember when I _____. I felt so _____. I don’t know if that’s like what you’re going through, but it was a tough time for me.

12. I’m sorry. Will you please forgive me for _____?

13. I got you this, just because.

14. Lately I’ve really seen you grow in the area of _____, like when you _____.

15. Yes, there is food in the house.

16. I admire the way you _______. In fact, I could learn a lot from you in that area.

17. That was a really wise choice.

18. No chores today.

19. I trust you.

20. You’re really growing into a young man/woman of character. I can’t tell you how exciting that is!

21. Go ahead and sleep in tomorrow.

22. I had no idea you could do that! You impress me.

23. What do you think?

24. I canceled your appointment with the dentist.

25. I love your dad/mom so much! He/she is so _____.

26. I love being around you.

27. I’m so glad you’re home.

28. Thank you!

29. I love doing _____ with you.

30. You are one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten. I am so humbled God gave me you.

31. I feel so proud when I’m with you.

32. You handled that so well.

33. I made your favorite _____.

34. I’m trusting that God will take perfect care of us. He’s always done it before! Can we pray together about this?

35. With God’s help, your dad/mom and I will never, ever get a divorce.

36. That looks great on you.

37. If I were in your shoes, I would feel so _____. Is that how you feel?

38. Would you turn your music up?

39. You are so well-disciplined in _____.

40. I sent you a big ol’ care package in the mail.

41. That was so courageous.

42. Do you feel like I’m understanding you?

43. If there were one thing you could change about me as your mom/dad, what would it be?

44. You have some real gifts in the area of _____.

45. Let’s go to Grandma’s!

46. It is so cool to watch you grow up.

47. Just wanted to let you know I’m praying for you.

48. I miss you, but I’m glad you’re having a good time!

49. You make me so happy just by being you.

50. I love you so much.

5 Things to Teach Your Kids About Failure

SOURCE:  iMom

My own experiences with failure have been some of my most important life lessons. I learned things I never would have learned any other way.

My own experiences with failure have been some of my most important life lessons. I learned things I never would have learned any other way. Growing up, every time I had to speak publicly, I was terrified, and most often felt like I failed because I wasn’t articulate enough. I hated the feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt that public speaking brought up for me. I kept trying though and pushing through those awful feelings until eventually I learned how to speak publicly without any fear at all. If I would have let my first failure keep me from trying again, I never would have had the joy of sharing my life story and speaking to thousands of people at a stadium event.

It’s never easy to watch our children fail. But we can take heart that failure can actually make our children stronger, more resilient and more empathetic if we teach them to handle failure the right way.

Here are 5 things to teach your kids about dealing with failure.

1. Failure Happens to Everyone.

Even the best baseball players get hits only 3 out of 10 times at the plate. No one wins them all. It’s a normal part of life. Teach your kids to expect failure, and help them realize it’s okay to fail, because we learn from our mistakes and failures.

Teach your kids to expect failure, and help them realize it’s okay to fail, because we learn from our mistakes and failures.

2. Failure Isn’t a License to be a Bad Sport.

Failing is not a good feeling, and it’s okay to be sad or disappointed when we fail. But we don’t want to take it too far and start blaming others or pouting. Teach them to find the lesson in it, which can soften the negative feelings. Help them learn how to not be too hard on themselves.

3. Failure Can Lead to Success.

Thomas Edison tried dozens and dozens of times before he invented the modern light bulb.  We really can learn from our mistakes. Help them process through their mistakes and failures, so they can see the process of learning in action.

4. Failure Teaches Us Humility.

If we don’t experience failure, how can we really relate and encourage others when they are experiencing defeat?

5. Failure is Not Who We Are.

We need to teach our children that their true value comes from just being. They need to know they are loved, whether they win or lose, make a mistake or not.

31 Questions to Help You Be a Better Parent

SOURCE:  Janel Breitenstein/Family Life

Answer these questions with honesty, humility, and dependence on God’s power.

Feeling passionate about parenting? If you’d genuinely like a shot in the arm for your parenting, perhaps these questions can get you started. But remember: Their effectiveness is proportionate to your level of honesty, humility, and most of all, dependence on God’s power to make His presence a reality in your children’s lives.

1. What are the most significant cravings of each of my kids’ hearts?

2. How am I doing at building a relational bridge with my children? Do I “have their hearts”? Do they feel connected with and encouraged by me? Do I feel connected with them?

3. When I’m honest, what top five values do I feel most compelled to instill in my children? Would those line up with the top five values God would want my children to have?

4. What are each of my children’s greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses?

5. Am I being faithful to pray diligently, deeply, and watchfully for my kids? (For a great FamilyLife resource on this, click here.)

6. Which child in our family is most likely to be overlooked,  and why?

7. Which child tends to receive most of my attention? Why?

8. How do I believe other people see each of my children? How do I feel about that? What portion of others’ opinions could I learn from, and what should I set aside?

9. Are my children developing more into givers than takers?

10. What life skills would I like my children to develop this year?

11. What are the events on the timeline of my children’s lives that have the most impact?

12. In what ways have my children exceeded my expectations?

13. Do I have any expectations of my children that have become demands that I clutch out of fear, rather than hopes that I seek from God by faith?

14. In what ways do I feel disappointed by my children? What can I learn from this? (For example, about what is valuable to me, about how God has made my children, about loving as God loves, etc.) What should I do about this in the future?

15. What is my greatest area of weakness as a parent? My greatest strength? What are my spouse’s?

16. In what ways are my children totally unlike me?

17. What did my parents do particularly well? In what ways do I hope to be different? (Is there any forgiveness that needs to happen there?)

18. What events from my childhood are important for me to shield my own children from? Are there ways that this has led to excessive control?

19. In what areas are my children most vulnerable?

20. What do I love about my kids? About being a parent?

21. How well do my spouse and I work as a team in our parenting?

22. How am I doing on preparing my children to be “launched” as thriving servants for God in the real world?

23. What can I do to equip my children to love well? To be wise? For successful relationships?

24. How is my children’s understanding of the Bible? How would I describe each of their relationships and walks with God?

25. Who are the other influential people in my kids’ lives? As I think of my children’s friends, teachers, coaches, etc., how can I best pray that they will complement my parenting and my kids’ needs?

26. Am I replenishing myself and taking adequate rests, so that my children see the gospel work of grace, patience, and peace in my home?

27. What are each of my kids passionate about? How can I spur on and develop their God-given passions?

28. How am I doing on teaching them biblical conflict resolution? Am I teaching them to be true peace-makers … or peace-fakers, or peace-breakers?

29. How authentically do I speak with my kids? Am I building a bridge of trust and security through my honesty and openness with them?

30. Am I striking a good balance between protecting my kids and equipping them for whatever they may encounter when they step outside of my home, now and in the future?

31. What great memories have I recently made with my kids?

Parenting: Going Beyond “How was your day?”

SOURCE:  The Gottman Institute

 

3 Do’s and Don’ts for Raising Emotionally Intelligent Kids

SOURCE:  April Eldemire, LMFT/The Gottman Institute

As parents, we want the very best for our kids. We work hard to raise strong individuals who will go on to lead happy lives and have good moral standing. Sometimes, however, we find ourselves questioning our parenting choices, crossing our fingers and hoping we’re doing this whole parenting thing right.

Our hopes, dreams, and fears about parenting will never cease, but as it turns out, we don’t have to wing it and rely on hope alone anymore. With Emotion Coaching we now have a science-based roadmap for how to raise well-balanced, higher achieving, and emotionally intelligent children.

Research by Dr. John Gottman shows that emotional awareness and the ability to manage feelings will determine how successful and happy our children are throughout life, even more than their IQ. Being an Emotion Coach to our kids has positive and long-lasting effects, providing a buffer for the complexities of life that allows them to be more confident, intelligent, and well-rounded individuals.

Below are three do’s and don’ts for building your child’s emotional intelligence.

1. Do recognize negative emotions as an opportunity to connect.
Use your child’s negative emotions as an opportunity to connect, heal, and grow. Children have a hard time controlling their emotions. Stay compassionate, loving, and kind. Communicate empathy and understanding so that your child can begin to understand and piece together their heightened emotional state. Try saying, “It sounds like you’re frustrated! I totally get it,” or, “You seem so angry right now. Is it because Sandy took your toy? I completely understand why you’d be angry.”

Don’t punish, dismiss, or scold your child for being emotional.
Negative emotions are age appropriate and will eventually subside as kids grow. By disregarding their feelings as insignificant or sending the message that their feelings are bad, you are in effect sending the message that they are bad. This damaging perception can stay with them throughout adulthood.

2. Do help your child label their emotions.
Help your child put words and meaning to how they’re feeling. Once children can appropriately recognize and label their emotions, they’re more apt to regulating themselves without feeling overwhelmed. Try using phrases like, “I can sense you’re getting upset” or, “It sounds like you’re really hurt.”

Don’t convey judgment or frustration.
Sometimes our kids can do or say things that are downright unacceptable and it’s hard to understand the emotions that seem unwarranted or irrational. But try putting yourself in your child’s shoes. Ask questions, seek understanding, and convey to them that you’re on their side, you support them, and you’re there to hold their hand through those moments where things feel overwhelming and tough.

3. Do set limits and problem-solve.
Help them find ways of responding differently in the future. Enlist their help in seeking alternative solutions to their struggles. Kids yearn for autonomy, and this is a great way to teach them that they are capable of self-regulating themselves in a world that seems unfair and particularly upsetting. Remind them that all emotions are acceptable but all behaviors are not. Here’s a great phrase to set limits and aid in problem solving: “I understand you’re upset, but hitting is not okay. How can you express your feelings without hitting next time?”

Don’t underestimate your child’s ability to learn and grow.
They have an innate capacity to develop into high functioning adults who can problem-solve and respond intelligently to life’s dilemmas. As children, however, they need a listening ear, a hand to hold, and a parent who can challenge them to reach from within and respond accordingly.

Being a parent is a challenging and never-ending job. With just three small steps, you can raise children who are bright, self-confident, and better able to navigate the intricacies of life with ease and confidence.

Parenting: You’re Driving Me Crazy

SOURCE:  /Focus on the Family

I am not alone when it comes to frequently losing it with my children.

My research shows that screaming is a common problem in motherhood. While there are specific circumstances in which yelling is imperative, such as with safety issues or an emergency, I confess that valid reasons for my outbursts have been infrequent.

In my study, moms listed the top anger-causing stressors as fatigue and being overwhelmed with demands on their time. Stressors or not, a loss of control often leads to self-imposed guilt. And families are too often left wounded and confused by a yelling mom.

I remember when Seth, then 2, was supposed to be in his crib and going to sleep. My husband, Curt, was out of town, so I was facilitating the bedtime routine solo. After giving Seth a bath and reading him a bedtime story, I retrieved one last drink of water, listened to his prayers and settled him for the night.

I was eight months pregnant and exhausted, so my focus, after closing his bedroom door, was on relaxing with a good book and drifting off to sleep. In less than five minutes, I heard the door of his room creak open.

“Seth,” I said sternly, “you better climb right back in your bed.” He closed the door, and I could hear him climb back into his bed. This scenario repeated itself two more times. Finally, I put down my book, heaved myself out of the recliner and charged into his room yelling, “You are driving me crazy; stay in your bed!”

Seth began to cry, and through his sobs he replied, “But it’s just so lonely in here.”

A wave of guilt engulfed me. My sweet toddler had been wounded by my loud, angry words.

That was several years ago, and I’ve since learned that being honest with myself and recognizing the destructive influence that screaming has on my children is the first step in changing this pattern of poor communication.

Here are other habit-changing behaviors:

  • Committing to lowering my voice toward my children when the stressors propel me toward screaming has been an effective way to keep my emotions at more steady levels.
  • Taking time to discuss with my children, according to their age and understanding, about why I may be on edge can help all of us be more sensitive to one another.
  • Realizing that I am not alone in this struggle has strengthened my resolve to break the screaming cycle. Friends help spur me on to change.

Whenever the triggers for “losing it” are present, I recognize the problem, lower my voice and acknowledge I am not alone in this struggle, which helps defuse my anger. The response I give my children is always more appropriate.”

The freedom from guilt has been my catalyst to parent in the way that God desires.

After all, my goal is to reflect Him well to my family.

—————————————————————————————————

Sue Heimer is an author and Christian speaker on topics ranging from “Living a Life of Faith” to “When You Feel Like Screaming — Help for frustrated mothers.”

How to Help Your Anxious Child

SOURCE:  Kim Blackham

It’s normal for children to have some anxieties–the world is big, and many experiences are new and untested. Many kids are afraid of the dark, worried about shots at the doctor’s office, have a fear of being left alone, or feel anxious about an upcoming test.

But what do you do when your child’s anxieties seem to be taking over his or her entire sense of well-being?

Below are 6 suggestions to help you teach your children to manage the worries and concerns in their life.

1. Encourage them to view their worries and concerns as separate from themselves.

If children can separate themselves from their anxieties, it will be easier for them to understand and manage them. Help your child understand that worries and anxieties are normal–we all have them!–but that we get to decide which worries and concerns we are going to allow.

2. Explain that worries and concerns can have a very real impact on us physically as well as emotionally.

Ask them what happens to them physically when they are afraid. Where do they feel it? Sometimes people feel it as a sickening ball in their stomach. Other times people feel it as a tight knot in their chest, or as the sensation of being hot and sticky all over. See if your child can identify the physical response he or she has to different anxieties.

SEE KIM’S ENTIRE ARTICLE AT:     http://www.kimblackham.com/how-to-help-your-anxious-child/

 

Disciplining Your Children Is Challenging, but Vital

SOURCE:  Jason Houser/Family Life

Seeing the fruit of correcting your children requires delayed gratification.

The last thing I (Jason) want to hear from my wife as I walk through the door at the end of a hard day are these words: “We have a situation. You need to deal with it.”

But it happens.

I remember one evening when one of our sons was 7. I had given him a pocketknife, thinking he was ready to handle that kind of responsibility (in my defense, it was a very small knife). I even gave him explicit instructions, telling him that if he abused this privilege in any way, the knife would immediately be taken away from him.

For several months, there were no problems. Then my wife found that the headrest of the leather seat in the back of her van had been “wounded.” We asked our son if he had used his knife to cut the seat, but he adamantly denied the charge. He almost had us convinced that it might have been someone else.

We brought in some CSI forensics experts, took fingerprints, and interrogated all of his friends under a hot light at our kitchen table. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but we did do a bit of detective work. We deduced that the new pocketknife was indeed the weapon used in the crime.

When we confronted him a second time, he broke. Tears flowed as we talked to him in his room. We left him there for a few minutes so we could discuss our plan for discipline. And we needed a little time to cool down.

As upset as we were that he had destroyed the headrest, we were more concerned about his lying to us. We had experienced a couple other times when he had lied, and we knew that this needed to be corrected, for his benefit and for the good of our family. We decided that the best option was to give him a spanking and walk him through a process of reconciliation.

We went back into his room and talked through his actions. We shared with him how his lies had hurt everyone in our family because they had destroyed our trust. We explained that lying is a sin, and because of his sin, he had disobeyed God and dishonored us, his parents. We asked him if he wanted to ask God and us for forgiveness. He said yes, and we led him through a prayer asking God for forgiveness. We told him that we forgave him too.

Then we informed him that he was going to be spanked for his disobedience. After I spanked him, I hugged him and told him I loved him. I reminded him that a father disciplines a child he loves, and that was why I was doing this. We left him alone in his room and asked him to let us know when he was ready to come back and join the family.

He stayed in his room for at least 30 minutes and then asked to join us. We reassured him that we were glad he was back with us. And we continued on with our night. We didn’t mention it to him again. As difficult as it is for us to follow through in times like these, we knew it was the right thing.

Practical lessons

There are a few things I’d like to highlight from this example with our son.

First, if you haven’t experienced this already, you will soon. When a child is disobedient, it is difficult to remain calm. Most parents get angry with their children at some point, and the flesh—the sinful nature in all of us—reacts selfishly rather than responding in love. In these moments, a parent needs to regain composure, pray, and step back from the situation before disciplining the children.

You’ll also notice that we addressed our son directly and told him specifically how he had been disobedient, in words appropriate to his age level. We reminded him that we loved him, and we made sure he understood that we were disciplining him because we wanted what was best for him. We took the time to walk him through the process of forgiveness, both with us and with the Lord.

All of this took a significant amount of time and energy, but it’s critical to the discipline process. After this, I administered the appropriate discipline that my wife and I had decided on, and we both hugged him and reassured him of our love for him.

Finally, we left him in his room to give him some time to think about his disobedience and consider the consequences. This gave him a chance to calm down, to let his emotions settle, and to reflect and learn from what he had just experienced. We made sure he knew that he was free to rejoin the family when he was ready, that the discipline was over.

The harvest of godly discipline

In Hebrews 12 there is an amazing word of encouragement. God promises us that if we are willing to walk through the hard process of discipline, there is a wonderful result: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (v.11, emphasis added).

A farmer has to wait months before his crops are ready for harvest. Whether we’re talking about apples or oranges, growth doesn’t happen overnight. But today we live in a culture of instant gratification. We lack the patience to wait for things that develop over time, preferring immediate results.

The harvest of discipline doesn’t come immediately after we administer correction to our children. It takes time. You may not see the fruit until tomorrow, a year from now, or even 10 years from now. That’s why you’ll need to have faith in God and His promises. You’ll need to believe that the result God promises is better, in the long run, than any immediate result you can gain from other ways of responding to your kids.

But there is an added blessing in this! You see, God is also cultivating patience in your life, one of the fruits of His Spirit. And trust us, you will need it.

You will also see the benefit of discipline as God’s character grows in your children. You will be leading them to the Lord, helping them understand their sin and their need for a Savior. You will be cultivating the soil of their heart and planting the seeds of godly character by teaching and modeling the gospel to them. It may take several years for these seeds to bear fruit, but God is faithful.

She wanted to be in charge

As a toddler, my niece, Kylie, would have made James Dobson’s “strong-willed child” top 10 list. She created chaos in her parents’ lives. One time, she finger-painted an entire wall while her parents were in another room.

They were a young couple, and she was their first child, and she was determined to prove that she was in charge. Kylie always wanted to have things her way, and if that didn’t happen, she would clear the room with an epic meltdown. Her parents were desperate for peace, so they sought wise biblical counsel and developed a plan to discipline their daughter. They faithfully discipled her through discipline, and eventually she came to understand and submit to their authority.

Today Kylie is one of the most joy-filled followers of Jesus I know. She is walking with the Lord and trusting him. She has an infectious smile, and she reflects the goodness of Christ in such a beautiful way. The Lord has put a special fire and passion in her spirit, and she knows that it is best expressed under the authority of her parents.

I believe that the Lord has gifted her to lead others, but her stubbornness and rebelliousness needed to be reshaped—changed from selflessness to the meekness of Christ—to make her more like Jesus.

Every time I go to Joshua and Linda’s home now, I feel the peace of the Lord. Their home is a great reminder to me that God faithfully produces a harvest as we plant the seeds of godly character in the hearts of our children. It encourages me to be faithful as I work through the unpleasant aspects of discipline in order to enjoy the harvest of righteousness.

Reflecting the Father’s loving heart

Discipline is a challenge, but it is vital. And godly discipline is a combination of love, wisdom, and consequences. We are best at disciplining our children when we reflect our Fathers’ loving heart and His desire for holiness.

Most people tend to think of God as overly lenient or overly strict. But God is neither of these. In Romans 11:22, Paul describes how God’s holy love can be express in different ways—as kindness or as severity, depending on the situation: “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off” (ESV).

As Christian parents, you will need to exercise wisdom to practice discipline in a balanced way that reflects the discipline of God. Sometimes you will need to emphasize the severe consequences of rebellion; at other times you’ll need to highlight the kindness and mercy of God. In every situation, you must learn to point your children to the grace of God, showing them that like your discipline of them, God’s discipline is for their own good, to help them become more like Jesus.

Don’t Lose Your Cool as a Mom

SOURCE:  Jenae Jacobson/Family Life

 Ten ideas to help you diffuse your anger when a child misbehaves.

We’ve all been there. You ask your child (for the fifth time) not to do something, only to turn around and find him doing that very thing. A situation like this one can get even the calmest person’s blood boiling and might normally lend itself to yelling, screaming, or harsh anger.

Although the misbehavior needs to be dealt with swiftly and fairly, there are much healthier alternatives to losing your cool in the process. Implement one of the suggestions below to keep yourself in check. Once the misbehavior is handled in a calm manner, try one of the “After the situation” suggestions to get your blood pressure back to normal and restore unity in the home. And before you think I’m claiming to be an expert on the topic, let me assure you that you couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, I’m writing this as much for my benefit as anyone else’s!

Before and during the situation

1. Pray. Pray for patience. Pray for peace. Pray for the supernatural ability to handle the situation as God would want you to.

2. Take a few deep breaths. As you exhale, attempt to mentally release whatever anger you are harboring. As cheesy as it sounds, it helps.

3. Take a time-out in the bathroom—and lock the door. As moms of young children, sometimes we just need a few minutes to clear our head before venturing back into the battlefield. And say a prayer your kids won’t hurt each other in the process of your “Mommy time-out.”

After the situation

4. Be spontaneousdon’t say a word to the kids, but instead go outside and start blowing bubbles (or something equally as fun). Invite them to join you whenever they are ready. Obviously, this should happen after the discipline and consequences have taken place.

5. Open your Bible and quickly thumb through your index to find some Scriptures on anger. Repeat them over and over to yourself. I’ve also found it helpful to have those particular Scriptures memorized so that they can be recalled at a moment’s notice (Proverbs 15:1, anyone?).

6. Turn on a movie for the kids and jump in the bathtub. Although I don’t think TV should frequently be used as a babysitter, you shouldn’t feel guilty in those moments when you need to use it as one (for your own sanity and for the temporary well-being of your children).

7. Start a tickle fight. After moments of tension (especially after a child is disciplined), she needs to be assured of your love for her and that you generallyenjoy spending time with her. What better way to show that than a tickle fight? Plus, laughter is good for the soul … so everyone wins!

8. Read a book together. There are few things in our household that will calm my very energetic boys quicker than sitting down to read a book in my lap. Not only does this give everyone an opportunity to settle down, it also allows for some good cuddling time.

9. Spend some one-on-one time with the perpetrator. If you have more than one child, it is amazing how enjoyable and easy it is to spend time with just one child at a time! And it could be that the child who ignited the flame of fury could be needing just a little bit of affirmation. Taking an hour or two to spend time with that child will not only reassure him of your love, but it also will be an enjoyable bonding experience for both of you.

10. Stop feeling guilty and inadequate. Every mother has regretsfor an unkind word, perhaps, or a harsh tone, or full-blown screaming. I fervently believe that God uses child rearing to humble our (at times) prideful hearts. Through this He is teaching us to rely on Him and not to depend on ourselves. We can’t be the kind of mothers we want to be, or the mothers our children need us to be, on our own. We must look to His strength, love, and kindness.

Those feelings of self-doubt and continual guilt are not from God. They are Satan’s way of attacking us. When we feel like this, we become debilitated. We become grouchy. We become irritable and short-fused. We don’t want to serve because we don’t feel like it. And that’s just what the enemy wants.

So next time you are faced with an otherwise explosive situation as a mom, try one of these tips to help diffuse both you and everyone around you.

10 Mistakes Smart Parents Make

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Most people try their best to be good parents. They love their kids. They want them to grow up and be healthy, happy, God fearing, self-supporting individuals. But there are some things that many good parents do that hinder their children’s growth and maturity, here are the top ten.

1. Praising talent instead of effort. Studies show that repeatedly praising a child for being smart, beautiful, or talented does not improve their self-confidence or self-esteem. It actually has the opposite effect and makes them more insecure and afraid to try new things.  (Mindset by Carol Dweck is a great resource for understanding the research about this and how to help your child have the right mindset for growth). Instead of saying to your child, “You’re smart at math”, praise her for her hard work figuring out a tough problem.

 2. Emphasizing achievement over character.  At the end of the day, what will bring your child the most happiness and satisfaction in life is not the size of her paycheck or the number of degrees after her name but the kind of person she has become as well as the quality of her relationships.  Poor character qualities will lead to a failed life even if you look successful on the outside. Proverbs 16:23; 20:11; 23:23.

3. Giving freedom without requiring responsibility.Adolescence is a tough time to parent and sometimes it’s easier to give into our child’s tantrums than to hold her accountable to fulfill her responsibilities.  One of the most important lessons parents much teach their child is to be responsible and take responsibility for her own choices and behavior.

4. Trying to be super-mom or dad. Stop doing for your kids what they should be doing for themselves. As they age, give them more responsibility such as time management for homework, cleaning their room, doing their own laundry. The goal of parenting is to work yourself out of a job so that your child doesn’t need you anymore.

5. Not helping your child see you are a person, not just a parent.  Along with super-parent syndrome, I find a woman may tend to over-function in her role as a mother and fails to teach her children that she is also a person who has her own dreams, needs, and feelings.

As our children mature, the parent child relationship ought to become more reciprocal with a child showing more consideration for her parent’s feelings or needs. Doing this models healthy relationship skills as well as reminds your child that life is not all about her and what she wants all the time.

 6. Not following through on stated consequences. If we don’t teach our kids when they are young that there are consequences to their choices and behaviors they will experience a painful awakening when they move into adulthood.  Today many people are miserable and perpetually angry that life and other people have not given them what they deserve instead of understanding their decisions and behaviors have consequences.  Proverbs 19:3

7. Being too busy to give unstructured or uninterrupted time to your child.  It pains me to watch entire families in a restaurant together all checking their cell phones. Your child learns social skills and gains emotional intelligence through interacting with real people in family life.  A child needs to feel that she is important to you and when you give her your time, energy, and uninterrupted attention, she feels it.

8. Giving them too much stuff.  “Mom please, please, please, buy me this one thing.  I won’t ever ask for anything else.  Just this iPhone or video game and I’ll be happy forever.”  What parent hasn’t heard that plea? And yet a week later, your child wants something more.

Overindulgence sends a wrong message. It tells your kids that things will make her happy.  It teaches her that having more satisfies and yet the truth is, more doesn’t satisfy. More just makes us hungry for more.  Instead teach your children to be content and grateful for what they have instead of always pining for more.

9. Not practicing what you preach. If you say something is important to you like God or faith or integrity or family and yet your actions show something different, your children will do as you do and not as you say.  Life is caught and not taught and when you live a double life, your children are smart enough to see it.

 10. Not praying enough for our children. I know it’s hard to pray. It can feel dry, even boring. But God says to pray and pray without ceasing.  I wish I had prayed more for my children.  There is so much in life that is completely out of our hands. Yet God loves our child more than we do and he wants us to pray for their safety, their growth, as well as their spiritual awakening and development. Prayer makes a difference and therefore, commit daily to pray for your child.

If you see yourself in some of the top ten mistakes, it’s not too late to change. God is always in the process of waking us up to something so that we can be conformed to his image. Don’t let Satan accuse you.

Instead thank God and the Holy Spirit that he has opened your eyes to some things you need to change, and then with God’s help, change them.

Are You Rewarding or Bribing Your Child?

SOURCE:  /Focus on the Family

I can picture the scene in my mind like it was yesterday. Chubby legs kicking. Back stiffened straight. Child wailing, “No, Mommy! No get into the cart!”

Exasperated, I wondered if this trip to the grocery store was in vain. However, I needed to get food for dinner, and this was my only opportunity. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered that a lollipop was buried in the bottom of my purse.

Holding my daughter on my hip with one arm, I frantically searched until I found it. Then I said, “If you get in the cart, you can have this lollipop.”

Instantly she complied. I won the battle, but I knew this was a losing strategy.

While rewards and bribes are sometimes seen as being interchangeable, they teach opposite lessons to our children.

What’s the difference?

A bribe is offered as a means to cajole or influence a child. Typically, it is given in the midst of a tantrum or other bad behavior. Deanna McClannahan, a licensed professional counselor at Focus on the Family, advises against doing this. “Bribing is giving a child a reward for unwanted behavior,” she warns. “In turn this teaches the child that if he screams for 20 minutes, he will get a piece of candy. Next time he wants something, you have taught him to scream.”

In contrast, a reward is something that is given in recognition of a child’s effort, service or achievement. It is parent initiated and directed, and given in recognition of a child’s effort. “Giving a child a reward for positive behavior reinforces what you want your child to do more of,” McClannahan says. She emphasizes that if a child is rewarded for positive behavior, he will be better motivated to repeat it.

As parents, we want our 2-year-old to feel a bit of our delight when she helps clean up all the toys or behaves appropriately at the store. A small, appropriate reward serves to encourage a child’s future obedience.

How to reward

Children under 3 live in the moment. McClannahan says, “Younger children do not have the ability to connect long-term rewards and consequences to current actions.” For this reason, McClannahan encourages parents of young children to reward as soon as possible. “It can be appropriate to wait until you get home,” she says, “but not OK to wait until the end of the week.”

Rather than just saying, “You did a good job,” let them know exactly what they did well: “I like how you remembered to pick up your dolls and put them in the toy box.” This type of praise reinforces the behavior you want to encourage and gives your children further instruction about your expectations.

For young children, rewards can be simple. A high-five or compliment (positive attention) is sometimes all the reward a child needs. But reading a favorite book together or giving him a small treat can also serve as a positive incentive.

A lesson learned

Two children at the grocery store may each receive a lollipop. However the method in which they were given their treat has the power to teach two vastly different lessons. If it is given as a bribe, it will encourage poor behavior. The child learns that if she fusses, screams or pouts, she will be pacified with something that brings her pleasure.

On the other hand, giving the lollipop as a reward after good behavior teaches our children the joy of doing what is right. This encourages them to continue making good decisions, which is what good parenting does — trains a child in the way he should go.

How to Respond When Your Kid is Dealing with Bullies

SOURCE:  All Pro Dad

Two things come to mind when people hear that I was bullied when I was younger. The first thing people think is: You’re an NFL offensive lineman, how were you bullied? And second, Why didn’t you just beat the snot out of the kids who bullied you?

It’s shocking to most, but I didn’t always have the 6’6, 320 lb. frame that I now carry. I grew up an undersized, funny-looking kid with a vocabulary that exceeded my age and the age of my peers. With a ton of freckles and bright red, spiked hair, I was a perfect candidate for kids to pick on. Dads, I want to challenge the common response and advice given to sons when they share their experiences of dealing with bullies at school, and share with you some helpful ways you can communicate and encourage your son.

Be a voice for your son

Often kids who experience bullying don’t have an advocate. I grew up with three sisters and not a ton of great friends. I spent a lot of time by myself. When I started to get picked on, I didn’t have an older brother to stand up for me or protect me. I wish I had that when I was younger, an advocate, a voice to stand up and stop the bullying I experienced. Don’t assume the bullying will stop after having a conversation with your son about “toughening up” or sending an email out to a teacher. Often it takes serious involvement with the school or program where your son is experiencing the bullying.

Keep a record of names and experiences

Often teachers or authorities don’t always catch or see everything that happens. They might be oblivious to certain issues and altercations. When it’s time to go to a teacher, principal, coach or authority about the problem, it will be helpful to have your son’s experiences written down in detail.

Fighting only creates more problems

Teaching your son to use his words to resolve conflict will prepare him for adulthood and the many complications that come with working in a business environment.  If you encourage your son to fight or return abusive talk, it will likely translate to adulthood and hurt him in the long run. Encourage your son to use his words, rather than his size, strength, or ability to fight.

Growing up, my father knew I was going to be a man of great size, even while I was smaller than all the other kids. After a day at school where I was bullied or picked on, my dad would remind me of the importance of using my words. He knew that there would soon be a day that I was no longer the smaller kid, and when that day came, I needed the skill set of using my words, rather than my size because of the danger that comes with being bigger than everyone else. You have a tremendous opportunity to teach and cultivate your son during his difficulties. Encouraging him to fight back will only cheapen those opportunities and rob your son of some important life lessons.

Affirm your son’s identity

Bullying attempts to strip the individual of his identity and self-worth. If your son struggles with low self-esteem or low self-worth affirm his identity as your son. Remind him of his gifts, his talents, and the things he does that make you most proud. Assure him of the great things he will accomplish, and the great plans ahead of him.

Help your son realize that everyone hurts

We can’t expect kids to go through hardship, or suffering, or abuse, and expect them to come out the other side normal. It’s hard enough for us as adults to wade through and endure hardship. Whether there is abuse at home, an absent father, drug issues, depression, anxiety, gang-related issues, their brains don’t have the ability to digest and wade through these things. When kids come from environments that don’t have control, they’re going to want to respond in ways that give them control.

Inherently, in human nature, we try to exert our control over weaker beings. So, when we see kids who are oppressing other kids, there are always internal reasons for why these kids are doing that. Everyone hurts, everyone has struggles. When we encourage our son to develop empathy for those around him, it will greatly help him respond well.

Don’t Worry, You Won’t Be a Perfect Parent

SOURCE:  Relevant Magazine/Lisa Pennington

You will mess up, and that’s OK.

I am the absolute worst potty trainer in the history of planet earth. My kids, even though they are smart and clever, don’t seem to catch on to the concept of using the toilet until they are much older than average. I try everything, read everything, use crazy techniques (Once I tried floating Cheerios in the potty, don’t ask how it went.) and still they don’t figure it out on my timeline.

I think it’s God’s way of reminding me I’m not perfect.

He does that from time to time, or daily. God points out I’m not the one in charge here. As much as I would like to have a formula for parenting, there is a huge gap between what seems like the best way and what actually happens.

Parenting is a series of obstacles we dodge and prepare for only to trip and fall at least half of the time. We just have to get back up and keep going with God’s grace.

We get this idea in our head that if we make the “right” choices and do the “best” job then our kids will turn out “great.” But what is right, best or great is not as clear as we would like. Even something as simple as teaching a child to tie his shoe can turn into World War III without warning. You show him how to loop the shoelaces, he doesn’t understand, you try a little harder, he cries, you cry, you buy him some Velcro sneakers in defeat. You lose your confidence, you wonder if he will be able to handle the next step in his life, you start looking at the price of vacations on an island in the South Pacific.

We get this idea in our head that if we make the “right” choices and do the “best” job then our kids will turn out “great.” But what is right, best or great is not as clear as we would like.

So what do we do when we our plans don’t work? Even the very best moms and dads have kids who make poor choices. Hey, even the first man who had the perfect Father made some pretty awful decisions! We have to accept that despite all of our valiant efforts, there is a place in our child we can’t reach—I like to call it the God place.

The God place is the area deep inside of each of us only God can see, touch and repair. We can show our child how to tie his shoe, we can explain why it’s necessary to tie a shoe, we can even wear our own laces joyfully—but we can’t make him want to do it. We don’t have the power to make our child want something, no matter how much we try. That is between your child and God.

It’s our job to love, teach, enforce and set an example, then trust God to do the rest. Patience is the key. That and a lot of prayer. Oh, I don’t mean prayer for your child, although it’s important. I mean prayer for yourself not to lose your mind over this little person who seems to be dead set on pushing every boundary.

If you mess up (which you will!), God will take those lessons to shape your child. Either way, the result is God’s job.

You have to trust God to reach those places in your child. If you raise your child well, God will use your efforts and build on them. If you mess up (which you will!), God will take those lessons to shape your child. Either way, the result is God’s job.

Trying techniques and theories and chore charts and reward systems are all good options. But once you have put the system into place, don’t believe for a second it is going to assure an outcome you want. From babies who won’t sleep to toddlers who won’t eat to teens who refuse to enjoy, well, anything, we must give our kids’ needs over to God. Some people need different lessons, and only God knows what they are.

Before you get completely discouraged and decide to give up trying and just go hide in the closet with a bag of chocolate, believe that your role as a parent is important. You have a place in your heart too where only God can reach, and He speaks to you there on behalf of your child. You will get inspiration and encouragement from Him to try new ideas and you will be amazed at how His ideas produce a better outcome than any of your plans could have.

Just because you can’t guarantee the outcome you want doesn’t mean you don’t try. Remember your efforts are a tool of God, not a guarantee. Even though you are a huge piece of the puzzle for your child, you are only one piece.

And by the way, all of my children are now fully potty trained despite my inadequacies. I fumbled my way through it each time and learned some valuable lessons from those days. First, I learned to lean on God for inspiration and grace when I didn’t know what to do. Second, I learned to always keep a few towels in the back of my minivan. Both of those lessons have come in handy many times since!

Talking to Your Children About Transgender Issues

SOURCE:  Jeff Johnston/Focus on the Family

Many were surprised when Bruce Jenner started appearing in public with long hair, wearing a dress and then announced his decision to “transition into a woman.” Jenner was an Olympic Decathlon gold medalist, a hero and role model for many in the ’70’s and ’80’s. Yet, now we learn that all along, he believed he was a woman. Photos of Jenner recently published in Vanity Fair magazine were even more shocking.

When confusing events like this are broadcast throughout the culture, Focus on the Family is asked a lot of questions. And we know parents get asked questions, too:

  • Daddy, why does that man want to be a lady?
  • Mom, what does “transgender” mean?
  • Can a boy turn into a girl?
  • Mommy, I’m a girl, but will I ever change into a boy?

Transgenderism — also called “gender dysphoria,” “gender confusion” or “gender identity disorder” — is tough enough for adults to understand. So when our children encounter these gender-confusing messages, what do we say? Most importantly, how do we help them develop a biblical, Christian perspective on this issue?

Focus on the Family wants to help parents navigate this topic, so here are some helpful guidelines and suggestions for addressing transgender issues with your children:

Keep It Simple

Relax. As a parent, you are the authority in your child’s life; but you don’t have to be an expert on every issue — including this one. And even the “experts” really don’t understand this issue. A few years ago, a gay identified psychiatrist was asked about gender confusion and responded, “The truth is we actually don’t know what it is. Is it a mental disorder or does the cause of gender dysphoria lie somewhere else?”    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/08/22/transgender-primer-manning/2687869/

So don’t think you have to understand everything about transgenderism or tell your children everything you know. Here are a few simple truths to communicate:

  • God made humans male and female.
  • Individuals are born either male or female.
  • Some people get hurt and confused, and they don’t like the way God made them.
  • As a result, some people wish they were the opposite sex.
  • Nobody can really change from one sex to the other.

Keep It a Dialogue

Use occasions such as this to connect with your children. Find out what they are learning, where they learned it and what they are thinking. Ask questions, such as:

  • Where did you see that?
  • Where did you hear that word?
  • Why do you think God made both boys and girls?
  • What do you think “transgender” means?
  • Do you think a boy can really turn into a girl?

This isn’t an inquisition but an opportunity to get to know your child better. So keep your tone conversational and friendly.

Older children and teens may have more questions, so we have a list of helpful resources at the end of this article. You might want to read some of these additional resources first, then read and discuss them with an older child.

Keep It Truthful

If you don’t know the answer to a child’s question, say so. Then tell your child you’ll look for an answer. Let’s say your son asks, “Why does he want to be a lady?” The real answer, if we’re honest, is “I don’t know.” None of us know all of the pain and false beliefs in the lives and hearts of persons who struggle with transgender issues.

Nevertheless, Scripture is clear about certain things, and those are what you can communicate to your children:

  • God made us in His image — male and female.
  • Sin entered the world and spoiled everything, including how we see ourselves.
  • God loves us and sent us Son to save us.

God wants us to live in truth about how He created us and who we are. We know God is powerful to save and transform lives — including the gender-confused. Tell your children this truth.

Keep It Kind

God has a deep love for sexually and relationally broken men and women — including those struggling with gender identity issues. These struggles are complicated and touch on deep aspects of our sexuality and being. The topic can provoke some to laughter or mockery, so work to maintain God’s heart for the gender-confused. He loves them with an everlasting lovejust as He loves each of us.

Your children will be watching you for cues about how to respond to gender identity disorder. Pray for God’s heart and for the ability to convey this to your children. Tone and attitude are as important as your words:

  • God loves all of us.
  • God loves men who wish they were women, as well as women who think they are men.
  • We may disagree with someone’s beliefs and choices; however, we can still be kind and loving.
  • We can pray for those who are gender-confused.

Keep It Affirming

When children see a transgender person on the news or on the street, they may feel curious, alarmed, confused or afraid. So when they ask questions about it, they’re not just asking for details about transgenderism. They’re also asking for comfort and affirmation. As a parent, you can respond positively:

  • I’m so glad God made you a girl!
  • I’m happy you’re my child and that you’re a boy.
  • What’s good about being a girl?
  • What’s good about being a boy?

Ask the Lord for wisdom and creativity for how best to affirm your sons in their masculinity and your daughters in their femininity.

9 Things Parents Should Never Say To Their Children

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

When it comes to your kids, your tongue can do a whole lot of damage, if you’re not careful. Never underestimate the defeating power of a few careless words. So here are 9 things that you should never say to your kids:

  1. “Why can’t you be more like _________________?”

Comparisons are toxic and they serve no positive purpose. Comparing your child to their brother, sister or friend only tears down your child and makes them feel like they’re not good enough or don’t measure up. Treat each child of yours as an individual. Never say, “Why can’t you do well in school like your sister?” Do say, “What can we do to help you do your very best in school?” Each of your children is unique. It’s important to treat them uniquely.

  1. “I don’t have time right now.”

One Saturday morning ,when my son, Marky, was a little boy, he showed me his ball and glove and said, “Dad, let’s play baseball.” Of course, since I’m Mr. Family Guy, I said, “Sure, son.” Right? Wrong. No, I said “I don’t have time right now. I’m fixing the toilet. Just give me a few minutes.” Well, the minutes turned into hours and when I was ready that afternoon to play ball, my son said, “No thanks, Dad.” When we say, “I don’t have time,” what we’re really saying is, “What I’m doing is more important than what you need.” or “There’s something else I’d rather be doing.” Is there anything more important for us to do than to spend time with our children and family?

  1. “I don’t think you can do it.”

What your child hears is, “I don’t believe in you.” Knowing you believe in them gives your kids strength, courage, motivation, tenacity, and more. Take that belief away and the damage will be huge. When you’re tempted to say something like this, instead say, “You’ve got some big obstacles, but I’m here for you, cheering you on and ready to help you to do your very best.” While you don’t want to fill your kids with false hope or inflated pride, you do want to encourage them in their goals.

  1. “You’re such a disappointment.”

Your kids can mess up, and they will. We all do. But if you want your children to learn from their mistakes, address their mess and how it can be fixed without hanging it on them. The label of failure is a heavy load to carry, and most kids won’t hold up. Try saying, “Your [bad grade, bad choice, etc.] is disappointing, but I love you no matter what. What can you learn from this?” Separate who your child is from the mess they’ve made.

  1. “Don’t be such a wimp.”

This should never be said to a boy or a girl. But, for a boy, it’s basically saying, “You don’t have what it takes to be a man” and can damage him to the core for quite some time. Saying, “You throw like a girl” to your son can have the same effect.

  1. “You’re such a bonehead.”

Telling your child they’re stupid is implanted in the hard drive of their mind and is difficult to delete. It’s certainly no way to motivate them.

  1. “Can’t you do anything right?”

When a parent says this to a child in the heat of the moment, it’s not only saying that the child messed this one thing up, but also that they mess up everything. It’s always dangerous to use broad brush words like always, never, everything or anything.

  1. Why didn’t you make the starting team?

Your daughter or son probably tried really hard to make the starting team, but landed on the B squad. They probably already are disappointed about it and don’t need anyone to pour vinegar into their wound. Instead, they need to be praised for doing their best and for even making the team.

  1. “So you made a B+, why didn’t you get an A?”

When something like this is said, here is what a child hears, “Nothing I do is good enough for my mom or dad.” If they did their best, we should praise them. If they didn’t, we should challenge them to give it everything they’ve got the next time.

By the way, the 5 Toxins of the Tongue that Can Poison Your Marriage also apply to your relationship with your children. It might provide you with further insight on this topic as well. And these 5 Types of Powerful Words for Your Marriage are likewise applicable to your children and will help you to build them up.

10 Things to Teach Your Kids about Failure

SOURCE:  All Pro Dad

Former United States President Harry Truman’s father struggled his whole life to eke out a living as a farmer. Unfortunately, a drought hit and the farm had to be foreclosed on. Many years later, a reporter asked Harry why his father was a failure. Harry replied, “How can my father have been a failure when his son is President of the United States?”

We can fail in a lot of areas. Work. Investing. Sports. You name it. But, we can’t fail our children and their future.

How do we avoid messing up? By spending as much time as possible with our kids and making them a priority. By loving them and using encouraging words. By hugging them whether they feel comfortable with it or not. Harry loved his father because he was a good dad.

Here are the 10 things to teach your kids about overcoming failure:

1. Not Everybody Gets A Trophy

Somewhere along the line we became a society that preached instant gratification. Like a giant carnival, our slogan became “everybody wins all the time.” We know it’s not true. It’s also a terrible example to set. Losing is every bit as important in human growth as winning.  Rewarding your child for doing nothing will teach him just that. Nothing.

2. Everyone Has Different Talents

Maybe your daughter wants to be the next Carrie Underwood. Then you hear her sing. Your son wants to be Derek Jeter, he can’t hit the ball off a tee. There are just some things we aren’t cut out for. It’s best to learn that at an early age. The good news is that they are a champion at something. Guide them towards where their gifts lie.

3. Have Class

What is one of the most flattering descriptions a person can hear? “He sure has a lot of class.” “She sure was a great sport about it.” Are you teaching your children how to fail with dignity? How a person accepts failure is an easy indicator of the character within. It also almost guarantees future success. Respect is gained outwardly and inwardly. Coach Tony Dungy is prime example of class.

4. Learning From Mistakes

“I think and think for months. For years. Ninety-nine times the conclusion is false. The hundredth time I am right.” Who said that? Albert Einstein. Mistakes humble. They can hurt. Yet without them, we are stagnant. Every mistake we make is an educational experience. Every success is built upon a foundation of errors and corrections.

5. Teaching Others

When we fail, we gain experience. It’s important to share that knowledge. Use it to mentor others experiencing similar difficulties. Instill in your children the responsibility to share their mistakes in hopes to save another from making the same.

6. Leave It All On The Field

Boxing legend Joe Frazier once said, “If I lose, I’ll walk away and never feel bad because I did all I could. There was nothing more to do.” The most common phrase in sports has to be “leave it all on the field!” Explain to your kids to never cheat themselves on effort and they will always gain from it. No matter the outcome.

7. Perseverance

Determination wins many victories. We should not allow our children to give up on themselves. Maybe your son has brought home two straight failing test grades in math. He thinks there is no way he will ever get it. Help him pick himself back up and try again. Perseverance will eventually lead to positive results and a lifelong lesson never to be forgotten.

8. Know How To Win

It might sound obvious, but knowing how to win is the easiest way not to lose. For instance, your son is selling popcorn for the Boy Scouts. He knocks on two hundred random doors and sells twenty packages in four hours. A lot of effort for little gain. The next day he sets up a stand in front a busy grocery store. Uniform on. Charm intact. He sells two hundred packages in a single hour. Which was the most successful tactic? Game planning is an essential part of a successful life.

9. Definition Of Success

Looking into the future, what do you wish for your son? I’m guessing happiness tops that list. He’s a respected and honest man. Has a loving wife and a family of his own. I highly doubt you would look into the future and hope he has an awesome car. He has seven hot girlfriends. He’s shallow and in it for the money. Yet, that is exactly what is marketed at him. Eternal failure. Society teaches shallowness to be equal to success. As a parent, it is up to you to define success.

10. Sense Of Humor

There are times in life we are going to do really stupid things. The ability to laugh about it sure makes those moments a lot easier to deal with. When you make mistakes in front of your kids, set that example. Don’t curse and scream at the sky. Just shake your head and laugh. It happens.

Surprisingly Simple Ways to Help Children Develop Empathy

SOURCE:  Kim Blackham

The following exercises are not only fun, but also effective in helping children become more empathic.

I Wonder

Go to a public location where you can sit and watch other people coming and going –  i.e. airport, mall, park, fair, sporting event, etc.

Find a place to sit that is in an area of moderately heavy traffic.  You want it to be busy but not crowded.  Then start asking questions.

  • What do you notice about these people?
  • Where do you think they are going?
  • Can you pick out a particular person?  Tell me about them?  Who are they with?  Why are they here?

At this point, you might get a little push back with the child saying, “I don’t know.”  That’s okay.  Encourage them to imagine who the person they see might be.  Acknowledge that of course they don’t know for sure, but based on what they see, what story can they imagine. 

  • Look at their faces.
  • What do you see?
  • Do they look happy or sad?
  • What kind of food do you think they like?
  • Do you think that little boy plays any sports?  What sport do you think he likes best?

Continue reading at this site:  http://www.kimblackham.com/surprisingly-simple-ways-to-help-children-develop-empathy/

 

The Power of a Parent

SOURCE:  Dennis Rainey/Family Life

By building your child’s character, you can help shape the future.

The Great Wall of China is one of the great wonders of the world, a true masterpiece of engineering. I’m told that six horses could trot side by side on top of it.  I’ve walked on it, and I was amazed to see this massive structure snake its way through the mountains.

China built the wall to protect it from invasion.  But in the first 100 years after the wall was completed, enemies invaded the country three times.  Do you know how?

The invaders didn’t go over the wall.  They didn’t smash holes through it, or burn it down.  Instead, they bribed the gatekeepers.  While China was building this amazing defense system, it neglected its children by failing to build character in their lives–the type of character that could withstand temptation.

I think of that story whenever I hear parents talk of the dreams and goals they have for their children.  Many parents today are vitally concerned with the education their kids receive and the skills they develop.  They spend hours shuttling them to school and to various extracurricular activities.  They look forward to the day when their children will enter the working world and establish successful and lucrative careers.

One thing is often missing in these dreams and plans, however: Character development.

A foundation for life

Too many parents are more concerned with IQ than with CQ–character quotient.

In the end, your child’s character will provide the foundation for his life.  I believe the leadership crisis we are facing in our government, in our businesses, and in the church are all traced back to this issue of character.

As Omar Bradley, the famous World War II general said, “We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.  The world has achieved brilliance without conscience.  Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.”

Do you realize the power you have as a parent?  When you help raise children with godly character–children who will follow Christ and withstand the pressures of the world–you are helping shape the world in the next generation.

Building character into a child means building patterns of behavior to respond properly to authority and to life’s circumstances.  As 1 Timothy 1:5 tells us, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

Responding to authority is important because we all under the authority of Christ.  A child must learn how to submit to God in every area of his life.  A proper response to life’s circumstances means showing your child how to walk with God so he will display the fruit of the Spirit–love, joy, peace, patience–no matter what he faces.

  • Character is what will help your child keep within his budget as an adult.
  • Character is what will lead him to turn to God in a time of hardship and pain.
  • Character is what will help him pursue his mate to resolve a major conflict in a loving manner.
  • Character is what will enable him to make that extra phone call or work that extra hour to do his job right.
  • Character is what will direct him in times of material prosperity and in a financial crisis.
  • And character is what will give him the strength to keep his mind and body pure when everyone in the world and everything within him says, “Just give in to that temptation.  It won’t hurt you.”

Two commitments

Let me suggest two essentials in building this type of character in your child:

First, make a commitment to be involved in teaching your child character through personal instruction.  This means actively teaching the Scriptures,  establishing limits in his life, affirming right choices, and correcting him when he makes mistakes.   It means continually showing him how to treat others with the love of Christ–how to communicate, how to forgive, how to encourage.

It also means contrasting what the world says with what the Bible teaches.  Just the other day I took the opportunity on the way to school to interact with my girls about homosexuality.  We talked about the culture we live in, and the growing public acceptance of gays.  I spoke of our need to love people but still be clear-headed about wrong choices that are a perversion of how God made us.

Our conversation only lasted 10 minutes, but I believe I laid another stone upon the foundation of their character.

Second, make a commitment to modeling the character traits you are teaching your child.   For you will never take your child beyond what is evident in your own life.

A seminary professor told me a story about taking his 13-year-old daughter to the state fair.  As they drove up to the entrance, he noticed a sign reading, “Free Admission to Children 12 and Under.”   He whispered to his daughter, “Scoot down and look small.”  She did, and he avoided paying her ticket.

A few seconds later this professor–with two seminary degrees–heard a small voice from the back seat: “Daddy, you know I’m 13.”  Convicted of his sin and of his bad example, he put the car into reverse and backed up.  He apologized to the attendant and paid the full amount.  That dad learned a painful but important lesson:  Our lives must model what we teach.

The six Rainey children have made their own set of errors–they’ve lied, they’ve cheated, they’ve disobeyed, they’ve made wrong choices, and they’ve suffered through massive doses of sibling rivalry.  But, one by one, they are learning to stand strong.

When Rebecca was 15 years old, she withstood the temptation to join eight other friends who slipped out of a decent movie and into an R-rated film.  As she told me her story, the grin on her face was a big payoff to Barbara and me.  Her character grew.

Yes, they do get it!

Passive Fathers, Angry Children

SOURCE:  Dennis Rainey/Family Life

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:4

Look at the verse above again—it contains one negative command and two positive ones.

From our experience, the three commands work together; if you obey the negative command, you are able to fulfill the others as well.

We have established a list of common things a dad does to provoke anger in his children. Many more could be listed, but here are our top five:

  • Shows a dictatorial style of relating to his children, over-emphasizing authority without an underlying relationship of love, affection and fun times together
  • Exhibits a critical spirit, consistently tearing down his children with the tone of his voice and the words of his mouth
  • Is passive and neglects his children outright
  • Fails to provide clear expectations about boundaries, limits and rules
  • Fails to develop a relationship with each of his children, either rejecting or withdrawing from the relationship

Fathers need to realize that they can provoke their children to anger or guide them to greatness.

It’s interesting that the same Scripture gives fathers two practical ways of developing children into the men and women God designed them to be: discipline and instruction.

When a father cares enough about his children to enter their world and develop a relationship with them and, when needed, discipline them, he expresses love to his children. When we had four teenagers at one time, Barbara leaned on me a lot when it came to discipline. And I want to tell you, it’s during these exhausting moments at the end of the day that the easiest thing to do is nothing.

The same is true for instruction. Dads, you need to turn off the television or the computer and crawl out of your easy chair to formally engage your children’s moral and spiritual education.

Step on up and be the man!

Five Ways To Stop Spoiling Your Child

SOURCE:  ANSWERS

Many television shows, movies, and other media bombard children with enticing toys, games, and gadgets, and portray a life of indulgence. Our children are growing up thinking that they deserve to have what they want. Parents can stop spoiling their children and perpetuating a sense of entitlement by following these five suggestions.

Tolerate Your Child’s Unhappiness

One reason parents give in to their child’s wishes, desires, or demands is because it is painful for parents to see that their child is unhappy. As a society it seems that we’ve decided that part of being a “good” parent is keeping children happy all of the time (or at least appearing happy in public). To stop spoiling your child, you need to be willing to let them feel disappointed, upset, mad, or any other emotion.

Help Your Child Manage Disappointment

Helping your child manage their own uncomfortable feelings requires you to slow down from our frenetic pace and walk our child through their painful emotions. It’s easier and quicker to indulge them in whatever they want at the moment, but in the long-run, indulgence reinforces tantrums, emotional outbursts, and other spoiled behavior.

Look At Your Own Behavior

Are you spoiled? Do you impulsively buy yourself things in order to comfort yourself? Do you pout when you don’t get exactly what you want for your birthday from your partner? Too many parents are modeling spoiled behavior by compulsively buying “stuff”. Check yourself to make sure that you aren’t acting like a “big baby.”

Teach Your Child To Work

Teaching children to work can turn their sense of entitlement into a sense of contribution to the larger group. I have said to my own children, “This is our “family farm.” We don’t live on a farm though, so instead of getting up at 4:00A.M .to milk the cows, you have to take out the trash and mow the lawn. We need you to contribute.” Too often kids believe that housework or yard work are the parent’s jobs. Let them know that your family needs and appreciates their efforts to keeping the household running.

Worry Less About Your Child Fitting In

Some parents are overly worried about their child’s popularity and how their child’s appearance and performance measures up to peers. Wanting your child to be the top of the class, have designer clothes, have the latest gadgets, or be the best player on the team, can feed into your child’s sense that they deserve special privileges. Even the most dedicated mothers can use their child’s popularity to feed their own self-esteem.

You can decide to change your parenting style today and stop spoiling your child. By looking at your own behavioral and emotional patterns and making positive changes you can model responsible behavior. Additionally, by teaching your child healthy emotional management, the value of working and contributing to family life, and worrying less about your child being better than his or her peers, you can dramatically curb entitled and spoiled attitudes and behaviors.

Blended Family: Protecting Your Marriage: The Art of the Repair Attempt – Part 2

SOURCE:  Cheryl A. Rowen

We saw in Part 1 of this series how easily our re-marriage can become plagued with the Four Horsemen: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling or withdrawing. We learned that criticism has no place in a marriage filled with honor and love (1 Corinthians 13:3-4, Proverbs 15:33). We found, however, that if we restate our criticisms into complaints, recognize when we are becoming defensive and try to understand what our mate is saying to us before defending our own position, and if we can call a time out if we start to feel ‘flooded’, then we are on the right track to protecting our marriage from these deadly predictors of divorce.

Another step we can take to protect our marriage against divorce is to learn the “art” of the repair attempt. Repair attempts, or statements and actions that prevent negativity from getting out of control, are the secret to keeping the Four Horsemen at bay. John Gottman, researcher and expert in the field of marriage found that he could predict divorce with a 94% accuracy rate if the Four Horsemen and failed repair attempts were present in the marriage1! We must find a way to eliminate this type of communication from our marriage.

Many of us living within a stepfamily know how easily our conversations can turn from ‘discussions’ to ‘debates’ to ‘demands’ in a matter of minutes. Repair attempts are those words or actions we can take to deescalate or control the negativity of a situation. Some examples of repair attempts are:

  • “I’m sorry.”
  • “Let’s take a break.”
  • “Wait, I need to calm down a little before we continue.”
  • “Please listen to me.
  • “Would you please stop interrupting me?”
  • “We’re off the topic.”
  • “Please let me finish.”
  • “That hurt my feelings.”
  • “Go on.”
  • “I love you.”
  • “I understand how you feel.”
  • “O.K. Maybe you’re right. Can we compromise?”
  • Humor
  • Love gifts

You can see from the list above that repair attempts don’t always have to be verbal. They may take on the form of a loving or even silly act. That foolish grin, the flowers sent to her office, or arranging for some quite time to talk about the issues calmly may be just what the doctor ordered.

When is it a good time to use repair attempts? Any time you feel that your conversation is taking on a negative tone, or you feel the situation is escalating out of control. Chances are, if this starts to happen, the Four Horsemen (or at least some of them) or close at hand. Beware!

We must note, however, that it is not enough for a couple simply to learn how to use repair attempts effectively. Couples must learn to recognize when repair attempts are sent their way! Remember, your goal is to communicate your feelings and needs, and to hear and understand those of your partner.

The wisdom of Proverbs 10:19 warns us, “Don’t talk too much, for it fosters sin. Be sensible and turn off the flow!” We must learn when to turn off the flow! When our discussions are becoming negative or disrespectful, we need to use repair attempts.

Let’s look at an example where repair attempts would have stopped the escalation of negativity:

Bob: I feel like you’re on my case all the time about how I parent.

Carol: You never keep the same rules. You say one thing, and then if you’re upset you change the rules and I never know how to enforce them when you’re gone. I don’t know if they’ve changed from one day to the next.

Bob: It’s amazing that I raised her all by myself for all these years before you came along. Most people think I’ve done an excellent job with her. All I hear from you is criticism.

Carol: And that’s all you’re going to hear from me until you follow through on what you say.

Bob: I probably should just let you run the household!

Carol: Maybe you should!

Whew! Bob and Carol could benefit from using repair attempts. Let’s take a look at what happened here:

  • Bob did a good thing at the beginning by using “I” statements, and telling Carol how he felt;
  • Carol has a legitimate complaint about the inconsistency of Bob’s parenting, but uses the First Horseman, Criticism, to voice that complaint. Notice the “you” statements instead of “I”, and the absolute language “You never keep the same rules.”;
  • Bob and Carol then become defensive (the Third Horseman);
  • Finally, based on how the conversation ended, I’m sure one of them will withdraw or stonewall (the Fourth Horseman).

Let’s take these same issues now, and apply repair attempts. Notice how the use of repair attempts stops the Four Horsemen, and the negativity from getting out of hand. Repair attempts are in bold:

Bob: I feel like you’re on my case all the time about how I parent.

Carol: Really? I’m sorryI don’t mean to get on your case. I guess I’m just frustrated with the inconsistency of the rules of our household.

Bob: What do you mean?

Carol: Its very hard for me to enforce the rules you set because I feel that when you get upset, you change the rules or the consequences. I’m not sure what rules are in place from day to day, and I don’t think that shows consistency to the kids, which we’ve both agreed was important to us.

Bob: I didn’t realize I did thatThanks for pointing that out to me. I’m sure that can get frustrating. What can we do to change that?

From here, Bob and Carol can start to calmly discuss parenting strategies for their stepfamily.

Can’t you just feel the tension and the anger melt away when repair attempts are used? Also, Bob and Carol did a great job recognizing when the other was using a repair attempt. Bob, instead of taking personally Carol’s comment about inconsistency of the rules, recognized her apology or repair attempt, and asked for clarification (“What do you mean”). This kept the conversation moving forward.

God very explicitly tells us that repair attempts work: “Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing” (Proverbs 12:18). He also guides us by telling us “If you keep your mouth shut, you will stay out of trouble” (Proverbs 21:23).

Recognizing and avoiding the Four Horsemen, and learning the “art” of the repair attempt will restore honor to your marriage, and bring healing to that which the tongue has hurt!

————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

References:

1 Dr. John Gottman, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999), p. 40.

Cheryl A. Rowen is Director and Founder of America’s Family Resources, a national organization focusing on the preservation of today’s family. She is author and facilitator of the seminar and small group study “When 1+1=3: Discovering God’s Plan for You and Your Stepfamily”. She and her husband Thom live in Johnston, Iowa and have two children.

Blended Family: Protecting Your Marriage: Avoiding the Six Predictors of Divorce – Part 1

SOURCE:  Cheryl A. Rowen

So what does make a marriage last a lifetime?

I once heard this question asked to a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. The husband simply replied, “Going out to dinner twice a week”. “That’s it?” asked the interviewer. “Yes,” answered the husband, “I go on Tuesdays and my wife goes on Thursdays”.

Surely there must be a better way!

With an alarming 60% of second marriages ending in divorce, stepfamilies today need a way to fight back! Many of us who remarry find ourselves focusing on issues that are urgent to the daily ‘operation’ of the stepfamily:

  • Establishing the carpool schedule;
  • Defining roles of the stepparent in discipline;
  • Establishing a relationship with the stepchildren;
  • Dealing with a former spouse and potentially different parenting styles.

Although the health of our marriage may not be “urgent” (especially if newly married), it certainly is a necessary component to a successful stepfamily, and one that is often ignored.

Hebrews 13:4 instructs us to “Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage”. One way to honor or respect our marriage is to spend time nurturing and preserving our relationship with one another. No matter where you are in your “re-marital” journey, you can take steps now to protect your marriage, by avoiding those things research has shown will destroy it.

Predictors of divorce

After studying marriages for 20 years, John Gottman has found six predictors of divorce1:

  1. Harsh startups. You find yourself beginning a discussion with your spouse using criticism, sarcasm, or harsh words.
  2. The Four Horsemen. Criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling (withdrawal) invade your communication.
  3. Your spouse’s negativity is so overwhelming that it leaves you shell-shocked. You disengage emotionally from the relationship.
  4. Body Language. Your heart rate increases, your blood pressure mounts, and your ability to process information is reduced. This makes it harder to pay attention to what your partner is saying.
  5. Failed Repair Attempts. Efforts made by either partner to deescalate the tensions during a touchy discussion fail to work.
  6. Bad Memories. Couples who are “stuck” in a negative view of their spouse and marriage often rewrite their past – for the worse.

Two of these predictors have great impact on the ability to predict marital breakups: the presence of the Four Horsemen and Failed Repair Attempts.

The Four Horsemen

“You are never supportive of me in front of your daughter. Why are you so weak when it comes to her?”

“Can’t you ever be consistent with your consequences? I always have to do your dirty work!”

Statements like those above appear on the outside to be simply a way to ‘vent’ or verbalize frustrations with our spouse. However, a closer look reveals the First Horseman: Criticism.

Many of us do not make the distinction between a criticism and a complaint. It is common and natural for many spouses to have complaints about the marriage or household. A complaint offers a specific statement of anger, displeasure, or frustration. We begin to see from the above statements, however, that criticism brings with it a personal attack or global accusation (e.g., you NEVER support me, etc.) which usually entails blaming.

It is easy to see how criticism in a marriage can lead to the Second Horseman: Contempt. Contempt usually involves the intention to insult your partner, and is an open sign of disrespect.

Clearly, when criticism and contempt are present in your marriage, respect and honor are very likely absent!

Welcomed Complaints

How can we turn criticisms into complaints? The following offers an alternative to the statements above:

Criticism: “You are never supportive of me in front of your daughter! Why are you so weak when it comes to her?”

Welcomed Complaint: “When you disagreed with me in front of my stepdaughter last night, I felt defeated and devalued.”

Criticism: “Can’t you ever be consistent with your consequences? I always have to do your dirty work!”

Welcomed Complaint: “I don’t feel we have the same rules for all our children. That’s frustrating!”

It is easy to see that rephrasing our criticism and contempt into welcomed complaints allows us to communicate our frustrations in a way that continues to honor our marital relationship.

Proverbs 12:18 teaches us that “Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing”. We can bring healing to our marriage by guarding our tongue and our tone!

When stating a welcomed complaint, make sure you:

  • State your specific feeling (e.g., I get frustrated, or angry when you….etc.) or needs (e.g., I need you to be more decisive…etc.) behind your complaint;
  • Stay away from using global words (i.e., never, always, etc.);
  • Use “I” more than “You”.

It is natural to see why the Third Horseman, Defensiveness, enters a relationship, once criticism and contempt are present. Who wouldn’t defend themselves against such attacks of character?

But what does defensiveness look like? Defensiveness can take on many forms:

Category2 & Example:

  1. Denying Responsibility: “It wasn’t my fault, it was yours.”
  2. Making excuses: “If you would have told me sooner that I needed to take him, I could have gotten him to school on time.”
  3. Cross-complaining: Your Spouse says, “You never stand up to her!” Your cross-complaint: “You’re always on her case!”
  4. Rubber man / rubber woman: Your Spouse: “You’re not consistent with their discipline!” You: “Well, neither are you!”

What can we do if we find ourselves becoming defensive? Try these suggestions:

  • Stop seeing your spouse’s words as an attack. See them as information that is being strongly expressed;
  • Try to understand and empathize with your partner. Steven Covey, in his Seven Habits for Highly Effective People states, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.
  • Be open and receptive during conflict.
  • Remember to breathe!
  • Keep your mouth shut (Proverbs 21:23).

By now, we’ve seen that it’s ok to have complaints in our marriage. But to honor our spouse, and to avoid the predictors of divorce, we must stay clear of criticism, contempt, and defensiveness. The Fourth Horseman is Stonewalling or withdrawing from your spouse.

Although those who stonewall may claim they are trying to remain ‘neutral’, stonewalling makes a very strong statement to your spouse. It says, “I’ve checked out of this discussion. I don’t find it important to continue to talk about this with you anymore”. It certainly does not convey honor or respect for our partner.

Interestingly, most men are physiologically unaffected by their wives’ stonewalling. This is quite the opposite for women. Wives’ heart rates increase dramatically when their husbands stonewall. To add to this, about 85% of stonewallers are men3.

It’s important to note that either spouse in a marriage may stonewall. The key is to avoid letting it becomehabitual. If you or your spouse find yourself wanting to withdraw or stonewall, try to:

  • Stay calm – learn to recognize when you are feeling overwhelmed and make a deliberate attempt to calm yourself;
  • Call a time out – make sure, though, to return to the discussion when you’ve cooled off!

We can see that the Four Horsemen can be deadly to a relationship. God warns us again and again that although the tongue is small, it can produce enormous damage (James 3:5, 3:8, Psalm 34:13, 57:4, 64:3, 140:3). We also learn that before we can have honor in our marriage, humility must precede it (Proverbs 15:33).

In Part 2 of this two-part series, we’ll take a look at Failed Repair Attempts. By learning the ‘art’ of a successful repair attempt, coupled with unbridling the Four Horsemen, you will be on your way to taking a proactive approach to protecting your marriage!

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References:

1 Dr. John Gottman, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999), pp. 26-44. Reprinted with permission.

2 Dr. John Gottman, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail…And How You Can Make Yours Last (New York: FIRESIDE, 1994), pp. 89-90.

3 Dr. John Gottman, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail…And How You Can Make Yours Last (New York: FIRESIDE, 1994), p. 95.

Cheryl A. Rowen is Director and Founder of America’s Family Resources, a national organization focusing on the preservation of today’s family. She is author and facilitator of the seminar and small group study “When 1+1=3: Discovering God’s Plan for You and Your Stepfamily”. She and her husband Thom live in Johnston, Iowa and have two children.

 

5 Reasons Moms Lose Patience, and 5 Ways to Build It

SOURCE:  Family Life/Susan B. Merrill

A list of ideas for developing an ever-elusive character trait.

There are lots of reasons why we moms can lose our patience.

If we try to become aware of why we lose it, we may be able to take preventative action, overcome impatience, and exercise more patience. So here are the top five reasons why most of us lose our patience, and five ways to build our patience.

Five reasons why we lose our patience

1. Fatigue. We quickly come to the end of our ropes when we have too much to do and too little energy with which to do it. Add to this the fact that kids seem to have a limitless amount of energy, and you’re already tired when you wake up in the morning.

2. Displaced anger. Often we are irritated at someone else or about something that has little or nothing to do with the crisis of the moment. Unfortunately, our kids are the easiest, most accessible targets of this displaced anger, and it shows up in impatience with them.

3. Unrealistic expectations. We have an agenda that does not take into account the unpredictability of life in general and parenting in particular. Then when we get behind, the pressure pushes us to impatience with everyone around us, including our children.

4. Failure to plan. Many times our frustration and anger are of our own making because we fail to put in the extra effort it takes to prepare us, and our children, for the unique demands of the day. Remember: When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

5. Distorted perspective. We assume it is us against them and that they are out to get us. We see those little charges as the enemy who has us under siege, almost as if they are purposely trying to annoy us, when instead they are really, most often, just children being children in all their imperfections.

To be passionate moms we each must really exercise and strengthen that patience muscle. It is a brick to build, and build it we must. So here are five simple ways to build patience and counteract those reasons why we lose our patience.

Five ways to build our patience

1. Reenergize. Do your best to rest up when the chance presents itself. Even if your kids don’t take naps, institute a quiet time in the afternoon.

2. Deal with your anger. Ask yourself, “What am I really angry about?” If you can’t take care of it immediately, write down your course of action, and then set it aside until you can deal with it. Pray for a gentle spirit toward your kids, and ask forgiveness if needed.

3. Have realistic expectations. Once you have a reality check on your perfectly executed day, calculate how much time, energy, and money it will take to pull it off, and then triple it. Barring a flooded basement or an outbreak of chicken pox, you may come close to meeting your expectations at the end of the day.

4. Plan, plan, plan. As you anticipate what you need to prepare for the demands of the day, play “worst case scenario” and plan accordingly. Lists are incredibly helpful, and sticky notes rule! There is only one thing more time consuming than preparing for your day, and that is trying to repair a day gone astray!

5. Keep a wide-angle perspective. Remember: It is our job to love and train our children. Don’t take their goofiness and misbehavior personally. They will one day put aside childish behavior and become adults you can relate to.

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Adapted from The Passionate Mom ©2013 by Susan B. Merrill. Published by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved.   

Communicating with Your Baby

SOURCE:  Living Free/N. Elizabeth Holland, M.D.

“You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.”

(2 Timothy 3:15 NLT)

So you have a new baby.

You will quickly realize your infant is completely dependent on you to meet his or her needs. Feeding needs, diaper needs, comfort needs, needs for love, security, and cuddling. These needs can appear overwhelming until you recognize once again and confess that this child is in God’s hands. He will put no responsibility on you that He does not enable you to meet.

The keys to parenting at this age are vigilance and consistency.

Your new baby’s chief way of communicating with you is through crying.

Crying means simply that your little one needs to have a specific need met. The need may be for feeding, a diaper change, relief from pain, or simply love and security. Within the first three months you will most likely learn to distinguish your baby’s different cries. Be attentive to the needs! As babies learn that their needs will be met, most of them become less and less demanding. It is not good to let a baby cry for prolonged periods. We do not spoil infants if we pick them up, love them, and meet their needs when they cry.

Your best means of communicating with your baby is by voice and touch.

Babies need to feel their parents’ touch, arms, and security. Talk and sing to your little one. Your baby needs to learn and become comfortable with the sound of your voice. Avoid loud tones and arguing in your child’s presence.

In [the above] scripture, the apostle Paul pointed out to Timothy that being taught the holy Scriptures from childhood had given him the wisdom to receive salvation through Christ Jesus. You cannot start too soon reading Scripture to your infant. Consistently combine that with regular prayer for him or her to receive Jesus at an early age and walk with Him throughout life.

Father, thank you for this great blessing you have brought into my life. My baby. Help me to be a godly parent. Teach me to meet his (her) needs wisely and to constantly communicate my love–and yours–to him (her). In Jesus’ name . . . 

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These thoughts were drawn from …

  Godly Parenting: Parenting Skills at Each Stage of Growth by N. Elizabeth Holland, M.D.

Raising Empathetic Children

SOURCE:  Ken Sande

My daughter was sitting on the floor in my study crying softly. Megan had been sharing a sad story with me, and her emotions overflowed in tears.

Her two-year-old son, Andrew, was playing in his room nearby. When he heard his mother crying, he pulled some tissues from a Kleenex box, walked into my study, and gently dabbed Megan’s cheeks, saying, “It’s OK, Mommy! I wipe your tears.”

As you can imagine, his kind action triggered a new flood, but these were the happy tears of a mother who sees her child growing in grace.

Empathy Can Start at Two

Andrew’s behavior was touching but not unusual.

Most children begin to realize that they are individual persons at around two years of age. This is a key step in seeing other people as distinct persons who have similar experiences and emotions. This realization opens the door to the development of empathy-related behavior, such as giving physical or verbal comfort (as Andrew did with his mother), sharing with others, and distracting people in distress.

If this type of behavior is affirmed and reinforced, a child is likely to grow in empathy and experience fulfilling relationships later in life (see the list of Beneficial Life Outcomes at the end of this post). Here’s an example of how such behavior can enrich and deepen our children’s lives (if video screen does not appear below, click here).

It’s a Bumpy Road

This kind of empathy does not appear automatically. Nor does it develop in a smooth, steady progression. Indwelling sin is a constant impediment (as illustrated throughout the Book of Proverbs), which requires a daily Outpouring of the Gospel.

In addition, our brains are not fully wired until our mid-twenties. As a result, a child’s ability to show empathy develops in phases. For example, affective empathy (the ability to feel what others are feeling) usually develops in a child’s early years, while cognitive empathy (the ability to imagine what others are experiencing) develops later. In fact, most girls don’t see a steady rise in cognitive empathy until age 13. In boys, steady growth is often delayed until around age 15.

Unfortunately, many boys experience a corresponding decline in affective empathy between ages 13 and 16. This may result in part because of a spurt of testosterone during puberty, which can spark a desire for dominance and power. Stuffing emotions is also aggravated by pressure to “act like a man,” which if often portrayed as being tough, detached, and unshakeable. Teen boys may also suppress empathy so they can join in joking and teasing with peers—the social glue for boys—even if it means hurting others’ feelings.

Practical Ways to Promote Empathy

Although some of these growing pains are unavoidable, there is a great deal that parents and other influential adults can do to encourage steady growth in empathy, which is a key component of other-awareness and relational wisdom. Here are few practical tips on how to help children develop this quality.

At All Ages

  • Recognize your unique role as a parent. Biblical teaching, countless behavioral studies, and personal experience all confirm that parents are uniquely positioned to teach empathy to their children. One of the best ways to do so is to develop warm, open, and safe relationships, and to model healthy emotions and empathetic interactions with those around them.
  • Be patient and forgiving as your child stumbles and grows in relational skills. None of us is able to throw off sin and develop a godly character instantaneously. Since it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4), it is crucial that we offer the same grace to our children (Col. 3:12-15). Here are two short film clips that illustrate how redemptive parental patience can be: Cinderella Man and Spanglish.
  • Weave the gospel into daily life. God’s gracious sacrifice of his Son for our salvation was the most compassionate event in history. Refer to the gospel regularly in practical ways, not only as the source of our salvation but also as the ultimate model of empathy and the key to our ability to grow in Christ-like character (Titus 2:11-14).
  • Pray without ceasing, asking God to give your children loving, sensitive, empathetic hearts, and to give you grace to model these qualities in your life.
  • Establish a secure and trusting relationship with your child, showing the same unchangeable commitment to and love for him that God shows to you (Heb. 13:5).
  • Be open with your own emotions (John 11:35). Use the READ acrostic to show your children that it’s OK to express emotions in reasonable ways, and that there are constructive ways to control and channel them.
  • Model empathy (1 Cor. 11:1). Apply the EMPATHY acrostic on a daily basis to demonstrate empathy for your children and for other people.

With Young Children

  • Affirm empathetic behavior in your children. When my grandson wiped away his mother’s tears, I said, “Andrew, what a good thing to do! You heard your mommy crying and felt sorry for her. You wanted to comfort her the way she has comforted you. Wiping her tears and saying kind words to her has made her heart glad again.” Such praise sends the message, “This is good behavior; keep doing it more and more!”
  • Use Bible stories to illustrate empathy and show that this quality is pleasing to God (e.g., Ruth 1:7-191Sam. 20:41).
  • Empathize with your child. (“Are you feeling scared of the bee? I think he’s just looking for some food to take back to his home, but he is pretty close and he can sting us. That’s scary, so I’ll stay close until he flies away.”)
  • Talk with your child about others’ feelings. (“Kristen looks sad because no one is playing with her. She probably feels lonely. If you asked her to play with us that would make her happy … and me too.”)
  • Read stories about feelings. If emotions are not specifically described, ask your child to guess what different characters are feeling at various points in the story.
  • Use pretending to introduce older toddlers to emotion and empathy. For example, hold two of your child’s stuffed toys in your hands and have one of them do something that hurts the others’ feelings. Ask your child how the hurt animal feels, and what the other animal could do to take away the hurt.
  • Use role plays to enable your children to practice and learn empathy. Our Young Peacemaker Curriculum contains illustrated stories and role plays that are well-suited for such use.
  • Talk openly about your child’s unpleasant emotions, such as sadness, disappointment, fear, or anger. Don’t simply condemn the emotion or try to fix the situation. Instead use it as an opportunity help your child learn how to label her emotions, to understand why they’ve arisen, and to choose a constructive response. (“Are you afraid to go in the swimming pool. That’s OK. I understand, I felt the same way the first time my dad took me swimming. Would you like to just sit on the side of the pool, or do you want me to hold you and walk around in the pool for a little while?”)

With Older Children

  • Describe how other people have shown empathy to you, and explain why you appreciated it.
  • Use books and movies to help children to develop both cognitive empathy and affective empathy (“Why do you think that character did that?” “What is that person probably thinking and feeling?” “If you were in her shoes, what would you be tempted to do?”) You’ll find a wide variety of short film clips in our RW Movie Blog section that show how to use movies this way.
  • Use news reports and current events in the same way. (“How do you think those people felt when their homes were destroyed by a tornado?” “How do think our soccer players felt when they lost that game? If you were their coach, what would you say to them?”)
  • Study and discuss famous empathetic people, such as Abraham Lincoln, Florence Nightingale, Albert Schweitzer, Hudson Taylor, Corrie ten Boom, Oskar Schindler, Nelson Mandela, and Mother Theresa.
  • Expose children to situations that stimulate healthy emotions and compassionate actions, such as volunteering in the church nursery, mentoring a younger child, visiting a nursing home, working at a local rescue mission, or joining a mission project that serves suffering people.

Beneficial Life Outcomes

Developing empathy is a life-long, time-consuming endeavor, but it is worth the effort. Here are just a few of the long-term benefits of raising empathetic children.

  • Their lives are more likely to reflect the character of Christ and be pleasing to God (Eph. 5:1-2).
  • Protecting, comforting, and helping others will come more naturally to them (1Thess. 5:14-15). Just think how much you’ll appreciate these qualities when your children become your caretakers someday!
  • They will have greater social competence, which contributes to deeper friendships and more intimate and stable marriages.
  • Behavioral studies show a direct correlation between empathy and knowing right from wrong, as well as creative thinking and problem solving.
  • They will be more skilled at team-building, collaborating, negotiating, and conflict resolution, all of which contribute to vocational success and advancement.
  • Empathetic people are more likely to be humble, open-minded, and able to connect with and learn from a variety of people, all of which contribute to being a life-long learner.

None of these skills or benefits develops overnight, but with patient and consistent teaching and modeling, both you and your children can experience steady growth in this vital relational quality.

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Pet. 3:8).

What Is the Father Wound?

SOURCE:  Jeff Eckert

Jack is a 42-year-old who entered my office for counseling after his wife discovered his long history of Internet pornography, and trips to local massage parlors. As I began to explore his history in an attempt to understand the deeper issues involved, I was struck by one of Jack’s statements: ‘My father always provided for us and was home every night after work. But even though he was there, he was never really present.’

Thus begins an exploration of the question: What is the father wound?

Andrew Comiskey, in his book on sexual and relational healing entitled “Strength in Weakness” writes, ‘Though the Father intended for us to be roused and sharpened by our fathers, we find more often than not that our fathers were silent and distant, more shadow than substance in our lives.’ This kind of a ‘shadow’ presence is not what our heavenly Father intended for our relationships with our earthly fathers. Unfortunately, few fathers follow the injunction of Proverbs 27:17: ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.’

Like Jack, then, many men grew up with fathers who returned home after work, but were never really active as sharpening agents in the lives of their sons. These fathers provided for their sons’ material needs, but they were strangely absent when the time came to satisfy the needs of the heart, such as intimacy and connection. Fathers like this may have been available to coach their sons’ baseball teams or supervise yard work. However, they were less likely to model intimacy in relationships, or to be an active presence when their sons were dealing with the pain of rejection by peers.

In his soul, every man craves deep, intimate connections with other men, but men are often left without the tools for creating these loving, nurturing relationships. A big reason for this has to do with the primary role fathers typically play in families. Rather than nurturing their sons or developing intimacy with them, fathers often spend the majority of their time enforcing the rules. Patrick Morley, in his classic book “Man in the Mirror” states, ‘Mothers love and stroke their children. Angry fathers handle the discipline.’ While this statement may seem unfair to fathers, it is a fair assessment of the father’s role in many families. Not only do fathers interact with their boys in a primarily disciplinary role, but boys are taught to absorb that discipline with a stiff upper lip. Boys learn the lesson very early on that they are not to display any sense of vulnerability. When life gets tough, negative feelings are to be stuffed and internalized.

This stoic, unemotional approach to life is often accompanied by a seemingly unreachable set of expectations from fathers. Countless men enter my counseling office with stories of fathers they could not please: ‘All my life I have felt as if I just couldn’t cut it in my father’s eyes. It always seemed like the bar was raised just above my reach.’ Some of the deepest wounds lie in these feelings of inadequacy, which can then poison other relationships and make true intimacy difficult. Men that grew up with fathers they were unable to please often carry around a suffocating belief system: ‘I can never cut it. And if I’m not cutting it, then why would others want to be around me?’

Another reason men may feel inadequate is because their fathers did not support or affirm them as they moved into manhood. Jack Balswick, in his book “Men at the Crossroads” writes, ‘Tragically, many young men are growing up without a father who will affirm their leap into manhood’Often the voices they do hear are distortions of true manhood.’ Because so many boys do not have a father affirming their ‘leap into manhood,’ that transition is often filled with feelings of fear, anger and frustration, instead of confidence and security. Lonely and discouraged, boys become isolated and alienated men. In this isolated state, men continue to desire closeness and connection, but they often have no concept of how to achieve it.

It is because of this quandary that many men seek out sexual fantasy in an attempt to find some sense of intimacy. Many men feel a void in their lives, often created by the wounds of the past, and some men attempt to fill that void with illicit sexuality. Men’s desire for intimacy and connection is real, powerful, and appropriate. But when men try to satisfy that desire in the form of sexual fantasies and acts, they find merely approximations or shadows of true relationship and connection.

However, a healing balm for men’s wounds, including their father wound, can be found.

By obtaining a biblical understanding of what a father truly is, and through a relationship with Jesus Christ, men can begin to experience healing. More healing can occur through accountability and community with other Christian brothers. As Jack began developing relationships with others who were truly present, and experiencing relationship with a heavenly Father who is always present, his need to escape into the world of sexual fantasy was diminished. Sharing our wounds with fellow sojourners in the journey can provide immeasurable healing. It is in coming out of our own woundedness and brokenness that we can most clearly see the essential nature of relationship with Christ and others.

What kids need to hear from their dad

SOURCE:  Taken from a message by Andy Savage (part 1 and part 2)

I am a firm believer that a father is the primary influence in a child’s life, for better or worse, for a child’s entire life. I believe the job of being a father is the most important job in the world because every earthly father points to our Heavenly Father. Some do this better than others and the result is children grow up with a positive or negative view of God.

As fathers think about their role, it is vital to remember that the lion share of your influence comes through what you say and/or don’t say. The following list includes some key messages you need to say to your sons [followed by a] list of key messages you need to say to your daughters.

To your sons…

Call them up into manhood. Every boy needs to be pointed to a clearly defined target of manhood. They need to be constantly reminded to grow into the man God wants them to be. As a father you must be aware that children, especially boys will naturally prefer immaturity. You must keep the call into manhood consistent as they grow up.

Call them into moral integrity. Help your son understand what it means to be a man of high moral integrity. Expect him to tell the truth, even when it hurts. Expect him to live with conviction in the areas of sexual purity and the use of his speech.

Call them into a life above reproach. As we all know right and wrong is not simply about what we do or don’t do, it is often in the perception of what we do or don’t do that causes harm. We must teach our sons to live above reproach and carefully guard their “name.”

Bless him with limits. Limits are statements of value. We always place limits on those things we consider important. If we fail to give our sons limits we communicate that we do not consider them important. Limits are vital for kids because they are frankly not smart enough or wise enough to make good decisions. The limits you place on them is a gift that teaches them what wisdom feels like.

Give them an example to follow. You cannot underestimate the impact of your example. You set the tone of what is right and good. You must consider the weight of your words and actions. This applies when they are around and when you are apart from your children. Your example is both what they see in you and what they hear from others about you. Be the man you want your sons to become.

Show them how to treat a woman by honoring their mother. Always show honor to your son’s mother. Even if you are not married to her and even if there is a history of conflict and discord. Honor does not mean you condone bad behavior but it does mean you display grace and love in the way you speak of and treat her. Honor often speaks more about the giver than it does the receiver. The way your son sees you treat his mother will become the standard by which he will learn to treat women.

A quick word to Moms…when possible and appropriate, point your sons to their father and say “be like your father!” It is not always possible or appropriate but when your son’s father is providing a worthy example give it notice and point your son in that direction.

 

To your daughters…

Speak of their total beauty.  As her father, make it your mission to be a louder and more complete voice regarding her beauty. Our society is relentless in measuring a woman’s beauty on external traits alone. You must speak to her complete beauty. Make sure she understands that beauty is ALWAYS measured in the total package, inside and out, and prayerfully she will not ever believe the lies of the world.

Call your daughter into purity. Your role as a father is to help your daughter see her value both emotionally and physically. Guard her purity by helping her see the importance of sexual purity and giving her insider information on how boys think. Call her to embrace purity as the perfect plan for finding love, acceptance and intimacy. Do not ever stop this message until a worthy man comes to take her hand.

Expect her to be modest. Do not allow her to be played by a culture that objectifies women. Do not go passive here dads! Just because you feel out of the loop on fashion trends and what “all the other kids are doing,” that does not nullify your voice in this matter. You do know the mind of men and you must protect your daughter from unintentionally presenting herself in a way that invites the worst in young men. Modesty is a vital discipline that promotes her best interest.

Bless her with limits. Limits are statements of value. We always place limits on those things we consider important. If we fail to give our daughters limits we communicate that we do not consider them important. Limits are vital for kids because they are frankly not smart enough or wise enough to make good decisions. The limits you place on them is a gift that teaches them what wisdom feels like.

Show her by example the kind of man she should be looking for to marry – make the standard high. Dads, you are the model of manhood for your daughter as she sets her sights on romance. You will be the one who helps her see the difference in the talk and the walk. You have the opportunity to give her the kind of love that becomes the standard she uses to evaluate all other loves against. When you love her with the love of Christ, she will begin to look for a man who resembles the same quality.

When possible and appropriate, point her to her mother as the model of womanhood. I know not every mother is a worthy model to follow. If you daughter’s mother displays godly character, then point her toward her mother and tell her, “be like her.” This accomplishes both a wonderful role model for your daughter and models what a godly man says about the mother of his child.

In short, Dads, be the man you want your sons to become and your daughters to marry. This is probably the best advice I can give. Fatherhood is not for the weak or faint of heart. But, you can do it! No more excuses, no more fear. Go Dad!

 

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