Teaching kids life skills

By Christine Field

The irresponsible teenage boy has become a caricature of modern adolescence: He can’t find his schoolbooks to do his homework. He regularly runs out of clean underwear. He has to borrow money from Dad to go to the mall. “Cooking” consists of operating a microwave oven. Teen girls often do not fare much better. These young people are at the age when they will soon launch into the real world, but have they been equipped to handle it?

During my early years of parenting, I had a mistaken notion that childhood was a time of endless fun, and that parents were kind of like cruise directors for their kids. Now I have two young adults and two teens, and I’ve come to realize that childhood is a training ground for the real world.

Imagine your child at her first job or in her first apartment. What skills do you want her to bring to these settings? Do you want her to understand how to interact with others? How to manage her time, money and belongings? Maybe you want her to figure out a few basic skills like doing her own laundry.

Interactions with others

Chances are excellent that your son or daughter will someday land a job, get married and encounter various conflicts and disagreements. Can your child handle that tension? He’ll be better equipped if he’s had to deal with and resolve conflict in his formative years.

Sibling interactions are great practice for the inevitable conflicts in marriage and employment. Quarrels are a part of family life. Learning to disagree while maintaining self-control and respect for the other party may take years, but it’s worth the effort.

During one season, my children were particularly brutal to one another. Without disclosing the reason, I had them trace their bodies on large sheets of paper, and I hung them up. Each time they hurt their sibling, they had to go to that child’s tracing and tear off a piece of the drawing. This had a great impact on teaching them not to tear one another down.

Time management

Consider tracking how your family spends time over a typical week to give you perspective on all the little time wasters that are not productive or beneficial. Too much television or shopping could signal neglect in relationships.

You may also introduce your toddler to time sequences: morning, noon, evening. Today, tomorrow, yesterday. Cut out or draw pictures to make a visual timeline of his daily routine.

As your child matures, he should have his own alarm clock. This shifts responsibility to your child, and the morning battle becomes between child and the clock and not between child and Mom and Dad.

Encourage your child to stay organized with schoolwork. Your child may be noting daily responsibilities in a planner, especially if her school encourages students to track homework assignments and long-term projects. Make sure she’s also turning in her assignments on time and that she stays on task while searching the Web for class projects.

From time to time, compare the pace at which your child operates with the pace required for her daily commitments. If your child is feeling rushed, find ways to alleviate stress through family time and adequate rest. Your child’s time-management skills will be a cardinal asset as he enters adulthood and the workforce.

Money management

When our kids were still young, we allowed them to make financial decisions. They were able to learn and make mistakes with small sums and small stakes. Our kids had to agree on how and when to spend the money. If there were conditions to that privilege, we spelled them out. For example, we set a weekly budget for treats. When the money was spent, it was gone for the week.

Set goals for long-term savings, such as paying for summer camp, and shorter-term savings goals for things they want in the near future, such as a new toy.

Provide a way for them to divide their earnings or allowance into different categories. For example, their tithe could be 10 percent, long-term savings could be 30 percent, short-term savings 30 percent and everyday spending 30 percent. Try using jars, paper envelopes or plastic zipper bags to separate each category. This has the advantage of kids being able to see the money as it accumulates.

Organising and decluttering

Having kids means having stuff — lots of stuff. Both parents and children need to be “stuff-savvy” to keep their possessions organized.

Keep clutter at bay by involving your children in paring down belongings and donating long-forgotten toys. Work together to sort and store items, disposing of any broken or damaged toys. Consider creating a “memory box” for each child to store treasured pieces of artwork. The box could also serve as the repository for cards, letters and other mementos.

Repair and maintenance

Once your children have proven they can take care of their belongings, they can help with the big things that require regular maintenance. Include your children in everyday household and vehicle upkeep, preparing them to be more self-reliant.

Each of our kids has enjoyed trips to the hardware store holding Dad’s strong hand. Because my husband and I quickly discovered that we possess few repair skills between the two of us, we’ve learned the following lessons about home ownership:

  • Have a sense of humor. Something always breaks. Cleaning three inches of water out of the basement might not be your choice for the day, but it can be an opportunity to teach teamwork
  • Be willing to learn. When your children see you try something new, like how to apply caulk, they learn that it’s possible to acquire new skills, even if those abilities aren’t in their area of strength.
  • Be willing to ask for help. If a home project is over your head, you can teach your children a valuable lesson by simply asking for help and then working together to accomplish the task.

Beyond home repairs, remember that basic tasks such as mowing the lawn or weeding the garden can be great learning experiences for your kids.

Homemaking basics

With all that goes into running a home, it’s important to be proficient in the basic, daily tasks. Whatever my children do with their lives, however God calls them, I want them to know how to take care of themselves and their homes.

I began many of these lessons in the kitchen. I’d let them cook and help prepare food. Even a young child can spread peanut butter with a butter knife or tear lettuce for a salad. There’s also much to learn from meal planning each week based on what foods are in season or on sale. The whole family can get involved in meal planning: Help your children list seven breakfasts, lunches and dinners on index cards, and work together to make a shopping list from this plan.

For older children, give them grocery flyers and a weekly budget, and have them plan the menu for the week. Math comes alive as kids make lists, check cupboards, clip coupons and keep a total on the calculator while shopping.

Let your child join you on a shopping trip for an introduction to the factors involved in making food purchases for your family such as quality, price per ounce, nutritional value, budgetary considerations, and so on. This may help your child make the connection as to why snacks from the checkout line may not be the best choice.

When doing the laundry, let your kids help you sort light and dark clothing. Even a young child can fold small towels. As your child grows, he can be responsible for loading the machines, but not before teaching him about soap and water levels, water temperatures and colors of clothes. As for stacking clothes neatly in drawers — he can do that, too.

Another important lesson is the necessity of a good attitude. When my first two kids were young, I gave them a bucket of warm, soapy water with sponges — and then put them in their bathing suits. They had a fabulous time washing the kitchen floor. I plunked them in the bathtub and mopped up the excess. I had happy kidsand a clean floor.

Of course, not all chores are fun or need to masquerade as something else in order for your kids to keep a good attitude. Their outlook on a situation, no matter how unappealing the task, should be positive, a needed skill to develop for the real world.

Healthy habits

Family life is where healthy habits are formed. Exercise as a family, and work together to practice good nutrition. And does your daily communication support a healthy view of the body? Your words condition children in their perception of themselves — positive or negative.

You may also need to remind your kids of the basics of health and hygiene. Do they clip their nails? Are they using soap in the shower? Are they changing their undergarments at regular intervals? These things require regular upkeep, now and always. Don’t let your kids get lazy with their hygiene.

As my children grow and go out to explore the world, I pray they will remember our home as a place where we celebrated, worked, fought and trained well.

Decision-Making Skills

Making good decisions involves discernment. Try these techniques to help your child make better decisions:

Look to the future.
Ask each of your children to make a list of all the big decisions they will make over the next 10 to 15 years of their life, such as college, career, car, apartment, city, marriage and children. Discuss together the factors that constitute each big decision.

Stick to the facts.
“I can’t possibly join AWANA this year,” your daughter sighs. “They make you memorize the whole Bible!”

“Do you know that for sure?” you ask.

Look for opportunities to teach your child about getting all the facts. Discourage conclusions based on incomplete information.

Brainstorm together.
Your child needs to choose a science project. He doesn’t know where his interests lie. On a piece of paper write the word science in a cloud, and as you discuss science topics, draw branches of ideas stemming from the cloud.

As you fill in the major subjects, encourage your child to think of subtopics within those areas. Maybe the study of animals strikes a chord with him, and he remembers a longtime love of guinea pigs. Voila! He now approaches the project with enthusiasm and a sense of ownership.

List pros and cons.
Let’s say your child has to choose between playing soccer and taking ballet lessons. List the pros and cons of each option to help her reach a decision.

Christine Field is the author of Life Skills for Kids: Equipping your child for the real world.
This article appeared in the March/April 2013 issue of Thriving Family magazine and was titled “From Making the Bed to Managing Money.”

What makes parenting difficult

By Tim Sanford
Part of the Defining Successful Parenting Series

Your job description is doable.

You can validate and you can nurture.

That’s not to say, of course, that people and events won’t conspire to make your job harder. Here are some factors that can make it tough to validate, nurture and keep your fingers off the “control” button.

1. The judgment of other parents.
It’s easy to talk about other parents, evaluating their parenting based on how their teenagers are choosing and behaving. Since moms are often more closely tied to raising children than dads are, they’re especially susceptible to this kind of talking, comparing, and evaluating.

Some parents even do this comparing in the “fellowship” halls of their own churches. Is that fellowship? Is it encouraging and uplifting?

I don’t think so.

The sad news is that it’s so common. Have you been on the receiving end? Did you respond by trying harder to control your teen’s behavior in order to silence the critics?

One lesson I’ve learned as a parent is to guard my mouth and not talk in an “evaluating” manner about another mom or dad. I’ve also learned to guard my heart when I hear others talking about me in that way.

Sure, it’s easier said than done. But nobody said parenting was easy — just doable.

2. Catching up.
When a child hasn’t been sufficiently validated or nurtured, he or she can be thrown into an unconscious emotional “survival mode.”

This can put a record like the following on his or her mental turntable: “The only person in this whole world I can trust to look out for me is me. So I will do whatever I think I have to do to get my needs met.”

If you think I’m talking only about a child adopted from an orphanage overseas, think again. Not getting enough validation or nurture can and does happen in our society, even among upper-middle-class, churchgoing, intact families.

These kids can be found on a continuum ranging from mild to extreme. Those on the mild end of the scale are often underdiagnosed and labeled as strong-willed, having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, perfectionistic, “control freaks,” lazy, underachievers, or just plain selfish.

While these may be partly accurate assessments, they don’t tell the whole story. Attempts to help the teen “get his act together” will be met with limited success, because only surface issues are being addressed and not the underlying attachment and bonding problems.

Young people on the extreme end of this scale get noticed more quickly. Their negative behaviors usually are diagnosed as — among other things — oppositional defiant disorder, rebellion, antisocial behavior, or conduct disorder. Even if these diagnoses are correct, they still don’t address the deeper issue of what’s needed when validation or nurture is lacking.

Whether symptoms are mild or wild, the damage can be deep and severe. Professional therapy with a counselor familiar with bonding and attachment issues is in order.

3. Single parenthood.
If you’re a single parent, you may be facing a real battle.

Is that an understatement, or what?

I’ve said that dads are supposed to validate and moms are to nurture. Where does that leave you?

Mentors and other healthy role models can be very helpful, though most single parents I talk with say it’s not easy to find such people for their teenagers. And finding them may not be enough. You and your teen may need to wear a path to a counselor’s office — being sure to find a professional who has a working understanding of bonding and attachment issues with teenagers.

Melinda had been a single parent to her son for more than nine years when I met the two of them. Andy was now 13. During our first session I asked why they were talking to a therapist like me, since there seemed to be no real issues at hand.

Melinda explained that she just wanted a “checkup” for Andy and herself, to make sure they were both ready for the changes the teenage years would bring.

As the sessions progressed, it became apparent to me that this single mom had gotten it right. Yes, Andy was an “easy child” as far as personality goes. But Melinda had been purposeful in her parenting, and had kept Andy around spiritually solid men in the church through various activities. She’d given Andy enough nurturing and had done her best to see that he’d gotten as much validation as possible. The situation wasn’t perfect, but for Andy it was enough.

There are many stories like Angie’s — and many like Andy’s, too.

If you’re a single mom, you can nurture and validate your teen. If you’re a single dad, you can nurture as well as validate.

How much validation and nurturing

By Tim Sanford
Part of the Defining Successful Parenting Series

Validation from Dad, plus nurturing from Mom, equals “mission accomplished” as parents. You’ll notice that the word control doesn’t appear anywhere in that equation.

But speaking of equations, how much validation and nurture does your teenager need?

I’ve known teens praised for their accomplishments, but hardly ever validated for just existing.

I’ve known teens kept neat and clean and “mothered,” but neglected and lacking those qualities needed to become fully alive as human beings.

Every person needs both validation and nurture to fully develop into a healthy adult. That’s why God’s ideal plan includes every child being raised by a mom and a dad. It doesn’t always happen that way, of course, and I’ll say more about that later in this article series.

What happens when a child is raised in a home marked by too little validation or nurture or both? In my 20 years as a professional therapist, I’ve seen as many people in my office — if not more — who lacked these ingredients as I’ve seen who were abused by a parent. Don’t get me wrong; abuse and neglect are very destructive. But the damage can be just as severe for those who didn’t get enough validation from their dads or nurture from their moms.

I remember the story of a missionary kid in Ecuador. Though I’ve long forgotten the details, one statement from this boy — close to my age at the time — still rings in my ears. He said, “My dad will spend three hours talking to a drunk on a street curb, but he won’t spend three minutes talking to me.”

This boy was part of a missionary family, doing God’s work in a foreign country. There was no abuse here — just lots and lots of “not enough.” The damage was just as deep as if it had been caused by active abuse.

The pain, woundedness, and emptiness in case after case like this may be covered with a practiced smile or an impeccable résumé. But they’re still there.

So how much is “enough”?

Do you have to be a perfect parent?

No, and no again!

Dad, your validation doesn’t have to be flawless. It just needs to be enoughfor that individual child.

Mom, your nurturing doesn’t have to be world-class, either. It needs to be enoughfor that particular child.

But how do you know what’s “enough”?

“Some” is not the same as “enough”

Consider another word picture. Let’s say you need 50 “units” of oxygen to stay alive. If you have 52, you have enough to live on — maybe not enough to run a marathon, but enough to survive.

If you have 96 units, you have enough — and some left over to climb Pikes Peak.

But if you only have 9 units, you don’t have enough. You will die.

So if you have 49 units, do you have “enough”?


“What are you bellyaching about?” someone might say. “You have

a whole lot more than the person who only got 9!”

Some adults might say, “I know my parents loved me, and they gave me what little they could in the way of validation and nurture. I got more than a lot of other people did growing up.”

But was it enough?

Some is not equal to enough.

“Enough” varies from child to child, personality to personality. What’s enough for one child may not be for the next. If a child doesn’t get enough validation and nurture, he or she may not physically die — but will be emotionally damaged and maybe even emotionally cease to exist.

What happens when your child doesn’t get enough

That was the case with Angie. Sixteen years old, she was brought into my office because she was angry, hurting herself, and depressed.

She came from an upper-middle-class “Christian family,” to use her parents’ words.

As I got to know Angie, she told me of the daily routine in her home. Dad was always busy with work, even when he was in the house, and rarely spoke a word to any family members. Mom was clinically depressed — nonfunctional in private, but upbeat and social when in the public eye.

There were no harsh words, no abuse, no molestation. Angie was just left to fend for herself — not because her chores were assigned, but because they wouldn’t get done otherwise. She did her own laundry, made her own meals, checked her own homework, paid for her own things, and answered her own questions about life.

Yes, she was angry; she was all alone. There was no validation, no nurturing — no “fussing.” Yes, she was harming herself; she was taking her anger out on the person she thought was at fault. She told me it was her fault for being born — a tragic jukebox record she’d been playing for years. And yes, she was depressed; you’d be depressed, too, if that were your life.

It was all because she hadn’t gotten, and wasn’t getting, enough validation and nurture — at least for her.

This story breaks my heart as I recount it. Angie chose illicit drugs rather than therapy to deal with her situation, and I never heard from her again.

Her story isn’t unique, either.

This is not a call to “blame the parents for all the teenager’s problems.”

It’s a statement of reality and truth.

That’s the vital nature of validation and nurture. Unfortunately, the necessity of both may be forgotten until after a child has been raised — often by moms and dads who spent their parenting years searching in vain for control.

The real job of Moms

By Tim Sanford
Part of the Defining Successful Parenting Series

What about a mom’s primary job? It’s not cooking dinner, changing diapers or helping a preschooler glue colored macaroni on a coffee can as a Father’s Day gift.

The most important assignment a mom has is to nurture her children.

But what does that mean, exactly? Most of us have a vague notion about what being nurtured feels like, but here are a few specifics.

A nurturing mom goes beyond being the “maintenance person” in a child’s life. She doesn’t just keep a child clean, fed, warm, and dry. She also helps enable her children to develop fully by pouring life into them. She models joy and passion. Nurturing is filling your child up with aliveness.

It’s not a joyless, self-sacrificing caricature of Betty Crocker. A nurturing mom takes time to play, read, and take pictures when the toddler’s spaghetti ends up on the head instead of in the mouth. She enters the child’s world to see things from his or her perspective, even if it means the carpets don’t get vacuumed for a while. She provides empathetic understanding from a position of strength and support. That’s true whether she’s dealing with a toddler or a teen — except for the part about spaghetti on the head.

Like dads, though, moms have a natural urge to protect their children. That can lead them to cross the line between nurturing and futile attempts at control. One mother of twins describes her ongoing battle with this issue:

I remember when my boys were babies. I took them out for their first ride in the double stroller. Along the way, I saw a mean-looking dog running loose ahead of us. Instantly I made plans to save the lives of my children by throwing myself over their little bodies, suffering whatever injuries the dog’s sharp teeth might inflict. When the harmless dog trotted away without any attempt to attack us, I laughed at how readily my “mommy radar” had me prepared to die for my kids, without thinking twice.

Two years later, I struggled because it wasn’t so easy to keep my little ones safe. As fast-moving toddlers, they were always three steps ahead of me at the lakeside park we visited often. Either I was chasing one down to keep him from following the geese into the lake, or I was wrestling my way up the jungle gym to spot my would-be mountain climber. But I didn’t want to refuse my boys the pleasures of the playground and their freedom to explore. How often I wished to put each boy on a 200-foot leash so each could be free — within limits.

Many years later, this struggle continues. I want my 16-year-olds to drive so they can enjoy the normal freedoms and growth of other teenagers. Yet I do what I can to instill the fear of death in them to keep them on a “leash” of careful driving habits and away from daredevil maneuvers behind the wheel. Finding balance means continually going back and forth between the healthy desire to give my kids freedom and my God-given urge to keep them safe.

You can’t control the results, but you can stir in the right ingredients. You can seek to know your children as individuals, different as they might be, and bring out the best in each. You can demonstrate by example how to explore life with zest and express the unique gifts God provides each of us. Your nurturing can blossom in emotional and spiritual growth.

Before you feel burdened with a mile-long list you can never follow through on, let me be quick to say that nurturing is not about “doing it all” or doing it perfectly. It’s about doing the best you can — without losing yourself or driving yourself crazy because your own needs aren’t taken care of. You won’t be able to nurture your children if you’re exhausted from burning the candle at both ends.

So please take care of yourself, too. You need aliveness in order to pass it on to your teenagers.

The real job of Dads

By Tim Sanford
Part of the Defining Successful Parenting Series

A dad’s primary, underlying job isn’t control. It’s to validate every one of his children.

To validate means to let your child know over and over and over, through words and actions, that the following are true:

“Hey, you exist and you matter to me.”
“You’re good enough.”
“You’re an okay kid.”

Psychotherapists sometimes talk about the looking-glass-self principle. It’s the idea that children get their earliest, most lasting impressions of who they are from what’s reflected back to them by their parents. These impressions become those “records” in the jukebox of your child’s brain.

Let’s say four-year-old Johnny walks into the room where his dad is reading the newspaper, and Dad doesn’t confirm Johnny’s presence. Dad doesn’t say, “Good to see you, son!” He doesn’t even say, “Don’t bother me. Can’t you see I’m trying to read?” Johnny may begin to doubt his own existence.

It’s like the old, philosophical question: If a tree falls in the forest and there’s nobody around to hear it, did it make a noise?

In Johnny’s case, the answer is no. His existence hasn’t been validated by any response. He interprets that to mean, I’m not an okay person. This may be a totally wrong interpretation; his dad may not believe this for a second about his son, but this is how Johnny — and most children — will interpret this scenario. That’s the way children’s brains operate.

That’s often why children do bad things, as in these cases:

  • Sixteen-year-old Jenny barely saw her dad, thanks to his 12-hour days and golfing habit. He did give her a new computer, though, and thought that would be enough to show her he loved her. She used it to post suggestive photos of herself on MySpace. When her mom found out and tipped off Dad, he went ballistic and banned Jenny from using the computer for the rest of the year.
  • Fifteen-year-old Ace saw his math grade going down the tubes, so he figured out a way to cheat on the final. He was desperate for a good grade because his dad only seemed proud of him when he did well in school. His cheating technique wasn’t very practiced, though; he was caught and flunked the test and the course. As a result, Dad ruled that Ace would have to wait a whole year to take the driving lessons needed to get a license.
  • Thirteen-year-old Bob remembered the fun he used to have playing chess with his dad. These days, though, Dad traveled all the time and buried himself in televised sports when he was home. Without asking, Bob borrowed his father’s expensive chess set and took it to school for chess club. Somewhere along the way, he lost a few pieces. When he confessed, Dad yelled at him for being a “careless idiot.” After that, Bob didn’t think there was much chance the two would ever play chess again.

In all these cases, a failure to do his job led a father to “clamp down” and substitute control for validation. That’s a substitution that doesn’t work.

Note, too, that by misbehaving these kids got some response — even if it was negative. By acting out, teenagers can affirm they exist and that their existence has impact on the world around them. Their lives have made “ripples in the water,” so to speak. They get something from their parents, even if it’s punishment.

To avoid that kind of acting out, remember: A teenager needs as much of your time and attention as a toddler does. In fact, a dad’s validation is so critical to a child’s emotional health that he or she will go to any length — and I do mean any — to get it, whether it’s real or artificial.

What Validation Isn’t
What do you think of the following example? Does it fall under the definition of validation or not?

Jason wanted to play basketball, but he was no star athlete. In fact, he never shot baskets at home and barely dragged himself to practice for the YMCA team, frequently skipping at the slightest excuse. At home he whined to his dad about how hard the coach made the players work, demanding extra running drills.

When games started and Jason spent most of his time on the bench, he got frustrated and decided to quit. His dad felt sorry for the boy and told him it was all right to drop off the team.

“Some people just don’t recognize natural talent,” Dad assured Jason.

Is that validation?

And the answer is . . . no.

Validation doesn’t mean lying. It doesn’t mean telling me, “Great game, son!” when I really played poorly.

Many parents have so bought into the self-esteem movement that no matter who wins or loses the baseball tournament, everybody deserves a trophy. In a feeble attempt to “validate” every player (and assuming the only way to do that is with a shiny cup), we end up extracting the genuine power and intention of true validation.

Just as validation has nothing to do with control, it has no relation to being a “softie” as a parent. You can be firm and strong and still validate your child. It means acknowledging your son or daughter, certifying his or her existence, affirming the person apart from the not-so-good performance.

Some fathers go to the opposite extreme, withholding validation when kids don’t “measure up.” Our culture is so conditional in its validation — affirming only those who’ve won fame or fortune, or been born (or surgically assisted) with “good” looks — that the same approach often creeps into our parenting. It’s easy for a man to validate a good performance; it takes a lot more time and energy to see and value the human being in the absence of any performance and put it into words.

In a way, these forms of “invalid validation” are another attempt to control the way our kids turn out. We want them to grow up full of confidence, so we give even mediocre performances rave reviews. Or we want them to achieve, so we skip the praise so they’ll try harder to earn it.

A dad’s biggest job is to relinquish that kind of control and affirm that the existence of each of his children, with or without any great (or poor) performance, is acceptable. If you’re a father, recognize that each of your children is worthy of being alive. You may know that, but each of your children needs to hear it from you.

Value that child as a person, even when disciplining an action or attitude. Make sure your child knows he or she is good enough for you.

Otherwise, when that tree falls in the forest, the silence will be deafening.

The best time to begin validating is the day you bring your baby home from the hospital. Parenting a teenager begins when he or she is born.

When he or she is born. Really.

But it’s never too late to start. Do it often enough to cut a record in your teen’s jukebox that says, “I’m okay. I’m good enough.” If you can do that, trying to compensate with control won’t be such a temptation.


Sometimes I’m not really a good Dad….BUT

Another great article from www.faithit.com by Brian Orme.

Dad Confession: Sometimes I Suck at Parenting, But There Is This One Thing…

I don’t do a lot of things right in this parenting game, but I’m hoping this one little commitment overshadows a lot of parenting mistakes and miscues I’ll find out about when our kids are grown.

True confession: Sometimes I suck at parenting.

Here’s a quick rundown of my un-parenting skills.

  • I’m a horrible tooth fairy. I might’ve paid out around $5 for those little white Tic Tacs and it was rarely on time. Did I mention we have four boys—and two are teenagers?
  • We’ve never taken our kids to Disney Land and, to be honest, I don’t really have any plans to. Why? I could say money, but the real issue is my lack of love for amusement parks, lines and whiny kids in the afternoon.
    I make my kids order waters when we go out to eat.
  • I don’t feel like I make my kids work hard enough. We don’t chop wood or build barns. We play FIFA Soccer on the PlayStation and sometimes we watch too much TV.
  • I don’t have staged water fights in the summer and I only took them sledding once this year.
  • I like to scare them. Probably too much. Under the bed. In the closet. In the garage. Under the bed is the best, but it does require patience.

OK, now that we’ve established the fact that I am not a professional and you should not seek me out for parenting tips, let me give you one anyway.

I don’t do everything right and my Facebook wall isn’t full of parenting gold, but there’s one thing I do just about every week that’s making a pretty big difference in our father-son relationship. No, it’s not helping in a soup kitchen, although we’ve done that. It’s not church, but we do that too.

It’s even simpler than that.

Once a week, on Fridays, I drive my boys to school and we grab breakfast and have a pseudo Bible study. I let them order whatever they want (within reason) and we all break out our iPhones and iPods and read the Bible and talk about our faith. Everyone is required to share one thing God is doing in their life.

And you know what—it works. My commitment to this little ritual has been a parenting game-changer. My boys look forward to it every week. They’ve opened up more and there seems to be a positive peer pressure to participate—kind of like Fight Club, but with Bibles and Frappes instead of bare-knuckle punches. Why does it work? I think it’s the context and consistency. My boys know that I’m carving out some time from my schedule every week to hang out and do something fun–with a purpose. It doesn’t work the same way if we do it at home.

It’s kind of like C.S. Lewis said: “Children are not a distraction to more important work. They are the most important work.

I don’t do a lot of things right in this parenting game, but I’m hoping this one little commitment overshadows a lot of parenting mistakes and miscues I’ll find out about when our kids are grown.

Besides, we’re all pretty flawed and we need grace—especially in our parenting, but if I can pass on something to my four boys, I hope it’s a love for God’s word and the freedom to talk about matters of the heart.

Along with fart noises and action movies. I do have all boys, remember?

Quarreling kids - boy shouting at little girl, isolated

Stop refereeing your kids (Article)

By Megan Hill

My sons had each decided their individual happiness depended on playing exclusively with our green baseball bat. Every day, I heard them argue over it. I frequently asked, “What’s wrong with the yellow one? Or the red one?” But, no, green apparently hits faster, higher, better.

As a result, I found myself trying to solve every sibling squabble. At the first sound of trouble, I would swoop in and ask questions such as, “Who had it first?” and resort to solutions such as, “I’m just going to take it away.”

As parents, too often we allow ourselves to be ever-present police, detectives, mediators and judges. In the heat of the moment, this reaction is understandable, but it poorly equips our children for independence. Instead, we should invest time teaching our children to keep the peace. In much the same way that parents prepare their kids for “stranger danger” and peer pressure, we can prepare our kids to look for resolutions to conflict.

Teach three directives

How I parented sibling conflict changed once I understood that children could be trained in this area. Corlette Sande, co-founder of Relational Wisdom 360, suggested the use of three conflict resolution steps for children: overlook, talk and get help. Corlette says, “Young children can learn how to respond to conflict if we model it and show them how to put peacemaking into practice.”

With my own preschoolers, I began by teaching them to overlook the offense, talk the issue over, and then get help. I first introduced conflict resolution to my children during a quiet moment when they were receptive listeners. We talked about their usual conflicts: toy-grabbing, shouting or throwing game cards. I explained that when a sibling offends them, they first need to try to overlook the offense. Then I gave them a script: Say, “That’s OK,” and stop thinking or talking about it.

If this is impossible (because overlooking an offense takes many tries and much grace), the child has the option to talk about the situation with his brother. He can calmly say: “Please don’t do that” or “May I please have that back?” His brother must answer in a kind tone. The goal of this step is for the children to reach a mutually agreeable compromise.

If my sons can’t reach a satisfactory resolution, the offended child can finally get help. He finds Mommy or Daddy and says: “Would you please help us?” In this step, he knows his parent will hear both sides of the disagreement and then make the final decision.

Sometimes, one of my children forgets the first two steps and immediately runs to me for help. Before intervening, I ask whether he has tried overlooking and talking. If not, I coach him to try again.

With repetition, this process has become a familiar family expression. “What can you do if you have a conflict?” I ask. “Overlook, talk and then get help,” my kids respond.

Following these steps may initially seem unrealistic for preschoolers — a peaceful resolution is not their natural inclination. But with frequent reminders, it’s possible.

I have a son who was adopted shortly after he turned 3. He came to our family trained by orphanage life: uninterrupted squabbling with 30 other children over a handful of toys. Hitting was his conflict-resolution strategy. Mere months later, he could tell me the steps for resolution and began learning to implement them with his siblings.

Teaching conflict resolution to children is a wise investment of time. This basic, three-step process is not instant or easy, but it has changed my family and how my children relate to one other.

Megan Hill is a freelance author and mother of three.

Effective child discipline (Series)

There’s not a responsible parent on the planet who hasn’t struggled with getting a child to obey, and it can be an excruciating experience. How do you get your children to mind without losing yours?

Focus on the Family have an incredible series on the topic that I would recommend for every parent.
Click on each one to see the article.

1. The four parenting styles
2. What the Bible Says About Discipline
3. 5 characteristics of biblical discipline
4. Discipline is worth the effort
5. Punishment vs Discipline
6. Discipline with action and words
7. The biblical approach to spanking


Kids make lousy housemates (Article)

You have kids, then you will be able to relate to this…when talking to parents about their kids, we need to see the funny side of much of what happens.

Living with people is hard. You have to take into account their habits and foibles and constantly re-negotiate the terms. Sometimes, when there is a personality clash, you just have to accept that you shouldn’t be living together. Here are 7 reasons my kids make lousy housemates:

1. They talk to me before I’ve had my coffee

Anyone who lives with me should know this is a non-negotiable. I can’t human until I’ve coffee’ed. Despite explaining this a million and one times to my kids, they still insist on talking at me first thing in the morning. Granted, my explanations are expressed in grunts, but, sheesh, they should get it by now, yes?

2. They talk with their outside voices

In a former life, I was a librarian. I understand the need for silence. And inside voices. Not so my kids. They all talk over each other, at the same time, and at 200 decibels. It’s especially bad when they think they’ve said something funny. Then, not only is it said at 200 decibels, it’s repeated 7 trillionty times for maximum impact. I would have had strong words with any other housemate about this by now.

3. They suck at washing the dishes

Okay, not all of them. The 15 year old is fairly good at washing the dishes… every 2 weeks or so…. But my 12 year old seems to have a visual disability when she washes them: she doesn’t notice that she’s left half of supper on the plate before putting it on the drying rack. And my 8 year old can’t even figure out how to stack the drying rack. What’s that about?

4. They allow weird things to grow on crockery

I’ve often asked my 15 year old whether his arms were broken, because he hasn’t managed to carry dishes from his bedroom to the kitchen for days. When they do find their way back to the sink, they have things that look like science experiments attached to them. Seriously unacceptable behaviour for a housemate.

5. They don’t understand the concept of personal space

A friend has implemented the arm’s length rule. At the end of any given day, her kids are no longer allowed anywhere nearer than within an arm’s length of her. She got this rule from her mother, a very very wise woman. I’m going to implement the same thing. If I don’t, I fear my body will become fused to my 8 year old son’s arms, or my face to my 12 year old daughter’s lips. They’re IN MY FACE wherever I go: on the couch, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, hiding in the closet (What? Don’t you do this?). This is unacceptable. Any other housemate would have been out by now.

6. They eat all the treats before I get a chance

My treats are no longer my own. I’ve been reduced to hiding in my room when I want to eat a bar of chocolate. Treats last a total of 3.5 seconds after landing on the kitchen counter. I’m seriously considering building a secret entrance to my house and a treats cupboard in my bedroom, just to avoid the ravening eyes of my children.

7. They don’t practise personal hygiene

I have to tell them every day to shower and brush their teeth. Um. Do they have daily amnesia? Surely after hearing it every day it becomes a habit? Plus, my 8 year old stores dirty underpants under his bed and my 15 year old’s socks smell.


5 things kids will remember about you (Article)

by Dave Willis

My wife Ashley and I just had our fourth baby. Having a new baby in the house has made me feel more nostalgic than usual and I’ve reflected back on my own childhood. I’ve thought about the memories that stick out in my mind and I think about the memories I want my own children to hold onto. I want to be intentional about every precious moment.
Jerry Seinfeld jokes that, “Babies’ sole purpose is to replace us! That’s why their first words are, “Mama, Dada…Bye Bye.”

It’s a funny joke, but also an important reminder that life is short and our time with our kids is going to go by fast. With that in mind, I want to make the most of every minute and create the kind of legacy that will endure long after I’m gone. This isn’t a morbid thought, but rather an important way to stay focused on what matters most with every minute we have with our kids.

[quote]As the Bible says, “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is.” Psalm 39:4[/quote]

As parents, we tend to stress about things that don’t matter all that much. Our kids probably aren’t going to remember every detail of our home decor, or how perfect our landscaping looked or whether our refrigerator was stocked was name brands or generics. Let’s focus on what really matters. If you want to know what your kids will remember about you, here it is:

5 things your kids will remember about you:

1. The times you made them feel safe (or the times you made them feel unsafe).
There’s a vulnerability and a need for protection in the heart of every child. Your kids will remember those moments you chased the monsters from under their bed or held them after a nightmare, but they’ll also remember the times when your temper became the monster they feared. Our kids are probably going to see us angry sometimes, because that’s part of life, but make it your mission to make your children feel safe and secure at all times when they’re with you.

2. The times you gave them your undivided attention.
Kids measure love primarily by our attentiveness to them. The times you stop what you’re doing to have a tea party or go outside to throw a ball or jump on a trampoline with be memories etched into their minds and hearts forever. Take the time to do the little things with your kids, because in the end, they’ll be the moments that matter most.

3. The way you interacted with your spouse.
Our kids are forming their views of love in large part by watching how we treat our husband or wife. Strive to have the kind of marriage that makes them excited to get married someday. Give them the security that comes from seeing their Mom and Dad in a committed, loving relationship with each other.

4. Your words of affirmation AND your words of criticism.
A child’s heart is like wet cement and the impression made early in life will harden over time. They’ll base their sense of identity, capability and even self-worth largely upon the words you speak to them in those formative years. Part of our job as parents is to correct and discipline, but even in correction, let your words be full of love, encouragement and positive reinforcement.

5. Your family traditions.
Kids love spontaneity, but they also have deep need for predictability. They’ll remember with great fondness the “traditions” you establish whether it’s a weekly family movie (or game) night, a place you regularly travel for family getaways, the way you celebrate birthdays and special events or any other special tradition. Be intentional about creating some traditions that they’ll want to pass onto their own children someday.