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Blog, Parenting

Parents, Make Sure You Do This!

November 5, 2015

trust-based parenting

Our oldest daughter is about to turn 13 and we’re crossing new bridges at an alarming rate. She got a phone today, is at a sleepover tonight, and there have been quite a few times lately where we’ve had to say, “Hold on! We’ll get back to you on that one…” Fortunately, we have some great friends and mentors who have traveled this road and are able to help us.

These recent conversations have led me think about the question, “What have we learned so far?” Here’s a shot at the best we’ve read and discovered up to this point…

Choose connection before correction

Healthy correction rides on the tracks of healthy connection. If there’s not a healthy connection, our attempts at correction will default to power, fear, or manipulation and break trust rather than build it.

Discipline over Punishment

Discipline means to “teach.” Punishment means “to inflict damage” or “rough treatment.” Give re-do’s. It’s ok to say, “Try again with respect.” Kids need to get in the habit of good form, which takes lots of practice.

There’s no ‘quality time’ without quantity

Children learn when they’re ready, not when we’re ready to teach. They speak when something is on their mind, not when we’re ready to listen. You can have quantity without quality (present but inattentive), but you can’t have quality without quantity.

Consistency matters, good intentions don’t

Kids are incredibly perceptive and detect inconsistencies like cookies in the oven. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and walk your talk.

Pray often, daily!

Pray with your kids. Pray for your kids. You’ve been entrusted with the most incredible gift in the world and you need God’s strength and wisdom. “God, help him to know you and to know who you’ve created Him to be.”

Great parenting isn’t intuitive

Each child, each stage requires a separate learning curve. There’s no one-size-fits-all, but there is timeless wisdom and great principles that can be applied with discernment.

Look below the behavior to the heart

Behavior is a form of communication. Try to attend to the deeper message.

Say yes when possible, apologize when necessary, and explain why when asked

Each of these three can be difficult, but they help keep your connection with your child strong.

But say “no” when necessary too

Be a great parent, not a great friend. Connection is critically important, but there may be times that you have to care enough to risk their rejection or misunderstanding. When such times come, stay there like the Prodigal Father–always waiting, hoping, and praying for their return, ready to welcome them back and celebrate!

Hold open conversations more than one-way lectures as much as possible

Be quick to listen, slow to anger, and slow to speak. No one takes advice or correction well from someone they think doesn’t understand them or refuses to listen.

Two more things…

Laugh a lot

Well-timed humor and light-hearted play are boosters for connection. They can also drop the temperature in stressful situations or times of correction.

Start a bank account for their future therapy:)

Face it, no matter how hard you try, your parenting will never reach perfection. Work hard, remain humble and motivated to grow, but be gracious with yourself, and trust God to fill in the gaps.

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Blog, Parenting

Frozen’s Most Valuable Parenting Lesson

May 31, 2015

parenting lessons

There’s a great lesson for parents in the movie Frozen:

“Conceal it, don’t feel it, don’t let it show,” is an absolutely terrible response to a child’s struggle, disability, or unique trait!

The “Grand Pabbie” called it well: “Elsa, your power will grow. There’s beauty in it, but also great danger. Fear will be your enemy.”

Unfortunately, Elsa’s father was too absorbed in his own fear to heed his warning. “No, we’ll protect her. She’ll learn to control it.” You might expect the troll to respond, “No! That’s what I’m warning you against.” Alas, the well-intended father sets the stage for his daughter to turn in on herself with a bottling up act that can only last so long.

When the containment strategy fails in Frozen, Elsa walks triumphantly up a mountain singing, “the past is in the past.” In real life, the act of “letting go” is seldom as pretty. Out of a deep sense of shame and fear, children will develop a spirit of rebellion and turn toward destructive and false escapes.

Interestingly enough, if Dad and Mom would have adopted Anna’s posture of acceptance and faith, giving space for failure and teaching her how love casts out fear, the winter in July might have been avoided.

The difference between the two approaches goes back to Greek mythology where Ulysses and Orpheus both travel by a place called the Isle of Sirens. Sirens were ethereal female characters with hypnotizing voices, which in Greek culture would’ve represented “temptation.” One of the heroes of the story, Ulysses, is so terrified of being lured into their trap that he has himself tied to the mast of the ship and his ears stuffed with wax so that he doesn’t hear their tempting songs. Orpheus, another Greek hero who was also a fabulous musician, however, resisted the Sirens by sitting on the deck of his boat and playing his own music, which was actually superior to the music of the Sirens.

This story represents the difference between negative and positive goodness.

Only by having stronger passions do weaker ones vanish.

Grace drives out shame.

Love casts out fear.

Healthy, God-centered self-acceptance drives out pride and envy. Forgiveness eliminates resentment.

When dealing with a child’s disability or struggle, it’s important to:

1)   Accept and bless your child’s uniqueness.

2)   Model how love casts out fear.

3)   Allow room for failure and use it as a teaching opportunity.

4)   Interject extravagant grace when downward spirals set in.

At the end, Elsa discovers that love thaws a frozen heart. Love alone casts out fear and makes the difference between a power turned toward beauty or darkness. It was in her all the time but fear masked it.

May our kids experience the same liberation of God’s love!

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. -1 John 4:18


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Blog, Parenting, Spiritual Formation

Answering the Question, “Who Am I?”

November 7, 2014


I’m bracing myself right now. Somehow, my daughter’s 12th birthday has catapulted us light years ahead into uncharted territory. We’re now planning her 13th birthday and the changes are coming too fast. Don’t get me wrong– I’m happy about it all, I just wish we could slow everything down a bit.

We’ve been researching how to help her celebrate and step confidently into this new chapter of life. In Stasi Eldredge’s book, “Becoming Myself,” she describes how some friends called their daughter into womanhood with a special ceremony attended by family and friends.

I love this!

First, they kept the ceremony a secret. Continue Reading…

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Featured Posts, Healthy Relationships, Parenting, Spiritual Formation

Who’s Really Your Teen’s Parent?

June 6, 2014

intentional parenting

You or her friends?

It’s an easy trap to fall into. Your teen wants more independence and, for the most part, you want to give it. You don’t want to be the controlling parent that teens rebel against. She projects an air of responsibility and her friends seem pretty normal, so you let her have her space… And let’s face it —you’re tired.
You’re tired of fighting, tired of being labeled the “only one who doesn’t…” and sometimes, just plain tired.

Of course, the underlying conflict is that she wants independence at a rate that exceeds her desire or readiness for responsibility. But try to explain this correlation and her eyes roll back into her head as she thinks, “She doesn’t get it!” “She doesn’t understand or trust me!”

So, you finally relent and allow her peer culture to assume the authority role over her life.

It doesn’t feel that way at first and it certainly isn’t intentional, but it’s practically what happens. When you really stop to calculate where time is spent, and think about her primary sources of influence, it’s easy to feel like you’re letting go of the reigns sooner than you’d like, and sooner than you should.

What do you do? Continue Reading…

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Featured Posts, Healing Presence, Healthy Relationships, Parenting, Spiritual Formation

Will Your Teenager’s Faith Stick?

May 29, 2014


The short answer of course, is that there’s no guarantee. The more you try to co-opt her will, the more likely she is to resist it. But there are certainly some proven ways to cultivate good soil that make spiritual growth more likely.

Tending to soil is good imagery for parenting adolescence because it helps remind us of what we can and can’t do. We can spend a great deal of time, getting our hands dirty, carefully monitoring health, and creating a nutrient rich environment for growth. We can’t however, create growth itself.

What are some of the ways we can create healthy soil for our teenager’s spiritual growth?

Live a vibrant and authentic life of faith before their eyes

Give them a front row seat to your relationship with God. Share your areas of growth and your struggles (when appropriate). Let them see how important your faith is and how it’s not only changing you, but impacting the world around you. Bring them with you when you serve and pray for others. They need to see the vitality beyond the responsibility. Don’t fear failures in the right direction, God’s grace is sufficient. Just steer clear of hypocrisy, your child will see right through it and it’s far more damaging to his faith than if you were an atheist.

Help him connect to the Father and not just “say his prayers”

It’s the birthright of every child of God to hear his Father’s voice. We need to teach our children the lesson of Samuel–the posture of, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” Prayer is one of the most important areas where faith needs to be individualized. More than a great deal of knowledge or even high levels of service, a child’s ability to hear from the Lord is a great predictor of a faith that will stick.

Your family doesn’t shrink from hard questions

You don’t hide from the world or detach from difficult conversations. In fact, you initiate them at the dinner table. You ask good questions, share what you’re learning and how you respond to hard questions with grace and humility.

Be a learner

Teens can’t talk to know it all parents, so let him see that you’re a learner. Don’t be an alarmist when your child is expressing crazy thoughts. Keep your composure and make sure he feels heard, understood, and validated. It’s ok if you need to hyperventilate later.

You exercise discernment in exposing your child’s faith to testing

Jesus was ready when he went into the wilderness to be tempted. As parents, we need to guard our children’s influences carefully and discern the difference between a healthy stress test and simply setting them up for failure. Keep the end in mind and remember that you’re raising up an adult, not a child, but go carefully as you expose them to competing influences and temptations. Fear and naiveté are opposing errors in this dance. If your child’s faith is weak, limit damaging influences, and seek ways to shore it up. Open and honest dialogue is paramount here.

Live as a family on mission

This is really what I mean by “bringing them with you.” Read the Scriptures and pray together. Serve your community together. Let them find meaningful ways to contribute to God’s work in your church and city. We tend to minimize the effect of family on faith and exaggerate the influence of an hour at church.

I once thought that the time requirement of parenting decreases as a child gets older. Not true! We often underestimate our influence as parents and delegate our role too quickly and to too many people. Keep the word “disciple” in view when you discipline and it will help keep the end in mind.

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