When Your Child Fails

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It was my fifth-grade year; I don’t remember much from this year, but I do remember it was the year of the Science Fair. Every student worked on a project for the fair, except for me. I don’t remember how I forgot, but I do remember waking up one morning knowing that the fair was today, and I had nothing. How could I be in a class all year, a class that was preparing for a one-time event, and come out with nothing to show? What does a child do when a deadline comes, and they are not ready? Why, do what every teenage sitcom does to avoid big situations, and play sick. I remember getting up, telling my mom who was getting ready for work that I had a headache and wasn’t feeling well. She allowed me to stay home with my illness, and I played video games and watched The Price Is Right. The next day, I went in, and my teacher didn’t say a word to me about the science project. I had gotten away with it… until report cards came and I realized that the project was worth a whole lot of points. I didn’t fail the subject, but it was very close.

My parents didn’t fight for that grade to change or complain that because of “illness” I missed school that day. Rather, my parents allowed me to fail. I learned an embarrassing lesson that day; failures will happen. I don’t think my parents wanted me to fall short, but they were not going to protect me from my own consequences. I was lazy; I didn’t prepare, I lied to avoid the situation and I paid the price. It was my mistake.

Everyone fails

Not one person will go through life without failing at something. You can avoid a lot of things, but you can’t avoid taxes, death and failure. When our children are young, we want to protect them from failure. We check on their homework to see if it’s done. We protect them with safety equipment, so when they fall it doesn’t hurt. We fight for them to be treated fairly. Those things are all good things to do, but sometimes we go overboard to the point where we try to prevent them from experiencing life and consequences.

Does it stink when our children fail? Yes, it is horrifying. It is almost like your stomach gets turned inside out, and you feel terrible for them. But, instead of worrying about prevention, we should work on perseverance and grace.

Romans 5:3-5 says “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

When we fail, we will suffer. It could be suffering spiritually, physically, emotionally or all three. When we are suffering, we can either be traumatized by it or we can be transformed, and that goes the same with our children. We can make it part of who we are, or we can use it as a building block to something greater. For you and your children, to be transformed, you need to persevere, which builds character and hope. And although failures feel embarrassing and shameful, we shouldn’t be ashamed because of God’s love that is given to us.

As a parent, to help our children persevere, we can show them God’s grace which is the ultimate sign of encouragement

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 say’s “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”

Tweet: Every failure, our children encounter is another time to teach and experience the grace of God.

Does this mean, we push them to fail? By no means, that would make us terrible parents, but we can’t protect them from every failure. Your child will fail at some point, so take those opportunities to teach and experience the grace of God.

Helping Your Child To Trust In God And Not To Fear

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I love being scared, which makes October one of my favorite times of the year.  Before I was a Christian and a parent, I spent a lot of time watching horror films. Even though, I no longer indulge in horror movies, there is something about being scared that I still love.  Whether it’s from entertainment, roller coasters or even a haunted house. And while I like being scared on purpose, I do not like to be scared unintentionally.  I don’t like normal people jumping in front of me trying to get me to jump back.  It’s not fun. If I am going to be scared, it has to be my choice.

No one wants to be fearful for real.  There is a different type of fear when you are in a haunted house or watching a scary movie, than having fear in your real life.  It is scary when something jumps out in front of you, but having fear of losing your job is terrifying.  Freddy Kruger is scary, but the bank wanting to foreclose your home is worse.

As adults, we know the difference between real fears and ones that are made up.  We know Freddy isn’t real, but you can lose your home.  Because one is real and one is fake, we are able to put up safeguards so the real fears don’t happen.  But, your children do not know the difference between things they should be fearful or and things that are fake.  They do not know that a scary movie is fictitious and cannot harm them.  As a parent it can be difficult to shelter your children from fictitious fears during this time of year,  While watching football, scary previews are shown during the commercials.  Neighbors put up Halloween decorations that may not be the most kid appropriate.

 

So what can we do, if our child gets scared?

Whether it be a real or fictitious fear, there are some scriptures we can use to limit our fears.

1. Trust In God

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”
Psalm 56:3 (NIV)

David was being pursued by his enemies and instead of fear taking over his life, he put his trust in God.  There is nothing in this world, that should make us fearful.  Trust in God fully, and fear will leave.

2. Give Your Fears To God.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

We can give our fears to God with thankfulness, no matter what the situation is.  And then God’s peace will guard your life.  It won’t keep fear away, but when it does come back, we simply need to pray with thanksgiving and the peace that passes understanding will be back in  your life.

3. God Is Always With You

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

The Israelites were afraid to enter the land that was promised to them by God.  Our fears can cause us to not fully trust God.  However, we can know that no matter what happens, God is always with us.

 

Something to Try

Here is a simple game you can play with your child.  It’s called “Trust Walk”.  All you need is a blindfold and a good size space to walk around in.  If you have a messy playroom, that will be perfect.  Blindfold your child, and tell them to follow your commands and to trust your words.  Lead them around the area of obstacles  for a short period of time and make sure they stay away from anything that is harmful.

Once you’ve navigated them safely around the room, take off their blindfold and show them the path you took them through and the obstacles they avoided.  Explain that they were able to make it through because they trusted in your voice.  Then make the point, even though we can’t see God, we can trust in Him to lead us through life.

Tweet: Even though I can’t see God, I can trust when I am afraid that He will lead me through life.

Those verses not only apply to our children, but can be applied to us as well.  We can allow our realistic fears to take over our life.  Some fear is good, because it prevents us from crossing dangerous lines, but too much fear restricts us from God’s blessings in life.

Teach your children to trust God fully, but also apply that same teaching to your own life.

Your Child’s Friendships Are Important

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God gives us our relatives, thank God we can choose our friends. ~ Ethel Watts Mumford

Friendships have a powerful impact in your life, health, and well-being. Having the right friends can cause you immense joy, while having the wrong kind of friends can cause you aggravation.

The Mayo Clinic shares some of the benefits that comes with a good friendship. Here are my favorites.

  • Increase your sense of belonging and purpose.
  • Boost happiness and reduces stress
  • Encourages you to avoid unhealthy lifestyle behaviors
  • Improves self-confidence and self-worth1

That is the power of a good friendship, and that is a great reason to know your child’s friends.

Importance of Knowing Your Child’s Friends

You can’t be around your child 24/7. But you can help your child be around other children, who are a positive influence, when they are away from your home, especially if your children are more susceptible. But even if they are susceptible, knowing the children they call friends is important.

Tweet: You can’t be around your child 24/7. But you can help your child be around other children, who are a positive influence

When you know their friends, you can make confident decisions about hang-out times, sleepovers, parties, etc.. If their friends are bad influences, do you want them to stay overnight at their house? How would you know if you don’t know their friends?

Helpful Advice

Maybe you don’t know your child’s friends, where do I start?

First thing you can do is to stand back and watch your child. Sometimes we are too busy in our life, to take moments to watch but it is important to see and listen to your child interact with their peers. Take them to a safe activity, where they can interact with each other comfortably and then watch and listen to their interactions. Some key factors

How are they treating my child?
What kind of language are they using?
How does your child treat them?

Another thing is to ask a friend about some of their favorite activities. You will be surprised how honest children can be about their home life. One of son’s friends (1st grader) asked me if I played the new Grand Theft Auto game. I said I hadn’t played the game, and then he went on to tell me about the game. Now if his parent is willing to let their young child play a very adult game, what other things are allowed in their household?

If you find your child’s friends are not the right influence of your child, you can find ways to limit interactions away from the safety of your home and find ways where you can be a positive influence in their friends lives. I know for me, and I had great 2nd dads and moms outside my home that helped and shaped me more spiritually today. And you can be that same influence in their friend’s lives.

Teaching Your Teen To Become Someone Greater

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It wasn’t a long time ago, when I was watching my two boys growing from babyhood to a childhood.  It was cool to see their first steps.  Their first words.  When they finally able to get dressed by themselves (still working on matching clothes). The day when they learned to use the potty.  Those moments were magical,  amazing, and a relief to experience.

For many of you, your child has moved from childhood into teenagers and now are transitioning their life into adulthood, which, unfortunately, is not so magical.   I have never seen a parent enjoy the transition into adulthood as they enjoyed the childhood transition.  You will never hear a parent say, “Let’s have another teenager!” after graduation.

Although it is not as magical (and stressful), it is just as or even more important than any transition period in the child’s life.  Because, you are not raising a child anymore, instead you are now raising an adult.  They are moving into the society at large and hopefully are guided to become functioning adults who are participating in the greater community.

Important Question To Ask Yourself

If you are a parent of a teenager, this might be the most important question you can ask yourself right now

“Who Do You Want Your Child To Become?”

This question has nothing to do with an occupation or what class you want them to be in, but rather about your child’s identity.

What qualities do you want them to have?

What characteristics?

What values?

Those things are about their identity, and this should be a question all parents need to ask themselves!

Teenagers Are Not Looking Ahead

Maybe you asking yourself, “Why do I have to answer this question?”

Well, let’s be honest, teenagers don’t think that far in advance.  Maybe they have an idea in what they want to do.  Maybe they have some schools narrowed down.   But they are not thinking of whom they are going to become.  That is where you, the parent needs to step in. The parent needs to step in and become an assistant in helping the child transform into something better than they know.  They don’t know the benefits of discipline, or patience.  They don’t know that being selfless will benefit the community.  Those things are so distant from their minds, unless you help them realize the greatness that awaits in them.

Tweet: The parent needs to step in and become an assistant in helping the child transform into something better than they know.

It is important to note, how you answer the identity question, will dictate how you parent from this day forward as well.

Who Do You Want Your Teen To Become?

For example, my goal right now for my children is to become a Christian.  That means, I need to be the best example of Christ.  I need to be able to show grace, mercy, love, compassion, etc….  I need them to understand the importance of the church community without making it a place of burden.  I need to pray with them daily.  Open His word and express the importance of following them.  Be giving. Be forgiving.  Be humble.

If I want my child to become this when they are adults, then that needs to be evident in raising them in that direction, but it also needs to evident in my  life.  I am not a perfect Christian, so that means that I need to continually growing as well.  In other words, I need to practice what I preach.  I cannot tell my children the importance of this qualities if these qualities are not important to my  life.

Try This With Your Family

Take the time this week with your teenager and talk with them about the importance of identity.  Talk with them about becoming something greater.  Maybe share with them your stories of immaturity and how you have grown over these past decades.   Finally, pray with them.  Pray with them daily.  Pray over them while they are sleeping.  Allow the Holy Spirit to work in your household, because you are going to need some divine intervention as your teen grows up.

Helping Your Child With Their Fears

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Everyone in life will experience fears, but it get be difficult when our children start becoming afraid of things in the world. It starts off small, like a loud noise or a room filled with people, to later in life when they start fearing rejection or being home alone. Even as adults, we have fears from death to budget concerns.

Fear is just a part of life, but our children don’t know that yet. And telling them it’s normal can be very discouraging to hear.

Fear begins when our imaginations start developing. That coat in the closet can easily become a person. That shadow on the wall could be a monster. Imagination plays a big role in fear in our children.

But as the child develops, fear also happens through observations from their parents. A parent being uncomfortable in an environment will cause the child to be afraid. One time, we were on a trip away from home with the youth and a storm was coming. As the adult leaders, we were well prepared and knew the dangers. We were calm and collective, but a parent back home wasn’t and called their child. Calling their child in panic, caused their child, who was hundreds of miles away, to get fearful of a storm that we knew was coming.

As parents, we can do a couple of things to help with your child’s fear.

First, we need to stay calm and confident. I know it can be hard to be calm especially if you awoken every night. And sometimes we don’t have confidence because we don’t have the right solution to fix their problems. But what you can do, is walk and talk with them about their fears and show them that there is nothing to be afraid of. Say that with sincerity and confidence will come out.

Second, reward bravery. Do not worry if the accomplishment is small or big, it is an accomplishment. Reward them with something that fitting for the task. For example, if they are afraid of the water, and they decide to take on their fear. Reward them with a trip to their favorite dinner spot.

Finally, relieve your child’s fear by allowing them to tell you what will comfort them, even if it sounds dumb. Let them lock the door or window, if they are afraid of someone coming. Give them a night light, if the dark is causing problems. Let them tell you what will make them feel safe and if it’s reasonable let it happen. Obviously there are some realistic boundaries, and if something comes up that is unrealistic, give them a better option.

There is no doubt about that life is scary, and there are realistic fears in this world. We cannot protect or keep every fear away from children, but we can help them know that there is comfort, and there is peace in this world as well.

What kind of tips do you have with dealing with fears? If it is constructive, let me know if the comments below.

Photo Credit: Medo / Fear by xaimex via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Take Hold of Your Schedule and Stop Being So Busy

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Growing up during the big technology boom of the 90’s, people either lamented about robots taking over the workplace or praised that technology was going free up more time. Well, it’s been over 20 years, and we haven’t been overrun by our robot overlords, and it seems we have less time than ever before.

Even though, technology has helped us in many ways in time-management (like easier calendar integration or easy access to social interaction), and we are running around more often to fit in everything in our 24 hour allotted time that God has given us.

Why?

I think, especially in the U.S. culture that it is taboo for us to be lazy. I think it even goes as far as the appearance of laziness, is just as bad as being lazy. Why do I think that? Well, for one we like to tell people that we are busy, even if we had a relaxed week. Think about. When you are chitchatting with someone on Sunday morning, and if you ask them how was your week, the usual response is one simple word. “Busy.” Where they busy? I don’t know, but saying, “busy” is an acceptable answer in our mind.

Busyness is a problem in our society. It makes us more stress; we lose more sleep and depletes motivation. But I think the biggest problem of busyness is the affect it has on the family, especially children.

Gone are the days of just hanging out with the family on a Saturday morning or eating at the dinner table. Hopefully, in the next ten years, it will change but as of today 2014 it is insane. I have seen families pull into their driveway, run in the house with school clothes and run out with sports clothes. I have seen families sprint out of church, to make their next appointment. Everyone has that speed walking stroll that you would normally see in mornings at the mall.

Maybe instead of being busy, we should be a little more relax. How bad would it be to tell your children, we are taking a season off from sports? How bad would it be, to take a stay-cation, to sit back with the family to eat pizza, play some board games and have a day to relax at the place you pay the bank to stay in?

I want you to look at your life and your calendar. Before school starts take a giant red pen and ink out a couple of days where nothing will happen that day except to relax and have fun as a family. Then on Sunday morning, when someone asks you, “How was your week?”, you can say “Great because I spent a day with family at home.” You will be surprised by the reaction, and most people will say, “I wish I could do that.” Well, guess what, anybody can as long as you are intentional.

Take hold of your families schedule and be intentional in taking breaks for your family.

Be The Main Spiritual Influence In Your Family

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Sometimes lunch-time can be a daunting task of choice. (Special Note to passionate social justice Christians: Yes, I know that this isn’t a big problem, especially with all the problems in this world)  Living in a blessed country and in a city with many choices, choosing what to eat can be more of a headache than it should be.

But eventually, I make my choice which is always based on one option, “What kind of sides am I in the mood for?”  If it is french fries?  Then it’s Mcdonalds.  If it is onion rings?  Then it’s Culvers.  Maybe I want rice, then Chinese.

Deciding what I want for a side dish, helps make the choice of “Where to go for lunch?” easier to make.  (And again I know this isn’t a big problem)

I think this isn’t just an issue with food choices, I think many of us in the U.S. make decisions not based on the main, but what kind of sides does it offer.  We make choices of restaurants based on service and cleanliness.  We choose particular movie theaters on popcorn, location or even ambience.  The side options have a significant impact on our decisions.

For many Christians, they choose churches based on the sides.  What kind of children’s or youth ministry do they offer?  What is the size of the church, are they too small or too big?  Is the lead pastor, too young or too old?  Do they have programs that my family likes?  Is their music entertaining or somber?  Gone are the day’s when people chose based on a particular theology that make people choose where to worship.

As a Christian parent, we can love being in a church with all these great sides, but we must not forget that we are the main influence in our family.  The youth pastor can be a great person, but he should never be the main influence in your child’s life.  That should always be you.  Youth Ministry was and should never be the sole source of spirituality in your child’s life.

You don’t need to be a spiritual theologian to be the main spiritual source.  Here is a scripture that every parent should know.

1 Peter 3:15 (ESV) say’s “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

All you need is to know why you have hope.  That is it.  If you can talk about why you believe what you believe, you can easily talk to your children about faith.

Do not rely on the church, or it’s programs to provide the only spiritual content in your family.  That job is yours and solely yours; all the other stuff is good, but it is just the sides.

Encouragement For Parent’s With Moody Children

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If you have a child or teen, you know one thing for sure; they are moody. There is no getting around it. Adolescent brains are changing and growing, and hormones are raging which makes at any moment they can lose it.

There was one time, I looked at my child and I didn’t smile, immediately he yells “Stop looking at me with your straight face!” I did not know a straight face was a bad face?
The child’s personalities and emotions can switch on a daily basis, which can make it hard for a parent to handle.

I think one that is comforting to know is that parents are not alone, we all face this challenge.

When we face these difficult times, we can find comfort with other parents, but as Christians, we can look toward the one thing that is constant: Our God.

Hebrews 13:8 (NIV) say’s “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

We can count on our God because He is our rock. He is love will never fail us and endures forever. When we are trying our best to figure out our children, we should rather look toward Him for wisdom because He gives that out to us generously.

Take a few moments for the question and prayer below?

What part of God’s characteristics do I need right now? (Colossians 3:12-14)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Take a moment to pray for peace in your home and in your children

Comparing Families And Five Practical Guidelines For Disciplining

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Comparison is human nature. Being a person who loves sports, can’t play a sport, but I love watching and following them, comparison fills almost every aspect of following sports. James compared to Jordon. Manning compared to Elway/Montana. Tiger compared to Nicklaus. Comparisons are everywhere and across all sporting news.

Comparing two sports figures, from two different eras, is a fun and a great time waster topic of conversation because it is completely subjective and has no way of being proven to be correct. Unless time travel gets invented, but comparing can be troublesome especially when we start comparing our life with others. For example, the mentality of “keeping up with the Jones” is a great way to get yourself in money troubles because you covet someone else’s lifestyle.

The type of comparison that I want to talk about is when we start comparing our children, especially in regards to how they behave. When our children are misbehaving or just being goofy, it is easy compare our children with others.

Being a father of two boys, who for the most part are good especially in public. We do get a lot of compliments about our children “sitting well” or “being polite,” which make me very proud.  But they are not good all the time.  Sometimes when my children act out, and I can go into doubt of my parenting skills.

When we start comparing our family with other families it can become troublesome, because no family is perfect or has it all together.  Sometimes we can wonder if we are doing something wrong, so we start to follow how someone else does family life.  This can be bad because not every family is the same, so adapting to their lifestyle can cause more headaches because it will take more effort and commitment to change your whole family.  There are times when we should change our mentality, but I think for many families, it is important to steer the course in your current discipline methods.

But what if I am doing for discipline isn’t working?

There is not one method that is 100 percent, but here are some practical guidelines

First, set realistic expectations and limits. Your children will never be perfect, so don’t expect them to be perfect. An example, is that your children won’t hear you all the time, so don’t discipline for not paying attention especially after the first time. Discipline only to alter bad behavior, like being disrespectful. But also be realistic on limits, you can’t ground the child for life. Also, not every discipline should result in something severe. For example, a parent who is always yelling at their kids only teaches that yelling is the proper way of communication. If you yell for your child to brush their teeth, then how will they know how to get their attention when something serious is happening like crossing the road. So be realistic.

Second, never discipline with threats or out of anger. Threats and anger are ways to bully your child, and it has no place in the house. If you do get mad or make a threat, you should be an adult and apologize to your child when you calm down.

Third, consistency. If they get disciplined for disrespecting their mother, you cannot disrespect her as well. Sounds like common sense, but I know men who speak ill of their wife behind their back, that is disrespectful, and it reinforces the behavior. Also be consistent on what is punishable and what isn’t.

Fourth, prepare for consequences. Everything has consequences, so be ready for crying, screaming, and headaches. Sometimes parents won’t discipline, because they don’t want their children to disrupt their routine?   Do not fear the consequences, expect them.

Finally, always discipline for a child to grow. Do not punish just to punish. Discipline is like a savings account; you put the effort now, for a better future for them later. Discipline for the person you want your children to become tomorrow.

Whatever method of discipline your family uses, make sure it follows these practical guidelines.  Do what works best for your family and never compare them to others.  God has given you these children, treat them well.

Hobbies Are A Great Time To Teach Virtue

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As a Christian parent, there are some important virtues that I want my boys to have before they graduate from high school.  I want my boys to have faith, goodness, knowledge (general and spiritual), self-control, perseverance, godliness, affection for the church, and love (2 Peter 1:5-7).

As a Christian parent, it is my duty to make sure my children have the best opportunities to know those virtues and apply it to their life.  Attending church, being around mature Christians, will help my children know these virtues, but I cannot rely on the church or the members of the church to raise my children right.  I am their father, and it is part of my identity to raise them down the right path.

A few weeks back I wrote on the subject of starting a hobby with your child and how, right now, is the best time to start.  Starting a hobby with your child isn’t just about finding something fun to do together, but it can also be a great opportunity to have an activity where virtues can be taught.

Maybe your hobby is a sport.  Great! That would a great time to teach perseverance, and self-control.

Maybe it’s some craft or art.  Great! That would be a great time to teach knowledge.

Whatever the hobby, you can find some time for teaching moments about a godly virtue.  Can you still have fun? Yes, but make sure to take the opportunities to teach as well.  Just don’t simply make the outing a time-waster, but instead make it a character builder.

What are some virtues that you would like your child to learn before they graduate high school?

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