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?

The Difference Between Weeping and Whining

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If you a man, you probably at some point in your life have been told in one shape of form that, “Big boys don’t cry.”

Typically, this phrase is said by an older man, probably the uncle or father, during a moment when the boy is complaining with tears or when they hurt themselves.

Having boys of my own, I struggle with this phrase. I don’t want my boys to grow up to be men who cry over everything, but I do believe there is a time and place for tears.

Recently I was thinking about the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35 “Jesus Wept.” In the context, Jesus wept over the death of his friend, the sadness of his friend’s sisters, and just the overall scene of a funeral. Jesus cried, and he was more than a big boy, he was God.

Jesus weeping lead me to this thought with my own children, that there is a difference between weeping and whining. When my either one of my sons decides to cry, I think is he weeping or is he whining? This is how I my define each one.

Weeping is when we cry for something deserving emotion like a death or something that touches your heart.

Whining is when we complain or cry over not getting something we wanted i.e. tantrums.

So when tears come down my son’s face, I have to consider the context. Are they weeping or are they whining? Sometimes that decision is easy and sometimes that decision is very difficult.

An easy example, are they crying because they had to turn off the television? If so, I tell them “Men don’t whine,” because it is true. Real men don’t whine when they have to do something they don’t want to do. Real men do the what is told and go on with their business.

A more difficult one is when sometimes my sons they will hurt themselves because they were adventurous. Some parents might call that whining, but I put it in the category of weeping. I don’t tell them to stop crying over a physical pain, but instead I talk to them about risk and reward while I allow them to cry. Was the risk of climbing in the tree worth the bruises? That is for them to decide. After awhile, their tears go away, and they are back doing whatever they were doing, because they decided the risk is better than the reward. (Hopefully, that don’t bite me in the butt later down the road)

I think as a father of two boys, it is important to be careful with the words we use to our children. Their understanding of the English language, probably is better than most adults, but it is still limited. I don’t want to discourage crying, I want to discourage whining. I want my boys to cry and feel free to do so, but I want it to be for something of importance. That is when they are whining, I don’t call it crying. I tell them “Men don’t Whine,” and hopefully as they get older they can learn to weep and not to whine.

What are somethings that you consider whining? Feel free to let me know in the comments below.

2 Important Tips When Potty Training Your Child

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There are many milestones that you will have with your family, especially during the preschool years. To name a few, you will see them be born, eat solid foods, get their first-hair cut, and their first food that makes them have a weird face that grandparents love to record. But none in my opinion is more exciting than potty training! Saying goodbye to diapers, you think wouldn’t be that exciting, but you would be wrong. The idea that you don’t have to buy diapers anymore, that you can use that money for something else than being defecated in, is such a great feeling.

Being diaper-free is a great moment for every parent.  No parent looks back and say’s “I wish ______ could be back diapers again.”  Although it is a great feeling it, unfortunately, isn’t easy when you are going through potty training.  Potty training can be the most tiring, most aggravating, most hair-pulling experience a parent will have in their child’s life. For some it’s no big deal, their child learns quickly and has no problems. But for others, it is a test of will, of endurance, and of patience.

If you want a surefire way to potty training with no fuss or mess, then you are misguided. There are plenty of blogs, books, websites, and advice columns telling us the best way to potty train, but I believe there is not one method or belief that fits all children. Why? It’s because every child is different, from their temperaments to their cognitive skills. Some parents are convinced to have their child ready before two while others wait until right before they start attending preschool. One child might be able to be trained in the one-day method while the other won’t until they are ready. There is not one method that works for every child.

Though the methods are different and plentiful, there are some good indicators of when to start.  Here are some basics that I think help, especially if this is your first child.

  • Can they understand basic directions?
  • Are they able to hold their bladder for a few hours?
  • Do they complain or not like being in a dirty diaper?

Typically if they are showing those indicators, you are ready to go into potty training.  Like I said, some parents will start sooner, that is up to your family and sanity of when to start, but I think if they are doing at the least one of these three indicators, go for it.  Mayo Clinic has some other indicators to ask before starting, which you can check out here.

If your child is ready, the next important step is to get a routine. Routines vary from family to family, so be flexible to your own family, but you need to be consistent. If you want your child to be consistent, you need to be consistent in training. Routines will never happen if you are unable to create consistency. When they wake up, put them on the toilet. Before bath time, put them on the toilet. Before you leave the house, put them on the toilet. Create a routine and be consistent that is flexible to your family.

The final step and one that any method will tell you because it is the most important is to praise them for achieving but show grace when they accidents. Your child will eventually figure it out, but they most likely will have accidents afterwards. Praise them for their accomplishments, but also handle their shortcomings with grace. If you start that mentality right now, while they are young then you are building a Christ-like attitude in your family that will have a long-standing impact. Because eventually, your child will grow up, and they will have accomplishments that deserve praises, but they will also have setbacks and failures that need to filled with grace.

Whatever method you use for potty training is up to you, if you want a list of different methods you can check out Potty Training Techniques from parentingscience.com.But whatever method you choose, remember to be consistent, and to praise for accomplishments and show grace when they have accidents.

No Better Time Than Now To Start A Hobby With Your Teen

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Summertime is almost over, and for some school starts back up in just a few weeks. Going back to school is a bittersweet feeling for many of us. We love that our teens will stop complaining of being bored and now they can start complaining about homework again. Our food budget will be less and cleanup a little easier, but then we have more transportation.  Like I said, it’s bittersweet.

Summertime is close to an end, but there is another time that is almost over as well, your child’s teenager years. Once your child hits middle school, they are two-thirds done with their childhood and that last one-third will fly by quicker than you realize. Because your time is limited with your teen, there is no better time right now than to start a hobby together.

I love The Message’s version of Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth.”

Although that verse has nothing to do with hobbies, it does remind us that there are more opportune times to start something new.  Right now, with the dwindling moments of your teen being under your care, there is no opportune time than these next couple of weeks to create some special memories.

Hobbies can create longstanding memories and can strengthen your relationship with your teen.

Let me tell you about a longstanding hobby that I have with my father.  When I was a child, I hated watching sports. I remember the television on during the 1991 NBA Finals when Michael Jordan won his first championship.  Every person in the room was watching with excitement, but to me it was boring and a waste of time.  I could care less, but as I grew older, watching sports became something of interest. I don’t know the reason or the time, but it happened around my teen years. Watching the Buckeyes play started becoming a little hobby that me, my dad, and my grandpa and we would watch together.  It wasn’t an every weekend thing, sometimes we didn’t watch the game together at all, but we would talk about the game when we were together. Though my grandpa is no longer with us, me and my dad still talk about the Buckeyes on the phone and every once in awhile we will get a chance to watch it together. Sometimes it’s the only thing we talk about, but that hobby is something that created a longstanding memory, that has kept our relationship together over the years.

Like I said, there is no better time to start than right now, while you have a few more weeks left in the summertime. Summertime is usually the most flexible time of the year for the family, so get going.

A quick way to start is by making a list things you want to try for the first time, and then asking your teenager some of those things they would consider trying.

If you have a hard time thinking of something, here are some ideas for you.

Hiking
Rock Climbing
Gardening
Finding New Restaurant
Movie Night
Collecting
Health Related (Body Building/Yoga/Martial Arts)
Theme Park

Maybe you have a hobby that works great, feel free to comment below.

For Parents Who Want To Teach Their Kids Honor

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“If you have never been hated by your child, you have never been a parent.” – Bette Davis

Of all the responsibilities of parenting, disciplining is probably the most difficult.  When my kids are disciplined for bad behavior, the whole house feels the punishment.  Disciplining is not easy, and it involves crying, screaming, and the child gets upset as well.  Discipline requires patience, because children will test your limit.  Discipline requires consistency, as a child will not forget what happened last time and will call you out on inconsistency.

In the moment of discipline, we can wonder if we are truly making a long-term difference and it can feel like we are failing as at being a parent.

What makes discipline even harder is that disciplining is not a one-size-fits-all responsibility.  Oh I wish, that it was simple as a sending your child to their room, but every family, every child, and every situation requires a careful analysis to tailor what is best suited for the appropriate discipline.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all method, the result of discipline should all be the same.  As a Christian parent, I want child to show honor and respect to us and  one-day to honor and respect God as well.

Our goal in discipline isn’t behavior modification, but character transformation.

Proverbs 22:6 say’s “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

One day honoring God is what I want my children to learn.  But, honor needs to start with learning to honor your parents.  Can a person learn how to honor God without honoring parents?  Yes, of course, but even if they learn to honor God first, that person must go back to honor parents.  A child nor adult can honor God without honoring their own parent.

I already wrote a blog about how to discipline better, so I won’t repeat that blog post, but I wanted to leave you with a few questions to think about how effective you are at disciplining.

What are my kids learning from me when I discipline them?

Are you a yeller?  Are you a shamer?  Are you passive-aggressive?  Those are some negative traits that we can use to curb negative behavior.  Using negative to fix a negative doesn’t result in the long term outcome that we want.  The goal is to build character, so make that character positive.

How can I be consistent in my discipline, but also tailor the discipline to my individual child’s personality?

Growing up, I was grounded from the indoors.  I was made to go outside to play and use my imagination.  Worst grounding ever, right?  Would that have worked with my brother or sister?  Nope, but it worked for on me.  Find the right punishment for the individual.

Hopefully those questions, help you check how effective you are currently disciplining your children.  I know discipline is difficult,  and it seems like it isn’t making a giant impact.  But remember it is an important tool for you to transform your child in becoming an adult of honor.

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