Sheltering Your Kids: A Christian Parent’s Dilemma

protecting-childrenYou don’t have to watch the news for long before realizing we live in a broken world. As parents of young kids my wife and I often joke about selling it all and moving to some remote island! Sometimes that seems like the safest option…but is it the Biblical and most loving option?  There is a difference between sheltered and unaware, however we frequently use these words as synonyms. Being sheltered is Biblical and describes our relationship with God.  Psalm 91:1 reads, Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Throughout the rest of Psalm 91, we see how God shelters us and protects us. He even shelters us from the eternal consequences of sin through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  So if sheltering is Biblical, as a parent how do we shelter our kids without raising an unaware and unprepared child?

Being Full of Grace AND Truth

John 1:14-17 talks about Jesus being full of grace AND truth. That is a difficult line to walk that carries with it quite a bit of tension.  As parents though, that is part of our job: to show and be an example of grace and truth.  When we are full of grace with little to no truth, we are lovingly unaware. When we are full of truth with little to no grace, we are legalistic and typically unloving.  Both are vital for us to parent in an age-appropriate context.

Realizing It’s Not If But When

All kids will be exposed to the realities of the world at some point. It’s not “if” but “when”. But as parents, we have the opportunity to create the kind of open  relationship with our kids where we are the ones to explain the realities of life as they grow up.  The value of this kind of relationship is that as our children will come to us first to talk and ask questions. If parents avoid the realities of this world then we are communicating to our kids they should not talk about them to us. When that is the case, our children will still talk to someone, it just won’t be us.

Parents have the opportunity and responsibility to share the realities of the world while teaching Biblical truths. This is much healthier and much less reactive and produces long-term relational results. The family should be a place where nothing is off limits and everything can be talked about and discussed. Unfortunately, many parents procrastinate discussing the tough topics due to awkwardness or just not knowing what to say. In our home we try and create a safe place where no subject is off limits. A key to creating this culture is starting while they are young.  But it’s never too late.

Raising an Adult, Not a Child

The day is coming when our children will leave our home (hopefully) and venture out on their own. Our relationship with them will not cease but will shift. A question my wife and I use in getting our kids ready for that exit is, “What kind of adult are we raising?”  In other words, is what we are doing now preparing our kids to become healthy, responsible, and Godly adults?  Are we seizing the realities of our world and turning them into teachable moments: to explain what is right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate.  And to also teach God’s Word and help our kids understand the why behind the what.

When Jesus’ ministry on earth was coming to an end he prayed for his disciples saying, My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one (John 17:15). Jesus asks God not to isolate them from the realities of this life, but to keep them from being under the world’s influence. May that be our prayer for our kids. That God would help us raise our children in a way that doesn’t take them out of the world but prepares them to survive and thrive in this world. Take time this week to reflect upon Jesus’ prayer and look for opportunities to put His words into practice with your kids.

Taming Tantrums

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A post from Family Pastor Phil Haas and his wife, Bev Haas:

Ah, yes, those embarrassing tantrums that make us want to run and hide.  Well, it’s time to put your big boy pants on and take this little ogre on.  Forgive us for calling your child an ogre, but we can all be an ogre at times.  When kids (or adults) discover that they can’t do or have something they want, the stage is set for a tantrum, which is an uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration.  Our grandson’s preschool teacher taught a lesson that he still recites some four years later.  He learned “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit!” We’re glad you’re ready to teach your son this godly value as well.

A Biblical Path

So we are on the same page we want to point out tantrums are not just about uncontrolled outbursts.  Tantrums are an outward expression of an inward sinful nature.  In Romans 3:23 the Bible states that all of us sin.  The Hebrew root for the word sin means to miss as in miss the mark.  Makes you think of English words like misbehavior or misconduct.  When a child acts out we must call it for what it is-sin.   Now let’s look at some advice to point your son down a better path as Proverbs 22:6 advises parents to do.

Plan Ahead

When you’re not in the midst of a battle, begin planning your approach.  If you wait and react in the midst of the struggle, you probably won’t make your best decision.  Visualize how you are going to handle his next tantrum.  Decide how you will act and react no matter how your child behaves.  I (Bev) use to tell our then preschool son, Brian, he could either get under control or I could help him; those were his only choices.  Self-control is a learned choice. I see too many junior high students (and their parents) that have not learned to take ownership of their behavior, so we’re glad you’re ready to teach your son responsibility and help him rein in his uncontrolled outbursts.

Press On

We are big fans of Love and Logic Parenting.  Jim Faye, one of the authors, writes and speaks a lot about making parenting more fun and less frustrating.  That probably got your attention since dealing with children’s tantrums is anything but fun.  The reality is, all young children throw an occasional tantrum to see if their parents will give-in to their demands. A key to handling this frustrating behavior is to stay calm.  Don’t get pulled in to the emotions of the moment.  The next time your child begins a meltdown, put a bored look on your face and say, “Nice tantrum honey, but I think you’re losing your touch. Last time you kicked your feet a lot harder.  Give it your best!”  Another approach is to walk away and peek around a corner.  Make sure your child can’t see you but you can see him.  There are few things more fun than seeing a small child who’s beginning to realize that their outbursts aren’t exciting enough to get them any extra attention.  The most common reason children throw tantrums, in addition to being sinful and selfish, is to get attention.  Make sure your child is getting positive attention.

Don’t try to control everythingThat’s not possible.  Instead give up some control to keep the control you need.  The best way to give up some control is through simple choices such as “Do you want orange juice or apple juice?” Don’t give a choice you can’t live with.  Children have an uncanny ability to pull us into trying to control the uncontrollable.  You can avoid this dead end by using what Love and Logic calls enforceable statements.  Enforceable statements tell kids what WE will do or allow rather than trying to tell THEM what to do.  This approach gives some control to our children.  Examples are: “I’ll listen as soon as your voice is calm as mine” and “I’ll keep the toys I have to pick up and you can keep the ones you pick up.”

Choose your battles wisely.  It’s still great advice!  Does it really matter that his clothes don’t match?  Our daughter, Amanda, once wore her wool hat and mittens in July, and quickly figured out that they were not appropriate accessories for the season!  When you choose to draw a line be empathetic but don’t give in or you’ll invite more tantrums.  An understanding tone or look can go a long way when your child is frustrated.  You can show empathy and still be firm (We suspect your child may hear the firmness in his dad’s voice, but he hears the nice mommy voice from you).  Phil said I used my “junior high no nonsense teacher voice” when I meant business.

Our parting advice is to persevere.  Nothing works flawlessly or all the time, so keep practicing these and other suggestions you pick up from experienced parents you hang out with.  Your son is smart and he’ll soon catch on that tantrums don’t pay off.

Bring FUN into Your Marriage

Question from Reader

Every year my husband and I make a few New Year’s resolutions.  One resolution that tops our list every year is to have more fun and less stress.  The problem is we rarely make it out of January before our resolutions fall by the wayside.  I’d like for this to be the year that we actually keep our resolution about having fun.  We definitely need some of that in our marriage.  Any suggestions?

Answer from Phil Haas, Family Pastor at 1st Church of Christ in Burlington, KY

Bev, my wife, and I can certainly relate to your question.  We are one of those couples that keep saying we want “more fun and less stress” in our lives as well.  The interesting thing is we had lots of fun and little stress when we were first married.  So what happened?  We’re guessing the same thing that happens to all married couples—it’s called life!  We graduated from college and both got full-time jobs.  Not long afterwards we purchased our first house and took on the responsibilities of home ownership.  And then we started having kids. Over time, having fun took a back seat to other priorities in life.  Okay, you get the picture.

The Importance of Fun

A simple definition of fun is “something that brings enjoyment, amusement or light hearted pleasure.”  Having fun as a couple is essential to a satisfying marriage.  New research on marital satisfaction underscores the importance of having fun in a relationship.  Over and over research has found that the link or correlation between fun and marital happiness is highly significant.  Even without consulting the research most couples instinctively know their marriages are happier when they make time for fun.  But as most married couples learn, it’s the fun that’s first to fall by the wayside as the demands of life pile up.

The point we’re making is that fun is more than a New Year’s resolution or an indulgence; fun is instrumental in having a more satisfying marriage.  There is a long list of benefits to increasing fun in your marriage.  Here are a few: having more fun promotes spontaneity when life becomes routine or boring, connects us with positive emotions, reminds us of the good in our relationship, creates more good memories, and gives us hope when working through difficult challenges.  If you want to have a more satisfying marriage and less stress, inserting more fun into life is a good place to start.

Overcoming Barriers to Having More Fun

You already know you want to have more fun and less stress, so how can you make that happen this year?  The daily duties (or grind as we like to call it) can keep you from enjoying your marriage or you can choose to enjoy your marriage in the midst of the grind.  Here are some of the most common obstacles that most couples must overcome in order to have more fun.

  • Schedule some fun.  With the hectic schedules that most couples have today; you need to schedule time for fun.  Upwards of 80% of our lives are scheduled, so why not schedule some fun?  When we agree on a date and time and put it on our calendars, we’re more likely to make it happen.  How about scheduling a weekly or monthly date?  At our church we encourage every couple to have a regular date.
  • Give yourself permission to be a KID again.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the seriousness of life and not allow yourself to have some serious fun. Did you know that the average child laughs some four hundred times per day compared to the average adult laughing less than fifteen times a day?  Lighten up and laugh more.  Milton Berle said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.”
  • Try something new.  When Bev and I thought about words that describe our marriage lately we came up with routine and predictable.  Ouch, not words we would choose but we had to admit they were dead-on.  As a result, we are now making a conscious effort to try something new and different and the rule is neither of us can complain.  We are having fun doing things we never thought we’d enjoy.  We’ve discovered that trying something new can bring back the fun factor.
  • Budget for some fun.  We tend to hold on too tight to money, especially Phil.  Yes we both agree that we need to save for retirement, but we decided not to put fun on hold until then.  For most couples money is tight, but there are ways to find what we like to call “fun money.”  There are lots of fun things that are free, but sometimes we need to spring for something fun that costs us. Bev has a can where she stashes extra money.  Last summer we took a vacation that was mostly paid for from her can.

The bottom line is that every couple must learn how to enjoy their marriage in the midst of the grind of daily life.  Part of God’s purpose for marriage is for us to enjoy life with our spouse.  Our paraphrase of Ecclesiastes 9:9 is that God intends for you to enjoy your marriage in the midst of the grind.  This year don’t miss out on what God wants for your marriage.  Find ways to enjoy life together in the midst of whatever the New Year brings.

Effective Encouragement: creating a SPARC in those you lead

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Encouragement gives life! Whether you are trying to lead volunteers, your family, employees or friends…encouragement breeds life, productivity and effectiveness.

The tongue can bring death or life (Proverbs 18:21)

Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. (Proverbs 16:24)

So how do we take full advantage of the power of encouragement? Effective encouragement creates a “SPARC” in those we lead and those who are around us. To create and deliver effective encouragement our encouragements must be specific, give perspective, add value, be regular and calculated.

Specific

Make your encouragements very specific. There is a big different between, “You do a great job” vs “I was so proud of you and thankful for you yesterday when you went out of your way for that upset customer. That was above and beyond”. Both are examples of encouragement but the more specific you are in your encouragement the more weight it carries and the more impactful it is.

Part of being specific in your encouragements is making it personal. Personal for you and them. A thank you note written and signed personally by you is much more personal and is more effective…yes, it does take longer and no, you won’t be able to do this for everyone all the time. But a good way to think is, “Do for one what you wish you could do for all”. 

Perspective

When giving specific encouragement be sure to give them perspective; why what they did was so important and valuable. Many times the people we encourage don’t always see the extent of their actions. Giving perspective when you encourage helps people see the bigger picture and how they are helping accomplish the greater goal, mission or vision!

For an organization, tie your encouragements back to your goals or the mission and vision of your organization. Within a family, show how their actions modeled the family values. Knowing that our actions accomplished something greater is a rewarding feeling…

…and what we are rewarded for we repeat

Add Value

Effective encouragement must add value to the person. Encouragement where the other person doesn’t feel encouraged is “empty encouragement” and hinders the effectiveness of our encouragement.  If we are not careful with our words, our good-intended encouragements could be received as criticism or just shallow.

“You finally did what you were supposed to do! Thank you for listening to me and getting the job done.” VS. “Thank you for being so humble and teachable! You have improved greatly and I am impressed! Keep it up!”

The first “encouragement” sounds more like a reprimand whereas the second example added value to the person by specifically pointing out desired traits (humility and teachability) while admiring their obvious success and making it personal by stating the fact that you are impressed.

Not every “Thank You” and “Good Job” will be received as encouragement. Know the person you are wanting to encourage; know what makes them feel the most encouraged. Choose your words, gestures and timing carefully to ensure your encouragement adds value.

Regular

Encouragement is typically underestimated and even forgot about which means we usually only give encouragement when we think about it. The more regular and consistent we are in giving encouragement we will cultivate a healthy and thriving culture! Culture is created by norms…is encouragement a norm at your organization or in your family? Or is encouragement something that is random and once in a blue moon? Healthy culture, healthy relationships require regular effective encouragement. Your encouragements will become more and more effective when it is regular and becomes a norm and part of your organization’s DNA.

Regular encouragement also allows room for candor and honesty. When people feel valued regularly then people become more open to periodic criticism, pushback and feedback because there has been so much positive feedback and encouragement given already. If there is not a culture of regular and effective encouragement there cannot be a culture of candor.

Calculated

Delivering effective encouragement requires intentionality, thought and planning. What doesn’t get planned for doesn’t get done. Schedule time in your calendar that does not get interrupted or changed. Use this time to write thank you notes, call just to encourage, etc…whatever strategy you come up with you need time to develop and execute that plan.

We set aside time and spend time planning and preparing for a number of other “important tasks”…Be calculated, create a system, be intentional with your encouragement and become more effective in this simple yet crucial tool.

How Effective is Your Encouragement…really?

Creating a SPARC in those you lead through effective encouragement will change your culture, the relationships and the productivity of those around you! But beauty is in the eye of the beholder…in other words, you need a system in place to find out if what you think is effective encouragement is actually being effective! The only way to do this is through honest feedback that you seek out.

Ask periodic questions, include them in your employee reviews…be creative and find multiple ways to measure the effectiveness of your encouragements:

“When was the last time someone praised you for something you did?”
“What recent encouragement has meant the most to you personally?”
“What did you do that you were proud of but no one noticed?”