How to Talk to Your Kids About Childhood Sexual Abuse – part 1 (guest post)

It's often in the news these days, and Intentional Parenting means we get
real with our kids about it (even though it's often uncomfortable). I'm so
thankful for this month's guest! Lyneta not only grounds the issue of
childhood sexual abuse in scripture but also offers practical advice for 
helping our kids be strong. Read more about Lyneta and connect with her at 
the bottom of the post.

Early in the history of man, the beautiful way God created for husband and wife to connect in intimacy got twisted into something harmful. Ever since, the enemy has been able to use even a few minutes of inappropriate sexual contact to do significant, long-term damage to the innermost spirit of any person.

Apparently, he employs this tactic often. In the United States, 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys are molested or assaulted by an adult by the time they’re 18. Continue reading “How to Talk to Your Kids About Childhood Sexual Abuse – part 1 (guest post)”

Why We Let Our Kids Cuss at the Dinner Table

Our plates were full. We had said the blessing, and our forks were busy. We were talking about our day, like we usually did around the dinner table, when my seven-year-old dropped an F-bomb in the middle of her sentence.

I swallowed my steamed broccoli without chewing.

The look on her face told me she knew she’d done something…questionable. “Hey sweetie, where’d you hear that word?”

“What word?”

As if she didn’t know!

I made myself say it as casually as possible.

She answered just as casually, “At school.”

Of course. (I could probably have guessed which child said it, but we won’t go into that here.) I glanced at our four-year-old, then back to the older child. “Do you know what it means?”

“Not really. Is it a bad word, like the s-word?” (By which, she meant stupid.)

Um, yes! We talked about the definition for a few minutes, treading lightly toward the level of detail her young mind needed. Then someone changed the subject—thankfully.

We could have shut her down, scolded her for saying such a terrible word, and refused to discuss it. But what good would that do? We would have created something dangerous, something worth trying again.

Instead, we demystified it. We made it not-a-big-deal by explaining the word and why we didn’t use it.

Before you start busting out Bible verses on me, let me assure you this is where we always end up:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

That little girl is fifteen now. She’s learning to drive.

In the intervening eight years, we’ve had several other inappropriate and/or disgusting conversations at the dinner table, in the car, and on the couch. We’ll probably have more in the next few years, too. At least I hope we do.

Here’s why we chose to parent this way and what I want my kids to know.

  1. My children can ask me anything, and they won’t get in trouble for asking it. I want to be their source of information because I speak from a Christ-centered worldview in an unchristlike world. That’s means sometimes we say words I would never voice on my own and talk about topics I’d rather not discuss. They will discuss these things with someone. Better that it’s me than their peers or the internet.
  2. I was a kid/teenager once, too. I know all the filthy language, all the rude gestures, and most of the dirty jokes. They can’t shock or offend me. (Okay, sometimes these days, my oldest child explains slang terms to me. I’m okay with that.) Therefore, I’ve already made the choice not to talk this way, and I have good reasons, which I will gladly share.
  3. Language becomes offensive in how we use it, not in the combination of letters. The F-word, the B-word, and the S-word have a history. They actually meant something in the past, but our culture has corrupted them. Other aspects of culture are corrupted as well. We can step back and talk about those things with our children, recognizing what glorifies God and what doesn’t, or we can create barriers to their understanding.

In the end, whether it’s bad words or dirty jokes, our standard is biblical. When we (and our children) know why certain words are off-limits, we can all make better choices about the language we use. When we make good choices about language, we’re already making good choices about our thoughts, and we’re on our way to making good choices about our actions.

That time my 7y.o. dropped the F-bomb at our dinner table and what I’ve been doing ever since. #IntentionalParenting sometimes means delving into #offensivelanguage, via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

Have your kids even busted out a “bad word” at an inappropriate time? Most have. We’d love to hear/read your funny story! Don’t forget to include how you handled it.

Do you have any good advice on helping our children understand and control their language? Please share in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

Respect is a Two-Way Street

We all want—no, expect—our children to respect us. It’s Biblical, right? Both the Old and New Testaments say, “Honor your father and mother” (e.g. Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:2). We are right to expect respect, but no matter how much we quote these verses, no matter how much we stomp our feet and vociferously demand respect, we don’t always get it.

Why not? Well, part of the reason is the sin nature with which both we and our children were born. Part of the reason is our culture and the influences of media, peers, etc. But may I submit something to you? Perhaps another part of the reason our children don’t respect us is because we don’t respect them. Respect is a two-way street.

In Intentional Parenting, we model respect for our own elders and superiors (at work, church, etc.). We also talk about respect, about how honoring others honors God and other associated Biblical concepts, such as “The Golden Rule.” Sometimes, however, we forget to apply those same Biblical concepts within our families as well.

Need some solutions? Here are a few age-appropriate ways to demonstrate respect toward your children. You can expect that respect to be reciprocated.

At Any Age

Follow through on your promises and commitments. If you said you’ll read a book before bed, then read a book. No excuses. If you said, “One more time and you lose [a certain privilege],” then after one more time, they lose that privilege.

This kind of integrity demonstrates that your words to the child actually mean something. When you begin to do what you say you will do, they will start listening.

Young Children

From the first visit to a playground or first playdate, institute a two-minute warning. Two minutes before you need to leave, tell the child he/she has two minutes remaining to play. (We usually tried to give a five-minute warning as well.) This simple warning has helped us avoid so many tantrums! I know because the times we didn’t give a warning were much more difficult.

When you, as an adult, are busy on a project or in a conversation, you don’t like to be interrupted. Even worse, you don’t want to be forced to stop without warning. I don’t either. Why do we think it’s any easier for our children?

Early Elementary

Allow your children to make as many decisions as possible. Before you correct (or laugh—even worse!), ask yourself if it really matters. Toy storage locations, everyday clothes worn, books to read, interests to pursue…all these are decisions a six-year-old can make. Maybe you prefer the Legos in the bin on the left and the doll clothes in the bin on the right; maybe there are even good reasons for your preference, but as long as there’s no danger, allow your child the choice. That “ownership” in the location of the toys may even help at clean-up time.

Children at this age long for independence, but they have so little. By allowing their decisions to stand, we demonstrate the validity of their choices and affirm the children as independent thinkers. Besides functioning as a confidence builder and sign of respect, this approach will help your children know that when you do object, there’s an important reason.

Middle-Grade Children

Elementary and middle-grade children have so many stories to tell. Let’s be honest, though. Some of them are boring. Long and boring. As parents, we may be tempted to interrupt with something unrelated or jump in and quickly finish the story ourselves. Don’t interrupt. Allow them to finish the stories. (At our house, we have a sign for “make this shorter” when the story gets too long. It helps.) If it’s necessary to interrupt, say “Excuse me,” just like you would if interrupting an adult.

From the time they could speak, we’ve taught our children not to interrupt us. Allowing them the same honor says their experiences are valuable and their family participation is important.

Tweens and Teens

If your child asks you not to show affection in a certain way or say a certain thing in front of his/her friends, don’t do it. Respect their public image. Public displays of affection, pet names, even cheering too loudly may infantilize our teenagers (at least in their own eyes), and it may be fodder for teasing or bullying among their peers. Our teenagers don’t deserve that. Don’t worry, they’ll still enjoy the hugs, pats, and verbal affection in private. Also, refrain from telling embarrassing stories or showing naked baby pictures no matter how cute they are.

Let’s face it; we will embarrass our teenagers. It’s inevitable. But our efforts to minimize the embarrassment demonstrate our respect for their increased maturity. That respect will surely be reciprocated.

Reciprocate Respect

The world says respect is earned, not given. Contrary to the world, however, the Bible says every person—regardless of position or power—is a unique creation of God Most High (Psalm 139, for example). We begin there: every person deserves respect. This is not a burden to lay on our children (that they should respect us) but a principle to lay under our interactions with our children (that they are worthy of respect). At the same time, however, we parents should live lives worthy of our children’s respect. That’s just a given. We clear the way for respectful responses when we demonstrate respect in our interactions with them. Respect is a two-way street.

Respect your children at every age and you can expect respect from them-5 ideas. (click to tweet)

I thought about sharing stories of parents carrying their children from the playground in the middle of a temper tantrum, but let’s not do that. Instead, use the comments below to share some positive stories of reciprocated respect. Let us hear from you!

respect-2-way-street
Rainy road (c) Carole Sparks

Raising Whole Kids in a Broken World (guest post)

I recently read a post by fellow Bible study author, Leigh Powers, in which she described the scene below. It led me to think (again) about how we help our children deal with the almost-daily crises of our world. So I asked Leigh to share that story and how she helps her children walk through world events. You can read more about Leigh at the end of the post.

As we entered the museum lobby, my mind was on getting tickets and getting through the crowd. I didn’t pay much attention to the two metal beams until one of my children asked me about them.

“Mom, what are those for?”

I thought the twisted metal was a sculpture and said so as I walked over to read the plaque. But it was two support beams from the World Trade Center. I wanted to go see dinosaur bones and play with light, not explain how evil the world can be to my children who have never known a time before the towers fell. But honest questions deserve honest answers, and so I told my son that fifteen years ago some men had flown planes into a tall building in New York. The building fell down and a lot of people died, so the beams are there to help us remember.

It was enough of an answer for the moment, but it came back up at lunch. “But why would people fly planes into buildings?”

I gave the only answer I could. “Because some bad men wanted to hurt people and to make us afraid.”

He accepted it and we went on. But it wasn’t the only conversation we’d have that week. The day after our museum visit, a sniper fired on officers in Dallas, killing five. And as the news came on the radio, he asked again. “Why, Mom? Why would someone do that?”

And what else can you say? “Because a bad man wanted to hurt people and make them afraid.”

I wish sometimes I didn’t have to explain the evil of this world to my children. I’d like to wrap them up in warm blankets and shelter them away from everything that might make them worried or afraid—and there are times when that’s appropriate. But I also recognize part of parenting is equipping them to face the world as it is, not as I wish it would be. Our world is broken, but I want my kids to live whole. Part of that training is helping them to think theologically: recognizing that there is evil, but God’s sovereignty means we don’t have to be afraid. As we have these conversations about current events and the problems of the world, here are some truths I want them to know.

  • This world is broken. Living in this world means confronting the reality of sin and evil. Bad things happen. People do horrible things to one another. Sometimes our own sinful actions hurt others. In this life we will have hardships and pain, trouble and sorrow. Though God did not create the world this way, we have inherited a world broken and warped by sin. As they grow into maturity, I want my children to recognize that though we live in a broken world, Christ makes us whole.
  • God is sovereign. Our world is broken, but God is still in control. Even when bad things happen, we can trust in God’s unfailing presence and power. Knowing that God is real, that he is good, and that he is ultimately in control can give us peace. When it feels like the world is falling apart, I want my children to be able to trust in God’s sure and certain reign.
  • There is a day of redemption. This world will not be broken forever. Though God now is patient, allowing time for people to repent and turn to him, there will come a day when God says enough. We have seen the end of the story. God has a glorious future for his people where there is no more sin, no more sadness, no more death. Sin and death and evil will all be destroyed and we will enjoy God’s goodness and mercy forever. I want my children to hope in the glorious future that awaits the people of God.
  • We don’t have to be afraid. The Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). We don’t have to let fear determine our decision making because the power of the Spirit gives us courage. I recognize that my children will inherit a world where faith and conviction carry a higher price than I have known. But I also believe God will supply what they need when they need it so they can stand unashamed. I want to model the courage of conviction for them and encourage them to do what is right even when it is hard.

I don’t know what tragedies the future holds, but I know there will be more conversations with my children about things that are hard—things that reveal the brokenness and twistedness of this world. But I am confident we can live whole in our broken world because of what Christ has done for us. And by his grace, this world won’t be broken forever.

Remind your kids: We can live whole in this broken world because of what Christ has done for us! (click to tweet)

Carole here. As a parent, how have you integrated these four truths into conversations and experiences? Leigh and I would love to hear your stories. Please share in the comments!

Related: Talking about Tragic Events with Kids

Leigh Powers headshotLeigh Powers is a pastor’s wife, Bible study and devotional author, freelance editor, and mother of three from small-town West Texas. She is passionate about helping women find hope and healing by connecting with God through his word. She blogs at My Life. His Story (www.leighpowers.com). You can also connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

New School Year, New Parenting Practices

4 Habits to Draw Your Family Closer to Christ

It’s that time of year! No, not Christmas (although we’ll see it in the stores any time now). In the USA, it’s the beginning of a new school year. Many of the school systems around us begin classes this week or next, and every homeschooling mom I meet has an imminent date in her mind as well.

As a parent, mid-August feels more like a new beginning to me than early January. With the establishment of new school schedules, after-school activities, etc., this is a fantastic time to implement or refresh some Christ-centered practices in your family life as well. Consider any or all of these four ways to ‘up’ your Intentional Parenting game.

  1. Establish Family Devotions

I will just confess right here that we don’t do this. In fact, my impetus for writing this post is my desire to finally start a weekly study time with my family!

Rather than depending on a pre-written devotional (sorry, writer friends!), try reading through a gospel such as Mark. Do one chapter or one story  each week. Be creative; act it out if your children like that kind of thing or play charades or draw pictures or just take turns reading aloud. Leave time to talk and to pray for God to help you respond to what you’ve received. For older children, you might study a paragraph per week from an epistle such as Philippians.

If the thought of discipling your children like this leaves you weak in the knees, come back next week. I’ll post How to Study the Bible with Your Grade School Children in 500 words or less.

Intentional Parenting perk: When we prioritize Bible study…when we model digging into the Word, obeying what we find, and living according to God’s guidance, our children naturally learn to do the same.

If you just don’t know how to fit this intentional time into your family calendar, look at #4. We’re making it a priority this fall—finally—and I’m praying you see the value in it, too!

  1. Implement Drive-to-School prayer time

We started this last year, and it was such a blessing. If you deliver your child(ren) to school, turn off the radio on the way. Ask what he/she anticipates in the day to come:

  • Academically: tests, homework, projects, presentations, PE expectations
  • Socially: friends, lunch conversation, locker break
  • Emotionally: disappointing grades, difficult teacher

Repeat the names of classmates and friends to help you remember. Ask for clarification if necessary. Show that you are really listening.

After listening, pray aloud as you drive. (Don’t close your eyes, obviously.) If you feel led, offer a very little bit of counsel…maybe a Bible verses that applies. This isn’t the time to advise; it’s the time to support. Let him/her know you’ll be praying through the day.

Intentional Parenting perk: This habit says, “I love you and I care about you, my child.” It also demonstrates that God is interested and active in our day-to-day lives. Just watch after God works in something about which you’ve prayed!

Give God a chance to prove Himself faithful in your child’s life through voiced prayer. (click to tweet)

  1. Create After-School Conversation Time

My introvert just isn’t up to processing her day the moment she gets in the car after school. She needs some quiet. My extrovert wants to talk right away, and he always has multiple stories (some of which don’t make any sense to me, but that’s okay). The when isn’t important. It might be immediately after school, over dinner, or just before lights-out. The point is to spend some time processing with your child, holding him accountable, and helping her see how God did answer those morning prayers.

Avoid yes/no questions, and make sure you ask about whatever they mentioned in the morning. Beyond that, we’ve used these two questions since our first one started Kindergarten. They know to expect the questions, so they look for answers as they go through the day.

  • What was your best thing from today?
  • What was your worst thing from today?

You may have different questions or more questions. Don’t get too complicated or long, though, especially for younger kids.

Intentional Parenting perk: The purpose of this habit is to communicate your enduring investment in your child’s life and to coach them through their days away from you.

  1. Set a Family Schedule

It’s super-easy to over-commit at the beginning of the school year. Everything seems like a good idea: PTA council, STEM scouts, sports teams, after-school clubs, service clubs, tutoring sessions, music lessons, Bible studies. Before you know it, you’re wearing out your mini-van tires on the road to school, church, the field/court and back!

With planning, you can create blocks of open space for family, so don’t say ‘yes’ yet! (click to tweet)

Before school starts, sit down together and, keeping your family mission statement in mind, decide how many activities each child will participate in or how many evenings/week you are willing to be out of the house. Decide this before the offers and ideas start rolling in.

After school starts, wait until everything is ‘on the table,’ include AWANA or whatever evening programs your church offers. (I realize some parents may be shocked by this, but sometimes the best choice for your family will be to skip Wednesday night church programs for this year.) Talk through which parent will drive where, how long the commute takes, what it means for family dinners, finances, homework plans for those days, longevity (such as continuing piano lessons), etc. Some options will automatically be disregarded. For the rest, make decisions as a family. Even the youngest ones can participate. This is hard. Believe me, I know. We have said “no” to so many good-but-not-best things, but our family is stronger and closer to Jesus because of those tough decisions.

Intentional Parenting perk: As your children watch you model responsible, Christ-centered time management, they see what’s important to you and to your family and they learn to make intentional decisions for themselves.

Small changes in your family routine will go a long way toward peace and understanding in your home. Or, to make a bread-baking analogy…

Knead some small changes into your new school routine and watch your family rise into richer Christ-centeredness. (click to tweet)

What about you? What small changes do you hope to implement at the turn of the school year?

Want more? Check out any of these posts:

How to Make Room for the Important by Kelly Smith at The Glorious Table. Kelly has guest posted on Intentional Parenting before, so you know I like her. This post is for the moms and dads who fell led to adjust their own schedules—especially applicable at this corner-turning time of year.

4 Tips to Start Off the School Year by Sarah Anderson at Parent Cue. Sarah has very young kids, so her tips are different from mine, but I found the post insightful.

Also, my Wait, Wait, Don’t TELL Me* post may be helpful if your children are in middle or high school.

Find a Parenting Role Model

As a first-time expectant mother, my biggest concerns weren’t with sleeping or diapers or language development…although all those things intimidated me. For some reason (read: the Holy Spirit), I started thinking about that fateful future time when this as-yet-unborn baby would be a teenager. Yes, I worry in advance, obviously—way in advance. My big question was this: How can I raise a child that doesn’t turn into the typical teenager? At the time, I didn’t know of any books to address this topic. (Here’s a list of really great parenting books I’ve discovered since then, by the way.)

My husband and I decided the best thing we could do is ask someone. We didn’t want opinions or observations. We wanted proven results. So we began to look around our community and church family for some atypical (in a good way) teenagers. There was a set in our church: a respectful, friendly, thoughtful, Jesus-loving brother and sister who seemed very genuine and even liked each other. We watched them for a while as we very intentionally got to know their parents. Finally, we felt comfortable enough with them to “pop the question” although, by that time, the answer was fairly obvious.

Okay, that was fourteen years ago, so I don’t remember their exact answer. We asked how they came to have such amazing teenagers (which any parent would love to hear—flattery gets you everywhere!). Their answer boiled down to this: They always talked, and always had. They said they talked to their children about everything, from the time they were very little. It was clear, also, that they showed love easily and they respected their children as real people, uniquely created by God. Because they were authentic Christ-followers themselves, I’m sure their talks included issues of faith and God’s will in their lives.

The world has changed in the last fourteen years—more than I thought possible in such a short amount of time. But their advice continues to prove true in our family. By consistently investing in our children’s lives through conversation, we seem to be raising thoughtful, Jesus-loving teenagers who are becoming agents of the Kingdom even before they reach adulthood.

I honestly don’t believe we could have received any better advice, but that’s not really the point of my post today. If you are a new(ish) parent, or if you think you’re missing something in parenting, find some kids or teenagers that act like you want your kids to act. Then track down the parents of those children and sit at their feet for a while. Prayerfully model your parenting on theirs and see what happens.

I’ll be praying for you. So will they.

 

To find a parenting role model, first look for children who act like you want yours to act. (click to tweet)

What’s the best teen parenting advice you ever received? How has it affected your parenting? I’d love to hear about it. Please share in the comments!

For more on talking with your children—including some actionable guidelines—check out my previous post, Wait, Wait, Don’t TELL Me. And if you would like to read further on my overall approach to parenting, especially continuing the conversations through the middle grades, click over to Where My Kids At? You might also appreciate this recent guest post, Parenting Advice from the Other Side by Kim Wilbanks and/or Wisdom for Parenting Teenagers, my review of Paul Tripp’s book, Age of Opportunity.

 

 

3 More Everyday Images for the Christ-Life

God placed us in a world that, because He created it, bears constant evidence of Him.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that people are without excuse. –Romans 1:20

IMG_7479
(c) Carole Sparks

We toured a big cave system recently: beautiful rock formations, spectacular vaults, a random red salamander. God placed all this beauty underground, where it remained in the dark, slowly changing, for centuries. Civil War soldiers hid in the caves, but their wooden torches wouldn’t have illuminated even a tenth of the beauty there. All that spooky beauty, all that magnificence…just sitting there in the dark! God creates for His own pleasure…even if we never see it.

Because creation bears the stamp of the Creator, we can make innumerable analogies for our relationship with Jesus. Here are three more everyday images for aspects of the Christ Life. (See the first four *here*.)I pray that you can use them with your children to help them understand what it means to follow Jesus.

Splinter/Sin

This is a good one, and you’re sure to have opportunity to use it at some point!

A splinter is like sin in your life. It hurts and irritates the surrounding skin, yet children never want to pull it. They fear the pain of removal more than the pain of remaining. If you don’t remove it, however, it becomes infected as your body tries to reject it. An infected splinter in your toe makes it hard to walk. Pulling it out yields a small pain, but then the wound heals.

With sin, it may feel easier just to leave it in your life. It doesn’t actually hurt, and you may be afraid of the pain that might come with removal. But if you don’t remove sin, it will grow, taking over that area of your life and eventually impairing your spiritual walk. Usually, it’s difficult—even painful—to remove, but afterward, God heals you quickly.

Surgery/Sanctification

I was thinking about the lengths to which God will go (and to which we must submit) in order to remove habitual sin from our lives. It was part of my post, “Addiction to Conviction,” from a couple of weeks ago. You might need to change some of the terminology, if you’re sharing with your children, but here’s the whole picture:

Let’s say you need to have your appendix removed. The surgeon takes scalpel in hand and scores your skin, cutting through two or three layers of your epidermis. Then he moves over a bit and cuts through the same two or three layers in a different spot. You might bleed just a little, but he will never reach the appendix buried deep in your abdomen. In fact, you wouldn’t even need anesthesia for this procedure. In order to remove your appendix, he has to cut all the way through all your skin and even the muscle tissue beneath. It hurts so badly that they put you to sleep. Without that pain…without the surgeon’s focus on that one cut until he penetrates your abdominal wall…you will die.

Regardless of how holy we are today, we all need a sin-ectomy. Instead of doing the hard, painful work of excising that specific sin, we satisfy ourselves with shallow cuts that look serious but never penetrate to the spiritual cavity in which the problem lies. Yes, I know there’s no spiritual anesthesia and that we have to assist in this surgery on ourselves. Nobody said sanctification was easy.

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. –Mark 9:43

Hiking/Making Choices

On the same day we explored the caves I mentioned earlier, we also went to an overlook high on a mountain, where you can see multiple states. We drove, but there’s also a walking trail. We chose the wide, smooth, quick, well-travelled path, and it was easy. But I wonder what we missed.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. –Matthew 7:13-14

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Sometimes the narrow path skirts a deep crevice.  (c) Carole Sparks

The narrow path is typically more dangerous, requires far more effort, and takes more time (like, hours instead of minutes). When you’re hiking, however, that narrow path rewards you with solitude, beautiful views, a strengthened body, and that wonderful sense of accomplishment. It’s worth the effort.

In our spiritual lives, obedience often leads us along narrow, difficult paths, but those very paths reward us with personal strength, intimacy with God, and extraordinary views of His glory.

Creation is full of analogies for our spiritual lives! Share 1 with your children today. (click to tweet)

more everyday images

4 Surprising Things That Do NOT Promote Humility in Your Children (part 2)

When I was in middle school, we went to a lot of the school basketball games. Sometimes we won; sometimes we lost. Invariably, on those sad drives home after a loss, my mother would say, “Losing builds character.” Honestly, it didn’t feel like it in the moment. How, exactly, does losing build character? I never thought to ask Mom, but now I think I know…at least a little. Losing and other failures give us fantastic chances to gently help our children grow in faith and humility.

Pointing our children toward humility begins with an acknowledgement of God and who He is, then of who we are in relation to Him. There are times for that exact conversation, but there are also times to bring our children along the humility path in everyday situations. Last week, we considered two ways NOT to praise our children. This week, let’s look at:

2 Ways NOT to Talk About Failure with Our Children

You might think these attitudes will help balance their self-esteem, but you’ll actually find them detrimental. (I know from experience!) So DON’T…

  1. Remind them of their failures.

This is just belittling. It doesn’t foster humility; it fosters inadequacy and uncertainty. Plus, they most certainly remember that failure even more clearly than you! Just as we’ve been forgiven, just as God separates us from our sin as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), our children need us to put away last year’s failures…and last week’s.

There may be times when we’re working on consistency in a particular area that we must review previous failures, but these should be done gently and specifically, without adding unrelated issues to it. Look for patterns. One lie last year doesn’t mean your child is a chronic liar. One “epic fail” at a spelling bee doesn’t mean your child should never enter another spelling contest. Even if you feel you must stir up old wounds, focus on growth and improvement, not on chronic faults.

  1. Make excuses for their failures or blame others.

“Owning” one’s mistakes and deficiencies is a difficult lesson—one that many adults struggle to learn. We can’t model shifting blame or making excuses for our children if we want them to have a healthy view of themselves.

Before you speak, consider what is true. Is someone else responsible for this failure such that the child had no opportunity to succeed? Is it appropriate to point that out to the child? Most of the time, the child (and probably the parent—that’s you and me) bears some portion of the responsibility.

Instead of “Well, your teacher didn’t explain it properly,” try “What could you have done on your own when you realized you didn’t understand?”

Instead of “Your sitter shouldn’t have let you watch six hours of TV,” try “How much TV do you typically watch? Did you have the power to turn off the TV?”

Instead of “That referee was biased,” try “Well, the referee is human, too. He sometimes makes mistakes. Can you forgive him and move on?” or “Now that you know how he calls fouls, what will you do next time?”

We can turn failures into learning experiences with a little forward thinking on our parts.

As you talk with your children about success and failure, try sprinkling a couple of these Bible verses into the conversation:

He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed. –Proverbs 3:34 (quoted in James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5.)

God is the only one who never fails.

Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. –Joshua 23:14

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. –Lamentations 3:22

For no word from God will ever fail. –Luke 1:36-37

Our earthly failures are not as important as our faith in God.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. –Psalm 73:26

Sometimes what looks like a failure to us is a success in God’s eyes.

Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. –2 Corinthians 13:7

 

To review, we have 4 Surprising Things That Do NOT Promote Humility in Your Children:

  1. Praise them only when they win.
  2. Praise them for doing what they are supposed to do anyway.
  3. Remind them of their failures.
  4. Make excuses for their failures or blame others.

Each child’s path to humility passes through praise and failure. Tread lightly! (click to tweet)

What about you? When have you talked about success or failure effectively with your children? I’d love to hear some others’ thoughts on this! And for more on helping your kids learn through failure, check out this education blog post.

4 Surprising Things That do NOT Promote Humility in Your Children (part 1)

As parents, we walk this fine line between guarding our child’s self-esteem and his/her humility. In a recent post, I described some tactics for fostering healthy self-esteem. Both self-esteem and humility are skills—perspectives, really—that must be taught. They are two sides of a Christ-centered identity cube. (Is it a cube? Hmm…We’ll have to dig into that later.)

Just to get us started on healthy humility, here are two ways NOT to praise our children. Next week, I’ll add two ways NOT to address failure. (Because this started getting long, I’ve divided it into two parts.) How we talk about success and failure go a long way toward that healthy self-esteem we seek for our children…and ourselves.

2 Ways NOT to Praise Our Children

Sometimes it’s difficult to know what to praise, when to praise, and how to praise our children productively. There’s no exhaustive list of the right and wrong times. The most important thing about praising your children (or anyone) is that it must be authentic. We all know those fake one-liners that fall flat before they even reach our ears. I call that “plastic praise.”

  1. Praise them only when they win.

Of course we want to praise our children when they succeed. We should praise them at those times. But we also need to praise them when they fail well. There’s much to be learned in failure, if we handle it properly. Praise their effort, their graciousness toward their opponent, their self-control. Even in success, focus on these things and on God’s blessings (health, strength, intelligence) that brought about their success.

In success: “Wow, Hope, you did well in karate today! I saw how you remembered so much of what you’ve been taught and put it into practice. You fought hard, and you deserved to win! I also saw how you helped your opponent get up at the end. You showed real sportsmanship there. I thank God for giving you a strong body and a kind spirit.”

In failure: “Hey, Hope. I know you’re disappointed that you didn’t win. You fought hard, though. I could tell that you’ve been paying attention in karate class; you used some pretty advanced moves out there. That was some good sportsmanship at the end, too, when you shook hands with your opponent. I’m thankful for your attitude and that you tried so hard.”

  1. Praise them for doing what they are supposed to do anyway.

This involves keeping the rules, doing chores, and other expectations. Save the big praise for improvements or changes that required effort.

There’s no harm in the occasional comment about their ability to follow rules, but a focus on rule-keeping leads to little Pharisees. It bases their value in behavior rather than character. Focus instead on the choices they make to follow the rules even when it’s difficult. Look for demonstrations of strong character and for times when it was difficult to obey but they chose that more difficult route.

There’s also nothing wrong with mentioning their completed chores or other tasks, but emphasize consistency or exceptional attention to the work. Use comments like, “I’ve noticed that you made up your bed every day this week without being reminded.” or “Your bed-making skills have really improved over the last few months.” This type of praise emphasizes improvement and character rather than reducing the praise to a checklist.

In our home, I have to remind the kids to practice their instruments every day, so I don’t praise them for doing it. I will praise one when I tell him to go practice and he does it immediately. I will praise another for improvements in skill level. I’m looking forward to the day when they practice without prompting!

Obedience must be the expectation not the exception.

Let me repeat the exception to this praise policy: When the child has struggled to keep a certain rule or meet a certain expectation or when he/she is learning a new task. In those cases, be quick to praise and recognize even the smallest success!

A person is praised according to their prudence… -Proverbs 12:8a

2 Ways to use praise for maximum impact in #IntentionalParenting. (click to share on twitter)

Come back next week for some thoughts on talking with our kids about their failures. In the mean time, how have you used praise effectively in parenting?

Update 5.11.16: I just read this great, science-backed article on how we phrase praise! Perfect timing.

Update 7.20.16: This discussion/excerpt of The Examined Life by  Stephen Grosz contributes a wealth of observation to our discussion. Think I’m going to read the whole book…

 

Forget Where You Live? (guest post)

Don't you just stand in awe when your children remind you of an eternal Truth? Not
only is it spiritually beautiful, but it's also a great affirmation of your parenting.
That's what happened to my writer-friend, Cherrilynn Bisbano. Read her sweet story
(chocked full of Scripture!), then learn more about her at the end of the post.
Cherrilynn - meme
(c) Cherrilynn Bisbano

“I am so tired of moving,” I said to my son as we walked to the gym.

“I know mom; can we stay in this house forever?”

We took a few more steps; I smiled as I remembered. “Michael, this is not our forever home, our citizenship is in heaven.”

“That’s right mommy, I forgot!”

Do you forget where you ultimately live?

I find it so easy to get caught up in my earthly address, consumed with mundane daily tasks.

But our citizenship is in Heaven. and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. -Philippians 3:20 (All Scripture quotations in this post are ESV.)

I am blessed to have a beautiful temporary home in Rhode Island. Although the winters can be harsh, I thank God this house has so much sunlight provided by skylights. Even on the dreariest day there is a glimmer of light.

But oh the glorious light we will see in our forever home!

And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. -Revelation 22:5

My earthly home has my cats, Peach and Simone. I share this earthly dwelling with my husband, son and sister. Sometimes there is strife, misunderstanding and chaos. We all love each other and Jesus. In Heaven we will all be together…no tears, anger or infirmity.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. -Revelation 21:4

I think of my friends in Togo, Africa, who live in straw huts with dirt floors. How much sweeter heaven will be to them! Now they walk on dirt. In Heaven they will stroll on streets of gold.

…and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. -Revelation 21:21

I could go on and on comparing this earthly world to Heaven, but I digress. Until I reach my ultimate destiny, I will strive to be content here on earth and fulfill all that my Master has for me to do.

As my son and I continued our walk to the gym, we thanked God for our temporary home and praised Him for allowing us to be here to help further the Kingdom.

We still long for heaven where our bodies no longer need exercise, food or healing. Worries will be exchanged for worship. We will be face to face with God, consumed by His love and light.

“Mommy, one thing I really look forward to in Heaven is sitting in Jesus’ lap. I want to look into His eyes, give him a huge hug, and thank Him for dying on the cross for me.”

My heart filled with joy and my eyes filled with tears. I responded, “Me too, Michael, Me too. Heaven is home.”

Did you forget where you live?

No worries, fellow Christian. Our passport is stamped HEAVEN. Jesus is waiting to show us the mansion He prepared just for us.

In my Father’s house are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. -John 14:2

Will you join me is rejoicing that our ultimate home is with the lover of our souls?

Did you forget where you live? Heaven is our home! (click to tweet)

Cherrilynn - w sonCherrilynn Bisbano (pictured here with her son, Michael) is a speaker, teacher, and writer. Her passion for helping people is evident. She encourages and equips women to divide rightly the Scriptures and to be strong in the Lord.

Cherrilynn is Associate Editor at Almost an Author, an online community for aspiring writers. She is a two-time winner of Flash Fiction Weekly. You can find her work published in Amramp, More to Life (MTL), Christian Rep, Refresh and other online magazines. Cherrilynn is also a regular contributor to The Good News Newspaper. Her first book, True Star Quality: Learn to Shine, will be out by summer.

Cherrilynn proudly served in the Navy and Air National Guard, earning the John Levitow Military Leadership Award. She lives with her fourteen-year-old autistic son, Michael, Jr., and husband of 17 years, Michael, Sr.

Carole here. Give Cherrilynn some thanks by commenting below. Tell her how this story
impacted you!