Parenting at the Movies

Y’all, I’m excited about this one: I had a guest post over at In the Quiver the other day! It starts like this:

We love to go to the movies as a family, but I don’t always love what we see on the screen. Sometimes my gut reaction is to cover my children’s eyes and ears until the scene passes, but that’s not always practical, especially now that they’re older and watch movies with their friends. Continue reading “Parenting at the Movies”

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Stack the Stones and Tell the Stories

I love those historical markers you see along the roads. They’re embossed metal, with print so small you could never read it from the car, even if you weren’t zooming past. Some stand beside busy thoroughfares, but some are on quiet streets or by scenic overlooks. We stop if we can. (I guess we’re history nerds.)

When we read those signs, we learn a little bit of relevant history. But more importantly, we’re reminded that we’re standing where many others have stood: living, fighting, succeeding (and failing), dying. Continue reading “Stack the Stones and Tell the Stories”

The Message Behind Our Manners

Our inquisitive children ask many tough questions about why we must behave the way we do (i.e. manners)…

  • Why shouldn’t I talk with my mouth full?
  • What must I use a fork and knife?
  • Why do we knock on doors and wait to be invited inside?
  • Why do I shake hands with people I don’t know?
  • Why do I say “hello” and “good-bye”?
  • Why do I have to say “please”?

Like me, you’ve probably answered with some variation of “Because that’s what we do.” This statement is true, but perhaps it’s incomplete. In truth, manners are cultural. What’s appropriate in some cultures is anathema in others. (I may write a children’s book about this one day.) But manners are more than social/cultural expectations. Manners are biblical!

From 1 Corinthians 13:5, love…        does not dishonor others. NIV

is not rude.  ESV

does not act unbecomingly.  NASB

does not behave rudely.  NKJV

From Philippians 2:3, in humility…         value others above yourselves.  NIV

                   count others more significant than yourselves.  ESV

                   regard one another as more important than yourselves.  NASB

                   let each esteem others better than himself.  NKJV

How does using manners help our children?

Manners teach patience. We wait for someone to open the door when we knock. We finish chewing and swallowing before we speak. Small applications of patience make the bigger tests easier to manage.

Manners teach thoughtfulness and thankfulness. Keeping our mouths closed to chew shows we know others don’t want to see our half-masticated food. Our unprompted “thank you” shows we’ve recognized the other person’s generosity toward us. When we consider the comfort of others, we’re beginning to learn empathy.

What do our manners say to those around us?

Manners convey the other person’s value. When we use the fork for green beans—even when we struggle with it—we show respect for others at the table, who don’t want to see our messy fingers. When we shake hands after an introduction, we’re saying that person is worth our attention.

Manners show respect—for others and for ourselves. When we wait until a break in conversation before we speak, we demonstrate that we value the other person’s thoughts above our own. When we refrain from slurping our soup, we’re recognizing everyone else’s desire for a quiet meal.

Is it super-important that our children use the right fork for their salads (if they’ll even eat salad)? No. To be honest, some days I would rather eat my green beans with my fingers, too. But teaching our kids to make the effort in small things leads them to respectful attitudes and actions when the consequences are bigger.

In Intentional Parenting, the Gospel informs everything we do, including our manners. When we frame our explanations (our answers to the “why” questions) in terms of the Gospel, we help them understand that faith affects all of life. When we teach our children to say “please” and “thank you,” even when we show them how to eat with utensils rather than their fingers, they learn more than these practical actions. Our children learn how to demonstrate love and humility toward the people around them. They learn how to act like Christ would act in our culture.

Our manners convey love and humility toward the people around us. #Manners matter in #IntentionalParenting, via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

Do you have any practical tips on helping our kids learn to “mind their manners?” Any other thoughts on why—or if—manners are important? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

 

For 21 interesting meal-time do’s and don’ts from around the world, check out this slideshow: https://www.thedailymeal.com/travel/burping-good-manners-and-other-etiquette-surprises-around-world-slideshow. I found it while researching this topic.

Recommended reading: A Smart Girl’s Guide: Manners, from American Girl. Here’s a quote from the introduction:

“A girl who chooses to use good manners is telling the world she believes that other people matter as much as she does.”

10 Ways to Secure Influence and Reach Your Goal (guest post)

I love it when I have the chance to learn from Christ-follower parents who 
are a couple of steps ahead of me on the parenting journey. This week, we 
have the privilege of sitting under Sandra A. Lovelace, a writer friend that
I’m sure you will love! Read more about her at the end of this post.

Both ladies sported face-wide smiles. Emma jumped out of the silver Honda with fourteen-year-old delight. Mom grabbed her purse and slid out from behind the steering wheel. They’d taken a few steps when the older woman started to sing what had become their just-us-having-fun song.

The daughter’s eyes shifted from the ice cream shop to the tires of an old green truck. Mom slowed her tempo as she made beckoning circles with her hand. No response. “Hey now. Don’t leave me with a solo here.” Continue reading “10 Ways to Secure Influence and Reach Your Goal (guest post)”

What’s Your Superpower? (guest post)

Sometimes you meet a person, and you think, “This person is fun. I want to hang out with them.” That’s what I thought when I met Beckie Lindsey at a writer’s conference last year. I quickly discovered that she laughs easily and loves quickly. But don’t let that fun persona lead you to think she’s a lightweight. Beckie can pack a theological punch, as you’ll discover in this super-special guest post!

Come on, admit it. There are superpowers you’d like to have. Maybe when you were a kid, you ran around the house wearing a makeshift cape. No worries. There is no judgment from me. I used to tell my brother and best friend that I was half-cat. It’s fun to envision what life would be like if we developed superpowers of our own. Would you have superhuman strength? Fly? How about reading minds?

Comic books, movies, and cartoons have depicted our fascination with superheroes and their superpowers. As parents, we’d love to have superpowers—or at least we’d like our kids to think we do. Continue reading “What’s Your Superpower? (guest post)”

Emotion Management 101

The Scriptures tell us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). The heart, in Hebrew as well as English, refers to the “seat” of our emotions; that is, the part of ourselves from which our emotions spring. So how do we love God with all our emotions? And how do we teach our children to do the same?

  1. The three-year-old boy can’t operate his bubble gun. After about twenty seconds of trying, he throws it onto the ground in frustration.
  2. The four-year-old girl doesn’t want to lie down for rest time. She screams and kicks, refusing to comply.
  3. The six-year-old boy wants the brown crayon while another child has it. He breaks four other crayons because he can’t get it.

These are sinful actions, no doubt about it. But let’s be careful to distinguish the actions from the emotions. Depending on the age of the child and other factors, discipline may be appropriate for actions springing from certain emotions, but let’s never discipline our kids for feeling angry, frustrated, or other so-called “bad” emotions.

Consider:

  • God is emotional. He loves; He is pleased by things; He gets frustrated (e.g. the Hebrew people in the wilderness, Exodus 32:7-10).
  • Jesus experienced everything involved in being human—including emotions: He loved, He wept, He got angry—and even acted on that anger (Mark 11:15-17)! Yet He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).
  • We humans, created in the image of God and patterning our lives on the example of Jesus, are emotional beings.
  • The Bible never says, “Don’t get angry.” Rather, it says, “In your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26).

Clearly, the experience of strong emotions is not automatically sinful. The sin associated with emotion comes from one of two issues. Either sin causes the emotion (e.g. selfishness leads to impatience), or we respond to the emotion in a sinful way (e.g. hitting someone in anger). For our concrete-thinking children, let’s focus on the second, more tangible issue: responding to emotions.

Responding to Our Emotions

When we experience a negative emotion, we have three response options. (I’m not a psychologist. These are just my observations.)

  1. We can act out. The child in example 3 above broke crayons because he didn’t know how to practice patience.
  2. We can stuff the emotion back down inside ourselves. This often happens if we shame our children for feeling a certain way. Eventually, all those swallowed emotions will probably cause the child to explode. I’ve seen this happen with my own kids.
  3. We can handle the emotion responsibly. People (children and adults) can’t do this without training.

Handling emotions is a learned skill, not something we’re born with. How can we teach our kids to manage their emotions well?

Build Vocabulary

First, we must build emotional vocabulary through observation and experience. For our younger children, we name it: “Noah, you’re feeling angry.” Or “Sarah, you’re feeling sad.” Or “Mommy is feeling frustrated.” Say it out loud. Ask your child to say it out loud.

We follow the feelings statement with why. “You’re feeling angry because the bubble gun isn’t working for you.” “…because your friend can’t come play with you today.” “…because I’ve told you all to pick up your toys five times already and you haven’t done it.” (Maybe that last one is just me.) If we model this verbal acknowledgement, our children will learn to do the same.

Offer Action Steps

Next, we must offer concrete action steps for managing various emotions, e.g. “When I am angry, I can do ten jumping jacks to calm down or I can take a deep breath and back away.” The actions you offer will depend on the child. I suggest you give two acceptable options. Choosing will help your child feel in control of the situation. Offer action steps for the positive emotions, too. “When I am happy, I can sing a song or I can skip across the yard.” Keep the options consistent if possible. If little Noah always has the same two options for managing his anger, he’ll soon learn to choose even before you offer the options.

Lots and lots of praise would be appropriate when she successfully manages a difficult emotion on her own!

Play a Game

To introduce this new way of managing emotions, play charades with your child/children. First, the parent models the emotion and the child guesses. Once the child has named the emotion, give a reason one might feel that way. Say for example, “I am sad because my friend forgot my birthday.” Next, model various positive and negative ways to manage that emotion. (Use options your kids might use.) Ask your children to decide if each way is acceptable. When you’ve settled on at least two healthy ways to deal with the emotion, ask each child which one he/she would choose for that emotion.

After your children understand the game, let them model various emotions and responses. Make sure to discuss each response.

How do we love God with all our emotions, not just the positive ones? We handle them in a way that brings Him glory. We take them under control and learn to manage them–and teach our kids to do the same–so it’s clear to everyone that we love Him.

#Emotions themselves aren’t sinful. It’s how we handle them that counts. Let’s teach our children some emotional management skills. #IntentionalParenting via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

What practical ways have you found to help your children deal with their emotions in a way that honors God? We would all love to hear some “best practices!”

Want more? Check out this post from Desiring God for more on handling emotions as a Christ-following adult.

 

Do My Sins Cause My Child’s Suffering?

We’re not perfect parents—none of us. I’ve made some massive mistakes in the last sixteen years. Some of my mistakes were…

  • accidental, because I wasn’t paying attention to the right things.
  • ignorant, because sometimes I just didn’t know the right thing to do.
  • sinful, because I was being selfish or prideful.

Some of my mistakes were the type I could correct later. But for some of those mistakes, the only thing I could do was ask forgiveness.

Sometimes Satan slips his hand inside the memories of my parenting mistakes as if they were puppets. Then he raises their ugly heads toward me at the worst times, crushing my confidence and/or piling on the guilt.

I know I’m not alone. My friend and her son are in a difficult situation. He’s struggling, and she’s hurting. She said, “I hurt because I know some of the things I did were wrong.”

Me too, friend. Me too. And now it seems my children suffer because of my wrongs.

The same day she said those words to me, I read the beginning of John 9.

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned, said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  –John 9:2-3

I’ve written about this Gospel scene before. But this time, I thought of myself in the parents’ role: always wondering if I had done something to cause the son’s blindness. In the same way, I wonder if my actions and decisions over the past sixteen years have caused some of the struggles my kids have now.

Read the Scriptures carefully here. Jesus isn’t saying those parents never sinned. He’s saying their sin didn’t cause their son’s blindness. Think about the relief that unnamed mom and dad must have felt when their son walked in, looked at them, and told them about Jesus!

There are some parental sins that do affect our children (e.g. negligence, substance abuse), and in a sense, every decision we make—good and bad— affects those around us. If you’re reading this blog, however, you’re trying to be a good parent. You’re working on Intentional Parenting. I’m talking to you, to us, who would never intentionally harm our children.

Yet we still throw those regrets up in the air like confetti.

“If I hadn’t done this…”

“If I’d just noticed that thing earlier…”

“If I’d made a different choice when they were younger…”

I imagine the blind man’s parents racked their brains for what sin they had committed to cause their son’s suffering. Or maybe they thought they knew. And maybe they had to live with the walking, talking reminder and the regret every day.

Here’s what we all need to know, need to claim, need to grab tightly when those bad parenting memories rear their ugly heads in the face of our children’s struggles:

It is not God’s pattern to punish us through our children. Instead, God’s pattern is to redeem every situation for His glory. Our children’s problems, whether caused by us or not, create avenues for the works of God to be displayed in them.

How beautiful is this!!

Let go of the guilt. Let go of the self-doubt. Let go of the repetitive beating-yourself-up. Toss that guilt confetti in the air one last time and let the breath of God blow it away!

Joseph told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).  –the accidental mistakes

Paul declared, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). –the ignorant mistakes

Through Joel, God told the once-rebellious Israelites, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25). –the sinful mistakes

Here’s what I’m telling myself these days:

I’m going to do the best parenting job I can, leaning heavily on the Holy Spirit along the way. Yes, I’ve messed up. Yes, I’ve failed. But…

  • Not every problem my children face is the result of my failures.
  • Not every problem is necessarily the result of poor decision-making in my parenting.
  • None of their problems are designed to destroy me…or them.

“Who sinned?” the disciples asked. Well, we all did, but that’s not why our children suffer. Now let’s back off and let Jesus display the “works of God” in our children’s lives and our own, just like He did for the blind man.

Feel like your parenting mistakes have created problems in your kids’ lives? Know this: It’s not God’s pattern to punish parents through their children. #IntentionalParenting #GodsGlory via @Carole_Sparks (click to tweet)

I want to hear what you think about this. There was so much more I could write, so push in to those parts of the post that intrigue you and let me know what the Lord reveals. Or encourage us all with a short story of how God has used a parenting “fail” for good. I would love to hear it!

I Am Not Enough (guest post)

Friends, you will be blessed by this honest, Spirit-filled post from my
virtual friend, Heather Bock. Receive these words from her heart, then
connect with her through the links at the end. And as always, we'd love to
hear what you think in the comments!

As a mother, I am broken. I am not enough.

Since the moment I knew life was growing inside me, I wanted so much to be enough. In fact, I wanted very much to be as close to a perfect mother as possible. I ate all the right foods, took the right vitamins, and slept the recommended way. When my baby was born, I read all the books, swaddled him carefully, and started him on solids, thinking carefully about which food to introduce first and watching for allergies each time. Continue reading “I Am Not Enough (guest post)”

Teens: #MistakeManaged

He tried to decide well. He talked to his parents and tried to foresee the consequences. He thought about it, not hastily jumping to a conclusion; maybe he even prayed. But there was no clear right or wrong and no precedent to which he could refer in his short life.

He tried to decide well. But he chose wrong, and now he’s faced with managing a whopper of a mistake.

We could have chosen for him, but he’s old enough now to make his own decisions. (We may not have recognized the best decision anyway.) He’s old enough now to learn from both good and bad situations.

So what can we, as parents, do now? How can we walk our teen through the aftermath of a bad decision? How can we coach him (or her) to manage mistakes?

Help your teen work through his situation with these steps. (If you’re facing a similar bad decision, these steps work for us parents, too, by the way.)

4 Steps to Managing a Major Mistake

  1. He must “own” his mistake: “Yes, I did this. Yes, it was wrong. Yes, I accept the consequences.”

Our teen must admit his error and accept the natural consequences that follow. This is not the time to lecture but to comfort, to gently peel away the excuses and blame-casting. Help him see the connection between his decision and what followed (and may still follow). Help him look for anything he can learn that will help him in the future. This is wisdom: learning from our experiences!

  1. He must apologize to the wronged parties: “I’m sorry. I messed up.”

In whatever way is appropriate (although face-to-face is best), help him create the space to apologize. In admitting he was wrong and asking for forgiveness, this bad situation can begin to heal—for everyone involved.

  1. He must forgive himself: “God loves me. I am forgiven. I can learn. I can change. I am valuable.”

Yes, he made a mistake, but our lives are never summed up in one decision. Let him know he may laugh at this whole situation one day. Encourage him to consider the value of learning from a mistake and becoming better equipped for the future. (This is a “growth mindset.”) If appropriate, share an “epic fail” from your own teenage years. He will see that you’ve recovered from your error and that you’ve gone on to have a full life. But hey! Don’t lie. If your bad decision still affects your life, let him know, and point Him toward God’s faithfulness even through your consequences.

  1. He must move on: “I will not be defined by this one decision. I can and will continue with my life.”

At our house, we call this step “nail it and press on” (from an AIA camp years ago). If forgiveness looks back toward the mistake, “nail it” looks forward toward a better future. It’s easy for our teens to get emotionally or spiritually stuck at their mistake. We can help them take that intentional next step. Ask something like, “Where do you want to go from here?” We (the parents) must not repeatedly return to his mistake. Sure, there will be times to remind him, but we can’t pick up the hammer and keep nailing. Keep moving forward with him.

It’s inevitable that our children will make mistakes—some of them doozies! If we handle their mistakes with maturity and coach them through the process as well, we’re equipping them for adulthood where (as we all know) mistakes continue to pop up in our lives.

Parents, now is the time to help our teens learn how to manage their mistakes! Try these 4 steps, via @Carole_Sparks of #IntentionalParenting. #mistakemanaged (click to tweet)

You probably don’t want to embarrass your teen by sharing one of their big mistakes, but we would appreciate any counsel on how you helped them walk through it. What did you say that elicited a positive response? What should the rest of us not say to our teens at such a time? Please share in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

Able in Impossible Places (guest post)

Don’t you just love to gather wisdom from other parents who are grounded in the Word of God and actively parenting from that perspective? I do. That’s why I’m so thankful to welcome Emily Wickham to Intentional Parenting this month. She wrote us a sweet note to start, then you can catch all her contact/follow information at the end. Continue reading “Able in Impossible Places (guest post)”