How To Help Our Kids Embrace Responsibility

Click here and go to Episode 54 and listen to the Ted Cunningham interview.

 

How To Avoid Raising Co-Dependent Kids

The following article was copied form allpordad.com.

Shielding kids from consequences can have long-term consequences for parents. Take, for instance, my friend’s brother Bill. It started small when Bill was in first grade. Mom would do his chores so Bill wouldn’t get in trouble with Dad. Quickly, it moved to homework cover-ups and graduated to Mom covering when he skipped school; Dad lying to the police when he wrecked a car he didn’t have permission to drive, and increasingly large financial defaults. By the time Mom and Dad let Bill move back home after failing college (no questions asked), he felt entitled to every bailout that came his way. The bailouts just kept getting bigger, including $50,000 in a failed real estate venture.

We’re all concerned about keeping our kids safe and happy. But we raise our children to fly, not flop around the nest as the product of enabling parents. One day, we’re going to have to let go and, when we do, it’s a good idea to make sure they’re equipped and ready. If you want to avoid raising codependent kids, follow these 5 things early and often.

1. Expect more of them:

We all tend to rise to the level of expectation. A two-year-old can learn to pick up toys. A three-year-old can help to set the table. A four-year-old can take dirty clothes to the laundry room and learn how to operate the machine. The more, and the earlier, we train children to contribute, the more self-reliance will become a part of their DNA.

2. Allow (managed) natural consequences:

Typically, there is no better learning tool than to experience the consequence of behavior. A five-year-old refuses to clean up the toys in the middle of the floor? The toys visit the attic for a prescribed amount of time. A ten-year-old curses? Get a dictionary, then handwrite five acceptable words that mean the same thing, plus their complete definitions. Establish a direct line between behavior and a real world result.

3. Be consistent:

Mom and Dad need to be on the same page because learning thrives where children know what to expect. When children understand that what they do or do not do makes a consistent and measurable difference in the quality of their life, they will become more likely to accept responsibility for themselves and work to impact the outcome more favorably.

4. Be clear:

Leave no doubt as to the outcome when encouraging children to accept responsibility. Then having made ourselves clear, we need to follow through. This is why it’s important not to threaten beyond our willingness to enforce. If we say, for example, “If you do that again, I will take away your phone for a month,” but then only take it away for one day, we have created a problem.

5. Trust them:

Having made ourselves clear, we must demonstrate trust by getting out of the way. We can’t expect a child to grow if we treat them as if they are incapable of doing what we ask. When they succeed, we congratulate. If they fail, we follow through on consequences because we believe they could have done better.

The Importance of Letting Go

** The following article was copied from theparentcue.org.

I’m writing this while sitting on a flight with my thirteen-year-old son on our way home from Uganda. Yep . . . Uganda! It’s actually an interesting story how it all happened. I had an opportunity to join a mission trip to Uganda to pilot if for our ministry. The trip was one designed for fathers and their children, and they asked if my son would join us. Right away I knew the answer for sure. Let me ask his mom.

Her initial answer was predictable. It was simply . . . “I hate you.”

Now, before you judge the quality of my marriage . . . well, just stop. I love my wife’s answer. In a way, it sums up what most of us parents feel when we are faced with an option like that for our children.

Loosely translated, “I hate you” means, “I want this for my child, but I’m scared.”

I gave her a couple of weeks to think about it, and then I brought it up again.

Her response was one of the most profound parenting insights I’ve ever heard. (Did I mention how much I love my brilliant wife?)

She said, “I don’t want my thirteen-year-old to go to Uganda. But, I want a seventeen-year-old who went to Uganda when he was thirteen.”

Drop the parenting mic!

As I think about our trip I am amazed what he experienced as a thirteen-year-old. Someday he will be a seventeen-year-old who has already . . .

worked with and learned from great Ugandan men who are working hard to combat the lack of male role models in that culture.

made friends with another Mac from across the world and had to say goodbye. . . probably for this lifetime.

bartered with some tough Ugandan ladies at the city market.

played with Muhammed, #2 Muhammed (a name he gave himself), and Osama and enjoyed it.

sat with a widowed mother of twelve in her shed and told her she was “Brave.” (She really liked that.)

walked into an orphanage and brought joy to some amazing children who needed a little more joy.

felt deeply, the privilege and the blessing of being born in the United States of America.

Here’s my point:

As parents raising Christian children we must, at some point (probably middle school), decide that we are going to begin to move from protecting our children to preparing them for this world. The older they get, the more you have to let go,  giving them experiences where they can lead, serve, and learn how to do things on their own.

The reality is you don’t even need to take a missions trip, though I would highly recommend it. There are plenty of ways to change gears and plug them into new experiences. What is something you can do this summer to push your kids out of the nest just a little, to help them experience something new or become more responsible, even if it makes you feel a little uncomfortable at first? What do you want your kid to have already experienced when they are seventeen?

8 Warning Signs Your Child is Headed for Trouble

** The following article was copied from www.allprodad.com

When I look back at childhood, I think about my decisions when I came into my adolescence. The early years were perfectly happy and normal, but the later years led me to places that make me cringe when I think back on it. I can pinpoint the triggers that caused the good and bad choices. But a 10-year-old boy has no ability to understand what is happening in the moment.

As parents, it is an important duty to monitor our child and their activities. This allows us to decipher what paths they are headed down. When you just focus on punishment and not the root of the issue, there is a good chance he or she could become a problem child. Here are some of the common signs of a child heading the wrong direction. It is important to recognize these and take the appropriate steps to guide your child back down a positive path.

1. Mood Swings

Everyone experiences the occasional change in moods. Teenagers with exploding hormones, in particular, are prone to ups and downs. The key here is to determine if the lows and highs are too excessive, or if your child quickly shifts from euphoria to depression seemingly without cause. Be empathetic and a source of stability. Be calm. Adding to the drama will only make things worse. Finally, try to get your child to communicate what he is truly feeling in the moment.

2. Withdrawal

Not every child is a social butterfly, but that doesn’t mean there is a problem. However, if you see signs of withdrawal it could be cause for concern. Watch for signs of depression, lack of confidence, and if he feels rejected by other children.

3. Hiding Things

When you find out they have been hiding something, even if it’s trivial, it should tell you that they have entered into suspect behavior. At the very least they are creating habits of secrecy. It either says they are fine with bad behavior or they don’t trust you. Each of those is dangerous.

4. Dropping Grades

If a child is getting lower than normal grades, something is wrong somewhere. It could be a learning disability, laziness, need for more instruction, or any number of social or domestic issues. It could also be a sign of depression or discontentment. Get to the core of the matter instead of just punishing.

5. Sudden Change of Friends

Making new friends is a good thing. A red flag is when they stop spending time with one friend group and start hanging out with a totally new group of people. It’s important to find out what they are drawn to with the new group and what the breakdown was with their former friends. Relationships have a complexity and kids need their parents help in navigating them. Breakdowns in friendships hurt. Wounded hearts often gravitate to unhealthy coping mechanisms to numb or distract from the pain.

6. Fluctuating Weight

Sudden weight loss and gain are normally associated with an unhealthy desire to control. Being a child can feel turbulent and unstable. As a way to deal with the stress, eating disorders or mass consumption can emerge. With these dysfunctional coping strategies, food can easily be replaced by drugs and alcohol or cutting as a way to control feelings of fear, anxiety, and insecurity.

7. Personality Changes

Puberty is bound to bring some personality changes, but keep an eye on it. When a generally upbeat kid becomes more pessimistic or an outgoing kid becomes quieter, there is something driving the negative change. Perhaps they are doing things they know you wouldn’t approve of or they are being bullied at school. Maybe they are desperate for approval they aren’t getting. Ask them questions such as, “Do you feel like your world is changing a bit? How do you feel about that?” You may also try, “You know when I was your age I had a hard time. How are you coping with the changes going on around you?”

8. Changing The Way They Dress

It’s fine to experiment with new looks. After all, kids don’t develop a full sense of identity until their mid-twenties. However, a sudden change in dress and image could be more than experimenting. It may be a deep sign of insecurity. Starting to wear more revealing clothing tends to be a step towards sexual activity, while baggy/over covering can be a sign they are hiding something. For example, when a kid always wears long sleeves, even when it is warm, they are usually hiding scars from self-cutting. As it has been said before, get to the heart of the issues. Ask questions and be a safe place for your kids as they try to navigate life.

Self-Esteem is Ruining Your Kids

** The following article was copied from samluce.com

As a child of the 70’s I grew up 80’s where baby boomers were loving life, loving love and loving themselves. This translated to every area of life including their parenting. The seeds of self-esteem were laid by my parent’s generation and have taken full root in my generation. It’s this idea that kids need to have a positive outlook in life, they need to love themselves. While in limited ways this can be true the pervasiveness of this idea is killing the collective conscience of our country and is ruining our kids.

My parents were not primary concerned with my self-esteem for that I am thankful. I remember my mom saying something to me when I was younger that always stuck with me. She said that her and my father were not concerned with how our peers felt about us they would always watch how adults interacted with us and would listen for the assessments adults had of us. Why? Because my parents were more concerned with our self-awareness than our self-esteem.

How kids interact with adults is a great (not perfect) indicator of how self-aware your kids are. So many parents today are concerned with their kids having friends, their kids having the right kids of friends, their kids not getting their feelings hurt by their friends because they want their kids to have good self-esteem because they love their kids. They are doing their kids a disservice. Parents today take their child side over the word of another adult because they don’t want to crush their kids. In doing this they are eroding the very things that will make kids successful in life. I am all for good self-esteem and smarts in school but what makes you successful in life is self-awareness. And here is the truth that parents so often totally miss that when you raise a kid who is self-aware you get self-esteem thrown in, but if you try to raise a kid with your primary goal being good self-esteem you get neither.

3 Reasons why self-awareness should matter to you as a parent.

1. Self-awareness produces confidence in your kids and confidence produces self-esteem.

2. Self-awareness makes your kids other focused because you are confident and understand their strengths and limitations it allows them to flourish and not have to pretend, lie, cheat or steal to be something they wish they were and not who they really are.

3. Self-awareness allows your kids to see themselves as the desperate sinners they are. When you are aware of who you are in Christ you have a desperate confidence. You understand that you are a desperate sinner but have a confidence in a sinless savior. The cross is not a boost to your self esteem it doesn’t feel good to talk about the cross. Kids whose awareness is understood in light of their shortcomings and Christ’s sufficiency, glory in the Cross.  Kids who have learned to nurture their self-esteem run from the cross those who are self-aware run to it.

An Escape Plan for Teens

** The following article was copied from theparentcue.org

What would your kid do if, while at a friend’s house, someone offered them a beer? What would your kid do if a friend started playing an inappropriate YouTube video and expected them to watch, too?

We all want our kids to make good decisions in the face of peer pressure. But for a 13-year-old or 17-year-old just trying to fit in, making good decisions can be a daily challenge.

As a small group leader for the past ten years, I’ve had the opportunity to walk with dozens of middle school and high school students as they navigate potentially compromising situations. Underage drinking, cheating on tests, watching inappropriate movies, pushing boundaries with a girlfriend . . . students are consistently facing peer pressure that can lead to poor decisions.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned working with students, it’s that they need a plan—an escape plan. They need to know how to escape those pressure-filled moments. Because the truth is, most teens don’t wantto cave into peer pressure, they just don’t know how not to.

This is where you—the parent—come in. As a parent, you have the opportunity to work with your teenager to create an escape plan—a plan to help them avoid those poor decisions. Here’s what that escape plan might include . . .

For escaping the big situations—like a party that’s gotten out of hand or an inappropriate movie that just started playing—there’s the X-plan. If you’re not familiar with it, the X-plan encourages kids to text “X” to a parent if they find themselves in a compromising situation. When a parent gets that text, they know their kid needs to be picked up immediately. (Read more about the X-plan here.)

But what about escaping the spur-of-the-moment situations when there’s no time to send an emergency text? Like if a friend offers your kid a beer, asks them to help cheat on a test, or asks them to watch an inappropriate music video? A student only has a few seconds to respond in these situations.

For these moments, preparing a few “escape phrases” that a student can use in a pinch can be instrumental. And you can brainstorm with your kid what those escape phrases could be.

If your kid is still growing in their faith, convictions, and decision-making, the goal might be simply getting out of a tough situation. If a friend offers a cigarette, the escape phrase might be, “No thanks. My parents would be able to smell it on me and I’d never get away with it.” Or if a student is trying to get out of cheating, the escape phrase might be, “Sorry, if I get caught cheating even once I’m off the soccer team, and I can’t let my team down.”

If your kid is maturing in his or her faith, though, it may be time for them to more closely stand by their convictions and beliefs. If someone asks them to watch an inappropriate YouTube video, maybe their escape phrase is, “Sorry, I really try to avoid watching this kind of stuff. I just don’t see any upside to it. Can we watch something else?” Or if someone offers a beer, maybe their escape phrase is, “No thanks. I really don’t think it’s wise to drink alcohol in high school. I’m going to stick to soda tonight.”

Your teenager will be far more likely to resist peer pressure in a difficult situation if they’re prepared. And you have the chance to discuss with your teen what that escape plan looks like.

It may be tempting to assume that these ideas only apply to teens that are running with “the wrong crowd.” But the truth is, all students run into these situations every now and then. And it only takes one poor decision to send a kid down a destructive path.

Preparing an escape plan with your teenager probably won’t be easy. It’ll require time and effort on your part to get your kid to open up and have a conversation about this. And they’ll probably never come home and say, “Mom, I used one of the phrases in our escape plan and it worked!” But there will be situations that make your kid uncomfortable, and these phrases will come to mind. And it will have been worth it.

How To Talk To Your Kids About Sex

* This article was copied from fulleryouthinstitute.org

How to talk to your kids about sex (with as little awkwardness as possible)

{blog-author_related:title}   Kara Powell

Nervous to talk with your kids about sex?

You’re not alone. Especially if faith is important to you.

According to two different sets of data, the more important religion is to parents, the more difficult it is for those parents to talk with their kids about sex.[1]

That’s both sad and ironic. As followers of Christ, we should be at the front of the line to talk with our kids about sex. We know that sex, as something God created, is good—really good. And yet somehow with sex (as well as other controversial topics), our families have been robbed of healthy, balanced, scripturally guided conversations, the type of conversations that foster good decisions and strong faith.

This Valentine’s Day, topics of romance, love, and intimacy are bound to be at the forefront of our teenagers’ minds. Furthermore, young people today are inundated with notions and standards that fall short of God’s good intentions for sex—and they need us to help them discern what is true and what isn’t.

So how can we leverage Valentine’s Day, or other cultural references, as springboards for better conversations about sex with our kids? Here are four suggestions to help you have better “sex talks” at home.

1) It’s about listening, not lecturing.

It’s the rare teenager who looks forward to talk to their parents about sex. Not only is talking about sex with parents awkward, it usually devolves into a lecture.

Parents who are best at talking with their kids about sex bite their tongues—sometimes literally—when they feel tempted to lecture their kids. The reality is that your kids probably already have a hunch about what you might say about sex. So do your best to let them do the talking.

2) It’s about asking, not judging.

Wondering how to get them talking? Most teenagers won’t launch into a monologue about sex, so if we’re going to help them do the talking, we have to ask questions. And it’s best if we avoid the “What are you thinking? You must be crazy!” tone of voice when we ask.

In one of the parental interviews we conducted for The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Familyone amazing dad described inventing a family game called “What do you think will happen next?” During car trips, over dinner, or at bedtime, the dad would give a challenging ethical situation, often involving sex. And then ask his kids, “What do you think will happen next?”

So if he wanted to talk to his daughter about date rape drugs, he’d start with, “You go to a party and are handed a cup. You’re not entirely sure what is in the cup and you don’t know the guy who handed it to you very well. What do you think will happen next?”

His daughter would give her best answer. And then he’d follow up with, “Okay. So what do you think will happen next?”

She’d answer. And he’d ask the same question again.

He would do this for as many rounds as his kids would play along because he had one main goal: He wanted his kids to think ahead. And he used questions to help them learn how.

3) It’s about them, not me.

Maybe asking, “What do you think will happen next?” would never work in your family. If so, then take the cue from wise parents who use what’s happening to other people to launch their families into discussions about sex.

The bad news is that sexualization has infiltrated our culture from top to bottom. The good news is that gives us all sorts of conversation fodder.

Valentine’s Day cards. Movies. Music. What’s going on with your kids’ friends. Politicians. YouTube videos. News headlines. Clothing choices. School policies about dating.

If asking kids directly what they are thinking and feeling about sex feels too pointed and all too likely to cause your kids to shut down, start by talking about all of these topics—and other people (whether they are your kids’ friends or media celebrities)—and see if the conversation organically progresses to get more personal.

4) It’s a process, not an event.

Are you gearing up for “the sex talk” with your kids? Looking forward to crossing it off your list? Maybe even planning on having that discussion this month?

Well, it’s not about one sex talk. It’s about lots of them.

With both of our two older kids, and we’re about to do this with our youngest, we’ve bought them a book and read through it with them together—two chapters per week. Dave and I read through it first, underlining the portions we want to discuss with them, and then our child reads it.

We have intentionally made those discussions about book chapters as natural as possible. We’ll have them while we’re talking in our child’s bedroom, or sitting on the couch in our living room after dinner. We want talking about sex to feel as normal as possible.

If you want to do a special weekend away or purity ritual, by all means go ahead. Just don’t view it as a one-time event. It’s more like a series of conversations, because sexuality involves a lifetime of choices.

What other steps have you taken to leverage cultural references for better discussions with your kids about sex?

*Portions of this post adapted from Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family and Good Sex 2.0.


[1] Those two data sets are the National Study of Youth and Religion and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Mark D. Regnerus, Forbidden Fruit (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 60-73.

3 Areas in Which Parents Must Persevere

** This article was copied from crosswalk.com

3 Areas in Which Parents Must Persevere

At the beginning of a new year, we often think about the things we want to do well for the next three hundred sixty-five days. We often prove ourselves to be great at applying ourselves to our resolutions for a season, but we struggle to persevere in doing these things for the long haul.

There are few areas of our lives in which we struggle more than we do with perseverance in parenting. For a while, we spend quality time with our kids, and then we get into a busy season where our kids start getting the short end of the stick. We have consistent family devotions, then suddenly cannot remember when the last one was. We discipline them consistently, taking the time to talk to them about their behavior and not letting offenses slide. Then, we go through a period where we overlook misbehavior and then lash out in frustration because they aren’t listening to what we say.

The hardest part of parenting is not knowing what to do. Knowing how to teach and pray for your kids is not as hard as you think it is. Often, our instincts about the best way to discipline our children are usually correct, and most parents want to spend quality time with their children.

The hardest aspect of parenting is often not our lack of understanding, but our failure to persevere. As parents, what we need the most is to continue doing the little things every single day.

There are three particular areas in which we need to persevere.

Persevere in Quality Time

Our children want us more than they want stuff from us, but how often do we give our children things so they will occupy themselves so we can have time alone? We need time to recharge and spend with our spouses. Our children must know how to entertain themselves, but we also have to recognize how much our children crave time with us. Fishing, hiking, reading, playing a game, throwing a ball, or sitting around a fire to roast marshmallows provide great opportunities for us to connect with our children each day.
Our children will be more receptive to our discipline and teaching when we spend regular time with them because it flows from our relationship with them. As Ted Tripp points out in Shepherding a Child’s Heart, we parent mainly from authority when our children are young. If we find them touching something they shouldn’t, we can take it away from them or pick them up and move them somewhere else. As they grow older, we still parent from our God-given authority, but our relationship with them becomes a much larger aspect of our parenting. They tend to listen more and be more receptive to our parenting when we spend consistent time with them.

We often find that this is a joy to us as well. Our children are a gift from God. Spending time with them often leads to fun, laughter, joy, and lasting memories. Each of our children has unique personalities and are fun and funny in their own way. Spending time together brings this out, so stop thinking that you will magically “find time” to spend with them and make the time.

Persevere in Teaching and Discipline

The Bible calls parents to teach and discipline our children. Moses’ words fromDeuteronomy 6:7 provide insight into how we do this. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Much of our parenting takes place in the context of ordinary life. We teach, correct, instruct, and discipline our children while we are doing the things we usually do every day.

In addition to teaching as we walk through life, we need to set aside time for teaching through family devotions. When we hear about family devotions, we shouldn’t picture Dad preaching a twenty-minute sermon to the kids. (If your kids are small, it can’t and won’t be this.) In his book Family Worship, Don Whitney offers a simple method for family devotion anyone can do whether they know the Bible well or not- read, pray, sing. Read a portion of the Bible. If your kids are small, this can be from a children’s Bible like The Big Picture Story Bible or The Jesus Storybook Bible. When they get older, progress into reading a section from your favorite translation. Depending on where your children are, you can work on memory verses or a catechism together. Then spend some time in prayer together and sing a song. These can be children’s songs like “Jesus Loves Me” or simple hymns like “Come Thou Fount” or “Be Thou My Vision.”

We must also discipline our children. Truthfully, I find it difficult to separate discipline from teaching because they go together hand in hand. We do not discipline our children to punish them for what they have done, but to instruct their hearts so they will be different in the future. Discipline should not look the same all the time, but we should tailor it to the situation and the bent of our children. While how we discipline is a matter of wisdom at the moment, disciplining our children is not up for debate. God commands children to obey their parents, and we should expect them to obey the first time that we tell them to do something. Anything other than their first-time obedience must result in discipline for the sake of your children’s souls and your future sanity.

Persevere in Prayer

Finally, parents need to persevere in praying for and with our children. Pretend for a second that you could do a perfect job parenting your children. You always kept your cool when they disobeyed and told them exactly what they needed to hear in every situation. You read the Bible to them every day and spent the perfect amount of quality time with them. You led them to friendships with the right kids and gave them every opportunity they needed. Even if you did all these things correctly, it would not guarantee that your child would become a Christian or behave properly. Only the grace of God can take your parenting and make it effective, so you must pray.

We should pray for our children and for our parenting every day. Pray God would cover our efforts with grace, forgive us where we fail, and empower us to persevere in our parenting. Pray God would change our children’s hearts by the power of his Spirit and raise them up to follow him and bring him glory. We need God, and our children need God, so we must daily plead for them before the throne of grace.

Not only should we pray for our children, but we should also pray with our children. By doing this, they learn how to pray and what subjects we bring before the Lord in prayer. They get to see our family pray for needs and how God answers those prayers. Also, our children should hear us pray for their salvation. Our prayers teach them what we value the most and by praying for their salvation, they will consistently hear about their need for Christ.