My Unexpected Goal as a Dad

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When it comes to parenting, it’s easy to think of a few goals for yourself.

You want to help your kids find something they are passionate about.
You want to give them a healthy self-image.
You want to challenge them and encourage them to grow.
You hope that they develop their own faith, instead of just parroting your own.

You could probably list a dozen off the top of your head, but there’s one unexpected goal I can’t stop thinking about.

What is it?

I want my kids to find me approachable.

It’s easy to approach someone with good news. I loved telling my parents I got an A or made the team or finished my project early. The bigger challenge is approaching someone with disappointing news. It’s harder to approach a parent when you’ve messed up or failed or made a mistake.

But that’s exactly when I hope my kids will approach me the most.

The alternative is deadly. The alternative is secrecy and hiding and loneliness for a kid who doesn’t know where to go with the trouble they’re carrying.

Often, when there’s a tragedy, you’ll hear a parent say about their child, “We had no idea.”

That’s one of the saddest situations in life to me. So how do we combat it? I have a few ideas:


I don’t just tell my kids they can approach me. That’s too vague. I say very clearly, “If you’re at a party and someone is smoking pot, give me a call. I’ll get you home.” Or, “If you make a mistake with some friends, let me know and we can figure it out.” I try to give real examples they can actually understand.


If you want your kid to talk to you, you have to create moments when they can. Some people grew up with dads who couldn’t be bothered when they got home. They’d hide behind a newspaper or TV, only emerging when dinner was made. How hard would it be for a kid with a secret to break the sanctity of that moment and share something difficult? Instead, do your best to create lots of moments where it’s easy to share.


My kids are going to be so tired of hearing me say that I am approachable. They are going to eventually say, “We know dad, we know!” Why? Because I never want them to forget it. I want them to always know they can tell me anything at any given moment. In order to get that to stick, I have to repeat it so that they actually believe it’s true.

A friend used to have a chair in her living room. If her daughter was in that chair, she had full immunity from whatever story she was telling her mom. Would that work for your family? Maybe, maybe not, I think it depends on the kid. But I applaud the parents for getting creative in their goal of being approachable.

It’s not the most exciting word. It’s not even a word we usually talk about when we talk about parenting. But trust me, you want to be approachable.

More importantly, your kids want you to be approachable.

Parent Network Podcast

We’re excited to launch our Parent Network podcast where we’ll interview people who can help equip and encourage us to help our family walk with God.  Click here to go to our podcast page and soon you’ll be able to subscribe on iTunes.

What I Want My Sons to Know About Value and Truth

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My friend Samantha Krieger just wrote a post called What I Want My Daughters to Know About Beauty & Worth. I recommend you read her post and subscribe to her blog. She is one of the best writers I know and you don’t want to miss what she has to say, especially for the wives and moms out there.

I don’t have any daughters, yet I found myself drawn into this post. Partly because I know the world gives women a very false message about beauty, and women live under an immense amount of pressure to live up to some false, air-brushed standard. I can’t imagine the pressure many/most women feel to do everything they can to make sure their daughter doesn’t grow up believing the lies.

The other reason I was so drawn to this article has very little to do with beauty and worth. Rather, as the dad to four boys, I desire for my boys to have the right message about masculinity and worth. While the battle/struggle for boys and girls might be different, the fight is still over their value and worth.

My kids are at a sweet age right now. The twins are almost 12, our middle boy is nine and our youngest is seven. They can do a whole lot by themselves, they are fun to play and talk with, and they still think I’m the greatest guy on the planet. I know someday (probably soon!) this will change, so I am enjoying it in the moment. This is the perfect season for me to drive home the lessons they need to learn about their value and worth. I know as my twins start junior high in the fall, their world will be shaken like never before.

A few years ago, I read the book Season of Life, by Jeffrey Marx. The book tells the story of Joe Ehrmann, a former NFL player who now spends his days teaching young men about a whole new meaning of masculinity. In the book, Marx shares the world’s definition of masculinity and how it centers around athletic prowess as an elementary/middle school boy, sexual conquest as a high school/college young man, and financial success as a young adult/man.

As I watch my boys grow older and older, I see these things being lived out in front of my eyes. The most “popular” elementary boys seem to be the ones with the most athletic ability, and as my twins get ready to enter into junior high next year, I know sexual tensions rise like crazy in these pre-pubescent, adolescent boys and girls. And as I watch young adults, I see the prestige that comes with nicer cars, bigger homes, and more powerful job titles.

And everything in me wants my boys to know that their value and worth is not tied into their athletic ability, sexual conquests, or financial success. I long for them to know they are loved by their mom and dad, and are loved even more than they can imagine by the God of the universe. I want them to know that Jesus died for them, that their value and worth is defined by His finished work on the cross of Christ, not by baskets scored, notches on the bedpost, or digits in their bank account.

I want my boys to know:

  • They are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). My twins were conceived at just about the same moment in time (they are fraternal – VERY fraternal). Yet, even though they come from the same parents and were made and born seconds apart, they are still so different from each other. Where do those differences come from? Their Creator.
  • Their value comes from the fact that they are human beings, made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27).
  • Whatever the world offers is not worth it. So often the things we are drawn to (the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life) are not from God but from the world (1 John 2:15-16).
  • Choosing God over choosing to please man is going to be one of the toughest battles they will face. And it’s a battle they will fight every single day (I know I still do, every single day) (Galatians 1:10).
  • I want them to know that porn isn’t worth it. That even though it looks and sounds alluring and enticing, that it isn’t worth trying it out. I know they’ll want to google words and want to see pictures and videos. I know they’ll wonder what it’s like to be held by a woman and to feel her body against theirs. I know they’ll hear stories from their friends and they’ll feel left out. And I want them to know how AMAZING it is, but only in the right relationship at the right time (marriage).
  • I want them to know how much I regret the stupid things I did in my life because I thought the short-term satisfaction would be worth it. So many regrets because I chose to pursue the fleeting pleasures at the expense of God’s best.
  • That their mom and dad love them, unconditionally. They don’t have to earn our love and acceptance. There might be some days when I don’t “like” them, but I want them to know, much like the Father’s love for us, that they can’t and don’t need to try to earn the love of their parents.

My boys have a battle they need to fight. The world continues to drive home a message that says sports, sexual conquest, and financial/vocational success drive their value and worth. I am grateful for Samantha’s reminders that just as a daughter’s value and worth don’t come from their outer beauty, so doesn’t a son’s value come from athletic, sexual, or vocational success. I want them to know that their value and worth is best demonstrated in the cross of Christ.

Your Turn:

  1. One of the best resources I have ever seen in knowing and understanding what it means to be a godly man comes from Watermark’s lead pastor, Todd Wagner. Check out his handout on 5 Characteristics of a Godly Man and watch his message as he talks through this list.
  2. If you’re married and have sons, talk with your spouse about what you see in your son(s) that you are grateful for and what you see that concerns you. Pray for him/them after you discuss.
  3. Talk with spouse about how you’re doing at driving home the right values with your children. Are you perpetuating the message of athletic, sexual and vocational success, or are reminding them about the source of their real value and worth.

The Power of Intentional Parenting – SLIDES

Stuart Hall gave parents a lot of great things to think about at our Parent Network Event.  Here are his slides.

How Social Media is Molding Your Child

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I’m a 90’s kid. That means I have fond memories of gathering around the TV watching T.G.I.F. with my family, I could slay Bop-It like my life depended on it, and I owned several “Now That’s What I Call Music….” er,r I mean, “WOW Hits.” It also means I lived in the era when the Internet boomed in the homes of everyday people.

I remember the first time I was granted access to the internet in my own home. I had heard the rumors of this mystical land that lived inside Internet Explorer. It was the world where you could ask a butler named Jeeves any question, where the evilest thing you could find was pop-up ads, and receive the rush of chemicals to your head as you typed your heart out in AOL Instant Messaging (AIM).

This was my version of Social Media. Two hours a day, with only a handful of friends who also had internet access, and an insufficient number of web pages. It was an experience.

This is not your child’s version of social media.

Your child’s social media isn’t an experience. It’s a lifestyle.

With the development of the cell phone and the plethora of other internet connected devices, social media has become so integral in the lives our children (and us) that it’s reshaping the culture of childhood.

Let’s get one thing straight: Your children are not growing up like you or me.

Now, before you channel Ron Swanson and run to your child’s room to destroy every piece of technology they own, we have to understand HOW social media is shaping them.


Social Media is shaping the way your children are reacting, responding, and reminiscing. They not only see the way you handle circumstances, they have access to entirely different worldviews and experiences. They are arriving at their conclusions on how the world operates by more than just your voice.


Social media is a measure of their worth. How many likes did they receive on that Instagram post? Did they get over 200 views on their Snapchat story? How many retweets did they get? Their validation is now a numerical number instead of the truth of who God has made them to be.


Social media is THE place where they connect with others. Forget about grabbing someone’s digits, what’s their handle? This is where they meet strangers and friends. This is the environment where they experience bullying, criticize others, and/or affirm each other.

This is also the place where they gather news and get passionate about causes they believe in. It’s also the place where they will find romantic partners.

This is the world we live in now.

I know as a parent this can feel a little overwhelming. What are you supposed to do? You can’t stop the way the world is evolving with technology. The only real thing that YOU can do as a parent is to set the example. Show your children what a healthy balance of consumption looks like. When your kids remember their childhood make sure they remember your face not the back of your phone. Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, Ed.D., advises, “ Don’t walk in the door after work, say ‘hi’ quickly, and then ‘just check your email.’ In the morning, get up a half hour earlier than your kids and check your email then. Give them your full attention until they’re out the door. And neither of you should be using phones in the car to or from school because that’s an important time to talk.”


  1. If your child is on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc., be their friend and monitor their activity.
  2. Establish “no tech zones.” Make sure everyone (EVEN YOU) understands the rule and has no technology around the No Tech Zone.
  3. Find other interests other than the digital world. Do they like sports? Get them on a team. Do they like music? Get lessons going.
  4. Schedule times of adventure that require everyone to unplug. Go on hikes, canoe the lake, run the trail.
  5. Gather as a family and read the promises of who God created us to be. Teach where real value comes from with verses like Isaiah 40:31, Isaiah 41:10, Deuteronomy 3:18, John 8:36, Psalm 34:17.

Navigating parenting in our world is like the wild west. We don’t have all the perfect answers and how-to’s, and that’s ok. When your child puts up a fight with these rules, because they will, rest in the knowledge that you’re preparing them for success in their future.  Your children are regularly receiving both affirmation and criticism from the outside world, be intentional on affirming and loving your children in a more personal and meaningful way on a daily basis. Hug them. Love them. Listen to them.

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

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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

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

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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.