In Episode 08 we interview Danny Rogers, our New Bern Campus Pastor, about intentional parenting in his home.
** The following article was copied from theparentcue.com.
“Mom, Dad, there’s something I need to tell you . . .”
When it comes to parenting, very few phrases strike terror at the heart of a parent. Its right up there with the question, “Are you sitting down?”
Both phrases typically follow not-so-good news and imply that the receiver of the news should be immediately prepared for the unexpected. Finding out something that you did not expect from your kids can be anxiety provoking and yes, could even trigger a physiological response such as fainting or difficulty catching one’s breath—hence the importance of having a seat close by.
While rewarding, the arena of pre-teen and teen parenting is fraught with difficult and sometimes disappointing situations. Children get injured, suffer minor illnesses, get heart broken, or even worse, engage in potentially addictive or sexual behaviors that could adversely impact their future.
The number one job of a parent is to protect. But the fact remains that you cannot protect your child from everything. In today’s fast-paced world, it is likely that your child will be faced with increased pressures and even more challenging situations than we adults could ever have imagined being a part of when we were at that age.
No parent was born knowing exactly how to respond to such situations. The best shield is being as prepared as you can possibly be. Consider this response strategy:
1. KNOW THE SIGNS.
While it would be nice if young people were upfront with their secretive or deceptive behaviors, inherent in the very nature of deceit is the need to hide. Consequently, it is likely that your child will not be the one self-disclosing incriminating information. Often, parents receive such information by another concerned parent, a neighbor or even their child’s closest friend. Thus, it’s important to recognize the signs that indicate that your child may be in trouble.
Fluctuations in mood, personal appearance, or friend groups, as well as the sudden loss of interest in typically enjoyable activities are just a few signs. Excessive fatigue, fear, and prolonged sadness can also be indications that something may be affecting your child.
But just one word of caution, many of these symptoms also coincide with normal adolescent development. However, trust your instincts. If you sense that something is off, then it probably is.
2. CURB YOUR ANGER.
Once the cat is out of the bag, take a moment to rein in feelings of intense anger or frustration. You may find yourself yelling, crying or wondering how you failed to prevent this awful thing from happening. Perfectly understandable reactions, but not necessarily helpful.
During crisis situations, children take their cues from their parents. So, don’t forget to breathe. A common saying amongst family therapists is, “Freak out on the inside, not on the outside . . .”
[Tweet “When you find out something unexpected from your child, freak out on the inside, not on the outside . . .”]
Yes, they may have messed up. And, maybe even big time. However, now is not the time to overreact. That reaction may trigger an automatic shutdown. If you don’t know what to say, say nothing. It’s actually okay to say, “I have no words right now.” You can reserve the right to (and should) revisit the conversation when you’ve had some time to process and are feeling calmer.
3. LISTEN FOR UNDERSTANDING.
Respond like a friend and not a parent . . . at least initially. This is hard. And what does it really mean? Respond with curiosity and listen with empathy. This is the opportunity to listen carefully in order to gain not only a full understanding of the situation, but how your child feels about the situation, and what they believe is the best course of action.
Of course, there are certain situations that require a shorter listening period and a quicker response time. If your teen discloses drug use, self-harming behaviors, or sexual activity, it is best to intervene quickly and even seek a professional for guidance.
However, the initial response should be a response, not a reaction. Listen empathically to what your child is facing. Ask for clarification if you don’t understand something. A simple strategy is: the less you talk, the more your child will talk.
4. AVOID EXCESSIVE CRITICISM.
Parenting is one of those unique relationships where your role is to not only love and protect, but also to constantly correct. Part of our role as parents is to help our children to develop good character traits: Be kind and respectful to others and to yourself, mind your manners, always tell the truth no matter what. Discovering information that goes against what you’ve worked so hard to instill can be disappointing and very upsetting.
While the desire to point out faults or compare one child to the other may be tempting, expressions of disapproval and displeasure should be displayed sparingly. It’s hard for many of us adults to handle an onslaught of criticism, but even more difficult for an adolescent. If your child is coping with a difficult situation, they are probably already feeling hyper-sensitive and vulnerable to any perceived slight.
5. EXPRESS EMPATHY.
Being a teen right now is by no means easy. Young people encounter complex situations that would be difficult for anyone to navigate, much less someone who’s identity is still developing. The pressures are real and mounting. There’s probably nothing that a parent can say or do that will immediately relieve all the pressures that pre-teens and teens face, so it is important to begin by simply acknowledging your child’s reality.
As shocked or upset as you may be, remind your child that he or she is not alone. Do as much research as possible on whatever your child is facing to get a better idea of what they may be dealing with and how best to respond. Reinforce the positive qualities that you see in them that will enable them to progress from this current situation.
Avoid saying, “I warned you something like this would happen,” or “You’ve probably ruined your life.” Instead, test out one of these phrases:
- “I’m so sorry you are going through this.”
- “This must be really hard for you, it’s tough for me too.”
- Nod as they are talking and say, “Uh, huh,” until you feel it’s appropriate to add something like “I know this feels big right now but there are options.”
- “What can we do to help?”
6. FIND OUT THEIR PLAN.
Once you’ve researched what they are facing and before you offer to rescue them from the situation, find out how they plan to address the problem. Chances are that your child has analyzed and reanalyzed the issue prior to you even suspecting there was an issue! They may even have discovered a resolution.
As you dialogue about the situation and find out what your teen views as potential solutions, you will be supporting and equipping your youth with necessary skills as they journey towards adulthood. It is through struggle and adversity that teens learn how capable they really are!
However, there is a distinction between risky behavior and healthy exploration. It is important to emphasize that the difference between the two can come down to one poor decision.
Parents, you don’t have to do this alone. Seek professional guidance from a therapist or a minister to learn how to recognize early signs of a mental health issue so that you can take steps to prevent mild symptoms from tuning into larger problems.
Bad things can happen to any kid, and any family. Good kids make bad decisions. Your child’s poor choice is not necessarily a reflection of poor parenting. The strongest family can one day find themselves facing unexpected or distressful news. No one can predict the outcome of any situation. Remember, failing is a part of success—and a part of growing up.
If you recognize an error that you’ve made from this list, please know that you are in excellent company. The good news is that children are very forgiving of parental missteps and there’s always hope that with appropriate interventions, the outcome can result in strengthened family relationships.
Moreover, a good parent-child relationship, centered around effective communication and expressions of love, can eventually help to resolve even what initially appears to be distressful news.
In this episode of the D6 Podcast Brian Haynes gives practical advise on promoting generosity in your children and fighting the cultural trend of entitlement. Amy Rienow discusses her book, Five Reasons for Spiritual Apathy in Teens.
Click here to find the podcast.
** The following article was copied from gospelcenteredfamily.com.
Family devotions are times “when family members come together for spiritual encouragement.” Patrick Kavanaugh, now retired director of the Christian Performing Arts Fellowship made this observation nearly 15 years ago in a little book titled Raising Children to Adore God. I encountered the book in 2007, just after our second daughter was born. Around that time, I also began my first full-time ministry job—working with kids. As a young dad and minister, Kavanaugh captured my imagination. He compared having family devotions to sitting down for a meal. Here’s what he wrote:
Obviously, a family meal is a time when the members of a given family eat together. Notice the many thousands of possible variations in a family meal. To begin with, the food will presumably vary day to day. The meal may be a massive Thanksgiving feast or it may be a quick bite. Someone in the family may not be present. At other times, friends or relatives may join in. Still other times will find a family at a restaurant or relaxing around a campfire. The only two factors that a family meal must contain are: (1) members of a family and (2) food. Everything else is quite flexible. So it is with a family devotional.
Kavanaugh’s parallel of eating together with practicing family worship rings true to me. I’d say the analogy is distinctly biblical. God wants us to nourish our faith just as we nourish our bodies. When God rescued Israel from Egypt, he gave them laws, ceremonies, and sacrifices to help them remember his great rescue. At the heart of this instruction was a meal.
When you read Exodus 12:26-27, it’s clear God expected families to recline around the Passover table together. The kids are there asking, “What is the lamb for, daddy? Why are we eating these bitter herbs and matzo?” God tells the Hebrew moms and dads to stand ready with the salvation tale on their lips (Exod. 12:27). This connection between physical and spiritual nourishment doesn’t end with the Passover festival. It’s likely Moses had in mind reclining to eat a meal when he told Israelite parents to teach while the family sat together at home (Deut. 6:7).
- Our families need regular spiritual meals. We all need to eat. If we’re going to feed our kids’ souls as well as their bodies, we must make regular times of family teaching a priority. This will look different in each family, because family schedules are as different as the families who set them. Some parents will pray and read the Bible with their kids each night. Others will have family devotions around the table—during the family meal. In other families, a parent will meet with their children individually to teach the Bible one on one. Whatever the format, consistency is key. It’s better to gather the family once per week than to exasperate your kids with failed attempts to meet every day. Young children respond best to a planned routine—something like Taco Tuesday that they can count on and look forward to.
- Meals are made for families, not families for meals. While family devotions should be regular, they should also fit your family’s life and personality. Some families will have an hour or two to sit down, read and reflect on a psalm, memorize a catechism question, and sing a hymn every week. But for most of us, that kind of feast is rare. I’m thankful the Bible’s vision for training our kids includes teaching them “along the road” (Deut. 6:7). The most consistent part of teaching my own kids has been the practice of quick prayers while we’re waiting in the carpool line or singing along (sometimes loud and silly!) to Seeds Family Worship and PROOF Pirates while we drive down the highway on a road trip.
- Make sure it’s digestible. The Bible gives us a developmental vision for growing up in faith. Christians move progressively from basic things to deeper truth—from milk to solid food (Heb. 5:12-14; 1 Cor. 3:2). It’s especially important to remember this when teaching young children. Two and three-year-olds typically have an attention span of two to three minutes. Their vocabulary is limited to 200 to 1500 total words. Like a parent cutting up their child’s food into digestible chunks, it’s important to help our youngest kids learn a beginning vocabulary of faith—basic Bible words like sin, promise, prayer, and the name of Jesus—before moving to more abstract concepts like forgiveness. Many Bible storybooks are written with these developmental considerations in mind. If you’re just beginning a family worship time with your toddler, consider Ella Lindvall’s Read-Aloud Bible Stories, David Helm’s Big Picture Story Bible, or my The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible.
- Vary the menu to stretch your family’s palette. Just like family meals, family devotions have thousands of possible variations. Sometimes when I hear what other creative families do during family worship times, I feel overwhelmed and guilt-ridden, thinking, “I should be doing more!” I’m tempted to adopt practices that would be a bad fit for our family dynamics. But my wife is really encouraged by families who are a step ahead of us. She sees concrete ideas as an opportunity to stretch ourselves. Adding variety to our times of family worship helps them become times of discovery. So, don’t get stuck in the rut of simply reading stories. Act them out. Draw and paint. Let a sock puppet tell the story. If the lesson is about serving others, find a way to practice serving right away—like making cookies for your neighbor. You may find that mixing it up helps to keep your kids’ interest as well.
The best meals involve grace and laughter around the table. So it is with family devotionals. They’re an opportunity to model a life that craves the pure spiritual milk of the Word (1 Pet. 2:2), one that helps your kids to taste and see that the Lord is good (Ps. 34:8). So, make a practice of inviting your kids to come to the table to feed their souls, along with their hungry stomachs.
** The following article was copied form thegospelcoalition.org.
Parents, don’t take the biblical proverb “train up a child” and treat it like a promise, assuming that if you do everything right in your parenting, your children will turn out right. Proverbs are general truths, not specific promises. Besides, when we consider the overall context of the Bible, we see how counterproductive it is to try to train our kids to trust in God if what we model for them is that we trust in our training.
But even though we place our hope for our children in God, not in our training, we recognize how this proverb teaches us to take our training of children seriously—both where we guide them andalso how we shepherd their hearts. And part of that shepherding and guidance includes the effect of a family’s culture.
A new LifeWay Research study commissioned by LifeWay Kids surveyed 2,000 Protestant and non-denominational churchgoers who attend church at least once a month and have adult children ages 18 to 30. The goal of the project was to discover what parenting practices were common in the families where young adults remained in the faith. What affected their moral and spiritual development? What factors stood out?
You might expect that family worship services would play a major part, or the simple habit of eating meals together around the table. Perhaps you’d expect a Christian school kid to be more likely to follow Jesus than a public school kid. Everyone has ideas about what practices are formative on children.
The research (compiled now in the new book Nothing Less) indicated that children who remained faithful as young adults (identifying as a Christian, sharing their faith, remaining in church, reading the Bible, and so on) grew up in homes where certain practices were present.
The biggest factor was Bible reading. Children who regularly read the Bible while they were growing up were more likely to have a vibrant spiritual life once they became adults. This statistic doesn’t surprise me. God’s Word is powerful. The Bible lays out the great story of our world and helps us interpret our lives and make decisions within the framework of a biblical worldview. Bible reading is a constant reminder that we live as followers of God. Our King has spoken. He reigns over us. We want to walk in his ways.
PRAYER AND SERVICE
Two more factors follow close behind: prayer and service in church. The practice of prayer did not specify whether it was private or corporate, before meals or before bedtime, or in the morning. But prayer was present.
Note that the church-related factor is about service, not just attendance. It wasn’t just that parents took their kids to church (where “professional clergy” could feed them spiritually), but that the children were included and integrated into the church through the avenue of service. The habit of serving others in the church and community likely formed these young adults in a way that kept them from identifying merely as a churchgoing “consumer,” but instead as a contributor to the building up of God’s people. Down the list a little, church mission trips show up, another indicator of the power of active service.
SINGING CHRISTIAN SONGS
What may surprise you is how high up on the list was this factor: listening primarily to Christian music. Christian contemporary music gets a bad rap these days, usually for being more inspirational than theological (although I believe this stereotype is not true across the board). Still, we shouldn’t dismiss the truth behind Augustine’s ancient observation that we sing the truth into our hearts. When we sing together as congregations and when we praise God on our own or sing songs that fortify our faith, we reinforce the beauty of our faith. (Also noteworthy was the finding lower on the list, that listening primarily to secular music was an indicator that negatively affected one’s spiritual life.)
CULTURE, NOT PROGRAMS
For decades now, many Christians have assumed that certain church programs are the key factors in a child’s spiritual development: Vacation Bible school, youth group activities, Sunday school, and so on. But the research study shows that these programs make an impact when they are connected to consistent habits of prayer, Bible reading, praise, and service. It’s the culture of the family and church, and that they integrate children and young people into spiritual disciplines, not the how that matters most.
Also notable is the impact of the parents’ example of reading Scripture, taking part in service projects, sharing their faith, and asking forgiveness after sinning. In other words, the more the repentant, joyful Christian life was modeled, the more likely children were to remain in the faith.
THE POWER OF IMITATION AND ENVIRONMENT
Research shouldn’t be misused in a way that transforms children into blank slates. There is no perfect parenting formula, and as I mentioned above, no one should assume there’s a surefire formula or method to bring about the result of a faithful kid. Don’t overestimate your power. The Holy Spirit saves, not you.
But don’t underestimate the Spirit’s power to work through the environment you create for your home either. Nothing Less shows that there’s power in faithful, Christian imitation. Children are more likely to repent and ask forgiveness when they’ve seen parents do so, and when they’ve experienced grace in human relationships. Children are more likely to aspire to faithful Christianity when they see joyful service as a virtue modeled in the home.
What kind of culture do we want in our homes and churches?
What space are we creating for our children to flourish?
How are we rooting our families in God’s Word?
How are we modeling prayer and repentance?
What does faithfulness look like in our home?
What are the songs that are in our hearts and on our lips?
How are we fulfilling the Great Commission?
Let’s ask these questions and beg God to work in us and through us, for his glory and our families’ good.
** The following was copied from theparentcue.org.
I was the mom with the schedule. Feeding schedule. Sleeping schedule. Reading and playtime schedule. I even had a written schedule on my refrigerator that I followed so I wouldn’t forget anything. I’m telling you, I was the schedule queen. (I’m shaking my head laughing just thinking about it.)
Why the scheduling? I simply wanted what was best for my kids. I wanted to make sure they got what they needed. Somehow I got it in my head that if I did everything perfectly things would be, well, perfect.
The perfect playgroup.
The perfect meal.
The perfect bath time.
The perfect toys.
The perfect preschool.
The perfect life.
We all know perfect is not possible.
No person . . .
No day. . .
No circumstance . . .
No life . . .
And yet we “good” parents try. I tried. (And then felt defeated when it wasn’t.)
At some point along the way, during those early preschool years, I began to see that no amount of micromanaging will ever prevent my children from disappointment and hurt.
We live in a fallen world.
Pain and disappointment are inevitable.
I came to the conclusion that rather than drive myself crazy trying to do the impossible, my time would be best spent training my children to trust God no matter what and how they can respond to pain and disappointment in ways that honor Him.
I began focusing more on the heart, not the circumstance.
Rather than write letters requesting certain teachers for my kids at their public school, we prayed that God would give them who He wanted and help them honor Him in that classroom. Yes, a few times we got “that” teacher, and looking back, I wouldn’t trade the spiritual growth in my kids for anything.
When my kids get their feelings hurt by a peer, I don’t call the other mom. I encourage my children to have the hard conversation so they can learn how to become peacemakers, forgive, and love like Jesus.
When my son didn’t make the basketball team in middle school I could have had “the talk” with the coach or complained to fellow parents, but instead I encouraged my son to trust God, be the best water boy he could be, and cheer for his friends. He did. And I guarantee I was the proudest mom in the stands.
Do you see where I’m going with this? When we focus on trying to control the circumstances in our kid’s life, all in the name of “wanting what’s best,” we put ourselves where only God should be—in control.
Without meaning to, we teach our kids to look to us rather than to God. We teach our children to depend on us to fix every thing, rather than trusting that God will allow, do, fix whatever is best.
We teach our children that nothing bad should ever happen to them. And if that’s not a set-up for disappointment down the road, I don’t know what is!
I can honestly say, after 18 years of parenting and three teenagers later, I experience more joy watching my children respond to trials with wisdom and faith than watching them live life trouble free.
So, keep the sleeping schedule, and make sure you provide lots of great books to read and healthy things to eat, but when it comes to circumstances that God allows in our lives—into your kid’s life—don’t ask, “How can I change what is happening?” Train yourself and your kids to ask, “How can I respond to this in a way that will make God smile?”
Nothing is more important than helping your children develop a faith of their own, for the day will come too soon when mom and dad can’t fix it.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28, NIV
In Episode 07 we interview Mike and Julie Ashcraft just after our recent Parent Network event. They’ll share a little more about how to create a healthy family culture and answer a few questions from the night. We also talk about upcoming Parent Network events. You can listen below, or subscribe to the Parent Network Podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud. Enjoy!
Looking to check out one of the series that were mentioned at the recent event with the Ashcrafts or on the podcast? Check them out below.
Interested in watching our recent Parent Network event with the Ashcrafts? Click here (and settle in for little while!).