Saturday, January 12, 2019

Establish a Complaint-Free Home

It’s time to end the complaining, and this applies to parents as well as the kids. Certainly, there will be times when life disappointments grieve us to the point that we have to get our feelings off our chest. In such a case, it’s understandable to vent to someone, as long as our perspective is reasonable and it doesn’t constitute gossip. However, if you “vent” twice, then you are probably complaining. If you are a parent, don’t tolerate it with your children, and don’t participate either. 

Kids develop a complaining problem because, a) they are permitted to complain, and b) they hear adults do it endlessly. On that note, understand that being a parent does not make complaining about your children excusable or healthy. To motivate us to end the complaining, I’ve offered four reasons worth pondering: 

1.    Complaining is living in the negative. If we intend to cultivate a pleasant home environment, it will require deliberate action. Self-regulation, self-control, and perspective are absolutely necessary. Let’s teach our children that words have consequences, and that includes tone not just the words themselves. Cultivating a pleasant home to live in requires every member of the family to learn how to handle disappointments – complaining is not a helpful option. Scripture couldn’t be clearer on this issue, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings” (Phil. 2:14). In other words, problems may need to be addressed, but without complaining.
2.    Complaining is harmful to relationships. It’s true that misery loves company, but who wants to be around misery all the time? Children need to learn that complaining people do not win friends. Instead, they spread negative attitudes and eventually alienate themselves from people who seek healthy relationships. There is a point where a person complains enough that they are labeled a complainer, and at that point, others only want their company when they are in a complaintive mood as well. Rather than alienating people who could be a positive influence, become the type of person who “ministers grace” with words (Eph. 4:29).  
3.    Complaining is a distraction from a solution. Problems are resolved when a solution is formed, not when the focus stays on the problem. There may be times when problems need to be worked out in conversation with an appropriate person, but the conversation should be driven by a plan to improve rather than counter-productive complaining. This will require parents to teach children what to do instead of complaining. For instance, help kids put a plan into action to resolve conflicts with friends, rather than listen to endless complaining. Instead of allowing grumbling about how difficult school is, talk to the teacher about a plan of action for improving and help your children focus on the game plan. 
4.     Complaining is failure to submit to God’s will. Not all life situations meet God’s approval; nevertheless, God allows them to happen. It may be God’s desire to permit your undesirable circumstances to provide you with an opportunity for growth. We grow spiritually and emotionally after enduring an undesirable situation, attacking the problem, and overcoming it. Never is it God’s will for us to harbor the self-destructive attitude that manifests itself in complaining. 

Children will need help learning this critical life lesson – complaining assumes the role of a helpless victim and thwarts opportunities to resolve the problem. It’s in a child’s nature to complain about a problem in hopes that an adult will fix it. Sadly, it works at times because the adult only wants to stop the complaining. However, reinforcing this type of behavior fails to teach children how life in the real world works. Neither does it teach them how to live a happy life. Ending the complaining will create a much more positive atmosphere in your home, and it will greatly help your children develop happier dispositions. 


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Eliminate the Drama

Some people love drama way too much. That’s why it has made millions for the television networks. In foregone days, soap operas were some of the most watched shows on television. Today, they’ve been replaced by reality TV. Drama may be entertaining to watch when you have no skin in the game, but it poisons a home. Drama turns a bad situation into a much worse situation. It escalates hurt feelings into bitterness. And, at times, it turns misinformation into a story of slanderous lies – certainly a scenario that ruins relationships.

In my observation, there are two reasons people tend to stir up drama, whether they are dramatic themselves or just enjoy feeding the fury. 1) Some people have difficulty moving on when they are offended. Instead of weighing the cost of acting on their feelings, their first impulse is to start talking, accusing, or retaliating. 2) Some people use drama to advance a personal agenda. The agenda may pertain to their position in society, their family, workplace, or some other societal setting. But regardless of one’s motive, unnecessary drama creates carnage, not solutions to problems. Drama has two enemies, and in this case, these enemies will be your friend:
  1. Truth. The drama stops when people learn the facts and deal with the facts instead of conjured up imaginations or ideas of what could have happened. Actually, the drama stops when people start the process of looking for the facts. When someone approaches you with their story and you suggest that they confront the source instead of you or anyone else, the drama just ended. When you learn to talk to the person who knows the facts instead of others who might find the story fascinating, then you made the choice to seek clarity rather than create drama. Truth and drama don’t mix well because drama’s purpose is not to initially discover the truth. Drama’s purpose is to advance an agenda or feed a particular feeling.
  2. Love. Feelings of retaliation are natural, but natural feelings are not necessarily holy. Spreading the news to gain support for your feelings or advance your opinion springs from selfishness, not love. Love is patient; love is not insistent on its own way; love is not resentful; and love assumes the best in people. The love chapter in the Bible (I Corinthians 13) actual guides people in living a simple life, not a dramatic one. And that seemingly uninteresting life reaps much more personal happiness and personal relationships than the dramatic life.

As this relates to teaching and parenting, don’t get sucked into the drama. There should be an open environment of trust and communication among parents, teachers, church youth workers, and other adults who work together to train children. Resist the urge to overreact to a seemingly shocking story. Instead, search for the truth, and search in a loving way. Let’s refrain from letting TV drama influence the way we live in the real world.

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Best Way To Teach Kids Gender Respect

Every day, in the news, a new headline appears detailing yet another disturbing accusation.  A consistent stream of sexual harassment or assault accusations are surfacing, and people continue to try to understand why we live in a culture of so much disrespect. The scenario has made many people, parents in particular, ask themselves how this type of offensive behavior can be avoided. In the media, there’s been a lot of discussion about how appalling sexual harassment is, but there’s not been enough discussion about how to prevent it. Contributing to the overall problem is an absence of moral virtue and a denial of human nature. A society filled with people who believe they can customize their morality to their personal preferences will always result in a culture of abuse, bullying, and disrespect.

As this issue pertains to the world of parenting, many parents have asked themselves, “How can I teach my children, especially my boys, to respect others and prevent them from harassing others?” Among the many pointers that could be offered about this, here’s the best way to teach this virtue: model it in your home.  

Children do more than observe their parents. Children imitate their parents’ behavior and embrace their parents’ values. They watch how dad treats mom, and they listen to the way mom talks about dad. They observe empathy when mom and dad work to encourage each other with their words. They learn how to love when they watch the way mom and dad respond to each other, even in times of disagreement. They learn the value of both genders when they watch mom and dad work together as a team. They learn consideration when they watch mom and dad extend kindness to one another.

When boys watch how dad esteems mom with the highest level of respect possible, they develop a respect for the female gender. When girls observe how mom values dad rather than dismissing him as unimportant, they understand the value of the male gender. When dad prioritizes his family higher than his personal interests, children will begin to associate maleness with responsibility. When mom demands respect from her children rather than permitting rudeness, children will learn that disrespect is inappropriate with females.

Of course, parents need to have discussions at times to train their children, and correction will be needed at times as well. But discussion by itself will never compensate for a poor example. It takes good and loving role models to teach kids how to respect and love others.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Is Dual-Enrollment Right For You?

Duel-enrollment has become an increasingly available option for juniors and seniors. Students can earn college credit while they are in high school by taking a class that counts as both a high school and college credit. Some students sign up for free courses (textbooks are not free or cheap) made available through their local community college. Many accredited Christian colleges offer online classes for college credit that should transfer to almost any college a student may choose to attend later.

Before choosing to take a dual-enrollment course, consider some factors that will help you know if this option is right for you.
  • Your College Goals. Why do you think it will benefit you to take college credit early? Some calculate that it will cost less money to take classes now rather than later. But that’s not true if the college you later attend would not have required you to take these courses in the first place. It’s important to think through your goals for college and what may possibly be your college major in the future. Even if you have not decided what your major will be, you can research the types of courses that potential colleges will and will not require for a general field of study.
  • Time Constraints. Remember that dual-enrollment courses are college courses that run on the college’s schedule, not your high school’s schedule. Your course professor will not care about your extracurricular activities or how much homework you already have this week. If you sign up for dual-enrollment courses, it will be time consuming. Be aware, and be prepared to commit.  
  • Difficulty. Of course you should consider whether or not you can handle the level of difficulty in a dual-enrollment course, but you should also consider whether or not you want to handle it. Just because you can survive it does not mean that you will enjoy it. After one honors student completed a semester of dual-enrollment, I asked whether or not she would be signing up again for second semester. Her reply was, “I decided to wait to do college level work when I get to college.” For her, the rigor and course load was not how she wanted to enjoy the rest of her high school career.
  • Transferability. You need to make sure that your high school will also apply the college course toward their high school graduation requirements. Not all courses, especially those considered an elective, will help you complete your high school graduation requirements. Make sure you talk to the proper school officials before you commit to take a dual-enrollment course. It does you no good to have early college credits if you can’t graduate from high school on time.
  • Worldview. There are two issues to consider here. First, have you considered the worldview of the college offering the dual-enrollment course? Second, colleges’ worldview may cause your Christian school to deny acceptance of that credit. Christian schools are methodical about curriculum development and spiritual growth. If a college promotes a philosophy in direct opposition to the school’s beliefs, some courses may not be acceptable on the basis of religious objections.

Dual-enrollment can be a great option, but there are several factors to consider before signing up. Become as educated as possible about what it will require, and carefully consider whether or not it’s right for you.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Keep Those Brains Active Over The Summer

After 180 days of school, everyone is ready for a break. But is the 10+ week summer really a good idea? It’s not if students do nothing to improve themselves intellectually. While our kids need breaks from the rigorous duties of school, they still need activities that support their intellectual growth, even in the summer. Here are some suggestions for making summer a time of learning.
  1. Read. This is probably the most beneficial thing students can do over the summer. Take them to the local library. Buy some cheap used books on Or, read the books on the shelf that have never been touched. Kids don’t have to be bookworms to benefit from reading. A key to getting kids to read is to read aloud to them so they will learn to love good stories. Using reading as a quality time activity also helps kids to view it favorably. Then, help them check out books with topics or stories that they will enjoy. You may have to require reading time. For example, have them read for 20 minutes in bed before you turn the lights out. The next time your kids say they are bored, suggest reading!
  2. Take Field Trips. When you are on family vacation, try to schedule in a learning experience. Take in a museum, visit an aquarium, tour a historical sight, or hike a nature trail. Attending enrichment camps that range from academics to the arts are great, but it’s also beneficial when kids have learning experiences with their parents. Not all learning comes from a textbook. Try to work some learning experiences into your summer schedule.
  3. Limit Media. It’s not harmful if used in moderation, but excessive screen time develops a lazy brained and difficult to stimulate kid. This includes TV shows, video games, smart phones, and tablets. Researchers refer to electronic screens as “electronic cocaine” and “digital drugs.” Technology can be fun and useful, but overexposure comes with a brain-numbing price.
  4. Play Thinking Games. Encourage your children to play games that require thinking. Teach them to play chess (you may have to learn yourself!). Buy them games that require strategy, not just rely on chance. Whether it’s board games or card games, they can be fun yet stimulating ways to pass the time.
  5. Get Outside. Pediatricians tell us that children need at least 60 minutes of exercise per day for health reasons. But exercise has benefits beyond physical health. It increases neural activity, improves memory, and helps students learn at a faster rate. Play outside, ride bikes, or go to the park. The important thing is to get exercise outdoors.
  6. Fill in Learning Gaps. If there are some particular skills that your child needs to improve, use the summer to practice those skills. You can purchase practice books, use educational websites, or download e-tablet apps to build your children’s skills in a less intense way than their rigorous school work. Some children may even consider it to be fun.

 Summertime is fun, but don’t forget to keep learning!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Teach Students Self-Defense, Not Revenge

An exasperated dad once told me how he instructed his son to handle a playground conflict if it were to happen again: “If that kid throws the basketball at your head again, punch him, and just be willing to take the teacher’s punishment.” I’ll explain here why that’s not the best advice to give a kid. But let’s be honest. Most of us have thought the same thing when we’ve seen our kids get grief from one of their “friends.” Every parent has thought, perhaps even said, that a punch in the nose would keep a bully from coming back again. No parent wants his son to be a punching bag; but if we’re not careful, we’ll inadvertently teach our children not to defend themselves, but, rather, to seek revenge. Retaliation is an act of immaturity, and the mature people in a child’s life should be helping them rise above that.

Telling a kid to punch a bully can be problematic for a few reasons. (1) If the oppressor is bigger or stronger, your child could be in for a walloping. (2) If your child is bigger and stronger than the other kid, he could cause far more physical harm to the bully than you every imagined. (3) Telling your children to hit another person who has offended them is equivalent to telling them to unleash, rather than control, their anger – and that can have serious repercussions. (4) Your child needs opportunities to learn controlled self-defense rather than unhinged, angry vengeance. I’ve illustrated with physical conflicts, but the principle also applies to verbal and other forms of social mistreatment.

Should our children be a punching bag? No. Is it possible to defend one’s self while behaving in a Christian manner? Absolutely. Do you remember what Jesus Christ told His disciples to do if one of them did not own a sword? “Let him sell his garment, and buy one” (Luke 22:36). The disciples would be travelling from town to town, and they needed to protect themselves from thieves. Why then, did Jesus tell Peter to put away his sword in Gethsemane? The reason lies in the purpose and the people arresting Christ. Christians must be prepared to suffer persecution for Christ’s sake at the hands of evil authorities. However, it’s lawful to physically defend yourself when an individual is oppressing you unlawfully. So rather than telling your kid to punch someone, here’s my advice.

First, teach the difference between self-defense and revenge. Using physical force to stop a physical assault is self-defense.  Tell your child to shove them, tackle them, or do something to keep from being harmed; the objective is to protect oneself, not to hurt the aggressor in retaliation. Tripping someone because they tripped you, or gossiping about someone because they gossiped about you, or punching someone because they threw a basketball at your head is revenge.

Second, teach kids to boldly speak the truth. Some bullies never quit because they have never been confronted with a bold, emphatic “Stop it!” Without using insulting language and four letter words, kids may need to tell someone, “You’re acting like a jerk, and no one wants to be around you when you act like this!” The truth can hurt, but sometimes it needs to.

Third, teach kids when they can resolve a problem themselves and when they should enlist an adult. The emphasis of my advice in this article has been on how to teach kids to handle themselves when they might encounter an occasional conflict. But children also need to learn to report incidents to authorities and not handle major incidents alone. If an incident involves someone being physically harmed, bullied (consistently targeted by an aggressor), or socially maligned, authorities need to be informed. Some childhood conflicts will only be resolved with the assistance of an adult.

In everyday life, adults must do their best to properly react to conflicts that they did not invite upon themselves. The best way to become a wise responder as an adult is to learn proper responses through childhood conflicts.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Mind Average Children So They Will Become Above Average Adults

Why are so many parenting books written to help parents with strong willed or rebellious children? It’s understandable given the parental stress involved and their desperation for relief. But my point here is to call attention to the average child. While difficult children can monopolize parents’ and teachers’ attention, and gifted children may attend special schools or programs to enhance their gifts, it’s often the average child that lives with lower expectations, and at times, less attention than needed.

Average children, when properly trained, grow up to become the movers and shakers of the world, partly because they earned their way there. While rebellious children are absorbing all of their parents’ time and gifted children are receiving well-deserved awards for their accomplishments, average children are learning to succeed in a world where praise must be earned and accomplishments result from hard work. However, children don’t become achievers on their own. They need training that shapes the perspectives of a leader and the habits of an achiever.

To gain some insight about average people, consider the biblical writer Jude. In various ways, he could be considered an average child who became an above-average, spiritual leader. He was a half-brother of Jesus, but this special relationship did not make him an above-average kid. His parents were average, blue-collar folks from Galilee who lived with common means. Spiritually, he fought the same temptations that the average Jew battled during that day. In his childhood and early adulthood, he and his siblings were skeptical about Christ and unwilling to accept their half-brother as the Messiah (John 7:3-5). But at some point in his life (we don’t know the details), he accepted the truth and became not only a leader in the church, but also a writer of the Book of Jude. It’s been noted by scholars how much Jude’s epistle and the second chapter of 2 Peter compare. Both of these men, God-chosen for leadership, addressed common problems that confront common people. Similarly, I’ve always believed that hard-working average students often make the best teachers. This is partly because they have worked hard to get to their position, but it’s mostly because they understand the plight of the average student and the best ways to overcome common challenges. Here are some principles gathered from Jude that will help us challenge average kids:

Be aware of common misconceptions and deceitful people. Jude warned us about “ungodly men” (v.4) who propagate unbiblical ideas while “denying the only Lord.” Our kids need to learn to think for themselves rather than believing everything they hear and see on social media, the news, and movies. The best way to detect deception is to know truth. Do our kids know what characterizes a godly person, what is the difference between true and false doctrine, and what makes a person spiritual? This training needs to begin early, and it requires consistency. This is why children need spiritual training, not only on Sunday, but every day of the week at home and school.

Be aware of the consequences for not submitting to authority. Jude used several examples to prevent the people from making the mistakes of past rebellions. References to Korah (v. 11) and others are mentioned for their mutiny against God-appointed leaders. Jude also warned people to not follow the example of those who “speak evil” (v. 8) of godly authorities. There’s an important leadership principle that can be applied here: No one can become a successful leader if they have not yet learned to be a follower. No one becomes an achiever alone. Achievers have been greatly influenced by someone else. Children become achievers when they learn to discern the difference between deceivers and godly authorities, treat these authorities with respect, and learn from them. These average kids will grow to become high-achievers in their homes, churches, and communities.

Become a deliberate person. Average people always follow and rarely lead. We need to challenge our kids to be initiators. Initiatives that Jude presented include spiritual growth by “building up yourselves” (v. 20), strengthening faith by “praying in the Holy Ghost” (v. 20), “earnestly contend[ing]” as defenders of truth (v. 3), “build[ing] a defense against deceitfulness” (v. 17), and “keep[ing] yourselves in the love of God” (v. 21). If children become adults who love, serve, and worship, it will result from a childhood of habit training.

So rather than allow kids to pass through their childhood like average kids do – over-exposed to worldliness, addicted to their devices, entitled to a life of comfort, and mindless about “fake news” and false philosophy, challenge them to become thinkers, hard workers, and leaders.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Are We Teaching Our Kids To Be Nice... Or Kind?

The folks at Sesame Street have been concerned lately about the younger generation’s lack of kindness. A statement from the Sesame Workshop noted that there has been an increase in “anger, fear, bullying, and violence” and that “narcissism is on the rise, empathy is down, and… students think their parents prioritize grades over being kind to others.” They recently surveyed hundreds of teachers and parents about how well children today are being taught kindness.  Here are some of the more notable results:
  • Parents (70%) and teachers (86%) agreed that their children are growing up in an unkind world. Parents (73%) and teachers (78%) agreed that kindness is more important for the future than academic success.
  • Less than a majority of teachers believe parents are teaching their kids to be respectful (44%) and empathetic (34%).
  • A majority of teachers (73%) believe all or most of their class is kind, and a majority of parents (88%) believe their children are kind.
  • A majority of parents did not report that their children were very thoughtful (46%) or very helpful (40%).

I’m sensing the Lake Woebegone effect – our kids are much better than the average, but everyone else needs to do a better job of teaching kids kindness. Perhaps these results indicate that we need to do better at defining kindness. Do manners and being “nice” equate to kindness? We have all met kids who show manners when they are around adults but say and do unkind things around other children. A lack of empathy can be a big contributor, as well as a narcissistic mentality. If children never feel the pain of others and never make sacrifices for others, then they will never become kind people. Being kind and teaching kindness goes beyond being “nice.” Manners are important, but kindness goes deeper than acting nice and wearing a fa├žade in front of the right people.

Teaching kindness involves habit building. Empathy, thoughtfulness, and service cannot become a child’s way of life without years of practice. To accomplish this kindness training, consider two essential elements. First, teach in context of real life. Don’t pass opportunities to teach in the moment. When you see children behave unkindly, don’t be tempted to look the other way simply because intervening is inconvenient. Point out unkind behavior and require children to change their actions. Likewise, praise kindness when you observe it. When you see others act selflessly, make sure your kids witness it and hear you endorse that kind of behavior.

Second, build habits of kindness with everyday tasks. Involving your kids in church ministries and community service projects has its benefits, but it’s unlikely to teach them to be kind in their everyday life. Children need to learn to be kind and helpful in little tasks. They need to help around the house, hold the door for others, allow their friends to go first, and hold their tongue when aggravated. Showing “kindly affection” and “preferring one another” (Romans 12:1) begins with life’s daily routine.

We all wish the world was a kinder place for our children to live, but we have little control of the entire world. What we can influence is the impact our children will make in the world. Let’s make it a daily priority to teach them to be kind.