The Greatest Prayer a Parent Could Ever Pray

A casual young woman says a prayer with her hands held together. Shallow DOF, focus on the hands.

I love the story of Manoah and his wife. They had been unable to give birth to a child. It was apparently their greatest desire in life. One day an angel of God brought them good news a child was to be born.

I think one reason I identify with the story is the huge number of people in our ministry who have struggled with infertility. It’s a huge hidden pain in the church. It’s one reason we have always highlighted adoption and foster-parenting.

But, when Manoah’s wife came to him with the news they were having a child, Manoah immediately did what happens to many men and women when they discover they are about to be parents. He grew up – literally – and he indicated this by what he did first. He prayed!

He asked for God’s provision!

It’s funny how “life” has to happen sometimes before we fall on our knees.

In the moment – realizing they were about to be blessed with one of life’s greatest blessings – Manoah prayed the most important prayer a parent can ever pray:

Then Manoah prayed to the LORD: “Pardon your servant, Lord. I beg you to let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.” (Judges 13:8)

The greatest prayer a parent can ever pray is to ask for God’s hand upon your parenting! Ask God to teach you to parent well.

Parenting is hard work. There will always be issues which come up in parenting you don’t know how to address at the time. We cannot – and should not – do it alone. (This is one value of the church and community – we are in this together as parents.) All of us have seasons we could use more prayer for our children and for are parenting, but we should certainly pray.

I’m working on a longer list of prayers for parenting, but we should start here.

Dear Lord, teach us to parent!

What are the current prayers you have for your children? What specifically do they need the most?

10 Principles to Consider for Parents on Healthy Discipline of Children

A young girl enjoys the afternoon with her family.

As a pastor, I’m consistently asked about disciplining children. I am not an expert – and every family is unique, with different parents and different children – but, I have learned some things personally and from watching others. Plus, I know some things I would do differently if I had the early years of parenting to do again.

There is always special interest in the subject of spanking – whether it was appropriate or not and whether I believe in it or not. While I believe discipline is a personal topic for parents to decide where they land, I do believe there are some helpful principles for all parents to follow. I am probably less inclined in this area to talk about what I did and more inclined to talk about the principles I believe are even more helpful.

I have written my basic overall plan for parenting in an earlier post. You can read it HERE. Since I believe the most important thing is you have a plan for your parenting and where you are trying to steer children as they mature, I decided to share some principles I believe can help the discipline part of your plan.

10 principles for parents on healthy discipline:

Goal set first. 

Proverbs 29:17 says, “Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.” You should understand the reason behind discipline. You are taking your children somewhere they need to go. There is great value then in discipline. Just as you have to discipline yourself to do anything of value – or just as they have to be disciplined to master an activity in which they are involved – your parenting needs to include healthy discipline.

Never discipline in anger.

When you act in anger you will say things you do not mean and do things you should not do. Discipline done in anger is rarely productive and usually harmful long-term.

Discipline yourself first.

At the time of need for discipline, remember this 3-step process: Stop/Think/Proceed. This takes practice on your part, but keep in mind, you’re supposed to be the maturer one. This also means you’ll do less yelling in the moment and take more decisive actions when you administer discipline. Obviously, when they are younger you have to make quick decisions. If your 2 year old is about to stick their finger in a socket – react fast. Decisions regarding discipline get more difficult as the child gets older, however, so you may need to take longer with each of these steps.

Be consistent in your discipline plan.

It will mean nothing to the child otherwise. You must help them learn how you will respond. The discipline may not be the same, but your attitude towards them and your follow through should be. As they get older, they will test this one.

Pre-think principles, rather than pre-planning specifics.

You should have some value-centered, character-based goals you want discipline to promote in your child. But, be careful declaring what you will do when your child does something specific. Avoid saying things like, for example, “My son will never wear his hair long – and if he tries I will…” You may regret those words someday. It should go without saying, but I believe Biblical principles are always best – and should come first. 

Differentiate discipline for each child.

To spank or not to spank should not be as big a deal as what works best for the child. Every child is unique and what works for one won’t necessarily work for the other. The more you individualize your approach the more successful your plan will be.

Do not make threats with which you are unwilling to follow through

Your children will catch on quickly when you do. It’s probably best not to make threats at all. Again, be goal-driven, value-centered. Threats usually cause more harm than good. Either they push you in a corner to respond – or, depending on the will of the child – encourage them to test your threat.

Use age appropriate and action appropriate discipline

As a child matures the discipline should mature with them. Be careful not to overkill a minor incident or ignore a major occurrence. Remember a 3 year old is 3. They are learning – and sometimes they can be so cute doing things the first time. But, if it’s a character issue – such as lying – treat it seriously. (Usually you don’t have to do a whole lot to convince a 3 year old it’s serious, either.) It becomes a lot more serious when a 13 year old is still lying to parents – especially if they were never disciplined about it at 3.

Always discipline the child for results, not your comfort level.

Discipline in its concept is not necessarily pleasant, but it reaps a reward if done right. Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Many parents refuse to discipline in the name of love. All parents love their children. And, punishing people we love – even when needed – is difficult. Don’t discipline in a way which is comfortable for you – discipline in a way, which is productive in producing maturity in your child.

Discipline should never teach a child he or she is unloved.

Actually, if done right, discipline should reinforce the love a parent has for the child. (Hebrews 12:7-10) This is especially true as they get older. They should be able to look back and see – while you may not have done everything right – you always disciplined in love; you always cared for their best interest – even ahead of your own.

The discipline part of parenting is the hardest – and we all make mistakes. Keep this thought in mind: we parent our children to eventually be adults. Begin with the end in mind. What characteristics, values and morals do we want them to have when they are grown. This thought helped me many times when deciding which discipline to use – and certainly the severity of which I should view a matter needing discipline.

He Who Loves You, Watches Over You

sleeping child

One of the greatest feelings as a parent has to be watching your children sleep. I don’t get to do it much anymore, but remember those days as if they were last night.

When our boys started driving we didn’t have strong curfews. Our boys were responsible and knew our expectations, and they never came home very late – but it was often past our bedtime. Still, I didn’t fully rest until I could slip out of bed and see their cars in the driveway and knew they were in their bed – hopefully falling fast asleep.

Knowing they are safe – resting, under your care – has to be one of the greatest joys of being a parent. It was a comforting time of day.

I wonder if God feels this way.

I wonder if God gets a charge out of watching over His children as they sleep.

I wonder if He smiles when He sees a child – His child, you and me, drift into dream land.

I’m reminded of these verses:

“He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:3-4)

When you are sound asleep, God is on watch – like a proud dad! Like a protective Father He is caring for His children.

And, not only this, He has the whole world in His hands. In other words, you’re safe! There is nothing to fear. Daddy has things under control.

As you go to bed tonight, capture the moment, imagine the emotion God has as He watches the child He made, whom He loves with an everlasting love, fall asleep. It’s a comforting feeling.

6 Tips for Happier, Healthier Relationships when the Relationship has been Injured

family prayer

Do you have any injured relationships in your life?

Broken hearts, hurt feelings, or grudges from the past are common among relationships. At some point we all have relationships, which have gone from bad to worst.

In fact, sometimes the people we have to be around, by default – blood relatives, in-laws, or co-workers – are people we wouldn’t choose to be around unless we had to be.

It’s true, isn’t it? And, the truth hurts sometimes, doesn’t it?

(Raise your hand if that’s your story.)

What should you do? How should you respond to the one who has hurt you the most – or who always seems to say the wrong thing – or who is, honestly, even mean at times? How do you respond to the most difficult relationships in your life?

You can’t control other people’s response – only yours, but how should you act in those injured relationships?

I want to encourage the Biblical approach.

Here are 6 tips for healthier, happier relationships:

Bite your tongue

When you are tempted to snap back – don’t. Sure, it will be difficult, even seemingly unfair at times, but see it as spiritual discipline training. (James 1:26) Memorize and learn to pray Psalm 141:3. (Look it up. It’s the first step towards learning it.)

Extend grace

Forgive. Let go of a grudge. Even though it may not be received well and nothing may change in the relationship, it will change you. (1 Peter 4:10, Colossians 3:13)

Put on another’s shoes

Anyone who hurts you has a story. Usually they were hurt too – by someone. Remember, hurt people hurt people. Think about where the other person is coming from before (or as) you encounter them. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Practice patience

Be honest, some relationships require more patience than you thought you had, don’t they? But, isn’t this what we are called to do as believers? It is a “fruit of the spirit”. (Colossians 3:12-14)

Exercise humility

When we humble ourselves, we may get taken advantage of at times, but God always rewards humility. Who knows? It may be the break through in the relationship. (James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6)

Pray for them

The last one is sometimes the most difficult, but oh how Biblical! Prayer releases the burden to the burden bearer the One whose yoke is easy the One who paid for your sins. Prayer can even change the dynamics of a relationship. Pray for the awkward, difficult, shattered and broken relationships in your life and the people who caused them. In the most tense moments this holiday season, slip away and pray. (Matthew 5:44)

Apply liberally, as needed.

You’ll have healthier, happier relationships. Trust me.

Do you have a difficult relationship facing you? What tips do you have?

5 Joys of Being an Empty-Nester

Handsome mature man with his arms around his beautiful wife

I have to be honest. I was a reluctant empty-nester. Cheryl and I love our boys and them being at home was one of our greatest joys in life. Walking in the door and being handed a football to throw or a soccer ball to kick was often the best part of my day.

Thankfully, we were intentional as parents and in our marriage. Now, we are reaping the reward of that intentionality. We raised our boys to be independent and they are doing it well. They still “need” us, but they aren’t dependent on us.

At the same time, we protected our relationship, so we truly enjoy our time together – always have – still do.

As hard as it was for me to see our boys leave home, I’m now learning to adjust to and actually enjoy being an empty-nester.

This is written with those who still have children at home and may be dreading the day they leave. I’d encourage you to build your family with this day in mind. One day they will and it will be okay. 

In fact – it’s kind of fun.

Here are 5 joys of being an empty-nester:

Spontaneous living – Cheryl and I can now change plans on a dime. Someone asks us to dinner, but they are leaving “now” – no problem. Suddenly deciding to go out of town for a few days – why not? Late night walk around the block – yea!

More time for ministry – We are busier in ministry than ever before. Cheryl ministers to multiple women in the church, leads bible studies and assists me on my ministry. And, my ministry in and outside my home church has never been busier. We love serving others and now we have more time to do it.

Planned chaos – Cheryl and I live a crazy life. When the boys were home we tried to do dinner every night. Now there may be weeks we aren’t home and nights, but we have the freedom within craziness to adjust our schedule as we see fit. When children are in the house, much of your schedule is dictated by their activities. Now, we decide what is going to control our time. We can never anticipate what’s going to happen, but we have the freedom to adjust to it as we choose.

Rekindled relationship – Cheryl and I have always loved our life together. As I said, we continued to date throughout our parenting days, so our relationship remained strong. Now, we are in a new season in our relationship. It’s a good season. We love our time together. And, dating isn’t limited to one night a week.

Unbridled future – We keep saying to each other we can do anything we want. We are free to walk by faith as God leads. It’s a very good feeling. Let’s do it God! What’s next?

Let me be clear, if you have children at home, enjoy them now. It will pass fast. You’ll miss them, but if you continue to work on your relationship – and you prepare your children to stand on their own – you’ll one day get to enjoy the blessings of being a joyful empty-nester.

Any empty-nesters out there? What do you like about this season of life?

7 Ways to Protect Your PK – Pastor’s Kid – in Ministry

happy family

I’ve written extensively about protecting the family in ministry. My wife has occasionally guest posted about the unique role of the pastor’s wife on this blog. Some of the comments I receive are well taken. I am basically asked “What about the PK’s? Who is looking out for them? Many disappear from the church as adults.”

PK = Pastor’s Kids.

I hear you. I have addressed the issue generally, as a family, but I haven’t written extensively about protecting children in ministry.

I am aware, however, the issue of the commenter’s concern. I’m blessed my PK’s survived ministry well. Both of my boys are very active in the church. One works for a private company, but mostly in the Christian sector, and the other is in full-time ministry. I understand, however, this is a problem for many pastors and their families.

By the time some pastor’s children reach adulthood they are often done with church – actually they are more done with the busyness and politics of church – and they want little or nothing to do with it. So, they sit on the sidelines of ministry – if they attend church at all.

Honestly, as much as I have heard it talked about, at least within my circles of ministry, it is more rare than it is a norm for the pastor’s children to not be active in church. I probably know more pastors who have children active in church than I know those who have children who have disappeared. I don’t know the statistics – please share them in the comments if you do – but, if we could avoid damaging any child growing up in the ministry world I think we should.

That’s the purpose of this post. And, it’s addressed to the pastor and the church.

Here are 7 suggestions for protecting your PK:

Level the expectations – Hold your children to Biblical standards. Train them well. Discipline appropriately. You hopefully teach it and you should parent what you teach. But, don’t be surprised when your children aren’t perfect. They aren’t anymore than you are – or anyone else’s children.

Let them be kids – Don’t expect them to care as much about ministry as you do when they are – SEVEN or even seventeen. They might. Mine did to a certain extent – on certain days. And, then other days they just wanted to shoot basketballs in the church gym while I went on church visitation.

Live what you preach – If you want them to appreciate the ministry, let them see you, the pastor, as authentic. Authenticity means you are in private who you claim to be in public. And chances are good they are observing both. They’ll respect you when you are equally transparent and honest with how you live your life on Sundays and through the week. And, the more they respect you – the more they can respect the ministry. Remember, their primary concept of ministry is you.

Protect your time at home – When you are home – be home. This is HUGE! Let voicemail and email inbox do their thing. Put down the computer. Say no to outside interruptions. There will always be exceptions in the role of a pastor, but they should be rare, not common place. The children need to know you value your time with your spouse and them even more than your time with others.

Be their parent more than their pastor – You may be their pastor, but first they need a parent. I actually found others on staff, or even pastor friends in other churches, were sometimes better at being their pastor anyway. No one could replace my role as parent.

Give them roles as they desire – My boys helped launch a youth group. They led at camps. They worked with children and preschoolers. But, I never forced it. I let them serve where they wanted to serve. Interestingly, when the idea was their’s, they seemed more likely to want to be involved.

Let them do ministry with you – My boys went to committee meetings. Staff meetings. Visitations. I took my boys on mission trips. Unless it was a highly confidential meeting for the parties involved, I gave them access to my calendar. They got to appreciate what I do as a pastor – not resent it because I wasn’t home. Again, this was voluntary not mandatory.

Someone is wondering why I didn’t put anything about my personal walk with Christ as one of the points. Well, hopefully this is understood in the role of a pastor and a believer. But yes, of course. Consider it understood this is number one for every question of how to do ministry effectively. Your children will likely never grow stronger in their faith than you are modeling for them.

Pastors – or even better – PK’s – anything else you’d recommend?

7 Ways to Help Children Deal with Fear

image

Tragedy is all around us. It’s on the news every night — and all throughout the day. We talk about it at the dinner table. And, as fun and engaging as it can be, we can thank social media for keeping us constantly informed of all the bad things happening in our world.

Evil is rampant — and, because of this – fear is rampant.

And, it doesn’t impact only us.

Our children are not immune from fear. In an Information Age — they know what we know, filtered, of course, with their childlike mind.

Violence even happens in school — in malls — in churches — places children go regularly.

Childhood can be a scary time of life naturally, but especially these days. We should never diminish a child’s fear or the impact the news of the day is having on them. It may be totally irrational fear – something you know is completely impossible — but it’s very real to them.

How does a parent or teacher address this fear?

Here are 7 suggestions to help children deal with fear:

Don’t assume their thoughts

Don’t assume just because your child doesn’t mention what happened they don’t know about it or care. Fear is a normal reaction, especially for a child. Watch for unusual behavior. Be aware of mood changes or extreme sadness. Make sure they know it’s okay to talk about it and there is no shame or disappointment from you when they are fearful. Maybe tell them of a time you were afraid — even a recent time.

Limit their exposure

You’re curious, so the television may be on news stations. What are they covering right now? Remember children process information different from how you do. They may not appear to be watching, but they probably are more than you think. Fill their minds with things to encourage them not perpetuate the fear. This is a time to turn off the television and simply play with your kids. They’ll get no better assurance than their time with you.

Ask them questions

You may think children are afraid of one thing, but it is something completely different. Many times children, especially young children, are simply confused or have misinformation. You can better address the fear if you know its roots. Getting them to talk about what they are afraid of can help them learn to better rationalize and seek comfort and assurance from you.

Assure them they are safe

Let children know they are safe. Don’t lie to them or give them false assurance, but remember the chances of the same thing happening to them is rare — very rare. Remind them you will do anything to protect them. Show them ways you’ve already provided for their safety. Let them help you lock the doors at night. You may need to help them process for weeks to come. Don’t rush them to “get over it”. Pray for and with them often.

Live a normal life as much as possible

As much as possible, live a normal weekly schedule. Their routine is part of their “security blanket.” Don’t allow their fear to cripple them or the family for long. In spite of our fears, we have to move forward.

Be calm around them

Especially during this stressful time, don’t let your children see you in panic. Watch what you say in front of them. Discuss the world events – and especially your fears of them – outside of their listening ears. Let the home be their “safe place”. Parents shouldn’t fight in front of kids anytime, but especially during a time of uncertainty like this. Renew your faith. Renew your commitment to each other. Children often get their faith through parents.

Read them Scripture

Children need something they can cling to as permanent and dependable. What better place than the Word of God, which will never fade? Recite Psalm 56:3 to them. If they are old enough, write it down somewhere they can see it often. Memorize some verses of strength and share with them often. Help them memorize some. (When our boys were young we played Scripture music appropriate for their age. Steve Green’s “Hide ’em in Your Heart series was great for this. You can find them online.)

What else would you share with parents?

Olive Tree Parenting – Growing Children of Character

Smiling little boy digging in vegetables garden

Every time I write about parenting, people email me asking for more. I understand.

Parenting is hard work.

Most people who follow my ministry closely know this is one area of my life I have taken very serious. One specific desire Cheryl and I had in raising our boys was encouraging them to love Christ and display His character. It’s great to teach our children how to play sports or to do well in school, and I think we should, but our greatest goal should be to help them be people who aspire to have good character – specifically the character of Christ.

Recognizing the Bible is a great guide to do this, I once developed a model for parenting called Olive Tree Parenting.

This model is based upon a couple verses of Scripture.

Psalm 128:3 says, “Your sons will be like olive shoots around your table.”
Psalm 144:12 says, “Our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants.”

Here are a few facts I’ve read about olive trees:

  • They were a symbol of peace and happiness to Hebrews.
  • It takes some varieties 8-10 years to even bear fruit.
  • It takes 20-50 years for an olive tree to be mature and really productive.
  • No one knows for sure how long they grow, but estimate is at least 300-600 years, with some estimates up to 2000 years.
  • When the tree trunk of an olive tree dies new sprouts come out keeping the tree alive.
  • Olive trees are evergreens.

Do you see any parallels there in raising children – or your desires for them in life?

I firmly believe we are more likely to get out of life what we actually aim for, so our goal became to raise children to be adults that bear righteous fruit for generations. We began to think strategically how to develop Biblical characteristics of fruit in our two boys.

The Bible also gives us some clear indication of what righteous fruit looks like.

Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Here are some suggestions to encourage each of these fruits to grow:

LOVE
Love is the first fruit mentioned and perhaps the most important. Jesus said “love” was the greatest command for us all. I don’t believe we can teach our child to love. We must model it for them.

Here are some actions you can take, however, to instill this fruit in their heart.

  • Ask your children questions about their life. Get to know your child and what they are thinking.
  • Do everything in love — even discipline. (They will know when you are not acting in love. You will too.)
  • Discipline. Don’t neglect discipline in “the name of love”. Discipline should actually be an indication you love them enough to train them to do the right thing.
  • Watch how you treat other groups of people — including other races and ethnic groups.
  • Watch your child’s attitude — always recognize attitudes over actions (1 Sam. 16:24) and respond accordingly.
  • Love your children’s friends.
  • Be kind to your neighbors, friends and family. They are watching.
  • Get involved in church and community not out of compulsion, but because you love other people.

JOY
The goal of producing joy is not to make your children happy – even though most parents rightly want that for their children. The Bible makes a distinction between joy and happiness. (Psalm 68:3)

Here are some actions you can take to instill the fruit of joy in your child’s heart:

  • Don’t reward everything. Life should not be a big celebration. Life shouldn’t revolve around the next big event.
  • Have a sense of humor. Have fun parenting. Let them see you enjoying life.
  • Be positive. Children can’t take the pressure and stress of life that an adult has to handle.
  • Allow your children to enjoy life at the age they are – without trying to make them someone they are not.
  • Life is difficult and there will be trials, but let your children see you use trials as something you learn from and have faith during; trusting that God will work all things for good.
  • Remind yourself Scripture says to “be joyful always”. Model it for them.

PEACE
Peace is a foundation for other great character traits you will want your children to have. The Bible says we can have peace that is there regardless of the storms of life. I know many adults who would like this kind of peace themselves. You would certainly want it for your children.

Here are some actions you can take to model peace for your children:

  • Pray for your children daily in their presence. This shows them the importance of prayer and relying on God for daily strength.
  • Teach them to pray. Jesus taught His disciples to pray. Help your children understand they can talk with God anytime. They will catch on quickly. Faith comes much easier when built as a child.
  • Let them see you read your Bible regularly. Truth can ground us when we are afraid or stressed.
  • Talk about your faith. Peace is found in a relationship and they need to see that modeled for them.
  • Remain cool in stressful situations – as best as you can. It’s okay that they see you emotional, but they should quickly see you display a peace that surpasses understanding.

PATIENCE
This is a tough one for me, because it is one of my weak points, but it is a part of the fruit of the Spirit God has encouraged us to have. And, our children need it greatly.

Here are some actions to help your children have this trait:

    • Let them see you waiting patiently. (If my boys or my wife reads this they will be wondering when they will see this in me. Still, I have had to wait for many big picture things in my life many times. I’ve attempted to do so patiently.)
    • Make children wait sometimes. Yes, I said it. Children shouldn’t get everything right away and they certainly shouldn’t be able to demand it with temper-tantrums or tears. One statistic I read says that children today get 90% of everything they want, yet as adults they will get less than 25%. We are setting them up for failure when we give them everything.
    • Don’t be a complainer. Do everything without complaining or arguing.(Phil 2:14)
    • Don’t let your children think they are the center of the universe. They are not – actually God is. Encourage them, but don’t crown them kings.

KINDNESS
Kindness could be defined as “genuine friendliness, helpfulness and generosity”.

Here are some ways to instill kindness in your children:

  • Be a giver and not a taker. Let your children see you giving to others regularly.
  • Never let children see you being unkind to the cashier or waitress.
  • Know your neighbors and actually have concern for them.
  • Never allow degrading comments to be made to other family members.
  • Care for the hurting people of the world.
  • Be a regular giver/servant at church and in the community.

GOODNESS
Jesus said “well done good and faithful servant” and “a good tree produces good fruit”. This is the opposite of bad. (Makes sense, huh?)

Here are some suggestions to instill goodness in your children:

  • Reward good acts towards others.
  • Give extra praise to your children for doing good things. (This can be done verbally and doesn’t always mean buying something.)
  • Never let them see their parents argue and fight.
  • Demand respect always. They don’t always have to agree, but they should always have to respect.
  • Always declare truthfulness. Never let them see you telling lies; even “little white lies”.
  • Teach prompt obedience. Don’t let them “think about” obeying you. This is especially true for younger children.

FAITHFULNESS
Children will be as faithful as you are, so in order to see them grow into faithful individuals you will have to model it for them.

Here are some action steps to help the process:

  • Be faithful early in their life to what you want them committed to later in life. If you want them to go to church as adults then take them faithfully as children.
  • If you commit to doing something then do it. Let your Yes be yes and your No be no.
  • Be an anchor in their life in whom they can always depend upon.
  • Be faithful in all relationships. They are watching.
  • Be consistent. If it is morally wrong today — it is tomorrow.
  • Let them know they can depend on you to do what you said you would do for and with them.
  • Let them find you in your devotion and quiet time on a consistent basis.

GENTLENESS
The word means “not harsh”. It doesn’t mean to be a “mealy mouse” and it doesn’t mean to avoid discipline. It means to be gentle — even in your anger. In John 2, when Jesus went into temple to drive out the money-changers, He first made a whip. It was a definite and determined response, but it was “gently” planned.

Here are some steps you can take to instill this character trait in your children:

  • Grant forgiveness easily. Don’t hold grudges against those who have wronged you.
  • Don’t let your children fear coming to you about anything, because of the way you may react.
  • Get down to the children’s level when trying to explain something or in the way you respond to them.
  • Always be available to talk with your children.
  • Talk gently to your spouse.
  • When there is a disagreement in public, such as in a restaurant, it is okay to protect your interests, but it should always be done with gentleness and respect for the other person. There is never an excuse to be rude or obnoxious.

SELF-CONTROL
The opposite here is being undisciplined. This is an important trait, because it affects all the others.

Here are some action steps to help build self-control into your children:

  • Don’t allow temper tantrums. “Expressing themselves” is not an excuse for unruliness.
  • Learn personal disciplines and model them — things such as daily Bible reading, exercise and tithing.
  • Know sin has consequences and teach this principle to your children. (Unfortunately you may have to model it also.)
  • Use appropriate discipline for each child. All children are different.
  • Determine the motive behind the action before disciplining your children.
  • Provide appropriate tests for them as they mature to see if they can handle a situation. As they get older grant them more and more trust.

There is a final step in the Olive Tree Parenting Model. You must teach your children to abide!

In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” If our children can learn this skill all these others will become and remain a part of who they are. They will learn this best as they see you doing so.

I’m praying for your parenting.

I need to remind you that this is a “model” – and I wasn’t perfect at doing this. Some I did better than others. The fact is, however, we seldom hit a target we aren’t aiming for – so make this your goal and you will find it easier to achieve than with no plan at all.

An Important Parenting Concept: Especially for Parents of Young Children

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I have a theory about parenting. It’s a reality which only came to me when my boys were nearly grown I had observed it for years — we practiced it — but I only formulated my thoughts around the concept in the teenage years of our parenting. 

Here’s the observation.

Many parents try to control less when children are younger and more when they are older.

My theory.

Successful parenting should be the opposite. Control early. Less control later.

I’ll admit. It’s my most “controversial” theory. How dare I suggest we ever control a child! Barbaric. Dictatorial. Borderline child abuse. Let children be who they are designed to be.

I’ve heard all that and more when I submit this theory. And, I’m all for letting children explore, be unique, be themselves. I’d even encourage it.

But, here’s my contention. When our children are toddlers we tend to dismiss the control issue. Sadly this appears to be epidemic in today’s generation of parenting. I hear parents often saying things like, “I can’t get them to take a nap” or “They won’t obey me”.  I see it at church when parents won’t leave their toddlers in the preschool area because “they just didn’t want to go today.” 

The fact is you can make a toddler comply if you really want them to. You can. You are stronger, bigger, scarier, and smarter than them. You may not feel you are – the little ones can be intimidating– but you are. And, I’m not trying to be funny. I certainly am not advocating abuse. Of course not. I advocate love above all. 

But, I do think it’s important – even Biblical – to train a child in the way they should go. And, the time to control your children the way they need to go is when they are young. It may be the only time. You can make decisions for them they don’t have enough life experience yet to make for themselves. You can teach them it’s not okay to throw a temper tantrum. You can.  And you can decide where they go and don’t go based on what’s best for them. You can help steer their actions – ultimately their heart – towards thing you know, because of your life experience – are best for them.

That’s what parents do. We raise children – children who will one day be adults.

Here’s the deal and why this matters so much and actually how this whole concept even developed.

Something happens when a child enters their late elementary and middle school years. Our children naturally begin to resist authority. And, if we have this parenting thing backwards what do we do? We attempt to control them even more. 

How does that work for a teenager? It doesn’t.

They have more freedom in their schedules. They are stronger, bigger, scarier and smarter than they were as toddlers. They can even pretend to comply and yet do their own thing when parents are nowhere around. The biggest problem with trying to control children into their teenage years is they can completely rebel against our authority. Have you ever known that to be true of a high school or college student?

Many parents release early then try to control later. It doesn’t work. They hang out with the wrong kids. They wear the wrong clothes. They aren’t making wise decisions. The older they get the harder it is to control. At some point your parenting moves from more control to more influence. The key is to control early, things which need controlling – things like heart and character issues – then be able to release gradually as they get older and as they mature.

If you don’t do anything else in your time with your children, help them to know you love them unconditionally. That’s most important. But know you don’t accomplish this by giving into their every wish when they are young. You do it by lovingly guiding them in the right direction through discipline and correction when they are very young. When your children are older, when they need your wisdom perhaps even more, they will continue to seek your input into their life if a trust relationship has been developed. 

My encouragement, especially to the parents of younger children, is to instill the values you have for your children when they are very young, while you can still have control, then move to less control and more protection of their hearts through their teenage years. If you have trained them well and they know you love them, then they will continue to honor your influence over them later in life.

For more parenting tips, check out the parenting category of this blog.

3 Easy Parenting Principles We Used and Saw Amazing Results

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I am frequently asked what we did or didn’t do as parents. I am amazed God has allowed us to raise the two young men we have. In their mid-twenties they are far better men than I was at their age. They love Jesus. They work hard and provide for themselves. They love others well. What a blessing!

It’s all grace.

But, there were a few principles we practiced consistently.

Here are 3 easy parenting principles all parents should consider:

Be intentional

Parenting is hard work. Don’t try it without a plan. It’s amazing how we tend to plan for everything in life, but seldom for our parenting. I know men and women who have a plan to improve their golf game, but nothing to help them grow as a father or mother. Parents who plan great social events but have no plan to instill values in their children – they simply react to life as it happens. Some parents scramble to make their children happy, making sure they are in every activity available, but never stop to think what kind of character they want their children to have as adults and what is going to best help them get there. 

If you want to be a great parent, you must be intentional about the role. You must have an overall goal and plan for your parenting. This includes an individual plan for each child. They are each different and require unique discipline, interaction and approaches to parenting. It means deciding in advance what the character and values you are going for and thinking through – intentionally – ways to develop them. 

At the beginning of each new year, we discussed each boy and came up with a shared goal for each one and talked through ways we could better mold their character in the coming year. We thought about character traits should as honesty, integrity and kindness. It made us limit some of their activities so we could spend quality time with them and make sure they were in the right programs (yes church was one) and around the right people influences.  

Shape the heart

The Bible is clear we should “Above all else guard the heart for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) I believe in firm discipline. I also believe in extending much grace. More than anything, however, the parent should learn to know, protect and shape the heart of their child. It is the heart, which will ultimately determine the decisions and directions the child eventually makes in life.

I learned great lessons from older friends and things they did which tended to push their children away rather than draw them closer. I always wanted to have a heart connection to our boys. That doesn’t mean giving them everything. Ephesians 6 commands us not to exasperate our children. We exasperate when we have needless rules, when our homes lack grace, or we give them everything but never helping them develop discipline and structure for their life. 

We taught our boys biblical principles. We shared with them our own struggles. We built deep connections with them. Again, this required time to develop. We ate most dinner meals together and never turned down an opportunity to throw and catch a ball. 

Enjoy the ride

Children are children for a very short time. Enjoy those days. The diaper days turn into the diploma days quickly. Be a fun parent – balancing love with discipline. Laughing with your children will help relieve the stress of your life and theirs and keep them wanting to be close to you well into the difficult teen and early adult years.

Let their friends know yours is a welcoming home – where love abounds always. You may not allow everything, but the door should always be open for a child to return. Children can’t handle all the stress of the adult world. We didn’t hide problems from our boys but we did help them believe God was in control, they could trust Him and us and enjoy being a child. 

We played games and made up songs and laughed until it hurt sometimes. We loved seeing our boys enjoy life and grace in our home. 

For my complete parenting philosophy see THIS POST or read other parenting posts HERE.

Which of these do you most need to improve upon as a parent?

(Speaking of principles, be sure to read my disclaimer post about them by clicking HERE.)