Parenting By Grace: Revised

Cheryl and I attempted to implement grace parenting in our home. Our boys are now grown, but we are beginning to see some fruit from our methods and our heart is to help others learn from things we did wrong and things we did right. Grace parenting is one thing I believe we did right. Grace parenting attempts to raise children the way God parents us…by grace. If God leads us by grace, shouldn’t we lead our children by grace? I read in the Scriptures that grace teaches, graces protect, grace encourages, and grace redeems. Oh, the power of grace. (Aren’t you glad we are not under the law…but grace?)

This does not mean that we let our children do whatever they want to do. It doesn’t mean there were no rules in my house. (My boys would say Amen to that. :) ) It doesn’t mean we release them to sin, or even that we expect them to sin. The apostle Paul dealt with these same concerns regarding grace living. (Romans 6:1-2) To the contrary, I actually believe grace parenting has led to a stronger walk with the Lord for each of the boys. They are now young men, honoring Christ (and their parents) with their lives.

These are some steps that helped us think through this concept of parenting by grace. Consider them for your own family and see if they are appropriate, recognizing that each child is unique and may require a different approach in some areas.

Here is our parenting model, Parenting by Grace:

Set clear boundaries - Children need to know what is expected of them and what the limits are in the home. They will test these, when they do, enforce the boundaries, but do it with grace. One of these boundaries for us was respect. My boys could speak openly and honestly about anything with us, but I expected them to respect Cheryl and me.

Recognize the individuality of the child - Some children require more structure than others do. Make sure the boundaries set are appropriate for the needs of the child. One of our boys needed more structure than the other boy. His boundaries had to be more defined. He also needed illustrations to help explain to him the boundaries. The other boy just needed a clear destination…a path for him…he would get there in his own way.

Major on the majors, not the minors – There should be some items, which everyone understands are non-negotiable items. We tend to let these be moral or Biblical issues, such as lying, cheating, disrespect, etc. If the issue affects the child’s character, then it is a major issue. These major issues are handled sternly and thoroughly, but still with love. The minor issues, issues, which do not affect the child’s character, are not to be ignored, but they can be handled less severely. This will eliminate much of the “nagging” children often feel parents do.

Consider the heart – We always tried to determine the reasons behind our boy’s actions before deciding on discipline. A pure heart was always treated differently from a rebellious heart. Remember you are trying to mould a character for life. Scripture says that we should monitor and protect the heart above everything else. (Proverbs 4:23) If your child’s heart is pure and wants to do the right thing, instructing them in the way they should go may be better than harsh discipline. If their heart is bent on rebellion that should be handled much stricter.

Give multiple chances and forgive easily – God has given Cheryl and me so many chances. Shouldn’t we do the same for our children…especially if we want to model the heart of God for our children? After punishment is decided upon, make sure the child understands why they are being punished. You may not be able to fully explain at the time, but go back to the child afterwards to make sure you have not broken their spirit or closed their heart to you. They should always know that you love them, that you would never forsake them, even when they have done something wrong. They should never question your commitment to them in your anger. Give love liberally, just as God gives it to us.

If your children are living within the boundaries, then be a “fun” parent – Let them enjoy having a good time with you. We wanted our boys to honestly be able to say they lived in a fun house, while at the same time we wanted to witness their character being molded into the image of Christ. We laughed so much in our house and under this model, there were rarely days where life was no fun in our home, even during some of the most stressful times in our lives as parents.

Our boys quickly learned the concept of grace as they grew in our home. They understood that we were holding them to high standards, but that we would extend to them lots of grace.

How are you being intentional with your parenting? Let others learn from you.

(This is a revised post from a few years ago. My boys are now out of the house.)

Building a House

The wise woman builds her house…

(Proverbs 14:1)

If you want to build a house…

It takes a plan…

It takes diligence…

It requires the right materials…

It takes time…

It involves sleepless nights…

It requires discipline…

It’s not done in front of the television or computer…

It’s not cheap…

It will stretch your heart…in various directions…

It will not always make you the popular parent…

It will require sacrifice…

It’s not easy…


Its rewards last for generations…


Are you building your house?

What else does building a house require?

(To see my personal parenting model, click HERE.)

5 Tips when Communicating with Women

I recently posted 5 Tips when Communicating with Men. I said in that post, that I didn’t feel as comfortable with the counter post. I’ve never been a woman. :) I’ve never even had thoughts of wanting to be one. :) Don’t get me wrong…I like women…a lot…one in particular, but I don’t feel that liking women qualifies me to speak for the gender.

I have studied relationships, however, and I’ve studied my wife. My degree in counseling and experience working with hundreds of couples has helped me process some thoughts about men and women and how they communicate. I wrote these, but ran them by Cheryl prior to posting. As I said with the men, remember these are generalized statements, so not all women will fit in each of these.

Here are 5 tips when communicating with women:

There may be a deeper meaning – What a woman says most likely represents the way she feels, which may or may not be captured completely by the words she uses. It’s harder to put emotions into words. I find it important to ask Cheryl to clarify what she’s saying often. It sometimes helps if I repeat back what I think she’s saying, then allow her to tell me what I’m missing.

Emotions are attached so the way you say it is important – Valuing relationships and people, women tend to think and communicate more with their hearts. It’s more difficult for a woman to “set feelings aside”. They are relational and more subject to getting their feelings hurt. As with men, some women avoid conflict and some are more comfortable with it, but the approach of an issue is important for all women. Women don’t necessarily want to avoid discussing the difficult issues, but they do want men to consider how they say things. Words can have heavier meanings for a woman, since they are often interpreted with emotions.

Details are important if they are attached to someone they love - I always joke that Cheryl can remember where the socks in the house are, because they are worn by someone she loves. Women want to know details of a man’s life because she loves the man. I have to remember this when Cheryl asks for more details about my day. Sometimes her questioning is just so she can be a part of it; not to burden me with questions. Also, because trust develops with information and experience, and because women may live closer to the emotions of an issue than even the facts sometimes, details can be important in learning to trust a man. Knowledge and information helps keep the woman’s heart from emotions such as worry or fear.

Crying is a way to express and release emotions – With intense emotions; sometimes a woman can feel overwhelmed with stress, anger, grief or even pleasure. Tears are a natural reaction to life’s highs and low and are nothing to be feared. Cheryl knows, however, that when she cries I get uncomfortable. Just as a man needs to learn to use anger responsibly, the same is true of tears for a woman. Understanding this as a way of expressing emotions, however, goes a long way in helping a man cope with tears.

They don’t always need you to fix things…listen as they work through it – This is a hard lesson for a man. Cheryl processes with me as she shares the burdens of her day, a stress she feels, or a disappointment in her life. She doesn’t usually want me to have an answer…at least not immediately…she wants me to be a sounding board as she thinks through the issue. I’ve learned that sometimes it is best to say nothing…just listen…until she asks me for an opinion. Of course, when she says “Go” I’m ready with the solution. :)

Learning to communicate better as men and women makes life more enjoyable for both genders. Most women I know are willing to admit that a woman can be more complicated to understand than a man. I’ve learned by experience that when I don’t understand how to communicate with Cheryl…or what she is saying…or when I mess up…I get tremendous credit for asking her to help me understand. Cheryl always seems patient with me when I’m attempting to communicate better. Men, it’s worth the effort!

Women, what would you add to my list?

Men, do you have anything to add? (Don’t get yourself in trouble, but be honest! :) )

5 Tips when Communicating with Men

I hear from both sides continually. Between the two sexes, communication appears to be the biggest struggle. It’s a constant work in progress in my own marriage. The differences in men and women make communication difficult. (I also posted 5 Tips When Communicating with Women.)

My counseling background and years of experience working with couples has given me insight into some of the barriers men and women face when communicating. I realize not all men are alike, but there are some generalities that can perhaps help a woman better understand a man and improve communication.

Here are 5 tips to communicating with a man:

We meant what we said…not what you heard – Thats true 99% of the time. (Statistically verifiable :) ) Men are usually more literal, and frankly simple-minded, so we aren’t usually talking in a code language. Not that women would be… :) Try to hear only what was said without attaching extra thoughts triggered by emotions. Ask if his statement had a deeper meaning before making assumptions. Most likely he meant only…nothing more…than what was said. (I can’t tell you how many classic examples of marriage problems I’ve seen develop with just this one tip.)

We don’t often like to give details – If we said where we were going, who we had a discussion with or what we had for lunch, that’s usually enough for us. We may not like going into detail beyond those simple facts. I understand you may need and even deserve more information, especially when a man hasn’t proven trustworthy, but know its often out of our realm of comfort to provide it. When it’s not a matter of trust, the less you pump for details the more likely we’ll be to share facts, and even occasionally, details.

Our range of emotions are limited – Most men don’t feel as deeply or multi-faceted as a woman feels about an issue. It’s not that we don’t care. It’s just that we are wired differently. If you ask us how we feel, “happy” or “sad” may be as descriptive as we can get. Because of this, men tend to communicate more factually and less emotionally.

When you may tend to cry we may tend to get angry – I get criticized for this point sometimes, but I wrote a post about this issue HERE. There is never an excuse to misuse anger and abuse of any kind should not be tolerated, but anger in itself is not a sin. The Bible says “in your anger do not sin”, but it seems to assume we will have moments of anger. The same things that cause most girl’s emotions to produce tears, often cause a man to develop testosterone-producing anger. A godly man learns to handle that anger responsibly, but it doesn’t eliminate the response. When an issue riles a man emotionally, it helps if you understand his emotions may be normal and you may even be able to help him channel his response to that emotion. Cheryl does that for me continually.

Sometimes we have a hard time communicating what’s on our heart…often we never do – This is sad and we may even know it. The more you make us feel we’ll be respected regardless of the situation or the emotions we display, the more likely you’ll see our true emotions. You can actually help us with this one!

Please understand. I’m not making excuses for men. The basic premise of all of these is to remember that men and women are different. You can read my thoughts about mutual submission in a marriage HERE and HERE. I’m simply trying to help you communicate with a man.

Men, what did I miss?

Wives, any tips on how we could better understand you? I’ve learned a few and could share them, but thought it may come better from you :) .

Do you care to hear my women’s version…even realizing I’m not one?

7 Ways I Gain Influence with My Team

John Maxwell says leadership is influence. If that’s true, then how does a leader develop that influence with the people he or she leads?

Here’s how I gain influence with my team:

Treat people professionally and with respect - I expect to be treated likewise, but for me to demand it without displaying it doesn’t build influence, it fosters control. (I wrote a post about that HERE)

Take risks on people and give opportunities to fail (or succeed) – Several on our staff started their ministry career with us…in large roles. I like placing faith in people. If a team member comes to me with a dream, I’ll try to help them attain it. The risk is almost always worth the return.

Recognize and reward efforts – I try to find ways to invest in our team, based on the individual needs and desires of the team member. I’ve been known to be creative in rewarding a team member for doing exceptional work. I’m also not afraid to single out exceptional work for individual recognition.

Allow them to know me personally – I’m transparent. I try to be clear about my weaknesses and own my mistakes. I’m also not afraid to be the brunt of the jokes.

Be approachable - I return phone calls and emails to my team quickly. They can get in touch with me and on my schedule before anyone other than my family. I keep the door open when I’m in the office and welcome walk-ins. (I have candy in my office too!)

Be consistent and reliable - I keep lots of lists so I don’t forget things I’ve committed to do. I have an Evernote folder with each team member’s name on it for things relative to them specifically. I don’t make many promises, but I try to honor my commitments, even when it’s costly at times. If I tell a team member I’ll do something, I make it a priority in my schedule until it’s accomplished.

Help others achieve personal success - I love to learn a team member’s goals and help them achieve it.

Keep in mind, I’m not perfect and this is not an attempt to brag about my performance. As with all my posts, I’m trying to be helpful in developing your leadership. If you read this blog regularly you know that one way I improve what I do is that I annually ask my team to evaluate me. (You can find out about that HERE and the consulting I offer in that area HERE.)

Of course, my team is free to comment on this post as well, so that should humble me. :) Most of what I’ve learned in leadership came from doing the wrong things first. I think it’s vital to a healthy team that the leader be continually conscious of his or her need for influence and ways to improve upon it.

You may also want to read my post 12 Ways to Keep an Organization Small

What would you add to my list?

Saying “That’s Nice” Is Never Enough for a Wife

I was talking with a young man at church today. He’s been married a couple years and is still learning how to understand his wife, and more importantly, how to communicate with her. I think he actually thought I’d figured things out by now. Silly boy! :)

His dilemma?

He had an example:

His wife got a new haircut. She wasn’t sure she liked it. She wanted his response. He said, “I like it.” She said, “Do you really?” He said, “Yes, I really do!”

She said, “No you don’t, you’re just saying that.” He replied, “No, I really, really like it. Seriously.”

She asked, “Would you tell me if you didn’t?” He said, “Of course I would.” She said, “No you wouldn’t…you hate it don’t you?”

“No”, he continued, “I really think it’s great. You’ve never looked any better. I think it makes you so much more attractive.”

“So you didn’t like my hair before?”

“I didn’t say that. I just meant I really like it.”

“But you said I’m more attractive now. It makes me think you didn’t like my hair then.”

“I loved your hair then and I love your hair now. You could wear your hair anyway…in fact you could shave your head…and I’d love it.”

“See, you don’t really care.”

Okay, so I don’t know the word for word conversation. I embellished a little…almost like I’ve had a similar conversation. :) Not that I ever have of course…but, almost like I had…almost :)

Men, have you ever been in that conversation?

Wives, how should he have responded?

(Please note that I put this post in the “funny” category…)

Why I (You) Need a Mentor

“Surely I am too stupid to be a man. I have not the understanding of a man.” Proverbs 30:2

I’ve got pastoral intern this summer named Dan Dominguez. Dan and I have been able to hang out some the last month or so and I have enjoyed our time together. He attends Moody Bible Institute, where he is studying to be a pastor and is a good friend of my son Nate. Nate is studying in Europe this summer, so it’s been a blessing having Dan near.

Dan and I were discussing the need for people in our life to help us when we can’t clearly find our way. I don’t know your situation, but Dan and I, from two different generations, could agree that Proverbs 30:2 could be one of our life verses.

By the way, the opening verse is the answer to the title of this post. I’m not trying to be funny or offend you. I’m admitting I need this too, but I need a mentor because the best options in my life are not always certain. A mentor has often helped me avoid stupid decisions I might have made without one.

Do you recognize your need for a mentor?

Be honest, what is one area of your life where you have the greatest need for one?

Pastor, can you convince my wife to stay?

I get a request about once a month from a man or woman.

“Pastor can you convince my wife (or husband) to stay?”

Sadly, I’ve lost a few friends this way. They wanted me to have magical words or supernatural powers of persuasion. The reality is it seldom works. In years of doing this I’ve learned:

  • I can’t change a heart.
  • There are no magic words
  • I have no special powers
  • Begging doesn’t work

All I can usually do is what they can do. I can pray. I can ask God to intervene.

I’ve also learned, however, that sometimes He does…and for whatever reason…sometimes He doesn’t. Sometimes God even allows people to make decisions they later regret.

My best work is always on the preventative side.

Pastor, what’s your experience in this area of ministry?

The 5th Type of Mentor

I’m updating a post. Yesterday I posted 4 types of mentors. Read it HERE (updated of course). I can’t believe I missed one…or that no one else caught my obvious error.

I grew up without a close relationship with my father. I missed the investment a father makes in the life of his son. As a result, I’ve tried my best to invest in my sons, but I guess because it wasn’t a great part of my story I missed it.

There is another kind of mentor.

The 5th type of mentor is:

Relational - It’s probably the best kind. It’s the way I am with my two boys. They can call me anytime for advice. They can get through my crazy schedule when no one else (except Cheryl) can. They hold my heart and my desire for their personal success in their hand. I mentored them because they are part of me. A relational mentor relationship happens with someone to whom you are related. It’s the most Biblical kind of mentoring. I hope it’s been a part of your life.

Isn’t that the best kind of mentor?

Do you have a relational mentor in your life? Share that with me here. I promise I’ll be encouraged!