Category Archives: Parenting

16 Life Rules We Learned From Our Dad

13116019_10154018030856023_7599686138579028310_oToday we held a celebration service to honor my Dad who passed away this past Sunday. My Dad was never one for “mushiness” so we wanted to share something that would communicate his character and values, while also reflecting his sense of humor. We will always be thankful for what he taught us.

The following is what we presented to those who attended.

  1. Working hard is the path to success in life. Don’t expect anyone to give you something you have not earned. Laziness is for losers.
  2. Complaining is a waste of breath and frankly, annoying to those you have to listen to you whine. Keep doing the right thing and, in general, right things will happen for you.
  3. Life is full of curve balls. If you feel like complaining, reference #2 again. After getting hit with a curve, whether it be illness or injury, loss or disappointment or your house burning down, keep moving. Set a goal of overcoming that obstacle and run it down until it’s a distant memory. Curve balls do not define you but giving up will.
  4. Corny jokes make the world a better place. Throw in a cheesy pun or two and you’ve got a party. Never ever pull anyone’s finger, even if invited to do so. And whatever you do, never get your mords wixed.
  5. Make right decisions even when no one will know the difference. Even when it’s not popular. Even if it costs you something.
  6. 10733716_10152811489418213_7551276200127304080_o (1)Live life to the full. Don’t waste even a single day. Make the most of what you have been given. See every museum, scenic view and road less traveled that crosses your path. Take a picture of it so you can remember it later. Randomly pull over to the side of the road and send your kids out into the ocean waves just because the lighting is just right for the perfect photo. After all, the photo will last forever, and you can always hold their pants out the car window to let them dry.
  7. Never be late for anything. If you are 15 minutes early, you are still late.
  8. Family is a blessing not a burden. Your check book and calendar should reflect that philosophy. Take stock of both of them often and make adjustments, when needed.
  9. Take responsibility for your commitments, even if someone else makes the mistake. That means when the newspaper company doesn’t provide you enough papers for your paper route, you go to the store and buy more papers with your own money so all your customers still receive their morning paper. By the way, you should run to the store even in the pouring rain, because their paper must not be late.
  10. Never ever purchase a new house or one already renovated. Making a home starts with ripping out what the last guy thought was a good idea and starting over. It is mandatory to point out the previous guy didn’t know what he was doing at least once every hour during renovations.
  11. Camping is highly preferred over the Holiday Inn. For one, it’s cheaper and, most importantly, you can’t make a morning campfire breakfast of folded over toast stuffed with raspberry preserves and bacon at the Holiday Inn.
  12. The key to every room’s decorating success is lots and lots of mirrors. Mirrors make the smallest room look larger and remind you to keep your hair combed. If a wall is in the wrong place, knock it down. If you need a wall, build one. This strategy is also useful when applied to life situations.
  13. Teamwork is important. This is especially true when your brother chases you with a TV tray and accidentally tears off a strip of wallpaper. You never saw two kids work together so well than when we surgically removed a piece of wallpaper from behind the sofa, cut it to the exact pattern and glue it exactly in place. We let him in on our secret here recently roughly 35 years later.
  14. If you don’t use something inside a 3 month period, it will be sold at an auction, a garage sale or an online trading site. You will not be told this has happened until you notice that it is missing.
  15. Drinking tea is just a really good excuse to eat a cookie.
  16. Jesus is the reason for the season. We say Merry Christmas. Easter is not about bunnies and chocolate. It’s a relationship not a religion. Faith without works is dead. And because He lives we can face tomorrow. Because He lives all fear is gone. Because we know He holds the future. And life is worth the living because we know He lives. And knowing this, our Dad lived his life well.

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What I failed to teach my kids and why it matters.

I took my responsibility to raise my kids to be good human beings very seriously.  I taught them to be kind and forgive others who were not. To pray and have faith that God would draw someone’s heart to Him.  That everyone makes mistakes but it’s never too late to start making good choices. That God loves everyone and so should they. That it was wrong to judge others for their faults.

But I missed teaching them something important…

ImageNot everyone is safe. There are those that are so wounded by life and experience that they will ultimately destroy those that try to love or help them.

Now I watch my children as adults try to navigate this sometimes cruel world with their hearts of gold and the best of intentions. And I am afraid for them.

I now wish I had taught them that it’s ok to walk away. That you can forgive someone from a distance without attempting to reconcile. That sometimes people are too dangerous to keep close and they need to be let go. That life is not black and white but shades of complicated gray… and colors we may not even recognize. That the gift of family that God gives us should be cherished and protected from anyone or anything that is destructive.

And so now I am left to pray that they learn when to walk away before experiencing the harsh consequences of being kind and forgiving without the balance of wise boundaries to keep them from harm.

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From the human disposal to the picky eater – Ways to keep your dinner table positive.

ImageWhen my kids were younger I had little tolerance for complaining at the dinner table. With so many going hungry around the world, it upset me that my children were not more grateful for their full bellies… even if it was full of broccoli or carrots. I soon instituted a few ground rules for the dinner table that helped them “adjust” their attitudes.

  1. Check It At The Door: The only acceptable term allowed was “not keen on it.” Words such as nasty, yucky, or ewww were not permitted. Phrases such as “I ain’t eating that” or “what kind of crap is this” were also on the not permitted list.  Tongues sticking out and nose wrinkles were considered sign language for the aforementioned phrases. Those who could not contain their comments were rewarded with a second helping of whatever had caused their dismay.  Additional helpings were added on an as-needed basis and, once on the plate, the food had to be consumed in its entirety.  If not eaten at that meal, the leftovers were kindly saved until the next meal… even if that meal was breakfast.  I once had one child test my commitment to this rule… she went 6 meals without eating before she broke down and ate the food she had earned through complaining. She only tested me once… in this area anyway.
  2. The Three-Bite-Rule: Everything on the table required a minimum of three bites.
  3. The Exception: Each child was allowed to pick one food item that was excepted from the three-bite rule or for which they would be provided an alternative if it was the entire meal. For example, I had one child who chose spaghetti sauce as her exception. When we had spaghetti, she would have noodles and cheese. At age 18, she still eats her spaghetti this way.
  4. No Wasting Food. If you put it on your plate, you were expected to eat it. They were cautioned to only serve up what they could eat knowing they could get more if they wanted it. Those who didn’t finish were allowed to “sell” what was left on their plate to another child. I have personally witnessed a child “sell” the food on their plate by offering to do chores for the another child. The point was not that the food be eaten… I just wanted them to understand its value by not allowing them to waste it.
  5. Eat a Green: When we went out to eat, it was often a buffet. It was usually less expensive, the kids could pick what they wanted, and eat as much as they wanted.  My only rule here was they had to “eat a green” which meant at least one fruit or vegetable subject to the Three-Bite-Rule.  The “two-sugar-buns” per plate rule was also implemented following a trip to the Chinese buffet where it was apparently thought that 8 sugar buns and three green beans constituted a well-balanced meal.

I know what you’re thinking… those are some pretty extreme dinner table rules. Maybe for some but it worked for us. Once in place, our dinner table was peaceful. Ok, peaceful as in little or no complaining and a new appreciation for the value of food. It was still wonderfully loud and crazy.

Might I just add here that complaining is also rude and insulting to the chef (me). If you don’t like it, I don’t want to hear about the entire time I’m eating. So there.

My kids are grown so I no longer enforce the dinner rules. However, I do find it amusing to see them put a “green” on their plate, and eat three bites of something I know they wouldn’t choose for themselves. Habits of your childhood are hard to break.

I now have a 5 year old stepdaughter (almost 6). She falls into the very picky eater category. Because she shares time 50/50 between our house and time with her mom, I needed a strategy where I gained her buy-in and cooperation.  A hard line approach would only create conflict due to the inconsistency caused by her living in two households. A different situation calls for a different strategy. Here are some of the ways I’m using to help her learn to make healthy choices for herself regardless of where she is eating.

  1. Eat a Protein: I was sincerely concerned about this child’s health. She seemed to survive solely on carbs and juice. We insist that she eat something with protein at every meal. She is at the point where she knows this is expected and she does it without any fuss (most of the time). I’m willing to substitute the protein being served for an alternate as long as she tries it first. We are stressing that protein will help her grow and be strong and encouraging her to expand her list (see below) and make choices.  Veggies will also soon be insisted upon as her list of “likes” grows.
  2. No complaining: This poor child has been subjected to my “kid’s are starving” lecture enough times that she has learned to say “I’m not keen on it” instead of making a face or pitching a fit over its extreme nastiness. If she does complain and I start the lecture she quickly changes her tune just to avoid having to listen to it. An evil strategy I know, but hey, whatever works.
  3. Chart it. We have implemented a Chow Chart. The chart has category headers for Proteins, Veggies, Fruits, and Nuts & Seeds.  Each category lists food which she has tried and indicates whether she likes it or doesn’t care for it.  She is rewarded for each 25 “tries” with a trip to the dollar store for a prize. Since putting the Chow Chart in place, she has tried over 3 dozen food items that she would not have touched before… and surprise, surprise she has liked over 80% of them. Where she would not even touch a vegetable before she now enjoys spaghetti squash and baby spinach on a regular basis (her two favorites). Last night she ate butternut squash and okra but alas “was not keen on it.” Can’t win them all. The great thing is that we all show such interest in her opinion and then we share our thoughts on the food in question (our favorite way to have it prepared, etc.). She feels like she is part of a grown up conversation and is learning to contribute in positive ways.

While I believe that every child is different and we should recognize their needs as individuals, I do think that the dinner table is an area where you need a family policy that applies to everyone consistently. If you have a human garbage disposal and a picky eater, you might consider crafting a strategy that meets them in the middle.

The dinner table is a wonderful time for families to connect and encourage each other. Once you have removed the negative you can focus on making it a special time for your family.

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Encouraging “Happy” Days with Younger Children

I gave this blog the title “…with Younger Children” because children mature at different rates regardless of their age. Younger children have short attention spans and are typically very hard of hearing (or suffer from selective hearing syndrome). However, this is a crucial time for establishing firm boundaries and creating habits that will serve you both well as your child grows older.

Most children are eager to please and this age group is no exception. This simple system incorporates both a reward for good behavior and a consequence for bad behavior.

BUILD A FACE (Reward & Consequence System)Image

First, announce that you are going to make a craft with your child. Yeah! This will be fun and you will get to spend some time together. Tell your child that you will be making a face and see if they would like to do their own face, an animal, or something else of their choice. Then gather your materials such as paper plates, yarn for hair, buttons for nose, eyes, stickers, and markers/crayons.

On one paper plate you will draw a happy face. On a second paper plate, the face will be sad.  Glue or tape a string on the inside so it forms a loop for hanging, then tape or staple the two plates together so they face outward.

Hang the plate in a visible place in your home (fridge door, child’s door, etc).  When the child is have a good behavior day, have the happy face showing.  If they are showing poor behavior, turn the plate over to show the sad face.  Tell the child that when they show you good behavior, they can have the happy face showing again.

If your child moves beyond caring whether the face is happy or sad, you can provide incentives for staying on “happy” for a specified period.  For example, if your child stays on “happy” until lunch time, they get to have some special time with you or whatever rewards you generally use.  Then if they stay on “happy” until bedtime, they can have 20 minutes extra time before they have to go to bed (or again some other small reward of your choosing).  This way if they get a “sad” in the morning, they can still earn something in the afternoon.

You can take this system a step further by creating a chart that will track the “happy” and “sad” so they can earn rewards over the course of a week.  For example, 10 or more “happy” faces in a week earns an ice cream run with mom or dad to celebrate.

Thanks for reading. I hope you all have a “happy” week!

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Six Foundations of an Effective Discipline System

ImageI have to admit that I’ve always been a big fan of having a discipline system in place. Shooting from the hip in the heat of the moment was just too subjective based on your mood, emotions, or, let’s face it, how much sleep you got the night before.  By having a plan, no matter how you feel in the moment you have a clear cut way to address behavior in a calm and reasonable fashion.

As my kids grew older, the way I addressed discipline had to grow and change with them.  This means that we had many ways to reward and consequence behavior over the years.  My kids are now all grown “adults” with the youngest turning 19 this year and they would be quick to tell you which of those systems they liked (rewards) and which were not their favorite (consequences).

Based on my experience, here are a few things you may want to consider before deciding on a reward/consequence system for your kids.

  1. Personalize It. Your kids are unique individuals. Therefore what works for someone else may need some tweaking before it will be effective with your kids.  Also, age and maturity plays a factor in how you should approach your system. If you have a wide age range, you may need different systems for younger kids and second one for the older group.
  2. Balance It.  If you are only about consequences, your kids will get weary of it all. Motivate them with a system that rewards good behavior as well.  Oh, and make sure you follow through on those rewards or you will lose credible… and your system will break down quickly.
  3. Be Consistent with It. If you don’t commit to the system, don’t expect your kids to either. If you are very intentional about your consistency, within a few weeks it will be habit for both you and them.  It’s also important to hold your ground with a single warning. Getting into an argument with a 5 year old is not only impossible to win (and you will look and feel ridiculous), but it also breaks down your entire system. One warning – then apply the consequence. Period. No exceptions.
  4. Keep It Simple. If it’s complicated or requires a lot of policing on your part, it just won’t survive the first week. Post the rules and tracking system in a high traffic area so everyone is clear on what is expected and where they stand.
  5. Customize It. Write down the three most important things where your kids really need some work. Then build the system around revising that specific behavior.  For example, if you want them to be more respectful then have both a reward and a consequence in the system built around behaviors that demonstrate respect. Don’t try and create perfect children overnight. Pick and choose carefully where you want to see change then really focus in on those behaviors. Once you have some success you can redirect focus to other areas.
  6. Create Buy In.  Make sure your spouse is on the same page and understands what you are trying to accomplish. Better yet, make them part of the development process.  If they do not understand the system, the kids will quickly learn they have the means to circumvent it. Furthermore, providing the kids some input to consequences will give them little to argue with when they are facing those same consequences later.

Your next step will now be to find, tweak, and/or develop a system of rewards and consequences that will work for your family.  In upcoming blogs, I will share specifics on some of the most successful systems I have used with my family.

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Got Weeds? (…keep pulling!)

If you’ve spent any time pulling weeds, you know it is back breaking labor.  And, doesn’t it seem like they just pop right back up the next day?  Admittedly my landscape is usually an overgrown tangle of weeds and what used to be plants.  It’s a little embarrassing but at this point it is so far down on my list of priorities that it really doesn’t get much attention.  Of course, the longer I leave it, the more work it will take to get it back looking nice again.

On one rare occasion that I was actually pulling weeds, it occurred to me how much my adopted children are like a garden.  It seemed like weeds would “pop” out of nowhere and require pulling.  It was hard work and sometimes it seems like those weeds were sprouting up faster than I could pull them. It got hard at times to see the true beauty of the “flower” because they were hidden and choked out by the “weeds” of their former abuse and neglect. 

The truth is in today’s world of divorce and hurting families, these kinds of weeds are not exclusive to foster or adopted children.  Families are hurting and children are dealing with feelings of rejection, abandonment, and even neglect.

Just like my flower garden, which after some reasonably good effort on my part still looked pathetic, these kinds of weeds are not simply exterminated overnight.  It takes years of patient pulling and pruning before the fullest extent of beauty will be again unveiled.

One of my daughters was so shy when she came to me at 9 years old that it was debilitating.  When the door bell rang, she would hide under her bed to avoid whoever had come to the door.  When we were out in public she held onto the back of my shirt so she could hide behind me.  She would refuse any offers that required social interaction or would draw any kind of attention to her. 

Patiently I pulled those weeds (and watered and nurtured) discovering the fears and anxieties that drove her “weedy” behavior.  I learned that she was afraid of the doorbell and strangers because she was afraid that they were coming to take her away to live somewhere else.  Over the past 9 years I have watched my shy, scared choked out flower bloom into the strong, beautiful young woman she is today.  Turns out she wasn’t shy by nature at all.  In fact, she is the social butterfly of my entire garden.  Just a week ago I hugged her goodbye on the campus of the missionary school she will be attending the next three years… 600 miles from home.  I am so proud of the way she has chosen to follow God’s call to serve orphans around the world. 

Now

that

is

one

beautiful

flower!!

It’s easy to become discouraged, especially if there are many weeds in your garden.  I would encourage you to be patient.  Keep pulling those weeds, little-by-little each day, and soon you will look back and realize a beautiful transformation has taken place.  I did.

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Busting the Super Parent Myth (though the cape is still an option)

So you want to be a… SUUUUUPER PAREEEEEEEENT [echoing booming voice].  Congratulations on having an aspiration.  Now let’s get real.  That mom or dad you see with the “perfect” kids at the park were not so together the night before when bedtime turned into a scene worthy of calling in a certain reality show for assistance.  We all have some work to do in the parenting department… and we always will.  But before you turn in your cape in despair, read on and discover five simple do’s and don’ts that can help you achieve a little time in the coveted spandex suit.

DON’T – MAKE THREATS:  “If you do that again, I’ll…”  You’ll what? Your kids know you’re not serious.  You are only damaging your credibility with those empty threats.  And, it’s likely they are even laughing at you behind that angelic face.  If you are not going to follow through on a statement, don’t say it in the first place.  Consequences for behavior should already be laid out for your kids so there is no need to keep saying it in the form of hollow threats over and over.

DO – SAY WHAT YOU MEAN:  If you want your children to believe what you say, then say what mean and mean what you say.  If you want to give them a warning, ask them once to correct their behavior, then immediately follow through with the consequences if they don’t.  Put some substance on your words and your kids are less likely to ignore them.

DON’T – PUT THEM DOWN:  Words hurt.  Listen to how you speak to your kids.  Do you use phrases like “What’s wrong with you?” “You make me so mad…” “I can’t believe you did that!” or something similar?  These kinds of statement are sending the wrong messages and are born out of frustration and not discipline.  The fact is that kids are going to make bad decisions and make mistakes.  It’s time to stopped being surprised when it happens and just learn how to deal with it when they do.

DO – DEVELOP POSITIVE PHRASES:  In the heat of the moment, words are spoken which are first to mind.  For that reason you need to develop some positive alternatives that you can draw from when you are feeling angry or frustrated with your child.  Phrases such as “Do you wish you had made a better choice there?” “I think we better talk about this one.” “How could you have done that differently?” or whatever suits your personality as a parent.  The difference is that that you are teaching your child to think through what happened and find a better choice for the next time.

DON’T – YELL OR LOSE YOUR TEMPER:  When you yell, scream, or lose control, your kids no longer hear your words.  All they hear is anger and now they are processing that instead of what you are shouting at them.  It raises their anxiety and whatever lesson, however brilliant, that you might be spewing has been completely lost in the noise.  It’s ineffective and it will leave YOU feeling stressed out.

DO – MODEL SELF CONTROL:  The bottom line is your anger is irrelevant.  Kids can SEE you are angry, frustrated, or annoyed without having to witness you coming unglued.  It is not a bad thing for them to see that you are having emotions.  However, this is your opportunity to model the kind of behavior that you want your children to use when they have those feelings.  Do you want them to lose their temper with their little sister when she does something to make them angry?  Probably not.  Most parents would agree that they want to see their children learn conflict resolution skills – so that begins with you SHOWING them it in action.

DON’T – BE A RESCUER:  You know who you are… the parent who swoops down and saves little Johnny every time he makes a mistake.  He forgets his lunch and you bring it to him.  He gets in trouble at school and you insist to the Administrator there must be some kind of mistake.  He gets benched at soccer and you have words with the coach.  I have a friend who fired a 26 year old man for missing days without calling in and being chronically late to work.  His mother called later that day to demand an explanation.  There is no nice way to tell you this.  If you are a rescuer – Butt Out!  Little Johnny is one day going to spread his wings and fly into this cold cruel world and if you keep rescuing him he will not make it.

DO – PROTECT AND SUPPORT:  Natural consequences provide some of life’s best lessons.  If you interfere, you have robbed your child of the experience.  It is much better than you allow minor consequences to happen, so that your child will become a responsible and careful adult.  If he forgets his lunch, let him go hungry for one day.  Chances are the hunger pains will be the only lesson he needs and he will not likely forget it again…for awhile anyway.  Introduce a new phrase into your vocabulary: “Gee, that’s a bummer, Johnny.  What are you going to do?” Let them figure it out. If they are younger give two or three suggestions how you would handle it and then let them decide.  If they are older, just let them decide.  However, there ARE times when you must interfere to protect your children from consequences that are dangerous.  Knowing when to act is the balancing act that we must all learn as parents.

DON’T – SHOOT FROM THE HIP:  So many parents just deal with kid issues as they come. They have no real plan or strategy and consequences are usually dealt on whim and during emotional duress.  If you operated like this on your job you’d probably get fired.

DO – DEVELOP A PLAN FOR EVERYTHING:  Yes, it will be a bit of work to get implemented but it’s an investment in your children and in your own sanity.  If you have a plan you will easily know how to handle almost every situation.  No plan is a perfect plan for every child.  Every child is unique and special.  You need a customized plan.  Go ahead and read all the parenting books – then put them back on the shelf while you create a plan especially for your family.

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Why Parenting Objectives Change Everything.

Somewhere along the way, many of us bought into the idea that parenting would just come naturally.  You know, the suggestion that we are all born with the instincts needed to successfully raise our brood.  I’ve got news for you.  That idea may be true for monkeys and gophers where instincts are essential to survival of the species, but here in our human reality nothing could be further from the truth.

The problem with that idea is that we possess more than just instincts.  Our existence goes beyond survival.  God created man with a higher purpose and with that comes a responsibility to raise our children to know and appreciate His plan and calling on their lives.

Many parents have never taken the time to consider their parenting objectives.  You know – the things we strive to teach our children before they are grown.  If you do not know where you are going, any road will take you there.  However, if you develop goals and objectives, you become intentional about devising a plan or strategy that will bring those purposes to fruition.

Of course, we all want our children to be well-behaved, happy, and successful.  However, within every family those terms are bound to be defined in very different ways.  I believe parenting objectives need to be specific and the strategy for attaining them uncompromising.

What are your parenting objectives?

Take a moment to consider what is really important to you for your children right now.  Is it that they are the most popular at school, the best player on the team, or that they hit the honor roll every semester?  Let’s try again.  What is really important to you for your children that will continue to impact their lives 10, 20 and 50 years from now?  Did that change your answer?

With the long term in mind, try and develop at least five specific parenting objectives for your children.  The following include some ideas to help get you started in your thought process:

a)      To own an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness

b)      To find joy regardless of their circumstances, and not just pursue happiness

c)       To understand that forgiveness and mercy are gifts to be given generously

d)      To know how to compromise without being a doormat

e)      To honor God’s wisdom and filter man’s teachings through His Word

f)       To place a priority on family and taking care of each other’s needs

g)      To understand that sometimes being a leader means being a servant

h)      That it is good to work hard and with excellence

Having parenting objectives changes everything.

When we understand our true long term objectives as a parent, it changes the way we choose to spend our time and resources.  Our priorities shift as we focus on things that truly matter in the long run, and put less emphasis on the here and now.  Are you ready to start raising a generation that will change the world or are you content with giving them the status quo?

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The Prodigal Child

From the moment they are born they are destined to push the envelope of every boundary they encounter.  They have siblings raised by the same parents who make good decisions, yet they insist on touching the proverbial hot stove every chance they get.

I was a prodigal child.  I was head strong and determined to make my own way in this world.  While it serves me well now, as a teenager… well, let’s just say I was a handful for my parents.

I believe that God has a great sense of irony as I now have a prodigal child.  I watch her decisions and thought processes with the realization that I’m seeing myself at her age.  I know that I will not be successful in forcing her to change.  Rather I love her unconditionally.  I hold her accountable with words of truth and consistent boundaries.  I pray, and pray, and pray some more.

I feel a special kinship with her.  Whether she realizes it or not, I understand her better than she knows herself.  I admire her tenacity, work ethic, and compassion for others.  I smile knowing that those qualities will take her a long way in this life.  I see a maturity in her that I know I never had at her age.  Her willingness to admit when she’s wrong (eventually) and the way she honors my wisdom (even if she doesn’t seem to accept it when given) are two examples.

The prodigal is not easy to parent.  They often make dangerous decisions without regard to life consequences.  It can be quite the task just to keep them safe.  My prodigal jumped out a three-story window because I wouldn’t let her leave the house after curfew.  The subsequent hospital visit was humiliating (“you did what?”) and with both ankles severely sprained, she spent the next two weeks confined to the house crawling on her hands and knees.  I’m pretty sure she won’t be jumping out of any windows any time soon.

It is important for the prodigal to be hit in the face with their consequences.  Having the wisdom to know when and how much to allow is the daily struggle that I take to the Lord on my knees.

Perspective is a powerful filter – instead of stubbornness, we can choose to see determination; instead of defiance, we can choose to see their ability to stand by their convictions; instead of thinking they are stupid (aka hot stove), we can choose to see that they test and learn for themselves instead of accepting status quo.

I love my prodigal child. I believe that she will make a difference in this world… just as soon as she stops jumping out of windows.

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Raising teenagers…or do they raise you?

One of my greatest joys are my children.  Of course, I’m a mother.  You would expect me to say that.  There are many stages of parenting during the journey from infant to adulthood.  Those who have ventured into the uncertain waters of post-puberty parenting though will no doubt agree that during the teenage years it can become unclear as to who is really raising who.

I have spent countless hours in the middle of the night trying to outwit my larger-than-average brood with creative, out-of-the-box parenting strategies.  I have implemented “systems” like the Snack Bowl in an attempt to prevent the raids on my cabinets, or the Sock Basket when I finally gave up trying to figure out the owner of the hundreds of socks making their way through the laundry.  Speaking of laundry, at our peak we were doing a whopping 24 loads weekly.  Though I tried to implement a system consisting of three 30 gallon trash containers – white, colors, and dark…it never caught on and we resolved to wear “pinks” and “blues” that were not the original.

If you ask my kids, they will entertain you with dramatic tales of discipline “tickets” and a chore matrix that would make your head spin.  Not to mention The 21 Rules of This House that I made them memorize that covered everything and anything they could come up with.  ( Child: “Why can’t I rollerblade in the house – it’s not one of the 21 rules.” Mom: “Rule 13 “We must be good stewards of all that God has given us. He gave us these hardwood floors. That means no rollerblading!!)

In the end though I think it’s my children who taught me the greater lessons.  In their process of becoming amazing human beings, they have pushed me to grow my character in more ways than I can count – patience, fortitude, instincts, wisdom, empathy, compassion, mercy,  and so many more.  And then there is the greatest lesson of all – learning to rely daily on my faith.

It gives me great peace and comfort to know that God sees the bigger picture.  When I become overwhelmed with worry about their futures, their decisions, their safety, I can just step back and give it to the One who loves them even more than I do.  I just wish I would remember that more often when I’m in the moment.

Thankful for a peace that passes all human understanding.

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