Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

How to Raise Children With a Servant’s Heart

One of the toughest things to teach a child is how to do for others in a selfless manner. Toddlers almost instinctively take toys away from each other, and one of the first words they learn is usually, ‘Mine!’ even though this is rarely said in most households. For this reason I looked back and thought about where we went right while raising our seven and thought I’d share.

1. Ask your children to do things for you.
Ask for little things, a glass of water, a piece of paper picked up. Make doing little things a normal part of your child’s life.

2. Do little things for your children.
If you do not extend them the same courtesies, then they will see what you ask for as oppression, and not just the way life is supposed to be.

3. Share the chores with your spouse.
If there are no ‘his’ chores and ‘her’ chore then children learn to pitch in when needed. Sure one person can typically do a task, but when life gets busy, make sure you lend a helping hand.

4. Pick up after yourself and others when you are out of the house and see a mess.
Watch that you do not teach the ‘it’s not my job’ attitude when you are out. If someone missed the garbage can at church, help out by picking it off the floor and putting it in the trash yourself rather than walking by it. Do not be judgmental. Explain that people have bad days, and everyone misses the trash sometimes. But also explain that if everyone left everything for the janitor, then the place would be a mess, and trash, after people have stepped on it repeatedly is much harder to clean up.

5. Do not have a double standard.
If you would not be that messy at home, do not be that messy elsewhere. Just because it is not yours does not mean that you do not have to take care of it. If anything you should be more careful because it is not yours to break.

6. Leave things better than when you found them.
Make a habit of cleaning up well whenever you borrow a place, even if the mess was there before you got there.

7. Set the example.
Remember, your children are watching you. Most of what they do will be because they saw you doing it. So, help your neighbor, hold the door, be nice to the waitress and they will likely do the same.

8. Volunteer.
When the church has a work-weekend, go! When there is community work to be done, help! Take the children if possible. It is how they learn to work.

9. Make helping seem like fun.
Enjoy yourself. Visit with the people there and go out to eat, or for ice cream after. It is okay to have a small reward for a job well done.

10. Do not ask for too much.
If the work seems overwhelming, children will shut down. Break projects up into small manageable pieces and reward them after every step.

11. Work along side them.
If the project is big, help. Your working beside your child makes it seem like a needed job they can be proud to do rather than child-labor.

12. Don’t assume they are just being lazy.
Children do not have a lot of real-world experience and get overwhelmed easily. Before you yell, criticize or punish, redirect them. Tell them specifically what you would like them to do at the moment and talk them through the job. If this works, problem solved. If they continue to ignore you and the work, well, the consequences are for you to decide.

13. Reward work done when you were not watching more than work done under supervision.
Children need to learn to work when no one else is looking if they wish to be successful in life. If everyone learned to do this, we would need fewer supervisors, but that is besides the point. The point is, being self-motivated and not taking an unsupervised moment as an opportunity for a work slow down are skills you wish to cultivate, so reward them, and make sure they know why they are being rewarded.

14. Praise them for any spontaneous acts of good will.
Children respond to praise. If you want to see them offer guests a drink when they come to your house, make sure you praise them when they do, especially after the guest leaves.

15. Be the type of person you want them to be.
As a parent you are ultimately your children’s biggest influence. Make sure you are modeling the behavior you want to see in them.

16. Surround them with other positive influencers.
Don’t forget that the people around them will have an impact on their lives too. Make sure they are surrounded by people who behave in ways that you would want your children to imitate. They should have many role models by the time they reach adulthood, or they may get the impression that you and your spouse are just weird, and that all of that ‘good stuff’ is something they do not need to do.

17. Show them the rewards of going the extra mile.
Use others as an example and point out when someone was blessed because they were the type of person other people could count on, even when not asked. You reap what you sow is a fact of life. Make sure your children understand the long-term consequences of being selfless, as well as where a life of selfish desires will lead.

18. Do not flatter them to make them feel good.
Flattery is lie intended to curry favor. It does not get good long-term results. Instead it results in children who believe they can get away with doing nothing, and still be rewarded.

19. Do not manipulate them.
Ignoring them until they do what you want, or not doing the things they need you to do in a passive-aggressive manner just frustrates them and ruins their relationship with you. Consequences for disobedience should be clear and should not affect the things they rely on you for as children under your protection.

20. Explain the natural consequences to them.
In my house one of the common ‘lectures’ was, ‘If Mom has to do it all then there will not be enough time left to go where you want to and Mom will be too tired to want to do much else, so if you actually want out of this house on a regular basis I’d suggest you help.’ (’cause Mom wants to go to the movies, get ice cream etc too!) There are many ‘natural consequences.’ If you let the lawn go, there are mice and fines from the town. If you don’t take care of the car it does not run. Make sure the children know why they are doing what they do and how it benefits everyone in the home including them.

Life at College… (A Joke)


A mother goes to visit her son at college and is surprised to find out that her son’s apartment mate is female.
‘Oh no, Mom, it’s not like that. We’re just roommates,’ the son assures her.
After dinner the mother leaves, and, while cleaning up the roommate notices her gravy ladle is missing.
‘You’re mother wouldn’t have taken my gravy ladle, would she?’ the female roommate asks.
The son assures her that his mother would not, but weeks go by and the gravy ladle is no-where to be found, so the female roommate pesters the son to ask his mother if she knows where it is.
So he writes an email to mom…
‘Dear Mom, I’m not saying you took the ladle, and I’m not saying you didn’t, but if you know where her ladle is could you please tell us?’
Mom replies…
‘Son, I’m not saying you’re sleeping with her, and I’m not saying you’re not, but if she was using her own bed she’d know where her ladle is!’

The joke brings up an important question: How much do parents have a right to interfere with their children’s lives once they are off to college? Especially if mom and dad are footing the bill. And, is it fair to impose consequences if the college-aged child was not aware that, because mom and dad are paying, there is still some accountability and that rent and tuition may come with a few strings attached? Should families discuss expectations and behaviors that would cause the child to lose their parents’ financial support before they send their children to college?

Photo by Matija Barrett

11 Ways to Encourage Children to Read

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1. Read to them. Begin as soon as they are born. Growing up with the assumption that books are a part of everyday life makes them more likely to see reading as just something people do.

2. Read in front of them. Set the example. When your children see that you read for pleasure they assume it is enjoyable and want to do it too.

3. Place books in the bathroom. There are times when a child is sitting and it gets rather boring in there. If books are their only source of entertainment, that is what they will reach for. Sometimes I put educational magazines, or books of quotes by famous people in there knowing they would never look at them otherwise.

4. Place Books in their Bedroom. Allow them to read before they go to bed, or if they wake up very early and can’t sleep. Having books that are theirs encourages them to treasure them.

5. Use books on tape in the car. This allows you to get used to discussing books as a family and introduces them to authors they might not have picked themselves.

6.Use the  Pizza Hut Book-It Program, or other rewards. Everyone needs incentive and rewards. Jewish teachers used to give honey treats to their students for learning scripture because there are rewards to knowing God’s Word in real life. Even if the child loves to read and would do it on their own, positive reinforcement never hurts, and a free pizza outing is fun! You do not have to wait for your group to enroll. The home school option allows families to sign up individually.

7. Do not micromanage their reading. Reading should be fun so let them choose what they read. There are obvious exceptions, but for the most part let them be. If you are concerned, read the book and discuss it with them. There is probably a reason they were drawn to the book, and it is typically better for them to understand why things are wrong rather than just be told ‘no’ and left clueless.

8. Read the books they read and discuss the books with them. In my house it is common for someone to say, ‘You should read this,’ and then, as you read, talk to you about the book. And of course there is always another sibling yelling, ‘Wait, don’t talk with me in the room, I haven’t read it yet!’ Kindle also lets you put books on up to six devices, so if you have the technology, multiple people can read books at the same time.

9. Buy comic books. Comic books, probably because there are lots of pictures, are less threatening and will be read at a younger age. Most comics however require inductive and deductive reasoning, as well as a knowledge of current events. They force children to ask questions and learn because they want to get the joke. There are also educational comic books. Chester Comix were some of my kids’ favorites.

10. Have books around the house. Many studies have shown that children who are successful in school come from homes that have bookshelves full of books. There are also success stories of poor women who cleaned houses noticing the rich people had books, doing something to encourage their children to read and the children becoming wildly successful. This is not always the case, but it does help.

11. Take the children to the library, used books store or anywhere they can get books for themselves. They should feel comfortable around books, and feel like these places are a second home. Most libraries and bookstores have scheduled activities for children. Make sure your children go. Many of the activities are for younger children but there are also parties for popular book releases that last until midnight that older children may enjoy. We have been to a few. While they are not always incredibly exciting, young teens typically prefer staying out past midnight to being home in bed. Caution: Children who do not sit still and listen well, especially if they pull books off the shelf may have a bad experience here. Adults will tell the child to behave if others cannot hear, or they may ruin the books. Teach your children these skills at home and then ease your child into these situations. Good behavior is also a key to a successful life, but know that some kids are tougher than others.

Photo by Matija Barrett

Tips On Talking to Teens

I am now on teen number seven, so I figured I share a few of the things I learned along the way. I hope it helps!

1. Stick with the facts and make them practical. One of my children was on a sports team where many of the players did drugs. He was behaving and making good choices so we allowed him to remain on the team. One day he came home and tried out the statement, ‘I don’t see why drugs are illegal.’ It became obvious that this was the theory that his new friends had bought into. Instead of focusing on all the harm drugs can do we decided to be practical. We did not leave out the harm they do, but it was not our main focus. Remember, no teen likes his friends to be completely wrong; there is a loyalty there, and so far in their drug careers it at least looked like these boys were doing drugs and doing fine. Later he would see them lose jobs and destroy their lives, but not yet, so we were fighting his limited perceptions which told him we were wrong, people who do drugs do just fine. Instead we chose to emphasize that fact that, right or wrong, drugs are illegal and if you get caught that will be a stain that will damage your chances of getting hired for the rest of your life. The price is too high to risk it if you want to succeed in life. (And he did want to succeed.) Find a reason your child cares about and make that your main point.

2. Give them reasons upon reasons for not doing things. When talking about premarital sex we emphasize not only the STDs, but every aspect of difficulty that comes with having a child out of wedlock. We also emphasize that a boy is not caring for a girl by potentially putting her in a position where she will have to face her parents alone (even if they tell them together, they are not married so she will eventually have to be alone with them). Bringing a baby into the world should be a time for hugs and congratulations, not a time of stress wondering how you are going to manage. By giving them multiple reasons you increase the chances that they will find a reason that truly matters to them. Unless they believe they should wait, they will not succeed in denying themselves, nor will they understand the need for birth control. In adopting older children we learned the importance of ‘buy-in.’ Unless the teen truly believes it themself, they will only wait until they think they will not get caught to do it.

3. Maintain a strong relationship with them. This does not mean that you need to smother them, but there should be relaxed family time that occurs regularly when you talk about everything and nothing. If the only time you discuss things is when you feel the need to talk to them about something uncomfortable they will not listen. The situation will prove so uncomfortable that their only focus will be, ‘Can I go now.’ A strong relationship with your teen makes these talks easier, and that involves spending time, much time, with them. (It’s the only reason I see for fishing!)

4. Handle the little issues well. If you over-react when they dent the fender you can be sure they are not going to come to you when they are being tempted by drugs and sex. You are not a ‘safe’ person, and they don’t like being yelled at. Sure, there are times to yell. Two of my teens ran into a building as it was being torn down for fun. We got them out and the lecture was pretty intense. But they were going to die from thinking like that. Most situations are really just minor inconveniences. When you blow them out of proportion what you say is, ‘I don’t have the time or the patience to help you when you mess up.’ It gives your teen the impression that they have to be prefect, which they are not, so they learn to hide things from you instead.

5. Help them define their goals. Teens with goals tend to do less self-destructive things than teens without goals. They do not want to mess up their chances of the glorious future they see themselves having. Talking about careers, having them job-shadow, and getting them on the path early helps. They may change paths, but they see themselves as being able to achieve, and that is important.

6. Strengthen their self-esteem. Find ways to give them confidence. Lies and flattery do not do this. (They’re not that dumb!) Succeeding in things that are important to them does. Find something they like and are good at and allow them to invest time in it. This may also mean that you invest time in it. Sitting in the hot sun all day to see your child run for less than five minutes is indeed a hard way to spend a Saturday when you have other children and a million things to do, but it is worth it to them. Volunteer work (helping others) also helps them to see themselves as a worthwhile human being. Believing they can do meaningful things, and achieve what they thought was not possible helps them feel good about who they are. This will help them to resist peer pressure, as they are no longer placing all of their worth in their friend’s opinion of them. Now, if they are bad at sports, this may only put them in a position where they feel the need to be part of the team any way they can, and puts them at risk for doing whatever the other teens want in order to please them. For this reason I like the martial arts, since, in a good do-jang, the only one you are truly competing against is yourself. Anyone can achieve rank if they try hard enough.

7. Let them know they are loved. This can be hard since they are naturally pulling away from the family and are on their way to adulthood. Figure out what they like to do and make sure you do it as a family. Pay attention to them while they talk. Treat them like you would want them to treat you.

8. Begin to treat them more like an adult and less like a child. This involves increasing their responsibilities (laundry, getting up on their own etc), but it also involves asking them their opinion and including them in conversations about things that affect them. When they marry you will need to compromise in order to fit everyone’s wants and needs into what the families are planning to do together. It helps to start practicing now, before there are ‘in-law’ issues, because spouses do not think they need to jump every time you speak (and they are right). Your teen also learns to work around your needs, so they do not get to be little dictators either. Practicing young makes later in life more enjoyable, and there are less fights. Too often a parent has put their foot down and demanded family time when the teen had other obligations (work, team practice etc). If given enough notice and they see that an effort was made to rearrange things so that there would be minimal inconvenience to them, the teen might gladly rearrange things, and miss some other things. Telling them that they will do it at that last minute and then complaining about their attitude is a recipe for disaster. They are older and have commitments to other people now. A little advanced notice and inclusion in the planning is not unreasonable.

9. Demonstrate a good attitude. If you are always complaining and grumpy how can you expect them to be any different? If you get your feelings under control, and learn not to blow up and lash out at those you love, only then can you expect them to do the same. Do you remember what it felt like to be a teen? The intensity of your emotions is at a peak during this time. If the parent is not demonstrating a good degree of maturity themselves then their is no hope that the teen will follow suit, and your house will be miserable.

10. Respect your spouse and those around you. Your teen learns by example. They will not respect your spouse, or others if they watch you slam them every time you get upset, even if it is behind their backs. Clean up your own act, and then you can help them clean up theirs.

11. Now is the time for ‘natural consequences.’ When they are adults, they will need to face the consequences for what they have done. Ease them into it by starting now. Natural consequences work too because it is not just you grounding them, but a very real result of what they have done. For instance, if they leave tools out to rust, they clean them up or buy new ones. If they get traffic tickets so their insurance rates go up, they now pay for their own policy. If they use every towel in the bathroom, then they need to do a load of laundry. You see how this works?

I hope this helps. But remember, every child has free-will. They will not always do what you want. Good luck with that!

Are TV & Video Games Bad?

Is TV bad? It depends. If your child is watching it 24/7 to the point where they are not getting any exercise at all, then of course this is wrong. But, if your child is just sitting in front of it as a means to relax then- it depends.
It depends on the child. I have 7 children, 3 adopted, all different. For the most part, in regards to TV and video games, it boils down to two distinct personality types: The ‘followers’ and the ‘problem-solvers.’ How do you know which you are blessed with? Plop them down in front of a popular action-packed TV show. (When my children were little it was The Power Rangers.) After the show the ‘followers’ are re-enacting what they saw. The problem-solvers are at your side explaining to you what was wrong with the show and how the character could have done something better.

Some children are ‘followers.’ When they watch TV they tend to pick up the mannerisms of their favorite characters, copy their behaviors and internalize their values. These are the children who, after watching Power Rangers, need to immediately kick and punch their brother, parent or any other person in the vicinity no matter how many times you tell them not to. Since TV strongly affects how they live their lives, their TV consumption must be monitored and limited. But, since this is an issue that extends into ‘real life’ where they will also copy their friends and teachers without analyzing why, TV can be used to teach them to judge their actions and not follow so blindly. With these children parents can use TV as an opportunity to sit down and talk about the behavior of the characters to help them learn how to analyze and think before they follow another’s example (and without the child going back and telling their teacher that you said what she was doing is wrong).

Other children are more analytical. They problem-solve and need to think about everything. These are the children that, after the hundredth ‘Why?’ you really want them to shut up and go play somewhere else. These children, if taught a good set of morals, will get much out of TV. TV will help them to understand that there are evil people in the world, so they will not be naïve, and explain to them why people do the things they do so they will be more understanding with others. (These children have a tendency to be ‘legalistic’ and unbending.) Their problems in life tend to be because they believe everyone will think before they act and that no one would ever purposefully hurt them. (Can we say ‘naïve?’) TV helps them to process and learn so they are not surprised that not everyone behaves. It can be used as a tool to keep them from having to be hurt because of their naivety. Again, parents who are willing to talk with them about the shows they watch are key, even if it means answering a long list of ‘why’ questions. TV watching for these children is not as much of an issue since they are unlikely to blindly do what they see on TV.

The same goes for video games. Some children play them blindly. They need the high score and become frustrated when they lose or are told to turn them off. They are not problem-solving when they play, but just trying to ‘find’ what works. They also do not mind using ‘cheats,’ since it is not about how they got the high score, but just that they did. (Can you see some issues with this line of thinking?) Giving these children time limits helps them to learn to control their frustrations. Parents who sit beside them while they play and talk to them after their character ‘dies’ about what they could have done better can use the game to help them develop problem solving skills. But since these skills do not come naturally, the child will not enjoy this and will just want to get back to his game now. This is not to say that you should not hold the conversation anyways, but that you should keep it short and expect some push back.

Other children analyze the games. They are not just playing the game, but thinking about how they would create their own. Even the death of the character leads them to a new insight on how they should play differently, or how their game (the game they would invent) would be structured. For these children video games provide a lot of mental stimulation that does benefit them in the long run. Parents should always talk to their children about whatever they are currently interested in, but in this case, the parent should expect to sit down and listen to a very long explanation about everything (and I mean everything) to do with the game. The biggest thing a parent can do wrong in this situation is to act bored, or leave, so enter with a cup of coffee and be prepared to learn more than you ever wanted to know about some make-believe place.

My opinion: TV and video games have their place, but it is not mindless babysitting. For the follower, they can be used to teach self-control and how to think before you act. For the problem-solver it provides new things to think about, and opportunities to analyze and learn from other’s mistakes without having to experience them themselves. The ‘follower’ has more to lose from watching inappropriate material, while there is some benefit to showing the problem-solver (who tends to be naïve) things they may want to avoid. The best advice: Know your children, listen to them and talk to them frequently about what is important in their lives, in this case, the pretend worlds that TV and video games have to offer. And remember, pretend people have problems that can be discussed without your child going back to the person and telling them what you said about their situation- This is a huge bonus!

‘Rules For Dating My Daughter’ Are Counter-Productive

A few months ago one of those ‘You are not going to date my daughter’ lists circulated. I showed the list to my 17-year-old son and asked what he thought. His response was interesting, and I was proud of the amount of maturity it showed. Mother-pride aside, here was his assessment- He said that he would have no problem obeying any of the rules, or even doing a Bible study with the father, and that, while he believed that the authority to monitor his computer/ phone etc belonged to his parents and not his date’s father, he had no problem showing his date’s father his electronics. But, he still would not date this man’s daughter.

Why? Because this list showed that the father was overly controlling. My son wants to eventually be a ‘man’ in his own home. He does not want to deal with an overly controlling father-in-law for the rest of his life. This list is an indication that ‘dad’ will not remain neutral when he feels that his son-in-law is doing it all wrong. For this reason, my son would decline to date this girl rather than risk a future where his father-in-law feels he is still the ‘man’ in his daughter’s home.

We have seen problems like this. These fathers do not mean to interfere, but they see the world as black and white. There is only one way to run a Christian marriage- their way. So when their daughter and her husband choose a different way, they need to ‘intervene’ and ‘disciple’ him. They don’t mean to be ‘controlling,’ but they do mean to make sure everything is done ‘Biblically,’ and ‘right.’ Good, strong men are going to see this coming, and run. In reality, the father’s interference is not driving away the ‘bad’ boys (They will lie to your face and pretend with ease.) but the ‘best’ boys, who actually want to stand up, and be a strong, godly man that your daughter would be proud to have in her life.

The solution: Train your daughter right so that she would never think to drag home someone who would do her wrong. Then, actually get to know the boys in your area, so that when she brings one home and wants to go somewhere with him, you will already know whether, or not you can trust him. Being involved in your daughter’s life will do more to protect her than any list of ‘rules’ ever will.

How to Keep Focus While Raising Children

Raising kids is tough. Add to that the extra responsibility of home schooling and the feelings of insecurity and self-doubt can be overwhelming. Here is some excellent advice from one of my friends.

Sit down as husband and wife and decide what goal is most important. If there is more than one goal, then prioritize, and decide which one is the most important, and then rank the rest accordingly. Hang the list on the fridge, or the bathroom mirror if necessary, then, every time you make a decision, remember what your goal is.

For most Christian households, the goal is to raise godly kids. Sometimes life gets busy. We realize that things are chaotic and everyone is stressed, but we have trouble deciding what to do about it. Remembering what our ‘goal’ is helps bring clarity to the situation. It also helps us feel less guilty, or adjust our priorities when we do not accomplish everything we wanted to that day.

For example: Let’s say that today we ended up getting home late and eating cereal for dinner. Why? Because our neighbor’s dog got loose, so we ‘wasted’ much of the afternoon chasing it down. But is this a problem? One of our goals is to cook healthy meals for our family, but the main goal is to raise godly children. Helping a neighbor is godly, and one night of cereal instead of a home cooked meal will not greatly affect the children’s health. Plus we have just taught our children to be flexible, and put someone else’s needs before our own wants. I’d say this is a ‘win.’

Some days we do not do so well. The children are fighting, very little schoolwork gets done and the house is a wreck. Everyone lost patience, and behaved badly, including mom and dad. This is a ‘loss’ day. What we need to figure out from these days is not how not to have them, with children these days are inevitable, but how not to lose our cool and become someone who sets a very bad example when things get tough. Remembering that your first priority is to teach your children to be godly means that your focus is on the children treating each other with respect. The schoolwork is probably second in importance, so any punishment given cannot make schoolwork impossible. Your job: Talk with your spouse and figure out punishments that work, so that tomorrow will be different.

The best punishments involve ‘natural consequences.’ These are consequences that are the natural result of what was done. For example: The children waste their time bickering all day and don’t get their schoolwork done, then there are no ‘fun’ activities later because the schoolwork is more important and needs to be done first. Knowing what is important allows you to focus only on what needs to be done, and ignore the less important things during a tough time. This keeps you from being overwhelmed and helps you to make better decisions that actually fix the problem. Later, when the important things are dealt with, you can work on the things that are less important.

These rules can also be applied when deciding which activities your children will, or will not participate in. Sometimes the activities are fine, but they take up so much time that there is no time left to be a ‘family.’ It is okay to miss a season of soccer. It is not okay for your child to grow up not knowing who their mom and dad were and what was important to them. If you do make them sit out for a season, you cannot forget why and get busy yourself. Make sure you are replacing whatever you took away with quality, fun family time or you will just look like a selfish hypocrite whose only real reason for not letting them play was so you would not have to be bothered driving them around…

So, when your spouse comes home and stupidly asks, ‘What were you doing all day, the house is a mess?!’ You can answer, ‘Making your children more godly.’ Implying that they were anything but godly today! (By the way husbands, never, ever say this! No jury of her actual peers would convict her for anything she does to you if you do…)

My Rules…

I have a different way of looking at life. It works for us. It may work for you, or you may already be doing things this way… But it is not the norm.

1. I believe the ‘best’ I should look is in the bedroom for my husband. I have heard too many guys in the dojang complain that their wife dresses up for everyone but them, and by the time they get to bed she has no make-up on and stuff on her face they are afraid to kiss. I vowed never to be like this. Want to see me at my best, well that would be awkward!
2. I believe that my husband should have just as much of a say in how the house is set up and how the children are raised as I do. It is his house and they are his children too. I vowed never to act like I was the only one who knew anything about how a house is to be run and how children are to be raised. I married a good, intelligent man and vowed to treat him as he deserves by not disrespecting his wishes in these areas. I have seen too many men want to be a part of the household but give up because their wife corrects everything they do. Ironically, these men consider themselves to be the ‘head of the house!’ My husband can do laundry, load a dishwasher and feed a baby any way he wants. He can also do projects in the house, rather than the garage, put his feet on his furniture and stack things he is currently using where they are convenient for him. He lives here too.
3. I believe my children should do as much as they are capable of doing for themselves. Eventually my children will leave my house to establish their own homes. By the time they go they should be able to do their own laundry, cook, clean, handle money and take care of their car. By doing these things for them I am hindering their ability to handle the adult world. If these things are second nature then they will be able to get them done quickly in a way that won’t interfere with the other things they need to do in life.
4. We do not make young children tithe. Their money is family money and has already been tithed on, but more importantly they do not understand and are tempted to cheat, steal or become upset over their perception that their money was taken from them. Money that comes from outside the household is tithed on. When they are old enough to work for others (baby sitting, yard work etc), they are old enough to understand the concept of tithing and it is now that they can choose to do so. We teach about tithing and set a good example for them by giving our own tithes and offerings so my children have not had trouble with this. Arguments with a five year old over ‘their’ money are just not worth it. Tithing requires more maturity than a little one has. Heck, it is a tough concept for many adults!
5. We don’t do Santa Claus, the tooth fairy etc. When we first adopted our older children it was obvious they already knew and were testing us. We told the truth, and decided to give it up since we knew they would not respect our wishes and would tell our younger children anyways. This was the best decision we ever made concerning these holidays. Instead of the children thinking that some all-knowing being was going to bring them everything they ever wanted, our children knew that their fallible parents were buying the gifts. They did not get upset when everything they wanted was not under the tree and they were very appreciative since they knew we had done all of this for them. My older son recently came to me and said that, if his future wife agreed, he really did not want to do Santa Claus. Why? Because he wanted his children to know that he did this for them so they know how much he loves them. Yep. That’s what he got out of our doing it this way. Pretty cool, huh? (When the tooth fairy needs to come I actually ask my children if they want me to hand them the dollar, or try to sneak in and hide it for them. They almost always choose ‘hide it’ and even though they know, they have not caught me yet! By the way- if you do the tooth fairy thing and ‘forget,’ go into the room with a dollar hidden in your hand and ‘help’ them search. Chances are it just fell out from under the pillow onto the floor or something…)
6. Boys should learn about housework and cooking and girls should learn about cars and mowing grass etc. Why? Because even if they do end up in a more traditional marriage there will likely be a time when they are single, or a time when their spouse is not there to handle these things for them. It is also a blessing for a spouse to be able to ‘help’ when life gets busy, or they just want to bless the other person. It’s hard to have a ‘servant’s heart’ when you are incompetent when it comes to the type of ‘service’ that would help most.
7. I do not do anything I am paying someone else to do. If I am paying for chores to be done, the person getting paid should do them. Holding your children accountable teaches them to budget their time and get the things they need to do done. Too many parents have mercy in this area and their children are poor employees later. When they are older they will be responsible for all of the chores. Having them do one or two now is not unreasonable. (I consider the fact that a local pizza place calls our house when they need an employee to see if we have any more kids available to work a huge compliment.)
8. If you live in the house, you contribute to the house. No one who is able lives in the house without pitching in and helping with the work of the house. What you do is negotiable, but you will do something. Too many ‘adult’ kids sit on their parents’ couches, eat their parents’ food and use their parents’ hot water without working on getting any farther in life. This may be because it is too comfortable at home. If you are in an adult body, you can do adult work. I will not be working harder than you. (School and employment count in the total overall work the child is doing.) If the child has no job and is not going to any type of school then bonus, I have a live-in housekeeper! The Bible tells us that children are a blessing. I fail to see how someone whose only contribution is to sit on my couch, eat my food and use up my hot water is ‘blessing’ me!
9. A child is not an adult until they are fully supporting themselves. If we, as parents are paying for any part of your life then we have a say in your life. We want to know what we are investing in. So, if I am paying for college, I have a right to ask about grades etc. If you are living under my roof, I have a right to know where you are and what you are doing. This is not unreasonable. If I am paying, or in any way supporting something, there should be some accountability. I don’t care how ‘old’ you are, if you don’t like it, start supporting yourself- please!
10. I have boundaries, and if you cannot behave you can leave. I do not hang out with people who yell at me, start fights etc. I also will not make it easy on you to do the wrong thing. I do not help deadbeat dads be deadbeats, nor do I support abuse. If we need to move the girl and the children into our home to keep her safe we will (and have done so, more than once). And typically the girl is good company and helps with the housework, bonus for me!
11. We try to worry about what is right, and not what other people will think. Some days are better than others when raising children. If my child stole, we deal with it. We do not hide it so that we do not look bad.
12. Some battles are not worth fighting. When we first adopted children there were so many issues that we picked the top ones and worked on them, and only them (unless something became urgent and needed to be handled). This kept life manageable. There are ‘big’ issues that need to be dealt with now, and little things that should be dealt with, but can wait. Often, if you try to do it all, you end up focusing on the little things (they tend to be the annoying things) and you lose the big battles. For example: The child now knows not to sing at the top of their lungs in the house, but still steals everything that is not bolted down when you are out. Big things need to be dealt with first. We actually went on ‘practice’ shopping trips to learn how to behave. Since I had nothing I needed to buy, I could keep more of an eye on the children and focus on their behavior. Eventually we could all go shopping together without major issues arising. Even with children that do not have major issues, is it really so bad that she goes shopping in her princess dress? There will come a day when she does not want to wear it anymore, and at five it’s really cute. Too many little rules that do not make sense make for a very tense household. And heck, if she brings the wand she will be less likely to want to grab something off the shelf that she really, really wants and throw a fit since her hand is already occupied! (Or she may hit her brother with it…)

I hope this helps. Always remember, every family is unique. What works for me may not work for you. Talk to your spouse and modify things as necessary.

Don’t Be Naive When Raising Children

In raising children who were adopted when they were older I learned a few things that you may find helpful, so I figured I’d pass them on…

1. If your child’s grades improve dramatically, without a known reason (no incentive, or tutoring) praise, but keep your eyes open for cheating.
Real life story: In third grade our son had a parent/ teacher conference. His grades were amazing. We talked to the teacher, and told her that he rarely brought work home. She moved his seat and his grades plummeted…

2. If your child begins to ‘help’ around the house in ways they have never done before, they are probably hiding something they hope you will never find out they are doing.

3. When confronting your child do not begin with a lecture. Ask them a question then listen. When there is silence, don’t be tempted to fill in it yourself. People hate silence. Your waiting tempts them to say more and you will get more of the information you need, such as why they did it, and how much they have done. Then you can talk all you want.

4. If you think they are doing something set them up and watch. If they are not tempted, nothing else will happen.
Real life: We had our pastor over and went to show him our computer monitoring system. Our son, knowing what the pastor might see, suddenly needed to talk with us. (But not before the pastor saw that the system actually works… We did warn him.)

5. Check to see that your children are where they say they are. Many, many kids say they are sleeping over a friend’s house and go elsewhere, usually with the friend they say they are spending the night with. Always check with the other child’s parents.

6. Explain to your child that the punishment is always worse if they lie. There should be some benefit to telling the truth and coming clean.

7. If your child is suddenly rebellious, blows up easily or won’t talk to you when they normally would there is something wrong. Take them someplace for a long period of time, a shopping trip, fishing, hiking etc. anywhere with no distractions where you can talk. Eventually they will. You may need a weekend for some problems… One of my children talked best at the pet store.

8. Talk to your child when there is nothing wrong on a regular basis (a lot). They need to have practice talking to you. This will make difficult conversations easier. The regular conversations will also make it harder for them not to tell you things since they know they are expected to talk, and whatever is bothering them is probably on their mind. If they normally talk, and are suddenly silent, there is probably something wrong. Don’t stop the talk until you find out what it is.

9. Even ‘good’ kids mess up. The difference between raising a child well, and doing it poorly is what you do when they do mess up. Do not think that your child would never do something wrong. If you do nothing, your child will learn that they can get away with things if they keep up appearances. Adults may make mistakes, but they rarely lie about a child. No one likes calling the parent. Take bad reports from other adults seriously. Thinking that your child can do no wrong reinforces phony and sneaky behavior.

10. Watch TV shows or movies that deal appropriately with the issues your child might be facing. It teaches in a way you may not be able to and opens the door for discussions. You can discuss the issue using the characters as examples so that it does not feel so personal or confrontational.

11. Touch is important. If you have gotten to a place where hugs and other forms of parental affection are not welcomed try a physical sport as a family such as the martial arts. Headlocks are ‘touching’ without the ‘ew Mom’ factor. (One of my boys was 10 when we adopted him. Not a ‘hug your new mother’ age.)

12. If your child begins to get the mail for you for no known reason. (My children reminded me of this one, so I had to add it!) Chance are your child is trying to intercept something they know is coming in the mail that they do not want you to see. Speeding tickets, warnings about grades etc fall into this category. Real life: I once heard a story about a mom, who in the middle of a special ‘day date’ with her daughter at home was surprised by the police at her door. Since whatever her daughter did with the car, then intercepted the mailed warnings and ignored was in the mother’s name, they were coming to take the mom to jail. Wonderful.

I hope this helps. It may not; every family is different. Remember that whenever you read advice and use common sense. There is no-one-size-fits-all solution for any ‘human’ problem. God created us all unique, which complicates things… have fun.

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