Tag Archive for serve

The Healthy Balance of Family

Establishing a healthy family is a balancing act. It requires finding the best blend between diametrically opposed traits. For instance, a healthy family finds balance in at least these three areas:

  1. A healthy family lives in the balance between structure and freedom. Too much structure and a family becomes rigid. Spontaneous fun and laughter disappear. Family members feel trapped and imprisoned by the constant demands of an imposed and unbending structure. Too much freedom, on the other hand, and a family experiences chaos. Limits and boundaries become broken or even disappear. Predictability flies out the window and, as a result, family members experience insecurity, confusion, and even fear. Healthy families find a balance between these two extremes by establishing a flexible structure. Flexible structure provides a daily family schedule and daily routines while leaving room for down time and unstructured play. It leaves open the possibility of making adjustments as situations and circumstances change. A flexible structure provides the best of both worlds: structure and freedom.
  2. A healthy family lives in the balance between connection and independence. Too

    much connection and family members becomes entangled and boxed in. They feel intruded upon, unable to develop their distinct interests or pursue their individual opportunities. No one can develop their individuality, their unique character. Each person in the family will even experience great difficulty establishing their identity. Move too far toward independence, however, and family members find themselves alone, isolated, and without support. They have no one with whom they can enjoy life, no one to help them develop as unique individuals. We need relationships to discover our own identity. Healthy families find balance between these two extremes by developing interdependence. Interdependence empowers family members to engage one another and enjoy individual time. Relationships become the springboard for individual identity development by providing a safe harbor from which to explore interests and ideas as well as a safe haven in which to find comfort and reassurance. Interdependent relationships become the place of safety, comfort, encouragement, and empowerment for each individual and the family as a whole.

  3. A healthy family lives in the balance between “mine” and “yours.” Too much focus on “mine” and family members becomes self-absorbed and self-centered. Stinginess undermines sharing. Greediness leads to excessive competition for resources that everyone perceives as limited. But, when the focus turns completely to “yours,” at least one person becomes a doormat. After time, she will feel taken for granted and used. Eventually, she will rebel. She may lash out in anger or shut down in defeat, bitter and resentful. The whole family suffers as a result. Healthy families balance “mine” and “yours” with “ours.” Finding “ours” is no easy task. It requires a growing knowledge of each family member. It demands a long-term vision, a willingness to postpone “my own” agenda and even sacrifice for the good of the family. In short, finding “ours” requires love and acceptance. “Ours” presupposes differences but learns to tolerate, accept, and even celebrate those differences as opportunities to learn, love, and serve.

How does your family balance these three areas?

Changing the World: Families Sharing Grace

Watching the news today saddens me. The world is troubled. Vengeance, power grabbing, and insecure self-obsession have reached an all-time high. They have hit the streets in our communities…and our communities have become more dangerous and isolated as a result.
They roam the halls in our schools…and our children suffer, even going from class to class in fear and isolation. Even more insidious, vengeance, power grabbing, and self-obsession are broadcast across social media…creating anger, bitterness, and hurt within our families and friends. I fear that these attitudes have even infiltrated our families and our relationships, tearing us apart at the seams. Vengeance, power grabbing, and insecure self-obsession have left our world, our communities, even our families, desperately troubled. We need a change and that change begins with YOU practicing one small word in your daily life and family: GRACEbusinessman holding gift

Grace simplifies life by filling us with an awareness of unconditional acceptance. Acceptance within the family creates a sense of security. It communicates that each family member is loved “no matter what.” It builds loving bonds and intimate relationships out of which appropriate behaviors like respect, honor, helpfulness, and kindness blossom and bloom. Make it a point to show acceptance to your spouse and children today and every day. Set aside your own plans for a time so you can spend time with your family, learn about their interests, and let them know you love them.

 

Grace frees us from the crushing weight of anger and bitterness, releasing us from the burden of vengeance. One way grace does this is by promoting forgiveness. Forgiveness strengthens marriages. It creates secure parent-child relationships. It restores loving sibling connections that last through the good times and the bad. Forgiveness replaces bitterness and other hurt emotions with greater understanding and happiness. It replaces the desire for revenge with love and compassion, restoring broken relationships. It replaces walls of division with bridges of long-term intimacy.

Grace liberates us from the entanglements of narcissism by teaching us how to serve and sacrifice for one another. In Fighting for Your Marriage (For a more thorough review of this book, click here), the authors state that “research suggests some degree of sacrifice is a normal, healthy aspect of a solid relationship. In the absence of an attitude of sacrifice, what do you have? You have a relationship in which at least one of you is in it mostly for what you can get. That’s not a recipe for satisfaction or growth.” I would go further to say sacrifice is not only normal but necessary for a growing healthy relationship. Seize the opportunity to give up your own momentary interests to learn about the interests of your spouse and children. Capitalize on the opportunity to give up your right to sleep in so you can invest time in your children. Snatch the chance to watch the movie your spouse chooses and even enjoy talking with her about it. Wash the dishes. Help with homework. Clean the bathroom. Serve one another!

 

Our world is troubled, no doubt. Changes our troubled world begins with changing our families. Model grace toward your family. Teach grace in your family. Practice grace as a family. Let it overflow into your community…and watch how grace can point our troubled world toward change.

For at least 50 practical ways to share grace in your family, go to The Family Bank of Honor: Gifts of Grace…and have fun sharing grace!

Are You a Marriage Consumer?

We live in a world that encourages consumerism. From commercials to billboards, we are encouraged to consume products and services to gain rest, pain-free living, joy, and satisfying relationships. Movies even encourage the idea that intimate relationships “complete me,” satisfy our need for joy, and offer escape from bad situations. In such a world, marriage can become just another product to consume our never-ending search for self-satisfaction. If we fall into this trap, we become marriage consumers.

  • phubbingA marriage consumer uses marriage to satisfy his own needs and desires.
  • A marriage consumer demands his spouse to fill him with joy.
  • A marriage consumer expects his spouse to satisfy his hunger for approval and affection.
  • A marriage consumer consumes sexual intimacy, expecting to receive all he “deserves.”
  • A marriage consumer attaches himself to his spouse to get out of his parents’ house or away from the wrong crowd or into the most convenient lifestyle.
  • Overall, the marriage consumer finds who can provide what he hungers for and consumes it. Unfortunately, he consumes while giving nothing in return. Eventually, he is left with an empty shell of a spouse, a spouse sucked dry with nothing left to give.

There is an alternative to being a marriage consumer. In our consumer-oriented world, this alternative will strike many as risky. It will arouse our fear of becoming a doormat to our spouse. But, I can assure you nothing is further than the truth. This alternative can fill your marriage to overflowing and…The more you give the more you have to give. What is the alternative? To become a marriage servant.

  • A marriage servant his spouse as “more important than himself. He does not merely look out for his own personal interests, but also for the interests of his spouse (Philippians 2:3-4).
  • A marriage servant listens to understand the needs and desires of his spouse (James 1:19).
  • A marriage servant anticipates his spouse’s need for comfort, assurance, or love and strives to meet that need.
  • A marriage servant constantly seeks ways to express his love to his spouse.
  • A marriage servant engages in acts of kindness and support…smiling all the while.
  • A marriage servant energetically builds his spouse up.

You get the idea. A marriage consumer seeks to satisfy his own needs and, in the process, sucks his spouse dry. A marriage servant seeks to satisfy his spouse’s needs and, in the process, fills both his spouse and himself to overflowing with love, joy, and peace. Which do you want to become?

Forget the Flowers & Do the Dishes

A recent study in the Journal of Family Psychology by Matthew Johnson and two other authors (Read abstract here) suggests an association between a husband’s willingness to serve and the couple’s sexual satisfaction. Specifically, 1,338 heterosexual couples were asked about housework (How much housework do you do? What specific chores do you do? Do you have any “beef with the breakdown”?) and their marital relationship. Results indicate that men who take on a fair share of the chores report a higher frequency of sex with their partner and greater satisfaction with their sex life as whole. It appears that acting on the opportunity to serve one’s wife may enhance sexual intimacy. Really, the benefit of living out an attitude of servanthood is not a new idea. The first century evangelist, Paul, stated that we “were called to freedom. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13). Even Christ told His followers, “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45). Christ came to serve His future Bride!

So guys, “Sex Begins in the Kitchen,” with serving, just like Kevin Leman suggested in his book of the same title. If you want a more intimate satisfying sex life, start by serving your wife and family. Do the dishes. Help with the laundry. Cook a meal. Clean the bathroom…. Use your freedom and position to humbly serve your wife. You’ll find the results exhilarating!

My Spouse an Angel? 4 Ways to Make it True

AngelWifeOne of my Facebook friends posted this pic. I love the proverb written on it: “If a man expects a woman to be an angel in his life, he must first create heaven for her…angels don’t live in hell.” I don’t know about you, but I want to live with an angel. So, I have to ask myself: how can I create heaven for my wife? How can I make my wife feel like an angel? Upon what is heaven built?

  • Heaven is built on honor—treating one another as special, precious, sacred. To create heaven for your wife, treat her with honor. Honor her above all others like a diamond above coal. Constantly think about the character and beauty you adore in your wife. Don’t stop with merely thinking about your admiration of her character and beauty. Let your words and actions communicate love and admiration to your wife. Let your eyes sparkle with delight and adoration when she walks into the room. Speak of her with high praise when you describe her to others.
  • Heaven is built on unfailing trust. To create heaven for your wife, live a life of integrity and faithfulness that will build trust. Let your actions and your speech enhance her sense of security and acceptance. Keep your promises. Be available. Remember: the small, positive moments build trust; so, enjoy playful interactions, simple adventures, joyful moments and moments of sorrow, friendly conversations, and laughter. Work to “keep in tune” with your wife’s emotions. Comfort her when she needs comforted. Rejoice with her when she rejoices. Rest with her when she needs rest. Join with her in life.
  • Heaven is built on servanthood. To create heaven for your wife, become a servant in your marriage. Serve your wife by listening to her and accepting her influence. Serve her by cooking dinner, washing clothes, or running the vacuum. Serve her by asking what she would like you to do to help her. Become the leader of servanthood in your home.
  • Heaven is built on sacrifice. Jesus willingly became the Sacrifice for our sin, a sacrifice that brought peace between man and God. Sacrifice opens the doors to heaven. To create heaven in your home, become a leader in sacrifice. Make small sacrifices like giving up the TV remote, giving away the last cookie, giving up your seat for your wife, giving up “the game” to take a walk…you get the idea. You may also make bigger sacrifices like giving up your music to listen to her music in the car, giving up time on your project to do what she desires, giving up the adventure movie to watch a “chick flick” followed by the emotional discussion of the movie…. You know what would prove a heavenly sacrifice in your home. And, you know that your sacrifice will produce greater security and open the doors for heaven in your home.

 

“Expect your wife to be an angel in your life”? Start creating heaven in your home. Build your home and marriage on honor, integrity and trust, servanthood, and sacrifice. Believe me, you will live with an angel…and you will get a taste of heaven on earth!

Jesus Did It For His Family. Will You?

way to the GodThe religious leaders had determined to kill Jesus several months ago, right after He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:53). Months before that, Jesus had begun telling His disciples that He would be crucified and buried. Now the time had come. The leaders had paid a traitor to identify Jesus in the garden. They had arrested the Son of God and tortured Him in preparation for His crucifixion. More than enough time had elapsed for Jesus to grow bitter in response to the constant traps, manipulation, and name-calling; but, He did not. He could have allowed resentment to rise up in His heart in response to the lies, the mockery of a trial, and the total disregard for His life; but, He did not. When they mocked Him, beat Him, and spit on Him, He could have blown up in a righteous rage, called down ten thousand angels to exact a righteous judgment and stood in victory over the defeated rubble; but, He did not. Instead, Jesus, an innocent, appeared to be broken before His accusers—beaten and bloodied, surprisingly humbly, and silent.

 

We would understand it and even been sympathetic if He had muttered curses at the people who watched Him carry His cross; but, He did not.  He could have cried out against the character of those contributing to His death, cast an angry glare at those yelling hateful names and cursing epithets at Him; but, He did not. I would have expected somebody in His shoes to harbor a silent desire, for revenge and carefully contemplate how to execute a host of malicious acts upon His enemies after His resurrection…but, He did not!

 

No, Jesus did not respond with anger, wrath, bitterness, or harshness. Instead, He revealed kindness and compassion. Rather than utter threats, His speech revealed kindness and truth to the one man who had the power to crucify Him (John 19:11). When soldiers beat him, He said nothing. He simply accepted their hate and committed Himself to “the one who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). When a convicted criminal recognized the justice of his own punishment and repented, Jesus responded from a tender heart of compassion and promised him, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). As Jesus’ mother stood nearby weeping in the arms of a disciple, Jesus did not think of His own pain and isolation but offered words of comfort and care to His mother—”Woman, behold your son” and to His disciple, “Behold your mother.” In the midst of personal pain and suffering, He saw the pain in His mother’s heart. He reached out to her in compassion and assured her needs would be met. Jesus even looked with compassion at the crowd that mocked Him and spat upon Him; and, rather than condemning their actions He prayed for their forgiveness: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

cross against the sky

Even while enduring the humiliation, pain, and despair of crucifixion, Jesus acted in way that put flesh and blood to Ephesians 4:31-32: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

 

He gave us an example of kindness, compassion, and forgiveness to follow in our own lives. He showed us how to do it under the worst of circumstance…during the absolutely worse day of anyone’s life! Following this example begins in the home…in relation to our spouse and our children. Just as Christ showed us kindness, compassion, and forgiveness, we need to show our family kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.  You will have days that seem to go from bad to worse in your family. Your family will have disagreements and arguments in which you or some other family member will make harsh comments. A curse word may slip out. Bitterness may threaten to rise up in your heart or anger lash out in your speech. Temptations to say something harsh about your spouse’s character or your children’s intention will arise. Your children may even slander your character. This is the perfect time to follow Christ’s example…to “be kind and compassionate…forgiving…” Jesus did it for His family. Will you?

Start a Revolution for Valentine’s Day!

“You say you want a revolution, well, you know…we all want to change the world.”–The Beatles
 
I have an idea…a revolutionary idea. It is not a new idea. On the contrary, it is an ancient idea written to the Ephesians some 2000 years ago by Paul, a wise Jewish evangelist. His words of love are revolutionary, even today. Implementing his ideas this month will enhance your Valentine’s Day as they revolutionize your relationship with your spouse. Even more, I believe that implementing these words in our homes will spark a revolution that will not only change our families but the world. Yes, this revolution does begin at home. It begins with a personal change in how I respond to my family. This revolution has several components; but I only want to speak of one today. This first component begins the revolution; and it sounds…well, rather revolutionary by today’s standards. Let me explain.
 
We begin a revolution to change the world by surrendering to the influence of our spouse. You heard it right–give up your individual rights and entitlements and accept the influence of your spouse. Surprisingly, a compliment under this revolutionary love will sound like this: “You are a wonderfully submissive person” or “I really admire how you let your spouse influence your decisions.” I know that goes against the grain of our society, but it is supposed to be revolutionary. It even goes against the grain of our personal sense of entitlement. But, this attitude of surrender and submission can change your family for the better! When we accept the influence of our spouse (and even our family), we remain open to them. We voluntarily and gracefully keep an attitude of cooperation in the forefront of our mind. We constantly look for ways to surrender our personal desires to satisfy their desires. We accept their ideas and opinions. We listen closely, looking for areas of compromise and areas in which we can surrender our rights for them. We constantly seek to lift them above us in having needs met. We become their servant. This revolutionary concept—submission—begins the revolution!
 
To accept the influence of our spouse and family may be as simple as changing how we squeeze the toothpaste or hang the roll of toilet paper. It may prove as simple as whether we leave the toilet seat up or down—submitting our desire to our spouse’s desire. However, it can also become more complex when we discuss issues like where to go for vacation, where to live, or what job to take. In these complex areas, we will have to open up to our family, listen carefully to their words, understand the emotion behind those words, and value them enough to accept their opinion. To accept the influence of our spouse and family means that we allow their opinion to influence our decision. It all sounds great, life changing…but challenging to accomplish. Still, “you say you want a revolution….” And so it begins!

Carry the Beauty of Christmas into Next Year!

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas filled with family, joy, and peace. Many people enjoyed receiving presents during the Christmas season…I know I did. Even more, I enjoyed giving presents to others. I love to see peoples’ faces light up in response to a well-chosen gift. But, Christmas is more than merely exchanging material gifts. Christmas commemorates and celebrates God’s gift of His Son, Emmanuel—a gift that humbly reveals God to us. I find it amazing that God, the All-Knowing All-Powerful Creator, did not reveal Himself as the Majestic King of Heaven, the Almighty Creator of the Universe, or a Conquering Warrior, but as a servant, born a Baby in humble circumstances. That Baby, God Incarnate, grew to become a humble Servant. Jesus, God’s gift to us, “made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…” when He came to earth. We celebrate Christmas because on that first Christmas day God gave us a gift—Jesus, His humble servant. Jesus came into the world to humbly serve mankind (Mark 10:45) and spent a lifetime doing so. We can follow Jesus example of serving as we start a new year; remembering that, in God’s eyes, the humble actions of a servant are acts of beauty and love. In His Kingdom, acts of service represent true greatness. They reflect His image. Our acts of service, like those of Jesus, humbly reveal God to the world.
 
We can carry the true beauty of Christmas into the next year by continuing to reveal the beauty and love of God to our family and neighbors through humble acts of service. By serving others, we reflect the servant nature of the Christ whose birth we celebrated on Christmas day. We reveal the God who made Christmas possible. We reflect the image in which God created us. So, how can we serve others this year?
     ·         First, serve your family. Serve your family breakfast in bed. Serve your family by taking over a family member’s chore for a day. (As I write this, my daughter—who had her wisdom teeth pulled earlier today—asked, through swollen cheeks and a “pain-medication-induced-confusion,” if I would pour her a drink. How could I say no?)

·         Buy presents for a less fortunate family or for children in an orphanage or other type of residential placement.

·         Help serve food at local soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
·         Take a plate of cookies to shut-ins or a local nursing home.


·         Visit with the elderly—play games with them and sing some songs.

·         Arrange to visit children in a local children’s hospital.

·         Participate with a well-known organization that serves those less fortunate. Angel Tree, Operation Christmas Child, or Toys for Tots are organizations that help provide Christmas presents for needy children and families. Compassion and World Vision are two organizations that help provide support to needy families throughout the year.

·         Take an inventory of any extra coats, boots, clothes and toys in your house. Gather them up and take them to a local facility that serves the needy.

·         Deliver homemade bake treats for local firemen, policemen, emergency response crews, nurses.
 
The Spirit of Christmas is more than just the exchanging of gifts. The Spirit of Christmas involves the giving of ourselves in service to others, just like Christ served us by giving Himself to us in obedience to His Father. As I write this blog, I realize the need to remind myself of this message more than anyone else. In fact, I need to hear the words that a Storyteller once used to end a great story of serving. After telling of a man who served with all he had, the Storyteller tells His audience to “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). Will you join me?

4 Gifts Children Hate to Love

My birthday is this month. That means another year older (wiser?) and an opportunity to enjoy a couple of birthday traditions. One, we eat lasagna and cheesecake for my birthday. I love lasagna and cheesecake. Although my doctor may not agree, I think it is a great tradition. Two, I give gifts to my family. Nothing big—just something to let them know I love them and keep them in mind. Interestingly, they seem to forget this tradition every year. They always look surprised when I give them a gift. I like that. In a sense, I give myself the gift of watching my children’s face light up when I give them a “birthday surprise.” Although I enjoy giving gifts on my birthday, I think we give gifts to our children gifts all year.  Not necessarily tangible gifts, but important gifts all the same. For instance, here are four gifts I believe our children benefit from all year round. These gifts change their lives for the better, help them mature, and improve their relationships.
 
First, give your children the gift of responsibility. Your children may balk at this gift, but it is a gift. By giving your children chores and responsibilities, they learn that their actions have meaning. They have the privilege of making a meaningful contribution to the home and family. Making a meaningful contribution enhances their sense of personal value. Yes, the gift of responsibility will keep on giving, contributing to a life-long positive self-concept and strong work ethic.
 
Second, give your children the gift of accountability. Although this gift is a tremendous gift, it does come with a cost to you and your child. That cost involves discomfort. To hold children accountable for their actions, we must allow them to experience the discomfort of negative consequences for inappropriate behavior. Watching children squirm in the consequences of their negative behavior usually means feeling discomfort as a parent. Most parents really do hate to see their children suffer. But, truly giving the gift of accountability will mean allowing your children to suffer discomfort at times. The true gift of accountability results in learning the difference between right and wrong, wisdom and foolishness. Accountability teaches our children to make wise choices, engage in mature behavior, and use wholesome, uplifting speech.
 
Third, give your children the gift of opportunity. I don’t mean just any opportunity. I am talking about the opportunity to sacrifice for others and to serve others. We often get wrapped up in giving our children every opportunity to learn, participate in community activities, and experience stimulating environments. These are good opportunities, but our children need more. They need significant opportunities, like the opportunity to serve and to sacrifice. Sacrificing for others can be as simple as giving up the last cookie or as significant as giving up time to help at a food kitchen. Service can be as simple as clearing the table after supper or as significant as a mission trip to a foreign country. Either way, the opportunity to sacrifice and serve begins at home. Build a home environment that supports and encourages sacrifice and service in your family and let it extend from your family to the community at large. After all, the opportunity to sacrifice and serve builds character, humility, and compassion. What a wonderful gift to impart to our children!
 
Fourth, give your children the gift of anonymity. I know, this sounds strange. We need to acknowledge our children. We need to make sure they feel recognized and accepted for who they are…value and cherish by their parents. However, they do not require praise for every little thing they do. In fact, too much praise can actually make children doubt the sincerity of the praise and, as a result, doubt their own ability. Sometimes, the gift of anonymity is just the thing they need to learn the value of their effort. The gift of anonymity teaches children to complete chores, engage in kind deeds, and work their hardest for the internal satisfaction of knowing they did well. So, praise children for their effort, encourage their work and progress. But, don’t overdo it. Allow them to succeed under the cover of some anonymity as well. Balance your praise with the gift of anonymity.
 
Quite the gifts, right? Parents can give these gifts to their children all year round. Our children may hesitate in unwrapping them, but they will eventually rejoice in the benefit these gifts offer—the benefit of becoming mature adults who know how to make responsible, wise choices and find joy in serving others.

Keep Your Child on the Path of Maturity

I read an interesting fact about sheep recently. (You might wonder why I read anything about sheep…I really don’t know, it just happened.) At first, I did not believe what I read. Then, I heard the same fact again, this time on TV (Dirty Jobs). Intrigued, I began to investigate and discovered the fact was true. What was the fact? When a sheep gets turned onto its back, it may have difficulty turning upright and standing. Shepherds call this sheep “cast.” The “cast down” sheep will lie on its back, struggling to turn over. If the shepherd does not help the sheep turn over and stand upright, internal gases build up and the sheep can die. 
 
That got me thinking…our children can “get knocked down” or “knocked off their feet,” discouraged and “cast down” for several reasons. Failure can lead to a “cast down” child who is discouraged and afraid of trying again, of “standing on my own two feet.” Self-indulgent behavior can lead to selfish, lopsided living that will eventually “knock their feet out from under them” and “cast them down.” Disobedience brings consequences that can leave a person “flat on their back,” fearful of losing support and love. Ridicule and teasing can knock a child down, leaving them discouraged and doubtful about themselves. Even just feeling misunderstood can bring us down and result in our feeling “cast down,” hopeless and helpless. A child who feels discouraged and “cast down” becomes vulnerable to the world. Other children prey on the discouraged and “cast down” child. Drugs and sexual intimacy become more alluring to the discouraged, “cast down” child. In fact, if not rescued quickly, the “cast down” child becomes at risk for all sorts of dangerous behaviors. What is a parent to do? What lesson can a parent learn from the “cast down” sheep? How can a parent successfully shepherd a “cast down” child? Here are 5 lessons of a “cast down” sheep.
     1.      Be vigilant. Remain attentive of your children, “keep an eye” on them. Vigilant parents remain aware of their children’s friends, interests, and even moods. They are observant of any changes, especially abrupt changes, in friendships, interests, and moods. As parents remain attentive and aware of their children and their children’s lives, they can recognize when their children become “cast down.”  They can then respond quickly and appropriately to help their children get “back on their feet” as soon as possible.

2.      Provide gentle, loving correction. Parents help their children “stay on their feet” by replacing harsh, crushing punishment with loving discipline and correction. Remember, the purpose of discipline is to teach appropriate behavior, not crush inappropriate behavior. Make sure the discipline teaches your children and strengthens their moral muscles, enabling them to “stand on their own two legs” amidst any pressures that arise. Rather than coercing them to behave a certain way, assure that the consequences of misbehavior are more uncomfortable than the consequences of positive behavior. Teach them the benefit of rules.

3.      Become an encourager not a faultfinder, an advocate not a critic. Look for opportunities to praise your children for their effort and their progress. Encourage their appropriate behavior. Even when you have to offer criticisms, preface the criticism with some acknowledgement of positive behaviors. Keep criticism constructive, not destructive. Lift your children up with your encouragement rather than “casting them down” with your discouragement.

4.      Provide opportunities for your children to serve in the home and outside the home. Your children are a member of your family’s household and, as such, they have the responsibility to help maintain your family’s household. Do not rob them of that responsibility and allow them to become self-indulgent. Instead, maintain an expectation that everyone contributes to the household and then provide opportunities to do so. Give your child responsibility to complete meaningful chores in the home. Create opportunities for you and your child to work together on projects around the house or in the community. Encourage their participation in these service projects. Celebrate their involvement and the completion of each project.

5.      Be your child’s ally. Support them in pursuing interests. Defend them in difficult circumstances. When they experience failure, lift them up. When they disobey and suffer consequences, help them get back on their feet. Assist them in learning from those mistakes and in learning how to make better decisions in the future. Express faith in their ability to learn and grow. Brace them up when they face challenges and reinforce their positive efforts.
 
Our children, like sheep, can become “cast down” by a variety of circumstances. You, their parent, have the best opportunity to return them to the appropriate path of maturity. Be vigilant, provide loving discipline, encourage, create opportunities to serve others, and become your child’s ally. Happy Shepherding.
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