Archive for April 28, 2012

The 5-Fold Mission of Parents

Parents, your mission should you choose to accept it, is to prepare the way for your children as they mature. This mission will involve the following steps.
     ·         Explore the community in which you choose to raise your children. Identify your allies and locate the safe areas in your neighborhood. Your allies can support the instruction you provide your children and offer discipline that will promote your children’s maturing character. The safe spots in your neighborhood can nurture your child and further promote the values you want to become central to your child’s life. Safe spots and allies in your community may include clubs, sporting activities, coaches, church groups, youth leaders, etc. Visit these areas and befriend these allies ahead of your children. “Scope them out.” Make sure they truly are what they appear to be—no hidden agendas or hurtful ideas hidden under a beautiful facade.

·         Identify those areas in your community that might poison your child. These areas appear safe enough to the innocent eyes of children…they may even appear inviting, appealing, or enticing. However, the experienced adult recognizes these attractive activities and influences as poisonous flowers that threaten our children’s mental, emotional, and physical health. Teach your children to look beyond the attractive flower to identify the deadly lies and influences they hide—the hidden agendas, the hurtful designs, the life-threatening lies. Teach them the truth to counteract the poison offered. Provide them with the unconditional love and solid acceptance at home that will empower them to turn away from these enticing poisons in the community.

·         Identify the potential players in the neighborhood. Every neighborhood has those people who prey on the innocent and naïve. Teach your children how to protect themselves from these players. Teach them to travel with their allies, finding safety in numbers. Teach them to think before they act and to discern consequences before follow. Listen closely to your children. Lovingly problem-solve with them when they face difficult circumstances and people.

·         Develop additional safety zones in your community and in your children’s life. Nurture relationships with adults who can provide positive influences. Take time to know your children’s friends and promote their growth in mature character. Support the efforts of other adults, parents, and groups in your community that want to raise a strong moral generation of young people.

·         One more task in this mission…pray for your children. You cannot follow your children into every potentially dangerous situation or guide them through every experience they encounter in life. You would not even want to. They need time to learn on their own…to get lost and find their way out, to fail and recover, to slip and get back up. They need the opportunities to learn when to ask for help and the humbly experience of doing so. In the midst of all this, you can pray for your children. Ask God to protect them, guide them, nudge them when they stray, and quickly lift them up when they fall. Make them the subject of your prayers multiple times a day. 

Parents, this is your mission should you choose to accept it. Your effort in this mission will impact the development of your child and ultimately influence your level of joy as a parent. This message will not self-destruct in 10 seconds, but continue on throughout the life of your children. Good luck, Parent…and God bless.

Teaching Your Family to Laugh

I love the videos of laughing babies (Click Here to Watch). It’s contagious. It makes me laugh as well. I also love to watch my family laugh. It is contagious. When they laugh, I laugh with them…we all laugh together. Even more interesting, laughter is good for us! It boosts our immune system and fights disease. It relieves stress, depression, and anxiety. Laughter also improves attention and aids in memory. It lowers blood pressure, tones abdominal muscles, and burns calories. Wait, there’s more…. Laughter boosts self-confidence and gives us the mental strength needed to cope with life’s challenges. Laughter within the family connects us with one another and communicates an intimate comfort with one another. I love laughter. Some of my favorite memories involve my family engulfed in hysterical laughter. I cannot remember what we laughed about, only that we laughed together…naturally, candidly, and without restraint. This brings up one way to build intimacy, relieve tension, and remove anger in the family—engage in open, unbridled laughter together. Don’t know where to start? Try these suggestions:
     ·         Tell jokes. If you do not know any jokes, look some up on-line (Ducksters has Children’s jokes) or borrow a book from the library.
     ·         Recall funny events from your life. Share funny experiences from your childhood or teen years. Remember funny experiences you have shared as a family.

·         Share funny things you have encountered over the last couple days or weeks.

·         Model using humor in your own life. Let your family see you relieve a tense situation with humor, perhaps even making fun of your own shortcomings in the process. Humor and laughter provide a wonderful outlet for dealing with personal mistakes.

·         Be silly just for the fun of it. Use a funny voice. Make a funny face. Make up funny lyrics to a familiar tune. They do not have to make sense or be beautiful. They are, after all, meant to be silly, not serious; funny, not profound.

·         Let your family laugh at your mistakes and shortcomings now and again. Let them see that you do not take yourself too seriously. Life is too short to take too serious. Enjoy it, laugh.

·         One caveat to throw in here…differentiate between what is funny and what is hurtful when you tell a joke or funny story. Teach your children to do the same. Humor is meant to bring joy to all those present. Steer clear of humor that hurts or ridicules and enjoy humor that encourages or brings joy to everyone’s day.
There you go, 7 ways to nurture humor in the home. Now go tell a joke, share a giggle, and roll on the ground in laughter…together. It’s for your own good!

3 Attributes Every Parent Must Balance

Children want parents. Even when they yell in anger that they do not want or need a parent, deep down every child wants parents. Not just any parent either. Children want and need two things from their parents. First, they need parents who demand respect. Parents who are strong (“My dad’s bigger than your dad”). Parents who are not overwhelmed or frightened by their anger or frustration. Parents they can look up to. Second, they need parents who love them unconditionally. Parents who accept them just as they are, pimples and all. Parents they can turn to when hurt, sad, confused, or happy. Parents who are available to comfort and nurture as well as to motivate and discipline. That makes parenting quite the balancing act. You might say that effective parents balance the paradoxical needs of grace and truth, love and limits. Here are 3 specific areas every parent needs to balance in order to provide children with thing paradoxical needs of love and limits. 
  • Parents balance authority with compassion. Authority without compassion becomes harsh, critical, and judgmental. It is more concerned with the rules than the person. A child who lives under authority without compassion will likely rebel. Sooner or later, they will fight against the authority. In addition, they will think more poorly about themselves; after all, “the rules are more important than me and I can’t even keep all the rules.” Ultimately, “rules without relationships lead to rebellion.” Authority balanced with compassion teaches respect and cooperation. A compassionate authority offers meaningful explanations for the rules and emphasizes that the rules are designed for the protection and long-term benefit of the people involved. The practice of compassionate authority clearly places a loving priority on the person.
  • Parents balance protective guidance with the freedom to explore. Children need guidance. They lack the wisdom and experience necessary to make momentary life decisions without parental input. The area of the brain involved in thinking ahead and making complex decisions (the frontal lobe) is not fully developed until the mid-twenties. As a result, parents need to become “co-frontal lobes” with their children and teens, helping them talk through decisions and helping them consider all the possible consequences of that decision. Yes, parents need to offer protective guidance to their children. At the same time, children need room to explore. They need the opportunity to exercise their curiosity. That demands freedom, down time, even unsupervised times. It also means that our children may make mistakes during their exploration. Even then, they benefit from the freedom to learn from those mistakes. Protective guidance and freedom to explore, both offered by a parent to their child.
  • Parents balance belonging with individuality. We love it when our children to engage in family activities. We long for them to remain an integral part of the family. In fact, they need to know they belong, that they have a place in our family. Children grow confident when they know they “fit in” with their family. They grow strong when they know their family sees them as an integral part of the whole family. At the same time, children are their own people. They have their own interests and abilities, their own individuality. As parents, we strive to balance family time with individual time. We work to assure our children feel a sense of belonging and security within the family. We want them to know we enjoy their presence and desire a mutual, reciprocal relationship with them. At the same time, we want to grant them the freedom to become their own person, to pursue their own interests, and to develop their own life. This means “holding them loosely” and “letting them go” as they mature. Quite the balance, to create an intimate sense of belonging with our children while “holding them loosely.”

Parents, Are You Involved or Over-Involved?

I recently read an article (Welcome to the Age of Overparenting) in which the reader was asked to recall their happiest childhood moments. Think about those moments. How many of them included adults? Interestingly, the majority of our happy childhood moments did not include adults. They were not scheduled or orchestrated by our parents; they did not involve a coach; they were not part of an organized group outing. Most of our happiest childhood moments involved spontaneous activities engaged in during our free time. Notice, these happy moments involved:
     1.      Unstructured time in which we were free to do whatever we wanted. In fact, these times may have started out with our feeling bored and looking for something to do.
     2.      Unsupervised time. These happy moments were times of our own making, not the making of an adult. The times and the experiences were completely our own, not our parents’.
In today’s world, parents carefully orchestrate their child’s involvement in a variety of activities in order to provide them a multitude of experiences that will “enhance their college opportunities and lead to a more fulfilling life.” But, when do our children enjoy unstructured, unsupervised time of their own making? After all, those times became some of our most enjoyable memories and learning experiences. While we do not want to abandon our children or leave them unsupervised in dangerous situations, we might need to allow them some freedom to explore the world without our constant protection, direction, and involvement. Maybe we need to park our helicopters in the yard and stop hovering 24/7. Why?
  • Micromanaging undermines self-esteem. We cannot rescue our child’s self-esteem by jumping in to save them from a difficult task as soon as we see them begin to struggle. We hinder their self-esteem by constantly watching over their shoulder and praising them for every little problem they solve, whether it was difficult or not. That type of micromanaging backfires in the development of self-esteem. To develop a strong self-image, children need to work hard and experience the benefits of that hard work. They need to experience failure and work through it. They need to pick themselves up and realize that they can go on in spite of the momentary setbacks we mislabel as failure. When parents recognize and acknowledge their child’s hard work, self-esteem improves. When parents acknowledge that their child worked hard in spite of setbacks, children develop persistence…and persistence leads to success. Success leads to self-esteem.
  • Free, unstructured, and unsupervised play allows children the opportunity to learn how to negotiate with others and how to control their emotions. Children learn that they cannot always get their way. They will not always have adults to negotiate for them. Parents will not always be available to protect them from being overlooked or spoken to harshly. Parents will not always be available to resolve the conflicts that arise. Unstructured play without parental involvement allows children the opportunity to learn to compromise, negotiate, resolve conflicts, and stick up for themselves. Children who engage in unstructured, unsupervised play learn how to be independent.
  • Free, unstructured time also allows children to create their own fun. They learn to manage their own time and manufacture their own activities. One study actually suggested that children at a local playground were 45 percent less active when a parent was present. They engaged in less physical play, taking away the opportunity for natural exercise, exploration, and typical growth and development. On the other hand, as children devise their own games and orchestrate their own activities, the activity becomes their own. They unwittingly take more pride in the it and engage in that activity more vigorously. The end result is healthy exercise, maturing social skills, growing self-esteem, and a positive memory that will last a lifetime.
One of the most difficult tasks parent face today is allowing their child the opportunity to engage the world on their own. As children engage the world on their own, they will experience hurt feelings; they will struggle to resolve relational conflict; they will even engage in some risky activities and go places we do not know about. But, as they have these rich experiences, they will become more independent. They will grow more confident. They will develop and mature. When they go to college, they will have a better sense of how to manage their time and resist the pressures inherent in that transition. As adults, they will have the happy memories of childhood experiences they call their own…completely their own. They will have become mature, responsible adults.

5 Steps of Moral Development (and What’s a Parent To Do?)

One day my 5-year-old daughter came to the top of the stairs and called my name, “Daddy.” She sounded somewhat panicked. I knew that she and her sister were both upstairs so I wasn’t sure what to expect. “Daddy,” she called again. When I arrived at the bottom of the stairs, she said, “We don’t hit in this house, right?!” I was not sure if she meant that as a question or a proclamation. Either way, I voiced my agreement. “Right. No hitting.” She calmly returned to her room. To this day I do not know why she asked that question. It did reveal that she was beginning to internalize some of our rules though. That is a goal for all parents—to help our children move from externally influenced moral decisions to internally influenced moral decisions. We want them to internalize a moral compass based on our family values. Internalizing values does not happen overnight. It takes time, begins at a very young age, and seems to follow the sequence noted in the chart below. The chart also notes just a couple helpful responses for parents.
Externally controlled behavior: Children need adults to prompt appropriate behavior
·         Want to do the right thing to avoid punishment.
·         Fear authority and do not want to be punished
·         Let your child know the consequences of their misbehavior. Making the consequences clear will help deter them from engaging in misbehavior.
·         Follow through with the consequences you establish, even if your children look hurt and sad. And, they will look hurt because they hate punishment.
·         Children become more invested in behaving appropriately in order to receive a reward.
·         They behave well for a reward.
·         The most powerful reward is a parent’s praise and attention. Children love to hear their parents praise and encouragement.
·         Take the time to acknowledge and praise specific things about their work and play.
·         By simply acknowledging the specifics of their positive actions you encourage them to continue that positive behavior.
·         Statement as simple as “I appreciate how carefully you put that dish away” makes your child feel valued and encourages them to continue that positive behavior.
·         As a child moves through the elementary school years, their ability to see things from another person’s viewpoint improves.
·         Since they can see the world through another person’s eyes, they become more invested in maintaining the affection and approval of parents and friends.
·         In the preteen and teen years, this desire for approval in the eyes of others increases the power of peer pressure.
·         Teach your children how their behavior impacts other people. Keep your lectures short and point out the consequences of their behavior on them and others.
·         Maintain an open dialogue with your children about values and moral ideas. Create an environment that is open to discussion about different ideas while explaining the benefit of the values your live by.
·         Encourage confidence in their ability to think through moral decisions and their strength to stand by their decisions.
·         Children begin to understand that rules help maintain order…order in the house, order in the school, and order in the community.
·         They realize that rules keep society safe and healthy. Without rules, communities would have chaos.
·         Rules are necessary and good. Even more, rules are for everybody.
·         Fairness and equality become important. What is “good for the goose is good for gander.” Right and wrong is very concrete, black and white.
·         This is a great time for parents to calmly discuss and reinforce the reason for various family rules. This will help your children internalize the values and moral ideas of your family.
·         Live by the rules yourself. Your child is watching. They learn more through observation than lecture, so walk the talk.

Internally controlled behavior

·         Teens learn to think more abstractly about the benefit of rules.
·         They learn that some families have different rules than the ones you live by in your family. 
·         Maintain an open dialogue with your child about family values and rules.  
·         Explaining the reasoning behind the rules while living them out yourself will help your child internalize the rules.
·         Discussion may also lead to some compromises. Be open to appropriate compromises when they arise.
·         Through this process, your child will be making conscious choices about which rules they will choose to live by. They will be internalizing values.

How to Make an Imperfect Family Amazing!!

No, my computer is not having a nervous breakdown. Contrary to popular opinion, neither am I. Yes, this article is full of mistakes, typos, faux pas…just like our families. (One of my daughters proofed this article and told me I misspelled two words.) Anyway, the mistakes are made intentionally (well, except for the two my daughter found) to help make a point. So, please take a little time and read this short article. It will help you discover the ingredient you need to make your imperfect family amazing!


Fmalieis are mdae up of ipemrfcet poelpe…peolpe taht mkae msitekas. Ecah fimaly mebemr srtievs to pacrtcie prefcet realtoisnhpis; but, teihr efoftrs cnosatnlty flal sohrt. Sbilnigs adn sopuses sepak wrods drunig the haet of agrunemts taht siptefluly pkoe at snesitvie aeras. Cihlredn adn preatns unnitnetoinlaly ignroe sbtlue rqusetes, acicdnetlaly froegt ipmotrant evnets, or myabe, on ocacsoin, itnentoinlaly isnlut one aontehr wehn mmoenatrliy oevrhwlemed wtih agner or dsipapiontemnt. Atfer all, fmalieis are mdae up of ipmerfct poelpe, sninres lkie me adn lkie yuo. How cn fmaliy rsepnod to tihs perdciamnet? A syanig cmoes to mnid: “Love cvores a mluttiude of snis.” Snicere love oevrcmoes our mstikaes. Gneiune love rameins vcitorouis oevr oru sniufl bheavoir. Love clals ecah fmaliy mmeebr to seek frgoiveenss adnn to ofefr frogveienss. Love mkaes rcenocilaitoin psosilbe. Yuo mgiht say taht Love-eevn ipmefrcelty epxrsesed Love-cvoers all the tpyos of yuor fmaliy lfie…adn birgns caalm asusrnace, paece, adnn udnertsanadnig to ecah fmaliy mebmer. Olny Love stadns outt as corrcet amdist our mnay msitkaes adn our cnosatnt sohrt-coemnigs. Love truns ipmerefct fmaileis itno amzanig fmaileis. Love gveis maennig to fmaliy. Love one aonhter.

Investing the Coin of Your Life in Children

I remember sitting in class during middle school staring at the clock and thinking that “time was really dragging” or, maybe, time had actually come to a stop. Now, I look in the mirror and realized that “time is slipping away.” I guess I’m getting older. Or, according to Zall’s Second Law stating, “How long a minute is depends on which side of the bathroom door you stand” I’m just standing on the wrong side of the door. On the other hand, I do wish “time would stand still” sometimes; but it just “keeps marching on.” I realize how much “time has slipped through my fingers” when I take the time to really look at my teenage daughters. They are so “grown up.” Man, “time flies.” “Where did all the time go?”
Carl Sandburg was right: “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” Sounds a lot like the saying “Time is Money.” No, “time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you can’t get more time” (Jim Rohn). So, how do you spend that currency we call time? Take time right now to “put your money where your mouth is” and consider: Does your expenditure of time reflect your true priorities? Or, is the busy-ness of life robbing the “coin of your life”? Does your time expenditure reveal that your lesser priorities (like sports, music, recreation, even work) have pushed out your more significant priorities (like family, spouse, children)? Have the insignificant and unimportant aspects of life robbed your children of the “coin” you really want to invest in them?
Remember, children “spell love, T-I-M-E.” If you “spend” more time on the newspaper, video games, the sports channel, music, your car, or exercise, your children will believe those things more important to you than they are. “Time is the coin of your life.” Your children are watching to see how you spend that coin. Take some time this week and spend time on your children. Play a game. Eat together. Go for a walk. Have a talk. Play catch. Listen to some music. Play a video game together. Each coin of time you invest in your children offers priceless dividends in return. After all, “you have to spend a little to make a little” or, better yet, invest a lot to gain a lot!

Family Life at the Foot of the Cross

Yesterday we celebrated Easter. During the weeks leading up to Easter, I spend time thinking about Christ’s death on the cross and His victorious resurrection on Easter morning. As I meditate on these events, I recall hearing people speak about living in the shadow of the cross. This year, though, I thought about family. I contemplated what it would mean for our family to live in the shadow of the cross. How would family life change at the foot of the cross? Living at the foot of the cross promotes a healthy family life. Here are just 5 of the powerful lessons families can learn at the foot of the cross.
Give Sacrificially: Jesus gave sacrificially to restore an intimate relationship between His creation and His Father. He gave up His home in heaven. He gave up His reputation. He gave up His eternal nature as Creator to take on the nature of a servant. While on earth, He gave up His heavenly authority and submitted to the authority of His earthly parents and His Heavenly Father. Ultimately, Jesus gave up His life on the cross to make it possible for us to become sons and daughters of His Father. Giving sacrificially to our family promotes security, unity, and peace. Recent research suggests that 50% of married couples who report giving generously (sacrificially) to their family are “very happy” (sacrificially) while only 14% of those who do not give generously are happy. Give yourself to your family as Jesus gave Himself for us.
Share Kindness: As Jesus hung on the cross, He asked John to care for His mother and His mother to accept John into the family. Even as He suffered, Jesus made sure that His family was cared for. Jesus exhibited a deep kindness and compassion for His mother in this act of kindness. Families that live at the foot of the cross do the same; they share kindness and compassion with one another. They take action to meet one another’s needs. Their actions reveal that relationships matter, family is important, family members are valued. Show compassion to your family. Reach out in kindness to meet your family’s needs.
Forgive: Jesus also asked His Father to “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus could have easily harbored anger, bitterness, and resentment at the cross. Instead, He gave those who crucified Him the benefit of the doubt (“they know not what they do”) and offered them forgiveness. He forgave those who treated Him harshly. His forgiveness opened the door to reconciliation, restored peace, and invited intimacy. At the foot of the cross, we offer forgiveness when family members offend us, hurt us, or treat us harshly. The shadow of the cross shines brightly on a forgiving spirit and brings peace, restored intimacy, and deeper love to the forgiving family.
Trust in the Father’s Care: Jesus proclaimed, “Into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” He rested in His Father’s love. He gave His troubled spirit and anguished life into His Father’s care. Families living at the foot of the cross can give their troubled spirits, their worries and concerns, their anxieties and fears into the Father’s care as well. We can rest in the assurance that our Heavenly Father will care for our whole family. We can rest in His love for our family, knowing that He will never leave us, even in the midst of dire circumstances.
Hope for Tomorrow: Jesus could “endure the cross” and “despise the shame” because of the “joy set before Him.” He knew that Friday looked bleak, the cross appeared victorious, and His life seemed to be slipping away…but, Sunday would bring renewed hope. Sunday would bring new life, new assurance, and new joy. Families that live at the foot of the cross live in the assurance and hope of Sunday. They live with the assurance that our Heavenly Father ultimately has all things in His control and, because of that assurance, we can move into the future with a “joy set before us.”
I realize that Easter Sunday is past, but the hope and assurance of Christ’s resurrection lives on at the foot of the cross. When families give sacrificially, share kindness, offer forgiveness, and trust in the Father’s care they find the assurance of greater family intimacy and joy each day…all at the foot of the cross.

4 Skills to Increase Positive Family Interactions

I have discovered four skills that help limit misunderstandings and disagreements in our home. Honestly, I’m still a beginner in the practice of these four skills, but I have found them very helpful none the less. I’d like to share them with you because I think you will find them helpful as well. The first two skills have to do with managing our own mind and attitude. The second two skills offer a practical method for valuing the other person.
First, ask before you leap to conclusions. Do not assume you know what family members are thinking. Do not jump to conclusions about the motivations behind their actions or words. If you jump to conclusions, you may find yourself without a parachute. Instead, ask for clarification. Take the time to ask what they mean by their actions or words. Listen thoughtfully to their response. When you do ask for clarification, make sure you do it with the second skill deeply imbedded in your thoughts.
Second, assume the best. Make it a practice to believe each family member has some positive intent for their actions or words. Love believes all things. In love, assume that family members want to grow more intimate. Believe that family members want to have positive relationships with the family. Give the benefit of the doubt that family members have no intention of behaving simply to irritate or anger you. As an example, think about a toddler left at daycare for the first time. She cries and engages in tantrum behavior. She does not do this to irritate her mother, but in an attempt to remain close to her mother, to convince her mother to stay, to express a fear of being away from her mother. Her intent is good, but her behavior does not necessarily communicate her love and desire in a positive way. Parents respond best by accepting her behavior as an expression of her love and her fear of losing her mother, not as manipulation. Similarly, look beyond the irritating behaviors of family members to see the underlying positive intent and respond to that positive intent instead of the irritating behavior.
Third, remain aware of other family members. Although you need to “keep them in mind” whether you are with them or not, you especially need to pay attention to them when you interact with them. Observe them carefully. Listen to them sensitively. Hear the words they say as well as the tone of voice they use. Notice if they sound irritated or pleased. Pay attention to whether they look tired or energetic. Remain alert to their mood. As you remain aware of these details, practice the final skill.
Fourth, acknowledge the other person. Whether they look upset or happy, worried or content, angry or calm, acknowledge that. Report back to them what you see and hear: “You look especially happy today. What’s going on?” “You look upset, are you OK?” “You seem impatient right now, is anything going on?” “I’m glad you are staying so calm in this traffic. It makes me feel safer.” “You look angry. Is something wrong?” Here is a helpful pattern for acknowledging perceived emotions in other family members. Describe what you see or hear and then ask for clarification. After you ask for clarification, listen. Finally, ask if you can help in any way. 
As each family member practices these four skills, misunderstandings and disagreements decrease and compassionate interactions increase. Remember, practice makes perfect so practice, practice, practice…and practice some more.

7 Crucial Lessons for Children to Learn

What do you want your children to know 15-20 years from now? What kind of adult would you like them to become? I believe there are at least 7 crucial lessons for children to learn before they become adults. Maybe you will agree with them…or, maybe you have different lessons you’d like your children to learn.  Let me explain them to you. As I do, remember children learn best by watching our example. If you want your children to learn these lessons, start practicing them yourself. Walk the talk. Live out each lesson in the presence of your children. Lead the way. Let them see you practice them so they can follow in your footsteps. Break through the overgrowth of obstacles that interfere with your children learning these lessons and clear the way for them to practice each one. Anyway, here are 7 crucial lessons for each child to learn.
     1.      Love others. Make other people a priority in your life. If you have two coats and your friend has none, give them your extra. Celebrate when other people experience success, even if their success means you finish second. Pocket your pride and put others first. Love in word and deed.

2.      Be your own person—the person God created you to be. You do not have to be one of the crowd. Stand out instead. Allow yourself to be set apart from the crowd. Say “No” to peer pressure. It may be difficult at first, but the long-term benefits include an increase in personal strength, confidence, and wisdom.

3.      Practiced an “attitude of gratitude” every day. Take time to acknowledge the blessings you have. No matter how little you may have compared to your friends, acknowledge the material blessings you do have and show a humble gratitude for those blessings. Even more important, recognize kindnesses from other people. True wealth is not material in nature but relational. Celebrate the abundant relational wealth found in your spouse, children, brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends. Take the time to thank the people in your life for all they do for you on a daily basis. Offer thanks for all things—from the seemingly small, insignificant acts to large, life-altering acts.

4.      Accept the consequences of your actions. All actions have consequences, good or bad. Think ahead. Consider the consequences of your actions before you act. And, when all is said and done, accept those consequences. If you make a poor decision or act badly, accept the consequences. Do not balk. We reap what we sow. When you make a wise decision and reap the benefits, accept the consequences. There is no embarrassment in success, even if others become jealous or upset. Enjoy the positive consequences of positive choices and actions.

5.      Remain curious enough to be awed. Never lose the willingness to stand in awe and admiration of a sunset, a majestic mountain, an amazing musical performance, an awesome movie, an astounding talent, a beautiful piece of poetry, or any number of other things. Allow yourself tears of joy, tears of sorrow, and tears of overwhelming awe. Look for those things of beauty found in nature and people or in things created by other people. Remain curious.

6.      Stay humble enough to learn. When you meet people, remain humble enough to learn from them. Ask them questions. People, all people, have amazing things to teach us. You never know what others have experienced and learned unless you ask. Take the time to ask, listen, and learn.

7.      Know God. In all these lessons, look for God. He is everywhere around us. Remain open to seeing Him in the world around us, hearing Him in the voices of those around you, and experiencing His loving presence and guidance in the everyday moments of your life. Seek Him daily, follow Him diligently, and love Him with abandon. 
I hope my children learn these lessons as they grow up. And, I hope them learn them from me as their parent. What lessons would you like your children to learn? Please share your ideas in the comment section below.