Archive for June 28, 2012

Favorite Summer Foods

Recently, one of my friends and I were talking about how food helps to build family. He excitedly shared the ethnic foods that his family eats to celebrate various traditions. He even shares them with me…and I enjoy that! We also talked about our favorite summer foods. Summer just would not be summer without our favorite summer foods. Many of my favorite memories of summer include food. Of course, many of my favorite activities all year round include food. At any rate, I thought I’d share some of my favorite summer foods with you. I do love to eat, so I had to trim the fat from my list in an effort to keep this post lean…and to leave us all hungry for more.
Everyone enjoys feasting on the juicy fruits of summer–watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, berries. So many wonderful memories come to mind when I think of enjoying watermelon or peaches or strawberries at family reunions and various picnics. I really enjoyed the watermelon. Not only did watermelon taste great, but the seeds provided opportunities for fun competitions—who could shoot (aka, spit) them the farthest, who could shoot the most in the shortest amount of time, who could hit a target. Although watermelon provided good taste and great fun, I think my all-time favorite summer dessert as a kid was fresh strawberries, sliced with just a little sugar…delicious.
I love corn on the cob, too—cook it on the stove or cook it on the grill. I recall losing my two front teeth one year and having to cut the corn off the cob to eat it. Although it still tasted good, it just wasn’t the same. I also remember going to church camp and watching the staff roast corn on the cob for the campers. If you haven’t tried roasted corn on the cob, you’ll have to try it. It tastes wonderful. Of course, when you roast some corn on the grill, you might as well add some hot dogs and hamburgers. My family enjoys preparing their own hamburgers. We supply diced onions, red peppers, garlic, and mushrooms as well as shredded cheese and various spices. Each family member goes to town putting together their own hamburger patty. Masterpieces include whichever ingredients we choose.
While waiting for your hamburger and roasted vegetables to finish cooking, you could enjoy a salad. Be creative in your salad. Depending on your tastes, you can add cranberries, orange slices, apple pieces, pecans, or any other tasty morsels to your lettuce. However you mix it, you end up with a refreshing salad on a warm summer day.  
Finish out this feast with some sweet delights. Ice cream is a solid stand by. However, if you want to add excitement to your ice cream, throw in some fresh strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries. Even more exciting is strawberry shortcake. Every year, our family enjoys a day of rides at our local amusement park. On the way out, we always buy the summer sweet found in amusement parks—cotton candy.  Really, you need to get two orders so you have enough to go around…and maybe a third one for dessert after tomorrow’s picnic.
That’s it…the short list of my favorite summer foods. Each of these foods holds a special memory as well, memories of time spent with family over the summer months. I hope you have your special summer foods and traditions. If not, why not start some this summer. If you do have a favorite summer food and tradition, take a moment and share it in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you.

One Ingredient of Happy Children

A research team at the University of British Columbia published a study involving toddlers and generosity. In this study, each toddler received treats (like Goldfish crackers). A few minutes later, one group of toddlers was asked to give one of their treats to a puppet. Another group was given an extra treat to share with the puppet. The study revealed that the toddlers who shared their own treat with the puppet displayed greater happiness than the toddlers who were given a treat to share. In other words, the toddlers who made a personal sacrifice exhibited greater happiness than those who did not. The toddlers found the generosity of personal sacrifice emotionally rewarding. One author of the study said, “Forfeiting their own valuable resources for the benefit of others makes them happier than giving away just any treat.”


Two thoughts came to my mind when I read a summary of this study. One, Jesus said that unless we become like little children, we will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. This study reveals an important lesson we can learn from children–it is better to give than receive. And, giving that includes some level of personal sacrifice elicits happiness. Generosity in the family contributes to joy. Families that practice sacrificial generosity will reap the reward of intimacy. Individual members of the generous family feel more significant because of their opportunity to impact others; more connected because they share something that is personally meaningful; and happier because (as this study suggests) sacrificial giving produces happiness…which brings me to my second thought about this study.


We, as parents, contribute to our children’s happiness when we encourage them to give to others…especially if it means they have to make some personal sacrifice. Sometimes we have trouble watching our children make a personal sacrifice. We hate to see them “lose something” they truly enjoy or lack something they really like having. So, we “protect” them from that feeling by giving them the “thing” to give away. Then, it is no skin off their nose. They do not have to make the sacrifice. We walk away feeling better because we do not have to see our children struggle with personal sacrifice. However, this study suggests that when we take away their opportunity to make a personal sacrifice, we rob them of happiness. We deprive them of the complete happiness that comes from making a generous personal sacrifice for another person. On the other hand, when we force them to give to others, we rob them of the joyous reward they might receive from freely offering a gift…and we plant seeds of resentment. But, when we model personal sacrifice in our giving…when we encourage them to give generously…when we present opportunities for sacrificial giving…we increase the opportunity for our children’s happiness.


What are some ways you can model personal sacrifice in giving? In what areas might you encourage your children to give generously?

The Lazy Days of Summer

Remember those school-free days of summer you enjoyed as a child? I could not wait until summer arrived and I could relax during the long, lazy days of summer. I could swim, ride my bike, play with friends, go on a family vacation, sleep, and walk around town…the list seemed endless. Well, the list of possibilities seemed endless when summer began. Sometime in July, though, I began to get bored. My friends went on vacation at different times than I did. Riding my bike to the same old place day after day just lost its luster. Although I enjoy my sleep, you cannot sleep all the time. Besides, without air conditioning in the house it generally got too hot to enjoy sleep. That’s when I would hear it…the same old line every summer. I would approach my mother and say, “Mom, I’m bored.” She would look at me and smile before saying, “Well, find something to do.” That was not the answer I was looking for. I was hoping for a little relief…some direction…some sage advice that would direct me to the next exciting, over-the-top activity. But no, I’d just hear a simple, “Well, find something to do.”
As I look back, I realize what a great favor my mother did for me when she told me “find something to do.” She let me know that my boredom did not control me. I controlled it. It was under my power to be bored or not to be bored. Psychologists call the sense that “I have some control over events in my life” an internal locus on control. By throwing the responsibility for my boredom back on me rather than giving me something to do, my mother instilled an internal locus on control in me. This sense of control came in handy when I went to college. I knew that I had the control needed to manage my time. I could allow myself some boredom or I could find something to do. I did not have to rely on my peers for activities. I could decide for myself.
“Well, find something to do” also encouraged me to discover, get creative, and take some healthy risks. Sometimes I would do something unusual when allowed to “find something to do.” Maybe I could go for a bike ride, call a friend, mow the grass, go for a walk, or build mud pies. Many times, I chose to walk or ride my bike. In the process, I found interesting spiders, unusual leaves, and short cuts (adventures to a middle school child) to various places. I found my first record store while “finding something to do.” I learned how to “jump” my bike off a ramp and how to throw little green apples off the end of a stick. I found friends to ice skate with and I learned to skate backwards. I discovered what I could do, what I needed help with, and what I didn’t even want to try because my mother was kind enough to tell me to “find something to do.”
I also learned to entertain myself. I learned that I could have fun listening to music, playing music, reading, building, creating (I have to admit, my parents were less than happy with some of my creations—like the washtub bass I built), or just walking through the neighborhood watching people. I also learned that it is alright to be bored once in a while. Boredom did not kill me. In fact, boredom created the space for me to think and contemplate the world and the people in the world.
I realize we do not want to leave our children to their boredom all the time. But, boredom has its place…just as supervision and guidance do. Boredom encourages the development of many positive traits, like an internal locus of control, independent decision-making, discovery, time-management, and creativity. These traits come in handy when our children are faced with the peer pressures of high school and the sudden freedom of college. So, do your children a favor this summer. When they approach you to say, “I’m bored,” don’t tell them what to do. Don’t schedule their every waking moment. Simply reply by saying, “Excellent! Now you have a great opportunity to find something to do.”

Family Summer Fun

Summer has arrived, school is out, and kids are home. Summer provides a great opportunity for parents to enjoy time with their children without the demands of school and school activities. What can you do to enjoy time with your children this summer? Here are 10 ideas.
     1.      Have a water battle. Get out the hose, fill up the squirt guns, gather the water balloons, and let the battle begin. Family members of all ages enjoy a good water battle, especially on a hot summer day. My children still talk about the “water battle with grandpa” and their cousins. If you want to get wet on a hot summer day without the battle, just turn on a water sprinkler and let your children play.

2.      Become sidewalk chalk artists. You can purchase inexpensive sidewalk chalk at the dollar store. Then, let your children’s creativity flow as they draw on your sidewalk and driveway. Don’t worry; the chalk will wash away with the first rain. If the rain doesn’t come, simply wash it off with the hose. For those who are very artistic and want a real challenge, try drawing some 3-D pictures like the ones found at this link.
Other ideas involving outdoor art include making murals with butcher paper and markers or building sand castles and sand sculptures at the beach, or simply sitting on the porch to color. For a little inspiration, check out these sand sculptures.

3.      You can find outdoor concerts during the summer months as well. My family and I went to an outdoor symphony concert (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra) early in June this year.  My children and I also enjoy going to the outdoor jazz concerts downtown
throughout the summer. In addition, several area parks have outdoor concerts during the summer months. These concerts are often free and always casual. Pack a snack, go to the park, and enjoy great music and one another’s company.

4.      Go to a local farmer’s market this summer as well. You can share fresh fruit and other goodies, often at a relatively low cost. If you would like a little more activity, find a local “pick your own produce” farm
in your area. Go to the Pick Your Own site to find a “pick your own farm” in your area. Enjoy time as a family picking strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or other fruit. Bring the fruit home and include your children in preparing it the way you like it. Then the best part, enjoy eating it together.

5.      Summer evenings are filled with opportunities for fun. You can have a picnic in your yard. Enjoy a small campfire. Make some smores. Catch some fireflies.  Put up tent and sleep outside. Enjoy stargazing. Play capture the flag.

6.      You don’t have to wait until evenings for outdoor fun in your yard. Put up a bird feeder and watch the birds as they come to eat. Identify the types of birds you see. A hummingbird feeder provides extra special excitement as you watch hummingbirds flutter at the feeder. You can also plant some flowers that will attract butterflies.

7.      What about those rainy days? Get your child a library card and go to the library on rainy days. Libraries often have various activities throughout the summer. Our library had a rabbit the children could visit, lunch reading dates, various book theme parties, and book discussion groups for older children. Check out your local library to see what they offer. While you are there, get a few books to read on your vacation.

8.      Bowling is another rainy day activity. Visit to learn how any child under 15-years-old can bowl two games every day this summer for only the cost shoe rentals. I’m not a great bowler, but I have a great time playing, talking with my family, and sharing the time it takes to bowl (and even making fun of my lack of skill). It is a fun activity for the whole family to enjoy.

9.      Churches have Vacation Bible School during the summer. These activities range from programs that last 2-3 hours per day for a one-week to 3-week day camps at some of the larger congregations. You can check with various churches in your area. This is a great activity for children to attend. They learn a lesson about Christ, have a snack, and do crafts as well as have a great time with good adult supervision.

10. Finally, don’t forget to just enjoy some down time. Make sure you and your children have time to do nothing…time to relax and recharge. Let your children rest. Take the time to enjoy resting with them. When they say “I’m bored” reply with “Good. That gives you the chance to come up with something fun to do on your own.” Let them figure out how to entertain themselves. Enjoy watching how their creative minds come up with something out of nothing to have some of the best times of the summer.
Whatever you do, enjoy your summer. Make the most of your time. Build connections. Celebrate. Relax. Have fun!

The Face of Anger in Your Family

Anger has many faces. The positive face of anger serves a beneficial purpose in our family and our life. It helps us identify and clarify our priorities. It communicates those priorities to our family members through facial expressions and words. Anger also injects us with energy to deal with any obstacles that frustrate our efforts to live by our chosen priorities and values. Unfortunately, the negative faces of anger use that energy but do clarify, communicate, or serve our priorities. In fact, these ineffective faces of anger prove counterproductive, and even detrimental, to our priorities and our family! Consider whether you wear any of these five ineffective faces of anger. Then, read the suggestions that follow to help you put on a more effective face of anger.
1.      The Passive-Aggressive Face of anger. This style of anger expression withholds praise, attention, and affection. The person wearing the passive-aggressive face of anger intentionally forgets to follow through with commitments and “promises.” They deny feeling angry while behaving in a way that will knowingly “get back at” and upset the other person.
2.      The Sarcastic Face of anger. This face of anger feigns humor; but, sarcasm has a cutting edge to it. It hurts. The person who uses sarcasm may reveal embarrassing information about the person with whom they are angry. Or, they may publicly humiliate the person with various sarcastic comments. The sarcastic face of anger carries a tone of voice that reveals disgust or disapproval.  If you are on the receiving end of sarcasm, you may feel hurt, embarrassed, confused, or even angry.
3.      The Cold Face of anger. The person who practices the cold face of anger simply withdraws from the other person when angry. They remove their affection, hold back intimacy, ignore attempts at interactions, and refuse to repair the relationship for a period of time. This cold face of anger also refuses to explain why they are upset. Instead, they punish the other person by shutting them out and avoiding interaction.  
4.      The Hostile Face of anger. The hostile face of anger reveals an inner intensity that boils over in a raised voiced and angry gestures. In general, people who wear the hostile face of anger appear more stressed out and impatient. They show visible signs of frustration and annoyance if others do not move fast enough or fail to meet their expectations for competence or performance.
5.      The Aggressive Face of anger. People who wear the aggressive face of anger raise their voice, becoming verbally loud and aggressive. They may curse, call the other person degrading names, and blame others for their behavior. They often have thoughts and mental images of anger that include hurting the other person somehow (even if they know this is wrong and do not engage in physically aggressive behavior). They may, however, act out their anger by hitting walls or breaking things around them. In some instances, they may resort to pushing, blocking, or hitting the other person.
As you can imagine, these faces of anger are damaging to personal relationships and family life in general. At the very least, they pound a wedge between people and result in hurt feelings. Ultimately, they destroy intimacy, devastate relationships, and crush people’s self-image. What can you think you wear one of the faces of anger described above? Here are 4 ideas to get you started.
     1.      First, admit that anger interferes with your relationships, destroys family intimacy, and hurts your spouse and children…the very people you love. Admit that the negative face of anger interferes with your goal to have family filled with joy, playfulness, security, and intimacy. The negative face of anger tears down the people in your family rather than building them up. In fact, the negative faces of anger have a long-term impact on each family member’s self-image, confidence, and future relationships.
     2.      Learn how you fuel your anger, how you contribute to its creation and escalate its negative expression. What thoughts race through your mind from the time you begin to feel just a little bit annoyed? What bodily sensations do you experience? How does your body tell you that you are beginning to get upset, annoyed, irritated, or angry? Write these thoughts and sensations down. Begin to be aware of these thoughts and sensations in your everyday interactions.  Being aware of your anger escalating thoughts and bodily sensation allows you to address them, calm them, and reduce them before you put on one of the angry faces described above.
     3.      When you begin to have the thoughts related to irritation or the bodily sensations of annoyance, take a long, deep, slow breath and look at your surroundings. Really, take a deep breath and notice what hangs on the walls in the room, what the other person is wearing, what you are wearing, and what expression the other person has on their face. Make a mental note of your surroundings while slowly release a deep breath. This will help calm the body sensations of anger, allowing you to think more clearly and respond more appropriately to the other person.
     4.      Talk…and listen. Listen for what the other person really wants to say. After you understand the other person, calmly explain your thoughts and priorities regarding the topic. This means becoming somewhat vulnerable, revealing yourself. Although this can prove difficult, it pulls people together. You will find that you grow closer with your family member this way, even in the midst of an irritating situation. 

These four brief steps begin the process of putting on a positive face of anger. A positive face of anger allows you to reveal yourself and build intimacy. If you struggle with anger in your family, I encourage you to read Taking Charge of Anger by W. Robert Nay, PhD. Dr. Nay describes the faces of anger in more detail and offers a comprehensive and effective method for learning to manage anger…an excellent investment in your family!

Relationships Rule

Some people seem to think that rules make the child. When children begin to misbehave, they slap on more rules to pull them back in line. They believe that the more children misbehave, the more rules they need to make them behave. Don’t get me wrong, rules are important. However, effective parenting does not begin with making more rules, but by forming a stronger relationship with your children. The stronger your relationship with your children, the more readily they will listen and obey…the more effective your parenting. Rather than need more rules, misbehaving children often need their parents to “lean into the relationship” while upholding the rules already in place. Children need relationship as much as they need structure. Josh McDowell even devised a formula for this: “Rules without relationship equals rebellion.”
Brain science actually lends support to this concept. Our brains adapt to the environment around them. An environment filled with loving, positive relationships produces brains that know how to trust others and show consideration to others. An environment filled with yelling, anger, and conflict produces brains that feel the need to defend, strike first to protect, or avoid. Which do you want your children to develop? One results in a person geared toward relational, and thereby overall, success. The other contributes to a defensive, fearful person…not a person geared toward long-term relational success.
How can we work to develop a positive relationship with our children? Here are five ways to help you begin.
1.Start young. Begin spending time with your child immediately. Talk to them, play with them, eat with them, and enjoy time with them. Invest time and energy in your child as soon as you know you or your spouse is pregnant. If your child is already a teen, don’t worry. It is never too late to start. Begin to spend time with them now. Learn about their interests and talk to them about their dreams.
2.Do things with your child. Take them to a concert of their choosing. Sure, the music is loud and you may not like it, but your child will always remember your willingness to spend time at a concert they liked. I remember my father playing Frisbee with me. I never thought much about it until I grew older and realized he is legally blind. Suddenly, it made sense that Frisbee color, background colors, and cloudy skies mattered. Each of these aspects helped him see the Frisbee. I look back on those times of Frisbee with great joy, even more so as I’ve matured and realized the effort he invested in playing. You can play a game, play catch, have a snowball battle, teach them something they might like, let them teach you something, eat together, or simply sit down to talk. Do a variety of things and do them often.
3.Listen to your child. When they are babies, listen to learn which sounds signal distress, which sounds express joy, and which sounds are just sounds. As your child gets older, listen to what they say. Listen to their questions and listen to their assumptions. You can learn so much about your child just by listening. And, your child learns that their thoughts are valuable to you. If they see you value their thoughts, they know you value them.
4.After you have listened, dialogue. Don’t lecture, jump in with your own solutions, or pontificate on your own opinions. Have a dialogue. I struggle with this one. Sometimes, I just want to tell my daughters the answer. I have more experience than they do and a better idea about what is best for them. But, I have learned that jumping in too soon means they won’t listen well. When I talk with them, allowing them to think and offering soft answers and points for them to consider, they becomes much more receptive. I wager your children will, too. So, converse with your children.
5.Hug your child. Touch communicates love. Hug your child good morning. Hug your child when one of you leaves for the day. Hug your child when you greet one another after time apart. Hug your child goodnight. When you sit down to watch TV, put your arm around your child. When you stand together, put a hand on their shoulder. I still remember my grandfather walking with his arm around my shoulder and the security I felt with his hand on my shoulder.Touch communicates safety, love, security, and honor. Give your child a hug.
I’m sure you can think of more ways to develop your relationship with your child. Share them in the comment section below so we can all have more ways to build our relationship with our children. After all, the stronger our relationship, the more effective our parenting.

A Parent Guides

Josh McDowell said it well–“rules without relationship leads to rebellion.” Although I completely agree with that formula, we need to add an additional formula as well: “relationships without rules leads to running wild.” Parents must provide relationships and rules, love and limits, truth and grace. Parents as family shepherds will guide their children toward maturity. Guiding your child toward maturity involves leading by example and discipline. Family shepherds model the values and limits they want their children to internalize. Of course, children will respond more readily to those parents who have a strong, loving relationship with them. Children also imitate those adults they view as competent and powerful. Family shepherds will combine all this. They set a consistent example of love that guides their children toward maturity through warm, responsive parenting.

Family shepherds also use discipline to guide their children toward maturity. Discipline involves teaching… teaching the values of mature, healthy living. Discipline begins early in life and focuses on four important lessons:
     1.How to behave. Successful parenting discourages negative behavior and teaches positive behavior. Family shepherds help point out how children should behave. Rather than simply saying, “Stop that” or “Don’t do that” family shepherds say, “Stop that and do this instead.” They point out the negative behavior while describing the positive behavior they want to see instead.

2.The impact of behavior on others. Family shepherds help their children learn how their behavior impacts those around them. If your child’s loud behavior bothers others in the restaurant, let them know. If their bossy behavior makes their sister upset, make sure your child knows. Don’t do this in a harsh, demeaning way. Lovingly point out how others respond to their behavior. Gently point out if their behavior made their sister cry or others in the restaurant feel uncomfortable. This allows them to develop empathy and actually see the nonverbal cues other people present to them about their behavior. Of course, family shepherds also point out when their children’s behavior has a positive effect on others and themselves. They let their child know when their behavior makes their sister smile and when other restaurant customers admire their behavior.

3.The pain of misbehavior. Guidance through discipline also means allowing children to suffer hardships, struggle with decisions, and experience the pain of natural consequences. Unfortunately, family shepherds hurt right along with their children. Parents hate to see their children struggle. When they see their child in pain, they feel the pain too. Some parents, in an effort to protect their child from pain and to limit their own pain, prematurely save their child from some consequence. This interferes with their growth and maturity. So, even though it’s hard at times, let ’em suffer now and again…it’s good for us all.

4.The benefits of good behavior. Parents discuss the long-term consequences of behavior as well as the short term consequences, the benefits as well as the detriments of behavior. Family shepherds will help their children learn how behavior impacts reputation, opportunity, personal esteem, contentment, and achievement.

Personality, My Daughter & A Wedding

When my oldest daughter was almost 3-years-old, she played the part of flower girl in a friend’s wedding. She dressed in a beautiful white dress and dropped flowers on the carpet before the bride walked the aisle to marry her husband-to-be. Vows exchanged and pictures taken, we proceeded to the wedding reception. I love wedding receptions—a time of great joy and celebration. Of course, 3-year-olds love them, too. My daughter was dancing, laughing, and having a good time. Soon, the dance floor cleared except for the bride and groom. As the music played, the bride sat on a chair in the middle of the empty dance floor and the groom prepared to remove her garter. Suddenly, a near 3-year-old dressed in a beautiful white dress broke out of the crowd, ran across the dance floor, and tackled the groom. She wrestled him to the ground. The crowds’ laughter slowly turned to stunned murmuring. “Who’s that child’s parent?” I tried to hide, but I couldn’t. Someone had to go get my daughter. Mustering all the dignity I could, and under the watchful eyes of wedding guests and family, I walked across the dance floor to retrieve my daughter. After apologizing, I discovered that the bride and groom really didn’t mind. Apparently, the guests didn’t mind either. They thought it was “cute” and “funny.” But, I have to admit, I was a little embarrassed. Unlike my daughter, I really don’t like being in the center of a large crowd.
“Unlike my daughter”…that’s the point. My daughter and I are different. We have different personalities. My daughter loves to be involved. She loves to be around people and jumps right into activities. She doesn’t mind “putting herself out there.” I admire that about her. I, on the other hand, enjoy one-on-one interactions. I take a while to warm up to an activity; and, I prefer to practice before “performing” for other people. I love my daughter’s personality. It allows her so many opportunities. But, we are different…not just my daughter and I, but everyone in my family. We have different personalities and idiosyncrasies. I tend to get up early. My wife enjoys sleeping. I set my alarm at the softest setting possible. My wife and daughters set their alarm to a deafening roar that causes me to jump out of the bed, grasp my heart, and check to see if I’m still alive.
All these differences remind me of an ancient Hebrew proverb: “train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The word used for “the way he should go” actually means “according to his habits and interests” (McDowell). In other words, as family shepherds we need to know our children’s particular bent, their individual personalities and interests. As we do, our children gain a sense of value and worth in our acceptance of their individual differences. We give them an added sense of security when we nurture and discipline them according to their particular personality. That may mean we discipline each child in a slightly different way while holding them all to the same standard of behavior. One child may comply with a request after getting “the look.” Another child may simply stare back and say “Hi Dad” in response to “the look.” I know because these two options describe my two daughters. Still, my wife and I strive to hold both daughters to the same standard even though one requires a more firm directive as we “train them up…according to their bent.”
Those differences, the uniqueness of each family member, add to the beauty and strength of family. Where my “natural bent” falls short, my wife’s “natural bent” picks up…and vice versa. My daughters, who don’t mind “putting themselves out there,” and my wife, from whom they inherit that trait, have taught me how to become more involved and social in a group. I am grateful for that. Hopefully, my uniqueness has also taught them something as well. Our differences help us grow and learn. Our differences add to the complex beauty of our families. As family shepherds, we accept the differences of each family member. Even more, we cherish those unique traits as opportunities to promote growth, cooperation, and love.

Discipline With Grace

Family shepherds discipline with grace; and, graceful discipline promotes healthy relationships as well as mature behavior. Unfortunately, many families fall prey to one of two extremes when attempting to discipline with grace: grace crushing or grace manipulating.

Grace crushers
tend to hold legalistic expectations. Parents in grace crushing families make demands that exceed their child’s developmental ability. They control their child with rewards and punishments, demanding that their child “give in” to their expectations. Grace crushers make their child’s decisions for him. Disagreement is viewed as disrespect and punished, leaving their child little opportunity to develop his unique personality. When their child does assert his independence, he is crushed with shame-inducing statements like “I’m glad your grandmother isn’t alive to see that” or “I work all day to make your life better and you treat me like this!” Or, the child may be forced into submission with fear-centered statements like “If you keep this up, I’ll call the police to take you away” or “I don’t have to put up with this, I’ll just leave.” Such comments crush a child’s spirit rather than teach appropriate behavior. They produce resentment, fear of failure, feelings of inadequacy, and a constant need for approval.And, the demanding, controlling behavior of grace crushing parents teaches the child that he is not trusted and his parents do not believe he is adequate, capable, or trustworthy. In an effort to gain independence and prove his adequacy, the child in a grace crushing home eventually rebels. As Josh McDowell says, “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.”

Grace manipulators
,on the other hand,focus on relationship to the neglect of rules. They spoil their child. Parents in grace manipulating families believe that simply accepting one another and maintaining a peaceful relationship will lead to a child with self-control and positive character. They hate to see anyone suffer pain. Rather than watch their child struggle with not getting what he wants, they give in to his wishes and desires. In so doing, they protect him from beneficial pain and rob him of opportunities to learn. They also deprive him of self-respect and self-assurance by making life “easy.” Many grace manipulators even accept the consequences of their child’s behavior instead of allowing their child to suffer those consequences, like staying up late to finish their child’s school project rather than allowing the child to suffer any consequence. Ultimately, parents in a grace manipulating household become a slave to their spoiled child’s schedule, desires, and wants. They eventually grow resentful of their child’s constant demands and wonder how their child developed such a sense of entitlement. They will even be surprised when their child rebels in response to unmet selfish desires.

families recognize the importance of relationships and mature character. Parents in grace-filled families believe that mature character is more important than immediate comfort and personal satisfaction. Grace-filled parents believe their child is capable of learning from consequences so they do not bail him out. Instead of crushing their child with consequences, they love him by using consequences as a learning tool that deepens relationship over time. So, they develop appropriate “rules to live by” and build strong relationships. Consider these points about grace filled parents and discipline.
     1.Grace-filled parents view discipline from a long-term perspective. They consider discipline a way to promote long-term growth and maturity. They also realize that discipline promotes intimacy over the long-term even though it may create short-term discomfort and frustration.

2.Grace-filled parents clearly focus on behaviors, not character, when giving a consequence. They do not attack their child’s character. There is no name calling, demeaning comments, or threats.

3.Grace-filled families believe the best about others, even the misbehaving child. “Love believes all things, hopes all things and bears all things” even when dealing with misbehavior. Gracious families believe that family members truly do want to grow more mature. They believe that family members ultimately do want to please the family with whom they have an intimate relationship. They have a deep-seated belief that their child is capable of learning, growing, and maturing.

4.Grace-filled families empathize with a person’s discomfort and pain without protecting them from the consequence. They remain available throughout the consequence, allowing the person to experience grace and truth. This involves communicating an understanding of the discomfort of consequences while maintaining the consequence. Doing this effectively balances the hard line of a consequence while, at the same time, expresses the soft emotion of empathy.

5.Grace-filled families teach appropriate behavior as part of the discipline process. They begin by evaluating the negative behavior, even considering the impact of the negative behavior on the child and those around him. It is important for all of us to realize the impact of negative behavior on our lives and the lives of those around us. Then, grace-filled parents teach more appropriate behaviors through discussion and problem-solving.

6.Grace-filled families talk about potential problem situations ahead of time in order to prevent problem behaviors. Once again, these discussions revolve around potential consequences as well as family values and beliefs.

7.Grace-filled families always work to restore relationships whenever negative behaviors threaten to destroy relationships. They follow consequences with a reassurance of love for the person.

Don’t be afraid to discipline. Discipline confidently…with grace!

15 Tips to Keep Love Alive

Valentine’s Day will come and go, but you can keep the spirit of Valentine’s Day alive in your family. How? I’m glad you asked. Here are some “daily ideas” to help you keep the love alive. For more ideas, you can visit “The Honor Bank” on our website, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter. In the meantime, each of the daily deposits listed here will keep the spirit of Valentine’s Day alive in your family for months to come!

Give each family member a sincere compliment.

  • Tell each family member one character trait that you see in them and appreciate. Give an example of how you have seen that trait in action.
  • Thank each family member for two things they did for your family this week.
  • Tell each family member something they have done that makes you proud of them.
  • Write a short note telling your family how much you love them. Hide it somewhere that they will find it during the day.
  • Do a chore today that is usually done by another family member.
  • Give your spouse and your children a 6-second hug today. In fact, give them two 6-second hugs-one to start the day and one to end the day.
  • During dinner (or call a family meeting), tell your family three ways in which they make you happy.
  • Give each family member a small gift or card that you know they will like. Maybe they will like a bag of M&M’s, a homemade card, flowers, or a home cooked meal.
  • Mail each family member a card. Yes, I said mail. Isn’t it exciting to receive a surprise card or package through the “snail mail?”
  • Give up the last bite of ice cream, the best seat, or the last cookie…and let a family member have it instead.
  • Tell each family member one thing you respect about them.
  • Find a sincere reason to say thank you to your spouse three times today…do the same for each of your children.
  • Give each family member a back rub or massage this week.
  • Tell your spouse how attractive you find them…be specific about what you find most attractive.
15 simple ideas…Although they sound small, these daily deposits into the Family Bank of Honor keep love alive. If you find that hard to believe, try it out. In fact, I dare you to try out these ideas and others from the Honor Bank. If you do, you will find the spirit of Valentine’s Day alive and well in your family for days to come!
« Older Entries