Christian Parenting

Parenting - What I Would Have Done Differently

In 1999, the year my first child was born, a study came out stating that 50-70% of Evangelical Youth were leaving the church after high school.  On April 20th of that same year, the Columbine High School Shootings took place.  Both these incidents made me keenly aware of the eternal importance of my role as a parent and they raised some red flags that our safety-conscious, academic achievement-focused, self-esteem-promoting, parenting philosophies touted by parents and experts...were not working. aaaphoto-1415226581130-91cb7f52f078

Parenting books and advice are similar to network cable news, you can find plenty of fear-based doom and gloom or you can be sold the latest fads or "breaking advice." After researching over 300 books, classes, conferences and courses on parenting, I found that much of the parenting advice was geared towards specific segments of parenting such as behavior or education but very few focused on an overall holistic, long-term parenting philosophy backed by proven results.  There were a lot of opinions and theories but very little discernible wisdom.

Many popular parenting books and philosophies focus heavily on reforming behavior, controlling our children's environment, or even manipulating our children to comply or obey.  While this seems popular with the Over Protective Parenting Crowd – I wanted to raise children who make the right decision out of obedience and love for God and no matter what environment they find themselves in.  I didn't want to raise children who were merely obedient to my rules and boundaries but children who have a change of heart, a heart for Christ that is evidenced by the Fruit of the Spirit in their lives.

The following post is an amalgam of my own personal reflections, talks with empty nest parents and a sermon by Pastor James MacDonald and Mark Gregston on the same topic.

If I Could Do Parenting All Over Again, Here's What I Would Do Differently.

1. I focused too much on authority and obedience and not enough on relationship.  

Often as parents, we just want our kids to behave and not embarrass us in public or we are so fearful of the secular world that we try to build Christian bubbles filled with tons of boundaries and rules to try to keep sin and evil away from our children.  Looking back, neither one of these strategies works for very long and the greatest piece of wisdom I have learned is that compliance to MY will and rules is not the same as having a changed heart for Christ.  There is just no logical way that you can control every move your child makes or everything your child says, especially outside of your home. Children have their own free will and will act on their own accord—and often in their own self-interest. I can create an environment that forces my kids to obey and comply but this ends the day they leave my home and If I haven't fostered an authentic heart change for Christ, I've succeeded in creating obedient children but failed to pass on authentic faith.

2. I would spend more time on Why and less time on What. 

Often we spent way too much time trying to micromanage or orchestrate all the details of our children's lives.  From schedules, to activities, to "sin management" we tried to do too much for our kids when they should have been doing it themselves. Many times our children will ask us to do something for them that we know they are capable of doing on their own or we just do it for them out of our incessant need to be involved in their details.  Looking back, we should have spent more time modeling and reinforcing Biblical principles and life application of Scripture and letting our kids struggle and even fail sometimes learning to apply these principles to their own lives. Teaching them Why we do something is 100 times more valuable than teaching them how or what to do or my preferred way of doing things.  If they know in their hearts the Biblical reason Why we do something, the details (what), the environment they are in, peer pressure or a sinful world will not persuade their morals and values.

3. I'd spend more time on common, authentic conversation.

Early on, I'd love to give little teaching (preaching) lessons to my kids sharing all my wisdom about life, faith, history, politics or whatever else seemed to be the topic.  When my kids were little, they would look at me as if I was a walking "Dad Version of Google" with all the answers but as my kids grew, we taught them age-appropriate skills in order to allow them to become more and more independent.  Soon, my "wisdom sharing" became seen as preachy and I had to learn to ask questions and then shut up.  Often, we would have deep and sometimes off-color discussions at our dinner table about everything tweens and teens deal with on the daily basis. My kids would open up about all sorts of issues and struggles they were dealing with and I'd often have to bite my tongue and resist the urge to "tell them how it is" according to Dad's world. I learned that although I could offer sage advice and wisdom, it had to be asked for not freely offered when I disagreed with my children's comments or ideas.  I learned to be a better listener than talker, ask thoughtful questions and to always allow discussion on any topic.

4. I would be less concerned about consistency among siblings and more concerned about appropriate decisions for that specific child. 

Proverbs tells us that each child has their own unique "inner bent" and God made them that way with that unique inner bent.  Our job as parents is not to try to correct that bent for our liking or preference but to raise them individually according to their God given unique abilities, quirks and talents. Often, we would have to make tough decisions that were not popular, not only from our children but even from teachers or other parents.  However, we parented each child differently - one needed more boundaries and discipline, the other needed more independence and grace.  One could handle more freedoms and responsibility, one needed to wait and mature more.  We definitely never tried to make decisions based on what our kids would like, tolerate, or be okay with, but to make the decisions that were best for them individually and for our entire family.

5. I would have trusted my instincts more. 

At first, I thought my job as a parent was to monitor or catch my kids misbehaving and then punish them to no end.  Please don't misunderstand me, we had plenty of rules and boundaries but as my kids became teens, I learned that my job was to model and teach them how to act but not to try to run FBI surveillance on their lives and catch them making mistakes.  Sometimes, I knew my kids were probably crossing some boundaries and testing their independence but rather than resulting to hyper vigilance (which often just pushes kids to become more secretive and clever) I chose to let some things slide unless I had direct knowledge of something.  We focused on relationships and discussions because losing the ability to talk honestly with our teens or pushing them to the point where they shut down emotionally, was far worse than any bad behavior.

6. Authentic character over image control.

I've seen kids who look, act and sound like great Christian kids around their parents, church and other adults but in private; they are angry, rebelling from God and engaging in destructive habits.  When we focus on image, often our kids learn what we expect and want and give that to us for "show" but they act very different around their peers or in private situations. I often say that I want kids who do the right thing when no one else is looking.  In prioritized order, we focused on faith, character traits, treatment of others, teamwork and accountability before grades, sports, talents and behavior.  We taught empathy and humility not judgement and bragging.  We taught that your integrity is more important than your GPA.  This approach ran counter to most teachers, other parents and the secular worlds "expertise" but parenting is not a popularity contest.  We took this parenting philosophy right out of Scripture and still believe this is best way to raise kids.

7.  Behavior problems are never the real issue.

This holds true for kids, teenagers and adults alike.  Often behavior problems stem from underlying heart or character issues or unrepented sin that needs to be addressed more than behavior. Character issues are a function of the heart and exhibiting Fruit of the Spirit is often a thermometer to gauge a person's heart and motivations.  If heart and character traits are not made a priority in the home, modeled by parents and other mentors and if children are not held accountable for these traits, behavior issues will arise.  In my career field, we fire more people for character and heart issues than any other factor.  In Psychology and Counseling, I learned that many of the social, behavioral and psychiatric symptoms identified in the DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) can be directly correlated back to character and heart issues evidenced in Biblical Fruit of the Spirit. Unrepented sin often leads to bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness which are themselves also sins and bitter, resentful and unforgiving Christians often take their sin and poison others and situations with it. God commands us to forgive and to let go of bitterness and sin, regardless of the hurt or pain we feel.  We forgive and let go not to let others or sin off the hook, but to bless ourselves and to stay in close fellowship with God.  Not dealing with character, heart or sin issues early on in someone's life, merely postpones the consequences until college, marriage or later in life but eventually, the issue will have to be dealt with.

8.  Give Them More Responsibility and Accountability Earlier. 

Responsibility and accountability leads to maturity and growth.  We often spoon feed our kids in areas far too long and the longer we take to allow them to have responsibility, the longer it takes them to mature and realize they cannot do it alone and that they need Christ.  We started giving our kids choices and responsibility at around 2-3 years old.  They were taught to pick up toys, play fairly and behave appropriately.  As they grew, they learned to pick out appropriate clothes, manage money, cook their own food, take care of the house and yard work and they were responsible for their homework, grades and decisions.  When we set expectations, boundaries or limits with our children and they did not meet them, we did not freak out or nag our kids non-stop, we simply enforced consequences calmly and told our kids that this was the result of their decision.  We realized that our kids were still learning and we often showed them grace but if poor decisions or behavior became a habit, it was simply met with consistent consequences until the behavior changed or our children took responsibility for the area they were lacking in.

9. Struggles and Questioning of Faith Are Normal. 

If you have ever read my personal testimony, you know that I attended a private Christian school and grew up in the church but became a professing atheist in my early 20's. Part of the reason for this is that when I had struggles and questions of my faith, they were unanswered or met with answers like "you shouldn't ask or think those things."  However, struggling and questioning faith is a normal part of many people's spiritual journey and how we approach it as parents can make all the difference.  First, you need to be reading the Bible daily and your faith should be witnessed in your actions and life by your children. Second, I highly recommend you read a copy of "Expository Apologetics" by Voddie Baucham Jr. This book will teach you how to calmly welcome questions and criticism of Christianity, then explain logical answers using Scripture as the backbone.  You could also watch the film "The Case for Christ" as a family and discuss the topics.  I also like "The Christ Files" by John Dickson (also on DVD) which gives unbiased, academic, and peer-reviewed answers about what historians, archeology, anthropology and science really knows about Jesus of Nazareth and the early Christian church.  The bottom line is encouraging your children that these questions and struggles are normal and every Christian goes through them, some more than once.  Questioning often leads to greater research and eventually, stronger faith.

10. Do Your Best and Pray Daily.  

No parent is perfect nor should you attempt to be, you just get up each day, pray and do your best. Parenting is a perpetual balancing act between Truth and Grace—striving to find the balance between doing too much and doing too little, or giving consequences that are not too harsh but not too soft, either. Parenting is a times a roller coaster and other times a circus, we are often trying to balance several life areas all at once.  Christian parents need God and prayer more than ever and no matter how much you try, you cannot rush God's plan for your kids or the Holy Spirit moving and working in their lives. Rather than being reactive and focusing on behavior issues, perfect schedules, or the worlds measurements of success we often need to let go a little and let God work. Focus on areas that really matter in eternity - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, empathy, faithfulness and self-control. If you get these areas right, the rest all falls into place in God's timing.

Blessings

Lance

Overprotective Parents, Underdeveloped Children: Part 1

Overprotective parenting has run rampant in Christian circles during the past decade and every time I bring up this topic, I get slews of emails from parents who don't quite understand the topic but nonetheless disagree with me. I understand these parents are doing what they think is best, protecting their children from evil, but in the long run they are hurting their children.

The Legacy Dad Stages of Child/Parenthood

I was in search of two things: An authentic, Biblical parenting philosophy and a parenting philosophy that had a proven track record of producing children who become Spiritual Champions as adults. The reports that 50-70% of Evangelical Youth are leaving the church after high school send some red flags that our safety-conscious, academic achievement-focused, self-esteem-promoting, parenting philosophies are currently not working. I was searching for a philosophy that created a close bond with my children, while instilling Christian values and other life skills that matured their trust and faith in God. Quite often, we are focusing on the wrong fundamental areas or using incorrect methodology in order to raise children who grow up to follow Christ and reach the lost.  What we should be asking ourselves about the above statistic is what are the other 30% doing differently than you and I?

I wanted my children to grow up to become mature and experienced in the following areas:

Faith - Trust In God Morals and Values Leadership and Accountability Relationships and Ultimately Marriage Outward Oriented - Selflessness

LifemapBiblically, we call this Spiritual Maturity or Discipleship but I was confused on how to accomplish this as a parent and I needed a plan. I also wanted a process that was easy to integrate into our family - a road-map if you will - to follow and track my parenting process along the way.  I wanted my children to have benchmarks, rights of passage, to live and experience their values that would culminate in an adulthood ceremony, where my children were recognized and congratulated on their progress and reassured they were ready for the world.

I started by reading a bunch of books, both Christian and Non-Christian (Pediatricians, Child Psychologists and some of the most popular parenting programs out there).  Each one had its own unique area but nothing all-inclusive and many had no research or proven track records.  Plus, their was a lack of congruence between many of the best selling parenting books and popular programs. Many focused more on making parents lives easier but were not the best for our children's development.

Often popular parenting books and philosophies focus heavily on reforming behavior, controlling our children's environment, or even manipulating our children to comply or obey.  While this seems popular with the Over Protective Parenting Crowd – I wanted to raise children who make the right decision out of obedience and love for God and no matter what environment they find themselves in.  I don't want to raise children who are merely obedient to my rules and boundaries but children who learn and grow to have a change of heart, a heart for Christ and who bear Fruit of the Spirit.

So I decided to pray, conduct my own research, and come up with a unique Christian road map that met my goals yet was practical and Biblical. I called it Legacy Dad because I realized the eternal importance of my parenting process and that many of my parenting efforts (good and bad) would not materialize until years down the road.

This "Road Map" is a work in progress that I've refined over the past 10 years as my children went from toddlers to teenagers.

Legacy Dad is a program to mentor and guide your children (and you as parents) from birth to adulthood.  Legacy Dad researches the top methods and programs for attaining this type of mentorship and puts them into a personal, customizable parenting package to fit your individual parenting needs and style.

This is a fluid plan that is constantly being refined based on trial and error and these are actual examples of concepts we have used with our own children. With all these examples and suggestions, we are always thinking about grace and moderation not parenting to extremes. The concept is to teach these principles to your child by setting the example as the parent. Children will not learn without their parent’s example. Actions not words. Plus, these concepts must be reinforced during impromptu moments and situations that can arise at any time. There are many times each day that we find ourselves in situations to teach and model these traits to our children. You cannot cram these ideas on weekends or vacations. It takes daily interaction.

The ultimate goal of Legacy Dad is to create this in our children:

Security in their Hearts

Significance in their lives

Strength for the future

Essential Life Skills

Spiritual Morals as a Compass

The Foundation of Legacy Dad is Grace Based Parenting.

Grace Based Parenting:

  • Accepts Children regardless of their merit
  • Serves Children's needs without a sense of obligation
  • Motivates children to a higher holiness without condemnation

The following process outlines specific ages, goals and resources to use as a parent during this process.  These meet the two criteria (Biblical and Proven)

Phase I

Birth to 5 Years – Cognitive Development

Goals – Secure attachment to parents, Secure Love, Learning through Play, Empathy for others, Boundaries/Disciplinecogyears

Baby Dedication/Infant Baptism

Blessing Your Child - Dr. John Trent - Strong Families.com

Introduction to Church/Biblical Living – Church Attendance, Sunday School

Family Traditions – Begin annual family rituals – A week at a lake cabin, sponsoring a needy family at Christmas, Thanksgiving Day Blessings – The idea is to create family rituals that you do every year and thus creates security and memories.

Family Night - Once a week, have a dedicated family night for movies, games, sharing, etc.

Grace – Grace Based Parenting Small Group I - Create and maintain an atmosphere of grace, focus on meeting your children's three inner needs.  Start teaching love, acceptance and grace during play, school, friends, sports. – This is learned through action not words.

Phase II

5-12 Years – Elementary Years

Character Traits – Place Character traits as your top parenting priority (Integrity, Truthfulness, Love, Acceptance, Courage, and Selflessness)

Grace Based Parenting Small Group II – Build Character into their heart

Sex/Body - The Story of Me, Before I Was Born, What's The Big Deal

Your Child's Uniqueness/Spiritual Gifts/Creativity - The Kids-Flag-Page from Family Matter Ministry

FamnightFamily Night - Once a week, have a dedicated family night for movies, games, sharing, etc.

Money/Charity – Financial Peace Junior – Dave Ramsey - Weekly and Impromptu Giving, At age 12, give your children a checking account to manage and learn budgeting, savings and charity.

Boundaries – Curfew, Phones and Media

Teamwork - Team Sports and Activities, Sportsmanship, Selflessness, Determination, Perseverance (Don’t let your child quit or miss practices unnecessarily. Also, don't allow them to give only a mediocre effort)

Evangelism – Teach your child to uphold their values/beliefs around others, Invite friends to Church/Youth Group, Having friends over during meal times (Prayer)

Dating – Father/Daughter Dates/Dances - Mother/Son Dates/Dances – Explain and show your children how to act and treat the opposite sex, make it a memorable event. (Some schools, churches sponsor these events)

Age 10 – Allowing freedom of choice - clothes (modesty) hair styles, friends, activities. = Grace.  You are allowing your children to learn discernment and make mature choices from an early age.

Responsibility - Start giving your child more responsibility in multiple areas without overwhelming them.  When they struggle, let them fail and or accept natural consequences of not being responsible - missing homework, forgetting items, not meeting deadlines, etc.

As your child gets older, the amount of control by parents needs to loosen as the child learns and begins to make their own decisions and ultimately mistakes (natural consequences).  They will learn decision making and Biblical worldview with your support, mentorship and guidance and the help of other adults, pastors, grandparents in their lives.  It's better for your children to make mistakes and learn while they are still in your home than when they are in their 20's and the consequences become more severe.  

High_control_chart_2

Rite of passage -13-16 – Young Adult

As your child enters these ages, friends and social life will start becoming more and more important.  Many parents choose to disengage and allow friends to take the place of the family.  DO NOT let this happen!!  Keeping trying to engage (It’s not always easy) send them texts, tweets, Facebook messages, etc.  Continue to talk with them and be a part of their lives. Meet their friends, dates, teachers, coaches, etc.  Do not be discouraged.

Grace Based Parenting III – Aiming Your Child At True Greatness

Becoming a Young Adult – Teach Responsibility, Cooking, Cleaning, Houseworkmission, Employment

Father & Son Journey's Together - Take your son to Men's Events, Conferences, Weekend Retreats

Passport2Purity Weekend For Girls/Moms – Curriculum – Weekend at Resort, Cabin, Hotel

Family Night  - Once a week, have a dedicated family night for movies, games, sharing, etc.

Dating – Insist on meeting your children’s dates and making your children meet the parents of their dates. –Interviewing Your Daughters Date - For Daughters. Fathers talk to son’s about purity, responsibility and respecting boundaries.  What He Must Be For My Daughter - For Your Sons

Money - Generation Change –Dave Ramsey - Their own checking account, employment, paying for their own items and recreation.

Trust in God – Teaching your teens to trust the Lord for problems, challenges in life. Teach Prayer in times of struggle and in decision making, Help them overcoming a fear together (Roller Coaster, Bungee Jumping, Etc.)

EvangelismExplore Training (LifeReady) , Family Missions Trips, (e3 Missions)  Volunteering at your Church – Teaching younger kids or volunteering for a short term project.

Lance also added the following steps at this age:

Specific books to read developed for each child and their uniqueness and challenges that spark conversation and reinforce the core teachings. A Journal kept by your children to record this journey and their thoughts. An End of Phase Real World Test - Facing Your Fears, Serving Others, Leadership

High_control_chart_with_legacy_dad_

 

Age 16-18 – Preparing For Life/College

This stage is where your child is starting to take their own path in Life.  As parents, we need to support them but also influence and guide them subtly. Being too overbearing could cause your child to rebel.

(*Note -This area has less than the others because we have not finished this age group yet with our children.)

Manhood/Womanhood Ceremony– Age 16 – A significant event marking your son/daughters transition into adulthood.  Give them a special gift or family heirloom, Partner with Men’s/Women’s Ministry, Coaches, Grandparents, etc.  – See Raising A Modern Day Knight and Raising A Modern Day Princess  for more in depth info.

Family Night  - Once a week, have a dedicated family night for movies, games, sharing, etc.

Evangelism – Mission trips with youth group or peers, volunteering at church, teaching younger kids in church.

Intimate talks about college, options, marriage, dating.

Marriage Preparation

College Bound  - Senior Year HS – College Ready Small Group Curriculum from Life Ready

CR-Student_03

 

We are also developing resources for College and Beyond as well as specifics for Special Needs Children, Autism, Single Parents, etc.  - Please Check back for updates.

The ultimate goal of Legacy Dad is to create this in our children: 

Security in their Hearts

Significance in their lives

Strength for the future

Essential Life Skills

Spiritual morals as a Compass