Thursday, May 26, 2016

Are You Over Involved With Your Kids?

I'm reading a great parenting book that has really put some things in perspective for me. It's name is, Parenting By The Book Biblical Wisdom for Raising Your Child by John Rosemond.

John makes some good, common sense points in this book. I'll be sharing some of his points in other articles as well.

One of his most interesting (and unexpected) propositions is that most parents in modern America are over involved with their children. When I first read that idea it really cut against the grain of my thinking. As I read more about his point I began to agree.

John is a psychologist with many years of experience helping families. John would say his ideas aren't primarily based on what he learned in school. He would say his insights come from the bible and his experiences working with families. Much of what he says disagrees with what we, as parents, have been led to believe.

The question at hand is, "Are you as a parent over involved with your children?"

Here are some of John's points that relate to this question.

  • Ideas about how to parent children have changed over the last fifty years and the new ideas have made raising children harder.

In the old days, when your Grandma was a kid, her parents did not look at parenting as the all-consuming and complicated matter that is our modern view-point. In the 1960's we started listening to psychologists and other voices in academia who were writing very impressive sounding books about parenting.

The problem with their ideas is that they traded common sense simplicity for sophisticated psychobabble. Following the thinking of these so called experts parents began to worry about all the ways they might be messing up their children. Parents began taking their kids down the road toward  diagnosis, therapy sessions and medication. (Yes, I realize these things are sometimes needed.)

No wonder we're so  paranoid! No wonder parenting seems like a ball-and-chain! No wonder we feel like we have to micro-manage our kids!

You can see how this kind of over-thinking the whole parenting thing can lead to over-involvement.

  • The popular belief that behavior modification techniques can be used to train children in the same way they can be used to train animals  has many parents trying to discipline their children by a complicated process of rewards and consequences. 
 Behavior modification is the idea that if you reward your children for positive actions and punish them for negative actions they will learn the appropriate behaviors you are trying to reinforce and cease from unwanted behaviors.

Hey, if it works for rats it should work for kids...right? Not necessarily. In his book John points out:
"Unlike animals, human beings possess free will: We are capable of resisting the power of consequences...Unlike animals humans are rebellious by nature, something animals are not. Humans are the only species that regularly engages in acts of self-destruction."
The biggest problem with behavior modification is that it puts almost all the responsibility for the child's behavior on the parents shoulders. Moms and Dads feel that if they can apply the right combination of rewards and punishment everything will be fine. It ends up being the parents who are trying to jump through the right hoops.

Once again...No wonder we have become so over-involved with our kids.
  • Developing your child's self-esteem has become a major focus for parenting. This keeps parents scrambling to ensure their child's success.
When grandma was a kid her parents did not agonize over her self-esteem or her success. Her parents just wanted to raise a child with enough good character to become a good citizen.

In our modern culture parents spend untold hours trying to boost their children's self-esteem. Think about it. We are determined to keep our children from failing because we think it will upset their sensitive feelings.

We try to guarantee their success by micromanaging many aspects of their lives such as sports, homework, social interactions, etc. I know many parents who are worn out from all the activity of promoting their kids self-esteem.

Can you see the over-involvement in all this?

Want to hear something about people with high self-esteem that will blow your mind? From John's book, here are some results from a long term study on people with high self-esteem.
"...wife abusers have generally high self-esteem, as do child abusers, people known for frequent episodes of road rage, and inner-city gang members."
"...hard-core criminals--People locked up in maximum-security prisons--score higher on self-esteem assessments than any other group."
Not what we want for our children!!!

In summary: We as parents are not the "Be all" or "Do all" for our children. Let's stick with the simplicity of parenting, to the best of our abilities, without smothering them with too much control.

 If you would like to improve your parenting Spout Springs Church offers a program designed to teach Moms and Dads how to apply biblical principles to your family.
Family Life Coaching
For more information contact Tim Gibson: or 910-986-4736

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

I Can't Stand My Marriage! What Should I Do?

Yep, it happens to almost all of us. We come to a place where our marriage feels completely unbearable.

How hard can it get?

A missionary friend of mine, Joshua Paul, wrote about his experience in his book, Comfort or Cross.

 "The toughest years of my life were the first five years of my marriage... I tried to please my wife the best I could so that I could have peace in the house..." 

"...not a day passed without a fight. Let me be honest how bad it got--I wanted to be dead, rather than continue in marriage. My wife felt the same way. Life was intolerable!"

"I feared that my failure at marriage would forever scar my children and make them mistrust marriage."

How hard can marriage can get? "I wanted to be dead." That's how hard it can get! 

My friend is happily married now (to the same woman) and a dynamic follower of Christ. What was it that saved his marriage and ministry from complete disaster?

Was it professional counseling? Nope. Was it a time of separation? Nope. Listen to what he says in his book about what healed his troubled marriage.

"But one night, in the sixth year of our marriage, a miracle happened. Our son Jack Davis was almost two years old, and my wife and I were having our regular evening exchange of angry words. Suddenly, little Jack said, "Daddy, let's pray together." He pushed my neck and my wife's neck down in an attitude of prayer, and with his little, cute words he asked all of us to pray. Our whole family knelt down and prayed together for a few minutes then we all went to bed in peace."

 "...we had never sat together and prayed as a family. Friends, we started family prayer that night and continue that practice to this day. The nightly fights between my wife and me are over. Now our fight is only against the enemy of our souls, and we are joined together in that fight. This is a great and lasting victory in our household."

"...we were practically ready to commit murder or suicide or be divorced. Everything changed because we started to pray together as a family."

As someone who counsels couples with marital struggles I often look for more sophisticated answers before considering the obvious. I have to wonder how many marriages could be saved if couples would humbly kneel down together and unite their hearts in prayer?

Of all the activities that we as Christians can participate in, it seems to me that prayer should be at the top of our list. Personal and family prayer time help connect us to God. Jesus certainly emphasized prayer in his teachings and by his example. 

It follows that if we want healthy marriages we should seek God and His blessings through family prayer. How simple! How powerful!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Five Keys To Successful Parenting

Hundreds of books have been written about how to best parent your children. The ones I have read had some really good ideas.

But I'm the kind of guy who likes to boil things down to the basics. I love a good bullet point! Through many years of working with families some of the essential  components of good parenting have come to the surface over and over.

If I could advise parents I would recommend they put maximum effort into the following five areas: 

     1.  Pursue a healthy relationship with your spouse by making a firm commitment to your marriage. 

When parents don't get along with each other it creates havoc for the children. Divorce is tough on kids and so is having parents who fuss and fight a lot. Even worse than the arguing is the nonverbal pouting, sulking and seething. I'm amazed at how many parents I meet who seem to have given up on working together as partners. Our kids pay the price.

I'm not saying it's easy, but if you want to raise emotionally healthy kids get busy making your marriage work. Remember, your kids won't be better off if you split up. They'll be better off if they see you prioritizing your marriage and learning to give unconditional love and respect to your spouse.

I'm already divorced. Don't let yourself be paralyzed by regrets from your past. As a Christian who believes in a forgiving and merciful God I can always move forward from past failures. Don't let your past define you. Move on with a renewed commitment to do things God's way.

If your spouse is still in the picture don't let your personal animosity control your decisions in regard to the kids. I have seen divorced couples work together for the best interest of their children and this greatly reduces the negative impact of the split.

I'm a single parent. I always tell single parents not to rush back into marriage thinking that will make everything okay. It doesn't always turn out that way. I've seen families devastated by desperate moms who feel they can't function without a husband.

Before you decide to remarry you should resolve to take personal responsibility for your family starting right now. If you take it one day at a time you can find the strength and resources to parent your children. 

My marriage is in crisis. It's very important that you don't see yourself as having to figure everything out by yourself. You have options. You can get counseling from a professional or from a Pastor. Even opening up to a mature person whom you trust may lead to getting the direction you need to improve your marriage. My point is, find help. Don't let guilt and shame push you into isolation.

 My wife would agree when I say that we have had plenty of rough spots in our marriage. I have said, only half jokingly, "We have never threatened each other with divorce but we have threatened each other with murder".

We are together after 27 years because we keep working at it and because we understand the importance of keeping our promises to each other. The wreckage a split would leave behind is not acceptable to us. Our vows were made in the presence of a God who always keeps His promises. As much as possible we want to be like Him! 

     2.  Provide your children with tender touch.

Some parents do this naturally but for some it takes a special effort. If you grew up in a home where verbal praise, hugs and other forms of affirmation were absent you may have some difficulty in this area. It's a challenge to give to others what you did not receive.

The good news is, whether you feel like it or not, you can choose to give your kids what they need. Are you paying attention to your kids? Don't let the TV, hobbies or video games take priority over your connection with your children.

Your children may not be able to express it in words but they intuitively know where they stand in regard to your priorities. You want them to see you "pursuing" a close relationship with them.
  •  Let each of them know how they are special. 
  • Give each a little eye to eye time everyday.
  • Show appreciation of good behavior so it's not all about correction.
  • Talk to them about things they are interested in.
  • Share your heart with them.
  • Plan family memories.
  • Celebrate birthdays and other special days with enthusiasm.
I'm not talking about a huge time commitment with these points. Just a little positive attention everyday can make a big difference. 
Can tender touch be overdone? Yes! This comes with a warning. I have seen moms who were emotionally enmeshed with their children in a very unhealthy way. If you are getting your own emotional needs  met by smothering your kids with physical affection you need to get help. Find someone to counsel you about your emotional security issues.

One more warning. You don't want your kids to think you only love and accept them when they perform well. Let them know you appreciate their efforts even when they may not meet your personal expectations. Children with perfectionist parents often develop defense mechanisms that result in a rebellious attitude or low performance.

I didn't grow up in what I would consider an affectionate family. Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely thankful for my parents but I doubt either of them received much tender touch when they were little. I wanted to break that cycle.  I'm not perfect in this area but I believe I have passed something different to my five children. You can too!

     3. Set the firm limits your child needs. 

By definition children are inexperienced, immature and to some degree, dependent on their parents. That means we as parents must be careful to set appropriate limits for our kids at the various stages of development.

In our modern American culture we have become extremely passive about the limits we set. I see kids pushing there way around the family as though they are in charge.  Preteens and young teens are diving into behaviors they are too immature to handle responsibly.

My questions are: Where are the parents?  Whose in charge? Does anyone care enough to say no? Have we lost the will to fight for our kids?

It seems to me that parents used to be a lot more comfortable with the idea of setting boundaries and enforcing them. We need to set aside our fears and be determined to look out for the best interest of our children.

 If you saw your toddler running toward a busy highway you wouldn't just sit there. Even if it meant tackling them and inflicting some serious scrapes, bumps and bruises you would do everything possible to keep them out of harms way. We need that same attitude about other dangerous paths that our children try to take.

 The most dangerous path that a kid can go down is the path of disobedience. If Johnny won't listen to you he's most likely headed for big trouble in life. So that's one of our first jobs as parents. We've got to teach those little hard headed, whipper snappers to listen. This job won't get easier so start bending their will while they are little.

Some keys to firm limits:
  • Be together with your spouse about what the limits are and what the consequences for disobedience will be. Just taking time to discuss these issues with your spouse can strengthen your marriage!
  • Be quick to support your spouse when there is a discipline issue. If you disagree with your spouse about how they are handling a situation support their intentions anyway. Get together later, away from the kids, to discuss your differences and come to agreement. Remember, you're on the same team. Don't undermine each other.
  • Never punish a child for something that is not disobedience. Kids mess up just because they are kids.
  • Most kids don't respond all that favorably to punishment so try to avoid the role of "punisher".
  • Look for natural consequences that will make perfect sense to the child. (You misused your phone privileges so you lose your phone for a week.)
  • Avoid lecturing and arguing. Taking appropriate action with little talk is always better.
  • Talk to your child, from time to time, without lecturing about the kind of relationship you want to have with him/her.
  • Be consistent. Being firm with limits is not something you can do only when you feel like like it. Probably the biggest barrier to setting firm limits is good old fashioned laziness.
"But Tim, I'm a single mom. Can I make this work for me?" Yes! The single parents I know who are successful with parenting found a way to set firm limits for their kids.

Some of them just had that "don't mess with me man" kind of attitude. Some of them didn't like the whole discipline thing but they did it because no one else was going to do it for them. Some found help from extended family members or others outside the family.

Can firm limits be carried to far? Of course. The best way to keep things in perspective is to ask yourself these two questions.

"Am I setting and enforcing this limit for the best interest of my child?"
"Am I acting with self control?"

Enforcing boundaries with your kids is usually unpleasant work. If you have anger issues you will need to be very careful about how you do this. Honestly, I'm naturally too selfish to want to deal with the hassle. But I have experienced a Heavenly Father who goes to a lot of trouble to steer me in a good direction. I don't want to give my children anything less.

    4. Teach your children personal responsibility.

 I think we all agree that our main goal in parenting is to produce confident, competent and caring adults. And...we want to get the job done before they're twenty five. The only way this can happen is if our kids learn personal responsibility.

When you have a little baby to care for the personal responsibility is all yours. That baby cannot meet a single need on it's own. As your child develops he should gradually be learning things that make him more responsible for his own well being. Much of what is learned by young kids is simply by observing and imitating their parents.

A wise parent however, will pay careful attention to how their offspring are developing in this area. I fear that many of us neglect to train our children in this area. It's tempting to think they will learn everything they need at school. So, whose job is it to teach your children responsibility?

If your child ends up going away to college before learning valuable life skills you may end up wishing you had gone to more trouble while he was younger. Without a foundation of personal responsibility many young people fall into hurtful lifestyles. Johnny may end up back on your doorstep unable to cope with life in the real world.

So, what should we be teaching our kids? Here's a partial list of life skills you should consider. They won't learn these at school.
  •  Household chores of all types. These are important since they help your child take responsibility for the family environment. When he has his own family he'll be ready.
  •  Setting "big picture" goals and developing strategies to reach them. "Where do you want to be in 5 years?" If you've ever met a young person who does this you remember how impressed you were.
  • Conflict resolution. I don't know many adults who do this well. We should all learn this skill and teach it to our children.
  • How to handle social interactions of all kinds. Start early and it won't be as difficult.
  • How to handle failure in a constructive way. People who can learn from failure usually become the most successful. 
  • The ability to complete tasks and have a good work ethic. This will put your child ahead of others in the job market.
  • How to be a good marriage partner. 
  • In Christian homes the kids should be taught to put their relationship with Jesus at the top of their priority list.
As you can see, these are life skills that will help your kids become responsible adults. This area will require a bit more of a time commitment then the other two. The investment will be worth it! 

     5.  Balance the last three points so you are giving equal emphasis to each of these areas. 

"Okay Tim, what are you talking about?"

Our three points are:
  1. Providing tender touch
  2. Setting firm limits
  3. Teaching personal responsibility

Here's the deal. If you emphasize any one or two of these points more than any other, your parenting will be out of balance. Like a three legged stool it just doesn't work unless all three things are of equal length.

Think about it. Haven't you met the parent who gave plenty of tender touch but was lousy with firm limits or weak with expecting personal responsibility? What happens to the kids? Even with all that affection they usually end up disrespecting the parents.

What about the parent who is Mr. Drill Sargent. He demands compliance but doesn't give the kids the tender touch they need. The kids usually rebel against such authority because the tender touch aspect is missing.

What about the parents who fail to expect personal responsibility from their children. It doesn't matter how much tender touch you provide or how firm you are with limits. If you haven't required the kids to take responsibility for themselves they end up being somewhat dysfunctional.

If you can figure out how to balance your parenting in the areas of tender touch, firm limits and personal responsibility your children will feel loved by you in a most secure way. Many dysfunctions in families and in children result from a lack of balance in parenting.

So what is your style? How is your balance? We all have our own unique tendencies.

Contact Tim and he will email you a copy of a survey to help you identify important characteristics of your parenting.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Setting Firm Limits For Your Kids

 Should we expect them to obey?

If you ever want to stir up an argument just get a few parents in one room and bring up the topic of discipline or strictness. You are likely to hear vastly different opinions. I'm not talking about weakly held opinions. You may see some lips curling and nostrils flaring. (If a fist fight breaks out call 911!)

Some take the side of strictness and believe in exerting lots of control over their kids. Others, think their children should make their own choices and obedience is not really mandatory.

Most of us have questioned..."Am I being too strict with my kids?" or..."Am I being too permissive?"
Let me start by saying...

I have no doubt that our modern American culture has leaned too far in the direction of permissiveness.

 Parents often feel guilty if they try setting firm limits for their children. We are expected to always "be nice" to our kids. "Don't get angry"...Don't yell"...and for goodness sake "Don't spank."

There are a small percentage out there who are overly strict and controlling. Honestly, I haven't met many in this category. I have met far more whose parenting is overly passive.


So...what is Setting Firm Limits all about?

Setting firm limits is helping your children understand there are certain boundaries that are not optional. In the same way that guard rails on a highway help keep cars in a safer zone of operation firm limits help keep your children from drifting into areas that could wreak their lives.

Many parents build a fence around their yard or play area for their kids. The fence creates a safer living space than the rest of the neighborhood. Parents should learn to use firm limits to create a safety zone for their offspring.

So lets think of firm limits as a fence. There are two main considerations. First, what will you keep outside the enclosure? Second, how strong will your fence be?


What should be outside the enclosure?


Mom's and dads need to discuss issues which they consider important to the well being of their children's future. What "bad" paths do you want your children to avoid?

I have five beautiful daughters. We live in a culture that prizes beauty and gives special favor to those who possess it. But physical beauty has many pitfalls. My wife and I set a few firm limits about clothing and modesty. We considered burkas but didn't go that far.

As a parent have you given thought to things that you want to protect your children from?

God's number one command to children is "Obey your parents...". Children who obey their parents are safer and more successful in life than those who are disobedient.

The path of disobedience leads a child down a difficult and dangerous path. Have you made obedience a firm limit for your kids? "No" means "No" is a good place to start.

How strong is your fence?


No matter what dangers you try to help your children avoid, if your fence isn't strong enough you won't be able to protect them. Some children are very compliant but some will hammer away at the fence until they can get to the supposed freedom outside your fence.

 Consider the following questions:
  •  Have you explained the importance of obedience to your kids?
  • Do you require them to obey the first time?
  • Do you have a plan for consequences if your child persists in disobedience?
  • Are you and your spouse "together" on the expectation for obedience?
  • Do you and your spouse support each other when your children disobey?
  • Do you give in to your kids because it's too hard to get them to obey?
  • Do you allow your child to manipulate you with temper tantrums?
It takes a lot of determination for Mom's and Dad's to set strong limits for their children. Getting started early is crucial. If your toddler is out of control what do you think the teen years are likely to hold? Start bending that little sapling while it is small. When the tree has grown bigger it will be almost impossible to bend in the direction you want.

 Don't forget to balance your parenting.


Setting firm limits is just one aspect of good parenting. Don't forget to balance it with providing tender touch and teaching personal responsibility. Kids don't respond appropriately to firm limits if the other aspects are not equally emphasized.

Right now some of you are probably wondering about spanking. I'll talk about that in my next article. Dr. Phil says no. I only partly agree. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Providing The Tender Touch Your Children Need

Those of you who are familiar with my ramblings know that I promote a balanced approach to parenting that includes three main areas. Setting Firm Limits - Providing Tender Touch - Teaching Personal Responsibility.

So far I have focused on Setting Firm Limits. Now I'm going to address the crucial task of Providing Tender Touch.

For some of you (mostly dads) just the mention of "tender touch" produces a slight cringe. I can relate.

I'm fifty five years old and I still remember, as a young child, the first time I saw a father kiss his son on the face. This just wasn't done in my family and all I could think was, "How weird!" It shouldn't have seemed like a strange thing to me but it did because it was outside the context of my experience.

Many of our parenting tendencies spring from our experiences and how we were parented. Some of us have to make an effort to show affection to our kids because we did not experience it as children. For other parents it's perfectly natural.

This topic does come with a warning. I have met parents who smother their children with "unnatural" or "inappropriate" affection. These parents are usually struggling emotionally and are trying to get their own needs met. 

This can be damaging to the children and it warps the child-parent relationship. It's important that displays of affection be age appropriate and have healthy limits of duration.

Keep in mind that physical affection is only one small part of Providing Tender Touch. you provide the tender touch your children need?

Don't agonize over how you were raised or spend a lot of time trying to figure out why you are the way you are. The main thing to consider is this; "Am I willing to give my kids the kindness and encouragement they need to be emotionally healthy?"

What Is Tender Touch?


For our purposes as parents, tender touch is:  
The caring expression of our affection and affirmation both physically and verbally to our children.

How Should I Express Tender Touch To My Children?

1. Pursue a close relationship by getting to know them on a deep level

There are lots of daughters and sons who are lonely and depressed because they are emotionally distant from their parents. Find ways to "engage" with your kids. You don't have unlimited opportunities so don't put this off. Many older parents, especially men, have deep regrets about the lack of relationship they shared with their young children. Don't be one of those! 

We as parents need to analyze our priorities and figure out what we may be putting above our children. Sometimes it's big stuff like our work or ministry. Sometimes its little stuff like TV, video games, sports or hobbies. 

Ask yourself: What kind of relationship do I want with my children? Am I willing to invest my time and energy into them?

2. Spend "eye to eye" time with each child everyday 

We live in an age of distractions. We can be sitting in the same room with our children and maybe even have a little conversation with them and still not really make contact with them in a meaningful way.

If you're anything like me you will need to be very deliberate about getting "eye to eye" with your kids and making a connection that says I truly care about you.

 3. Give Your children a daily dose of physical affection


 Sometimes you may have to force the issue. One of my daughters started acting like she was allergic to me. I had two choices. I could refrain from physical affection or I could just continue on despite her protest. I continued on even though my reward was usually a grunt or groan of resistance. Over time she seems to be out growing her allergy.

A dad once told me that his son had became resistant to fatherly hugs. At first he thought he should back off. Later he decided to go ahead with daily hugs. His son soon responded by reciprocating and now initiates hugs. It has been a great benefit to their relationship.

In certain blended families step parents may need to be a little more careful. If you haven't been with them since they were babies or if the biological father is still involved you should not expect to get full permission for physical affection. Don't walk on egg shells but keep your demonstrations of affection mild. Quick side squeezes, pats on the back and high fives are usually acceptable to a step child.

4. Build your children's confidence with verbal affirmation

It's so easy to get in a negative rut and only talk to your children about the things they need to improve upon. We dads are especially guilty in this area. We have good intentions. We want our children to be successful so we start looking to critic them. We see ourselves as "fixers".

Here's the deal. When most of what our children hear from us is negative we are eroding their self worth and confidence. Instead of leading them toward success, they may decide they can never be good enough.

More importantly, what kind of relationship does a child have with a parent who they can never please? We all know from personal experience that criticism repels and praise attracts.

We as parents need to commit ourselves to noticing our children's positive characteristics. We need to offer more affirmation than correction. The bible says that all humans are created in the image of God. We should take that into consideration when we talk to our children.

The bible also says that our tongues have great power. We can curse our children by what we say or we can bless them.

A good goal for every parent (and a challenging one) is ten praises for every correction. If it's true that we reap what we sow we will eventually get back what we put into our children. 

5. Plan family memories and fun times


This part of family life can be overlooked or underrated. It's unwise to underestimate the value of shared family experiences. I'm talking about activities that we as parents orchestrate for the enjoyment and benefit of our families.

My family has always enjoyed living in the country. We enjoy hiking and exploring the woods. We've taken a few camping trips. Those are some of our best memories.

Campfires have also been a theme for us. I love grilling meat over a wood fire. Dessert is great too. We have kept Nabisco (Graham Crackers), Hershey (Chocolate Bars) and Jet Puff (Marshmallows) in business for the last twenty five years. Smores are a beautiful thing and so is family time around a campfire!

Kids NEED to have fun and they NEED to have adventure. Don't be afraid to include some element of challenge in your experiences. A rainy tent camping trip will have some discomfort but the memories will last a life time.

Find ways to make it happen. When your children have families of their own they will still be telling stories about their childhood experiences.

Why shared family experiences are so important:

  •  Family members are forced into interaction and teamwork.
  • Relationships among family members have a chance to deepen.
  • Memories from these experiences will be a bonding agent for your family for many years.
  • You can learn things about your kids you could not learn otherwise.
  • You will create opportunities for fun.

    Parents should make the most of birthdays. This is a good chance to celebrate your child and make them feel special. Party down baby!

    Celebrating holidays is another way to add fun and memories to your children's lives. This doesn't happen without effort.

    Most families have one holiday that is their big deal. I recommend developing at least one family tradition for every major holiday. We cook a turkey in the ground every Thanksgiving. It's hard work but our kids love getting up in the middle of the night to feed the fire.

    They can hardly imagine Thanksgiving without our traditional "turkey-in-the-hole". You can imagine how this is a bonding experience that adds tender touch to their family experience.

    In Conclusion:

    Providing Tender touch - Setting Firm Limits - Teaching Personal Responsibility are like the three legs of a stool. If the legs are the same length the stool works just fine but if one or two legs are too short or too long you won't be able to sit steady.

    Don't give your children an overdose of Tender Touch while neglecting the other areas. Conversely, don't neglect this area while over emphasizing the others. Balance is the key to parenting success.



    Monday, January 11, 2016

    Teaching Personal Responsibility To Your Children

    How do I help my kids grow into responsible adults?


    As parents, most of us would agree that raising our children to become mature, responsible, self-directed individuals is a major priority.

    When Little Johnny has become "Big John" and is 25 years old, you don't really want him free loading at your house because he still hasn't learned enough personal responsibility to make it in the real world.

    Don't get me wrong. There are some legitimate reasons why it could be okay for your adult children to live at home. The thing is, you don't want to be wondering if you have done your part as a parent to prepare them for the rigors and responsibilities of adult life.

    You start with a helpless baby for whom you are 100 percent responsible. By the time they're 18 you hope they can leave home and stand on their own two feet. That gives you plenty of time to invest into their training.

    Let's begin by considering what we want our finished product to look like.

    Marks of a responsible adult

    • Self motivated
    • Goal and priority driven
    • Learns from failures
    • Values relationships and treats others with respect
    • Can postpone immediate gratification for future success
    • Follows appropriate authority
    • Dependable worker
    • Can accept correction/criticism 
    • Able to keep commitments
    • Can put the interests of others above own interests
    • Knows how to resolve conflict with others
    • Self evaluates
    • Financially adept
    Wow! That's an intimidating list. But don't you want these things for your kids?

    So...How do we take our children from helpless infant to personally responsible adult? 

    1.  Parents set the example. Much of what our children learn will come from what they see in us. (Things are really getting scary now!) Our children don't reflect all of our characteristics but they do reflect a great deal of them.

    Take a personal inventory and discuss with your spouse how each of you are doing in the areas above. Be honest and be quick to make corrections as needed. Remember, "They're watching."
    2.  Teach your children to accept responsibility for their actions. I know adults who have never matured to the point where they can "own up" to their own shortcomings. That's not what we should want for our kid's.

    Don't be the parent who rushes to the school hell bent on defending their child who just got in trouble for misbehaving. I liked my parents approach. They let me and my siblings know that if we caused any problems at school we were in real trouble when we got home.

    Parents can start at a very early age training junior to admit when he is wrong and teaching him to make restitution as needed. If your child learns to say, "I'm sorry, I was wrong", with even a small measure of sincerity, it will be huge for their development toward becoming a responsible adult.

    3.  Set high but realistic expectations for your kids. Expectations will, of course, depend on the age and abilities of the child. It's important not to shoot to low.

    Some home school moms teach their children the responsibilities associated with family life beginning at an early age. When you see a 9 year old cheerfully and competently assisting mom (or dad) with cooking supper it can be an eye opener!

    You can begin establishing expectations for your kids at a very early age.

    Ask yourself if you have an appropriate level of expectation for your child in the following areas:
    • Personal hygiene
    • Cleaning up after himself
    • Regular household and lawn chores
    • Participation with family projects
    I recently talked to a mom who had raised a special needs child. He is now a well adjusted adult even though he has some limitations. She described to me how she didn't like to treat her special needs child much different than her other children. Had she set lower expectations for her son she would have handicapped him more than necessary.

    Parents who do a good job in this area don't seem to look at it as a chore. Teaching life skills to their kids is considered an opportunity. They have fun with it while building a close relationship with their children.

    It is possible to place unreasonable expectations on your children. This will discourage them and end up making them bitter. Keep your expectations within practical limits.  

    4.  Teach your child to value others. Selfishness is one of the biggest enemies we face in life. We all struggle with this nasty affliction. Biblically speaking, it's part of our fallen nature.

    You can't spank the selfishness out of a child. Only God has the remedy for his one. Jesus paid a high price to set us free from our bondage to self.

    So what can we as parents do for our children in this area? We can instill in them the truth that others have equal value and should be treated so.

    This is a huge part of teaching personal responsibility. If our kids think they are the center of the universe they will never relate properly to others. They will not act responsibly when it comes to their relationships.

     I sometimes meet parents who are training their children to be selfish, brats. They don't mean to. They would never say, "I've always wanted a little brat!" But, they turn their children into brats by allowing them to act selfishly and disrespectfully.

    A parent who lets their child disregard them is sending some strong messages. "You don't have to value me." "You should demand your own way." "It's okay if you mistreat others."

    Ask yourself:
    • Have I taught my child to play fair and to share?
    • Have I taught my child to speak respectfully to myself and others? 
    5.  Require your children to follow through with commitments. This will be a determining factor in how well your child will handle adulthood. There isn't much responsible living outside commitment.

    Think of all the things in life that require commitment. Marriage, college, job and financial discipline are some of the biggies. Without the ability to make firm, lasting commitments our children will fall short of success in many areas as adults.

    The big question is...How does a parent impart the importance of commitments to their children? Here are three suggestions.
    • Starting at a young age help them complete whatever they start. For small children it might be picking up all their toys. Later on, it may be completing the football season even though it's harder than they thought.
    • Teach them that completing a difficult commitment is good training for life. Have discussions with them about commitments that will shape their future. If your kids "give up" easily they will be faced with much failure in life. 
    • Sometimes your children will make commitments hastily without considering what it will cost them. Part of responsible living is setting priorities and choosing wisely what you will dedicate yourself to. Teach your children to carefully weigh decisions about major commitments.
    Teaching your children responsibility will pay big dividends. Big John won't be eating all of your potato chips and hogging the remote control if he has been required to take personal ownership of his life.

    Don't forget to balance the three key areas of parenting emphasis. Teaching Personal Responsibility - Providing Tender Touch - Setting Firm Limits.        

    Sunday, January 10, 2016

    To Spank Or Not To Spank?

    Spanking has become somewhat of a debate in America. In some parts of the country spanking is regarded as "old fashioned" and "outdated". Here in the south, where I live, it is still mostly accepted as a legitimate form of discipline.

    Where do I stand on the spanking debate? I've decided that, clearly, I did not get enough "tail whippings" when I was little. (Just ask my wife.) It wasn't my parents fault. I was a master at flying under the radar. 

    When my dad decided to "warm" my "heinie" I got it with a belt. He always made it count. I never walked away saying, "I don't think he's all that serious about this." I walked away knowing that a boundary had been set that I wasn't supposed to cross.

    As a side note: Yes, heinie is a real word. Look it up on for a few laughs.

    When my mom decided I needed my bottom smacked she used a wood kitchen spoon. Which was worse, the belt or the spoon, you may ask? I will just say that both were equally effective.
    Well, I could just go on forever about the old days but that would be embarrassing.

    Questions you may have about spanking.

    Should all parents spank their children?

    No! There are moms and dads who should not. Certain kinds of problems can make corporal punishment risky. 

    For example, if you have anger/rage issues you should find other forms of discipline. Substance abuse is another red flag. If you are impaired by any kind of mind altering medication you need to consider not spanking.

    If you cannot measure out physical punishment with self control and a clear head just don't do it. There are other options.

    When should I spank?

    • When there is willful disobedience.
    • When you have been clear that such behavior requires punishment.
    • When the child is old enough to understand.
    • When it won't embarrass the child in front of others.
    • While the child is young and before he is set in his ways.
    • As soon as possible after the infraction. (Delays are sometimes unavoidable.)
    • When a lesser penalty won't work.
    • When you are in control of your own attitude and actions.
     Parents should keep in mind that every child is different. You may have one that is so strong willed that spanking doesn't work. You'll have to find other ways to bend his will. Another child may be so sensitive to your displeasure that it takes only a small scolding to redirect his behavior.

    The best age range for spanking is between 1 and 5 years old. If you teach your children at an early age to obey it is better than waiting until they are older and less bendable.

     How should I spank?

    Try to avoid using your hands to swat your children. Save those for positive touches.

    We have yet to find a better spanking target than the butt cheeks. It's a safe place to apply a little discomfort.

    When they are little you should use a light weight and preferably flexible implement such as a fly swatter. All you want is enough "sting" to say, "I mean what I say."

    Do not spank repetitively. When parents consistently yell at their kids it soon losses its affect. Physical punishment is the same.

    Before you apply physical punishment get down to eye level and briefly explain why it is necessary for you to discipline them. Help them understand that you don't enjoy spanking them. Let them know it is for their training.

    Afterwards, take a minute to talk with your child about the kind of relationship you want with them and how they can avoid punishment in the future.

    Wrapping Up


    No form of discipline works if the parents are not supportive of each others efforts. Kids seem to have "radar" when it comes to this point. They just seem to know when their parents are in disagreement. 

    One contentious parent can destroy all efforts at raising obedient children. Ask yourself: Am I working together with my spouse in matters of discipline?

     When you take time to be deliberate about your discipline you are communicating some  important messages to your child. 
    • I care about my relationship with you.
    • I have your best interest in mind.
    • We are in this together.
    • Learning to obey is crucial.
    • You can count on me to guide you in a safe direction.
     As Christians we need to understand that it is not possible to spank the sinful nature out of a child. Only Jesus can take care of that. 

    More than anything you can do for your offspring...are you trusting God to work in their lives? Are you praying for them? Are you praying with them?