7 Ways We Tried To Parent with Grace

By | Children, Family, Parenting | 10 Comments

Cheryl and I had a model for our parenting.

Whenever I say that to people they hear “complicated”. It wasn’t. We aren’t complicated people.

Simply put, we attempted to implement grace into our home.

Our boys are now grown, and one has children of his own, and we have seen the fruit from our methods. We have two amazing sons. They love Jesus, they serve others, and they respect their parents. (And, they are self-supported. That’s a good thing.)

Our heart is now to help other parents learn from things we did wrong and things we did right.

Grace-based parenting is one thing I believe we did right.

For an easy definition: Grace-based parenting attempts to parent children the way God parents us — by grace.

It makes sense to me that if God leads us by grace we should lead our children by grace. I read in the Scriptures that grace teaches, graces protect, grace encourages, and grace redeems. Grace even disciplines and corrects.

Oh, the power of grace.
We are not under the law — but grace.

Grace-based parenting does not mean we let our children do whatever they want to do. It doesn’t mean there were no rules in my house. (My boys would say Amen to the last sentence.) It didn’t mean we released them to sin.

The apostle Paul dealt with these same concerns regarding grace-based living. (Romans 6:1-2)

To the contrary, I actually believe grace-parenting has led to a stronger walk with the Lord for each of the boys. They are now young men, honoring Christ (and their parents) with their lives.

Basically with grace-based parenting we had some basic principles with which we parented. We considered these often.

Here are 7 ways to parent with grace:

Set clear boundaries.

Children need to know what is expected of them and what the limits are in the home. They will test these — primarily because they intrinsically want to know how real they are. When they do, enforce the boundaries, but do it with grace.

For example, one of these boundaries for us was respect. My boys could speak openly and honestly about anything with us — anything — but I expected them to respect Cheryl and me in the way they responded and talked to us. Another solid boundary was honesty. Punishment was more severe if they did wrong and lied about it than if they confessed.

Recognize the individuality of the child.

You can’t parent all children the same and expect the same results. Some children require more structure than others do. Make sure the boundaries set are appropriate for the needs of the child.

One of our boys needed more structure than the other boy. His boundaries had to be more defined. He also needed illustrations to help explain to him the boundaries. The other boy just needed a clear destination — a path for him. He would get there in his own way.

Have certain goals.

I am not sure our boys ever knew, but we had goals for them every year for improvement.

For example, we concentrated on building their patience. We tried to encourage more honesty in them. Basically, we talked about where we saw our boys — what we saw they needed — and together we planned an intentional effort. That was grace to them — as we intentionally imparted truth into them by stories, Scripture and by example — even when they just thought we were throwing a ball together.

Major on the majors, not the minors.

This is huge. There should be some things, which everyone understands are non-negotiable items. We tended to let these be moral or Biblical issues, such as lying, cheating, disrespect, etc. If the issue affects the child’s character then it is a major issue. These major issues are handled sternly and thoroughly.

Of course, they are still handled with love, but we made sure the boys knew we were very serious about them. The minor issues — those which do not affect the child’s character, are not to be ignored, but can be handled less severely. Leaving clothes on the floor or forgetting to take out the trash may feel “major” at the time, but it isn’t likely going to help determine who they are as a person years from now. This will eliminate much of the “nagging” children often feel parents do.

Consider the heart.

We always tried to determine the reasons behind our boy’s actions before deciding on discipline. A pure heart was always treated differently from a rebellious heart. Remember you are trying to mold a character for life. Scripture says that we should monitor and protect the heart above everything else. (Proverbs 4:23)

If your child’s heart is pure and wants to do the right thing, instructing them in the way they should go may be better than harsh discipline. If their heart is bent on rebellion that should be handled much stricter.

Give multiple chances and forgive easily.

God has given Cheryl and me so many chances. Shouldn’t we do the same for our children — especially if we want to model the heart of God for our children? After punishment is decided upon, make sure the child understands why they are being punished. You may not be able to fully explain at the time, but go back to the child afterwards to make sure you have not broken their spirit or closed their heart to you.

Children should always know that you love them, that you would never forsake them, even when they have done something wrong. They should never question your commitment to them even in your anger. Give love liberally, just as God gives it to us.

Be a “fun” parent.

Children should enjoy having a good time with you. That’s true even when they aren’t fully living up to your standards. You want your children giving you access to their lives later in life.

We wanted our boys to honestly be able to say they lived in a fun house. At the same time, we wanted to witness their character being molded into the image of Christ. We laughed so much in our house and under this model. There were rarely days where life was no fun in our home, even during some of the most stressful times in our lives as parents.

There will be some days that are no fun, but if children are living within the boundaries of your home, don’t take the stress of your world out on them. When you’re home — be home — and have a good time being there.

Our boys quickly learned the concept of grace as they grew in our home. They understood that we were holding them to high standards, but that we would extend to them lots of grace.

7 Suggestions for Parenting Adult Children

By | Children, Family, Parenting | 13 Comments

I was talking to another dad. We were comparing notes. Both of us are empty nesters. We equally recognized that being the parent of adult children is sometimes more difficult than when the children are still at home.

That’s hard for some parents with teenage children to believe, isn’t it?

Or the parent with multiple children still in diapers, right?

But, it is – sometimes.

When adult children leave the home you don’t have much control over their lives. You are no longer “raising” them. Your only hope is to influence them.

The “raising” part was mostly done when they graduated from high school. Maybe even when they got their driver’s license. Parenting moves primarily to influencing when they are away from you more than with you and when they can pretty much do what they want to do when they are away from you.

That’s why it’s important to grab their heart early so your influence sticks. And, still, sometimes it sticks and sometimes it doesn’t and there’s little you can do about that when they are on their own. But, it doesn’t lower your concern for them, your desire to help them, or your thoughts about them — hence the hardness at times.

So, what should the parents of adult children do?

Well, I’m still fairly new and still learning at this one. I have learned a few things. And, I’ve learned a few more from countless hours spent with other parents of adult children – and their children. As a pastor, parenting adult children was a common struggle in our churches.

I can’t tell you how many strained relationships, bitterness, hurt and even anger I’ve witnessed over the years with adult children. I know some young adults who, though they still speak, avoid their parents influence because of the way it has been offered to them. I know some parents of adult children who are miserable watching their adult children make bad decisions, but not knowing how to reach them.

Thankfully, I have a wonderful relationship with my two adult children. They are two of my best friends. But, I’m careful. I want to protect my influence in their life. And, I know the lines are delicate at times.

So, I offer these thoughts with reservation, knowing that I don’t know it all, but I do have some “experienced” thoughts.

Here are 7 suggestions for parenting adult children:

Pray continually – Pray like crazy for your adult kids. Intercede for them. You don’t even have to tell them you are – although occasionally I suspect they’d like to hear it, even if they act like they don’t. In fact, discipline yourself that when you’re tempted to worry about them you start to pray for them. It’s far more powerful and one of the best ways you can influence them.

Speak reservedly – Don’t share every opinion you have about how they should be handling their life. That’s a key word. It’s “their” life. And, they may not tell you in so many words, but most adult children want to live their life. Just like you probably want to live yours. You can share on occasion, especially when asked or you know they are about to make a major mistake, but if you share everything it will eventually be noise not influence in their life. The sobering reality is when you offer too much input into, again “their” life, you diminish the impact of your voice when they need it most.

Model for them – Be the maturer one in the relationship. That makes sense, right? You’ve got more experience, shouldn’t you have more maturity?

I’ve known parents who give the silent treatment to their adult children, because they didn’t call when they should or perform as they expected. Is that the mature response? And, does it work? It may guilt a response, but it doesn’t promote health in the relationship.

I know others who use manipulative innuendos or put undue pressure on their adult children to call them, be at certain events, or just to respond to them emotionally in a certain way. (And, I get it. You miss their attention and long for it.) But, again, depending on your skill of manipulation it may guilt a response, but it doesn’t build the long, lasting and healthy relationship you will eventually want to have with your children.

Model the behavior you think your adult children should have. They will likely follow actions more than words.

Remember you were once their age. That’s a key. Remember what it was like to be their age. You wanted to explore. You had dreams. You were scared at times. Confused. Not sure what steps to take. Some days you were just trying to hold it all together. You didn’t know everything. You were still learning. (Hopefully you still are.) You got aggravated at parents at times. And, those parents got aggravated at you. Remember? Try to identify with them by remembering you at their age again. You can influence them better if you can identify more with their season of life.

Keep the door open. Always be available to them when they make themselves available to you. (Even when they wander. Remember the Prodigal Son story we love so much!) As soon as you close the door to them, when you draw hard lines on the ground or place strict rules upon the relationship, it will be much harder to open the door again. That doesn’t mean you have to let them take advantage of you. (That’s not even good love.) You can set boundaries, especially those, which are in your home or for their ultimate good. (But, make sure it’s for their good and not for your personal preferences.) There may be some non-negotiable issues, but let those be rare. Be generous with grace and forgiveness. Remember, you’re trying to develop a long-term opportunity to influence them.

Love them more than their life. You may not love all the decisions they are making. You may even think they are making a mistake. Again, if there’s an open door to share your insight — share it. I find writing a letter is sometimes the best way, especially if communication is strained. But, the fact is again, you are not raising — you’re influencing. And, they may or may not accept your influence. So, love them — generously and unconditionally — more than you love the current decisions they are making with their life. And, make sure they know how unconditional your love is also. It will guard your influence — if not now — in the future. And, you’ll be very thankful you did in the days ahead.

Guard the heart. Guard your heart and theirs – above all else (Proverbs 4:23). Keep in mind you want the opportunity to speak into their life for years to come. Be intentional here. Be careful making statements or doing things you may later regret or that will push them further away from you. When you pray, pray for their heart – and yours. Just as you tried to protect their heart all those years they were in your home, keep protecting their heart.

Hopefully, if influence is protected, if they can understand your intentions towards them are good and you will have invitation to speak into their life, from your success, your failure, and your experience.

And, lastly, remember, you raised them for this. You raised them to be adults and to embrace the world and to take risks and to be themselves and to be who God designed them to be. They’ll explore just as you did and they’ll make mistakes just as you did. Lord willing, and with good intentionality, your best days (and some of the funnest days) are still to come as a parent. Happy parenting!

I’m still learning, so what insight do you have for me – those of you who have had adult children even longer than I have?

10 Ideas for Teaching Children Generosity

By | Children, Encouragement, Family, Parenting | One Comment

I have had conflict most of my life between what I think I want and what I really need.

My suspicion is there are many people that share this conflict with me.

This conflict also appears in children as well.

We don’t have to teach children to struggle with determining between wants and needs. It’s a natural response to life. And, if they need any help doing so — they can easily learn the struggle from us.

As parents we are the primary shapers of our children’s attitudes towards the world, including things such as money, personal possessions and desires, but also how they treat other people. Our children will either have a bent towards being “givers” or “takers” in society. Of course, every child is their own unique person, and that will be greatly influenced by the life they live in our home.

How do we teach children generosity?

How do we help our children (and ultimately ourselves) be people who genuinely enjoy living sacrificial lives — considering the interest of others — being givers rather than takers as the Bible commands us to do?

Here are 10 ideas, which we tried to practice in our own home. It has been amazing to watch how our boys, now adults living independently on their own, have developed generous hearts towards others. They are far more generous towards others than I was at their age.

And, let me be clear. The fact that they turned out this way is all grace. God has blessed us greatly, but, we have been intentional to live out Biblical principles — and we have learned they work when applied “generously”.

Here are 10 ideas for teaching children generosity:

Have fun and be generous parents.

The story is told of Jesus and the disciples attending a wedding. The party had been going for a while when something tragic happened. They ran out of wine. That was a serious problem to the host of the party. It was a huge cultural embarrassment to run out of food or wine. Jesus took some big barrels of water and turned them into the best wine the people had that night. The people were overwhelmed.

The Bible says that was the very first miracle Jesus ever did. As culturally important as weddings were in those days, it still sounds like God met a want, rather than a need.

It is very clear that God is not trying to keep us from having what we want or from having fun in life. God is not opposed to blessing us with things we want, but may not even need. We should not be afraid to do the same with our children. If we can afford to, and if our children are living within the boundaries set for our home, we should not be afraid to give them gifts they simply want, but may not even need. (I thought I would start with an easy one first.)

Help children understand the difference between a need and a want.

This is huge. It is understandable why it is difficult to raise children who understand the difference between a need and a want when we as parents struggle with the same issues. This will take a lifetime of teaching, but the earlier we start the better.

As much as God wants to bless us with wants, if we study the Bible, God seems far more interested in helping fulfill our needs than He does in giving us everything we want. In fact, God never promises to provide our want list, yet He does promise to meet all our needs. (Philippians 4:19) Granted there are some that take verses like this out of context and teach that God gives us everything we ask for, but that doesn’t line up with the rest of Scripture.

The problem from a Biblical perspective is that we have a messed up system of determining need verses want. That thing inside us that chooses good over evil, better or best, need verses wants; is broken.

When we apply Biblical understanding, most actual needs go beyond just enjoyment for today or even just for me. For something to fall into the category of need it should provide some lasting value to society or at least to my own character. Needs, beyond basics such as food and water, become things like righteousness — and love, and joy, and peace, and contentment.

We can even ask ourselves, does this “thing” benefit someone more than just me? Does it add value to someone’s life or to my own character? A true need, in this context, almost becomes something that money cannot buy.

We should consistently invest Biblical principles into our children — helping them understand the things that matter to God. Helping children develop a hunger for things they need — as much as, or even more — than things they want.

Provide needs. Bless with wants.

It is important that parents consider their system of meeting needs versus wants. Of course, that begins with a proper understanding ourselves of needs versus wants.

Consider this question: Which gets more attention in your home?

Does having the latest technology take a bigger role than teaching children to be good citizens and to generously love others?

Does being the best on the traveling soccer or dance team have a higher priority than finding ways to serve others?

Either answer is your choice. You’re the parent, but if a goal is teaching children who in the future are generous adults you may have to consider some of the places you spend your energies and resources. When it comes to encouraging generosity, consideration should be given to use of what God has allowed us to have, such as time and money.

Our boys never did without basics needs. And, by needs here I’m even referring to housing, clothing, food, etc. They had plenty, but, there were probably things they wanted they didn’t have. In how they spent their time, we let them choose what they enjoyed doing, but we also limited the number of outside activities our boys could participate in at one time.

And, we looked for opportunities where we could give back to others. We prioritized our time. And, we prioritized our “stuff”. We didn’t try to keep up with everyone else in terms of the “toys” they had. Having to wait until a birthday or Christmas for something they really wanted wasn’t unusual to them.

Spend more time, energy and attention meeting needs than wants.

At Christmas time, birthdays, and other special occasions we ask children what they “want”. There is nothing wrong with that.

Most of the time we already know what they need. We don’t have to ask them if they need to be honest people. We don’t have to ask them if they need to have character, love others or be generous. We do not need to ask them if they need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We know they need those things.

We need to ask ourselves if we are spending as much time and energy helping them get what they need as we are trying to buy them what they want. Let’s be honest, providing for a want is more fun sometimes. But we must be willing to sacrifice even what makes us feel good as parents in order to do what is best for our children long-term. We need to give them what they need.

It’s much more fun to give them wants, but it is far more valuable to give them needs.

Model healthy personal choices between needs and wants.

I think we teach our children to value the need more than the want by first modeling it for them.

We cannot ask children to do something we are not willing to do ourselves. Children are smarter than that. Today’s generation is far more interested in truth and integrity than earlier generations. This generation despises hypocrisy.

If children see parents saying one thing and doing another, they will reject that as being truth. We need to model and teach our children the proper concepts concerning money. Ultimately teach them that we are to be responsible with what God has allowed us to have. (When we had to use our credit card for purchases, for example, we usually explained to them why and that we would be paying it off quickly.)

Children need to see their parents giving sacrificially of their time and resources. Volunteering at a soup kitchen may be a better activity for an upcoming special occasion than opening a bunch of gifts.

Help children make wise choices with their own money.

One of the primary reasons children should have access to their own money is so they can learn the value of it. Our children were always more careful spending “their” money than they are spending ours.

Talk with them about how they should spend their allowance, birthday, or even money they have earned on their own. Help them learn what the terms budget — and savings — and investment. And, tithe is still not a bad word either. Ultimately, they should give some to God, save some, and spend some for things they need or want (based on the system you have for meeting these in your home.)

We also freely discussed our own finances in front of our boys. We allowed them to know things like when things were tight financially and when we were giving to others.

Consider the “big picture” of your child’s life.

As a parent, we are a primary molder of our children. The choices they make in life. What they desire most will largely be impacted by us early in their life. Their desires in life will be greatly shaped by the life they live in our home. (That’s a scary thought — isn’t it?)

I heard a statistic once that children these days get 90% of everything they want in life. That doesn’t seem like the statistic for most of our adult want lists, does it? I can’t verify the statistic, but it sounds about right for most children I know — probably even for our own. The problem this creates is that somewhere children are going to face a stark reality in adulthood when we seldom have all that we “want”.

We have all heard stories of children of privilege who got everything they wanted in life, but who cannot seem to stay out of trouble as adults. They have no real sense of direction; no set of values to guide them, because they got everything they wanted in life, but nothing that they really needed!

We kept these principles in mind as we parented. We were raising them to be adults. That one thought changed our paradigm many times.

Keep children properly grounded in a material world.

Children need to know that the universe does not revolve around them. Our world as their parents may revolve around them, but the rest of the world thinks otherwise. Children need to have created times in their life where they have to wait for something they want. Teach and model for children a life that puts others needs and wants ahead of their own.

Don’t give children everything; even if you can afford it.

If children are encouraged by example to have a love of money — a love of stuff — chances are they will never have enough possessions in this world to be satisfied. (Read Ecclesiastes 5:10)

Plant within them a love of God, a love of people and a love of life and they will want to bless others — and the joy of their life will be much greater.

Regardless of how wealthy a family is children should not be so “privileged” that there are no longer any items on their “want” list. When this happens the child has a hard time developing a heart of giving, because they are often too consumed with acquiring more “stuff”.

We have to model simple living sometimes for our children. IT IS OKAY TO SAY NO TO YOUR CHILD! In fact, that may sometimes be the exact thing we need to say. Every trip to the mall should not produce a new toy! (Okay, I know number 9 hurts!)

Teach and model a love for God.

I saved the most important idea for last. Above all else, perhaps the greatest thing a parent can do to help children be generous people is to help them desire the things of God more than the things of this world. God is a generous God. The more we know and love Him, the more generous we become.

You don’t have to agree with all my ideas. You certainly don’t have to implement them. Again, you’re the parent. And, granted, parenting is hard. You can be the best parent, do everything the best you know how, and still every child responds in their own way. So, here’s a prayer your way. Be intentional. We need great parents. And, we need generous people.

Why I Don’t Always Give People an Answer

By | Church, Encouragement, Family, Leadership, Parenting | 19 Comments

I have a theory, which I practice often.

I’ve been using it for many years – as a leader, father, a friend, and a pastor. It’s not always what people come looking to me for, but I think it’s the best practice.

I don’t always give people answers.

  • As a pastor, people came to me for answers.
  • As a dad, my boys, now grown, often still come to me for answers.
  • As a friend, people come to me for answers.
  • As a counselor, people came to me for answers.
  • As a leader of a team, people come to me for answers.

In either case, I don’t always give people answers.

I don’t try to solve their problems for them. I know that seems hard to understand , maybe even cruel of me, unless you understand why I don’t.

Now, if there is a clear Biblical answer for their problem or issue, I give it to them, as I understand it. And, there are certainly things, which are my responsibility and I have to make a decision. I make dozens of these type decisions everyday. I’m not afraid to be the deciding voice when one is required of me.

I’m talking about decisions, which are the responsibility of other people to make. These are the issues more difficult to discern. Things such as career choice decisions, the calling in life decisions, who to marry, how to respond to a marriage conflict, how to deal with difficult parents or children or friends, etc. – the unwritten answer type decisions. When there are multiple, seemingly good options available, I don’t try to solve their problem.

For those type issues, I probably have an opinion, but I almost never “have” the answer.

Instead…

I help people discover a paradigm through which to make the decision.

  • I help them see all sides of an issue.
  • I ask probing questions to spur bigger picture thoughts about an issue.
  • I share Scriptures, which may speak to both sides of a decision.
  • I serve as an outside voice and become an objective listener.
  • I connect them with people who may have experienced similar issues.
  • I often diagram the problem, as I hear it, so they can see an issue on paper. (This is one of my favorites.)
  • I help them learn to pray and listen for the voice of God.

And then I release them to make a decision.

Here is my reasoning…

If I solve the problem for them (or attempt to):

  • I’m just one opinion — and I am often wrong.
  • They’ll resent me if it proves to be a wrong decision, and trust me less the next time.
  • They may never take ownership of the issue.
  • They’ll likely do what they want anyway.
  • They won’t learn the valuable skills of listening to the voice of God.
  • They won’t learn from personal experience. (And, that’s the best way we learn.)
  • They will only rely on someone giving them the answer next time, failing to develop real wisdom, which comes through years of wrestling through the hard decisions of life.

My advice – for leaders, parents, pastors and friends:

Don’t always have an answer – or at least not THE answer.

Help people form paradigms through which to to solve problems and make wiser decisions.

Ideally we want people to develop healthy decision-making skills. We want them to gain dependence on God and the acquired ability to seek and discern wisdom. If we always make the decisions for them – if we always tell them exactly what they should do – they become too dependent on others and may never develop fully into who God has designed them to be.

Are you too quick to have an answer sometimes?

5 Simple Tips to be a Better Dad This Week

By | Children, Family, Parenting | 8 Comments

I don’t know a lot of dads who don’t want to improve in their role as dad. I grew up most of my years at home without a father active in my life. To be honest, I never understood why he would choose to leave his family, but years later, after I was an adult, my father returned and made amends with his family. In spite of all the pain he caused, knowing what I know now, he really did want to be a good dad.

I love the young dads in our church. I’d also love to encourage them. For all the dads with children still in the home (and even for those who no longer do) this one is for you.

Here are 5 tips to be a better dad today this week:

Review your calendar for the week – every week.

We have to make sure our family is getting some of our best time, as much of it as possible. Children often spell love T I M E. Especially when they are young, children want a dad’s time as much or more than anyone else’s. Sometimes work or other responsibilities take us away, but I’ve also learned we have to be intentional. There are seasons and things to which we can say no. I gave up golf when my boys were young. There just wasn’t enough time to do golf, work, and give my boys the time they wanted. I wanted my boys to love riding in the golf cart while I played. They didn’t. But, at this point in my life – with adult sons – I know I made the right decision.

Another changed happened in my work life. This one I didn’t instigate. Others did for me. (I think God may have even had a part, because the decision of others helped lead me into ministry.) I had a job opportunity I still believed was tailor made for me, but it would have required an extremely heavy travel schedule. At the time, my boys were in critical years of development. I wanted the job so badly, but they went another direction. My boys and I were the real winners in their decision.

As much as it depends on you, rework your schedule if needed.

Plan a date night with your wife.

Protect your marriage. Ultimately your family is protected by regular investments in your marriage. Model for your kids what a good marriage looks like.

I realize there will be single dads read this post. You may even wish you could plan a date night with your wife. Here’s the thing, you can’t erase the past. And, you certainly don’t have to have a perfect marriage to be a good dad.

But, if you’re blessed with a good marriage now do everything you can to protect it. It’ll prove to be a blessing to your kids – and you when they are gone from the house.

Keep a prayer list for each of your kids.

One way to do this is to write prayers you have for your children on index cards and place the cards where you will see them often. What are their greatest struggles? Their fears? The parts of their character, which need the most development? What do they dream about doing some day. This may require you to spend more time asking them questions and getting to know them better, but that’s worth the effort also.

You can also pray for their future spouse, career, and walk with God. One of my most frequent prayers for my boys is they would “love Jesus with all their heart.”

Pray for this list daily – even several times throughout the day if possible. It will help you develop your own prayer disciplines and God does answer prayers!

Plan long-term.

Take thirty minutes this week to plan an intentional retreat with you and each child sometime in the next six months. Make it intentional. Make it fun and character building. Plan questions ahead of time to stir meaningful discussions with them.

You don’t have to spend money on this, but you could if you wanted to spend the night somewhere. They will look back on these occasions with fond memories for years to come.

Turn off electronics.

I saved the hardest one for the last suggestion. But, seriously, it is hard, isn’t it? You work hard. You come home tired. You just want to veg in front of some screen. I get it.

But, I speak from experience, these moments will pass so quickly.

What if you used this disconnected time to play a game with your children? What if the time spurred a conversation? What if the conversation changed the way a child looks at life? What if this created a moment which impacts the child forever? Those memories start, as all memories do, in a moment – often a very intentional moment.

I realize this list is impossible for some. You have work commitments, which have you out of town this week. Your children may object at first to a change in schedules, which interrupts their schedule. You can’t force it. You may be separated from your child for custody reasons. You may have to build slowly to complete some things on this list. You may have to be more creative.

The key is to be intentional as a dad. And, that’s really the whole point of this post. The simple tip to be a better dad is to think about it more intently. And, this seems to be a great week to start.

(By the way, I would suggest this works for moms too. I’ve just never been one.)

4 Easy Steps Towards Being a Great Parent

By | Children, Family, Parenting | 3 Comments

Parenting is hard. I have two wonderful adult children, but I’m still wondering why God blessed us with such grace. Looking back, I’ve learned there are a few principles, which actually work.

The title says these are “easy and they are in some ways. None of these are hard to remember. None of these are hard to implement with personal discipline. But, living them daily, in addition to the normal stresses of life, can seem very difficult at times.

But, in my opinion, great parents are continually working at them.

Here are 4 principles to be a great parent:

(Or the best parent you can be.)

Be present.

Be there for your kids. Stay committed to them throughout their life. Be willing, especially in the formative years, to sacrifice your time for them. They’ll know whether or not you really want to be with them. And, something positive happens when they have your full attention. They model you. So it is also important you live a life worth modeling.

Be intentional.

Make a plan for each individual child based on their needs and work the plan. Of course I would encourage you to introduce them to Christ and involve them in church regularly. But, also help them with their school work. Teach them Biblical and life principles. Do what’s best for them even when it isn’t popular with them. Always remember you are the parent. They will someday be glad you remembered.

Be relational.

Let love reign. Keep grace flowing. Provide healthy discipline, because you love them and they need it at times. But, be patient, recognizing they are learning even when it seems some days they are not.

Don’t ever let them think they have to earn your love. You may not always approve of their actions, but be sure they have no doubts you approve of them. Spend time with them doing what they enjoy doing. Sacrifice your time to play with them, even at the end of a long, hard day. It will be worth it. They will never forget the sacrifice you made.

Be consistent.

Keep doing the right thing – always and continually. Over and over again. That’s what the great parents do. And, it may be the thing people forget to do the most. Its easy to give up, but the win is in the continuance.

Even if you do everything you know to do, children are unique individuals with wills of their own. They will make choices in life, and mistakes, just as you did and do.

Parenting IS hard, but you’ve got this. And, the reward of seeing adult children thrive is worth every sacrifice.

5 Things I Learned In Sending A Son Away To College

By | Change, Children, Family, Parenting | 15 Comments

It has been a couple weeks since I dropped our youngest son Nate off at college. He is attending Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Our oldest son is a senior at Austin Peay State University and is living at home to save money this last year. Nate is our first to change cities of residence and he is 8 hours from home. In the process of him leaving I have learned a few things:

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20 Things Good Dads Do In Parenting

By | Children, Family, Parenting | 7 Comments

Twenty things good dads do…

They challenge. When the challenge comes from dad we listen seriously. We know its being said with a loving concern.

They inspire. Great dads want better for their children than they achieved, so they are always pushing us beyond what we think we can do. (Sometimes they push too hard, but this, too, is an error of love.)

They build. Maybe it’s the midnight toy-factory production, the night before scinence projects or the ongoing project which provides for bonding and teaching times. (And, occasionally a lesson or two in refining patience.) But, more than anything, great dads build elements of character which last a lifetime. 

They provide. As best they can, good dads want their children to have what they need to be happy and successful in this world. And, there is a constant tension for good dads between working hard to provide and being there for the ones for whom they are providing.

They encourage. Good dads stand on the sidelines ready to cheer you to victory. Just when you think you can’t go on anymore, you’ll hear a voice from dad, “You’ve got this!” If whispered in sincerity and love that is a whisper which can last a lifetime 

They discipline. A good father is not afraid to do what is hard to achieve what is best. No discipline is easy, but when lovingly given, with purpose and intentionality, it makes all of us better.

They listen. The ears of a dad are attentive to the questions, concerns and actions of his children – also knowing what isn’t being said may be just as important as what’s said.

They counsel. Wisdom comes with time and experience. Dads sometime grow up fast when the reality of their little one comes into the world – and, then the child begins to grow up into their own person. Dads don’t always know what to say, but often what they say will only be realized as true years after they said it.

They validate. There is something powerful about the words of affirmation from a dad. When you know you have his confidence you can more assuredly face whatever the world brings.

They play. They wrestle. They tease. They dress up and have tea parties. They laugh. They make up funny songs and – just when nothing seems exciting about the day – they entertain. (And, no one else would think it’s entertaining, but we do. Just don’t do it when our friends our here, dad.)

They model. A good dad walks his talk and leaves an easy-to-follow trail. And, children are watching closely.

They pray. Knowing they don’t have all the answers, a good dad carries his concern’s and the concerns of his family, to the One who has all the answers. A dad on his knees is a dad with confidence and assurance – from his Dad. 

They teach. Good dads find those nuggets of life where time presents itself a teachable moment. They instill godly principles and values into their children by what they intentionally say and do. They are grounded in truth. 

They strengthen. When a child is wondering if they are strong enough – or if they have what it takes – enter in a good dad to let the child borrow from his strength.

They endure. Through the good seasons and the bad, good dads stand the test of time. When knocked down they get up, dust off, and try again. They don’t make excuses. They move forward for the good of others (and themselves.)

They forgive. This is hard for many men, and it may take them time to process, but good dads work to be at peace with their children. They extend grace. They finish well, attempting to right the wrongs done in the past whenever possible.

They believe. Good dads believe in the best of situations. The world can’t discourage them for long. Their faith helps them overcome evil with good.

They lead. Good dads are helping their children get somewhere in life. They help them navigate through the days of uncertainty and fear. (That’s what leaders do – and good dads are leaders.)

They protect. Whether from the things which (appear to) make noises at night or the evils of this world invading the family, good dads stand strong against whatever threatens the family.

They love. Because love really is the greater gift. And, good dads love well. Love never ends.

Dads!

I had these words for several years in a post with no explanation what I was thinking with each one. As I’ve added a statement around the 20 words, I realized I’ve created quite a challenging list for us dads.

Here’s the thing – there are no perfect ones – except our Heavenly Dad – but good dads try. Every good dad I know wants to do the best he can. Don’t let this list beat you up. Let it inspire you. That’s what good dads do. You model your reactions by the way you respond to life’s challenges. 

And, some good dads have left us already – at least from this earth – and still, they do what they do through the memories and legacies they left behind.

Give a shoutout to a good dad today! Thank you God, for good dads.

If you’re reading this and none of these line up with your experience with a dad, please know I understand. I deeply understand. It was hard for me to write these and know I missed many of them with an absentee dad most of my growing years. Yet, now that he is gone, and I’m forgiven him, I can honestly say I miss him. And, see looking back how many of these may have been goals of his – many times he simply didn’t know how. 

And, even more, I also know my Heavenly Dad fulfills all these and more for me. Plus, thankfully, through my own intentionality, there have been other men who have done some of these in the role of a dad to me. Praise God for those men. 

Mother: What a Great Word!

By | Culture, Encouragement, Family, Parenting | No Comments

Mother

Is there a sweeter word in the English language?

Maybe your word is:

Mom

Maybe your word is:

Momma

Or, many of the tousands of words in any other language which comes with the same deep meaning and emotion.

Unconditional love.

Sacrificial giving.

Forgiving easily.

Striving to provide perfect environments for others.

Incredible patience.

Strength beyond measure.

Always believing the best from and for her children.

A model and teacher of compassion.

Skilled for laughing at kid jokes – even those which aren’t even funny.

Accepting of others.

Stability during chaos.

A tender touch and a firm hug that never lets go – even when no longer physically together.

Mother

I’m always reminded of the mother’s heart who doesn’t have children of her own, but who displays the applied meaning of the word every single day.

Thank God for the mothers of the world.

What do you think of when you hear the word mother?