Category Archives: Parenting

Helping Children Keep Commitments

When my husband and I were raising our children, we had to learn how to balance a respect for their feelings with the need to teach them the importance of keeping commitments. This was a learning process for us.

Our children loved to sign up for extracurricular activities, but once they lost interest, they often wanted to drop out immediately. With our strong-willed child, this often led to a series of arguments and sometimes, unfortunately, we gave in. Then we learned to sit down with the child and tell them we respected their feelings and would give them the option of dropping out after they had completed a specified amount of time (usually a semester or until they had completed any obligations to be in a performance). At the end of that time period, we had them write out their reasons for quitting and state that this was their choice. They signed and dated the letter (and I kept it for future reference, if necessary.)

Eventually, we learned a better approach. We sat down with them before they signed up for the activity and discussed the expectations and determined how long they would have to keep that commitment. Then we wrote out a contract and the child, my husband, and I signed and dated it. This shifted some of the responsibility to the child’s shoulders and it cut down on the complaints because we all had copies of the letter. (This began when our children were mid-elementary school age.)

Some parents are naturally good at being consistent with their children. Tom and I had to learn the hard way. Thankfully, the Lord patiently instructed us and we gradually improved.

Parent Vs. Child Responsibility

God calls us to raise our children knowing Him and His standards of right and wrong. He also calls us to model good behavior (including confessing our mistakes, asking for forgiveness when we offend people, etc.) and He expects us to discipline our children, teaching them that there are consequences for bad decisions.

Thankfully, God is well aware of our individual weaknesses as people and as parents, and He is always willing to help us when we ask Him to. My husband and I needed continual wisdom and strength in raising our children.

The saying that “no man is an island” is true. Our behavior (good or bad) can impact far more people than we may ever be aware of. Let’s take a look at two fathers in the book of 1 Samuel in the Bible. Eli was Israel’s priest. His two wicked sons also served as priests. We learn in chapter two (verse 29) that Eli honored his sons more than the Lord. In chapter three (verses 13-14) the Lord foretold the terrible consequences Eli’s family would suffer because Eli knew of their sins and “failed to restrain them.” Apparently, even though Eli asked his sons, “Why do you do such things?” (chapter 2, verse 23), he did nothing about it. He should have removed them from the priesthood. Confronting our children does little if there are no consequences for their actions.

Samuel was a godly judge and ruled Israel faithfully. In his old age, he appointed his two sons as judges for Israel. But “…his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.” (chapter 8, verses 1-3). As a result, the nation demanded to have a king instead of these men. While the people suffered as a result of this decision, there is no record of God rebuking Samuel, so I assume that the Lord did not hold Samuel accountable for his sons’ decisions. We don’t know if Samuel was aware of their actions before the leaders came to him, or how he would have handled it if the people hadn’t demanded a king. We only know that his relationship with the Lord was intact and God did not rebuke Samuel.

As parents, we can only do so much. Our adult children will make their own choices but if our relationship with the Lord is still intact, we can pray for our children and trust in God’s love for them whether they are walking with Him or if they stray. He is faithful. We can do our best in raising them and then entrust them to the Lord.

Keep Letting Go

I once ran across a cartoon by Randy Glasbergen that spoke volumes to me. Two little boys were standing together, face to face. One was listening and the other was speaking. The caption read: “My Sunday School teacher said I should follow Jesus, but I’m not allowed to leave the yard.” How are we doing at letting our children out of our yards?


At the time of this writing (2017), my husband and I have three adult children, two son-in-laws, and three grandchildren. I’m still learning how to let go! I expect that will be a life long process.


I remember some of the milestones: the first day of preschool when I felt so guilty leaving a crying child (only to learn later that they were fine soon after I’d left); their promotions from elementary school and junior high school; getting their drivers license at age sixteen; high school graduation; going away to college; getting married; one child and her family moving to Istanbul for a year. These were the major faith testers. But there are many more times in everyday life when my faith is tested.


When the children were very young, Tom and I were their primary role models and disciplinarians. As they grew, we had to continually evaluate how much responsibility to give them. We had to allow them to make mistakes. (That’s still hard to do!)


Now that they’re adults, I’m doing my best not to give unsolicited advice, but rather, just listen, ask questions, pray, and entrust them to the Lord’s care. That’s easier said than done, but I’m making progress.


My greatest challenge in this area has been applying it to our disabled son. Someday I may share that journey, but for now I simply want to encourage parents (myself included) to keep letting go as the Lord leads so our children can mature and learn to follow Jesus’ path for their lives. Isn’t that what we really want for our children?


P.S. I am talking about adult children who have the mental capacity to make mature decisions.

Nurturing Helpful Attitudes

For many years, I assumed that I was supposed to sacrificially serve my family and say nothing about my own needs. This only resulted in resentment on my part and insensitivity on their part.


I will share some lessons I learned along the way that helped our whole family to be more considerate and work together as a team.


  1. Identify our need and be specific about how the other person can meet that need.

For example: We might say to our spouse: I could use a long, tender hug, right now. Would you be willing to give me one?

(We must be careful not to chastise them if they don’t do it the way wed like. Instead of saying, That wasn’t much of a hug, thank them for it.)

Once I had a creative discussion with our daughters about when they could set the table so that I wouldn’t have to interrupt their play time. I needed their help but was willing to work with them on finding a solution that worked for all of us.


  1. Decide what’s truly important to us and what isn’t.

If something is not important enough to enforce it, we shouldn’t ask our children to do it.

In my younger years, I was often guilty of asking our children to do something and then I’d let them get away without doing it, usually because I was tired and didn’t want the hassle of an argument. The problem with this is that the children could either assume that I didn’t really need their help, or they could learn to ignore me. Consistent follow up is crucial!


  1. Teach our children how to do the tasks we want them to do.

First of all, we should make sure our expectations of them are realistic. Once we’ve identified what they are capable of doing, and what we want them to do, we need to show them how to do it. Be sure to give them lots of praise for their effort! It also helps if we can turn the chore into a game, such as seeing how creatively they can fold the napkins or decorate the table.


  1. Set up chore charts or assignments and hold them accountable.

Depending on the child’s age, we might have a chart that lists their chores and then give them a sticker to put on the chart whenever they complete a task.

It’s important that we and our spouse agree as to how to use rewards for accomplishments and consequences for a failure to follow through. We need to be clear with the children as to what the rewards and consequences are, how many warnings or reminders they get, etc. Once we initiate the charts, we must make sure we’re consistent! This will teach them to be dependable and it will be a big help to us, eventually.


It’s amazing how well children respond to responsibility when their parents praise them and follow through consistently. When we nurture a helpful spirit in our children, everyone in our family will benefit!




Humble Sensitisvity

It’s important not to let parental pride make us insensitive to our children’s feelings. Sometimes there’s a fine line between encouraging our children and showing them off.


One year, our children were deciding whether or not to try out for the school talent show. Shon and Heather had been in it the previous year. Kristy was trying out for the first time. Their ages were 11, 8 and 6.


Heather did not feel ready and decided not to try out. Kristy tried out but was very frightened and got upset when they changed her room three times for the tryouts. The judges liked her performance, but feared she’d be overwhelmed in front of a large audience. Her teacher asked if I felt she could handle it. I should have asked Kristy, but my parental pride kicked in and I said yes. Kristy was relieved when they didn’t choose her. I’m so thankful the Lord spared her the trauma of attempting something she wasn’t ready for!


Shon had a bad case of allergies, which hindered his performance, but he was still chosen to be in the talent show and I learned that having God’s anointing is far more important than technical perfection. We learned to help our children focus on how they could minister to people, rather than on how perfectly they performed. We also learned that, while it’s good to encourage our children to try new things, we have to be careful not to pressure them into things they don’t feel ready for.

Lessons from a Duck

We once had a female Mallard duck and her six ducklings hanging out in our pool and fish pond for about 24 hours. We don’t know where they came from or where they went, but during their brief stay, I had a review lesson in parenting.


We first saw them in our pool. It appeared that the babies were unable to get out. My husband raised the level of the water and we placed an upside -down pan on the top step to give them a boost. Some of the babies did figure out how to use the pan, but after observing them for awhile, I removed it.


The mother would hop out of the pool and then call to her ducklings. They would flap their little wings and keep trying until they made it up onto the ledge. Once they were all out of the pool, the mother would give them a brief rest, then jump back into the pool with them following, and start all over. After doing this for awhile, she gave them a rest, snuggled underneath her. Later, she explored the pond and bushes with them.


I realized she was building their stamina and, while our intentions were good, we weren’t truly being helpful by making things easier for the ducklings. I remembered an article I’d read years ago about someone who caused a baby chick to become crippled by breaking the shell the rest of the way as it was pecking its way out. Apparently, the pecking process of breaking through the egg is necessary to the chicks development, even though it’s hard work.


It takes much prayerful discernment to determine what our children are (or aren’t) capable of, and just how much to help them. We don’t want them to get frustrated to the point of discouragement, but neither do we want them to become lazy and unmotivated. We have to know when to let them fail or reap the consequences of their decisions. We also need to recognize when they truly need our assistance. There’s a big difference, for example, between showing a child how to do his or her schoolwork and doing it for them. Even with grown children, we need to prayerfully evaluate when they truly need our help and when we might be unintentionally crippling them. The duck was a good reminder for me.

Follow Through On What You Say

Moses, a man God praised for his humility, and to whom God gave incredible responsibility and privileges, once disobeyed God in a moment of frustration with His people. The consequence of his sin was that he was not allowed to enter the promised land that he had been leading the Israelite nation to. Moses never argued with the Lord about that. He accepted the punishment. But in God’s mercy, Moses was allowed to supernaturally see the promised land before he died. (Deuteronomy 34:1-4)


This is an example of God’s mercy and discipline in action, and it’s a good role model for us as we raise our children. The Lord held firm on what He had told Moses would be the consequence of his sin, but God also demonstrated forgiveness and mercy by allowing Moses to see the land.


As parents, we must beware of making idle threats. It’s important to carefully and prayerfully decide how we’re going to discipline our child and then make sure we follow through on what we say. If we aren’t prepared to follow through, we shouldn’t say it!


Let’s say, for example, we were planning to go someplace fun with our family and friends, and our child misbehaved. We would not want to tell our child that if they didn’t cooperate they would not be going–unless we were truly prepared to cancel the event. Idle threats only teach a child that we don’t mean what we say, so there’s little motivation for them to obey us.


When I was upset with our children, I would tell them to wait in their room while I calmed down and prayed about how to handle the situation. (This is with children old enough to be trusted alone in a room.) And I suspect that as I was seeking the Lord’s guidance, they were talking to Him, too–probably asking Him to be merciful! Once I was calm, God could show me how to handle the situation.


Because we’re human, there will be times when we speak in anger, and if we regret what we said, we need to humbly confess to our children that we made a mistake and start fresh. But their misbehavior still needs to be dealt with.


I’m so thankful to have a perfect heavenly Father for my role model and the help of His Holy Spirit in following His example!

Realistic Expectations and Healthy Compromise

It’s important to get to know our children well, so our expectations of them are realistic. It’s also good to know when to adapt to their needs, and when they are capable of adapting to ours.


When our daughters were 8 and 6 years old, I took them on a mother-daughter retreat. I was frustrated when the girls didn’t want to listen to the speaker. We left after the singing and returned to our room. As we all walked in the beautiful stillness, with the bright stars shining above, all my resentment melted away and I realized that I might have been expecting more of them than they were able to give.


On another occasion at the retreat, Kristy wanted to stay with me rather than go to the age-appropriate classes. I knew from experience that she would enjoy herself once she got involved, so I insisted that she go. She ended up having a good time.


A few days later during the retreat, Kristy was upset over all the ladybugs in the pool. I catered to her for a while and then told her I was going to spend some time with Heather, and if Kristy didn’t want to stay in the water, she could lay on a lounge chair. I knew she was old enough to handle that and I wanted to give Heather some attention. Kristy finally opted to get out of the pool and Heather and I joined her a little later.


On the last day of our retreat, I wanted the camp photographer to take a picture of the three of us to keep as a memory. The girls weren’t interested initially. I had made many sacrifices for them during the week-end and felt it was important for them to learn how to be unselfish, too. We discussed it and they eventually consented. In the end, they appreciated having the photo.


As parents, we need to evaluate our children’s maturity level and capabilities and then establish what our expectations for them are. The sooner they learn the art of compromise in relationships, the happier everyone will be.

Parents: Be United

When parents have differing opinions about child rearing, it is best to privately discuss our views and come up with a plan of how to handle that with the children. We should help our children learn to respect other’s opinions and how to look for compromises but be united in our decisions about how to handle situations that arise.


In 1992, Tom and I were not very good at communicating with each other, and we often made decisions without consulting the other person. This led to confusion on our children’s parts, and that affected their behavior in some negative ways.


For Shon (age 11), it caused him anxiety over his decisions, not knowing which parent to please. For Heather (age 8), it sometimes led to a sassy, disrespectful attitude. Kristy (age 6), was our quiet one. She observed her siblings’ actions and how we dealt with them.


I’ll share some excerpts from my 1992 journal. “After dinner, we were listening to some tapes of a comedian guitar player that Tom and Shon really liked at Forest Home. Praise the Lord, I did fairly well, I think, at masking my feelings. I didn’t like most of the music and Shon had his face about two inches from mine, grinning and watching intently to see if I approved. I just said it was hard for me to understand a lot of what he was saying.”


At first, I told Shon he could just listen to it with Tom. Then I decided he could listen to it when I wasn’t in the room. This is what I wrote in my journal: “I’ve decided that, in areas where Tom and I disagree, I’ll leave it to Shon’s conscience and prayer. It may be time for him to start making some of his own choices. I told him its ok for Christians to disagree, as long as we respect each other’s feelings. Perhaps God is using Tom and my differences of opinion to allow for Shon’s growth by giving him an opportunity to exercise his own discernment.”


Heather picked up on the fact that Tom often over-rode my decisions. This is another excerpt from my journal: “Last night, Heather and Kristy were telling me that Tom said they could get pierced ears and wear make-up at age 13. When I said 13 is young for make-up, Heather said in a sassy voice, ‘Well, Dad’s the boss.'”


Tom and I gradually learned to be united in our decisions. When the children asked us something, we’d tell them we’d discuss it with the other parent and get back to them. Tom and I would then have a private discussion of our opinions on the matter. Once we had agreed as to how to handle the situation, we would tell the children what we had decided. This eliminated much of their manipulative, disrespectful behavior.

Complaining Is Contagious

We must beware of complaining and passing our dislikes onto our children. One day, in 1993, while I was at a luncheon, I began talking to a woman about how I didn’t like housework, cooking or sewing. She asked what my mothers attitude had been like in regard to those things. I said she was very good at them, but she didn’t enjoy them.

It later occurred to me that my mothers distaste for those things had rubbed off on me, and if I kept complaining and voicing my opinion of those things, the girls might reflect that. Instead, I needed to look for ways to involve them in those tasks and make it fun. Its a curse to spend most of your life doing the things you don’t like. I realized that I needed to have a change of heart. I needed to step beyond just doing it dutifully to doing it cheerfully. After all, God loves a cheerful giver. I had been a begrudging giver.

I also found it helpful to look for women who were good at the skills I lacked. One woman helped me to be better organized. Another loved to sew. Others enjoyed cooking. Those women enriched our lives and provided good role models for our daughters. Instead of complaining and being a begrudging martyr, I learned to humbly seek help and to allow God to change my attitude. Both joy and negativity are contagious. I want to leave my children with a legacy of joy!