All posts by roger

So You Are Going to Be a Daddy!

PIC_So You're Going to Be a Daddy

Written by Joseph Schneller

You’re just about to find out your wife’s pregnant with your first child. Your friend, Nate (father of two), has said that having a child represents more life change than getting married. Your wife’s about to find out that babies aren’t the only ones who lie in the fetal position sucking their thumb. But let’s take this one step at a time.

For some reason, the idea of how your wife has to use the pregnancy test stick thing is enormously funny to you. The kind of funny where tears run down your face and laughing fits hit you in waves. At one point, between hysterics, you tell her that if it’d make her feel better, you’ll take a pregnancy test, too. This also strikes you as the pinnacle of funnyhood.

She, on the other hand, has been reading books such as Taking Charge of Your Fertility and realises that her husband is “attempting to cope with his anxiety.” She understands that your uncontrollable laughter is Step 1 of your coping process, soon to be followed by:

Step 2: bed-wetting

Step 3: the desire to purchase a fast, red automobile.

After waiting three minutes in which the world stops spinning, you and your wife mutter a quick prayer, look one another in the eye and count two pink lines on the stick. Thus follows the most basic and unpresuming conversation the two of you will ever have:

Wife: Is that two lines?

You: I count “two.”

Wife: Are you sure that’s two lines?

You: Well, there’s the one line there, then there’s another line by the first. So, taken together, that makes two.

Your wife looks at you and screams like a 13-year-old girl who’s just seen her best friend for the first time since yesterday. You look at your wife and scream like a camper who’s just spilled a jar of honey on himself in grizzly bear country.

After dancing around awhile, counting the lines again, crying, then recounting the lines, your wife gets on the phone to notify first-tier family and friends. Second-tier friends will have to wait until the second trimester, which apparently begins on March 28. Your wife knows this without even looking at a calendar. She then counts the pink lines again.

While she’s on the phone, you realise that the baby’s growth and development are really the secondary purpose of the nine-month gestation. The primary purpose is so that you can get used to the idea of being a father. Right now, the most profound things you’re saying are, “Wow!” and “Oh, man!” and “That’s just, I mean . . . wow!”

You see, your wife’s been meditating on motherhood since she was four years old. You, on the contrary, have been considering fatherhood for about, hmm, five minutes (if you round up). So, in an effort to control your breathing, you head downstairs and flip on “The Show Before the Show That Precedes the Pre-Game Show.” That’s when you find several items on the coffee table that weren’t there last night:

  1. What to Expect When You’re Expecting
  2. a magazine on pregnancy
  3. a baby name book the size of a cereal box

These have appeared so quickly that you realise your wife had them stashed away at the bottom of her wardrobe.

Flipping though the pregnancy magazine, you think about asking your wife if she went to the bookstore while you were, uh, blowing your nose this morning. But then you glance at a page that says your baby’s heart will begin to form during the second month.

“Really?” you say out loud. “That early?” Sitting down, you mute the TV and turn the page.

So you’re gonna be a daddy.

Joseph Schneller became a dad for the first time in July of 2007.

* * *

Why Dad is important

A husband’s involvement during pregnancy can make a significant difference in a wife’s prenatal and postpartum experiences. Research shows that the presence of an emotionally supportive husband can help a woman more quickly adapt to pregnancy changes and lead to a more positive labour and delivery; it’s even been proven to influence a mother’s sense of competence in infant feeding. A study published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal concluded, ”Father involvement is an important, but understudied, predictor of maternal behaviours during the prenatal period, and improving father involvement may have important consequences for the health of his partner, her pregnancy and their child.” Whether analysing emotional, physical or relational benefits, all evidence suggests that women and children fare best when husbands and fathers are involved.

Pamela Woody

© 2009 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

How to Talk About Sex With Your Kids

PIC_How to Talk About Sex with Your Kids

by Amy Stephens

When my son Nicholas was almost 4 years old, he crooked his little finger at me one day and said, “Want a kiss?” Getting my active son to stop long enough to hug and kiss me was always a challenge, so naturally I said, “Yes!”

I remember he closed his little eyes and kissed me. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I had this vision of him kissing a teenage girl! My eyes popped wide open, and in my mind, I could hear myself scream, “AHHHHHH.”

The vision seemed as real as though I’d watched it on live television. I took it as my wake-up call to become more intentional with the messages I was giving Nick about love, sex and relationships. In fact, after he finished his little kiss and ran off, I got busy thinking of ways to lay a positive foundation of healthy relationships in his life.

Ages 0-7 are an intense time of brain development; children are at many different levels of emotional, social and character maturity. Girls are often ahead of boys, and this must be considered when you talk to your child about love, sex and relationships.

You wouldn’t think so, simply because of their young age, but these years are very important in laying a foundation of healthy sexuality. What does it require from us? It requires us to be intentional, prayerful, informed and committed to talking often with our children.

The days of “the talk” are over. There are too many messages in the media and other sources vying for our kid’s attention. We could all learn a lesson from Disney about communicating with kids. Think sound bytes. Know your key messages. Really connect with your children, broach the messages briefly and then return to them later for more explanation.

Key Messages We Want Our Children to Remember

What themes are good to focus on as early as 4 years old?

  • God made your body, and it is special
  • Babies come from God; they are a result of marriage and love
  • Your body is special; It is yours and no one else’s
  • God made boys and girls different
  • Because boys and girls are different, we practise modesty
  • Boys and girls are both excellent; you are exactly as God wanted you

All these themes build as your child grows, but each message lays the foundation for creating stable relationships toward marriage. In this stage, you will also begin establishing the norm of marriage as the ultimate context for sex.

We want our children to see the sacredness of marriage and sense that you have faith they will one day be a great marriage partner. Viewing marriage as an eventual goal gives children a reason to later buy into ideas like abstinence … we save ourselves for our future spouse so our marriage will be as strong as possible, based on trust and exclusivity.

We want to be able to point our child to what they can say yes to rather than no. We say yes to positive relationships with both sexes, yes to respect for others, yes to our right to control what happens to our bodies, yes to a positive future. Too often, we tell our children no without offering anything as an alternative.

Self-Concept Is Critical

I remember the first day of school for my son. I cry every time I see the picture. Such a sweet, innocent face — what would this new experience hold? All the students looked so full of wonder and excitement. I remember thinking that junior infants was the starting block for their foray into elementary school and that some would race ahead while others fell behind. It was a bittersweet feeling.

True to my feeling, I’ve watched as some girls that started out confident in senior infants are now experiencing self-doubt and poor self-concept in fifth class. I’ve watched happy boys become angry boys over a parent’s divorce. This all plays a role in a child’s ability to practise abstinence and sustain healthy relationships. Abandoned little girls will seek an unsuspecting boy to fill the void in their heart. Angry young men can become emotionally distant to protect themselves from pain — never letting someone close enough to have their heart.

The themes for ages 4-7 are easy, everyday themes you can impart to your child without exposing them to too much information. Overexposure can be just as damaging to a child as too little.

Protecting your child from sexual images is also critical because of their cognitive and emotional development. So prevent young minds from being scarred; carefully monitor television, Internet and video content.

Connect With Your Eyes, Your Touch and Attention

The best advice I ever received on connecting with my child came from two men I respect immensely – the late David Gatewood, a former Focus on the Family counselor, and of course, Dr. James Dobson.

I was carrying my newborn son in the lift with Dr. Dobson one day and he said, “Amy, kiss him and hug him often because there will come a day when you won’t get to do it as much.” I took his word to heart. I think Nick is an affectionate kid because of his advice.

When I was a new mother, David Gatewood told me that to connect with my son I needed to look him right in the eye attentively when he was talking to me, touch his hand and be sure to let him know that I heard him. When you’ve had a long day that is a hard lesson to follow. But I’ve seen it work. My son knows when I’m really “with him” and when my mind is wandering.

Connecting with our children is the key to preventing all kinds of at-risk behaviour. Build on your themes now, because they will carry you to the exciting elementary ages of 8–12.

Themes to Discuss With Your Child 0-3 and 4-7

God Made Your Body:

Your body is a gift from God. You are unique; there is no one like you. Appreciate your body and take care of it. We eat good food to keep it healthy, we exercise to keep healthy, we keep our mind healthy by guarding what we watch, and we keep our emotions healthy by praying and by having true friendships.

Babies Come from God — They Should Be the Result Only of Marital Love:

Babies are all made by God. This is why we protect their life right from the beginning. How do babies come into the world? The best way for a baby to come in to the world is through the love of a married man and woman. Sadly, this doesn’t happen all the time. However, God’s best plan is for a baby to be born with a mother and father that are married. Marriage is God’s best idea to create a family for years to come.

Your Body Is Special — It Is Yours and No One Else’s:

Your body is a gift from God, and He expects you to take care of it. No one has the right to touch your body but you. We allow the doctor to touch your body in order to take care of your health, or Mum and Dad may need to help you with your body for health, but no one else is to touch it. If someone tries to touch your body or asks to touch your body, you immediately run and tell your parents or other trusted adult. There is no such thing as keeping that kind of secret from your parents. We (parents) will always be here to help you.

Boys and Girls Are Different:

God made boys and girls different in order for both to become lifegivers. When you are older and married, you may someday have children. Girls have babies — boys don’t. Girls have the ability as they get older to birth babies. A baby is a gift from God and grows in the womb in Mum’s tummy. It takes nine months to grow a baby, and during that time we protect the baby’s life by practising healthy habits like eating right and getting enough sleep. The best place for a baby to be born and raised is with a married man and woman. As you grow and get older (around middle school) your body will change. That’s a great thing because we all change as we get older.

Because Boys and Girls Are Different, We Practise Modesty:

Because our body is special and a gift from God, we protect it in how we dress and act. The best and first place to practise modesty is in the home. We can practise modesty by how we dress. We can practise modesty by knocking on Mum and Dad’s door while they are getting ready for work or church. We practise modesty by not barging in while our brother or sister is getting dressed. You can set an age when this should be in full practise — 4-year-olds may not be ready, but a 6- and 7-year-old should practise this at home. We also practise modesty in public by not being rough with the opposite sex. We don’t hit or kick each other even when playing, especially not in the private parts of someone’s body.

Be a True Friend:

What is a true friend? A true friend likes you for who you are without demanding that you be something else. What are the character qualities of a true friend? A true friend is honest, loyal, kind, compassionate and faithful. A true friend will not reject you to run off and play with others. A true friend will not tear you down or mock you privately or in front of other people. A true friend will care when you are hurting. A true friend will be honest with you when you are doing something wrong.

Friends Will Disagree — Resolve Conflict in a Healthy Way:

Disagreement is a part of life. How will you resolve disagreement? There is a healthy and unhealthy way. Sometimes we need a cool-off time before we speak. You may need to leave a situation and come back later. We don’t call people names. We practise “I” messages rather than “you” messages. We are honest about how we feel. It is a good idea to pray when we have a conflict so we can ask for God’s help in settling our differences.

Affirm Your Child’s Gender:

“Isn’t it great to be a girl!” “What a strong boy you are.” These messages affirm your child’s gender identity. Do not (even jokingly) put down or make fun of your child’s gender. “What a baby” or “What a sissy” does not help your young son. Affirm your daughter’s unique beauty. Let her know how special she is, particularly in Daddy’s eyes. Go on special dates with your child to affirm her self-concept. Try to refrain from faces or grimaces when they are trying something new and fail. They aren’t perfect little people.

We Don’t Get Everything We Want:

Every family has standards, and your standards may not be those of the family next door. Say “I know so and so gets to do this, but your dad and I have a different standard. This is the standard for the Stephens home.” Making your child work or save for something he wants teaches him to practise delayed gratification. “I know you want this, but it isn’t in your best interest right now — or you may have this later.” “Others may be able to watch this show, but we aren’t watching this in our family because.…” 

Copyright © 2005 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Six Features of a Father Figure

PIC_Six Features of a Father Figure

by Tracy Crump

My husband, Stan, was just 7 months old when his dad died, and his mother never remarried. I have often wondered, How did Stan learn to be such a good father to our two sons? While a mother’s love is invaluable, boys need men to teach them to be fathers. My mother-in-law knew this and wisely introduced her son to positive male influences throughout his childhood.

According to*:

“More than one in four families with children in Ireland is headed by a lone parent. Mothers head the vast majority of one-parent families (87%),”

Many mothers would like to have admirable role models for their sons. Finding the right one becomes crucial when we remember that good fathers reflect God’s love toward His children.

If we could assemble the perfect father figure, what would we see?

Big heart

No matter their age, all boys need affection. But male love looks different from female love. Male love is active and physical; it plays ball and roughhouses; it encourages with a slap on the back and defends when necessary.

As a preschooler, my husband stayed with the Campbells, a family with five sons, during his mother’s work hours. The boys, all much older than Stan, provided the physical “guy love” he needed and taught him how to handle male aggression through their good-natured camaraderie. Taking him under their wing, they taught him an important trait of good fathers—to protect those you love.

Open arms

Nothing bolsters a boy’s self-worth like spending time with a man who enjoys his company. While sports and other activities are great, sometimes guys just need to hang out together.

When Mr. Campbell came home from work, he would often sit with Stan while they read the comic strips together or talked. At other times they would walk in the garden or play with the dog. Without realising it, this kind and gentle man taught Stan how to focus on and enjoy a child.

Gentle, firm voice

Boys need clear boundaries. And while mothers can go a long way in socialising their sons, boys learn best how to be good disciplinarians when fathers demonstrate self-control as they dole out punishment.

With five boys in the Campbell family, their home provided plenty of opportunity for Stan to see kids reprimanded. Not once did their dad raise his voice or react in anger. He used a conversational tone when he corrected his sons but clearly communicated the limits. The boys rarely went beyond them. Years later, Stan would use these same techniques with our sons.

Dirty fingernails

Fathers instinctively know you have to keep male hands busy. Boys need someone who will get down in the dirt with them, teach them how to build birdhouses or change the oil in the car.

When Stan was in grade school, he occasionally stayed with the Morris family that included three generations of males under the same roof. He and Rickey, who was Stan’s age, often followed Rickey’s dad to his workshop where he refurbished lawnmowers. There, Stan not only stayed occupied but also learned valuable skills that he has used and passed on.

 Laugh lines

Dads are notorious for being silly and fun. Boys need someone to have burping contests with and to show them the lighter side of male life.

Granddaddy Morris was a master at seeing the humor in everyday situations. Though he knew life couldn’t be amusing all the time, he loved to make jokes and play harmless pranks. But even in jest, Granddaddy never belittled anyone and taught Stan to respect others’ dignity while having fun.

 Devoted eyes

One of the most significant things a father figure can model is love for his wife. Boys need a man to show them what being a loving and committed husband really means.

Stan remembers Granddaddy Morris speaking in respectful, almost reverent tones about Mabel, his wife of 50 years. Always the tease, he would “get some sugar” or hug her until she said, “Stop that, Willie! The children are in the room.” Stan had no doubt that Granddaddy truly cherished his wife.

You may not find all these qualities perfectly packaged in one man, but your son will reap the benefits from being with a variety of males who exemplify traits you want him to learn. Uncles, grandfathers, coaches or godly older teens may each contribute to a boy’s training for adulthood as well as fatherhood.

Safety First 

Always let safety be your first priority and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you to the proper mentors for your son. Below are tips to keep your son safe when choosing mentors:

 Meet your son’s mentors. Insist upon getting to know anyone with whom your son spends time.

 Be the initiator. Observe interaction between your son and potential mentors, and be the one to request they spend time together.

 Talk to other parents. You can learn much about a man’s character by his reputation in the community.


Pushover Parenting

PIC_Pushover Parenting

  • A leaving cert student fails her English class after plagiarising a paper, receiving an F on her final exam and failing to show up for a make-up session for a botched assignment. Told that their daughter will not be allowed to finish with her friends, her parents threaten to sue the teacher and school.
  • According to an article on (, “The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) global status report on alcohol and health in 2014 showed that Ireland has the second highest rate of binge drinking in the world. It found that 39pc of all Irish people aged 15 years old and over had engaged in binge drinking, or “heavy episodic drinking”, in the past 30 days.”
  • Reality shows often spotlight the real-life travails of hapless mums and dads terrorised by their own children—pint-sized tyrants who kick them, punch them, swear at them and hold them as prisoners in their own home.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Ireland has a parenting problem. The evidence of this parenting deficit can be found at your local supermarket, fast-food restaurant or school car park—spoilt, selfish, out-of-control kids with no concept of right or wrong.

While many aspects of our culture are harmful to children, I’m particularly alarmed by the rise of what I call “pushover parents.” These parents are either unable or unwilling to place limits on their children’s behaviour—even behaviour that is unhealthy, dangerous or destructive. They are so concerned with being liked by their kids that they give in to their children’s every whim.

This neglect has a ripple effect. Even if you are doing a great job of raising responsible kids, your children’s lives are still influenced by this unfortunate trend. Their world is inhabited by kids raised by pushover parents—think bully, dishonest classmate, abusive boyfriend or girlfriend.

 The root of the problem

What turns parents into pushovers? The root causes include:

Wrong thinking. Many parents today believe they have no right to impose their beliefs on their children. They heed the advice of secular parenting gurus who preach that children are brimming with innate goodness and should be allowed to create their own values. Such humanistic advice denies the fact that all of us are inclined toward selfishness and self-deception.

Guilt. When Mum and Dad are both professionals working 50 to 60 hours per week, their children may spend the majority of their early years in day care. Because these parents are physically and emotionally unavailable to their kids, parents may feel tremendous guilt. To assuage this guilt, they often find it impossible to say no.

Copycat or reactive parenting. Many adults today were raised by parents influenced by the permissive, “reject all authority” mantra of the 1960s. As a result, they never learnt the importance of setting appropriate limits. Conversely, individuals who grew up with harsh, authoritarian parents may reject any form of child discipline. They vow, “I’m never going to treat my kids the way I was treated.”

Divorce and single parenting. Contentious divorces and child-custody disputes can turn parents into pushovers. In order to be seen as the “favourite parent,” a mum or dad may spoil the kids. Single parents can fall into the trap of looking to their children to meet their own emotional needs. As a result, they may fail to enforce limits for fear that their kids won’t like them.

 Don’t be a doormat

How can we avoid becoming pushover parents? We can begin by recognising that our children are a blessing from God, and with that blessing comes an awesome responsibility. Children who fail to experience consequences for misbehaviour typically grow up to become selfish, narcissistic adults who leave a trail of broken relationships in their wake.

If you believe you might be a pushover parent, ask your spouse and friends to give you feedback—and give them permission to be honest. If you’re a single parent, ask yourself if you look to your kids for comfort and fear their disapproval. If so, ask God to help you develop close, nurturing friendships with adults—friends who will support you in your role as a single mum or dad.

By balancing love and limits, you can help your kids grow into healthy, godly adults who—as they become mums and dads—will break the destructive cycle of pushover parenting. 


by Dr. Bill Maier © Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

Tantrums and Whinging

PIC_Tantrums and Whinging

Creative discipline for temper tantrums and whinging

by Lisa Whelchel

If your kids whinges or has temper tantrums, take a look at these discipline ideas:

Throwing a Tantrum

  • Does your child slam the door when she’s angry? You might tell her, “It’s obvious that you don’t know how to close a door properly. To learn, you will open and close this door, calmly and completely, 100 times.”
  • If your child likes to stomp off to his room or stomp around in anger, send him outside to the driveway and tell him to stomp his feet for one minute. He’ll be ready to quit after about 15 seconds, but make him stomp even harder.
  • The same goes for throwing temper tantrums. Tell your child to go to her room to continue her tantrum. She isn’t allowed to come out and she has to keep crying for 10 minutes. Ten minutes is an awfully long time, and it’s no fun if your parents tell you to cry.
  • Another way to handle temper tantrums is to simply say, “That is too disruptive for this house. You can continue your tantrum in the back garden. When you’re finished, you are welcome to come back inside.” When there isn’t an audience, the thrill of throwing a temper tantrum is gone.
  • If your child asks for something and then argues or throws a tantrum when you tell her no, tell her that no matter what she asks for, from that moment on the answer will be an automatic no until she can accept the answer “no” respectfully.
  • I heard of a grandmother who was buying shoes for her 10-year-old grandson. He threw a tantrum when he realized he wouldn’t get the more expensive pair. So she leaned down and whispered in his ear, “If you continue to embarrass me, I will kiss you all over your face right here in the middle of the store.” He stopped immediately.


  • No whinging and no begging are allowed at our house. My children know that if they add “Please, please, please” when asking for something, my response is an automatic “No, no, no.
  • Our children’s piano teacher told me that when she was a little girl and would start whinging about something, her mother would stand there, looking confused — as if she were speaking a foreign language. Then her mother would say, “I’m sorry but I do not understand ‘Whinge-glish.’ Would you please speak to me in English?
  • Jeremiah 17:9-“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” There will be times in our children’s lives when they will be tempted to follow the world’s philosophy: “If it feels good, do it.” There will be other times in life when they must do things they don’t feel like doing. It is important to teach our children as early as possible that our feelings are a gift from God, but that they can’t always be trusted. From the first time they whinge, “I don’t feel like it,” remind them, “Be the boss of your feelings!” This phrase will become even more valuable as our children get older.


Adapted from Creative Correction by Lisa Whelchel, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2000, Lisa Whelchel. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Real Boundaries for Teens

PIC_Real Boundaries for Teens

How do you set effective boundaries that build character and establish a proper relationship with your teen?

by Tiffany Stuart

Teens spell boundaries: R-U-L-E-S.

They’d prefer to jump over them into adulthood. But that’s not reality. Even today’s reality TV shows have rules and restrictions.

The Voice of Ireland provides wanna-be singing sensations an opportunity to pursue their dreams. However there are age limitations and rules. The contestants’ reward: talent recognition and stardom.

Our teens need us to be their greatest fan through their best and worst auditions in life. Regardless of their performance, our sons and daughters need to know we love them — unconditionally. And loving them means establishing boundaries. Here are some thoughts on boundaries with teens.


We cannot just lock our teens in the house like Big Brother. That’s too easy. Boundaries include saying yes and no, just as doors are made to be opened and closed. Teens need the life lessons of success and failure to mature. When we open the door to appropriate levels of freedom, we give our teens a chance to make their own decisions, and to learn from them. When your daughter messes up by getting a speeding ticket, support her. Why? Because you can comfort and guide her through her mistake.

If you feel like trust was broken, a lock down may be necessary. If the door has been wide open, it’s okay to shut it, a little, a lot, or completely. You can reopen it later.


Sometimes reality shows feature changes to the rules in every episode. Each week contestants never know what their challenge would be. Shows like that remind us of our movable boundaries. Surprise teens with a big give. As they demonstrate responsibility, allow more freedom. Reward them for giving to others.

Be willing to change with them. What your thirteen-year-old does today will be different when she’s eighteen. Consider moving their curfew from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.


Today’s teens are extra busy. Sometimes trying to survive activities during the school year turns into The Contender. We’re like boxers slugging it out. Rather than fighting over schedules to exhaustion, decide beforehand. Set a boundary up in advance. A spring and autumn sport? Year round? No more than two activities during a term? Knowing this limitation eliminates verbal boxing matches.


Want a hot, but touchy topic? Mention dating to teens. Teens that date often experience rejection. Be sensitive to their pain. Listen. Shows like The Bachelor promote lies, betrayal and pain — not the life-long commitment of marriage. Help teens establish personal boundaries by encouraging them to respect their values and their bodies. Discuss sexual temptation and ways to avoid it. Offer safer options like double dating in public.

Parents Need Them

Boundaries help our teens during their race towards maturity. Boundaries help parents too.

We need to know ours and model them to our teenagers. If we lack personal boundaries, what can we expect of our sons and daughters?

What matters most to you? Do you live those things out with consistency? If not, how can adding boundaries help you?

Married parents, as often as possible, be united. Talk in private about acceptable limits. Be prepared to answer teens when your boundary is nonnegotiable. Know what Scripture says on the topic.

My husband and I agreed — no teen tattoos. Another mum’s son asked for long hair and a piercing. She answered, “Choose one, not both.” If your values aren’t compromised — compromise.

With separated or divorced parents, know your boundaries and keep them, even when they differ from your ex’s. One mom keeps a “no 18’s movies” standard even if the 18’s movie is borrowed from dad’s.


Some teens argue about attending church. Dr. John Townsend wrote in his book, Boundaries with Teens, “Good parenting means letting your teen move away from you spiritually while at the same time keeping her pointed toward a connection with her Heavenly Father.”

My friend allowed her teen the freedom to volunteer as a cameraman for the church service instead of attending youth group, which he didn’t enjoy.

Show your teens you value faith through your lifestyle. Pray with them. I tell my son Justin to pray during his algebra tests. He looks at me like I’m silly, but I believe God hears our prayers and He cares about every detail — including secondary school math.

The Finale

The X Factor picks one winner after months of audition cuts and performances. Each week one or more contestants are sent home until the last two compete in the finale.

Unlike the talent show, we don’t eliminate our sons or daughters. We stand beside them when they forget their lines. We remember their dreams, cheering their wins and comforting their losses. One day our teens will receive their reward by becoming the responsible adults that God has made them to be. And we can celebrate, knowing our boundaries and commitment played a part in their lifelong dream of independence. Until then, let’s challenge them to take risks, work hard and dream big.

How do you spell the greatest boundary of all?


Copyright 2008, Tiffany Stuart. Used by permission.


Teaching Kids to be Content With They Have

PIC_Teaching Kids to be content with that they have

This activity will help kids understand how advertising fuels their desire for more stuff.

Use this activity to teach your children to fight the temptation to want more stuff and learn to be content:

Supplies: You will need a television, paper, pencil and Bible. (Note: If you’d prefer not to use a television, substitute various magazines instead.)

Activity: Gather everyone around the TV for this activity. Since you will be flipping channels in search of adverts, keep a remote control handy.

Share: We’re going to watch television, but we’re not going to watch a regular show. We’re going to look for adverts and play a simple game as we watch them. When you see an ad, call out what you think it’s trying to sell. If you see a restaurant advert, you might call out “hamburgers.” I’ll make a list of everything you call out.

  • After compiling a large list, read it aloud and discuss the following questions.
  • When you see things that interest you in adverts, how do you feel?
  • How do advertisements make us want more stuff?
  • What does an advert do or say to get you to believe you need that item?
  • How is this goal similar to tricking people?

For biblical application, read Matthew 4:1-11 with your family. Consider these questions:

  • How did Satan try to deceive Jesus like adverts try to trick you?
  • How did Jesus deal with the temptation to have more “stuff”?
  • What can we learn from this story about temptation?

Now read Hebrew 13:5; talk about what it means to want more things. Remind everyone that God has promised to take care of our needs. Ask each family member to complete the following sentence: “One way I can be happy with what I have is to …”

If you haven’t tried taking a break from TV or the Internet, now might be a good time to suggest it to your children. You could use the extra time for other family activities or to serve others in the community.

Learning the Differences Between Wants and Needs

This activity will help kids understand why we should spend money on what we truly need before all else.

Help your children learn the difference between wants and needs.

Supplies: You’ll need paper, pencils, glasses of drinking water and a fizzy drink.

Activity: Place one glass of cold water on the table for each family member. In the centre of the table, place a glass filled with a favourite fizzy drink. Ask family members to act out what life would be like if they didn’t have fizzy drinks (then go pour the drinks into the sink). If your family enjoys frequent or even an occasional fizzy drink, responses could range from “oh, well” to panic.

Now have the family act out what life would be like without water — or any liquid that has water in it. Responses could range from clutching at the throat to falling on the floor in mock death.

Bring everyone back to “life” with a drink of water. Then discuss these questions:

  • What is the difference between water and a fizzy drink?
  • If you had to choose between unlimited glasses of water for a week or a 2 litre of a favourite soda, which would you choose and why?

Share: We can survive without fizzy drinks because our bodies don’t need them to keep us alive. But if we didn’t have water, we could not survive. This illustrates the difference between wants and needs. Let’s look at this difference another way.

Give each family member a sheet of paper and a pencil. Have each person draw or list all the things they touch or use in a typical day. Help children circle the items on their lists that are needs. For example, someone might circle an item of clothing because it is necessary for our society. Keep in mind that what some may consider a “need,” others could think of as a luxury.

Now ask:

  • If you had a limited amount of money to spend, and you owned nothing, which things on your list would you buy first?
  • What does this paper tell us about the way we spend our money?

Share: A wise spender doesn’t use all his money for “wants” before taking care of needs. To be wise spenders, we must first take care of the things that are most important, and then we can think about buying some of the things that are luxuries. 

Adapted from Heritage Builders’ Money Matters Family Night Tool Chest Focus on the Family

Power Parenting

PIC_Power Parenting

I receive numerous calls and emailed pleas for help from parents of struggling teens every day. I’d like to share a few excerpts from the messages I received in my email inbox today:

Well . . . on Christmas Eve, I kicked my daughter out of my house (she is my eldest) because for the umpteenth time she didn’t have any desire to follow rules, not lie or respect her family . . .

and . . .

My 13-year-old son does not mind me at all. Every word that comes out of his mouth is a lie, and he has also been stealing things and getting into trouble at school. His attitude is, “I don’t care about anything,” and I am afraid that his bad language and bad habits will start affecting my three-year-old . . .

also . . .

We have currently been experiencing some problems with our 14-year-old daughter. She has tried to run away once and has gotten into fights at school. She is very defiant towards us and is really hateful toward her younger brother – age 10.

and . . .

We are dealing with our 15-year-old daughter who is convinced she’s a lesbian, is cutting and possibly has an eating disorder.

Like these concerned parents, you might be hitting a bump in the road. You hope there will be better days ahead. Perhaps you would like your child to stop lying, be more respectful, get better grades, or act as if they appreciate all you’ve done for them. Or, maybe it’s more than that, and you don’t know exactly what needs to change, but you know something must change or your family won’t hold up under all the strain and stress of living with an out-of-control teen.

We don’t often think of change in terms of giving something up in order to gain something better – especially as it applies to parenting. Usually, we believe that things will get better if we just clamp down harder and get things under our control. But that’s not always the case. So, let’s talk a minute about Power Parenting.

Empower your teenager

Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do as a parent is to give up some of your power over your teen. A line from the 1994 publication Flight of the Buffalo says it best: “Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have – and underestimate the value of what they gain by giving it up.” I tell parents all the time, if you want your child to grow up, you have to let go of some of the power and control over their life.

It boils down to one very simple concept: the best way to empower your teenager is to gradually share the power you have, allowing them more and more control and responsibility for their own decisions.

To empower your child, hand them the responsibility for their own decisions.

For the helicopter parent, the habit of picking up the slack, covering all the bases, answering all the questions, solving all the problems, and making everything easy for their teen is not doing the teenager any real favours. Instead, it keeps them immature, dependent and powerless.

Responsibility becomes an internal life force when parents empower a child to make decisions, line out their options, define the consequences and then let them choose.

If your teenager is fully capable of doing well, communicate that belief to him by handing over more and more control and responsibility. Fortunately, most teens want to take control of things in their life, so let them. Let them make choices, but also let them bear the responsibility for those choices. Line out their options, define the consequences and then let them choose. Then, don’t rescue them or hold back one bit in relation to enforcing consequences for their poor choices. And don’t forget to congratulate and reward them for making good choices!

When empowered, your teen’s expectations will shift away from leaning on mom and dad to fix everything, to understanding that they are the ones responsible for how things turn out. They may make many mistakes before they begin to understand what good decision-making looks like. And they may even try every trick in the book to get you to rescue them out of their poor choices. But don’t do it! Hold them responsible, just as they will someday be held accountable as an adult.

When to exercise full parental power

Now, let me address the family dealing with a teen who is spinning out of control or has issues with drugs or alcohol. This issue is entirely different. In this day and age, a child choosing to self-destruct or to live a dangerous lifestyle could end up in serious trouble or could even die. In situations like this, empowerment shifts back to the parent, who must intervene and retake decisive control.

In this case, I recommend taking whatever measures are necessary to ensure the safety of your teen. It’s up to you to create a solution, such as counselling or rehab, or he may need to live somewhere else while going through this. And you, too, will need to surround yourself with good counsel and a group of godly friends who are willing to pray with you and encourage you.

Before you determine the needed changes, get the right kind of counsel to map out a plan of action. Then, with plan in hand, and with all the power you can muster, communicate this message: “Honey, we love you. Nothing you do or say will make us love you any less, and nothing you do or say will make us love you more. But we are not going to live like this anymore. Since you are not making the right choices on your own, here is what will change in your life, as of today . . .”

In closing . . .

I want to share a heartbreaking email message I just this minute received as I was finishing writing this article, this time from a teenager . . .

I have been in a programme before but was kicked out because I didn’t want to obey the rules. When I got out I realised I needed help and wish I could go back. I suffer from depression and cut myself. I attempted suicide and almost died, then went to a programme and didn’t want help so didn’t take it. I can be very verbally abusive to my parents and do hit them. I was adopted and have had lots of issues with that. I need help and am willing to do whatever it takes to receive it. – Marie (age 15)

Some may believe that teenage problems are generally trivial and “child’s play,” or that parents are just overreacting. I hope that such a plea for help from a dear 15-year-old teenager sheds a different light on the struggles of teenagers today and what we deal with every day here at Heartlight. 

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host and the founder of the Heartlight Residential Counseling Center for Struggling Teens.

© 2009 Heartlight Ministries Foundation. Used by permission.

Parental Sarcasm is No Joke!

PIC_Parental Sarcasm

by Paul Coughlin

When I was 11 years old, a teacher called our house to deliver some exceptional news. She told my mother that I qualified to be placed in a class for gifted students. My mother replied, “Him? He can’t even find his shoes in the morning!”

That swift and chuckling phrase, delivered in her charming Irish accent, was deployed nearly 30 years ago. Yet whenever I think of it, I feel stripped and humiliated anew.

Such is the wounding power of parental sarcasm—a vice I struggle to keep contained as I raise my own children.

If sarcasm were a spiritual gift, I would be its chief apostle. This double-edged sword, able to spark laughter as well as inflict pain, is in my parental DNA. Through much soul-searching, it has taken me years to find that thin line between good-natured fatherly teasing and camouflaged mockery.

Double edge

Sarcasm’s good and bad sides are found throughout the Bible. The prophet Elijah used it as an instrument of truth through humor when he mocked the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:27). Jesus employed this potent rhetorical device on the Pharisees when He said, “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:24).

The Bible also shows us sarcasm’s self-justifying and sneaky side, as in the case of Cain’s slaying of Abel:

Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’

“ ‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ ” (Genesis 4:9)

As I studied sarcasm throughout the Bible, I found that God, His Son and the prophets didn’t use it against the weak, timid or humble. They never unleashed it upon a child. Rather, it was used against people who were stubborn, self-righteous or arrogant.

Hidden barbs

Parental sarcasm, on the other hand, is often a hiding place for undisclosed anger, annoyance, even jealousy. It provides parents the dishonest opportunity to wound without looking like they’re wounding; they can later fall back on the age-old cop-out, “I didn’t mean it. Can’t you take a joke?” Sarcasm favours parents, who are much more proficient at using it than children. Because of this unequal power, parental sarcasm can be a form of bullying.

I find that the temptation toward parental sarcasm flows most when I’m afraid, in pain or disappointed. During these moments, sarcasm becomes an expression of my darkest fears or insecurities.

I’m not advocating a home without humour, but parents need to use the right kind of humour and the right kind of sarcasm—the exposure of irony or wrongdoing without contempt or belittlement.

The fine line

Here’s an example: Say your oldest son came home past his curfew last week, and you showed him grace and forgiveness. Then his younger brother came home late this week, and your oldest son demands you lower the hammer on him. Suppose you said, “Aren’t you perfect, Mr. Hypocrite?”

Your sarcasm would be accurate, but it would also be needlessly harsh. Instead you could say, “Remind me, what did Jesus say again about a plank being in someone’s eye?” This response points out the irony of his moral failure, but it doesn’t condemn him.

Sarcasm must be used with great skill or people get hurt. Some parents don’t have this skill, so they shouldn’t use sarcasm at all.

Walking away from sarcasm is like giving up your favourite junk food. It takes a game plan. To quell my appetite for sarcasm, I watch my intake. I avoid TV shows steeped in mocking or disrespectful humour, and I don’t read authors or magazines known for a cynical approach toward life.

Parents should remember that sharp words, even when said with a smile, can leave a child with an emotional, spiritual and psychological black eye. As the expression goes, it’s only funny when both people are laughing.


Paul Coughlin is the author of “No More Jellyfish, Chickens or Wimps: Raising Secure, Assertive Kids in a Tough World.”

Misbehaviour Moments

PIC_Misbehaviour Moments
Written by Bridgette Booth

A child’s repeated misbehaviour can be frustrating to parents, but Ali Dent found a way to turn her child’s wrongdoing into positive learning experiences. First, Ali measures her children’s view of right and wrong. If her son Jonathan takes something from his brother, she pulls Jonathan aside.

“If Jonathan has based his thinking on fairness, I ask how he determines what is and is not fair. Then I might say, ‘So let’s pretend you have three toys and James has one. By your rules, he could take one of yours.’ ” Her extension of his logic helps him rethink his definition of what is fair.

In the same way, she monitors his respect when addressing adults and helps him recognise that the tone of his voice matters as much as his words. Or when he struggles with a negative attitude, she helps him understand his need for hope.

Ali doesn’t stop the conversation there. Next, she helps him examine God’s standards by asking, “What commandment are you breaking?”

After the toy-swiping incident, Jonathan admitted he broke the commandment against stealing, so Ali encouraged him to correct his behaviour. The result was that her son admitted his error and also saw his need to ask for his brother’s and God’s forgiveness.

“I always point to our need for God and His grace,” Ali says.

When her son repeats the offense on another day, it’s easier for him to think through his motivation, the rule he has broken and what his response should be. Ali trains her children through repetition, but she is quick to point out that the Spirit (in His perfect timing) is the One who opens her children’s eyes so they understand.

Ali says the long process is worth it when that aha moment happens in the lives of her children. She says, “When a heart changes, behaviour follows.” 

From Focus on Your Child’s Discovery Years, May 2008. Published by Focus on the Family*. © 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.