What To Do When Your Kids Say Something Outrageous (i.e. Wrong!)

When was the last time you learned some little tidbit that was fun, interesting or exciting? Remember that feeling of wanting to share the information with someone so they could get excited or amused with you? What happened? Did the person respond in a less than enthused manner or with outright derision at your tidbit? How did that make you feel?

Chances are it didn’t feel so great. Even though you are an adult with somewhat healthy self esteem, a part of you was disappointed, embarrassed or perhaps even angry or upset at the negative reaction. If the response included a personal insult, you probably aren’t inclined to share anything with that person again.

Your children are exposed to a lot of new information every day. Some of it is learned in the educational process. They may pick up new information from new experiences, things they read or social media. Some of that information is true and helpful. Some isn’t true, but believing it doesn’t have a lot of negative consequences. Sometimes, however, the information they learn is wrong and may have consequences that range from minor to deadly if they believe and act on it.

As parents, we are busy. It feels like the list of what we need to do never ends. So when we see a shortcut we can take that will save us some time, we try to take it to give ourselves margin. And what saves more time than cutting off your child who is speaking nonsense as if it were wisdom and tell them immediately their information is wrong, while also supplying the correct information?

It may save you time, but it begins chipping away at your relationship with your children. In their minds, not only did you not really listen to what they had to say, you interrupted them and made them feel stupid. While, I’m hopeful you didn’t actually say that the information or they themselves were stupid, that’s what your kids felt like. And if your tone and body language were dismissive as you corrected them, the damage is even worse. Children who are already leaning towards rebellious behavior will tend to double down on their original statement – even if they know you are probably correct in your assessment of its weaknesses.

You don’t want your children to go around believing incorrect information, much less acting upon it or sharing it with others. So how can you correct the information they have shared without making matters worse? Sometimes the best technique is to give them openings that encourage them to dig a little deeper and discover the error in their statements through a guided thought process.

Start by using one of the following statements or questions.

  1. Tell me more.
  2. That’s an interesting perspective. Where did you learn about it?
  3. Hmmm. Is there any evidence or research to support that statement?
  4. Why do you think that is true?
  5. Do you know if the Bible has anything to say about that?

It is crucial that while asking these questions you muster all of the humility and mutual respect you can in your tone and demeanor. Who knows? Although the original statement may be far from true, there may be little bits of information connected to it that will teach you something new.

Be interested in the responses your children give to you. Ask follow up questions. Suggest other places they can research that might have better data or more accurate information. Offer to read the materials they read if you have the time. (Sometimes the original information was correct, but your children misunderstood what they read.) When you sense they feel heard, then and only then should you begin introducing your side of the “debate”.

Humbly (this is key), mention that you have come to a different conclusion based on the information, knowledge and experience you possess. Sum up quickly the bulk of the information you know that led to your differing conclusion. If your children want to continue the conversation, you can share more information or give them things to read or watch that will educate them.

It’s important to remember that many debates are about opinion – not Truth or even truth. Pick your battles. Let your children have their own opinion about things that don’t really matter. Save your corrections for spiritual matters and other crucial information. Most importantly, follow the rules of debate – no name calling or yelling, don’t talk over your child, take turns speaking and yield the floor back to your child regularly, allow your child to amend his or her original statement with dignity, extend comfort and grace when your children realize their statements are incorrect and applaud their willingness to hear what you had to say and consider the evidence with discernment. Don’t let the outrageous statements your kids make undermine your relationship or your ability to parent them. Hopefully, they will give you the same respect and grace when you say something outrageous!

10 Free (or Practically Free) Gifts Your Kids Really Want

I just returned from the grocery store, where they are ready for the last minute Valentine’s Day rush. The bouquets of roses are at the beginning of every checkout lane to make it as easy as humanly possible. Sure your kids might love some chocolate tomorrow or a present on their birthday or for Christmas. The truth, though, is that there are ten things they would secretly love even more, but will probably never put on their gift lists.

Looking to make your children feel loved and valued? Hoping to lessen the chances they get involved in risky behaviors? While you might still want to give that birthday or Christmas present with a bow on top, try giving them these things throughout the year.

  1. A date with Mom or Dad. It doesn’t have to be fancy. The more children you have, the more important the gift of getting one on one time with a parent giving you their undivided attention while doing something enjoyable together means. This is not a time for you to lecture, but a time to enjoy one another’s company and for you to be a fully engaged listener.
  2. Family game night. When is the last time your family sat down and played a board game together? If you can’t afford a game, try thrift shops and yard sales (our library book sale sometimes has board games) or have fun creating your own board game together and then playing it. (You can use poster board, an old box or a board canvas.)
  3. 8 hugs (or positive touches) a day. I’m not sure the number eight has held up in more recent research, but the principle is the same. Your kids are starved for positive physical touches from you (if they are in a don’t hug me phase, try another type of touch like patting them on the back, fist bumps, high fives, etc.). The more they get, the more their physical touch “bucket” will be filled, making them happier, healthier and less likely to try and get physical touch in inappropriate ways.
  4. Hearing you say “I love you” and “I really like you/enjoy spending time with you” multiple times a day. For some children hearing “I like you” means more than “I love you” (because they believe you are forced to love them as a parent, but you choose to like them), but they all need to hear both statements regularly. Don’t just assume they know it. They probably do, but they still desperately need to hear you say the words.
  5. Working on a project together. The project doesn’t matter as long at it is something you are both motivated to do. It can be repainting their bedroom, building or making something, cooking something fun or for someone else, a service project, a garden….. ask your kids what they think would be fun. Being equally invested in a project and working as a team – where you respect their opinions and give them some ownership – makes them understand that you realize they are growing and maturing and have something to contribute.
  6. Hearing your (now) funny growing up stories. It helps to know you weren’t always as perfect as you may seem to them now. It also can teach them that often something that is embarrassing today may become one of their favorite funny stories with time. It also shows them you can laugh at yourself – especially important if they are beginning to think of you as uptight or rigid. Just make sure your stories don’t sound as if you are actually making fun of them, but rather that you can empathize, because you have been there yourself.
  7. Cranking up the music and singing or dancing around the house. They may roll their eyes at your “old” music, but they may not realize some of their “new” music is actually a remake or a sampling from your favorite tunes. Save the classical and jazz for other times and pull out the fun stuff you listened to as a child or a teen.
  8. Go on an adventure. Adventures require curiosity and exploration – not necessarily money. Why not explore an unfamiliar hiking trail that is supposed to have a unique aspect to it? Or for a few dollars, check out a cool museum exhibit. Those of you who have teens and are braver can try some truly adventurous things. Sometimes searching online for “off the beaten path” and your location can unearth some things you might never find on your own. (Note: Some of the people who create these lists are bar hoppers. Atlas Obscura generally has a wider range of ideas.)
  9. Learn something new together. This needs to be chosen by your child. Craft stores, cultural art centers, hardware stores and other places often offer short term, affordable classes. The benefit of two of you doing it together is that you may be able to share some basic tools. (Check before assuming you can do that though.) Not only will you have a shared experience, but a fun topic of conversation outside of class as you work on learning or perfecting the new skill.
  10. Uninterrupted, undistracted listening from you. There is nothing more frustrating than wanting to talk with someone who is obviously distracted. In fact if it happens more than once, you probably give up trying to discuss things with that person or to get their advice. It’s not always something you can schedule ahead of time. The next time one of your children wants to tell or ask you something, but everything down and give him or her your full attention. Listen actively. Let them completely finish before you do anything more than ask clarifying questions. If you get in the habit of doing it, you may just be surprised how much your kids will talk to you and what they are willing to share with you and get your thoughts about.

So go run to the store and buy your kids some chocolate or a birthday gift. But give them the gifts above, too. They will probably remember those gifts much longer than they will remember whatever you purchased and wrapped.

Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids About Opportunity Cost

We live in a world that teaches children they can have anything they want if they work hard enough. The truth is that some choices are mutually exclusive – by choosing one thing, you are automatically unable to get the other things. For example, if your children are only allowed one after school activity, choosing one means they cannot participate in others that may be available to them.

Why is this important as Christians? There are several reasons. If your children choose to spend time on their devices, they have chosen to not spend that time learning about God, serving others or doing other positive, productive things. Or if they choose to play on a ball team that plays on Sundays, they have opted to not worship God and fellowship with the Christians at their church. Ultimately, they can choose to reject God for their entire lives and shut themselves out of Heaven.

There are some fun ways to begin teaching your kids the principle of opportunity cost and the impact it can have on their lives.

  1. Creating alternate picture book stories. Read your children a picture book. After the first reading, have your children imagine the characters made different choices than in the original story. How might the story and the ending have changed by these different choices?
  2. Double playing a board game. This works best for board games with a particular end goal in mind and with only a couple of players (otherwise it can become too confusing). Each player has two game pieces instead of one. They make the play for the first piece, then immediately see what might have happened had they made a different roll or spin by playing the second piece. How did the game end differently for each of their game pieces?
  3. Creating a free time log and bucket list. First have your kids create a place where they can log how they spend their free time outside of school. (You may want to exclude homework, studying and tutoring as they aren’t really optional!) Then have them create a list of all of the things they like to do or more importantly would like to do. Often the things they would like to do the most are never done because they waste all of their free time with screens. Encourage them to keep the log and then look at their bucket list to see how much they are missing out on by the way they are spending their free time.
  4. Taking hikes with forks in the road. You’ll need to go online first and find places with trails that have options along the way. Depending upon the length of the trails, it may take more than one visit to compare and contrast the trails the different options provided. Discuss what you saw on one trail versus the other (Note: this means looking out for animal life, plants and other sights that may not have been seen on the other trail.)

Have fun with it, but make sure your children understand that some choices mean they will miss out on the other options. You don’t want to paralyze their decision making process, but do teach them to seriously consider what they may miss out on when making a particular choice.

6 Reasons Your Kids Shouldn’t Follow Their Hearts (Or Trust Their Guts)

There are some bits of advice your children will hear over and over again throughout their lives that sound wise, but are actually pretty bad advice. Perhaps the two most common are “Follow your heart” and “Trust your gut”. At their core, the two are actually flip sides of the same principle – that bad choices will give you a bad feeling and good choices, a good one. In a perfect world, that might be true. In most cases, however, other things may prevent your kids’ hearts and guts from helping them make good choices in life.

Here are our top six reasons you need to teach your children about why they shouldn’t trust their hearts and guts.

  1. They lack Bible (and other) important knowledge. Our tendency to teach children and teens the same two dozen Bible stories over and over can lead them to think they know everything in the Bible. Add that to a youthful tendency to think they know more than those older and wiser than them and you have a dangerous combination. Teach your children that their hearts and guts don’t necessarily have all of the information they need to make a wise choice.
  2. They lack life experience. Some things are learned from either personal experience or watching others make similar choices over the years. Your children need to learn that they don’t have the life experience to automatically know what may happen based on the choice they are about to make.
  3. They need to use their hearts and guts as a warning flag, not a decision maker. If your children have a bad feeling about something, it is often wise to slow down a bit and gather more information and godly advice before making a choice. Sometimes it will be a natural fear about facing something new that is ultimately good for them and they can proceed. What they shouldn’t do is assume a good feeling, desire or whatever is a definite green light that something is a good choice.
  4. Experts are wrong more than they are right – and that’s using knowledge and experience – not hearts and guts. Making good choices is tough – even with knowledge and life experience. Your children’s natural youthful arrogance can make them feel like experts in the choice to be made. Remind them that even “real” experts get it wrong more than they get it right.
  5. Emotions are poor decision makers. Feelings are fickle and susceptible to being influenced by things like hunger, exhaustion, loneliness and other unhelpful factors. Remind them that their feelings about any choice can be changed if they are already in a good or a bad mood…. meaning the choices they make based on emotions might change from one day to the next. These potentially volatile choices are a sign that emotions aren’t the best decision makers.
  6. They should make decisions based on what God wants for their lives – even if it is different from what they want. Part of making God the Lord of their lives is admitting God is wiser and bowing to His Will. That means at times God’s commands, principles or plans for their lives might look different than what they may feel like they want for themselves. It can help to remind them that God knows what is best for them and if they are wise, they will always follow His lead – not their hearts or their guts.

Teaching your children to ignore popular “wisdom” can be tough. You will need to revisit the topic more than once over the years, for the truth about this principle to take root in their hearts and minds. It’s important though, if you want them to make wise, godly choices in life.

Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids About Sloth

Chances are your children think of the adorable, slow moving animal when they hear the word “sloth”. They have no idea that it also describes a character trait that isn’t pleasing to God. Thankfully, there are a lot of fun ways to teach your children about the biblical meaning of sloth and why being slothful should be something they avoid.

It’s important (before we begin) to differentiate between the sloth and godly, Sabbath type rest. Jesus rested regularly and encouraged his disciples to rest as well. He knew that to be healthy and effective in ministry, it is important to get regular, deep rest. Interestingly, most of us today equate idleness with rest. Secular studies have found that idle activities, like screen time, don’t provide the restorative type rest our bodies and souls really need. Instead, those activities are often addictive and can lead to a life of slothfulness.

There are a lot of great Bible verses about sloth like Ecclesiastes 10:18 and Proverbs 19:15. Most are very colorful and descriptive verses about what can happen when one lives a life of sloth or what it looks like to live the opposite life – like an ant (Proverbs 6:6-9). Chances are great though that your children will need some practical experiences (and guided reflection thereafter) to really grasp the need to avoid being like a sloth!

Here are some ideas to get you started.

  1. Have an ant farm or go watch the ants in your yard. I loved having an ant farm as a child. It seems like ants never stop working. They are fascinating to watch. Better yet, they are a real life example mentioned in scripture … a way your kids can see scripture come to life.
  2. Visit a farm, talk to the farmer about all of the work that goes into a successful farm and help out (if you’re allowed to do so). Not many jobs require more work than a small family farm. Just listening to farmers talk about their daily work is enough to exhaust you. Even better if it is a family friend who can put your kids to work for the day, so they can experience some of that hard work for themselves.
  3. Make treats for the school custodian and get him or her to tell your kids about all of their job responsibilities. As an adult, I have to believe being a school custodian may be second only to a hospital orderly for jobs that are both hard and regularly unpleasant. Yet, my experience has been that many school custodians are some of the nicest, kindest people in the school. What a wonderful person to teach your kids about having a great attitude while doing a difficult job that often goes unnoticed!
  4. Grow a garden or visit a you-pick-them farm or orchard and process the “fruit” for personal use and to share with others. My family had a ½ acre garden when I was growing up. It involved a lot of labor, but provided most of our food and food to share. The summer of the unbelievable corn crop and the work it took to process is still one of family legend! If you don’t have the space for your own garden, chances are you are only a couple of hours away from a farm or orchard where you can purchase a bushel or two of something and process it. Freezing is often the easiest if you don’t do it regularly and you can find step by step instructions online.
  5. Visit an assisted living facility or nursing home and ask the oldest residents about what it was like to do things like laundry or cooking dinner when they were little. We forget that even a few decades ago many people hung their clothes outdoors to dry or made most of their dinner from scratch – including things like bread. We complain about how busy we are, but they knew true work all day – every day!
  6. Participate in a “hard” service project. These are usually a favorite of youth groups, but you can do them as a family, too.
  7. Ask employers and managers about sloth versus hard work as an employee. They probably have plenty of interesting and funny stories to tell if they have managed people for awhile. It’s important for your children to really understand what an employer considers sloth versus hard work and how it impacts their reaction to and treatment of employees.
  8. Make sloth art. Have your children draw a large outline of a sloth (the animal!). Inside the sloth, have them write or draw what a person who is slothful is like. Outside the sloth, have them write or draw the characteristics of someone who is not slothful.
  9. Visit a zoo with a sloth. You can use Google to find out if your local zoo has a sloth. Spend some time watching the sloth and discussing the movement (or lack thereof). If you don’t have a local sloth, watch some sloth videos online. There’s nothing like watching a real sloth to help one’s understanding of slothfulness!

It’s important that after any activity you take some time to sit down with your children and discuss what happened during your activity. What did they learn about sloth? About hard work? Most importantly, what changes do they think God would want them to make so they have less sloth in their lives?