Correcting Parenting Mistakes

One of my favorite questions from young parents is whether or not my husband and I did all of the things I advocate with our own child. While we did much of what I suggest, some of the ideas I share with you were ones I thought of after our daughter was an adult. There are things in retrospect I wish we had done even more of and things I think we could have skipped without harming our child. And there are some mistakes we made along the way. Thankfully, our daughter is far enough into adulthood that I think we are safe now in saying they weren’t fatal mistakes, but they were still not our best parenting moments.

In fact, I have yet to meet a parent who claims to have parented mistake free. That’s especially true for Christian parents who have so many additional things to teach their kids. What makes a truly effective Christian parent different from others is an unwillingness to just shrug off mistakes as if they don’t matter. The truth is that your kids either immediately know when you’ve made a parenting mistake or they will figure it out at some point. What breaks down the parent child relationship and compounds the errors are not so much the errors themselves, as the lack of addressing them.

So what should you do when you realize you have made a mistake in parenting?

  • Admit the mistake to your child. This frightens many parents, but it’s the right thing to do. Not only does it set a good example for telling the truth and accepting responsibility for one’s actions, it also shows your kids how to repent. If your children are younger, be very specific and concrete in what you say and use words they can understand.
  • Acknowledge the negative consequences your child has or will experience because of your mistake. In some cases, this is fairly obvious – for example, you said something you shouldn’t have and it hurt your child’s feelings. Other times, it’s a little more abstract – perhaps you have neglected to correct a character flaw in them consistently and you know if not corrected that flaw will create problems for your child in the future. Once again, try to explain it in age appropriate ways to your child.
  • Apologize. Sometimes the most powerful words in healing an issue in a parent child relationship are, ”I’m sorry.”
  • State what you will do in the future to avoid repeating the mistake. At times, this will also mean your child will need to make changes as well – especially if you will begin correcting a behavior you have been ignoring or will be giving your child new responsibilities.
  • Acknowledge any potential difficulties your child may experience because of the changes and apologize again for the mistake you are now having to correct. If your child had the new expectation from day one, it probably wouldn’t seem as drastic as having been allowed to behave in a certain way for a long period of time and then suddenly being expected to change. Remember, you are not apologizing for the change itself, because that is ultimately in your child’s best interest. What you are acknowledging is that the change may be difficult to make for both you and your child.
  • Make atonement when possible for your mistake. Generally, this means reducing a consequence that was too harsh. It could also be giving a grace period to become accustomed to a new rule or responsibility in which reminders will be given perhaps a little more gently than normal.

It’s important to note, that you can go through these steps even if you don’t realize the mistake you made until your child is an adult. Obviously, at that point you may not be able to change anything. You can, however, explain clearly how you believe your child’s life would be improved even now if a change of some sort is made. If the mistake is pointed out to you by an adult child, it is perhaps even more important that you acknowledge the mistake if it was indeed one. Reconciliation is great, but don’t allow your child to develop a victim mentality and refuse to move forward from whatever mistake you made. A child who can’t forgive your parenting mistakes, will stay stuck in the past and never really reach his or her godly potential.

Don’t be afraid to admit your parenting mistakes or attempt to minimize them. Take responsibility for them and correct them. It may be one of the most important things you will ever do in parenting your child.

Concrete Things You Can Do To Prevent the Next Mass Shooting

As I write this, there has been yet another heart breaking mass shooting. This time it involved an 18 year old killing an entire class of children and their teachers. It has been followed by the usual round of pundits advocating for or against changing gun laws. The reality is that the issues that cultivate people who act out in violent ways are complex and require complex solutions. Since complex solutions require hard work, time and resources, they are ignored in hopes that a quick vote on a law or government money thrown at an issue will resolve it without much effort on our parts. It’s a nice fantasy, but a fantasy all the same. (Laws and government funds may help a little, but they are rarely the entire solution to any problem.)

To stop this from happening again, we all need to do our part. It will take hard work. We will make mistakes along the way and won’t always be successful in our efforts. If any of us refuses to do our part, however, the problems will continue. Exactly what you can do will vary depending upon your situation. Scan through the list below and choose the items where you can make a difference. Fair warning, though. The truth is not easy to read or embrace, but the children in our world need us to be honest so we can actually address some of the core issues involved.

  • If you are a parent, be actively engaged with your children. Children need a lot of your time and attention. They need you to teach and guide them. They need you to correct them and give consequences. They need to be around you enough to see you model godly behavior. You need to be engaged with them enough to see problems developing in their early stages – not when they are already out of control. This takes a decent amount of time and effort EVERY DAY. If your only conversations with your kids are brief and primarily logistical, you are not engaged enough with your kids.
  • Stop telling parents it doesn’t matter what they do or don’t do in parenting because ”children are resilient”. We have research now – lots of it – that shows the choices parents make absolutely have a huge impact on how their children act and react to the world around them. The most ironic thing about this common parenting myth is that one of the top indicators of whether or not a child is resilient is the strength of the child’s relationship with a parent and how that child is parented. Poor parenting skills create not only children with lots of problems, but children with little resiliency.
  • Stop assuming other people will parent your kids for you. Sure your children suddenly began behaving better when they entered school, because the teacher was the first person to establish rules and boundaries and enforce them consistently. The odds are just as great, however, that the other adults to whom your child is exposed in day care, school, activities and even church may not want to help parent your child. In fact, they may be ignoring your child or actively teaching your kids any number of disturbing ideas and encouraging negative attitudes and behaviors. When you decided to raise children, the role of parent came with certain responsibilities. Stop expecting others to do your job for you.
  • Stop bragging about your parenting mistakes or encouraging parents to ignore older parents trying to give solid parenting advice. Sure your parenting mistake was funny and not a big deal. Maybe you disagree with a blog post or article on parenting. The truth is that many parents struggle with much deeper parenting issues than you might. (They may even be people you know and would least expect are having issues.) Their parenting mistakes could seriously harm or even kill their children. Don’t unknowingly discourage other parents from getting the help they need because you are defensive for some reason (even if it is totally justified in your situation). Let’s encourage parents to be the absolute best parents they can be.
  • All that being said, ask for help. To raise the type of children who make the world a better place, you will need help. This is especially true if you are a Christian parent trying to raise your kids counter culturally. Don’t be afraid to ask for that help, but do so wisely. Pick your helpers carefully. Make sure they are not actually hurting your child in some way. When you ask for help, be as specific as possible in what you hope the person can accomplish. If the person you ask declines, keep asking until you find someone who will help.
  • Offer help to parents by mentoring children and/or parents. If your church or local school has a mentoring program, get trained and participate. You can perhaps be a little more unbiased and less embarrassed to encourage a parent or child to get the help he or she needs. Or you may be able to provide that assistance yourself. Experienced parents who have raised children who are ”model” adults should be especially encouraged to mentor young parents.
  • Watch for warning signs and get professional help early. Did you know that children who do something horrible to an animal are extremely likely to do something horrible to people later in life? If your child seems angry all of the time, has no friends, seems obsessed with guns or violence, has signs of a mental illness, etc., run to your child’s pediatrician and ask for help. Keep asking until your child gets help and shows improvement. Do not allow a professional to minimize your concerns. I don’t think I have ever read of a parent of a murderer who said they were shocked, because their child was so sweet and kind. In fact, many admit they were afraid of their own child.
  • See something? Say something (and keep saying it until someone does something). Too many times, people saw warning signs. Sometimes they said something, sometimes they kept quiet. The incidents that are prevented are usually because someone saw something and said something until someone listened and did something. Don’t be so afraid of getting involved that you refuse to speak up. Lives may be at stake.
  • Stop embarrassing parents who need the help of experienced parents or professionals. The fear of being mocked, talked about, shamed or embarrassed by others prevents many parents from seeking help parenting their children – whether that help is advice, mentoring or professional. We need to assume every parent needs help with some issue and applaud those who ask for that help.
  • Be honest about the things that cause trauma in children and provide extra help for children who have experienced trauma. Did you know children can experience trauma in the womb that can impact them even if they are adopted by a great family at birth? Or that divorce or the death of a parent causes trauma in children (amongst dozens of other things)? We have the research, but we aren’t educating parents. I am so tired of meeting adoptive parents who were not told their child was born addicted or had birth parents who suffered from mental illnesses, nor were they told what they could do to help their children navigate these issues and as a result, the parents and children are suffering because they weren’t educated or prepared.
  • Worry more about what is actually best for children and less about the popular trends of the moment. Many educators and others who work with children have private conversations about how some current trends will cause deep issues for the children raised by them. Few, however, are brave enough to put up with the bullying that happens when you find issues with the current popular opinions of the day. Everyone needs to be brave enough to speak up in ways that can be heard and understood by others – or at least do what educators have done for years – keep quiet, but do what is in the actual best interest of the child.
  • Protect children and teens from all violent content – including gaming. Every parent wants to believe their child is different, but the research is overwhelming. Violent content increases aggressive and violent behaviors. Not to mention early war games were actually created to train soldiers. These shooters have been trained through gaming to be lethal killers. If the entertainment industry really wants to end violence, they can start by no longer creating violent content.
  • Actively teach young people godly conflict resolution skills. When experts tell parents to let kids work out their own conflicts, what we get is a world full of adults acting out their conflicts like 5 year olds. We need to actively teach children conflict resolution skills at home, in school and in church and insist they use them.
  • Live the Golden Rule every day. The Golden rule isn’t just about not doing harm to others. It also involves doing positive things for others. Stop rationalizing your own acting out in anger on the road, in retail establishments or online. Be the first to thank someone, praise an employee to the manager, help someone or do something nice for someone. After the last several years, we are all close to the breaking point. You can help by being kinder, more patient, gentler and more loving every day.
  • Teach young people the value of life. Life is a blessing from God. It is a gift to be valued. Constantly reinforcing the value of every life could not only reduce violence against others, but help remove suicide as a viable option young people are willing to consider.
  • Teach young people how to actually live their faith and why it matters. I am a Christian and to me all of the answers about love, character, how to treat others, the value of any and every human life and more are found in the Bible. Parents and churches have to make teaching, coaching and modeling the commands and principles in the Bible a top priority. Currently, they all say they do, but very few are actually putting in the necessary effort to be successful at teaching young people how to be who God created them to be and instilling a passion for living the Christian life in them.

So what are you going to do to help prevent the next mass shooting? Ranting online never accomplishes much other than getting pats on the back from like minded friends. Be brave. Do something concrete to make a positive difference in the life of a child or teen. We all need to do our part if we really want mass shootings to stop.

Hidden Skills Your Kids Need for Better Relationships

I don’t know if Satan has a top ten list of the ways he tempts people to sin, but if he does, I would imagine relationships would be on it. Your kids have lots of relationships they are trying to navigate – you (their parents), siblings, other relatives, friends, neighbors, coaches, teachers, ministers and more. With their lack of knowledge and life experience, it can be easy for them to make poor choices in how they handle the difficulties that often arise between two people.

As Christian parents, you are probably spending a lot of time reminding them to be kind and loving. You are hopefully having conversations about which words and behaviors are loving and kind when interacting with others. You are probably spending time correcting them when they make poor choices in how they treat others. Did you know though, that there are some special skill sets and habits you can teach your kids that will help them continue to improve in the ways they interact with others even long after they are adults?

If you can work with your kids on these areas, it is much more likely they will avoid developing bad and even sinful habits in how they interact with others.

  • Keen awareness of the emotional states of others. There are a few people in the world who are what is known as an ”open book”. They are extremely open and honest. If you say something that hurts their feelings, they will usually let you know immediately and give you an opportunity to resolve any misunderstandings in the moment. Most people, however, are emotional poker players. They are afraid to be vulnerable enough to share their emotions with someone. That can be good, if they are doing it in an effort to have self control over their words and actions. It can be toxic when they never let the person who has upset them know so they can make amends or they tell everyone else how angry they are with someone who literally has no clue anything is wrong. Teaching your kids how to read facial expressions, tone of voice, body language and tells can help them recognize when someone might be upset with them. They can then be proactive in checking to verify the emotional state of the person and correcting any issues. Being aware of the emotional states of others can also help them choose times for having difficult conversations when everyone is emotionally calm and not already upset, tired, etc.
  • Ask for feedback. This is scary for everyone. We all know we aren’t perfect, but who really wants to hear a list of one’s faults and mistakes? Feedback from others, however, is the quickest way to correct mistakes and grow – assuming the feedback is trustworthy. Help your kids find people they can trust to be kind, but honest about how they interact with others. Often a teacher, coach, best friend or relative can point out little things your kids can change in the way they treat others. Remind them to reject any criticism that would have them disobey God (Like ”Everybody would like you a lot better if you would do drugs with us.”) or is problematic in other ways. Often little things like taking a step back when talking to others or letting the other person talk first don’t require a lot of practice, but can make the people with whom they are talking feel more loved.
  • Spend time in reflection. Encourage them to spend time replaying difficult interactions in their heads. Not to be overly critical of themselves or others, but to identify things they did well and the things they still need to practice. In the middle of a conversation it can be hard to determine what made things turn sour. Replaying it later can help your kids figure out what they need to change the next time they are having a similar conversation.
  • Ask for help. Some kids are socially awkward. They aren’t really being unkind, but it might seem that way to others who don’t know them as well. When your kids feel as if they are getting negative reactions from more than one person, but can’t seem to make needed corrections on their own, they may benefit from some coaching. Usually an adult is best suited to analyze the situation and help figure out any changes that may need to happen. For children who really struggle, reader’s theater social scripts can help. You can find plenty online for free that illustrate a positive way to handle the interactions that are a struggle. Your child can read through these scripts with you or others until the desired changes are comfortable.
  • Conflict resolution skills training. The worst parenting advice consistently given by ”experts” is to let kids work out their own conflicts. Children need to be actively taught strong conflict resolution skills and be given practice in using them. This skill alone can save them a lot of relational difficulties. We have a free printable parenting sheet walking you through a method on our website that you can access here.
  • Analyze the interactions Jesus had with others. Sometimes the world’s view of how to treat others isn’t very kind or loving. Your kids will be a lot less confused if they regularly go back and read about the encounters Jesus had with others. How did he interact with people who were hurting or upset? It can also help if they memorize passages like the fruit of the Spirit and 1 Corinthians 13 so they can remind themselves in the moment of how God wants them to treat others. (Repeating ”love is patient, love is kind” over and over in my head while dealing with someone difficult has helped my own self control more than once!)

So the next time you become exasperated your kids aren’t being as loving and kind towards others as you had hoped, take a step back and teach them these skills. It might just be exactly what they need.

Making Scripture Art With Kids and Teens

Scripture art is a great way to help your kids memorize scripture and place subtle reminders of important Bible verses around your home. When kids make their own scripture art, it works even better. If they like what they made, they may choose to display in their rooms, where it will be seen multiple times a day. The very creation of the work of art can engage them with the scripture in such a way that it moves into their long term memory – ready to be retrieved the moment it is needed.

There are multiple creative ways to create scripture art with your kids. Here are some of our favorites.

  • Decorative throw pillow. This is a project I have used with various groups over the years. It’s always a hit with the kids and I love the stories parents share of pillows going on family vacations and their kids memorizing the verses without trying. The simplest version requires two squares of muslin. For the original, we drew a fruit basket with each piece of fruit labeled with a fruit of the Spirit on one side and a cute drawing of a child in a suit of armor with each piece labeled with the armor of God on the other side. The kids colored the drawings, stuffed the pillows and hand sewed the small opening to close the pillow. (Note: Use fabric markers for more durability and place cardboard inside of the pillow while decorating if the marker bleeds through your fabric.)
  • Decorative wooden hanging pieces. Full disclosure, the piece in this photo was purchased at a craft fair. Some balsa wood, acrylic paints and stencils if desired and your kids can make something similar. Craft stores often have aisles of precut wood items that could be decorated in a similar fashion.
  • Clothing items. When my daughter was younger, we had a pair of white sneakers decorated with a favorite scripture. She never wore them, but displayed them as art in her room for several years. Craft stores have tee shirts, aprons, tote bags and other fabric items that could be decorated with scripture art.
  • Journaling. Normally done in wide margin Bibles, your kids can use drawing pads or notebooks or even typing paper or card-stock. There are tons of free ideas and even patterns online for illustrating specific verses in the Bible or your kids can create their own. Looking back through their collection of drawings can help them review key verses.
  • Found art. For found art, you will need cardboard or other base that can hold some weight, a strong glue and various random objects. To illustrate the verse above for example, your kids may use four sticks to create the rough outline of a house and stones of various sizes to represent the members of your family. The verse itself can be written above or below the stick house. You can find lots of ideas online or your kids can create their own.
  • Temporary scripture art. Craft stores now carry markers and crayons that can be used on windows and mirrors. Chalk can be used on sidewalks and driveways. The art will only last until it is washed away, but it gives you a very inexpensive new canvas for every new scripture.

Have fun with it, but surround your kids with scripture art they have created. It’s a great way to help imprint important scriptures on their hearts.

Summer Family Fun Activities (That You Can Use to Teach Your Kids About God)

Summer break starts here in the next few days. Why not make plans to have some quality family fun time? There are quite a few fun summer activities you can do with your kids that can also give you opportunities to teach them about God in the process. While our website has hundreds of activity ideas for over 200 Bible lessons, here are a few of our favorite summer family fun ideas.

  • Star gazing. Light pollution can make it difficult to see more than a few stars in most suburbs and cities, but they are still visible. Want to make it a true adventure? Head to the nearest rural area to see more stars than you can count. While you are admiring God’s handiwork, talk about how God created the earth or His promise to Abram about having so many descendants, they would be as numerous as the stars. You can even tell them about one the dreams Joseph had about his brothers that involved stars.
  • Build a booth. The actual Jewish holiday of the booths isn’t until Fall, but the activity is a great summer one. Find branches and foliage and build a shelter. The holiday has very strict rules about the construction, but you can do whatever works best in your yard. Make sure you can see peeks of the sky through the roof of your structure. For extra fun, sleep or eat in your structure. During the Jewish holiday of booths, the parents tell their children all of the stories of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness and the ways God cared for them. They are great stories to share with your kids, too.
  • Grow or make food to share. There are lots of stories in the Bible when people shared their food with others – from Abraham feeding angels unaware to the widow feeding Elijah to Jesus feeding the five thousand – share stories about sharing food with others as you care for the plants that grow food to share or cook food for others. The story of Ruth and the stories in Acts about Christians helping those suffering in a famine, teach your kids that God wants them to help feed the hungry in our world.
  • Take family walks or hikes. Have you ever paid attention to how much teaching Jesus did while he was walking places with his disciples? Take a page from the ministry of Jesus. You can share everything he did on his walks or any Bible stories or passages of scripture you want your kids to know and understand.
  • Create some scripture art. Gather up some craft supplies. Spend time creating scripture art that is beautiful enough to display in your home or gift to others. You might even want to host an ”art exhibit” and invite others to view your scripture art while snacking on little snacks you provide.
  • Make your sidewalk a faith mural. We are supposed to have a dry summer in our area. Grab some colored chalk and create a faith mural on your driveway or sidewalk. Challenge your kids to create designs that would teach passerby about God. Help them execute their designs or if each child is decorating their own block, design one yourself. As you work, talk about what would make people more interested in learning about God and what are some important things for them to know about Him.

Have fun as a family this summer. You will create sweet memories and strengthen the faith foundations of your kids in the process.