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.

10 Fun Ways to Reconnect As A Family Over the Holidays (Or Anytime)

Your family has been running in circles for months. You may have spent time in the house or car together, but were you really connected emotionally to one another? Did you have any meaningful conversations – especially spiritual ones? The more disconnected families become, the weaker the supportive relationships within the family are. As your relationships with your kids grow weaker, your opportunities to coach, teach and nurture them lessen as well. If you’re on a bit of a downhill in your family relationships, it’s not too late to turn things around over the next few weeks.

It’s not just about spending more time together, but more time together when you are actively engaged with one another. Fair warning. If your family normally spends time together on individual devices, your children will roll their eyes at you when you suggest doing something together device free. Those who are extreme.y addicted to their devices might even get angry that you want to do something with them (and without devices). That’s okay. Part of the trick to detoxing from devices is finding things in the world that are more engaging than screens. (You will need to put your devices away, too.)

So then what? Here are some great activities to get your family having fun together and talking to one another again.

  • Games. Indoor board games are often best for encouraging conversation, but outdoor games like croquet or corn hole can work as well. Our town even has an outdoor area where anyone can come play boules/bocci, corn hole and other activities using their equipment.
  • Walks, hikes and holiday lights drives. Walks and hikes are healthiest, but spending time together in the car without devices and looking at interesting things that can spark conversations can work as well. Remember no devices other than perhaps Christmas music on the car radio.
  • Hot cocoa. Gather round the table or by the fire and drink hot chocolate together. Have fun adding marshmallows, using chocolate spoons or cocoa “bombs” or mug toppers. Just let your kids talk about anything and everything as you enjoy the process and the result.
  • Off the beaten path. If you live near a city or even some small towns try searching online for “off the beaten path” or “unusual things to do” plus the name of your city or town. Chances are good that one of the lists will have some things to do in your area that are unusual, fun, inexpensive and about which you had no idea. (Fair warning that some of these lists are more focused on bars than activities, so when looking online with children, it’s a good time to talk about the very best ways to spend free time.)
  • Baking and decorating cookies. A favorite for many decades, baking sugar cookies and decorating them is guaranteed to get everyone involved. You only need a couple of cookie cutters, a sugar cookie recipe or premade dough, confectioners sugar, food coloring, sprinkles and/or colored sugar to have lots of fun. You may even want to share some of your creations with others to spread a little holiday joy. The families on our street would make goodies and take them around to each house during the holidays every year for many years, making our street closer, too.
  • Service projects. There are so many ways to serve others and many of them are family friendly. Our website has tons of great ideas to get you started. Just click on the service project tab for a complete list. http://teachonereachone.org/activity-ideas/
  • “Best of” challenge. Have a family adventure working together to find the best … whatever. For several years, our family went in search of the best key lime pie. We ordered a piece to share at restaurants and tried various recipes. If you eat out a lot anyway, compare and contrast restaurants or foods. Or try a category of recipes. Or find the best holiday light display or best Christmas music. The topic doesn’t matter as much as the conversations you have as you compare and contrast.
  • Jigsaw puzzles. Every holiday season we set up a card table and work together on a Christmas puzzle. We have several now, so if we finish one we can start another. It’s a nice relaxing activity to work on together as a family.
  • Conversation starters. If your family rarely talks to each other anymore, conversations can be awkward. Try conversation starter questions. You can find lots online for free. Look for ones that will provide unusual information about everyone or lead to story telling. The cards are also great for family gatherings when your children are around relatives they barely know – especially if the relatives aren’t good at having conversations with children.
  • Read aloud. When I was little, our city’s local paper had a serial story every Christmas. Every issue had a new section of the story printed in it and families would read them aloud together. I believe that is how Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was first published. No one to my knowledge publishes holiday serial stories now, but you can do the same with any book. Choose a holiday classic or one of the C.S. Lewis books. You can even have a night of reading picture books from your local library. It’s not an English lit class, so have fun with it. Ask what your kids think will happen the next night in the story, if it’s one they don’t know or talk about the characters, action or dialogue as points of interest instead of a literature lesson.

This list is by no means complete. Design or choose your own activities. Just make sure they provide plenty of opportunities for fun and talking with one another. Sometimes reconnecting physically by cuddling under a blanket and watching a Charlie Brown Christmas is the reconnecting your kids need the most. Don’t let your family drift farther apart during the holidays. Find ways to reconnect and become closer. It’s crucial for the future well being and spiritual health of your children.

Should Christian Parents Adopt This Dutch Mindset?

There is a school of thought amongst Christians in the United States that Europe is a godless wasteland from which we have nothing to learn. Yet my mission work with refugees has taken me throughout Western Europe over the last eighteen months and I have found it to be much more open to Christianity than most of us believe. Not only that, I think Christian parents can actually learn something important from some European parents – especially Dutch parents – that can strengthen the faith foundation of their children and make them more resilient.

Fair warning. Some of you may be triggered by this post. It is brutally honest and counter cultural. The intent is not to offend anyone, but to encourage you to make the choices that are best for your children emotionally and more importantly, spiritually. These suggestions aren’t physically possible for a few of you, but I would argue they are more possible than most of you will believe. It will require you to make hard, life changing and lifestyle changing choices. Choices that may make even your Christian friends wonder why you are making such radical changes.

The question is – how passionate are you about your children spending eternity in Heaven? Passionate enough to honestly sacrifice anything necessary to give them a strong enough faith foundation that they actually have a fighting chance of remaining faithful, productive Christians as adults? You may be strongly tempted to reject these suggestions as too difficult or unproven. Yet millions of secular Dutch families have made these same sacrifices and believe it has benefitted their children’s well being. While I do not agree with many of the moral tenets taught by secular Dutch parents to their children, I do believe those habits I am about to share would benefit children raised in any family – but particularly Christian families.

So what are these controversial parenting moves by the Dutch? They make spending time with their children a top priority. They spend as much family time together as possible listening to their children, talking about their beliefs (secular though many of them may be) and doing things together as a family. They use this time to mold their children and move them towards independence – not by ignoring them, but by gradually increasing the boundaries and encouraging them to grow in age appropriate ways.

How do they manage this? By making some radical choices! Almost half of the Dutch workforce works part time and 70% of the women do so. Often these part time jobs are arranged so at least one parent is home with the children when they are home. Fathers are not exempt from meaningful engagement with their children. Even those with full time jobs are expected to focus fully on their children for a minimum of one full day a week.

In addition, children are not in tons of scheduled activities. They are definitely “old school” with children playing with friends outside until a mandatory family dinner every night at five or six. Oh, and did I mention family breakfast is a mandatory sit down affair, too? The food doesn’t have to be fancy and often isn’t – especially by our standards, but they are sitting down together twice a day talking (no devices). Parents who work in the afternoons all leave their jobs in time to be home for dinner – even if they do more work online later. They are so strict about having dinner together at home, that guests are not invited. Instead, they have them for coffee or appetizers earlier and then send them to their own homes for dinner.

Yes, I understand that as a welfare state, there are some economic realities involved including incredibly high taxes and government supplements. But this is not about politics. Most of the Dutch homes I have seen are modest. The average person rides a bike, walks or takes mass transit. Few, if any, organized activities means no expenses in those areas. They are known for being frugal in dress, food and other expenses. You can, if not exactly, closely adapt your lifestyle to match theirs.

This won’t be easy for most of you. You may need to downsize houses, cars and those extras. Your kids will have to drop a lot of activities (which colleges give little weight to anyway). You may get passed over for promotions (Although, interestingly, the Dutch have found their productivity numbers are still high. When they are at work, they don’t waste time like many workers here.) You will be different from most likely every family you know. But I believe the benefits to your children far outweigh any sacrifices you may make.

Your children need you to be present and engaged with them. Not micro managing them, but teaching and coaching them how to be the people God created them to be. Preparing them to do war with Satan. Helping them reach their full God given potential and growing to become faithful, active, productive Christians. If Christian parents parent the way their secular peers parent in the United States, their children won’t grow up to be any more faithful than their children – or marginally so at best.

Once again, this is not to shame or offend you. There are, however, certain parenting realities. Children who are resilient have strong relationships with nurturing, engaged parents. Children who grow up to be faithful to God have usually had parents who spend as much time as humanly possible teaching their kids about God and coaching them to be who God wants them to be. You and your children cannot be separated for the majority of every day, afternoon, evening and weekend and have stellar results. It would be like wanting to have an athletic physique, but not making the time to work out for long periods of time every day.

If you don’t want to fully adopt the wisdom of this aspect of Dutch parenting, I strongly suggest you make as many changes as you can to move in that direction. Your children – and their faith – will benefit.

6 Ways Walks Can Make Christian Parenting Easier

Have you ever thought about how many times the Bible mentions that someone was walking? Granted, there weren’t a lot of other options unless you owned a donkey or a camel, but was it really necessary to tell us certain people were walking? Maybe not in some cases, but Jesus had a lot of important conversations as he was walking with people. He knew that there is something about walking that seems to lower defenses and encourages more open conversation.

There is quite a bit of research on the benefits of walking. These benefits can make parenting easier and Christian parents can get a few extra benefits from those walks. Many of these benefits differ slightly when you are walking alone versus walking with your spouse or children or as a family.

  • Manages energy levels. Walking is interesting in that it can give those whose energy is lagging more energy, but also helps burn off excess energy for those that have too much. Regular walks will give any of your kids who may need it more energy. If your kids are over energized after a day at school sitting at desks, a brisk walk can help them burn off the excess energy that might otherwise get them in trouble. When energy levels are managed well, misbehavior from too much energy can decrease and you will have more energy to teach, guide and correct when necessary. Even those kids who feel too tired to do homework may find a brisk walk gives them the second wind they need.
  • Tempers emotions. A recent study found that many people suffering from depression found a marked improvement in mood when they took daily long walks. Negative emotions can work themselves out from the physical activity. These emotions may not totally disappear, but they will most likely lessen, making it easier to talk with your child about them.
  • Praying/clear thinking. Struggling with what to do about a parenting issue? I do some of my best creative thinking on long walks. The trick is to leave the music at home and focus on praying about the issue that is bothering you. This also works for your kids when they are wrestling with an issue.
  • Talking to each other. Long walks often work like magic to get even non-communicative children talking to their parents. Leave the phones and music at home. Walk in silence for a bit if necessary. Ask a simple open ended question. Leave lots of room for your kids to talk. You may just be surprised how much they will tell you when you aren’t distracted.
  • Pointing out God. The Bible tells us Creation points us to God. Taking walks with your kids, spouse or even by yourself can remind you God is at work in the world today. When walking with your kids, point out things that make you think about God. Closely examine lease, rocks, insects and other things God made to get a close up look at the intricacy of God’s Creation (take along a magnifying class and binoculars to see things better).

Long walks won’t make every aspect of Christian parenting easier, but they can definitely help. Start making room on your daily calendar for a walk.