5 Important Questions to Ask Yourself Before Intervening In Your Child’s Life

One of the hidden secrets to successful Christian parenting is understanding that you may not always be there to micromanage your child’s life. It is important to raise children who can think through situations and make the best possible decisions in the moment based on what God would want them to do.

But we live in a microwave world and even Christian parents can fall into the trap of immediately intervening whenever their child has an issue, because… let’s be honest… it’s faster and easier for us to do it properly for them. Unfortunately, that creates an attitude of helplessness that is not in their long term best interest.

The next time your child has an issue or a problem, ask yourself these five questions before jumping in to intervene on your child’s behalf.

  1. Is this something my child has already tried to handle independently? Most situations that happen in childhood can be easily handled by the child if he or she takes a moment to think about the best way to deal with the situation and takes those steps. This may take a bit of trial and error, but a good rule of thumb is to ask the child what has been attempted to rectify the situation before coming to you. (Note: This question can also cut down on tattling and whining if used consistently.)
  2. Is this a situation you can teach or coach your children to handle for themselves? Interpersonal conflicts are going to occur throughout their lives. It’s better to take some time teaching them how to handle these common situations and coaching them through the process than swooping into fix it. It takes a little more time on the front end, but can save you tons of time and stress later.
  3. Is this a situation where you need to teach your child how to pray and wait on God? These are important Christian life skills. Even you can’t fix situations that require praying and waiting on God. If you try, you are more likely to make the situation worse than you are to fix it. (Note: Every decision should be covered in prayer. In this particular situation, it is obvious to you as an experienced adult that the only option is to wait for the situation to play itself out and for God to act within those things that are obviously out of your control.)
  4. Will not intervening teach your child an important life lesson? Has your child procrastinated to the last second on a school project and then expects you to swoop in and help finish it? Your child will learn more from the bad grade for a late or poorly completed project. (Just remember that this lesson is best taught early when one bad grade has little impact on your child’s academic future.) If the life lesson will not be dangerous or cause permanent damage to your child in some way, it may be better for the lesson to be learned by experience.
  5. Could your intervention actually make things worse? I would imagine every parent has erred here at some point. We want to support our children, but sometimes our best efforts to help them backfire. Sometimes taking a breath to consider other options will help you make the best choice when you believe intervening is your only option. Remember that when you do decide you need to intervene, your children are watching you to see how you treat other people as you attempt to correct a situation. If you throw a tantrum, that’s how they will learn to handle conflict themselves.

Being supportive of your children when they are struggling is wonderful Christian parenting. Just make sure your support doesn’t do more harm than good.

Involving Your Children In Adult Ministry Projects

Talk to any Christian parent of adult children actively engaged in serving and ministering to others and they will tell you they involved their children in their ministry projects from almost infancy. Their children grew up serving and sharing their faith with others as much of their identity as other family priorities. Why? Because not only did their parents live their faith on a daily basis, they included them in their personal ministry in age appropriate ways as early as the toddler years.

Now if you weren’t raised in a home like that, you may wonder how it is even possible. How can parents include an eighteen month old in a project serving an inner city ministry or engage a three or four year old on a mission trip? It’s not only possible, but you may already know families doing that very thing who can help you do what they did. Until you identify them, here are some tips to get you started.

  1. What things are your children capable of doing? Can they hand you items? Move things from one place to another? Clean? Paint? Code a computer program or app? Knowing your children’s capabilities can make it easier to involve them in ways that benefit both them and the ministry project.
  2. What tasks are required to complete the ministry project? Older children and teens may be capable of completing tasks independently, while toddlers may only be able to assist you with one part of a task. When our daughter was barely over a year old, she would put cans from our church pantry shelves into a box to transport them to the urban ministry. Yes, I still needed to neaten them a bit, but she took an active role.
  3. Teach them skills they can use to help. Relatively young children can help with tasks that are more advanced if they are taught how to do them and given practice. For things like sewing or computer coding, you can even pay someone to teach them skills that interest them, but you yourself don’t have.
  4. Allow extra time and build in time for regular meals and rest times. The biggest mistake groups make when involving children or teens in service and mission work is that they push them too hard. When young people are hungry or tired, the behavior problems begin to surface and the entire project can become a nightmare. It’s better to take an extra few hours or days to complete a project with everyone well fed on healthy food and well rested. The results will be much better – both on the project and in making an impact on your children.
  5. Let them help in the planning process. Families with young adult children actively engaged in ministry from childhood often report that their children can plan and execute sophisticated ministry projects as teens and young adults. Why? Because their parents involved them in the planning process as children. Start out by giving them two acceptable options between which they can decide and that are part of the plan for the project. As they grow older, give them more ownership of the planning process. By their teen years, most will be capable of planning and executing at least a simple service project if they have been involved in planning with you since childhood.
  6. Let them meet and get to know the people they are serving as much as possible. Relationships make serving others more meaningful. Meeting and growing to love the people your family serves can lead to your children developing a passion for ministry that children who only do service projects where they never meet the people they served never develop.
  7. Spend time in reflection with them after a ministry project. What went well? What would you do differently next time? Did you have the outcome you expected? Why or why not? How did you see God working within the project to change or modify it as you went? What additional opportunities did God give you? What roadblocks did you encounter? Were they from God or Satan? How do you know? What do you do in each situation? Reflection helps them understand the thought processes needed in enhancing ministry projects and accomplishing the goals God has for them.

Involving your children in your ministry projects takes extra time and effort, but it is worth it to raise children who are actively involved in serving others and sharing their faith as adults.

Teaching Your Children About Manipulation

Children seem to be born knowing how to manipulate others. Studies have shown even relatively young babies can learn to manipulate adults with their cries. While no one would accuse an infant of being manipulative, it can be pretty easy for children to realize that certain behaviors will get others to do what you want them to do.

Left unaddressed, manipulation can quickly become a standard way of operating in life. While your children may feel as if they are getting everything they want using their manipulation tactics of choice, they are actually losing something far more valuable – healthy, loving relationships in their lives. It is important that parents not only recognize, but also point out and correct their children when they attempt to manipulate others.

First, we need to understand what types of behaviors are used to manipulate others. Some of these are particularly common in children, while others are more typical of hard core adult manipulators. (As your children reach dating age, they need to understand and be able to recognize these behaviors as they are often warning signs of a potentially abusive person in a romantic relationship.) Here are the behaviors most experts list as manipulative:

  1. Lying
  2. Denying something is true
  3. Crying and emotional outbursts like tantrums (It’s important to note that not all crying is manipulative. A child crying from hunger, pain, etc. is not being manipulative and should have his or her needs met and/or be comforted.)
  4. Passive aggressive behaviors
  5. Gas lighting (Trying to convince the other person an alternate reality is true, usually wherein the other person caused the gas lighter to behave in a negative way.)
  6. Silent treatment
  7. Threats
  8. Name calling
  9. Extreme or unmerited criticism
  10. Over reaction
  11. Verbal abuse
  12. Yelling
  13. Cursing
  14. Withholding affection
  15. “Love bombing” (over the top romantic gestures in a new relationship – often a key warning sign of a narcissist and/or abusive person)
  16. Blaming
  17. Whining

See a few behaviors that sound familiar? Since manipulation is rarely dealt with in parenting, chances are pretty strong you were never corrected for manipulating others as a child and use some manipulative behaviors yourself. So why does manipulation cause problems in relationships? Why should you take the time and trouble to correct and teach your children or clean up your own manipulative behaviors – especially when they can be so helpful in getting us what we want?

It is important to note as Christians two important factors. The first is that many manipulation techniques at their heart are some form of lying. The Bible tells us in multiple places that God abhors lying and liars. While that alone is problematic, the other issue is that God calls us to love other people the way He loves us – with agape love. Agape, or the highest form of pure love, seeking the best for others – would never try to manipulate others for selfish desires (or even under the guise of in the best interest of others). Manipulation is just not something a Christian should be known for doing.

Even secular researchers have a rather lengthy list of the problems that can be caused when one person manipulates another – especially on a regular basis.

  1. The manipulator is known as a liar.
  2. It is difficult to trust someone who manipulates others.
  3. Others may change their behaviors to satisfy the manipulator without changing the underlying attitudes or beliefs the manipulator really wanted to change.
  4. Instead of having the joy attached to earning or deserving positive things, manipulators know they actually tricked others into giving them to them.
  5. Others begin to doubt themselves and feel anxious around manipulators.
  6. It takes away the ability of others to voice their true feelings, emotions and/or beliefs.
  7. Others feel as if they are always “walking on eggshells” around manipulators and can never truly relax and be themselves.

If you want your children to live the Christian life God wants for them – including having healthy, loving relationships – you need to teach them about manipulation and help them eradicate it from their lives. And since your children often imitate you – take the time to rid your life of manipulation as well.

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.