Posts by laurakuehn:
Eat fewer carbs, exercise three times a week, spend less time on Facebook . . . New Year’s has come and gone and so have a lot of our resolutions. But maybe that’s because our New Year’s resolutions tend to have one thing in common – a focus on self. As Valentine’s Day approaches, maybe it is time to make some resolutions that will have a bigger impact.
Let’s resolve to put our marriages first.
Making your marriage a priority this year is the very best gift you can give your children. Here are 8 simple things you can do that will help put your marriage in its rightful place:
- Make eye contact. This one is so simple it’s silly. But think about it – when is the last time you actually made eye contact with your spouse? Our busy lives have made multi-tasking a necessity. Unfortunately, it has also taken some of the intentionality out of our conversations. So let’s put down the spoon (or hammer) and make some eye contact.
- 2. Don’t let the kids interrupt your conversations. Do your kids walk into the room and assume they have the floor? Teach them to stop, look and listen. Putting marriage first means that your kids are not. They may resist, but deep down, it’s what they want and need.
- Send kids to bed on time. As kids get older, couple time in the evening can get squeezed out. Consider adding ½ hour of quiet time before your kids’ bedtime. They can read, listen to quiet music or an audio book. Use this time to re-connect with your spouse every night.
- Give your spouse compliments in front of your children. These are not superficial compliments based on transient things like looks or achievements, but are based on qualities and attributes. You can say things like, “You are such a hard worker. You give everything you do 100%. I really appreciate that about you.”
- “Good gossip” about your spouse. Talk to your children when your spouse is not around in a positive light. You can say things like, “Daddy is so much fun, don’t you think? We are so blessed to have a Daddy who loves to play and laugh with us” or “I love these cookies that Mommy made yesterday. She knows just what we like!”
- Fight fair in front of the children. There is nothing scarier for a child than to see two people he loves demonstrating great levels of anger at each other. This is not to say that you cannot disagree. Children need to see that two people can disagree and resolve issues in a way that respects the feelings and thoughts of both parties.
- Watch what you say. A hushed phone call or a quiet word with a friend in a corner may seem out of range of your children’s hearing, but be careful. Some children are oblivious, but some are very perceptive and these types of conversations will do nothing but increase the acuity of their emotional antennae. Use your judgment when you are seeking the support of a friend.
- Go to God together. And if you find yourself rushing to the comfort of a friend before the comfort of our forever Friend, take a moment to assess the situation and ask yourself some questions: Who, ultimately, has the power to heal all of my hurts? Who always listens and never sleeps or slumbers? Putting marriage first, means putting God first. Go to Him. Better yet – go to Him together.
Marriage is hard work. But if we put it on the bottom of our to-do list, the work will never get done. Let’s elevate it back to its rightful place and resolve to put our marriages first this year. Strong families start with strong marriages. And that strength comes from the Lord – “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Eccl 4:12
As preparations are being made to send our kids off to school (for those who have chosen this path), Christian parents are often filled with angst about the influence of the world on their impressionable children. As believers, we can live by faith and not fear that the One who “started a good work” in our children will carry it out to completion. However, there are some practical things we can do to help shore up our children against the onslaught of worldly influence they may face. Here are a few tips:
Say Good Morning to God Together
First and foremost, take the time to start your child’s day with a word from the Lord. Read the Bible together. It doesn’t have to be a lot or for very long, but enough to allow God’s word to penetrate her heart and provide the grounding she needs for the day. Help her to identify one simple spiritual truth from the text. Here are some ways you can incorporate Bible reading into your morning:
- Read it in bed with her before she rises
- Read it at the breakfast table as she eats her cereal
- Listen to the Bible on CD as you drive to school
Anticipate Problems in the Day Ahead
Give voice to what you think might be hard for her during the day ahead. Don’t be afraid to verbalize what she already feels. You can say something like: “Molly might say mean things to you about Sally behind her back again today. I know you may feel torn in two directions.” Discuss her desire to fit in and her desire to follow the Lord. Normalize this pull (even Paul struggled with this dilemma – see Romans 7:15-19) and problem solve with her about how to handle it if the situation arises.
Be a Prayer Partner
Before she leaves for school, ask her if you could pray for her about anything while she is away. Asking this question communicates your spiritual partnership with her as she goes off into the world for the day. Most importantly, this step leaves the door open for continuing your faith discussions later after school. You can greet her and say, “I prayed for you about _________ today. How did that go?”
Be a Sounding Board
If your child brings up issues related to worldly influence, first listen. Once she has spoken freely, then ask her to compare what happened to what she knows of the Lord and His standards. Make it an open and mutual discussion based on inquiry rather than a lesson or lecture on one of the Ten Commandments. Try saying, “Lets think. What does God have to say about that?”
In the event your child makes a mistake and chooses the ways of the world over the ways of God, extend grace and forgiveness in response to remorse and regret. Let her identify the negative outcomes that resulted from her choices and help her brainstorm about ways she can repair the situation if necessary. Remind her that the penalty for that sin has been
paid and God remembers it no more. As her parent, you can do the same.
Say Goodnight to God Together
End your day with a prayer time with your child. Incorporate the events and discussions you have had during the day into your prayer time. You can use this as an opportunity to encourage confession and offer prayers on behalf of those she encountered during the day.
While we cannot completely insulate our children from the peer pressures around them, we must do our part to make sure that we provide daily opportunities for their faith to take root – roots that can penetrate through even the most spiritually parched ground.
Next Week’s Author: Holly Lien
I continue to be honored to be part of Passionate Purposeful Parenting and to be among a “great cloud of witnesses.” Seeking to equip parents to raise their children in the Lord is a humbling endeavor. In this post, I would like to share a different kind of PPP that we have implemented in our home: Praise, Prayer and Popcorn! This Sunday evening ritual has
become a true blessing to our family.
What is Praise, Prayer and Popcorn?
Family devotional time is a very important aspect of Christian family life. With today’s hurried lifestyle, however, it is often one of the first items on the chopping block in an effort to “make time.” In our family, we have always read the Bible at night before bed with each child and completed a family devotional at breakfast each morning. (We are currently using Little Visits with God by Jahsmann and Simon for our children, ages 5 and 9, and I highly recommend it.) What was lacking was a regular corporate time of prayer. We came up with Praise, Prayer and Popcorn to help us achieve just that.
Since our church has a more contemporary worship style, my children have not learned some of the more classic hymns of our faith. Therefore, my husband and I decided that we would teach them a few. Each week, we pick a hymn and I (attempt to!) play the tune on the piano. We sing it through a few times and discuss the words. The imagery and
passion in the lyrics are a wonderful way to learn about and offer praise to our God. Putting some of the older language into modern terms increases its relevance and meaning for our
We all want our children to develop an individual relationship with God. Giving them opportunities to talk to God in a non-threatening way can help them on this path. My husband and I decided on a round-robin style of prayer. For our family prayer time, we sit in a circle and discuss the week’s prayer requests. We also maintain a journal to record previous
prayers and answers. We pray through the list one by one with each member adding their own simple (usually no more than one or two sentences) prayer or praise. We allow a “pass” here and there because we want our children to be moved to pray, not pressured into it.
If the stomach is the way to a man’s heart then popcorn must be the way to a child’s attention. We have found that having popcorn during this family time engages and connects our children to the material at hand. We usually enjoy it as we talk through our prayer list. By the time the bowl is empty, it is time to pray. This way we eliminate any potential distractions.
Lately we have added a family meeting component to our Sunday evening ritual. Our kids can voice complaints and requests and we can talk about them together. We have also used the time to identify goals (for both adults and kids alike). When a family member reaches his or her goal, we celebrate together.
We are enjoying our time in prayer, praise and popcorn as a family – a whole new kind of PPP! What kinds of things do you do as a family to help your children stay connected to their Redeemer, Savior and Lord?
Next Week’s Author: Susan Ottmer
And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3
When I read this passage, I want to ask, “Really, God? Really? You want a heaven filled with children? Don’t you know that kids are messy, whiny and oh, so much work?” From my vantage point, my kids have a lot to learn. They need manners, book smarts and common sense. Why then would God want to make children His litmus test for heaven? Well, if we take some time to learn from our own kids we will see that it makes perfect sense. Here are some things He showed me about child-like faith.
• Child-like faith TRUSTS – When my kids are in the back of the car, they are usually looking out the window, reading a book or listening to music. They often don’t even know where we are and they don’t question every turn I make. All they know is that Mom is driving. Mom is in control and that is enough for them. Yes, God wants us to be like little children.
• Child-like faith SEEKS FELLOWSHIP – My daughter loves to be with me. She doesn’t care much what we do, as long as we are together. It could be the everyday mundane tasks of emptying the dishwasher or a special time of a “girl’s day out.” She just likes to be with me. Yes, God wants us to be like little children.
• Child-like faith FORGIVES – I have done some things as a parent that I regret. Things that make me want to rip out the tape player of my life and hit “rewind.” Humbly apologizing to my children is always met with a ready and heart-felt, “I forgive you, Mommy.” Forgiving 70 times 7 comes naturally to them. Yes, God wants a heaven filled with little children.
• Child-like faith HOLDS ON TIGHT – When we are in a crowded mall or on a busy street, my kids grip my hands tightly. Keeping me near, letting me guide the way gives them a sense of safety and security. They have complete confidence that Mom will always do her best to protect them. Yes, God wants us to be just like little children.
• Child-like faith STUDIES – It is not an uncommon sight in my house to come into the living room and find one or both of my children engrossed in a family photo album. They love to hear stories of when I was a child, how their dad and I met and their infancy. They relish learning everything there is to know about their mom and dad. Yes, God wants a heaven filled with little children.
Child-like faith is EXACTLY what God wants from His children. Children are precious to God because they embody the traits of a true believer. They follow without question and they love without limits.
In this light, it seems fitting that, just over 2000 years ago, a humble child entered the world, completely trusting and clinging to His Father. And that child grew up to bear the sins of the world in order that He might save it.
He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Matthew 10:14
Next Week’s Author: Holly Lien
Kids are particularly good at finding the weakest link in a parenting partnership. Some kids even use that weak link to their advantage. For example, if Mommy is the softy, Johnny may seek her out after being disciplined by Daddy. Mommy, being the warm and compassionate woman she is, is all too ready to provide Johnny with the cuddles and sympathy he seeks. This cycle, sometimes done in secret or with a secret language of looks and facial expressions, serves to help little Johnny learn how to “divide and conquer.” We do our children a great disservice if we play along with this little game.
I truly believe that parenting is a team sport. Kids are the star players and mom and dad are the coaches. In fact, the parents are actually ONE coach in two bodies. Presenting ourselves as a united front with a united goal (of helping the whole family succeed) will help discourage any divisive acts. Here are some tips.
Tell your kids that Mom and Dad are one. You can read the following passage from Genesis for Biblical support: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
- Refer to Dad. If your child is given conflicting simultaneous instructions (maybe dad said “brush your teeth,” but mom said “make your bed”), tell him that Dad’s instruction always trumps Mom’s. This way there is never any confusion.
- Adopt a mantra. Make, “Mommy and Daddy need to talk about it” a standard comeback for any out-of-the-ordinary requests. Then stand together when you deliver your decision.
- Disagree about child-related things in private. We may be one with our spouse in theory, but in this fallen world, it isn’t always realized fully. The reality is that we are going to disagree. It is not our job to insulate our children from any and all disagreements. They need to see that two people can love each other, not see eye-to-eye, have a
serious discussion and come to a peaceful resolution. What a wonderful model of peacemaking! However, if you and your spouse are in disagreement about child rearing issues, have those conversations in private.
- Relish inside jokes. My husband and I have the same taste in movies and T.V. As a result, we have many years’ worth of phrases and silly things from these shows that we say to each other when a memory is triggered. Often our children will ask, “What’s so funny?” We simply say, “It’s something funny between Mommy and Daddy.” Our kids
don’t have to know everything. Knowing that Mom and Dad had and have a life outside of their realm of influence is a good thing.
- Show affection in front of the kids. A lingering hug or kiss, cuddling on the couch with quiet whispers, and walking arm-in-arm are all appropriate ways that you can show affection to each other and demonstrate unity. These types of touches are qualitatively different from the types of affection that you give your children and demonstrate a different type of bond. Your children need to know and see that you are one.
- Use your marriage to illustrate the Trinity. Once you have been living like this for a while, you can use your united marriage as a way to illustrate the complex concept of the Trinity. Marriage is a “profound mystery” (Eph 5:32) but provides a wonderful living example of the separate-but-one-ness of the Holy Trinity.
A strong marital relationship is one of the best gifts you can give to your children. It sets the foundation for a solid family. Don’t neglect your relationship. Elevate it back to its rightful place so you can firmly declare to your children: “United we stand.”
Next Week’s Author: Holly Lien
Do you ever feel that the job of parenting is similar to being stuck in a tiny sailboat in a raging, wave-torn sea? You feel tossed around, hit from all sides with only enough time and energy to react to the next crisis, never mind plan ahead. If so, you are not alone. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Parenting is meant to be a proactive, purposeful endeavor (see Deut. 6:6-9). Creating a list of family rules is one simple, yet concrete, thing you can do as a parent to bring about change and regain a solid footing in your role. Here are some elements of effective rule-making:
1. Rules should address (at most) the top five behavioral issues you are facing right now. They should be revised as children grow and behaviors improve (and new ones take their place!).
2. All of your rules should stem from your family’s biblically based values (for example, the rule: “No hitting” is an expression of the family value: “Show proper respect to everyone” 1 Peter 2:17).
3. Rules should be created with input from your children. Engage your children in the rule-making process by allowing them to 1) participate in identifying problem behaviors, 2) select some of the wording, and 3) help create the sign or poster.
4. Rules should be posted publicly and reviewed and referenced often.
5. Broken rules should always be followed by an appropriate consequence. If you would not follow a breach of the rule with a consequence, it should not be included on the list.
6. Rules should not have pre-assigned consequences. Parents should feel free to select from their “tool box” of consequences as they see fit.
7. Rules need regular reinforcement from activities that train your children in their areas of weakness. For example, the rule “No back-talking” can be proactively reinforced with a fun, but focused, family activity. First, each member can write down as many synonyms as they can think of for the word “submit” (use a Thesaurus to help get things started). Then, you can follow this activity with a game of Simon Says as a concrete demonstration of the concept of submission to instructions.
Parenting doesn’t have to be a whirlwind experience. Establishing a set of rules is one way you can grab hold of the “helm” of your family’s boat, turn the vessel into the wind, and head for calmer waters. Happy sailing!
Next Week’s Author: Holly Lien
Author: Laura Kuehn
Laura Kuehn, LCSW is a wife, mother of two, parenting specialist and founder of www.cornerstonesforparents.com – an online resource for Christian parents. Cornerstones for Parents offers personalized consultation services, an “ask the expert” feature and a weekly blog with tips and insights for parents.
Parenting is one of the hardest jobs we will ever have. It stretches us, humbles us and draws us to the feet of the Savior on a daily basis. It can be overwhelming, not only because of the task itself, but because of the seemingly contradictory advice available. Parents seeking answers to their struggles are likely to find differing opinions and approaches making the job of parenting appear much more complicated than it really is. While it is true that parenting is hard, it is not complicated. I have found that there are only two primary objectives in parenting: saturation and restoration.
For the Christian parent, the job of saturation includes immersing our children in the ways of the Lord on a daily basis. This is not simply structured biblical instruction (although there is a place for that). It is a mindset by which the Lord is sought and drawn into all the aspects of our day. His presence, power and grace must be woven into the fabric of our family’s experiences. Conversations and observations about God’s love and saving grace must become commonplace, not simply reserved for grace before dinner or moments of discipline. We can fall back on digging into our parenting tool box and pulling out the “God card” when it benefits us. This can happen during a moment of redirection (“how do you think God feels about what you have done?”) or exhortation (“God wants you to share”). These statements place God in a box for our children, a box where He does not solely reside.
Here are just a few ways we can saturate our children’s environment with the ways of the Lord:
• Pause to pray “just because”.
• Make simple observations such as, “God is good, isn’t He?”
• Draw God into the mundane moments of your day (“Do you know how many hairs are on your head? God does!”).
• Notice the ways of the Lord in others (“He opened the door for her. That’s a wonderful way to ‘love your neighbor’.”).
• Give Him the glory (“We always have enough food to eat. God always provides, doesn’t He?”).
• Read the Bible together.
The second objective in parenting is to restore. Our children, just like us, are full of sin. They are going to transgress and follow after the desires of their own hearts. It is our job as parents to rescue them from this wayward path and return them to the protection and security that comes from obedience as outlined in His word. This mindset of restoration rather than punishment will inform our approach to discipline and will enable us to model the salvation message of the gospel on a daily basis. When our children disobey and enter into dangerous territory, we can seize that opportunity for the Lord.
There are several key elements to effective restoration:
• Continually identify the blessings that come from obedience and the consequences that result from disobedience.
• Follow through on consequences.
• Discuss the allure of sin but the hope in Christ.
• Identify the “heart of the matter” (what was at the core of the misbehavior).
• Model and extend forgiveness.
• Explore the substance of true, heart-felt repentance.
There is one foundational ingredient that these two primary parental objectives have in common: relationship. We cannot provide effective saturation or restoration without a meaningful relationship with our children. We must actively pursue an authentic relationship through empathetic listening, spending time together and being a reliable resource for our children. This precious relationship will provide us with a solid ground upon which we can build a home filled with many opportunities for saturation and restoration.
Next Week’s Author: Holly Lien