Summer Parenting Series- Talking to your Kids About Sex

Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love~ Proverbs 7:18

 It’s as old as the human race, and we all know that most people do it. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when most folks had the dignity to be somewhat discreet about the whole thing.

 Those days are long over.

 A teacher at a private school in Minneapolis took a group of middle and high school students, some as young as eleven, on a fieldtrip to a sex shop called the “Smitten Kitten.” My daughter and I had our own little educational moment when we stumbled upon two teenage girls on the verge of “it” in the dark corner of a store recently.

 One is confronted with “it” in slick advertisements depicting attractive fifty-something couples. As the blissful twosomes occupy themselves with adolescent-like public displays of affection, the narrator of the commercial does his level best to discourage men who may be in need of a particular product from “stopping so they can find a bathroom” or “pausing to take a pill.” Rather, they are encouraged to “make the moment right”.

 Do the makers of those little blue pills really intend for couples to “make the moment right” at the ballpark, or the symphony or while watching a movie in a park with children present?

 Seriously?

 The sad fact is that our society is obsessed with sex and if you don’t have a conversation with your kids about it, you can bet someone else will, and it likely won’t be the conversation you would have had with them. After four kids and countless years working with other people’s kids, I have learned that there is no one-size-fits-all method when it comes to the when and how of talking to kids about sex. But after some trial and error I do have some recommendations:

 Set yourself up as an expert on the topic-

Give accurate information from day one. Don’t give into the temptation to call vaginas woo-woos and penises wee-wees. Call parts what they are. Also avoid telling your preschooler some half-baked fable about where babies come from. You should not tell them everything all at once. I am all for vagueness and ambiguity with children under five. That said, what you do tell them should be factual and accurate. This will set you up as an authority that understands the subject, rather than an ill-informed bumbler trying desperately to avoid a tough subject.

 Don’t wait too long, because kids talk-

 We learned this one the hard way. Our then almost eight-year-old son announced one evening that he knew everything there was to know about sex. To our horror we discovered that he did indeed know quite a lot, most of it wildly inaccurate and kind of gross. The kid down the street, whose Dad (unbeknownst to us) watched a LOT of porn, told Alex everything he had learned from “his Dad’s shows”. My husband took our son camping the next day and set the record straight but the damage was done. If your kid attends public school or they play with kids in the neighborhood you probably need to explain the basic mechanics of sexuality sometime between the ages of five and seven.

 Don’t be afraid to link sex and marriage-  

 Separating sex from marriage has done nothing for anyone and is wrecking havoc on every part of our society. Stressing the fact that sex is for marriage is not enough. Our kids and our culture need more examples of happy, healthy, distinctly Christian marriages. Get help if you need it.

 Monitor what schools are teaching about sex-

 Most schools attempt to teach so-called values-free sex education. This works okay when the instructors are discussing the changes that occur at puberty. It gets a bit dicey once they get into the specific’s of the when, where, how and why of sexuality. Most programs mix messages, telling kids that sex is a big responsibility but that they should wait “until they feel they are ready.” They forget that few teens are mature enough to admit that they are not ready for something they really want to do. Most schools require parents to view the curriculum to opt their kids out of sex education. I have attended dozens of these pre-view nights through the years. I have never once seen more than a handful of Moms (never Dads) at these events. At the very least, you should find out what your kids are learning and talk with them about it.

 Drag God into it-

 God cares deeply about every aspect of our lives, including how we conduct ourselves sexually (1st Thessalonians 4:2-8). Sadly, even in many Christian homes God’s perspective on sex is seen as nothing more than an archaic throwback to a simpler time. We’ve adopted this view to our own detriment. Single parenthood, divorce, abortion, some diseases and a whole lot of heartbreak are quite often the direct consequences of ignoring God’s directives concerning sexuality.

 If you really love your kids, prove it by telling them things their sex education teacher won’t. Tell them that sex is a gift from God that has tremendous potential for both good and evil. Tell them that sex is incredible in the context it was intended (marriage). Tell them that outside of the context it was intended it can easily morph into a soul-sucking, life-destroying monster. Warn them of the dangers and prepare them to maturely handle the responsibility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Parenting Series- Should Parents Teach Obedience?

Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him~ Psalm 128:1

 One night a few months back, our adopted ten-year-old daughter asked me to explain Korah’s rebellion to her. Delighted by her sudden interest in the Bible, I proceeded to give her the highlights of Korah’s story found in Numbers 16:1-35.

 I explained that Korah and his friends disobeyed God when they attempted to overthrow Moses, God’s choice for the leader of the Israelite people. They also ignored God’s explicit instructions concerning the organization of the priesthood and insisted on doing some really important things their own way rather than the way God expected them to be done. I was careful to explain that obedience is a really big deal to God before I shared the specifics of Korah’s sudden and shocking end.

 Her reaction was not even close to the Sunday school response I was hoping for. Looking appalled and more than a bit scornful she replied…

 “That seems a little harsh of God. I really don’t see what the big deal is, all those guys did was disobey a few rules”.

 No amount of reason on my part seemed to persuade the child that the Creator of the universe has the right to demand absolute obedience of someone.

 Apparently we still have some work to do.

 After a little thought and a lot of prayer I realized that I was much more surprised by her reaction than I should have been. She is a sweet little girl who is also the product of a culture that believes three things to be so absolutely true and immutable, that even God Himself is not exempt from the consequences of violating these “truths”:

 It is a grievous sin to restrict or limit a person’s choices (even if those choices are dangerous)

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion (even if it’s demonstrably wrong)    

Expecting obedience is a form of abuse

 These beliefs have become so deeply embedded in our cultural thinking that they have profoundly influenced every aspect of our lives—from politics and education, to workplace etiquette, to how we parent our children. Everywhere we look, “obedience” has become a dirty word.

 Some well-meaning parents subtly discourage their children from obeying and demonstrating respect for adults. These parents erroneously believe that some sassiness combined with a little spirited defiance empowers children to stand-up for themselves when confronted with unreasonable authority figures. Many otherwise intelligent adults have bought into the lie that childhood obedience sets kids up to be spineless adults unable to stand up for themselves.

 Training children to obey adult authority is only dangerous when we also fail to teach them right from wrong. Kids must be taught to understand that they are only obligated to obey leaders or adults who are doing the right thing. Children should be encouraged to flee from and tell on anyone (adult or child) who urges them to do anything dishonest or sketchy. Knowing how to think and reason is the best protection from evil or irrational authority figures.

 Teaching kids to obey must be done in a context of love and logic. Kids need to understand that rules and boundaries have been put in place for their protection. If they believe that rules are arbitrary or mean-spirited, they will rebel and bad behavior will be driven underground.

 No child will consistently obey unless taught to do so. Most will become passively noncompliant, while some will openly defy authority. Both are equally dangerous; passive disobedience, left unchecked, creates an environment where folly and deceitfulness take root in a child’s heart.

 Conversely, a child who openly defies adult authority will mature into an adult who tends to be disrespectful of people and property and who may even be at odds with the law. Both passive and active defiance, left unchecked, produce an adult who is difficult to like and not worthy of trust.

 Teaching kids to obey parental authority is not a form of abuse; rather, it’s a form of protection. It protects kids because they learn through doing what is sensible and wise by following the directives of their parents. Obedience keeps kids out of trouble and makes them more likeable to other adults. Kids who are liked by others naturally receive more opportunities in life.

 In order for obedience to make sense to kids, parents must be willing to explain the reasons for their rules. The point is not to squash a child’s ability to think independently, or to make them completely dependent on their parent’s wisdom. The goal should be to help kids while they are young to develop the common sense and good judgment necessary to make good choices and lead others as they grow into adulthood.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Photo Cred goes to: http://www.theatlantic.com

Pride and the Fall

Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice~ Proverbs 13:10

 This month marks the anniversary of an event that has transformed our family drastically in more ways than I can count. This time last year a nine-year-old girl came to our home for a visit and has since became a permanent member of our family.

We have not experienced a dull moment since.

 Integrating a new member into our family has not been easy or stress-free. There has been a great deal of joy but there have also been more than a few tough adjustments on both sides. It is not easy for a kid to adapt to a new family, nor is it easy for a family of (mostly) adults to adjust to the changes and loss of freedom that inevitably comes with a young child.

 All the challenges aside, I can truthfully say that the good has far outweighed the bad. At this point we cannot imagine our family without her. Zoey has brought a whole new depth of joy and laughter to our home. She is a kind, clever, imaginative girl with many gifts and talents.

 Sadly, organization and analytical thinking are not among them.

 In all my years on this Earth I have never seen anything quite like her unique brand of disorder and chaos. In the span of a few hours her bedroom can easily devolve into a weekend cleaning project. She pays zero attention to detail, which causes her to lose as much stuff as she hangs on to and she has been known to brush her teeth before breakfast to save time.

 Her chronic lack of common sense has led the older kids to refer to her as a “Dufflepud” after the sweet but ridiculous creatures in The Chronicles of Narnia books. Dufflepuds boiled their potatoes before planting them so they could harvest cooked potatoes and washed their plates before eating to save time after dinner.

 Thankfully, there have been major improvements in these areas. That said, we still have a ways to go before she becomes the paragon of organization and logical thought that I am praying and believing she will one day become.

 So you can imagine my skepticism when she informed me that I had failed to fill out a permission slip for a field trip properly. To my shame, I didn’t even have the good sense to look at the thing before I launched into a calm but condescending little lecture. I smugly informed her that there was no way I had made an error on something as basic as a permission slip for a 5th grade field trip.

 To her credit, Zoey nodded politely and obediently put the slip into her backpack. As she was heading out the door I decided to give it a second look and discovered that she was indeed correct. I quickly apologized and corrected my error, but not before I made a fool out of myself and hurt the feelings of a sweet little girl.

 Such is the sin of pride.

 It happens to the best of people. It could be argued that the better a person becomes, the more likely they are to become prideful about it. The list of things that causes pride to dominate our interactions is as long as it is varied. Our skills, business connections, education and track record can all become sources of pride. The danger in this type of pride is that we begin seeing our selves as infallible and we resist taking input and advice from others and no one is clever enough to do life all alone.

 Perhaps the most foolish and dangerous type of pride is pride over the things that are outside our control. Pride over physical appearance, material blessings, race and background can lead to every kind of prejudice and social evil none of which has any place in life of a Jesus follower.

 The deceptive nature of pride requires constant prayer and frequent self-assessment. Prayer is indispensable because without God’s help and guidance we may never become self aware enough to want change or empowered enough to make it happen.  

 And change, as difficult as it can be, is essential. Without it, we will never become the people God calls us to be—and we might just drive away the very ones He has called us to reach.

 

 

 

 

 

The One Skill Every Child Must Have to Survive

 Last week marked the beginning of winter semester at the university where my son Alex attends college. He and I caught up after his first day of classes and chatted about his day.

 Just when I thought our little talk was drawing to a close, Alex said something that promptly reinvigorated the conversation. He casually mentioned that he’d had a tough time getting around school that day. Apparently the campus was swarming with parents who were hanging out, introducing themselves to the professors, looking for things, and even attending classes with their children.

 I was suddenly intrigued and bursting with questions…

 Really?

Was it parents’ day? (If so, why wasn’t I invited???)

Was there a problem at the airport, forcing parents to stay in Tucson?

Were the parents actually sitting in on the classes?

Were the kids embarrassed, sitting with their parents in college classes?

Were the professors annoyed?

 My son explained that it was not parent’s day, nor were there any issues at the airport that he was aware of. Some of his younger friends had informed him that not only did parents introduce themselves to the professors and sit in on the classes, but a few raised their hands to ask questions on behalf of their children. Surprisingly, the kids seemed to be perfectly okay with the unofficial “bring your parents to college day” but there was some serious eye-rolling going on among the professors.

 At first I thought the whole thing was a little weird and kind of funny. It simply never occurred to me to attend college classes with my kids. I just presumed that if they were old enough to enroll in college, they were capable of introducing themselves to the professors, finding nourishment, and locating their classrooms without my assistance.

 Later, I was struck by how unfunny the whole thing actually was. This sort of thing is a symptom of a problem that cripples many middle-class kids. Well-meaning parents have become so fearful regarding their kids’ safety, comfort level, and overall happiness that they have gone to extremes to shield their kids from harm or distress. In the process, some have missed the entire point of parenting and failed to teach the one skill everyone needs to survive in this world: Self-management

 Self-managers know when they are hungry, tired, cranky or sick and they understand how to deal with those issues appropriately. Self-mangers are not afraid to participate in life because they know how to recognize and protect themselves from dangerous people and situations. Self-managers take care of their own needs, treat people the way they wish to be treated, problem solve, have common sense and self-discipline, and are capable of healthy communication with other human beings. A child should be adept at the basics of self-management by the time they reach puberty. Sadly, most are not.

 There are three ways parents can teach self-management.

 Encourage children to take controlled risks-

 There is a lot of debate over how many and what type of risks children should be permitted to take. Some believe kids should be insulated from even the most remote danger. These are the people who want to hand out bulletproof blankets to kindergarteners and put helmets on children before recess. Others think kids should be permitted to wander completely unsupervised. Wisdom lies between the two extremes. Children cannot learn to manage risk without taking risks, and they learn by doing. Kids should be coached about safety and then given age-appropriate opportunities to walk to the park alone, pay for things, ride their bikes unsupervised and walk around a store or mall without Mom and Dad by their side.

 Limit the use of technology-

 Good communication skills are essential to self-management. Technology (especially texting) keeps kids from developing the skills necessary to actually talk with other human beings. Kids need face-to-face communication to learn to read non-verbal cues and to understand how their words affect others. If kids are allowed a cell phone before puberty, parents should insist it’s used for phone calls only.

 Do not eliminate negative consequences-

 Consequences are the fruit of choices. We do kids a disservice when we cushion them from negative consequences. If a child is inconsiderate, irresponsible, rude or careless they should be made to deal with the fallout of their choices even if it’s inconvenient or embarrassing for Mom and Dad.

 In the early years, parenting is all about protection and provision. Loving parents do everything within their power to provide for and guarantee that no harm befalls their young child. As kids mature, parenting priorities must shift. If they don’t kids will grow up with all of the passions and aspirations of adults while missing the maturity and wisdom to manage and make the most of those passions and aspirations. The skills gained through the teaching of self-management lay the groundwork for a life of productivity, happiness and holiness. Without the capacity to self-manage, no one—no matter how loved they were in the early years—will ever reach his or her God-given potential.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Purpose

 

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose~ Romans 8:28 NASB

 

This week I learned that the word purpose is one of the most loaded words in the English language. It came to light following a conversation with one of our kids. The exchange started innocently enough when I vetoed chocolate cake after dinner. I defended my use of veto power by patiently explaining that candy and cookies at church, followed by ice cream at lunch and peanut butter cups for an afternoon snack, was more than enough nutritionally deficient “food” for any one person in a single day.

 The child was clearly not persuaded by my insight so I launched into a discourse concerning the long-term health risks of consuming excessive sugar. I was on a roll so I went on to expound (rather eloquently I thought) on the hazards of developing bad habits early in life and the differences between an empty calorie and a healthy calorie. I was feeling pretty smug about my communication skills until I noted the blank expression in her eyes and realized that I was not having the impact I had hoped for.

 The death spiral of doubt came the next morning while I was reading a devotional of all things. The author warned against allowing anything to pull you away from the purpose that God has for your life. Rather than being encouraged to persevere in my God given purpose I was suddenly filled with uncertainty and doubt.

 My mind immediately traveled back to the conversation I’d had the night before with my child. It got me thinking about purpose and whether or not I somehow missed mine.

I cannot explain why that particular situation struck me with what can only be described as an existential crisis of confidence. It could be that recent changes in my life have rocked my confidence. Some would say it was the devil. It’s also possible that I am simply an over-privileged first-world Christian with too much time on my hands to ponder such things.

 Once I got my emotions in check I did a search of the Scriptures looking for some wisdom. I think I was hoping to find an example of a man or woman seeking their purpose. To my surprise, I could not find a single example. I concluded that there are only three possible explanations for this:

 We are the first generation of humans to be concerned with our purpose.  

Prior generations had the subject of purpose all figured out and did not feel the need to ask.

They understood some truths we have forgotten.

 The first two possibilities are highly unlikely. People are people. The fundamentals of what make us human do not change. And people everywhere, in every time, and in every place have cared a great deal about living lives that are both meaningful and significant. We are not the first generation to ponder our purpose in life. Nor will we be the last.

 I do believe that the men and women of the past may have understood a significant truth that I briefly forgot in the midst of my angst the other day. They understood that God’s purpose for each individual is less about doing and more about being.

 Like most folks, I tend to think of purpose in terms of things that I do. For most people, finding purpose tends to all about getting a degree, doing a job, making money, starting a ministry, raising a family. While it’s true that God wants people to be industrious and hardworking (2nd Thessalonians 3:10). I’m discovering that God is far more concerned with whom we are becoming rather than what we are achieving. If a man or woman is in the process of becoming holy, righteous, and fully submitted to God, the details of the doing tend take care of themselves.

 According to Scripture, people fulfill their purpose in the mundane things of life as much, if not more so, than in the things we see as big. God cares little about our net worth, how many degrees we have earned, the awards and honors that adorn our office walls, or even how many people we preach to every week. However, He is keenly interested in how we use our money, do our jobs, use our words, raise our families, treat our spouses, who we gossiped about and how forgiving we are.

 We find our purpose in this life when we take whatever it is we are doing, no matter how mundane and seemingly insignificant and commit to doing it in a way that reflects the goodness and glory of God to the world around us.

 

 

 

      

 

 

When “Love” Cripples Our Kids-

Capricious children will rule over them, the people will be oppressed; each one by another, and each one by his neighbor. The youth will storm against the elder and the inferior against the honorable~ Isaiah 3:4b-5 NASB

 It’s difficult to quibble with the notion that our society has become progressively more child-centered over the course of the last few decades.

 Overall concern for the health and welfare of children has brought about much-needed change in our culture. Research has raised awareness concerning the educational, medical and emotional needs of growing children. Parents readily invest more of their time, energy and treasure in raising kids than at any other time in history; and educators are much more in tune with the developmental needs of each individual child. As a result, school is far more interesting than it was “back in the day”.

 The societal focus on children has also brought with it a greater awareness of child abuse and neglect. Physical discipline of any kind is now frowned upon and has been replaced with more “enlightened” forms of discipline.

I am all for anything that brings awareness to the horrors of child abuse. However, I fear we have exchanged physical abuse and emotional neglect with a different kind of child abuse. A form of abuse  that is much more socially acceptable but every bit as crippling to the long-term health and well being of children.

 I call this new form of child abuse “insulation.” Insulation happens when well-intentioned parents go beyond protecting their children from harmful influences or danger. Parents who insulate attempt to shield their kids from every kind of distress, pain, sadness, discomfort, discouragement or discontent. Some of the more common methods of insulation are:

 Demanding teachers give kids grades they have not earned

Refusing to expose kids to unfamiliar foods for fear they won’t like them

Insisting swings and other “dangerous” equipment be removed from playgrounds

Piling on undeserved praise

Allowing laziness and irresponsibility

Failing to tell children “no” when appropriate

Delaying the teaching of necessary life skills (cooking, cleaning, driving, money management)

Neglecting to correct disrespect or rudeness

Anxiety over offending your child

Operating as a mediator with teachers and other authority figures

 There is nothing inherently wrong with attempting to make childhood pleasant for kids. Nor is it wrong to want to protect children from danger. The world we live in is full of evil people and genuine threats. One of the primary obligations of parents and guardians is to shelter innocent children from unsafe people and risky situations.

 Trouble comes when parents endeavor to shield their children from unpleasant or painful situations that teach kids truth about life. A scraped knee is painful, but the pain effectively communicates to a child the truth concerning their physical limitations. A bad grade won’t kill a student, but the embarrassment that comes with a bad grade may instill in them the importance of working hard to avoid the embarrassment of failure. If a child is never encouraged to try new foods they are robbed of the joy of discovering foods they do like.

 Childhood is far too brief to fritter away time puffing kids up with unjustified praise or setting them up for disappointment by creating a fictitious reality where kids get things without taking responsibility or working hard. Childhood is the only time parents get to teach kids all they will need to know to navigate the rigors of the adult world. One aspect of preparing kids for adulthood is guiding them through unpleasant or challenging experiences, not eliminating them entirely.

 Parents should train kids to negotiate with teachers or coaches, rather than doing it for them. This gives kids the confidence and skills needed to deal with supervisors and managers in the future. Parents need to demand respect and teach etiquette because respect for others, civility and good manners make children and grown-ups more likable and more marketable in the professional world. Refusing to correct disrespect sets a child up to be disliked and passed over for opportunities.

 Insulation is born out of a faulty view of love. Love is more than just squishy, squashy, sloppy sentimentality. Love is more than a urge to bless and shelter. Authentic love is multifaceted and complex. It is patient and kind, but it is also honest, tough and future focused. Love wants what is best long-term. Love looks beyond childhood and prepares for adulthood. Love pushes kids to try new things, to be courageous, protects when appropriate and corrects when necessary. Authentic love, provides kids a start that will serve them well over the course their lifetime.

 

 

 

The Little Girl

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live~ Deuteronomy 30:19

 Recently Pope Francis shed his image as the hip, happening Pope when he came out with a bold, rabble-rousing declaration condemning recreational drug legalization. Pope Francis could not have been more unequivocal in his condemnation of drug legalization. His message stated in part…

 “The problem of drug use is not solved with more drugs.”

 He went on to clarify…

 “Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise. To think that harm can be reduced by permitting drug addicts to use narcotics in no way resolves the problem.”

 The blogosphere went wild with disapproval over the Pope’s archaic notions. The haters were out in full force, overjoyed to have an occasion to bash the Pope, organized religion, and anyone ridiculous enough to believe in God. There were some weary attempts at defending the use of marijuana made by pointing out that alcohol is legal and widely used (I, for one fail to see how one is connected to the other).

 Then there were the gloomy souls who seemed sincerely baffled that a Christian leader who appears to be as left-leaning and cool as Pope Francis could be opposed to recreational drug use. But by far the most common sentiment asserted by those who hope to legalize drugs was the tired line that has rapidly become the rallying cry of a civilization that is rotting from within:

 “People should be able to do whatever they want with their own bodies!”

 As I read page after page of comments extolling the virtues of personal sovereignty and unlimited freedom, I couldn’t help but think of the little girl who lives upstairs in the room that used to be my office.

 She’s a precious little thing.

 She has long, dark blonde hair, wonderfully expressive hazel eyes, and a mischievous smile. She adores animals and is currently campaigning hard for a hamster that she intends to name Sir Edward Fluff Ball. She loves to swim in our pool and likes craft projects. Her favorite color changes almost daily.

 She is the daughter of a relative, the offspring of two people who sincerely believed that they had the right to do whatever they wanted with their own bodies. A few years ago her Mother died from choices she made with her own body. 

 Moving in with us was tough on her in the beginning, but she is becoming a bit more comfortable in our home all the time. Although they are much older, she enjoys hanging out with our kids. She and my husband share a love of the silly and absurd that is bringing them together. She and I have connected over decorating her room and a mutual love of stories. Her growing bond with our family does not keep her from crying sometimes because she misses her Mom and yearns to live with her Dad.

 She is a bright and imaginative girl.

She reads above grade level and performs well in school. Unfortunately, she struggles more than most kids her age with impulse-control issues, remembering things and telling time. On nights when sleep evades me I worry that her problems are more than childish immaturity. My gut tells me her issues may very well be the outcome of choices her Mother made with her own body while she was pregnant.

 Her story is far from unique.

There are millions of little girls and boys just like her. Children who are the human fallout of arrogant and foolish choices their parents have made with their own bodies. Children who are plagued by nightmares, children who struggle to connect with their peers, children who long for an ordinary life with their biological parents.

Children who cry themselves to sleep at night.

 The vast majority of those children do not have the advantages she has. Most are not as naturally bright as she is. Nor do they have extended families that are able and willing to pick up the slack for parents who are busy making choices that prevent them from parenting their children properly.

 Those children are fated to become cogs in the wheel of an apathetic, overburdened public system. A system that lacks the human element necessary to help children mature to adulthood in a healthy way.

A system we all pay for.

 Sadly, societies reap what they sow as surely as individuals do. I fear the harvest we will reap in the coming years with these kids, as we loudly and arrogantly demand the right to do whatever we want with our own bodies.

 In an ideal world, we would not need laws to govern what individuals can and can’t do with their own bodies. In an ideal world, people would make unselfish, rational choices with their bodies. In an ideal world all people would agree that an individual’s right to make choices should end at the place where those choices begin to negatively affect others. In an ideal world, there would not be any children like the little girl who lives upstairs in the room that used to be my office.

The Folly of Forsaking Wisdom

 For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it~ Proverbs 8:11 KJV

 I have been tutoring a seven-year-old boy twice a week for a little over a year now. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I help him with his homework and then we work to improve his reading and writing skills. I will not lie-I have a soft spot for Chandler. I think it’s at least partly because he’s a bit eccentric for a second grader. 

 Chandler’s favorite food is Cheez-Its and he dreams of becoming a fighter pilot someday. Chandler knows everything there is to know about airplanes, dolphins and warships. He is convinced that America was the instigator in World War II and is extremely proud of that “fact.” He is unfailingly patriotic, has an offbeat sense of humor, and a uniquely quirky way of viewing the world.

 He also has a tenacious stubborn streak. Because he can be stubborn, motivating him can be a bit of an issue, especially when it comes to handwriting.

 Chandler would rather eat bees than write neatly.

 One afternoon last spring I became desperate. We had ninety minutes and three pages of homework to complete. We also needed to do his reading for the week. Every page of homework was handwriting intensive and Chandler was in no mood to cooperate. I attempted to inspire him with kindness and encouraging words, and he dawdled.  I tried being stern, but that only intensified his level of stubbornness.

 Finally, I made him an offer he would have been a fool to refuse. I offered to give him one piece of candy for every neatly written word. The results were truly miraculous.  The only real downside was that by the time he got half way through the second page he had eaten so much candy I was really scared he would throw-up all over my kitchen table. I gathered my wits enough to have him put the rest of the candy in a bag to eat later. He went home that afternoon with three pages of neatly completed homework and a sandwich baggie stuffed with candy.

 The next week, sweet little Chandler transformed into a greedy overlord. He expected to be rewarded with candy for every single word he wrote. He went home with huge bags of candy after our tutoring sessions. His handwriting improved dramatically, but only when he was with me and only when I paid the little punk off with candy.

 It wasn’t until Chandler suggested that he should get a piece of candy for every properly written letter that I acknowledged my stupidity.  That day I began the painful process of ending the madness. Because I had allowed the insanity to continue for so long, it took almost a month to get things back on track.

 No one would guess from reading this story, but I am not an idiot. I know better than to bribe a child with refined sugar. I know better than to bribe a child with anything. I have better sense than to allow an obstinate, eccentric seven-year-old-boy to run the show. I am well aware of the dangers of allowing bad behavior to persist unchallenged, and yet to my everlasting shame I did all of those things.

Repeatedly.  

 I have decided that this whole silly episode was not really about smart or stupid. It was about wisdom, or in my case an appalling lack of wisdom. My error was in supposing that the problem needed to be solved immediately by any means necessary.

 As I mulled this over, I concluded that many of the missteps we make in life are rooted in the desire to take a short cut to solve a problem or make life easier. Drugs and alcohol are a faster and more comfortable way of dealing with pain than self-examination and change. Bribing a child will get the job done without the effort necessary to build character and self-discipline. Alleviating loneliness with sex does not require the work needed to build healthy lifelong relationships. Cheating takes less effort than learning and yelling is easier than discussing. Casually dismissing God as a myth appears to make life easier and less complicated, but like every short cut it comes with a hefty price-tag.

 The differences between wisdom and reasoning are subtle. Worldly thinking is all about results and so the end always justifies the means. Wisdom understands there is more to a successful outcome than desirable results. Worldly thinking is all about getting the task accomplished. Wisdom is about getting the job done with integrity and in a way that will produce lasting change. Wisdom is the gift that enables us to look down the road and see the consequences of our actions and—if need be—correct our course before we reap an unpleasant harvest.

 

 

Five Mistakes Even the Best Mothers Make

Having a young child in our home for the first time in nearly a decade has driven me to do and think about things I haven’t thought about or done in a very long time. Things like chore charts and discipline methods, dance lessons, parent teacher nights, Disney movies, themed birthday parties, homework, sleepovers (ugh), and the social politics of fifth-grade girls (more ugh).  

I read parenting books compulsively and am far more attuned the parenting I see going on around me. I will shamelessly ask anyone I meet who has adopted or fostered an older child for advice. My hope is that I will glean some wisdom and insight that will empower me to maneuver this latest challenge God has placed in my life.

One question I typically ask Mothers of older kids is:

Is there anything at all you wish you could do over?

 Even the Mothers I have admired most confess at least a few things they wish they had done differently. After countless conversations I have concluded that even the best mothers would like a second chance in at least some areas. Following are five mistakes even the best Mothers make:

 Failing to become a student of your child-

 Many of the older Mothers I have spoken with deeply regret not understanding who their kids really were and imposing their own goals on their kids. I am convinced that the number one responsibility of a Mother is to assist her child in knowing and understanding him or herself. Kids need to be aware of their strengths as well as their weaknesses.  It is not a Mother’s job to decide what a child should do and then guide them toward her goals for their lives, but rather to observe her kids and help them to dream dreams and form goals based on their own unique talents and abilities.

 Thinking bad behaviors are cute-

 Intense competitiveness, smart mouthing, nitpickiness, precociousness with the opposite sex, melodrama and enhancing the truth can be oddly charming on adorable little children. Those same actions become less charming and even offensive when you’re dealing with an older kid or an adult. The next time your little cutie gets cozy with the boy or girl next door, saunters out in a skimpy ensemble, demands they win for the hundredth time, tells you a whopper of a tale, or says something saucy, try and imagine what that behavior might look like on a fourteen-year-old. Any seasoned Mom will tell you that it’s easier to break a habit in a child than in a teenager

Disregarding the spiritual-

 Every human being has a dark side. It’s our nature. Belief in the God of the Bible has helped keep the ugly side of humankind in check for eons. Taking your kid to church and teaching them to apply Christian principles to their lives will go a long way in helping to keep narcissism, greed, violent tendencies, and self-interest from spiraling out of control in future years.

 Not finding out what they really think-

 Even the best Moms can be guilty of telling kids what to think rather than finding out what and why they think what they think. When we push our views without listening to theirs we drive wrong thinking underground where the wrong thinking becomes embedded in their character. Ask questions to discover what your kids believe about issues. Don’t jump to correct every little thing they say or they will shut down and stop talking. Instead, ask them further questions about why they think what they think and then gently help them see the eventual end game of a faulty belief system.

 An unwillingness to change your mind or admit wrong-

 Admitting we got something wrong and changing course in front of our kids is one of the most uncomfortable and humbling things in the world. We have to do it on occasion because it is extraordinarily prideful and foolish not to. It’s not as if they won’t figure out on their own that we don’t actually know everything. Kids desperately need role models who are willing to humble themselves, apologize when wrong and change course when necessary.

 One truth I am relearning is that good parenting is not really about being perfect (whew!). Good parenting is about loving our kids enough to help them discover who they really are and what they might be good at. It’s about modeling grace and humility. Good parenting is about looking ahead at what present behavior might eventually become and loving our kids enough to educate them about the God who loves them even more than we do.