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Parenting

On reading together

It used to be, a generation and a half or so ago, that reading out loud was family entertainment. My own childhood memories – although not so idyllic as to picture my Mom knitting or mending every evening while my Dad whittled away on some useful wood carving to the tune of Dickens – do still include fond recollections of family story telling.

Every holiday season we rented a cottage on an island in the North Sea. While we were there we did a lot of hiking. Mom always took along a blanket and a bag full of Groninger koek, a chewy and filling type of bread-cake. We’d settle down somewhere – either on the edge of a farmer’s pasture with mournful, dark-eyed cows cozying up to the fence, or in a grove of sweet-smelling fir trees. After we played some games Dad would pull out his copy of a book by the unlikely title of Pa Pinkelman. We savored the flavor of his voice as much as we did the hearty flavor of the koek. It’s a good memory and I hope it’s a memory our children have as well.

Today’s parents, however, are faced with a problem that appears to thwart memories of togetherness times. This problem is called television and computer technology. It’s a push-button age we live in and children are brought up in an environment that encourages sitting back and watching - an environment that can encourage a negative attitude towards reading.

Reading Together, Longer

But is reading to a child really that important?

It is a fact that children read to in childhood read easily when older and will keep that interest in reading in later years. Many parents make the mistake of no longer reading aloud to their children when they reach the age of being able to do so on their own. The example is used of learning to ride a bicycle. When a child learns, you give him a shove and off he goes on his own down the road. But is it not pleasurable, to both you and the child, to have occasion to ride together? Shared experience heightens pleasure and fosters a desire to keep going.

The Christian aspect to this, and it cannot be stressed enough, is that of shared Bible devotions after mealtimes and before bedtime. “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” (Prov.1:8-9).

Reading out loud improves reading skill and more difficult books can be progressively introduced over time promoting conversations on many topics. Many parents feel uncomfortable reading out loud to children when the children get to be a bit older. They are unsure of the choice of books and afraid of being rejected in favor of other pastimes. Sad to say, they often, especially if a mother works outside of the home, are too tired and too occupied with other household chores.

Yet, developing the desire and ability to read in a child is a parent’s God-given task. This is not a mandate to teach ABC’s and ensuing words, but a mandate to communicate to a child a number of truths. The foremost of these are that an all-powerful God has created; that we have fallen; that we need repentance and forgiveness in Christ; and that all of creation awaits the second coming of Christ. Parents are also to teach responsibility intertwined with providence; they are to show children that there is reprobation as well as election; they must ensure that children are aware of hell as well as heaven; and they must make children acutely aware of the antithesis. Much of this is accomplished by teaching a child what and how to read.

What’s Out There

Some years ago, twelve parents analyzed 45 books selected at random from major book lists recommended to librarians that year. Their purpose was to graph what authors were telling the teens of the day about the world through fiction, and to work with the library to add books for diversity. These parents made some startling discoveries. There were no books from Christian publishers on the lists and dominant themes in these books were classified as follows:

- most fathers are absent or bad
- sixty percent of mothers work outside the home full time
- marriage is boring or dangerous
- parents and their kids are estranged half the time
- clergy are bumbling hypocrites
- the spirit world helps kids more than it hurts them
- I can solve my own problems. God doesn’t help
- sex outside marriage isn’t wrong unless it’s forced
- death is prominent, even pervasive
- profanity is in seventy percent of the books

The above are another ten good reasons why parents should be aware of what their children could possibly be absorbing. And this was from back in 1988, and things are not getting better. Children are given a fair amount of alarming baggage when they read current books.

Developing Habits

If parents drink on a daily or weekly basis, it is easier for their children to become accustomed to alcoholic beverages. If parents are not respectful toward one another, children are apt to be disrespectful and unkind to their peers. If parents don’t go to church, it is not likely their offspring will develop the habit. If parents don’t read the Bible on a daily family basis and discuss what they have read with their young listeners, their children will not become aware of God’s values, unless the grace of God intervenes. If parents allow children unsupervised access to public or school libraries, they are treading on thin ice and their children are apt to fall into cold and numbing waters. If children are left by their parents to feed on an ample diet of TV and to snack voraciously on computer games, they will end up with scurvy of the soul, osteoporosis of the heart and die of spiritual hunger.

It is rather obvious that parenting is a full-time job. A child left to himself, Proverbs 29 tells us, disgraces his mother.

There are also Christian family do’s. For example, do know what is in your church, school and public library. Recommend good books to the librarians in all three and be prepared to give reasons why you recommend these books. Do know what kind of magazines are in these libraries. Do put God-centered books in every room of your house. Do communicate with other Christian parents as to what they are reading. Do pray daily with and for your children. Do have daily devotions and discussions with your children.

A couple recommendations

The fact that many Christian parents are unaware of what is available in the area of Christian books and magazines is sad. The following is meant to fill this void just a bit.

  1. Books Children Love
    by Elizabeth Wilson
    2002 / 320 pages
    A nice guideline to reading.
  2. God’s World Publications 
    This organization publishes different age level magazines - the first level is kindergarten and the last level is high school. As well they publish an adult weekly magazine, a sort of Christian Time periodical, called WORLD magazine. These magazines are excellent in that they teach children as well as adults to be discerning in what they read. Highly recommended

Endnote

What are Your Kids Reading by Jill Carlson, Wolgemuth and Hyatt Pub. Inc., Brentwood, Tennessee, 1991, page 3.

For another resource for good books, check out Reformed Perspective's children's fiction reviews and non-fiction reviews, and picture book reviews. Christine Farenhorst is the author of a number of books that would make for great read-alouds – you can find them listed here. This article is an abridged version of one originally published under the title "And a Chain to Adorn Your Neck.”

Parenting

When you’re asked, “Do you spank your child?”

On a December edition of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors Truth in Love podcast, Stuart Scott was asked how he would answer if someone who opposed spanking asked him “Do you spank your kids?” He encouraged listeners to give a “contextual answer” that presents spanking as the small part it is of all that’s involved in the raising of children – just one tool in the toolbox. “Those questions often come loaded. There’s a lot more behind that question and you would like to know what sort of experience have they had, have they been a part of, that totally turns them off to the whole idea of spanking. Especially ‘Do you hit your child?’ “A good friend…Dr. Bill Goode…. was counseling a guy who was going to appear in court and was going to be asked in court ‘Do you hit your child? Do you spank your child?’ to try and entrap him. “Dr. Goode counseled this young man not to say, ‘Yes I do’ or ‘No I don’t’ but instead to give a contextual answer. And this was the contextual answer. The man said: ‘When I raise my child, I encourage a lot, I play a lot, I pray a lot, I teach a lot, and I use cause and effect a lot, so that when I do spank I do it lovingly, slowly, prayerfully, and thoroughly so I don’t have to do it often.’ “I thought that a pretty wise answer.”...

Book excerpts, Parenting, Sexuality

5 frank quotes from Jonathan McKee's "Sex Matters"

Jonathan McKee’s Sex Matters is a frank book meant to help us parents teach our kids about the touchy topic of sex. To give you a good idea of what can be found inside, what follows are five good quotes from this great book. And check out our review here. Is it wise to be so up front when talking with our kids? "I've never met a parent who engaged in conversations with their kids about sex too much. Not one. Ever. But in my over twenty years of youth ministry, and a decade of writing and speaking to parents, I've met thousands of parents who have done the exact opposite and looked back in regret....The world is full of explicit lies. Sadly, very few people are telling our kids the explicit truth. But we need to. I need to. You need to. If we don't, our kids will look for the answer somewhere else..." “Sin can be fun…for the moment” “ White defined two types of sexual ‘happiness’: the animalistic thrill-of-the-moment happiness you can experience when you are promiscuous (sleeping with whoever you want) and a deeper, longer-lasting, more fulfilling happiness when you are monogamous (have one partner for life). Which do you think sounds better in the long run? Can a monogamous person experience both the quick thrill of sex and the longer lasting happiness?” Don’t look for loopholes “Some people still try to find a loophole. Maybe porn is okay, right? Because then we aren’t actually have sex with anyone else. We’re just sort of…pretending to have sex! During the time Jesus was walking around on earth he encountered some people like this. They were thinking, So long as I don’t have sex, it’s okay. I’ll just think about it in my mind! Jesus himself decided to address this, calling it lust and labeling it just as bad as adultery ….(Matthew 5:27-29) Jesus wasn’t pulling any punches here. If you’re thinking about it, you’re no better than someone who is doing it.” On fleeing temptation “Fact: Dentists have recommended that a toothbrush be kept at least six feet away from a toilet to avoid airborne particles resulting from the flush….How many of are going to store it right next to the toilet by the toilet paper roll? ….Most of us will probably store our toothbrush about twenty feet away if possible…. There is a principle here: If we discover danger to be within a certain proximity, we avoid that proximity completely. Why don’t we do that with sexual temptation?” The “process” is designed to be continued “Any teen who has been alone with someone they are attracted to and allowed the process to start knows that it is like trying to stop a forest fire after a drought! So why is it so difficult to stop? Because it’s not supposed to be stopped!”...

Parenting

Should it be "I'm sorry" or "Please forgive me"?

“I’m sorry” or “please forgive me” – does it make a difference? Aren’t they just two different ways of saying the same thing? Not really. “I’m sorry” can lead to regret, which leads to enslavement. “Please forgive me” leads to repentance, which leads to freedom. Sorry I was caught Saying I’m sorry doesn’t really require a change of heart. For example, one child takes another child’s toy truck without permission. He is caught in the act. He is told to go to his brother, give the toy back and say he is sorry. He does this, but inside he is still unhappy he doesn’t have the toy. His brother, on the other hand, is happy to have the toy back, but he is upset that the toy was taken in the first place. On the surface, everything looks okay. The wrong act was discovered, the perpetrator said he was sorry, and everything is back to normal. But what about beneath the surface? And how is saying I’m sorry not helpful, but actually destructive? The above scenario demonstrates not only a momentary conflict, but an ongoing problem of anger and injustice. How could asking for forgiveness make a difference? Simply saying one is sorry doesn’t address the underlying heart issues. The problem here is that while the first child may regret the incident, the regret may be focused on the fact that he was caught, not that he disobeyed God and attempted to wrong his brother. Let’s revisit the scenario, this time focusing on asking for forgiveness. Can we be restored? Mom sees that the toy truck has been wrongfully taken. She calmly confronts her son and administers the appropriate discipline. She addresses the sin and tells her son he should seek to serve his brother rather than take advantage of him. Now the real issue of selfishness is out in the open. Then she instructs her son to go to his brother and say, “Nathan, please forgive me for trying to take your truck. That was selfish of me. Please forgive me for not caring for you.” Mom knows that repentance means not only acknowledging what was wrong, but replacing it with what is right. In response, Nathan has been taught to say I forgive you. And with encouragement from his mom, he also says, “we can play with the truck together.” The issue of regret has been addressed for both brothers. The groundwork is being laid for forgiveness to result in repentance and in building a solid relationship between these brothers. Conclusion Will this same scene be replayed the next day? Probably, yes! But daily training in righteousness will begin to build in patterns of forgiveness and repentance that will serve both brothers for the rest of their lives. “I’m sorry” or “Please forgive me.” It makes a difference! "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." – 2 Corinthians 7:10 This article first appeared at ShepherdPress.com/blog and is reprinted here with permission of the author....

Parenting

Teaching small fries to take notes, sing psalms, and speak to God

When your child is old enough to write... When your child learns to write he is ready to begin taking sermon notes. Say, what? Let's say that little George is 4 or 5 or 6 years old and he knows how to write his name and how to write all of his letters. Now he can get started! All you need is a regular notebook (or half size) and a pen or pencil. Before you go to church you should talk with him about the worship service, and how important it is to be quiet and still and to listen to God's Word being preached. Hopefully he has already been sitting in church for awhile and has become accustomed to obeying in this manner. Explain to him that he is old enough now to begin taking sermon notes! As you listen to the sermon, write in the notebook a simple sentence that you have just heard the minister say. Remember to write it in the type of lettering that little George will be able to read, in the size that he is used to. Then hand it to George and tell him to copy it. If he is a beginner, he will take awhile to do so. When he hands it back to you, smile, and listen to the sermon for a moment, and write another sentence. He needs to remember not to have a conversation about it. Let George complete this second one as well. Depending on the age and patience of your child, you can decide whether to have him write 5 sentences, or 10, or more. As he improves, he will be quicker and will accomplish more. He may keep it up throughout, or he may tire. I usually found it beneficial to "push" my child to do just one more after he said he was getting tired of it. This helped him to develop endurance. After the service, take the notebook home. If you will take a few moments to read it over when he is present, and to show it to your spouse, he will see that this is important to you and it will help him to strive to do it well. If he is able, you might even have him read it as a part of your family Bible reading time. This activity teaches him to take notes, because as he gets older you will ask him to listen and write down parts of sentences that he hears. It doesn't matter if he gets all of the words - just that he is listening and getting some of them. Eventually he will progress to where he can find the main points and summarize them, but that's a long way off. This activity also gives him something very worthwhile to do during worship. It is directly involved with the worship, as opposed to just being a toy, a page to color, or a series of "o's" to fill in, in his bulletin. It says to him that he is worshipping too, not just being forced to sit quietly for his parents' sake. It says to him that he is capable of taking sermon notes, just like the "big people" do. It also helps if he sees those older than him participating in this way. As his notebook progresses you could use it during the week to help him remember what he learned on Sunday. If you are enthusiastic, he will be also. When your child is old enough to sing... When your child is old enough to sing a song he is old enough to learn psalms and hymns. Little George is capable of picking up any song that he hears. So if you regularly sing words of praise to the Lord in your home and in your car, he will soon know all of the words as well. Good quality music that truly honors the Lord is just as fitting for children as it is for adults. They do not need off-key vegetables to get their attention. You might teach your children the psalms and hymns by methodically going through your church songbook and learning to sing all of the first stanzas. What a wonderful preparation to be ready for whichever ones the minister thinks fit best with his sermons for that day! Another way that you can assist your child in worship is by finding out ahead of time, if possible, which hymns or psalms will be sung next Sunday. Then you can sing that one at home a few times so that it becomes familiar to him. If it's one that was unfamiliar to you this could benefit everyone and improve the musical part of the worship of our Lord. If enough people are interested in knowing ahead of time perhaps you could ask the minister if he could email the titles or page numbers to the congregation by Thursday or Friday of each week. All of this serves to teach our children that what happens on Sunday is important and that it is not a Sunday-only activity. Preparing for worship and reflecting on it afterwards bring it to the forefront and promote our spiritual growth. Again, a little enthusiasm goes a long way. When your child is old enough to read... When your child is old enough to read he can begin reading the Bible. What an excitement it is for little George to help read one of the Bible verses at a family Bible reading time. Maybe he can only identify half or two-thirds of the words, but he is sure trying. Soon he will want to be able to read the other words too, and that will encourage him to learn the rest of his phonics. What a goal! Historically, most schools were started so that people would be able to read God's Word. George will appreciate that he too is included in the Bible study. He also won't need to fuss for attention if he is already included in taking a turn. When your child is old enough to speak... When your child is old enough to speak he can pray. He might repeat after Mom or Dad, or he might add his own simple words of thanks and request. But he should not even be able to remember a time when he did not pray several times every day. Worship is the central, most important thing that we do in our entire week. It is the time that we humbly come to confess our sins, give our thanks, sing of His glory, ask for help, and learn of His grace. When we teach our children right from the start how to worship, we accomplish the most important task that we must do. Sharon L. Bratcher has a book with 45 of her RP articles in it, and a 2-year lesson plan entitled “Bible Overview for Young Children” ages 2-6 and 6-9. For information on these, contact [email protected] This article first appeared in the Dec. 2006 issue, under the title "Sermon notes, and songs, for small fries."...

Parenting

Quantity, not quality: good parenting takes time

In The New Tolerance authors Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler share the way one parent taught his teenage son to see through the worldly messages being presented in pop music. The son was allowed to buy any album he wanted so long as Dad listened to it beforehand. "If Dad approved not only of the language but of the more subtle messages in the music, fine; if not... Dad would always explain his decisions." At one point this father rejected three straight albums, which didn't leave his son all that happy. And it wasn't so easy on the dad either; he had to spend a long time listening to some lousy music. Now this was almost 20 years ago, so it took a lot longer than it even would today. Whereas we can read song lyrics online and preview many tracks via YouTube, back then the only way to check out an album was to go to the store, buy it on CD, and take it for a spin. But this dad was up for it. He knew that by investing "quantity time" with his son – by spending hours slogging through, and talking through, album after album together – he'd help equip his son to know and appreciate what was praiseworthy and to see through what was shameful and unworthy. The Bible speaks about quantity vs. quality time. Or, rather, it assumes quantity time. In Deut. 11:19 God describe our parenting task – raising up children in the ways of the Lord – as an always and ongoing activity. "You shall teach to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up." Raising up our children in the way they should go is going to take time. And energy too. There are going to be moments when you'll feel downright exhausted. But, be encouraged: this is what we supposed to be doing; it's what we're called to do. And sure, it can be draining, but let's not forget how much joy there is in the process too. We get to not only listen to music together but: share meals teach them how to ride a bike and mow the mow the lawn study God's Word as a family show them how to bake play games together and tell them for the hundredth time to stop picking their nose This is what we get to do. Tired or not, there is no task more important: God has entrusted us with the care of his covenant children. When we consider we're going to spend our hours some way or the other, what better investment is there? Keep at it. Take the time....

Parenting

Are our children leaders?

Picture a group of teenage boys: the sort who attend a Christian school and who, after having Bible class in the morning, are still so interested in digging into God's Word that they spend their lunch break at an optional Bible study. These are good kids. In a lecture series on Christian education Douglas Wilson recounted a true story about his son Nate meeting with just such a  group. At one of these sessions Nate asked them what current movie was being talked about in their class. The title was forgettable, but it was typical Hollywood fare – Wilson labeled it Stupid Movie 3. Nate asked the boys why they thought everyone was interested in and talking about Stupid Movie 3. Some of the students suggested it was because their classmates didn't have very good discernment or taste. "No," Nate said, "It's because you guys aren't leaders." Now how's that for raising expectations! These were the good kids, the sort who would never get in trouble, and isn't that what every parent hopes for? But is that why we send them to a Christian school – so they can stay out of trouble? How were these boys helping their classmates? How were they impacting the class culture? How were they leading? They weren't. They were sitting quietly while others set the course for their class. Glorifying God can be a risky thing, even in a Christian school setting. Sticking out is probably harder to do as a teen than at any other point in our lives. But if Christians are going to be a light to those around us, (Matt. 5:14-16) then we need to be leaders. And if our children are going to be leaders we need to encourage them to forgo safety, and embrace risk. No, not risk for it's own sake - this isn't about seeking an adrenal rush.  Instead it is about speaking up when the cause is just, or loving, or true, and being willing to be used by God. We want to ready our children to step right into the middle of this sort of trouble, yelling encouragement to all those behind, "Follow me - I know the Way!"  ...

Parenting

Teaching your kid to appreciate broccoli

or, Cooking up a recipe for contentment ***** One of the most common complaints I hear from other parents is how they have been unable to get their children to eat certain types of food. As you will no doubt guess, I am not talking here about burgers, or candy, or other items packed with sugar or fat. Somehow the problem most of us seem to have with those sorts of foods is getting our children to understand the idea of moderation. But when it comes to green things that have come out of the ground, or things off a tree or bush that contain vitamin c, somehow many of us struggle. I have watched more than one parent giving up. The battles took their toll and the child won. And so they have a whole list of things that they “can’t” give to their children: They won’t touch broccoli, they can’t eat parsnips. They won’t touch carrots, they can’t eat peas. They’ll eat potatoes, but only as long as they are roasted or fried. If they’re boiled or mashed, you can forget it. Our kids eat everything So this is going to sound like boasting, or that we just happened to have been blessed with a bunch of abnormal children – it really is neither – but in my six-child household, every child eats everything we put in front of them. Okay, that’s not strictly the case. There are one or two foods maximum that they really, really don’t like, and we accept this. However, whilst we accept that there may be the odd food item that they really, really struggle with, this is a far cry from tolerating the kind of food whining that leads to a great long list of don’ts and can’ts. As I say, I hope that doesn’t come across as boasting. It’s not that we haven’t gone through the same battles that most parents seem to go through – it’s just that we were determined to win those battles, rather than pandering to the whims of a two-year-old who will gladly eat another chocolate pudding, but won’t touch their tomatoes. More important than we might believe I believe that this battle is a far more important one than we might be tempted to think. It is not simply a case of physical health, though that is important. Nor is it just a case of establishing parental authority, though that is crucial too. Even more important than that, the meal table in our formative years is very much a training ground for how we will end up coping with the things that providence will throw at us over the course of our life. Why is that so? The Scriptural route to contentment is to cultivate thankfulness, and so in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul says that we are to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Even more pertinent to this discussion, the Scriptural route to contentment around the table is to give thanks for the food that is set before us: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Timothy 4:4). Which would exclude fussing! The key to getting our children to eat without fuss is to therefore to instill thankfulness in them. However, this might well seem to be somewhat of a paradox. If they won’t eat, how can they be thankful? And if they’re not thankful, how then can they eat without fuss? The Scriptures get it backwards; so should we The Scriptures are often quite counter-intuitive on issues where we are exhorted to do something that we don’t really want to do. Take the end of Psalm 31, for instance, where we read this: “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.” That sounds counter-intuitive because it seems to be the wrong way around. Surely if we’re lacking courage, we need God to strengthen our heart first. But no. It actually says that if we want our heart to be strengthened, we first need to be of good courage. A similar pattern is found in the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Again, it sounds to us a little upside down. Surely our treasure follows our heart. Well maybe it does, but in this passage what Jesus is emphasizing is that where we put our money, our effort and our resources, there our hearts will be. In other words, if we want to be strong in heart, we are exhorted to be courageous. If we want to have more of a heart for, say, the overseas missionary work our church supports, the best thing we can do is to contribute more money to it, which will have the effect of engaging our hearts. The same principle is true of thankfulness. If we don’t feel like being particularly thankful, the biblical antidote is to be thankful. And the more we strive to be thankful in the little things, the more we will find it easy to be thankful for all things. This is the secret of contentment. It starts with thankfulness Which brings us back to the fussy food issue. Children often have a natural disposition to fuss, whine and complain about food. What happens if we indulge that? We are not only teaching them that they can have a list of foods they don’t have to eat, but far more importantly we are teaching them to be unthankful and discontented. Or to put that another way, we are teaching them that “everything created by God is not good, and many things are to be rejected and not received with thanksgiving.” But if we strive to instill thankfulness in them, even for the things they say they don’t like, they will be far more likely to imbibe a spirit of thankfulness, which in turn will make them far more likely to eat what is put in front of them. If we indulge their discontentment, do we suppose that this spirit will stop at food? Unlikely. I have no empirical evidence for this, no great studies that I can turn to make an explicit case for cause and effect, but I do know that I live in a generation that is far less contented and thankful than previous generations. It is a generation that fights for its perceived rights, and is often unable to accept when it doesn’t get those “rights,” or when it doesn’t get stuff now. Our grandparents survived Where was this learned? I think a lot of it was learned around the meal table, and by that I don’t just mean whether or not a child actually gets to eat around the table with their parents – though that is of course a crucial factor. No, I’m talking about intact families, but families where everybody is eating something different, because the fussiness has been indulged and there is a long list of stuff that won’t be touched. A few decades ago, this wouldn’t even have been an issue, since there was far less choice of food and most people could only dream of being able to afford the kind of stuff we have now. The family would eat the same food because that’s all there was. Today, we have so much more at our disposal and children are usually very much aware of that. How do we tackle it? A mistake I have seen many make is to assume that when children say they don’t like this or they can’t eat that, that they really don’t like this or they really can’t eat that. More often than not, this is a trick and what they really mean, although they won’t express it this way is, “This isn’t on my list of 10 favorite foods, and so I’m not going to touch it.” I’ve listened to more than one parent who has fallen for that tactic, and who has sounded like an ambassador for their child and their fussiness by reeling off a long list of food their children apparently just cannot have. I’m sorry, I don’t believe it. If there were any truth in it, children decades ago who had no alternative choices given to them would have starved. But they didn’t. Conclusion None of that is to imply that this is easy. In my house it has, at times, been extremely difficult. In fact, it still is. However, I believe that the rewards for persevering and for insisting that your child eats the same food as the rest of the family are huge. The ordeal of seeing that two-year-old resist eating that green stuff can be extremely trying. However, it is nothing compared to the joy of seeing them finally come to terms with the fact that they are going to have to eat it, but even more than that, then seeing them slowly coming to like it. In fact, this is the best way to train your child for a life of thankfulness and contentment that I can think of....

Parenting

"Daddy issues"

“I’m busy.” “I am too tired…” “Not now.” “Tomorrow.” “Maybe another time.” “Leave me alone.” “Your mom and I are talking…” “I have to work late…” These are typical answers that we dad’s are famous for using when their children ask them to spend some time with them. Read me a book dad. “I’m busy.” Play with me dad. “I am too tired…” Teach me to ride a bike dad… “Not now.” Play a game with me dad.  “Tomorrow.” Push me on the swing dad. “Maybe another time.” Can I tell you about school dad? “Leave me alone.” Can you help me with my homework? “Go ask your mom.” I am excited for our date on Friday dad. “I have to work late.” I get it, trust me. I do it too. Sometimes I just want to crash on the couch and tell my girls to get out of the room. But do you know what your child hears when you never say “OK?” When you rarely show affection? When you rarely give them the time of day? “You are not worth my time.” “You are bothering me.” “You are a pest.” I… Don’t… Love… YOU. If Daddy is always doing something and if he can’t ever be interrupted, that sends a very clear message to the child. Perhaps we do not mean it…but whether daddy means it or not, the child will perceive it as, “I don’t have time for you, I don’t love you.” When we are always out of town on business, or always working late, or so tired when we get home that we are unable to partake in the lives our children…what kind of message do you think that sends? Mom can say, “Daddy loves you very much,” as much as she wants, and she should…but the kids will only believe her for so long. Our kids need us for more than to simply make money, fix things, and engage in our own pursuit of leisure. The Bible tells us not to provoke our children in a number of ways. In Ephesians 6:1-4 the Apostle Paul tells us: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." When we ignore our children we provoke them. A child who desires affection and attention from dad but only gets belittled by dad, or gets dad’s “leftovers” or his “I am too tired’s” or nothing at all… that child will eventually seek that attention elsewhere. Perhaps they will act out as teens, perhaps they won’t. But I am not going to take the chance of my girls having “Daddy Issues” when they become young women. Guys, the criteria for elders and deacons is not just for the elders and deacons; it is for all of us. One of the criterion for elders and deacons is that he must manage his own household well – this is not just about making money and disciplining your kids when they misbehave. It is not just about making sure everyone gets up on time for church on Sunday morning. It is not about making sure everyone is quiet during the worship service. It is not about making a show of how well behaved your kids are to the rest of the congregation. On top of providing financially and spiritually, what it means is that you take care to lovingly discipline, show affection, to engage your wife and your kids at their level, be there for them no matter what. We’ll always have times where we just don’t want to engage them. When we are burnt out. There will be times when work is busy, when work takes us out of town, but when we are home, we should be home…not on our iPhones, or fixing things in our garages, or ignoring our kids. I love my kids, I assume you love yours as well. There is an old cliche that says, “Actions speak louder than words.” I want my kids to know that I love them, so I have to show them. Ryan Smith blogs at OneChristianDad.com where this post first appeared....

Parenting

The part about parenting I didn't find in any parenting book

I tend to be a fairly methodical person, so what does a methodical person do to prepare for parenthood? Why, read a small library of biblical child training books, of course. But after going through those books (as helpful as they were), I wanted to compare what I had read with the source of all that godly wisdom: the Bible itself. While studying Scriptural passages on child training, I encountered a principle I had not read before. Maybe there are books out there that do mention this principle and I just haven’t read them. It’s even possible that the books I read mentioned this principle, and I just somehow missed it. Whatever the case, I was amazed that I hadn’t heard it before. I’m convinced it may be one of the most important tools in one’s parenting arsenal. Tell your kids what God has done What is this hidden, or overlooked, parenting secret? Simply put: share your testimony with your children. This involves not just the story of how God brought you to faith, but also the countless instances where God delivered or strengthened or encouraged or provided for you. The first several verses of Psalm 44 give us an example of how personal testimonies can affect the lives of future generations. This psalm is actually a lament (see the second half), but it begins with declarations of unwavering trust in the Lord, based largely on the writers’ knowledge of what “our fathers have told us” (verse. 1). Stories from the “days of old” have led the sons of Korah to trust in God’s saving power and not their own strength. Notice how often, in just the first two verses, they point away from themselves and toward God (emphasis mine) …our fathers have told us The work that You did in their days, In the days of old. You with Your own hand drove out the nations; Then You planted them; You afflicted the peoples, Then You spread them abroad. A parent’s testimony is a powerful means of grace for children, because it points to tangible expressions of God’s faithfulness. Sharing is a privilege Sharing one’s testimony isn’t a burden or a chore; it is a privilege and a joy. As C. S. Lewis has pointed out, an enjoyment of something often isn’t complete until that enjoyment is shared. You know you really enjoyed a movie or a book when you tell everyone else about it. The telling itself is the consummation of your enjoyment. Consequently, the writer of Psalm 71 begs God not to let him depart until he has had the opportunity to declare God’s strength and power to the next generation: Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come (vs. 16-18). Sharing stories of how God has worked in our lives is a great way to help our children see the manifold effects of the gospel. It helps them see how mercifully and graciously God treats us, even as we struggle with our own sins and inabilities to live up to His perfect standards. The design of this God-centered focus is so that our children may set their hope in God – not in their own ability to obey Him. As Psalm 145:4 puts it, “One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.” The narrative of our stories involves innumerable instances of God’s saving and sanctifying work. This practice of sharing our testimony needn’t be turned into a legalistic pursuit. Rather, our testimony is simply the story of what God has done; instructing our children is no more a “work” than me telling my wife about my day at dinnertime. Our testimony is all about who God is, what He has done, and what He has promised to do. It is the overflow of past grace that points us all toward future grace. For our children’s benefit – as well as our own – may we remember and recount God’s faithful deeds to our children. May we vividly paint a picture of our Father’s awesome wonders in action. May our stories draw the hearts of our children toward God’s loving embrace. May we delight in His wondrous works so that we relish each and every opportunity to share them. And may our sharing be the consummation of our own delight in the Treasure of our souls: God Himself. Cap Stewart blogs about movies and the arts at CapStewart.com....

Parenting

From explanations to dialogue, from monologues to questions

Explanations often lead to monologues, especially with teenagers. This is not a helpful communication pattern. The goal for good, biblical communication with teenagers is the combination of questions that lead to dialogue. But these questions must come from a genuine interest in your teenagers for who they are, not for what you want them to be. Who would you go to? In this context, let me ask you a question. When you need help with a problem, do you look for answers from any random person? The answer is obvious. You ask the people whom you trust and respect, someone who will really listen to you. Let me take this one additional step. Suppose a friend from church calls and asks you for advice on some relational issue. You are thrilled because you have wanted to talk to her about this very problem. You immediately launch into your explanation about her problem. You tell her that she must not have been listening to the sermons because the pastor just spoke on that very issue. You go on to say that if she were not always late to church she might be in better shape to actually listen to the sermon. You suggest several books for her to read and you finish by telling her you hope you have been helpful. Over time you wonder why she has never called back for more “help.” This example illustrates the danger warned about in Proverbs 18:2; "a fool delights in airing his own opinions." Listen, don't lecture The active, aggressive listener of Proverbs 18:15 – "the ear of the wise seeks knowledge" – will recognize the types of questions that are asked...and the questions that are not asked. If your teenagers are primarily asking logistical questions, such as "Can I have the car?" or "When is dinner?" this should alert you that the important questions are going to someone else. Your goal is to have your kids ask you about the hard things in life. But like you, your older children and teenagers will reserve those questions for the people whom they respect and trust, for the people who will carefully listen. Monologues do not build relationships, only frustrations. You goal is to create a relational climate in which your teenagers want to come to you. Listen carefully to your children and observe the things that they struggle with. Take an interest in the things they are interested in. Ask them genuine questions about their interests. Patience is key here. If you have not been a good listener, you can become one. Even if you do, it may take time for teenagers to begin to seek you out. Pursue your teenagers not so much for what they have done, but for who they are – your children given to you by God. Delight in your teenagers for who they are, your children. If God can delight in you and in me, with all of our issues, then we can delight in the children he has given to us. Being an aggressive listener will lead you to questions and then to dialogues. This is a good thing, for both you and your teenager! Jay Younts is the author of Everyday Talk: Talking freely and Naturally about God with Your Children andEveryday Talk about Sex & Marriage. He blogs at ShepherdPress.com, where this article (reprinted with permission) first appeared....

Parenting

Five things I wish I had known... about being a father

As I have met many fathers around the country at conferences and homeschool conventions, I am often reminded of my own time as a father with three children in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s. Charles Dickens used a phrase to describe the time of the French Revolution that in many ways describes my experience as a parent – it was the “best of times and the worst of times.” Nothing in my life has given me as much fulfillment and joy as being a father to my children. I can also now see that nothing has been as difficult, even though at the time I was blissfully oblivious to most of my weaknesses and shortcomings. Only as my children have become adults have many of my own failures surfaced. What follows are five of those “blind spots” to which I was completely unaware as a young father and that have come to light only in the past few years. 1) I did not see that loving my children is different from worshiping them We are all in some way unconscious idolaters in our hearts. For some of us, our prevalent idol is our job, money, success, personal recognition, fame, leisure time, entertainment, sports, sex, intellectual attainment or even religious achievement or Christian ministry. These are all perfectly innocent pursuits in themselves until they come to occupy the central place in our hearts around which all else revolves – the place reserved for God alone. I did not recognize it at the time, and I would have vehemently denied it if you had suggested it to me, but my children became my predominant idol of choice, though there were others always waiting in the wings, vying for my attention. I taught in their Christian high school and coached their basketball teams, coached all their little league teams and was always eyeball deep in all they did. Only from the distance of more than a decade have I realized that much of the recognition, success and achievement that my involvement in their lives encouraged was for me as much as for them, because their success made me look like a successful father. “My, what well-behaved, smart, successful children Robert and Jill have. They must be wonderful parents.” All of our idolatry is really in some way the exaltation of ourselves. I have discovered that my children had indeed, very subtly, become idols in my life. I was too busy congratulating myself for the wonderful parenting job I was doing for that thought ever to enter my mind! 2) I did not know that the goal of parenting was not to be the perfect parent or even the best parent I could possibly be, but to be a parent who is a repentant sinner I did not know that the way to a real relationship with my children was to walk in the light with them, not by living in darkness, convincing myself that while I was not the perfect parent, I was at least in the top echelon. Oh, there were occasional flashes of lightning that illuminated the fact that I was nowhere close to a perfect parent, but after a brief time of uneasiness, I was always able to return to my comfortable darkness. 1 John 1:7 encourages us to “walk in the light,” and “walk” implies a way of life. I didn’t understand that an open, daily recognition of weakness and dependency on the Lord and not my superior parenting skills was the way to true relationship with my children. 1 John 1:7 says that “fellowship (genuine relationship) one with another” is the result. When my sons were early teenagers, both came to me on separate occasions for help in resisting the pornography that a neighbor boy had shown them. I counseled them on the dangers of pornography, how addictive it is and how destructive it can be to their future relationship with their wives. I then prayed with them that God would give them the power to resist. I was being the perfect father, standing for righteousness, but not being a transparent, repentant one. I didn’t understand that parenting by the gospel meant walking in the light with them, confessing to them my own struggles with pornography over the years, and then praying for us both that in our weakness God would be our power. I missed a golden opportunity to strengthen my relationship with my sons. 3) I did not know that I shouldn’t compare my children with other children, either positively or negatively In 2 Corinthians 10:12, Paul says it is foolishness to compare ourselves with others. The only standard for comparison is the law of God, whereby we are all judged as sinners, including our children. My modus operandi was to proudly compare my children to others around me and to invariably find them far superior. As a result, I unconsciously ignored besetting sins in their lives for which they needed their father to help them face; not only the obvious sins of the flesh, but pride, self righteousness, the fear of man, etc. However, I was unable or unwilling to see them clearly and therefore unable to help them to see themselves because of my pride in their performance compared to others. On the other hand, some parents are dissatisfied with their children for what they see as always falling short of the performance of other children. If we are dissatisfied with our children, be assured that it will be communicated to them, no matter how hard we try not to do so. The result will be defeat and discouragement because they will feel they can never measure up enough to please us. Parenting by the gospel rather than the law involves an evaluation of a child’s gifts and abilities so that unrealistic expectations are not imposed upon him or her.  Gospel parenting is practically applied as the parent models for his child how to handle besetting sins (laziness, making excuses, irresponsibility, taking offense, etc.) by the parent facing those sins squarely and openly in his own life and then repenting! Without this step, “What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say” will be the order of the day. All children have a powerful “hypocrite-detector” that improves exponentially in effectiveness as they grow older. Comparing our children with others is foolish because it leads to self-righteousness when children are judged as superior, or discouragement and even rebellion when parents feel their children never seem to reach their standard of achievement. How we approach our children, by law or gospel, reflects how we see our relationship with God. Since I am most generally an “older brother” from the parable of the prodigal son, my tendency is to see myself, and therefore my children, as superior. A “younger brother” will see himself and therefore his children as failures, never quite measuring up. But we are all sinners, loved by God with a love that is not in any way affected by our sin. It is seeing God’s love for us as fathers that will allow us to love our children in the same way and free us from comparing them with others. 4) I did not know that I was creating a default mode in the hearts of my children that would either help them to think the best of others or foster judgment and criticism When my oldest son was in college, he was the head-resident on his floor in his dorm, charged with the very loose responsibility of keeping order on the floor. On a visit to campus, I asked him about the other boys on the floor, which included a good number of rather rowdy football players. “Oh Dad, they are just a bunch of meat-heads.” His attitude of scorn and judgment struck me like a thunderbolt and I heard the Lord say to me, “He got that critical attitude straight from you!” I am sorry to say that much of the heritage I have left with my children that they now carry with them is judgment and criticism. I have an opinion about what everyone ought to do, even when I have no responsibility in their lives, and I do not hesitate to make that opinion known. How much better to love them with a love that covers all things and does not expose sin but believes and hopes for the best in them (1 Corinthians 13). Too bad that is not my spontaneous reaction! My default mode is to be critical and judgmental. As they were growing up my children constantly heard me be critical of others and the decisions they made, the lifestyle they chose to live and the friends they kept. It is not my job to even have an opinion about what others do if I have no God-given authority in their lives. They answer to their own master and not to me (Romans 14:4). I was sharing my besetting sin of critically judging everyone I see with a friend. His reaction was, “Oh, we all do that.” My response to him was, “So, what’s your point? Do the sins of others excuse me to sin? Does ‘everyone does it’ give me a free pass?” As we Andrews are recognizing this sin, acknowledging it and repenting, the Lord is graciously beginning to reset our default mode, even as adults. This is the only possible way for me to “Be holy, even as I am holy”—not by trying harder but by facing my sin, acknowledging it, repenting and trusting the Spirit within to change my critical heart. I know it will be a life-long process. Have you ever recognized a besetting sin of yours reproduced in your children? What was it? 5) I did not know that there are times to be a sympathetic listener and not an answer man who can “fix the problem” James 1:19 says to be “swift to hear and slow to speak.” Legions are those to whom I have done just the opposite. I have had correct biblical answers to questions they really weren’t asking me, though I was convinced they should be. More often than not, they already knew the answer—they just needed me to listen, understand and then encourage them to trust the Lord for the power to do what they already knew to do. There is nothing less attractive than an answer man who is always the teacher and never the learner himself. Just recently I fell into the trap again of giving a close friend the right answer for what he should do about a vicious personal attack by a member of his extended family, someone with whom he had grown up and who supposedly loved him. His confidence as a man was shaken. He did not need to hear initially what he should “do,” but that I loved him, as did God, Who also believed in him, was pleased with him and had him right on schedule in his spiritual growth. There would be plenty of time later to let God show him a course of action. Interestingly enough, this family crisis is bringing my friend’s immediate family together; what the enemy meant for evil, God intended for good. This has been my pattern over the years with my wife and children as well. Their struggles have more often than not elicited an answer as to what they should do rather than addressing the insecurity that comes from wondering whether or not their problem-solving father really cares about them as people. As the one who represents God in my family, my attitude is to be a reflection of His, and His primary concern is His relationship with me, not what I do, what I say or the theology I believe. If I understand His great love for me in spite of what I do, what I do will naturally and unconsciously change. Conclusion Seeing these five failures in my parenting that we have discussed over the past few weeks has surprisingly been a source of encouragement to me and a means of strengthening the relationship between my wife and me and our grown children. Grandfathers and grandmothers are still little children in God’s classroom of learning to face their sin, repent and walk by faith! Does it make sense to you that openly facing failure as a parent can strengthen family relationships and be a source of genuine encouragement to all family members? Robert Andrews has been a college campus evangelist, high school chemistry teacher and basketball coach, church teaching elder, church planter, national conference speaker and certified business coach and is a husband to one, a father to three and a grandfather to ten. His website, where this article was first published, is www.gospelparenting.com....

Parenting

Spanking does have a place in Canada

In an article late last year, “Spanking has no place in Canada, period” – Globe and Mail reporter André Picard argued that physical discipline is at best ineffective and at worst harmful. He concludes it is “well past time” that the government scrap Section 43 of the Criminal Code, making spanking illegal. The truth is that physical discipline, when administered in keeping with Canadian law, not only has better outcomes than other disciplinary techniques, but is preferred by children as less cruel than other techniques, such as privilege loss or isolation. We can learn from countries that have gone ahead with banning spanking, and have regretted it. How can Picard and many well-intentioned child advocates get this issue so wrong? Part of the problem is that they go only skin deep into the research. Picard notes: “there has been a significant body of research showing that the real harm from spanking and other forms of corporal punishment is not the immediate physical harm, but the lasting psychological harm.” That is about as deep as almost any mainstream media analysis goes. But if we dig deeper, we discover that the truth is far more nuanced and, in some respects, completely contradicts the mainstream spin replicated in Picard’s article. Digging into the data Picard cites a 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics study that correlates harsh physical punishment with higher rates of mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse. He correctly acknowledges that this is correlation, not proof that spanking causes these things. This is an important distinction that is lost on almost all the research that attracts mainstream attention. And the distinction matters. It could well be that aggressive children were spanked more often because they were aggressive. The heavy reliance on correlational evidence makes even the most effective disciplinary tactics appear harmful. Dr. Elizabeth Gershoff, a well-known researcher on the topic, concluded: ...if we found that people who have undergone radiation treatment have a higher likelihood of having cancer, we should not conclude that the treatment is the problem or that it doesn’t work. Will anti-spanking advocates follow their logic and also argue that all discipline tactics should be banned? We need to dig deeper into the research. Picard, along with other anti-spanking activists, constantly appeal to research that lumps together harsh physical punishments, such as slapping and pushing, with the kind of mild physical discipline that our Supreme Court studied and approved. In 2007, researchers conducted a scientific review of studies that compared physical discipline with alternative methods. Twenty-six studies from the past fifty years were examined. They also examined the “optimal” type of physical discipline – conditional spanking. As reflected in the parameters laid out by our Supreme Court, conditional spanking is non-abusive, and done sparingly and under control. The conclusion of the study: “Conditional spanking was more strongly associated with reductions in noncompliance or antisocial behavior than 10 of 13 alternate disciplinary tactics.” In other words, when physical discipline is administered in keeping with Canadian law, it came out as good as, or better than, all other forms of discipline studied. Not only can physical discipline be more beneficial than other commonly used methods, a 2006 study came to another surprising finding: non-physical punishment was most frequently regarded as the worst punishment ever received, with 50% of naming at least one non-physical punishment method such as privilege loss. As well-intentioned as Picard and others may be, before they proceed further with their anti-spanking crusade, they should talk to the children. Children who have experienced appropriate physical discipline will often prefer it because it resolves the matter in a timely way and makes it less likely to occur again. Contrast that with what so many parents revert to otherwise (yelling, forced isolation, long-term privilege loss and extended grumpiness) and we begin to understand why physical discipline is the preferred choice for many honest children. Lessons learned from Sweden Picard argues that 51 countries have outlawed spanking, and it is time for Canada to follow suit. But he fails to look at what has happened in those countries. Take Sweden. In 1979, Sweden was the first country to ban spanking. The statistics coming from Sweden since then are downright shocking. Following the ban there was a 519% increase in criminal assaults by children under the age of 15 (born after the ban) against children age 7-14. Even more troubling, 46-60% of the cases investigated under the law resulted in children being removed from homes. That totaled 22,000 children in 1981, compared with 163 in Norway and 552 in Finland. Picard cites the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as another reason to ban spanking. If the residential school legacy has taught us anything, it is that we better be certain we are doing the right thing when forcefully removing thousands of children from their parents’ homes. As a side note, New Zealand followed Sweden’s example and adopted anti-spanking legislation in 2007. Just two years later, a whopping 87% of voters in a public referendum asked that the law be rescinded. It is time to drop the rhetoric and take the time to study the issue before criminalizing a form of discipline used by half of Canadian parents. Mark Penninga is the executive director of ARPA Canada. He has a MA in political science from the University of Lethbridge and has authored a policy report and numerous articles on corporal discipline. ...

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