Unplug

Do you ever just feel like your teen lives a world away from you these days?  Oh, she still sits at the dinner table with you (sometimes).  And he still sleeps in the same old bedroom in the same home with you.  But it just feels like your teen has disconnected.  Like he or she is really living somewhere else altogether. Well, I’ve got two simple suggestions for you, even as I live with this changing dynamic in my own teen in my own home.

1. Recognize that it is a normal, healthy dynamic for teens to feel an increasing pull away from home and family toward friends, a special someone, more personal interests, and some kind of life-calling.  The transition and process of this normal pulling can be very different for different teens and different families, and it can certainly be tumultuous and problematic at times.  But we do well as parents to remember that, fundamentally, it is normal.  And rather than fighting them in this process, we will all be better for it if we guide them in this process.  As parents, we must see this as the healthy and exciting expansion of our kids’ lives, rather than as the cold casting aside of Mom and Dad.  If we actively help them expand their lives in healthy ways, we continue to have an important place in their lives.  If we jealously or angrily scold and gripe, we risk cutting our kids off from us prematurely.

2. As normal as this shift may be, it may be happening more abruptly than it should be, thanks to one simple, yet powerful piece of technology: headphones.  Headphones are an amazing invention, and they have come a long way in the last decade or so.  Whether your teen uses earbuds, Beats, Airpods, or whatever…headphones facilitate privacy when engaging in digital entertainment and communication.  At face value, this is neither good nor bad.  It is just an option.  But as parents, we hold a responsibility to monitor if and when our teens are defaulting to headphones so much that they lose their healthy connection with other elements of the real world around them.  And so, sometimes we simply need to tell them to unplug.  Be part of the family.  Contribute to the conversation.  Share their thoughts with the rest of the room.  Respectfully listen.  Offer a vote toward a group decision regarding an activity or form of entertainment.  Sure, you might catch an eye-roll from your teen when you issue the parental dictate to unplug.  Oh, well.  You’ll live.  And so will your teen.  And you’ll both be better for it.  So don’t go trash your kid’s earphones.  Just be willing to insist they take a healthy break from the ears now and then.

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Giving

What is your favorite part of the Christmas season?  I know there are significant elements of the holiday season that are irritating or even downright painful for some.  But for many of us, there are so many special layers to the Christmas season.  What’s your favorite?  The food?  The time away from school or work?  The extra time with family and special friends?  Opening gifts?  Giving gifts?  Shopping for gifts?  Christmas lights and decorations?  Christmas trees?  Christmas music?  That special church service?  Live nativity scenes?  The hope of snow?

I really like a lot of the things on this list.  But for me, I think there is nothing quite like the challenge and joy of shopping for just the right gifts for those on my Christmas short list.  Whether it’s that big special gift, or just the little variety of knick-knackery to put in the stocking, I love this part of Christmas!  I guess it brings out my best: really thinking of others, trying to understand and appreciate others as very special individuals, and trying to bless those people in a way that touches the heart and soul.

And I suppose this is why “The Gift of the Magi” is my favorite story to read every year at Christmastime.  If you have never read this beautiful short story about Della and Jim, and the love and generosity they share with one another, I invite you to take about ten minutes, click the link I provided, and enjoy this rich blessing now.  It’s an older story, so some of the language is a bit outdated and unfamiliar, but it is such a wonderful inspiration.  Go ahead, read it for yourself.  The rest of my post will be here when you’re done…

What if we brought this thoughtful, generous, self-sacrificing spirit with us beyond Christmas to share with the world around us all year long?  WOW!  What if I took as much delight in folding laundry, doing dishes, or completing household repairs as I do when I find that perfect little something for my wife’s stocking?  What if I was as thrilled about taking time to help my son with challenging schoolwork as I am about giving him that little collectable I know he wants?  What if I was as joyful about greeting and offering genuine kindness to some random person of another race at night in a dark parking lot as I am about telling my cashier, “Merry Christmas!”?  What if I put as much priority on reaching out to that person I know has been hurting for months from deep personal loss or struggle as I do on making sure my family Christmas cards get to all the right people at the right addresses?

What if I regularly shared gifts of love, compassion, and sacrifice with people to the point where it really cost me dearly, and blessed them to the point where their hearts simply burst forth with tears?  What if I decided the spirit of Christmas was a way of life – a calling to be as generous with those around me as I believe God has been with me?  What if I lived with eagerness to bless those who don’t expect blessings from me, and to do it in ways where I get little or no “credit,” but God gets the glory in ways that inspire hope in those who are touched?

God, Father of that precious perfect Babe in the manger, will you help me experience the answers to these questions?  Despite my best intentions, I know I am simply not good enough to live up to this calling on my own.  But I want to be.  And because of that, I call out to the only One who can transform me into this kind of man.  So, God, here I am this Christmas season, asking you to make of me what you will, so that Jesus can be even more present in this soul-sick world.

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Parenting with Confidence in a Technolescent World: Part 3

Now that we have covered some overall dynamics and guidelines regarding parenting your teens in relation to their digital world, let’s take a quick look at some of the major players in the social media app world today:

As of today, Snapchat  is king of social media for teens.  Not only does it provide them with one digital tool that combines the best of pretty much all the others, but it is also built around a platform of sharing in the present moment without leaving a history.  For the majority of teens today, Snapchat is their primary means of communicating with the friends that really matter to them.  And, of course, this one is inherently difficult for parents to “check up on” when concerns arise.  That doesn’t mean we should automatically keep our teens away from it.  It just means we must be very proactive and intentional about preparing them and processing with them to ensure they conduct themselves well within this medium.

Remember that the main reason most teens and young adults are on Facebook  is because it is currently still the largest and most mainstream social media.  This isn’t their primary social media world at all, but serves two functions for them.  First and foremost, it provides them an account which is used for other apps/sites they actually want to use.  Let’s face it…you’ve got to have a Facebook account (or so it seems, anyway).  Secondly, it can serve as a nice pleasant cover for their social media presence for parents who don’t know how important it is to look deeper.

Think of Instagram  as the primary substitute for Facebook in youth culture today.  It is built around sharing pictures about your life experiences in a large broadcast format where folks “follow” other folks in a way that can lean toward one-way mass communication or more toward interactive dynamics, depending on the personalities involved.  This is currently a huge platform among teens, and one in which it is relatively non-invasive for parents to see what kids are sharing.  Just as is often the case with Facebook and Twitter, Instagram users tend to be driven by an insatiable quest for more “likes.”

Honestly, it baffles me how popular Twitter  is with so many teens today.  I would have thought all the adults would have run them off by now, as has been the case on Facebook, but its popularity actually seems to be growing with youth.  This app is built around a platform of short bursts of words , shorthand lingo, and hashtags, but can also be used for sharing pictures.  Functionally, this one is for words/letters what Instagram is for pictures.  Important for parents to know: Twitter is used aggressively for the marketing of porn sites.  This is certainly not its primary function, and your kids may use it without any intentions of looking at porn, but the pornographers are there in full force and actively looking for customers – especially young ones.

One of the newer apps making a big splash in the technolescent scene is Houseparty.  It is a group chat app that allows nine individuals to share a live video chat with one another, with each member in their own little box on the screen.  (Picture the intro to the old Brady Bunch TV show where everyone is looking around them at the others in their little boxes.)  For many teens, this is a fun way to talk to one another and enjoy some group interaction with good friends.  It is critical to discuss privacy settings and how to handle various situations immediately that could arise on this app, as it involves live video feeds.  Talking via video with friends can provide more substance to their relationships than relying on text-based communication.  But wild things can happen and never be unseen on live video applications, as well.

As one older adolescent female once explained to me, “Facebook makes you hate people you know.  Tumblr  makes you love people you don’t know.”  The best way I can explain this site is to imagine the 10 most clever/witty/entertaining/crude people you have seen on Facebook, and imagine a whole social network designed to help people share those people’s stuff with one another.  It doesn’t seem to be geared as much toward sharing your own experiences as toward passing on stuff you have discovered that you believe other people would also like to discover.  This one also tends to be heavier on sharing video content than some of the others.  It can also have elements of blogging.  It is an interesting mishmash that has a somewhat smaller group of very loyal users.  This one is riddled with porn, as well.

WhatsApp, Kik, Line, and other similar apps are all expanded texting apps built around user accounts, rather than phone numbers.  They are most popular among gamers looking for more effective and enhanced ways to communicate beyond what is provided within their game of choice and among people looking for free international communication with family, friends, etc.  While they typically offer more options along the lines of “stickers” and such, they are essentially glorified texting apps.

Whisper  is probably the most inherently creepy app of the bunch!  Its users are anonymous, and they are invited to share confessions (yes, use your imagination) with… whoever is listening.  And then users are invited to comment about those confessions.  Seriously, this one is yuck!  Just… don’t.

 

Okay, so imagine a much younger, sexier version of a “traditional” dating site that leaves it to users whether they want to seek relationships or simply hookups.  Welcome to tinder!  The format of simply swiping one way or another on profiles makes it very easy to use and, therefore, super appealing to those looking for… a way to look for sexy folks.  This one should be totally off-limits for younger teens, and still not a good idea for older teens.  Young adults may really be able to find a meaningful relationship here, but the focus tends to be on a fairly shallow sexual level, and it is another major pedophile/trafficking risk site for teens.

Ask.fm  is a curious site that invites users to anonymously ask questions and post comments to a named person’s account.  Why kids want to subject themselves to a dynamic that is so ripe with cyberbullying is a mystery.  It isn’t nearly as popular as many others on this list, but can be a darker place for some teens who are already in a dark place.

If you don’t know what YouTube  is, or what it’s about, please see me about setting up some face to face professional parent coaching sessions.  What I will say is it is important to stay aware of your teen’s current (which may change more than once a month) favorite YouTubers.  And if you are feeling overwhelmed at this point, just take a moment to enjoy how funny it sounds to say “YouTubers.”

And in addition to all all these apps specifically designed for various modes of communication, it is also critical to remember that many of the games our kids are playing on their phones and other devices have social networking features built right in.  For example, many of the popular  team/clan/etc. games have dedicated chat rooms for the team, but also include “global chat” that is open to any and all users.  I can tell you from experience with a few of these games… global chat is a SEWER!  And sadly, it often appears much of the worst chatter is from kids trying to seem grown up as they sink down toward a lowest common denominator.

“WHEW!  That’s a lot to process!  Help!”  Remember, the more you intentionally and effectively teach your kids how to cultivate good hearts as you seek the Spirit of God together, the more you will see His good fruit being produced in their lives and the more capable they will be to handle the nuances, pitfalls, and predators in the rapidly expanding world of digital social media.  The three most important ingredients in effective parenting of technolescents are 1. a close, genuine, honest, humble relationship with God, 2. a close, genuine, honest, humble relationship with each of your kids, and 3. a willingness to continue putting in the time and effort to stay reasonably educated on what’s developing in the digital social media world.

Helpful Resources for Parents:

www.apple.com/icloud/family-sharing/  This link will explain how to set up and navigate the family sharing and control options for all Apple devices used by your family members.

cpyu.org (Center for Parent/Youth Understanding)  This is a terrific resource for accessing tons of information and guidance about current youth culture from a Christian foundation.

digitalkidsinitiative.com  This wealth of resources provided by CPYU is all specifically geared toward issues of “technolescence,” as I have termed it.

chapclark.com  This guy is about as expert as it gets in understanding the issues of today’s teens, and he offers very solid guidance to parents from a Christian perspective.

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Parenting with Confidence in a Technolescent World: Part 2

So, picking up where we left off last week…

What specific guidelines should we use with preteens and young teens?

  1. Utilize parental device checks as needed.  While this does not mean constantly confiscating phones or other devices, it does mean you reserve the right to check out devices anytime you feel you have a reason, including regular periodic checks.
  2. Parents don’t lurk or snoop to excess.  Becoming too invasive in your child’s digital world is likely to backfire, setting up all kinds of negative dynamics you will wish were not happening.  Keep it reasonable.
  3. No devices in the bedroom after bedtime.  Make this a standard non-negotiable rule, and your kids will not only accept it, but may even come to appreciate it at some point.  (I said they may.  That is certainly no guarantee.)  Whether they appreciate this guideline, or not, it will be an important part of their technolescent success.
  4. No direct social interaction with non real-world friends.  Again, make this a non-negotiable and explain why it is so important.  Help them understand in clear terms why this is such a critical guideline for their young lives.
  5. Report anything inappropriate to parents immediately.  (And we won’t freak out!)  Encourage an open dialogue between your kids and yourself about their digital world experiences, and show them that you can handle discussing the tough stuff – which means they are likely to actually talk to you about the tough stuff.
  6. Turn off device within two minutes of being told, unless a longer time frame is specified.  Use whatever time frame you want, but I would strongly urge you to have a rule like this in place.  And take charge decisively when they break the rule.  It will save you countless frustration down the road.  Trust me on this.
  7. Parents lead regular family discussions regarding digital life and its foundation on “heart life.”  Be proactive in helping your kids grow up understanding their digital life experiences are only a part of their larger life – hopefully a life of clear purpose and value.

How should these guidelines change as our teens grow?  Keep the same general perspective and structure, but gradually increase freedom as teens show Maturity, Responsibility, and Respect.  This process will likely look different for different kids, just as these qualities will develop at different rates from one teen to another.  Allow broader social interactions on digital media, but only with the agreement that parents are always allowed to friend/follow all accounts, as well as requiring teens to work to pay for any data overage or higher volume data plans.  This isn’t a punishment.  It is a lesson in personal responsibility and life management.

Anything I should NOT be doing?  Absolutely!  Don’t assume everything is fine because you have good kids, leaving them to navigate the technolescent waters without your direct guidance and supervision.  Today’s world is filled with forces that are anything but passive.  Good kids can easily make foolish choices, and need our guidance, encouragement, and discipline to help them grow along the best path.  Don’t get consumed with snooping or lurking on your kids’ devices and/or accounts.  Check occasionally, just to see how things are going, and check additionally if you have a compelling concern.  But don’t ruin your peace of mind or your relationship with your teen by getting consumed with these dynamics.  Don’t assume you know about all the major players and dynamics in the technolescent world this year because you understood them all last year.  If you aren’t actively seeking awareness and education about new and changing dynamics, you are falling behind.

Tune in next week for a final installment in this crucial series…

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Parenting with Confidence in a Technolescent World: Part 1

In a WHAT kind of world?  Technology has now become a primary medium for the social dynamics of adolescence from middle school through college and beyond.  Parents MUST understand that digital social media is more than just an important area of our teens’ lives.  It has become a dominant force in shaping, containing, and expressing their intellectual, social, and moral development.  In many ways, it is both the canvas and the paint with which they are creating their life murals.  It is totally intertwined with their world and development, and you cannot adequately understand your teen unless you have at least a basic understanding of their digitally wireless social media world.

So, what’s the big picture here?  Okay, buckle up and don’t freak out here.  Your kids cant afford to have you freaking out about this…

Your kids will always be a step ahead of you in this constantly morphing digital world.  Accept it.  But keep your eye on the bigger picture, and don’t throw up your hands over this.

The bigger picture is that you will always have more life experience than your kids, regardless of their superior awareness and understanding of our digital world.  And you must remember that GOD deliberately CHOSE YOU to be the PARENT of YOUR KIDS!  As parents of technolescents, we must remain aware, educated, and proactive regarding their digital world, but it doesn’t mean we should be afraid of it or ruled by it.  We need to remember, and deliberately teach our kids, that the digital world is still just a part of our whole life experience, and being the people God has created and called us to be will result in handling the social technology world in the best ways.

What’s the most important thing we should be doing?  As parents, we need to focus more on Preparing and Processing with our teens than on Protecting them.  This doesn’t mean we should neglect to use some reasonable boundaries of protection with them.  It does mean we should work hard to prepare them for the increasing complexities of technolescence before they face them on their own.  Can you imagine letting your teen start driving on his/her own without spending time together in both instructional and experiential lessons?  I sure hope not!  And we need to show the same kind of courage and initiative to process life experiences with our adolescents as they happen along the way.  If our teens grow up with the confidence that we can handle talking with them about anything, no matter how sensitive, we will have served them very, very well.

(Stay tuned for the next installment, which will offer specific guidelines for parenting teens at different ages/stages along the way…)

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3 Simple Ways to be a Halloween Blessing

Halloween is one of the most active evenings of the year in neighborhood after neighborhood across our nation.  What a great opportunity to be a blessing to our neighbors – especially the children!  Whether you will be staying home awaiting the costumed trick-or-treaters, taking your own kids around the neighborhood, or heading to a church or community event, here are three very simple ways you can make a real difference and be a blessing in the lives of numerous neighbors this year:

1. Offer a prayer and/or encouraging word for every child who visits your door.  Rather than just throwing candy in their bags and scooting them along, take a few moments to find out who they are, offer a word of encouragement, and maybe even say a prayer of blessing over them.  Those blessings will far outlast the sugar rush from their evening’s candy haul.

2. Offer a prayer for every home and family you visit while out trick-or-treating.  Ask God to genuinely bless each home and family along the way.  And tell them you are praying for them.  You never know where God may lead such a genuine act of simple kindness.

3. Actively look for ways to help and serve those you encounter throughout your evening.  I will never forget seeing my twelve year old son stop to help a girl pick up her spilled bag of candy last year as the rest of the boys laughed and went on down the sidewalk.  It only took him a minute, but it was a profound act of compassion.

And, speaking of our own kids, why should we be the only ones looking for opportunities to bless others this Halloween?  Encourage your kids, even in the midst of their fun, to look for these same moments to consider and encourage others.  Then, at the end of the evening, instead of just showing you their best candy grabs, you can share with one another your favorite moments of neighborly kindness experienced along the way!

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Six “Grades” That Are More Important Than English

In my last post, I shared some ideas for helping make homework time a more peaceful and successful part of your family life.  In reflecting upon the importance of academic success for our teens, it occurs to me that there are some key subjects in life of far greater importance than those that make up a typical high school or middle school curriculum.  Let’s take some time to reflect on a few of those, and consider how we may help guide our kids to greater success in the most important facets of life.  Even as I would love to hear your ideas about the most important “subjects” in life, allow me to offer six.  I hope you will consider not only how you would grade your child or teen in each one, but also consider how you are doing as a teacher, coach, and mentor in each area:

1. Personal Integrity.  As your child grows through adolescence and adulthood, will he or she be known as someone who is genuine, honest, and trustworthy?  Will others be confident that they can count on your son or daughter to “walk the talk?”  Will he or she be the kind of person to live free from the fear of skeletons wandering out of the closet?  If and when you catch your teen in a lie, or somehow covering or distorting the truth, don’t just punish.  Use it as a critical opportunity to teach about the tremendous worth of personal integrity – both now and throughout life.

2.  Personal Responsibility.  Are you training your daughter or son to face their own tasks, challenges, and life problems – or teaching them that someone else will take care of these things for them?  Does your teen understand the difference between asking for help or support and asking for a bailout?  Which do you emphasize more in your home: externally recognized achievement or internally motivated effort?  (Not that these two are mutually exclusive, but it is still a question worth really considering.)  Are you still leading your teen by the hand to take care of required tasks, or is your daughter or son learning to show their own initiative?

3.  Social Skills.  Is your son or daughter learning to genuinely consider how his or her actions and words affect others?  Can he or she respectfully and comfortably engage in conversation with adults, other teens, and younger kids?  Do teammates and coaches consider him or her a team player?  Can he or she put as much effort into collaborating as into competing?  Are you seeing both confidence and humility reflected in your teen’s life?  Have you been teaching the importance of showing compassion toward others, and perhaps even the power of fighting for those who are oppressed?

4.  Spiritual Growth.  How proactively are you training your teen to understand and experience purpose in life?  Is your daughter or son as interested in displaying virtue as she or he is at displaying fashion, gaming success, or athletic prowess?  Is your child showing any interest in somehow making the world a better place?  Does prayer have an important place in the rhythm of her or his life?  How effectively could your teen articulate beliefs about God, life, faith, and what matters most?

5.  Personal Hygiene.  Laugh if you want, but some teens could really use some help in this department.  And if we, as their parents, aren’t the ones lovingly and intentionally helping them to properly care for and present their bodies, who do we think is going to do it?  Regular bathing/showering, face washing, using deodorant, proper brushing of teeth, self-respecting care of hair and even clothing, etc.  How’s that going with your kids?  Do they need some new lessons or reminders?

6.  Problem Solving.  How often do you allow your child or teen to struggle with a dilemma before stepping in to offer guidance or a helping hand?  Has he or she learned to use creativity in the process of facing new situations, or is there too much reliance on a memorized list or formula?  Does frustration, helplessness, or anger often short-circuit the process of problem solving, or do you see a patient and determined ability to keep pressing toward resolution?

Each and every one of these life-subjects can make a huge impact on your teen’s journey of success or struggle through the avenues of adulthood.  And while you may struggle to answer your kids’ frustrated question about when they will ever really use algebra or calculus after graduation, you should be able to offer countless examples of when their “grades” in these subjects will make a world of difference along the way.  Take some time with these.  Reflect on how each of your kids is doing in each subject.  Consider how you can be more proactive in teaching and coaching.  Recognize them for their strengths!  Help them where they are struggling.  And find help for them or for you, if you aren’t sure how to help them yourself.  I’ll be glad to help, if you need it.

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Four Simple Steps to Homework Peace

Frustrated with the tension at home with your kids and homework?  Here are four simple steps to help increase the peace, along with your child’s or teen’s personal responsibility and growth:

1.  Insist on a homework area that invites success.  Your teen may try to make their schoolwork spot the place where they can maximize comfort and minimize accountability.  Not the best plan, right?!  Lounging his bed is probably not setting him up for the best posture and environment of concentration and effective work.  Hiding in her room with headphones and three screen devices running is not exactly maximizing focus and efficiency.  Be in charge!  Be sure your child or teen is sitting at a table or desk that feels like a workstation.  Don’t argue, plead, or whine.  Just be in charge and insist.  Positioning ourselves for success is a huge step toward achieving that success.  It’s true for us.  It’s true for them.

2.  Minimize likely distractions.  Some kids (and adults) can actually concentrate and work more effectively when listening to music.  That’s cool.  But with headphones on, there is no way to really know what is fueling the mind and attention.  Unplug the headphones, have them set a reasonable volume, and direct them toward music choices that will not directly interfere with brain power.  I’m not talking about making them listen to stuff you enjoy.  But high-octane, erratic, or wild-tempo music is not the best option for studying, learning, reading, writing, problem-solving, and creating.  Aside from the music factor, have them put aside other devices that will likely tempt them to focus on interacting with friends or enjoying their favorite videos and such.  There is a time for that kind of social connection and entertainment.  But homework time isn’t it.  Again, don’t be overbearing, but be in charge.

3.  Engage your teen in conversation about studies and classes at non-homework times.  I’m not talking about interrogating them here.  But regularly ask them what they are learning in this or that class.  What material or teachers are they enjoying?  What are they finding difficult or frustrating?  Invite them to “stump you” with material from their classes.  Celebrate their victories and successes.  We don’t do this for every exam, but my wife and I will periodically ask our son to give us his study materials so we can quiz him before big tests, or in courses where we know he may be struggling.  The emphasis here is on showing your kids you are on their team and there to help, encourage, and support.

4.  Use online grade postings and classroom information as a helpful tool – not as a burden of anxiety.  Okay, maybe that’s easier said than done, but it is really important for family life and sanity these days.  For some parents, we may need to become more familiar and engaged with the online tools provided by our kids’ schools, so we are more aware of where they are succeeding and struggling.  This helps empower us to empower them.  For other parents, we may need to chill out and stop frantically scouring their reports every day to allow breathing room, growth, and even a healthy dose of failure, so we can have a more peaceful relationship.  This helps us get out of the worry trap, while letting them feel safer to talk to us about academic issues and possible struggles, mistakes, or failures.

Blessings of peace, growth, and success to you and your family!

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Five Ways to Catch Your Kids in the Act!

parent-praising-teenWhether they like it, or not, our kids need us to watch out for their missteps, so we can give them corrective guidance.  And with the increasing social connections, life opportunities, and freedoms that come with the teenage years, it seems this part of parenting just gets bigger and more challenging.  And that is why it is so essential for their healthy character formation that we parents commit ourselves to catching them in the act.

Catching them in the act of doing the right thing!  That’s right.  Doing the right thing.  Showing strong character.  Making wise choices.  Displaying a Christlike spirit.  Amidst our best efforts at corrective feedback to our teens and younger children, we need to let them know we see the good and wonderful things in them.  It quite literally breathes much-needed life into their spirits.  Here are five simple ways to up your game on catching your kids in the act:

  1. Remember to be on the lookout for good things in your teen’s life on a regular basis.  While it may come quite naturally at times and with certain kids, in other seasons or with other kids, it just won’t happen unless you are committed to looking for the good.  Let us live as parents according to Paul’s admonition in Philippians 4:8: “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
  2. Take time to hand-write a letter or card commending your teen or child for the good you are seeing in her/him.  Be specific.  Be sure to share how much this means to you, and why you believe it is so important.  Seeing such praise in your own handwriting may just mean the world to your youngster, especially if parenting conversations have been tense or critical lately.
  3. Tell your teen exactly how you see Christ or some kind of Godliness reflected in his/her choices, actions, or words.  This not only offers a word of affirmation, but also puts things in the highest possible context.
  4. Have a little celebration on their behalf to recognize what is going right.  This isn’t something you are going to do every time your teen makes a good choice or accomplishes a difficult victory.  But if you make the effort to do something really special together to highlight how truly important that seemingly small thing really is, your will make a deep heart impression.
  5. Write an encouraging word on your teen’s bathroom or bedroom mirror.  You don’t need to get lengthy, and don’t get your feelings hurt if your son or daughter erases the message sooner than you would like.  But you might be surprised how long some kids will leave this kind of affirmation in place, to be reminded daily that they are more than their mistakes or shortcomings.  Goodness – don’t we all need to remember that?!
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7 Ways to Lead Your Family After the Great Flood

we-will-rebuild

The tips I shared for leading your family forward after the damage and chaos of Hurricane Gustav seem just as relevant, and perhaps more important, in helping with moving forward after the Great Flood of 2016.  I have added a few updated comments in parentheses to the original posting.  I hope this is helpful to you and your family, and it is always my privilege and joy to serve and encourage you however I can on your journey through life.

September 5, 2008 – Family Life After Gustav (October 6, 2016 – Family Life After The Great Flood)
I am struck with the great irony of this post as I offer some positive guidance to families who, like my own, have been thrown off track by the wind and rain of Hurricane Gustav – most of whom don’t have electricity or internet access yet, and so cannot read this post today when they may need it most.  Well, for those of you who do find this post, and who really need some encouragement for your self and your family – know that you are in my prayers and hopes.  Following these links are some basic tips to help you and your family keep your sanity and remain as hopeful as possible during this extended time of uncertainty, recovery, and stifling muggy heat:

Resources and Services for Louisiana 2016 Flood Recovery

National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Hurricane Tools and Links

1. Get your rest. I know it is hard to sleep in a house without electricity in this early September heat of South Louisiana (or in a different space away from your own home that was flooded and remains uninhabitable at this time after the 2016 flood).  But I urge you to make it a priority for your self and your children to get as much sleep as you can, so your body, mind, and family can function at its best.  As miserable as you may be feeling right now, it will only get worse if you sacrifice sleep night after night and become increasingly exhausted.

2. Stay active. As with getting restful sleep, I know this oppressive heat and humidity can make it hard to find the motivation to get physically active (Thankfully, we seem to be at the verge now of moving into more temperate and pleasant fall weather in October, 2016).  However, I believe you will find it more than worth the effort during this season of heightened stress and challenge.  Physical exercise is a great way to keep your body and mind feeling healthier, keep your spirits up, and strengthen your immune system.  And these are all benefits we really need right now.

3. Maintain routines. Sure, many of our routines have been obliterated by Gustav (And FAR more so by the devastation of the Great Flood of 2016), but we need to fight to re-establish whatever positive routines we can for our families.  The structure and security of routines is so important for all of us to stay positive, especially for young children.  So sit down to eat family meals together, even if it is a weird hodge-podge of defrosted items from the freezer.  Play that board game or card game together by candlelight.  Keep that bedtime ritual of reading and praying together.  These family rituals remind us that we are still the same family and life goes on, even after our favorite old tree seemed to turn against us on Labor Day.

4. Start with a game plan. Begin each day with a brief family conversation about your plans for the day.  Who is going on the gas run this morning?  Who is going for ice?  How long do you plan to work around the neighborhood?  How long do you plan to hang out and play at the church that has power and fun activities for the kids?  Who needs their cell phone charged?  etc. (After the 2016 flood, be sure to share regular updates as a family regarding any positive developments on your home, neighborhood, favorite business and restaurants, family and friends, insurance or FEMA claims, etc.)

5. Finish with highlights. End each day with a family conversation where each individual is invited to share their best experience of the day or what they are most grateful for.  Our four year old has kept our spirits up by reminding us of how cool it was that the huge oak tree that broke apart and fell across our street contained a wild beehive and was full of honeycomb (which several of us enjoyed for breakfast Tuesday morning), not to mention how much fun he has been having with all the extra play time with old and new friends at the air conditioned church gym.  (As our community rebuilds post-flood, be sure to share any blessings you are experiencing, any encouraging stories you have heard, any lessons you are learning, and any ways you are seeing God’s loving hand at work through this process.)

6. Help someone else. Along with physical exercise, serving someone else in need has long been recognized as a powerful way to overcome stress, discouragement, and depression.  And let’s face it – there are a bazillion opportunities to serve folks in need during this time.  You don’t need to go on some international “mission trip,” or even across town.  Check around your own neighborhood.  I guarantee you there is someone who would be so grateful to you and your family for helping them clean up their yard, patch up their roof, clean out their house and refrigerator, help them get gasoline, ice, medicine, or other essentials, and the list is endless.  You may be amazed at the positive impact of serving others on your family, their family, your community, and our entire state.  (While the initial and surreal activities of house-gutting may be behind us, there remain so many needs we can help to meet for individuals, families, businesses, and churches throughout our extended community.  Ask around.  We can’t help with every need.  But if we are proactive and willing, we can each find something tangible our family can do to contribute to the Great Rebuilding of 2016!)

7. Stay spiritually centered. This is such an important time for families to practice our spiritual faith, which gives tremendous security and purpose to children and adults alike.  And staying connected with your faith community can bring so much joy, hope, opportunities to serve and be served, and continuity of life.  And folks, if you haven’t been to church in a long time, or maybe never, I guarantee there are churches all over that would be thrilled to welcome you and make room for you in their family right now.  So set the alarm on your cell phone this Sunday morning, get our your Bible or other inspirational books, have those family devotionals, and keep praying every day.  If you aren’t sure what to pray, I’ll offer two model prayers that have been life anchors for millions:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread.  Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever.  Amen.

And

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardships as the pathway to peace.  Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.  Trusting that you will make all things right if I will surrender to your will.  That I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with you forever in the next.  Amen

With Hope for Your Family,

Roger

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