A Springboard for You

For a better life and a better eternity

Talking to Your Kids about Sex

fatherson-talkThe Background

I had an amazing talk with Ethan a few weeks ago while he was still eight years old. No, it was not THE TALK. It was rather one of many talks that we have had and hopefully will continue to have over the years to come. Let me give you some background.

The fact of the matter is while I can technically say I was a virgin when I got married, I messed up a lot with sexuality throughout high school and college. I have experiences I truly regret that continue to have an emotional and spiritual impact even now. I don’t want my children to go through that. So, in order to keep them from making sexual mistakes I had a plan. I would hide everything about sex I possibly could from them and then scare the living daylights out of them about the rest. Then it occurred to me. That was my dad’s sex education plan. I only remember one talk with him ever. He warned me before I left for college that some girl would find out I wanted to be pure and she would set her sights on me and try to “conquer” me. Sadly, I was 17 and my hormones were raging and while the spiritual side of me was saying, “Oh, how awful,” the other side of me was saying, “I sure hope so.” In that little bit of self-admission can you see the problem with the “hide and scare” sex education plan? 

Hiding it only produces curiosity. The fear only produces rebellion. That is what it produced in me and I realized it would produce that in my kids. Sadly, I was curious about sexuality but I was afraid to talk to my parents about it and learn from them. So, I learned about sex at school (and I don’t mean from health class), work and from pornography-whether it was the locker room brag sessions, the clandestine centerfold passed around under the teacher’s nose, the stories of the sexually active girls and guys I worked with or the video one of the guys on my dorm floor rented and showed in his room. 

Let me ask you, is that how you want your kids to learn about sex? Trust me. if you purposefully or even unconsciously take the “hide and scare” method, that is exactly where your kids will learn about it. Gone are the days where we can hide sex from our kids and they make it to marriage and just learn for themselves (even if you are a homeschooler). The fact is, if you don’t take the upper hand on this one and inoculate your kids with healthy teaching and exposure to sexuality you better know that Satan will get it into their little hands somehow. I know about one child who was told how to unlock some easter egg of pornographic pictures on a video game by another kid in his bible class. If you want to know how really bad it can get, I know of a story of a teenage girl who met with her youth minister to ask a question about oral sex. She had a rep among the boys in the youth group as being pretty good at it but was starting to have second thoughts about whether it was right. What a rude awakening for the youth minister. 

Do you get the point? Dads, Moms start thinking about how you are going to talk to your kids. Go a step further. Start talking to them about it.

The Talk

So back to my conversation with Ethan.

Ethan has started Cub Scouts again. One of the very first things we have to go through is “safety” training in which I read to Ethan some safety rules about strangers and such. Included in that was the rule that his body is his body and he doesn’t have to let anyone do anything to his body that makes him feel uncomfortable. As part of that process, we went through some scenarios and he was to respond how he could act. For instance, if a man pulls up while he is playing in the yard and says, “Hey pal, can you come help me find my dog?” Ethan knows to say, “No. But I’ll get my Dad and he can help you.” 

Another scenario was what should he do if someone offers to show him pictures of naked people. WOW! Didn’t expect that from the Cub Scouts, but kudos to them for putting it in there. Now, the old me didn’t want Ethan to know that it was even possible to see pictures of naked people anywhere. What was I going to do with this? I could just skip it. But I didn’t. I went ahead and asked him. Of course, he gave the right answer. “I’d tell them no and come home.”

What would I do next? I could have said, “Great answer, Son,” and moved on to the scenario about the missing dog. Instead, I probed a little. I didn’t tape the conversation, so this isn’t word for word, but it went something like this:

“I bet that would be hard to say no to. I mean, bet you’re a little curious what a naked woman looks like aren’t you.”

“Yes sir,” he responded.

“What do you think you should do even though you are really curious?” I asked.

“I should still say no.”

“That’s right. You know what. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being curious about what a naked woman looks like. God made us to grow up and be sexual people and curiosity is part of that. But did you know that God has a plan through which we can learn all about our curiosities about women?”


“Absolutely. He has given us marriage. When you get married, you’ll be able to see the woman you marry naked and learn all about it and learn to enjoy it. And if you wait until then to pursue your curiosity it will be a great thing.”

I continued, “Let me ask you, Ethan. Has anyone ever tried to show you a picture of naked women?”

I inwardly sighed with relief when he said, “No sir.”

“Very good. I have to tell you when I was your age, I was out playing baseball with some guys and one guy brought a picture of a naked woman and I was really curious…”

Ethan interrupted, “But you said no way, I’m not looking, didn’t you.”

“I wish I had said that. Sadly, I didn’t. I looked. And you know what. It didn’t take my curiosity away. It just made it stronger and made it harder for me to say no when I was older. It taught me all kinds of wrong things about women and sex. It even has caused problems for me up to today with your mom. That’s why I’m telling you about this. Because I want to protect you from that kind of harm.”

I went on, “Because I’ve done some wrong things, I want to do everything in my power to help you avoid those wrong things because I know how harmful they are. I so want you to be be pure as you grow older. However, I also want you to know that if you make a mistake like I did, you can come talk to me about it. I know that I will be sad for you. But I remember when I made mistakes, I was very upset at me and I needed to talk to someone but I didn’t feel like I could because I knew I would just get in trouble. I want you to know if you make a mistake, I won’t be happy about it, but you can talk to me about it and I will still love you. I’ll be there to help you get over it and get past it. Do you think you can do that?”

“Yes sir. How much longer do we have to do this?”

I cut him loose at that point.

The Keys

Key points I hope you got out of that conversation.

1) Talk about sex as if it is completely natural. I want my kids to know talking to me and their mom about sex is the most natural place to talk about it.

2) Affirm that curiosity about sexuality is natural. My son is not a freak or a pervert because he is curious about naked women. Neither is yours. And let me assure you if your son is getting close to 10 he is curious about naked women. I’m just glad that my son felt safe enough to be honest with me about it.

3) Express God’s plan for pursuing our curiosity in a positive light. Too many parents spend so much time being negative about sex when they talk about it that kids grow up afraid of sex even in marriage.

4) Non-judgmentally discuss what experiences they have had or might have had. If, God forbid, someone ever does show my son a picture of a naked woman, I want him to feel comfortable telling me about it so I can help him work through the feelings of excitement, guilt, curiosity and shame it will produce.

5) Share your own mistakes and their consequences. I used to be afraid doing this would provide tacit permission for my kids to make the same mistakes. I imagine in some few cases that will happen. However, now I realize it actually produces two positive results. First, it helps them feel comfortable talking with me if they make a mistake. They know I’ve made mistakes and so I won’t simply be sitting in judgment over them. Second, it lets them know in a non-threatening way how negative improper sexual conduct is and how it will impact their lives. In other words, it provides them with honesty where as the kids at school and the pornographers either have no idea what sexual acting out does or they ignore it and just lie to them.

6) Assure your children they can talk to you even about their mistakes and you will still love them. Again, I want my kids to know they can talk to me. If my son or daughter ends up going “too far” on a date, I don’t want them hiding that on the inside. Such isolation will only breed shame that will likely drive them to act out further the next time. Talking to me may provide the relief and forgiveness and education that helps them overcome and not commit the same mistake twice.

There is no foolproof plan for this. I don’t think there is a set way to teach about sex that will absolutely assure your children will never make a mistake. But I think this approach is better than the “hide and scare” tactic I was placing so much stock in before. I offer it to you for what it’s worth.



As I close, let me share with you the book that has helped me out the most on this topic. I encourage you to get it and read it. It helps lay out a plan for age appropriate sexual education beginning with infancy on through the early adult years. It is Mark Laaser’s Talking to Your Kids About Sex: How to Have a Lifetime of Age-Appropriate Conversations with Your Children About Healthy Sexuality.




AN APOLOGY: My apologies for the inadvertent stumbling block associated with this post by the “related topics” links that were automatically generated by someone other than me. I have learned that a few inappropriate links were generated. I believe I have disabled that feature, but for all those who first read this while the links were still there, I apologize. Thank you for continuing to read my blog.

November 11, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Family Life, My Family, parenting, Raising Kids, Sex and Sexuality | , , , | 3 Comments

How to Seize Teaching Opportunities with Your Kids OR Natural Consequences vs. Punishment

ethan-eye-examI nearly lost a great opportunity yesterday. 

Ethan, my 8 years and 362 days old son, walked into the house without his glasses. I was busily preparing to present a lesson on the Kingdom of Heaven at the Jackson Heights Church of Christ in Columbia, Tennessee. I was already stressed because I was behind and under the gun. Ethan said, “Dad, I took a nap on the bus and put my glasses on Jacob’s backpack.”

It took me a moment to process. “What?”

“I took a nap on the bus and put my glasses on Jacob’s backpack.”

“Are you saying you left your glasses on the bus?”

“No. I left them on Jacob’s backpack.”

“Wasn’t Jacob’s backpack on the bus?”


My blood pressure started rising. Jacob lives next door so I hustled Ethan off to see if Jacob had his glasses. Of course not. Jacob said he put them on the seat beside Ethan so Ethan could find them. Yeah well, we already know how well that plan worked. Fortunately, we live in the middle of a loop the bus has to make so it actually passes by our house twice. We waited in the middle of the road. Ethan was frolicking with his siblings seemingly oblivious to the financial crisis he was putting us in. I, on the other hand, was about to lose it. 

We stopped the bus, but no glasses. The driver assured us she would look for them. I talked to her this morning. No glasses. Who knows what has happened to the glasses. Probably one of the kids saw them and grabbed them. I hope it was someone who knew they were Ethan’s and decided to hold on to them to give them back this morning. However, I don’t have too much hope for that.

Can you see where I nearly lost a great opportunity yet? I was already stressed and this was just a bit too much. I almost lost it. In fact, I was so mad I told all the family to just leave me alone because I was about to come unglued and behave inappropriately. Gratefully, as I went back to my lesson, I recalled the number of mistakes I have made that have cost me all kinds of money. Then it hit me. When I make a mistake that costs me money, who pays for it? Not my parents. I do.

This is not a time to be overflowing with anger. This is a life lesson in the making. This is a time to teach consequences. 

I had a little heart to heart with my very precious near birthday boy. 

“Ethan, I’m sorry I was so angry. I’m trying to get over that. The fact is, everyone makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes that have cost all kinds of money. I’m upset that you were careless but we all do that sometimes. Here’s the problem. When I make mistakes, guess who has to pay for it?”

“You do, Dad.”

“That’s right. I do. Now that you’ve made a mistake, guess who needs to pay for it?”

“Me?” He said it in the form of a question clearly hoping he was mistaken.

“Yes. You. Your birthday is on Thursday. Any money you get is going to have to pay for some new glasses if you don’t find them.” 

Then I showed him his bank account balance online from the 8 years of saving gift money and other savings and I said, “Here is your bank account for going to college or buying a car one day. Here is the balance. Whatever is left over after your birthday money will have to come out of your savings and you won’t be able to use it when you get older for whatever you wanted.”

He immediately started crying. For a moment I was crushed. But I held on. This was the right thing. After all, what would happen if he was careless with his glasses and learned that a new pair would just magically appear? He certainly wouldn’t learn to take care of his glasses or anything else. 

Of course, later he said something to his sister about being punished by having to pay for his glasses. I pulled him aside and said, “Oh buddy, you misunderstood. I’m not punishing you by making you pay for your glasses. Punishment would be if I spanked you or grounded you or removed some privilege. This isn’t punishment. This is natural consequences. If I lost my glasses, who would have to pay for them? That’s right, me. That wouldn’t be punishment. That would simply be what I had to do because I lost my glasses. You need to learn that lesson too. Sometimes everyone is careless and makes mistakes. But when we do, we have to pay for it. If you can learn that lesson now, you will miss out on a lot of heartache as you get older.”

As you can see, because I allowed myself to get angry in the moment, I almost lost this golden teaching opportunity. It was almost merely a time for me to shout and holler and generally be foolish in front of my kids. Gratefully, by God’s grace, I was able to seize the moment. It wasn’t easy for me and it won’t be easy for Ethan (especially on his birthday on Thursday), but in the long run it will make his life easier. I’m sure of that.

November 4, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Family Life, Disciplining Children, Finances, My Family, parenting, Raising Kids | , , , , | 1 Comment

Trina Discovers Chocolate OR Why I Should Never Be Left Alone to Watch the Kids

There I was, minding my own business, doing my work, updating my blogs. When it dawned on me. Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be watching the kids. Why can’t I hear Trina (my 10 month old)? I guess I better go look for her. Lucky for me, she is apparently not allergic to peanuts.

Check out what happened.

Maybe Marita won’t leave me alone with the kids anymore.

October 31, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Fun, My Family, Raising Kids, Uncategorized, Videos | , , , | Leave a comment

Teach Your Daughter How to Dress

Dads, if you don’t let your daughter dress like one, she won’t be mistaken for one.

I think that says it all.

October 28, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Family Life, Daughters, Raising Kids, Videos | , , , | 1 Comment

The Church and Family Togetherness (an excerpt)

Built by the Lord

Check out the book today!

If you haven’t read the last two Springboards for Your Family Life as part of this series, I encourage you to read “The Great American Struggle” and “Meaningful Together Time” first. That will get you caught up for this final installment in the series.

The Church and Family Togetherness

At this point we enter some muddy waters. The modern trend is for churches to provide activities for all the young people. Even if the activities are scriptural in nature, I begin to question the ultimate benefit of the church being overly involved in this.

Churches, instead of being another institution that separates the family into age categories, ought to do everything possible to get families together. We must remember the church is not supposed to take the place of the family.

Satan is working in our culture to rip our families to shreds. Churches must stand as shining beacons to overcome Satan in this by drawing families together in Christ. Perhaps we really should encourage kids to sit with their families in worship. Maybe we should try family-based Bible classes sometimes and not just age-segregated classes. Maybe we should teach fathers and mothers to train their children instead of just scheduling another training class at which parents drop off their kids. I am not sure all the ways this can be done, but I am sure we need to examine this.

Whatever the approach of the congregation, we must keep in mind our family has got to stay together. What are we doing to draw our families closer? In our culture this kind of togetherness does not happen accidentally. If we are not doing something to accomplish this on purpose, we are probably not going to accomplish it.

October 21, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Family Life, Family Time, parenting, Raising Kids | , , , , | 6 Comments

The Great American Struggle (An Excerpt)

Built by the Lord

Check out the book today!


From Chapter 4, “Keeping the Family Together”

The Great American Struggle

Family life in 21st century America is not easy. Though, I imagine our New Testament counterparts would scoff at such a statement.

When we want to take a hot bath, we walk 10 feet into our bathroom and turn a couple of knobs. We do not have to take 15 trips to the river with two buckets and then light a fire to heat the water. If we want to cook a meal, we walk into the kitchen, put some food in a pan, turn some knobs on the oven and wait. Or, we pull something out of a freezer, shove it into a microwave, punch a few buttons and have a meal in five minutes. Or better yet, we hop in our air conditioned cars and drive ten minutes to a place where somebody else does the cooking for us. Few of us have to plow a field, plant and cultivate seed. Few of us have to raise cattle or hunt wild game. We do not have to chop down wood daily with which to cook our food. I we want to wear clothe, we drive to the store (again in our air conditioned cars) and buy some. We do not have to make thread, weave material and sew our own clothes. Then when those clothes are dirty, we sort them into piles of matching colors and dump them in machines that wash and cry them for us. We do not have to carry them down to the river, beat them on a rock, try to scrape the dirt and muck out of them and then hang them out to dry.

Let’s face it. Our lives really are easy. What took our New Testament brethren hours to do takes us minutes, if we have to do it at all. This actually means we have more leisure time available than anyone in history. Don’t close the book. I know what you are thinking. “Where does this nut get off saying I have all kinds of leisure time?” I am saying that because you and I do not have to spend most of every day just providing the bare necessities of life. We actually have enough time to work overtime and get paid time and a half. We actually enough time to put our kids in little league, football, soccer, scouts and other activities. Our new Testament brethren did not have enough time for all the things that make our lives hectic because they spent their time surviving.

All this leisure time, however, has given us our own set of hardships. Few of us struggle for the necessities of life. However, because we have so much leisure time and so many opportunities to pursue pastimes, many of us struggle regarding the necessities of maintaining proper family relationships and togetherness.

Consider the following family.

Mom and Dad want to provide the best in housing, clothing and education for little Billy and susie. Therefore they both work in the corporate world. They get up early to drop Billy and Susie at school. Billy and Susie are three years apart, so Dad carries Billy to middle school on his way to work and secretly thinks, “I sure am glad I am saving up enough money to buy Billy a car in a few years. When he turns sixteen he can take himself and Susie to school and i will have little more time to myself.” Mom drops Susie off at elementary school.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Billy has practice for the school play right after school. Then he has either little league or soccer after that. Mom or Dad rushes to pick up Susie from school, then goes to get Billy to take him from play practice to sports practice, then runs through the drive through to get something for the kids to eat. They let Susie eat in the car on the way to her Monday piano lessons and drop her off in time to pick Billy up from sports practice. he eats while they drive back to get Suzy. They hurry home to make the kids do their homework before shuffling them off to bed. Wednesday are tough because they have to fit all this in before Bible class.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Billy has baseball games or soccer matches, while Susie has softball practice. All of Susie’s softball games and tournaments are on the weekends. When the softball season is over, Susie’s Saturdays are filled with tennis lessons and competitions. On thursday, they also try to fit in scouts for both of the kids. Fortunately, the parents in each troop take turns picking up several of the kids from school and taking them to their various den and troop meetings.

Mom and Dad want to be active in Billy and Susie’s schooling. They work with both PTAs (elementary and middle school). They try to make it to all the parent-teacher conferences. Billy is in the band and Susie is in the choir and they attend all of their concerts and competitions.

On top of all this, Mom and Dad have lives of their own. They have to fit work into all this. Every once in a while they have to go on business trips. Further, they try to find time to pursue their personal hobbies. That is tough because of all the time they spend helping Billy and Susie with school projects.

Mom and Dad are Christians the hope Billy and Susie will be someday too. It is very important to them to make it to all the worship services and Bible classes. They do make it to most of them. However, to be honest, it does rumple their feathers a little when the preacher comments on how few people are getting their lessons completed. “Doesn’t he realize what an amazing eat it is for us to be here?” they wonder. They get to the building and shuffle the kids off to their classes and then go to theirs. They come into the worship assembly. The new preacher is big into getting all the kids to sit together, so the kids sit down on the front few rows away from their parents. The one making announcements talks about the training class for the boys taking place every Sunday afternoon, the Sunday night devotional for middle school and high school, the Bible drill for the elementary kids and the various special things members have set up for the various age groups.

When the family does get a few minutes to be together on a Friday or Saturday evening, they are so exhausted they decide to simply pop in a video or go to the movies. They sit next to each other but are mentally miles apart as they gaze upon the silver screen.

In the extremely few moments of solitude and meditation, Mom and Dad wonder how they can fit anything else into their schedule and are about ready to murder the author of a book who claims they have more leisure time than anyone in history.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Is it any wonder even Christian families are falling apart? With these kinds of schedules, when were these families ever sticking together? Add into this equation that time at home is often spent just as separate as time at school, work and church. The family are all within the same dwelling, but each member is doing his or her own thing. Each child has their own room, equipped with television, telephone or computer (with internet access). They can spend all evening in the same house with two to four other people and never actually se each other. 

This is the great American struggle–keeping the family together.

Check back in next Tuesday’s Springboard for Your Family Life to learn how to combat this great American struggle and have meaningful family time together.

October 7, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Family Life, Family Time, Raising Kids | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

4 Lies of Raising a Princess

This past weekend, I had the great fortune of taking my wonderful 11-year-old daughter to Orlando, Florida for the Fathers of Faith and Daughters of Excellence retreat led by a great father of two daughters, Frederic Gray. It was a great experience. We stayed at the Doubletree Castle hotel, kicking off the weekend with a daddy/daughter banquet, listening to several great presentations about the role of the Father in raising excellent Daughters and also the role of the Daughter in heeding the advice of the Father.

Tessa and I had a great time. After scheduled events were over on Friday evening, we continued our own little daddy/daughter date and played a game of miniature golf. Of course, I thought that was great because I stomped her socks off. Then we crossed the street to Friendly’s and had a really good but really expensive chocolate shake. I also learned that sometimes even 11-year-olds snore. That was amazing.

I got a lot of good things out of the weekend and I think Tessa did as well. But one concept really jumped out at me. Frederic commented on the modern lies of raising a princess. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying boycott Disney or that it is a sin to watch their movies. I’m simply saying we need to consider some of the messages with which we may be training our little girls and never even know it. Consider just a few. You can probably give some thought to it and think of some more. These lies are expressed below as they are told to our little girls in these movies.

Lie #1

I can defy my father’s advice and direction and follow the impulses of my emotions and in the end everything will work out alright. After all love should be my guide when pursuing prince charming.

Truth: Hey, I know dads can sometimes be mistaken. But lets get real. A 40 to 50 year-old father knows a lot more about the way the world works and a lot more about 18 to 25 year-old boys than daughters do. Further, Hollywood and Disney aside, the American landscape is littered with broken homes because daughters were guided by the emotional infatuation they confused with real love and married someone despite the good advice of their parents.

Lie #2

I can find my prince charming by one night of dancing with a stranger.

Truth: Real love is not an emotional fit when a man walks into the room or places his arms around you. Real love is knowing a person intimately, knowing his strengths, weaknesses, flaws, personality, past, goals, etc. and then devoting your life to complement his. Real love is not an emotion that is out of your control. Love is an action that is your choice. You can certainly find a man who will thrill your soul for a while just by looking into his eyes on the dance floor. But you can’t possibly find a man you are sure you want to commit yourself to unconditionally or even know that he is worthy of such commitment that way.

Lie #3

If I love a monster enough, he’ll eventually change into prince charming.

Truth: Once again, the American landscape is littered with broken homes because young ladies were certain that the guy they were dating who was rude, inconsiderate, irresponsible and sometimes even cruel would change over time as she just loved him enough. Don’t get me wrong, people can change. But, daughters, you can’t change them. They can only do that themselves. Pay attention to the way your “prince charming” treats his mother and his sisters. That is how he’ll treat you and you are not likely to change it. Pay attention to how he treats you while you’re dating. If he is cruel, sarcastic, degrading, objectifying and condescending now, it will probably only get worse when you’re married to him. If you are only an object with which to make out or try to have *** **** while you are dating, you will not suddenly become a person with hopes and dreams in his eyes once you are married. Pay attention to his work ethic and his discipline while you are dating. If he is a bum who is mooching off his parents while you’re dating, he won’t suddenly become Mr. Responsible once kids come on the scene. Look, I know people change. I have changed over the years. But don’t buy the lie that you can change someone. 

Lie #4

The most important thing in life is true love’s kiss from prince charming.

Truth: Physical intimacy is a great part of a committed relationship. Sadly, most folks today think physical intimacy is the goal of every relationship. That just isn’t so. The goal of relationships is completeness, wholeness. The goal is to find someone who complements and therefore completes you. You can’t figure that out if you’re merely focusing on his lips. I don’t know how many married couples I’ve spoken with or tried to counsel who claim they married someone they didn’t really know because when they started dating, all they did was make-out. I’m not at the point where I’ll call it a sin to kiss someone to whom you aren’t married. I might get there, but I’m not there yet. However, to be honest, I wish I had never kissed anyone but my wife. All the physical intimacy I ever had with girls before I got married only served to mess up the joy of the physical intimacy I want with my wife. They all became obstacles I’ve had to overcome so “true love’s kiss” could actually be something special. In any event, get this in its proper order. Physical intimacy is not the goal of our relationships. Physical intimacy is the celebration of one very special relationship that is already in it is proper and committed place. Get the commitment, the union, the completion down and then let physical intimacy celebrate that. Then you’ll really have your prince charming and then true love’s kiss can be very special and exciting. But if you’re trying to find prince charming by seeing what kind of kisser he is, you’re only looking for trouble.

I’m sure you can think of more. I may bring up more in a later post. But Dads, I hope you’re getting the picture. Again, I’m not saying boycott princess movies by Disney. But be aware and use them as opportunities to talk about the difference between fantasy and reality. There is a reason those stories are called fairy tales.



September 30, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Family Life, Daughters, Fathers, Raising Kids, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Before You Punish, Listen to Your Children

I don’t mind so much if my kids wrestle and play around. Pillow fighting is okay, until someone gets hurt, of course. But unprovoked hitting is off limits. In fact, if I see too much of that, wrestling with Dad gets completely cut out until they can learn the difference.

So, when Ryan, my then 5-year-old, started hitting, chasing, picking at and just in general being a nuisance to Tessa’s, my 10-year-old, friend, I knew it was time to act. My natural reaction was to pull out the rod. After all, he was being rebellious and ignoring the clear rules of the house. But, I pressed the pause button. What was causing my generally sweet little boy to become this vicious monster every time John came over to the house?

I sat him down and began to question him. At 5, he was not exactly a great articulator of feelings and internal struggles. But by the time we were done, I knew what was going on. At 10, some of Tessa’s friends are allowed to walk in the neighborhood and go to each other’s homes. At 5, none of Ryan’s friends were allowed to do the same. Tessa seemed to have friends come over all the time and Ryan never did. Further, when Tessa’ friends came over, they didn’t want to play with Ryan. He was just trying to get their attention.

Now, did Ryan need to be disciplined for hitting. Of course. But there was more to it. He also needed to be educated in how to make friends. I’m sure you recognize that the more Ryan picked, chased and hit, the less Tessa and John wanted anything to do with him. It was a vicious cycle. I could certainly spank Ryan for hitting, but that wouldn’t actually deal with the real problem. He needed to be taught how to be a friend. If all I did was discipline the hitting, Ryan would only ever be frustrated and friendless. Now we are working on appropriate ways to be friends, have friends and make new friends. 

By no means is he a master at Dale Carnegie characteristics, but he’s better.

The long and short of this is before you simply discipline and punish your children, you should stop and figure out what is going on. You can still provide the negative reinforcement for the unacceptable action and also fix what is really causing the problem.


September 16, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Family Life, Disciplining Children, Raising Kids | , , , | Leave a comment