A Springboard for You

For a better life and a better eternity

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?”

“Yes.”

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

Meaningful Together Time (an excerpt)

Built by the Lord

Check out the book today!

If you didn’t read last week’s A Springboard for Your Family Life, check it out for the first part of this chapter on “Keeping the Family Together.” Click the link below.

The Great American Struggle

Meaningful Together Time

let me make one thing perfectly clear. To my knowledge, there is nothing wrong with any of the activities mentioned in the previous section in and of themselves. The answer to the problem is not necessarily to end all extra-curricular activities (though some may take that approach). The point is, with so many opportunities waiting to take each family member away from the family unit, we have to be on our guard to preserve family togetherness.

There is only one way to do this. We must carve out and schedule meaningful family together time. Further, we must not buy into the modern mumbo-jumbo saying, “It’s about quality time not quantity time.” There is not a single person out there who can teach us how to prefab quality time into fifteen minute chunks no matter how many books you by with questions to stimulate “meaningful” conversation. Quality time is the result of quantity time. There is no way around that.

Deuteronomy 6:7 provides some interesting insight to quality time. I recognize this passage talks about the Israelites passing the Law on to their children. We typically use this passage, rightly so, to discuss passing the gospel on to ours. However, let’s look at it from a broader base. the verse says, “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”

These Israelites were able to have quality time, passing the Law to their children because they spent time sitting together in the house and walking together in the way. They had time together when they got up and before they went to bed. do we take that kind of time together with our families?

We need to make time for the whole family to sit together in the house. Meal time is a great time for this. However, there ought to be other times as well. By time together, I do not mean time in the same house, but each in separate rooms. There needs to be time when all the televisions and computers are turned off, when all the phones are in the cradles and Mom, Dad and the kids are together.

Many of us wonder, “What on earth is there to do if we have turned off the tv and computers?” Read a book together and discuss what happens. Visit with one another the same way you would if you had company. Discuss what has happened in your individual lives that day. Ask each other for advice. Confide in each other. Play games together. A lot of life’s lessons can be passed along over a game of Yahtzee or dominoes.

let me encourage you to resist the urge to make all of your family time movie time. Watching television is always an individual activity no matter who you are sitting next to. Each person is individually interacting with what is on the screen. No one is interacting with each other. When you do have movie time as a family time, make sure to discuss the movie together afterwards. What did you learn from it? What were your favorite parts? What were you least favorite? What did you think when so and so said such and such? And so on.

Of course, as Deuteronomy 6:7 directly states, you need to study God’s word together and teach God’s word. Look at the book of Proverbs. The whole book is a parent’s recognition he has to teach his children. Do not think sermons and Bible classes are enough to teach your kids to be faithful Christians. They are not and God never intended them to be.

Along these same lines, the next time you go to a group Bible study, prayer time or singing, have your kids stay and be involved. Don’t send them off to the play room, tacitly teaching them that spiritual things are too big for them. Even if they do not get to say anything or ask any questions, what a great opportunity your kids will have to hear adults discuss the Bible and how it impacts their lives.

One more opportunity for together time is working together. This is perhaps one of the biggest reasons we do not have time with family that our Bible counterparts had. Why did Mom and Dad have the ability to walk in the way with their children? They were going to the same places. When Mom was walking to the river with the clothes, little Susie was walking with her. When Dad was walking to the fields to plow, little Billy was walking with him.

We live in a different work culture. It is well nigh impossible to go back to that kind of work culture and I doubt any of us really want to. However, we need to figure out ways to work together as a family. Get the kids involved in yard work. Have them help you clean the house. Go together to someone who has a need and work together meeting the need. Visit the sick and shut-in together. Talk with each other as you walk in these ways. I guarantee you, the more of this time you spend together, the more quality moments you will rack up.

There is one more way the Old Testament demonstrated for producing family togetherness. In the Old Testament, we see memorials that set the Israelites apart as a group and prompted time to pass their faith along to their children. Consider passages like Exodus 12:25-27. God established an annual memorial to pas on Israel’s identity as His special people. When the family observed the Passover together every year, the children would eventually ask about it. There was quality time that came out of quantity time.

Certainly, it is good for you to have memorials of spiritual significance. However, we can broaden this concept, realizing family traditions provide family togetherness prompting quality time and meaningful interaction. Those traditions, whether they surround holidays, birthdays or any other aspect of family life, will provide a marker, causing your family to identify with one another.

Family traditions do not have to be anything out of this world. I know one family whose tradition is what they call “worm cakes.” It is essentially a bundt cake cut in half and pieced together to look like a worm. then it is decorated with colored icing. Oreos are crushed up to provide dirt. It is given jelly bean or M & M eyes. They might lay gummy worms around it to be its friends. Sometimes they use licorice sticks to make hair. Each one is decorated differently. These cakes were used on birthdays, holidays, special events. Amazingly enough these little cakes became so important, when this family’s two sons got married, guess what kind of cake they wanted for their groom’s cake. That’s right–a worm cake. Not much, just a family tradition providing great memories and togetherness.

Check out next Tuesday’s A Springboard for Your Family Life to finish up this little series from Built by the Lord as we examine how churches should act to help promote family together time.

October 14, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Family Life, Family Time, parenting, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

ELC

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