Tag Archives: Parenting

Quick Review: Families Where Grace is in Place

One of the most timely books I’ve read in a while is Families Where Grace Is In Place by Jeff VanVonderen.  I enjoy VanVonderen. Quite a while ago I was deeply ministered to by his book The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse in a season where I was observing a lot of spiritually abusive dynamics and tactics in some of my environments. This book on grace in the family was just as refreshing and significant.

I’ve read a few books in the last few years related to marriage and family and this has vaulted to the top for me I think so far. Some of it may be timeliness in that we are under a year from having teens in our household, but it’s more that VanVonderen grounds an approach to marriage and parenting…and really all developmental relationships in the foundational truths of the gospel and the need for grace for true change to take place.

Today there are so many ways Christians especially rationalize their legalism, shaming, and performance approach to parenting, leadership, and any exercise of authority roles. This book shines a spotlight on what does not pass the grace test and what truly reflects leadership under the Lordship of Christ. It’s convicting and even painful at points as the book fosters self-evaluation according to shame or grace-based approaches in relationships. But it offers hope and life that is grounded not in methods or control, but in love and the life of Christ as the source of all life and all authentic change.

The author uses a couple acronyms that are helpful – C.U.R.S.E. and T.I.R.E.D. to capture the reality of parenting and exercise of authority in relationships that reflect the core patterns of sin in Genesis 3. You can read the book to do a deeper dive on those – but it’s well worth it 🙂

As I’ve been researching more and more stuff related to shame, the more I’m convinced we need to ground everything we do in authentic, grace-based relationships in which the truth is allowed to do its work to heal and restore rather than harm, hurt, put down, or belittle. But sadly that is not the case for many marriages, families, and churches. This is what we are trying to prioritize in our development right now as parents and it’s been life and hope giving as well as healing in some regards as well.

 

Quick Review: Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World

It’s one of my commitments every year, while I’m in the small kid stage of parenting to read a parenting book. I have tended to satisfy this goal of mine through general books that “somehow relate” to parenting, but I have felt the need now that our kids are a little older to actually read some parenting books that are more specific and targeted towards parents with our kids’ ages in mind.

So before 2016 came to a close, I got in a parenting book by reading Kristen Welch’s Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World.  Genre-wise, this is a mom blogger book. The author is a blogger and she quotes a lot of bloggers. But it’s well done and is rich in illustrations that resonate well if you have kids in the same age brackets. Where we are at in parenting fit the insights of the book to a tee.

Each chapter covers some significant area for parenting in today’s world. And by today’s world – the context is primarily western and more or less affluent. Living in Manila, our kids are spared from some of the materialism and excess discussed in the book.  But in other ways, being westerners living in a developing nation we have more resources and can live comfortably compared to many others. Entitlement can grow even in the developing world.

Topics include discipline, setting limits, social media best practices for parenting, financial systems to promote stewardship and selflessness, and how to cultivate servant’s hearts among others.  Each chapter includes some suggestions and best practices for developing children organized by different age groups – there were a lot of helpful ideas in them.

Our kids are just starting to learn to use the internet, but we’ve been holding them off from social media. But it was just helpful to get a primer on social media issues and dangers and possible parameters to help us empower and protect our kids.  This was one of the more helpful chapters for me to listen to.

But in general – the message is consistent and clear and helpful, that for kids to abandon entitlement, parents must abandon it first. And I couldn’t agree with that more.  We just don’t often assess our own hearts first and realize how we often are the source of some of the problems we are frustrated by. This value of the book is how it can help parents check their own hearts first and then think through how best come alongside children in a way that is helping them learn to live in reality and with a grateful and others focused, serving posture.

It gave me some new conviction to engage some things I have been getting softer on without realizing it. I’m refreshed and motivated to be as intentional as needed to guard against entitlement and to help our kids grow and develop into people who can love and serve in the true reality of this world – and not in an escapist or fantasy world that they are expecting to rescue them from challenge or struggle.

It’s a pretty fun read with a lot of humor in it, but the substance is solid.

 

Some Miscellaneous

Here are some quick random hits:

  • My wife asked  recently what I was reading.   I answered with a one word, very caveman-esque response “book.”  I’ve found that my emotional capacity at any given time can maybe be measured by the number of words I use to respond to questions.  It’s been a one-word season for me given how much is on my plate right now. “Book” has become the symbolic word for all responses that my wife deems overly cognitive and less than connecting.
  • Colin’s been in a habit of late of partying by himself in his crib for 1-2 hours after we put him down for the night.  I’ve walked by his room multiple times when he’s been yelling “Go, Cubs, Go!”   The Wrigley Field sign I put in his room fires him up apparently, but I’m feeling good about passing on the legacy (or at least feeling as good as I should considering what he has to look forward to).
  • In some of the little free time I do have these days, some of the most restful times I’ve had have been spent reading some of the Harry Potter books.  In the last two months I’ve read the first three and they’ve served as a great escape from the headier stuff I usually am reading.  I decided to read the series out of my enthusiasm for the “Order of the Phoenix” Potter movie and so I wanted to work my way through the books to get to that specific book.  I’m really enjoying the books so maybe that’s affirming once again that I might have media interests similar to junior highers.  I’ve found this to be more relaxing than the dozens of shows on today about solving murders or hospital dramas.
  • I had my first conflict resolution session with my son (almost 2 yrs old).  I was putting on a shirt and the neck hole was a bit tight.  One of the buttons pressed in on his face and apparently hurt him.  He then got mad at me and gave me his mad, “Go!” That’s his way of saying, “Get away from me you meanie!”  He settled down with his mom and then I came over to him.  He then points at his face and says, “Dada, ouwee!”   I told him I was sorry and asked him for a hug.  He gave me a hug and we’re good now.  Last week he had a situation in a bath with Morgan where Morgan tried shampooing his hair for him and got it all in his eyes.  He kept repeating to me and Christine “Bubbles…Eyes” while pointing to Morgan.  Dude’s very aware of who’s the source of the pain anytime he gets hurt.

Babysitting and the Bulls

My wife returned today from a weekend trip to AZ for a wedding and family reunion of sorts. She took Colin, our 4 month old, and I was on duty with Morgan, our 3 year old, all weekend at home. I have realized something. I believe I am the Scottie Pippen of parenting. If you remember, by himself, Pippen was good, but not great. However, when he was playing alongside Michael Jordan – the greatest of all time, Pippen himself also became one of the game’s greatest because Jordan made him that much better.

Do you remember Pippen in those years when Jordan was off playing baseball? The Bulls were no good and Pippen wasn’t as great as he used to be. That’s how I feel about myself in the absence of my wife. When she’s around, I’m a pretty good parent. When I’m on my own, I’m just average and way in over my head. It’s good to have the family together again. With my Jordan back I can now be the championship version of Pippen instead of the non-championship version.

Pre-School Theology: Family Bible Time

This entry is part 1 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

Something Christine and I have been thinking about for awhile now, but was solidified at that parenting seminar we went to last weekend centered around how to begin introducing our kids to the Word of God. We’ve wanted to start building some family traditions and be more intentional with some of our family and parenting values.

Therefore, we have implemented “Family Bible Time” after dinner and thus far I think we have successfully pulled it off 3 different nights. We’ve found it’s a good way to keep Morgan sitting still in her chair a little bit longer during dinner and it does allow for some good, although basic, interaction over the Bible. Colin just sits there and drools and smiles.

When you try to take these stories down to a 2 or 3 year old level it takes some of the variety out it though. So far there’s a definite theme to Biblical narrative as we have represented it to Morgan. It goes like this: God tells someone to listen and obey because he loves them and wants to protect and love them. They don’t listen and obey because they are selfish. God gives them a time out. OK, so maybe we can be accused of spreading parenting propaganda, but that’s pretty much what we have to work with in Genesis 1-6 which is what we’ve done thus far.

Here are some of Morgan’s observations on the Holy Scriptures through her eyes:

  • “But I eat apples!?” (upon her seeing that God gave Adam and Eve a timeout for eating an “apple” from the special tree in the garden)
  • “There sure are a lot of feet in the Bible!” (upon flipping through the pages and seeing a large number of pictures that emphasized people’s feet, while cutting off the rest of their bodies)
  • “What’s that guy doing underneath that big rock?” (upon seeing Abel’s feet protruding from a large boulder that Cain apparently dropped on him, Road Runner style)

Explaining Cain and Abel was a bit rough. I ended up explaining that Cain gave Abel a big “ouchie” because he was angry. This conversation had one of those 3 year old endless cycles of the “Why?” question. After trying to explain Cain’s murder of his brother without scarring my daughter forever, she shut it down saying, “I think that’s enough for tonight.” I told her I thought she was right.

While I would never want to detract from the Scriptures, I’m really hoping this version of the Bible skips over those stories about Lot and the strangers in Sodom as well as that sordid affair of Lot and his 2 daughters boozing it up in a cave.

Confident Parenting

This morning Christine and I went to a parenting seminar that was hosted by our church. With Morgan going into the 3 year old range, the need for a more comprehensive game plan is much more a felt need for us as parents.There were 3 highlighted speakers: Jim Burns of Homeword Ministries (Homeword.com), Elissa Morgan who is the CEO of MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers), and Dr. John Townsend. The seminar was good and really was helpful for where we are at. There was some great biblical perspective on the role of parents and the role of God in child development. We walked away with a few really good action points. I won’t get into them, but it’s great to have a good sense of what we need to focus on as parents right now in this season. It takes the pressure off of trying to tackle everything all at once. It also helps give some relief from the paranoia that creeps up time to time that we’re ruining our kids with our own dysfunction.Townsend made a point from his recent book with Henry Cloud called Raising Great Kids. He said that the parent – child relationship is the only relationship in which the purpose of the relationship is separation. That statement alone can be a tough one for many to swallow, but it really is worth a lot of reflection. Many are quick to assume that means “getting the kids grown and out of the house.” That is part of it, but I think it has more to do with emotional separation and personal responsibility than financial independence.The philosophy really lines up with what I’ve studied in regards to the importance of self-differentiation in leadership and healthy functioning.I’m not sure though that the parent-child dynamic is the only one in which the goal is separateness. Leaders often have the same kind of dynamic in ministry situations. Many struggle with empowering others and instead end up creating a personal or systemic dependence upon themselves as the leader. Leaders too need to embrace emotional separateness or differentiation as one of the goals of their leadership if they are truly going to set people free to multiply their leadership. I don’t think this means guarding ourselves from close and connected relationships, quite the contrary actually. I think it means always pursuing close and connected relationships, but always seeking to allow others to come into their own and “grow up” in Christ and as leaders.Christine and I already feel stretched from the parent department. We were stretched from day one (and even before that actually), but we know this is a journey that is going to expand our capacity to love and serve and deepen our dependence on one another and Christ. We know that there is so much more to come, but we’re trying to remain faithful with the season we are in. We love our kids and want to do right by them so it’s a good season of learning for us.