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Christmas through the Eyes of a Child

Christmas through the Eyes of a Child

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Joey & Carla Link

December 2017

 

Have you looked at Christmas through your child’s eyes? For the toddler it’s new shiny objects to pull off a tree or bows and paper to tear off presents, not that they know what presents even are.

 

Then there is the child who wonders what the joy of cutting down a tree is, and to have to pick up needles and keep it watered when an artificial one would do nicely. And why do we bring a dead tree in our house and don’t even burn it in the fireplace?

 

For a young elementary school child, it’s the excitement of Santa coming and bringing them presents and depending on where they live, play in the snow over their school holiday.

 

For the older elementary kids it’s the excitement of a new expensive toy they wouldn’t get otherwise.

 

Kids in middle school are glad for the holiday from school and want to kick back and do what pleases them 24/7. When asked if they have their presents for their siblings ready, they look at Mom like she has grown an extra head. Spend money on siblings?!

 

Remember when you wished your toddler would sleep in so you could? Well, they are teens now and sleeping in means most of the day. Asking them to watch their younger siblings so you can get last minute shopping done or to help with extra housework before their grandparents arrive is like making them do menial labor.

 

How do your kids see Christmas in your home? There often is so much hustle and bustle for all the events after Thanksgiving it’s difficult to actually see the celebration of Christ’s birth in any of the above. If we truly want to pass our faith on to our kids, making the reason for the season our focal point in our kids’ eyes should be paramount.

 

Here are a few suggestions you might consider:

  1. Ask your kids if they would like to have a party to celebrate Jesus birthday? If so, ask them what they could do to make the party about Jesus.
  2. Ask your kids what they are learning in church about the birth of Jesus and what part do they like the best.
  3. Play Christmas songs in the car and house and ask them one night at dinner to share one song that made them really think differently about Jesus birth and Christmas.
  4. Make it special when you take your kids shopping for a gift for a sibling or friend and ask them why they want to give that gift to them. Ask them how that helps them celebrate Jesus birth.
  5. Go look at Christmas lights and rate the best ones that reflect the birth of Jesus.
  6. Ask your kids to look at the ornaments on your tree and share with the family the one that they think best depicts Christ’s birth to them.
  7. Set up Advent candles and read Advent stories every night or at least once a week.
  8. Ask them how they think the family can BEST celebrate our Lord’s birthday.
  9. Look for ways in the community people celebrate Jesus birthday.
  10. Read the Christmas story and possibly act it out as a family. Go see a Christmas play to remind you of our Lord’s birth.

 

While it can be a cliché to say we all get busy during the Christmas season, it should be about honoring and celebrating Jesus birth! What are you doing to pass your faith on about our Lord and Savior’s birth to your kids?

Hope

Hope

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Joey & Carla Link

November 15, 2017

 

 

There were many times in our parenting journey when we were discouraged and wondered how we could teach on parenting. I specifically remember the time we walked into our host’s home before we were teaching in their church and one of the first things I asked was, “Do you have a room my daughter could sit in to get her attitude straight?”

 

It took them by surprise but they took me to a bedroom where she could sit in private until she was willing to apologize for her bad attitude. Embarrassing? Yes. Our daughter whined we were embarrassing her. We told her that her sin was embarrassing her and we had nothing to do with it because while still in the van before we reached our destination she had all the time in the world to get her attitude straightened out. It never occurred to her she was embarrassing her family with her sin.

 

The times we felt like failures as parents were tough, but we trusted in the Biblical principles and the practical insight God had given us because we had seen how they truly changed our kids behavior but we wanted more, we wanted their hearts.

 

Recently I came across a quote by a famous athlete that encouraged me. “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan, 10 time NBA scoring champ and 6 championship titles with the Chicago Bulls

 

What Michael Jordan was saying is failure teaches us about life and shows us where we can do better. There isn’t a part of life this doesn’t apply to, and parenting is certainly included in that. We fail as parents to do our best when training our children and they fail at listening and positively responding to our direction. Learning from failure and working through it is called perseverance.

 

Many of you know we were in a horrific car accident 13 ago that has left me (Carla) in a wheelchair. I deal with pain from a nerve injury sustained in the accident every single day. Persevering through pain gives me hope. Why? Because I know with God’s help and sustaining grace I can endure it, and I am stronger mentally for it.

 

If you are going through a difficult time in your life’s circumstances or parenting, do not ever forget there is always hope. You may have to buckle down and weather the storm as many do physically through wild fires, hurricanes and tornadoes.

 

When it is time to buckle down the hatches or evacuate, when you’ve gotten through the crisis point, unfortunately things are not the same and you have to regroup and rebuild whether that means finding a new house to replace the one burned or to re-train your kids.

 

Where is hope in all of this? God always surrounds you with the resources you need to give you a helping hand. In parenting, you can turn to parents who have gone through similar crises and are stronger for it. You can take a parenting class that will encourage and inspire you. Growing Families Int’l has the best parenting curriculum around. We are available to help parents figure out the next step in their parenting or direct you to someone who can.

 

If you ever feel like a failure in your parenting, be encouraged because every parent has been there and will be again! We have 42 Mom’s Notes presentations that give you practical help in your parenting specific to a certain topic. They are based on our failures as parents and how we learned to train our children through them. We are taping a new one on self-control this fall!

 

When you have fully recovered from a period of testing, I guarantee you God will bring someone into your life who needs to learn from your experience because they are struggling with something similar. Be ready to be the resource God has ready for them.

 

Paul said this in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Blessed be the God…and Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God…”

 

Going back to our illustration of Michael Jordan’s career, we see his accomplishments, but we didn’t see the hours he spent in the gym shooting the same shots over and over and over again. Hang in there. Your kids are willing to wait you out until you give in. It’s time to be the one waiting them out until they give in.

 

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28

 

Grateful Kids

Grateful Kids

Joey & Carla Link

November 1, 2017

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“What does it take to get grateful kids? It doesn’t matter what they get, they always want more.” Have you ever thought this about your kids? I know there are times I thought this about mine.  At those times I (Carla) would wonder how grateful I was for the things I had, and if my kids could see that grateful spirit in me.

 

The opposite of gratefulness is selfishness. Every parent at one time or another has to deal with a selfish child. From wanting a bigger or better helping of dessert to wanting to be the first one in the car so he can get the best seat, or wanting to wear inappropriate clothes; me, me, me rears its ugly head.  If the child who is putting himself first doesn’t get their way, they can make it difficult for the whole family.

 

The real problem for this child is a lack of gratefulness.  Every child thinks they are grateful because they say thank you. But when it comes to putting their grateful spirit into practice, being willing to do without something or sharing their toys, or accepting a small or lessor sized cookie than someone else, the look in their eyes, their body language or what comes out of their mouth says it all.

 

Do you deal with an ungrateful spirit when you see it in body language? By not dealing with the look in their eyes of disapproval is telling them it is okay to be selfish. Look at it this way, your child has just given you a teaching opportunity!

 

Ask them why they are frustrated. You will likely get a short, curt answer because they don’t want to admit it or deal with it. Disappointment and disapproval are not the teachers, having a spirit of acceptance and gratefulness they got a cookie at all is. Kids today do not accept the disappointments of life. They think they should get what they want when they want it. This is called entitlement.

 

A teen girl we know was frustrated on Christmas Day when she didn’t get the latest Smart-Phone like all her friends did. The saying is true that “you never know what you have until you don’t have it.” She begged and pleaded with her parents but they didn’t have the money and also didn’t think she was ready for the freedom having a cell phone would bring. This did not matter to this girl. We helped the parent’s realize the problem was she just wasn’t grateful. They could see she had never shown gratefulness for a lot of things in her life. She wasn’t pleased with all the other gifts she received on Christmas day demonstrating she wasn’t appreciative of her siblings and parents for the thought or money they put into the gifts they had gotten her.

 

During our conversation with this girl’s parents, they answered our questions thoughtfully until we asked them who was first in their daughter’s life. They quickly told us God was first followed by family. We asked her what she was doing to show God was first in her life and then what was she doing to show them they were important to her. They realized her friends had crept right up to an equal plane with God and family, and they needed to work with her to get her priorities in order. She did finally realize her parents wanted more than her happiness, they wanted her to be holy too and she did start to show them her appreciation and gratefulness for what she had.

 

It’s actually normal and very easy for our kids to love things over people by taking them for granted, leaving little to no appreciation or real gratefulness for what parent’s, siblings and friends do for them. It’s easy to selfishly seek their own way over what Jesus said in Matthew 22:39 “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

Here is a test you can try with your kids. Ask everyone where they would like to go to dinner one night? Each will likely have their own favorite. Then ask whose opinion is most important as to where they should go. See if they pick their own. Then, go to where Dad picked and have a talk over dinner about gratefulness versus selfishness.

 

Anytime our kids are more concerned with pleasing themselves than pleasing others, they are self-focused and they need you to work with them so they can be God-focused. It’s really difficult to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength when we are self-focused because in reality, we love ourselves more than we love God.

 

How do you teach gratefulness to your kids?

  1. Require them to say “Thank you” for little things. Saying these words should be a regular part of their day.
  2. Have them make a list of what they are grateful for. Mom or Dad can work with the ones who are too young to write. Give them their lists after dinner each day for a week and have them add 3 things to their lists that weren’t already on it.
  3. Have them write on the bottom of their list one way they are going to show their gratefulness to their family that day. Have everyone read their lists after dinner on Saturday/Sunday night.

 

When your kids aren’t showing thankful hearts, do this again. When you are focused on the things you are thankful for, it is hard to have an ungrateful attitude.

What Identifies Your Family

What Identifies Your Family?

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Joey and Carla Link

October 2017

 

Family is a group of people who have special meaning in our lives. They are the backbone of support, personal cheerleaders, teachers, counselors, and anything else we might need.

Do you know the divorce rate in the church now almost equals the rate for non-believers? Just think how many children are growing up in two homes and perhaps more if their parents re-marry. As they wander from home to home, what identifies them as a family? Something needs to. Being part of a family connects you to others, in what should be an unshakable bond.

Pastor Greg Laurie says it this way:

“The fact is, God starts with the family because He created it. Our very existence as a society is contingent on the success of the family. And that also explains why Satan hates it so and has declared war on it. It has been said, ‘A family can survive without a nation, but a nation cannot survive without the family.’ ”

So what do we mean by family identity? “Identity’, is defined as, “sameness, oneness, unity.”

So when we talk about family identity, we are wondering what unifies a family into one.

 

How do you build unity into your family? One way is to build spiritual unity by praying together as a family and serving God together. Here are a couple ways you can do this.

 

  1. Have a ‘key verse’ your family uses to base its actions on. This can change over the years as the needs and age of your children/family change.  In our home the key verse was Mark 12:29-31.

The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”

  1. Have family devotions. Parents all too often see family devotions as one more thing to fit into an already busy schedule. We carry family devotion books for children of all ages  in the Parenting Made Practical bookstore. You will find you can read the Bible passage and devotional thought plus ask the questions at the end of the devotional and be done in 10 – 15 minutes. If you have never had family devotions before, start with one day a week and read the devotional right after dinner while everyone is still sitting at the table.

 

Another way to build unity into your family is through emotional support, which a family needs for its members to be intertwined with each other. Emotional support includes being there for each other and lifting each other up.

 

  1. Be encouragers (I Thessalonians 5:11) To encourage is to “give courage to.” We love that. When someone in the family is faltering or nervous about trying something, there is nothing like your family standing behind you giving you the courage to take the first step.

 

  1. Be positive. Being positive starts with our tongue. Sarcasm, harsh tones, and the like spread like wildfire in a family and soon everyone is focused on the negative instead of the positive. When he was in elementary school, our son would come home from school full of negative stories. I(Carla) told him he had to tell me 3 good things for every bad thing. This helped him think of the positive about his day and he would actually look for good things to share.

Start the trend in your home.  At the dinner table tonight, start a discussion with “We’re going around the table and everyone gets to share one good thing that happened in your day today!”

After being in youth and family ministry for over two decades, we can tell you when a teen is strong in his personal convictions and moral value system, when he knows he can count on his parents for support and encouragement, when home is a place of stability and security, when he knows he can count on his family for fun – he is less likely to look for any of those anyplace else.  This will keep him strong in his faith, and make him less vulnerable to temptations that other teens face.

What about your family? What would your children say is special about being a part of your family? We encourage you to visit Parenting Made Practical’s Instagram to see how families we know are strong in their identity answer that very question!

This Little Light of Mine

This Little Light of Mine

By Joey and Carla Link

September 22, 2017

 

We remember singing a song as children titled “This Little Light of Mine.” As we sang we held up our index fingers and twirled them around. The second verse is “Hide it under a bushel, No! I’m gonna let it shine.” The next verse is titled “Don’t let Satan blow it out” and the last verse is “Shine my light ‘til Jesus comes!” We are sure you can imagine the hand motions for each verse. (I just looked it up; you can find a Veggie Tales version of the song on YouTube)

 

It was a fun song to sing, but neither of us remember any Sunday school teacher of ours stopping to talk to us about what the song actually means. We encourage you to go on YouTube and play the song for your kids if you don’t already know it.

 

What do your kids think their “light” is? If you asked your kids what they do that brings glory, praise and honor to Jesus, what do you think they would say?  Have you ever told your little ones that saying “please” and “thank you” are ways to let their lights shine? Do your kids think how they treat and speak to their siblings and friends is letting their light shine? Do they realize every time they obey when asked to do something they don’t want to do and when they use self-control they are letting their lights shine?

This little light of mine

 

Every verse in every song means something. Let’s take a look at the rest of the verses in this song.

 

  1. How do your kids hide their lights under a bushel? Many parents were working on getting their kids to greet people who spoke to them at a family conference we were at recently. Not saying “Hi” to those you meet especially when they greet you first is definitely hiding their light under a bushel. When kids don’t turn assignments in on time they are hiding their lights under a bushel. When they don’t do their chores the way you have shown them or come when you call their name, they are hiding their lights. When they are not doing what they know is right, they are hiding their lights. James 4:17 says, “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails do it, for him it is sin.” (ESV) Sin covers our lights.

 

  1. What is the difference between hiding their lights under a bushel and letting Satan blow it out? Giving into temptation is letting Satan blow your light out. For teens, when all the kids are going to a party where alcohol will be and your teens join in, they are letting Satan blow their lights out. When your 5th grader is seeking the attention of the popular girls at school instead of spending time with a child who is always on the sidelines, Satan has blown her light out. Satan loves it when your kids are absorbed in “Me, Me Me” because they aren’t putting the needs of others first. Sleeping in instead of having their Quiet Time/Devotions is a biggie for Satan too. Ask your kids to think about who they are giving the victory to, Jesus or Satan.

 

  1. Shine your light ‘til Jesus comes. We hope your kids know Jesus is coming again. Until that day, it is every Christian’s responsibility to “Go therefore and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19) One of the best ways to do this is to let the light of Jesus shine bright in our lives no matter our age!

 

“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works

and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:16 (ESV)