Parenting Made Practical » Blog

Who Are Your Kids Associating With?

by Joey & Carla Link

lecture 3©April 2016

I remember the day Carla told me about two teenage girls who knocked at our door and asked “Is Michael there?” These girls were dressed in a way no mother would want her son to be looking at. Thankfully, Michael wasn’t home. When Michael and I got home, his sisters told him about the girls and described their tight black mini-skirts and knee high black boots in great detail. Michael immediately said they were looking for trouble and he needed to find them before they found it.

How would you respond if Michael was your 17 year old son? Every parent should be training their kids to know what they believe and how to hang around non-Christians so they can bring those who don’t know Jesus Christ into a saving knowledge of Him. Too often however, parents stop their teens from being in the world (but not part of it). Parents fear their teens will be contaminated by the world so they build a protective wall around them. At some point, parents need to let their mature teens outside this wall and give them the freedom to show their spiritual strength but only when they are ready for it.

Jesus experienced this first hand in the second chapter of Mark when he and his disciples went to the tax collector’s house. Many of Levi’s co-workers were eating dinner with him. (In those days, tax collectors were thought of in the same way as drug dealers today). The Pharisees (pastors and church leaders) came to the disciples asking them, “Why does Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners?” In other words, why would you allow your teens to hang out at the mall with kids that don’t know Jesus, or allow your younger kids to play with the kids of families who don’t go to church (under your supervision of course)?

Jesus heard the question and said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor,

but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2:17

Jesus knew if He was going to impact people who didn’t know Him, He would have to hang out with them to show them who He was and what He teaches and that He thought they were important enough to spend His time with. In the same way, if you and your family are going to show the world Jesus, then you are going to have to hang around with them so they can see Jesus in you.

We believe parents should not sacrifice your children’s innocence or compromise your family’s beliefs and convictions to reach out to your kids’ peers. Notice here, Jesus did not send his disciples to the tax collector’s house, He went and they followed, learning from Him as they went from place to place. After Jesus died, He sent his disciples into the world to tell them about what they had seen and heard during their time with Him. In the same way, when your kids are in elementary and middle school, you should be with them when they are around non-Christians.

  • Are you training your kids to impact their world vs. the world influencing them?
  • What are you doing to train your kids to stand up for their faith and live it not only at home and church, but with non-Christian friends as well?
  • Do your kids see you and hear you talk to non-Christians so they can watch and learn from you?
  • Have you talked to them about what you believe and why you believe it? Two good resources that we have used with our kids and highly recommend them for older teens and college students are “Know What You Believe” and “Know Why You Believe” by Paul Little. Go through these books with your teens for an enriching experience for all of you.

Michael did go after the two girls and stopped them from doing some foolish things. They were only two of many unsaved teens in the high school band our son hung out with. Can you imagine my joy when I walked out the door of my house one afternoon to find our son and one of these girls sitting on our porch going through a Christian book? Michael was mentoring her in the faith. We lost contact with these teens when Michael went away to college. One Saturday, years later, Carla and I were having a garage sale and one of these girls stopped by and asked if we remembered her. She told us Michael was the only true gentleman she had ever met, the only Christian who ever showed her respect. She said that when she was tempted to do things she knew were wrong, she often thought of Michael and what she knew his reaction would be, and that alone often stopped her from doing it. Wow! For a parent, it doesn’t get better than that!

The question remains, will the world impact your teens, or are you training your kids to grow up to impact the world for Jesus Christ?

Rose-Colored Glasses or God-Glasses?

Rose-Colored Glasses

or God-Glasses?

by Joey and Carla Link

©March 2016

D7FBB0ACB5

In case you’re wondering, it is normal for kids (especially when they hit the early teen years), to put on rose-colored glasses and do things that just don’t make sense. Your boys take off on a bike ride with their friends without asking permission. You gave them permission to go to their friend’s house, but not to ride two miles away to another friend’s house. When you question them about it, they don’t see what they did wrong. They are home safe and sound, aren’t they? So what’s the big deal?

Let’s say your son gets a crush on a nice girl. You have him put on his “God glasses” so he can see the pitfalls of being involved in a dating relationship when he is just starting high school. He agrees that he needs to break it off with this girl. So he says. But the truth is he doesn’t. Thinking he knows just as much as you do, he decides to contact her behind your back and leads you to believe nothing is going on. Now your trust is broken and you power up and unload the lecture of all lectures, landing a direct hit, only he disagrees with you and the ensuing argument leaves you tired and tense and puts a wall up between you and your son.

Kids grow up wanting what they want and while they are getting it, they take their eyes off of Jesus and put them on friends, a girl, the newest electronic gadget, or something else that takes their eyes off truth, honesty and reality. The worst part is they are willing to sacrifice their relationship with you, but they know you will be there when they need you because that’s your job as their parent. The reason they are doing these things is because they got the idea they know what is best, yet in reality they don’t begin to have all the answers. How can you bring them back to the truth of God’s Word?

Bake some cookies with this child. Yes, even with your boys! After all, they will love eating them! 🙂 But the one thing you need to do is replace the sugar with salt. To them, it will look the same; just don’t let them taste it. Mix it all up as you talk about your concerns with some of the decisions he has been making. It’s not that you don’t trust him, you just don’t think he has the information or experience he needs to make the wisest decision. Explain to him that sometimes you can make mistakes that can be very costly and be hard, if not impossible to overturn. Let him know that even at your advanced age (according to him) you still seek advice from others when you need to make important decisions. Make sure your talking is a conversation, and not a lecture.

As soon as the cookies are done baking, take them out and give your son /daughter the first one. As he bites into it, he will be sure to spit it out as there is no way it will taste good.

Ask him what is wrong. He will most likely blame you for doing something to the cookies. Before you start baking, have sugar in a bowl and salt in a different bowl set aside where your child can’t see them. Bring them out and ask your child if he can tell the difference by looking at the two bowls. Didn’t the cookies look good before he tasted them? The moral of this story is this: you have to have the right ingredients to get the desired results. How something looks at first glance (salt instead of sugar) is not sufficient to ensure the best results.

It is the same when making decisions. At first glance not having enough information because he didn’t know what questions to ask, or not having the experience that would let him know if what he wants to do is the right choice.

Having someone wiser to help him think through and work through decisions he makes is what God gave him parents for – to help him learn and see what is right from wrong and to stop him from making a big mistake.

Let him know you may not be perfect parents, but you certainly can see a little further down the road from the life experience God has given you and you really don’t want him to make mistakes that you can foresee will hurt him. Therefore, you would like to ask him to give you the benefit of the doubt. Ask him to trust you, and to give you an opportunity to help him learn how to tell the difference between the sugar and salt.

Celebrating Easter

Celebrating Easter

 Joey & Carla Link

       © March 2016

Landscape (57)

 Spring is just around the corner, although for many of us, the normal winter weather has yet to appear! While Christmas is a wonderful time to teach our children about the blessed gift of Jesus Christ, families often get caught off-guard in the springtime, and the greatest annual event for every Christian often slips up on us and pass us by before we really have the time to teach our children about the events that led up to Jesus death, burial and resurrection. So, does your family take time to celebrate Easter? We mean really celebrate Easter?

Several years back, we had the wonderful blessing of going to Israel for two weeks. It was always a goal and dream for us, but we were not sure how to make it happen. Many great people we had partnered with over the years in serving families gave us the trip as a gift. We had the wonderful privilege of walking where Jesus walked. The blessing turned into more than a trip however, it became a deeper conviction and commitment to our Lord because of the facts we got to see up close and personal. Neither Carla nor I will ever forget our time in the garden tomb. Each Easter we look at the pictures taken during our time there and in awe, we once again marvel at what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross.

Thinking of Easter, we encourage you to pull out your Bible and books that share with your children the wonder of the cross and salvation. This is a lesson that should never grow old in their hearts and minds. Celebrate Easter as a family like many do during the Christmas advent season. Take each part of the Easter story and break it into the 3 weeks leading up to Easter Sunday. Use candles as they do in advent, as children enjoy the symbolism of them.

Moses’ instructions to Israel in Deuteronomy 6 is a great directive for parents on teaching the Easter story: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Think about how your family could incorporate the Easter story with the above underlined words this year. Have your children come up with ideas on how you can impress the story on each other, talk about it, and write it down where it is a daily reminder of what Christ has done for you.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, 

that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

Quality Time or Quantity Time

Quality Time or Quantity Time

       Joey & Carla Link

       © March 2016

Quality vs Quantity Time

What is more important, to spend quality time or quantity time with you kids? This question has been around for years. We can make a case for both, but we are fairly certain you can too so we aren’t going to spend time on that. God is very good at giving us illustrations and stories in the Bible to impress upon us the way He wants us to live. I think at least part of the answer to this question can be found in God’s example with His kids in Genesis 3.

We know it was God’s habit to walk in the garden and spend time with Adam and Eve (Gen.3:8) Can you imagine God coming to you and saying, “Let’s go for a walk.” That would be a “wow” moment for sure! Talk about quality time!

God shows us that as Adam and Eve’s parent, He had a relationship with them just like He wants to have with us, and He wants us to have with our kids. Following God’s example and making time for your kids gives you the chance to show them what their relationship with their Heavenly Father looks like. Taking a walk with one of your children (at a time) gives both of you the opportunity to talk without distraction. Even a short amount of time giving your children your undivided attention adds up.

Carla did an internship as a juvenile probation officer while she was in college and she was amazed most of the kids in Juvenile Hall were living a rebellious lifestyle because they didn’t believe their parents cared about them. When she did home visits she found out the kids were right, their parents didn’t care about them. In my years as a youth pastor I found this to be true too.

So, Quality Time or Quality Time? Well, we think you should just spend TIME with your kids!

TIME=RELATIONSHIP

  1. Set non-negotiable times. In our home it was a priority to have dinner together. It was expected that each person would share about their day. The rule was everyone had to share 3 good things that had happened before they could share any negative things that went on.
  1. Surprising your kids makes them feel special. When my kids were in school I decided to get some quality and quantity time in with them by showing up at their schools and surprising them for lunch. These times went so well I ended up scheduling lunch appointments with each of them individually once a month. Sometimes I had an agenda to talk about a concern I had for them but most of the time it was just to hang out and talk. When you do this enough, your kids will open up and talk to you, especially when the other kids in school are jealous their dad takes them out to lunch!
  1. Do what interests them. I played Frisbee golf with Michael although I was not particularly good at it. I took Briana shopping. Most of the time we didn’t buy anything, just walked the mall and talked. Amy liked to ride bikes. Carla scrapbooked with the girls.

How do you get kids to talk? Ask them an open ended question. I have a friend who developed a “Family Time Starter Kit” with 39 different open ended questions he used around the dinner table for family discussions. We added it to the end of the Mom’s Notes presentation “Building Family Identity” (Volume 3). Here are a few of the questions:

  1. What is one thing you want to do in your lifetime and why?
  2. What are 3 things you are good at?
  3. Name one thing that is important to you and tell why it is.
  4. If someone asked you the name of a person who is important to you, whose name would you give? Why is this person important to you?

Family is more than biological gene sharing. It’s about spending time together because everyone in the family is important to each other. While it’s easy to major on it around Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthdays, time with your kids is something that should be focused on daily, just as our Heavenly Father did in the Garden of Eden.

Does Your Child Have A GPS?

Does Your Child Have A GPS?

Joey and Carla Link

February 2016

 

As a young man in boy scouts, I learned to read maps as we went backpacking in the High Sierra Mountains. It was essential to know which trail to take to get to our destination. Today, reading and learning to interpret maps has given way to the much easier GPS to help us find our way and destination. The GPS was a big novelty when it first came out. My wife is fond of saying we almost got divorced (just kidding) when I woke her up from a nap, threw a map at her and told her to tell me what freeway to take as I was driving into New York City during rush hour traffic! When we got our first GPS for the van (we named her Judy), Carla shouted “Hallelujah!” and threw the Atlas in the back of the van, rarely to be seen again.

If only I had a friend like Judy to lead me through life. There are times I would gladly let her make the decision for me. I might argue with her once she tells me where to go, but at least I would have some indication of which direction to take. Upon hearing me say this, any of my children would remind me I now have a GPS on my phone, not to mention the internet where I could google up the answer to every question I have. In the world today, from young adults down to kids, their phone is the first place they go when they want to find an answer.

Wait a minute – I DO have a guidebook to get me through life! God left mankind a GPS thousands of years ago, and it is even better than Google! In Psalm 119:9-11 King David says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your word.” Whose word? God’s Word! The Bible won’t tell you where to find the closest Wal-Mart when you are traveling, but it does answer all questions about the way we should live.

David goes on to say, “I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.” (verse 10) Is this true of your child? Is it true of you? Will God’s Word keep your kids honest or will friends, peers, entertainment and other things of the world turn off their Biblical GPS and take them off course?

As a young boy I memorized Psalm 119:11 and it has been my GPS throughout my life,

 

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

I remember a pastor once saying, “God’s Word will either keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from God’s Word.” Do your kids have a Quiet Time every day? There are so many excellent resources for devotionals for all ages, there is no excuse not to. When your older kids have a daily Quiet Time/Devotions with no reminders from you, then you will know they own the need to make God’s Word their true GPS.

I encourage you to read the Bible to your kids regularly. Have family devotions around the dinner table several nights a week. It only needs to take 10 minutes! You just need to get into the habit of doing it. On Saturday night in our house I asked everyone in the family to share what they had learned in their devotions that week. We had lively discussions as a result. Have a contest to see who can memorize the most verses in a 2-week period of time. Take the winner out for ice cream. Ideas to put God’s Word into the hearts of your children are endless.

Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:105