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Keeping Your Family Strong

We were visiting with a family the other night over dinner. They started to share about their concerns for their 14 year old daughter. She was starting to pull away from the family. She would hide in her room, texting her friends or playing games on the internet with them. She resented when she was asked to help out with chores and other household duties. This family has done a great job training their children in Godly character over the years, and they wondered what has gone wrong.

I (Joey) don’t think they were reassured when we told them this was normal behavior and to be expected. This is their oldest child, and they just were not prepared for the middle years. Oh they have gone through GKGW several times, taken the GFI Middle Years class, and listened to the Mom’s Notes, but having information is one thing, when the explosion comes in the form of unexpected behavior, it is another thing altogether. To some extent, we all live in denial. We get information, but we don’t think it is going to happen to our kids. When it does, the rug is literally pulled out from underneath us.

I (Joey) reminded these parents of two things they learned in Growing Kids God’s Way (Cpt 17); the independent and interdependent families. Let’s say the members of your family are standing in a circle, holding hands with their backs to the inside of the circle. This is your independent family. Everyone’s focus is where their interests lie, not with each other.

Try standing in a circle again, still holding hands but facing inward. This is what an interdependent family looks like. Everyone is focused on the needs of the family as a whole. The members of an interdependent family support each other, and make each other a priority. They realize no matter what, you have their backs and they will have yours. For fourteen years, all the members of this family had been facing inward, but the daughter flipped around and is now facing outward. Once the parents realized this, they knew what they needed to do to turn her back around so their family is interdependent once more.

How do you build an interdependent family? It is called “Family Identity.” Take family trips and plan activities where you build memories that withstand the rigors of the worst times of your family. Parents and kids alike sacrifice certain things you want to do in life to have nights of playing games or making ice cream, going for a bike ride as a family, or just for a walk. The family talks around the dinner table instead of shoveling food down and running to do their own thing.

When parents are busy with their own activities, kids will find substitutes for their parents to spend time with. They don’t care if their friends have the same values and standards you have trained them to. If someone shows interest in them and is nice to them, that qualifies them as a good friend, regardless what their personal beliefs are. Parenting is a season of your life. When your kids are adults, you will crave time with them. Start building a relationship now that will lead to a lifetime of friendship.

I learned to play Frisbee golf because it was someone my son enjoyed doing. Although Carla would have preferred to scrapbook by herself, she allowed both our daughters to scrap with her and encouraged them in their efforts. Carla will tell you she has played more games of Uno than she cares to think about. We found ways to do what our kids enjoyed doing.

We assigned each of our children a week every month to plan our weekly family night. I am sure Michael still remembers the time his younger sister excitedly gave us all pictures she had copied from her color books to color and make up stories about. We were pleased to see him put a smile on his face and participate in this activity without complaining. This was our family rule: If you wanted the members of the family to participate in the family night you planned each month without whining and complaining, you had to do the same for them. Michael and I cheerfully participated in “dress-up night,” knowing Briana had planned what she wanted us to wear. She had a great time putting curlers in our hair and make-up on our faces. Speaking of scrapbooking, many of these nights have been recorded for posterity in photos, so we all have fun when we are together laughing and remembering.

When I (Joey) was growing up, we had a family vacation where we didn’t leave town. We were each given a day of the week to plan something to do. We went bowling on my brother’s day, to my sister’s favorite restaurant one night in another town, roller skating on my day and so on (I am pretty sure we cleaned house on my mom’s day).

How many things do you do as a family? To develop family identity, we strongly encourage you to plan a family night once a week. If you are too busy to give your undivided attention to your family one night a week, then you are too busy. You will not believe the encouragement this will be to your children, no matter their age. When our kids got to be teens, they kept family night a priority and would not plan other things to do that night, including taking babysitting jobs. That is how important family night was to them.

As parents, we have committed many sins that have offended our kids over the years. But, I have found, aside from going through the Repentance, Forgiveness and Restoration process  with them, the one antidote that can cover a multitude of parental sins is to build family identity with them.


There is a Mom’s Notes presentation entitled, Building Family Identity (Volume 3).

If you already own this presentation, this might be a good time to listen to it again.


Monica BrownMay 26, 2013 - 2:43 am

so fun!!! GREAT ideas and what a wonderful way to grow up! Everyone learning to respect each other and have fun in ways that make everyone feel special!

Love these ideas. . .

Jim & Monica Brown

When It Is Your Fault

Do you ever feel you have messed up as a parent? Perhaps you have disciplined your kids when you were angry and you were too hard on them, or your expectations were unfair. Do your kids tell you they hate you? Welcome to the club! There isn’t a parent alive who has not felt this way at one time or another.  So, what can you do about it?


Did you know your kids can be disobedient because of your sin? Ouch. As painful as this is to hear, it is certainly the truth. If you consistently discipline your kids while you are yelling at them because you are angry, you are not disciplining them, you are punishing them. Kids who are punished do not learn to deal with their sin. They get mad at you for your harshness with them (especially a sensitive child), so they deliberately do something to make you mad again as this is the only way they can pay you back.


What’s the difference between punishment and discipline? The definition of the word “punish” is, “To deal with harshly, roughly.” The definition for “discipline” is, “Teaching or training which corrects, molds, and strengthens.” That is quite a difference.


When you cannot get your anger and frustration under control before dealing with your kids, you are in sin. When you correct them, all they get out of it is the fact they made you angry. Where is the teaching and training in this? How do you turn this around with a child you consistently are harsh with? How do you open up their hearts again so they will listen to you? If you have taken the Growing Kids God’s Way parenting class, this would be an excellent time to dig out your manual and review Chapter 13, which talks about the Repentance, Forgiveness and Restoration process. Only this time, don’t think of how it affects your kids, think of how it affects you. The key to turn children who are angry and rebellious (because of your sin) around is for you to apologize to them.


Step 1: Repentance – This is recognizing you have done something wrong and need to confess it. When in Backyard Bible Club (w/Child Evangelism Fellowship) while I (Carla) was growing up, we learned ‘to repent’ was to make a U-turn. You turn around and go the other direction. Start the apology by telling your child you know your anger is wrong and why it is wrong.


Step 2: Forgiveness – Jesus gave us the example of forgiveness by dying on the cross for us. When He did this, He gave us the opportunity to come to Him and make our relationship right by confessing our sin and asking Him to forgive us. This is the example He set before us on how to wipe out our sin with those we have wronged. Forgiveness is a gift Christ gave us for all of eternity if we ask for it by accepting Him as our Lord and Savior. Forgiveness is a gift the one we offended gives us, especially if we ask for it.


“If we confess our sin he is faithful and just

and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

I John 1:9


Step 3: Restoration – In simple terms, this means you make right your wrong. You give back what you took away. How do you make right the wrong your angry heart did in the eyes of your child? Let your child know how much you love him, and that you will work on not getting angry when he disobeys. Then go through the scenario again, teaching and training him how to do the right thing the next time he is confronted with the same choice.


A parent’s goal through this process needs to be the same as what you expect of your children when they sin and disobey you, and that is to restore the relationship. So what do YOU need to do to restore your relationship with your child when you have offended him? Apologize. When your children forgive you, he typically has a very soft heart towards you as he does not like being estranged from you.


How are you going to work on not getting angry the next time your child willfully disobeys? When one of your children needs correction, first, have him sit in an isolated place to think about what he did wrong (age 5 years and up). Tell him he cannot get up until he is ready to come and talk to you about what he did wrong and apologize. While he is sitting, you need to go sit too. Take a few deep breaths and calm down and pray and ask God for His wisdom to deal with this child. After your child apologizes, he/she gets their correction. This is discipline.


Out With the Old, In With the New!

With the start of a new year, people are often ready for new beginnings. One of the problems with a New Year’s resolution or a new beginning is we start with a grand vision but don’t always have a practical plan to put it into practice, and if we don’t, we aren’t consistent in implementing it. This is often the case when it comes to parenting. You want your kids to behave, but do you have a plan how to accomplish this?

 You have a parenting toolbox full of things you use every day with your kids. I recently cleaned out my sewing box and threw things away that were worn out and no longer usable. There are things in your parenting toolbox that are worn out and you should throw away. One of these tools is reminding. When you remind your kids to do something, you are doing their thinking for them. They don’t have to remember what they are supposed to be doing because you have trained them to wait for your reminder. We were guilty of this in our parenting. The day came when we decided to stop reminding.

When our son was in Middle School, a friend of ours gave him several new CDs of his favorite music groups. He was so excited to look them over he didn’t say ‘Thank you.’ We were horrified of course, but did not remind him. Instead, when we got in the car we took the CDs away. When he asked us why, we told him to think about why we thought he didn’t deserve them. It took him most of the day to realize he had not shown gratefulness for this unexpected gift. Once he wrote a thank you note and put it in the mail, he got his CDs back.

Giving your children consistent consequences really does hurt you more than it hurts them, but if you want to see changes in your child’s behavior, it is the way to go.  Throughout the entire Bible, God clearly shows consequences are the effect of disobedience. Your child doesn’t do his chores? He loses the freedom of what he was doing instead of the chore. You teen doesn’t get ready for school on time? When he gets enough tardies, he will get detention. If you don’t stop bailing your kids out with reminders, who is going to do if for them when they get to college?

Replace reminders with encouragement. When you see your child ‘remembering’ to get his stuff done on his own, give him a work of encouragement. Noticing when your child is doing something right in God’s eyes is the best motivation for him to change his behavior. It is a new year. Out with the old (reminders) and in with the new (consistent consequences). You might be surprised at the changes you will see! So, it is a new year. Out with the old (lectures and reminders) and in with the new (consequences). You might be surprised at the changes you will see in your children’s behavior!


Monica BrownMay 26, 2013 - 2:46 am

Hi there. .I am just now reading all your articles ( :
somehow I missed it when you first published it. . .anyway, encouraging my children is something I am always working on so this was a GREAT reminder and it’s so fun to see our children progress from immature behavior to mature behavior. . .love this story. . .so practical. Thank you!


What Are Your Kids Saying?

Have you listened to your children play lately? Or should I ask, have you listened to how your children play? Children can develop attitudes when they play that can readily be heard by anyone paying attention. When the noise level increases, Mom or Dad will typically say something like, “Settle down,” or “Say something nice or don’t say anything at all!”


How many times a day do you catch yourself saying (or thinking) these kinds of phrases? How many times do you have to repeat yourself before your children comply?  Why do your children have the freedom to talk in unkind ways? Do your children do and say what they want until they have pushed you over the edge and you get on them? Correcting them when it gets to this point is not training your children. Working with them in a structured time of no conflict is.


What do we mean by this? To train your children is to teach them how God wants them to live. Like teachers in schools, parents need to have a plan (a structured time) to accomplish this. What does a plan look like?


First, since training your kids in moral values is based on how God wants us to live, you will need to know what Scripture has to say about the topic. What does the Bible say about unkind speech? Ephesians 4:29 says:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,

but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs,

that it may benefit those who listen.”


Don’t assume kids understand words in verses. Ask them what ‘unwholesome’ talk is and don’t be surprised when they don’t know. Have a dictionary handy and look it up together. It means, “morally corrupt.” Make sure your kids know what those words mean. Then talk about what kinds of words God would consider morally corrupt.  It certainly would be bad words. We don’t necessarily mean vulgar language. ‘Bad words’ could be phrases like “shut up” or “You’re stupid.” These are not moral words because they do not build people up, they tear them down.


Do your kids know what building someone up looks like? Role play with them how to encourage their siblings with words. This verse says we are to build others up according to their needs, not our own needs. Children (and adults) often build others up to benefit themselves, not the other person. Role play what this would look like. Children need to have a picture in their mind of what something looks like before they can absorb the concept being presented. Another way you can demonstrate this would be to share with them how kindly you speak to your spouse even when you don’t like what he/she is saying.


The last part of the verse tells us when we do this, it benefits (influences) those who are listening. Tell your children that when they encourage someone to build them up for that person’s benefit, they can influence others in the room for good.


When teaching kids what the Bible says about how to live their lives, break down the verse piece by piece as we just did, and don’t leave any part out!  Of course this is age-appropriate. You can’t teach young children what they do not have the moral capacity to understand.


So what do you do when ‘unwholesome’ talk comes out of your kid’s mouth?  Have a place in your house where your child can go when you tell him (or her) to go sit. This place needs to be out of the flow of traffic. Tell him to go sit and think about what he could say instead that would build the person up he was speaking to. The child can’t get off the chair until he has thought of something positive to say and is willing to apologize and make it right with the one he offended. Always try to find a way to direct your child to the ‘good’ you want to see from him.


I remember one day when our son Michael was in the 3rd grade I asked him how school was that day. When he told me about the football game he was playing in at lunch recess, he said, “We kicked their *&#*# all over the field.” Instead of getting upset and mad at him for using a word that was definitely unwholesome, I told him it was a word that was unacceptable to use which is why he had never heard his Mom or I use it, and I asked him not to use it again. When he asked me why we didn’t say this word, I told him it talked about body parts that are not acceptable to speak about in public.  Because of the trusting relationship we had, he agreed.


Did he fully understand what I was saying? Probably not. If you wait until your children understand what you are training them to do and say before you require them to do it, what barometer will control their speech and behavior until you are sure they do? You can require them to do something before they understand the ‘why’ of what you are telling them to do. This is called “actions precede belief,” and is why parents bother to teach their toddlers to say ‘please’. When children finally understand what a courtesy is, they will be in the habit of saying it.


There is one more thing in this verse that is worth pointing out. Paul said “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth…” The key word is “let.” We need to help our children learn how to control what comes out of their mouths and what doesn’t. What we say is a choice! Teach your children what they can do instead of saying things that are unkind.


How wholesome is your speech? Is this something that you need to work on to show your children how to be kind when you talk, especially when you are angry? Remember more of your parenting is caught through example than taught!



Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,

but only what is helpful for building others up

according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Ephesians 4:29



Celebrating Advent with Children

Christmas! What a wonderful time of the year! Is it?? Advertising starts so early, children start clamoring for toys before Thanksgiving. Materialism, greed, parties that don’t celebrate anything of value, and performances galore is what our culture has turned Christmas into.

How can you turn this around in your family? One way to do this is to celebrate advent. Below you will find wonderful books (Jotham’s Journey and Bartholomew’s Passage) that share stories during the advent season in biblical times. Celebrating advent is an adventure that will bring the true meaning of Christmas into your home throughout the month of December.

During the advent season, one new candle is lit each week. While our children were growing up, instead of tapered candles, we took the children to find candles that represented what they stood for. One year she found a sparkling purple and red jar that would hold a votive candle to represent the prophecy of the coming King (purple is the color of royalty). For the shepherd’s candle, I remember when we found a dark blue candle that had been rolled in silver glitter. One of our girls thought it looked like a starry night. We put a small porcelain lamb by it. We found a glittering gold candle in the shape of a star for the wise men candle, and a gold metal angel with a place to put a small votive candle finished the candles we needed to get for the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve.

Carla would arrange all of these on a gold placemat in the center of our coffee table. In the middle was a red and purples velvet box she mad that was propped open by a gold candle in the shape of a gift to represent the greatest gift of all, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Whenever we had friends of any age in the house, our kids would take them in to look at the candles and carefully explained how each participated in the birth of Christ.


Once our kids were around 4th grade or so, we assigned them a week and had them write a story about that week’s candle. They also picked a Christmas carol that went along with that week’s theme for the family to sing together while the candles were lit. They eagerly shared what they had learned and looked forward to lighting the candle that week. Set a time each week to celebrate advent. Notice we used the word, ‘celebrate’. It truly should be a celebration, not just one more thing to do.

In the bookstore we carry three books we highly recommend for the advent season and we have had many families tell us what a blessing these books have been for their family. The first in this series is Jotham’s Journey, followed by Bartholomew’s Passage and Tabitha’s Travels. All three stories take place during the birth of Christ. With this series you have three years of advent celebration!