Parenting Made Practical » Blog

Others Always Come First

By Joey and Carla Link

August 24, 2022

Like most parents, we thought the needs of others should come before our own, and our kids needed to learn this important truth too. This verse was one our family lived by.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Luke 10:27
This sounds simple, but in the world we live in we are all surrounded by people shouting, “Me, Me, Me!” especially in the culture of entitlement (being told we deserve everything we want without working for it) prevalent today. Society adopted a mantra a few years ago that took loving yourself to entirely new levels. We were told we have to take care of ourselves first. A lot of our problems were because we weren’t showing ourselves enough love. Sadly, this has permeated into the Christian culture as well, and it is not only wrong, it is sin.

Why? Because we are told throughout Scripture to put the needs of others above our own, as the verse above says. First – who is our neighbor whose needs we are to put before our own. A lawyer asked Jesus this question in Luke 10 and Jesus told a story about men who passed a man on the road who had been overtaken by robbers and was beaten, stripped of all he had and left for dead. Only one man stopped to help him, and Jesus told those listening that we need to be like the Samaritan who helped the man, for our “neighbor” is anyone in need.

Secondly, when Jesus told the lawyer to love the Lord your God with all you have in you and then love your neighbor, He didn’t end it there. He went on to say we are to love those in need as much as we love ourselves

What is implied here is the fact we already love ourselves. God gave each of us a love for ourselves at birth. If we did not love ourselves, we would not protect ourselves from harm and we would not have a reference point from which to love others. Now this doesn’t mean that we are to put others before taking care of basic needs like making sure we eat healthy, that we are clothed appropriately and secure a place to live in addition to providing for our families. He is saying we are not to elevate our “wants” above the needs of those less fortunate.
So how do we teach this to our children? In the parenting class, Growing Kids God’s Way, we learned about 6 groups of people and other things we are to show honor and respect to. For those of you who have taken this class or the Parenting from the Tree of Life class, can you name these 6 areas? Can your kids?

All of us should treat the elderly, our parents and people in authority with respect and honor. Add peers (neighbors/friends) and siblings to this group and nature (plants, animals, the land and the sea) and property (yours and others) and we have enough to work on for life.

As a family, we went out of our way for others. When we were newlyweds, our church was at the back gate of a large military base. On holidays, we filled our home with military families who could not go home. We taught our kids to look for those at school, on their sports teams or at church who always sat by themselves and go sit by them. We feel the blessing of God when we reach out to others, and that is better than any “self-love”.
When training your kids to think of others first, use this phrase:
Next time one or more of your kids and/or teens are being self-focused, pull them aside one-by-one and ask this question: 

Who are you thinking of right now?”

-Your child/teen will respond he/she is thinking of himself. 
Ask him who he should be thinking of
-He will respond he should be thinking of others.
Given the circumstance your child is in at the moment, get specific
Ask him exactly who he should be thinking about at that moment. (The sibling he just hit; the sister whose toy he just broke, even accidentally; you, for not taking the trash out).
Then ask him to think of one way he can show this person he is willing to put their needs above his own.
-When your child comes up with something, ask him if he is willing to do it right then. 
-If he says “No,” he gets to sit and do nothing (including talk and get out of the chair) until he is willing to do what he came up with. 
-Unless your child is under five years of age, resist the temptation to tell him what he could do to show kindness to the one he offended.
After you have been working on this for a while, all you will need to do is whisper in their ear, “Who are you thinking of right now?” or “Who should you be thinking of right now?” and more often than not, your child will change the direction he is headed in.
We encourage you to memorize this verse as a family.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Luke 10:27

What is Unique About Your Family?

By Joey and Carla Link
August 3, 2022

We would tell our kids when they weren’t getting along that your family are the only people that will be with you from the beginning to the end of your life. Carla and I are feeling that. We are of the age where the generation above us – our parents, aunts and uncles are getter fewer and fewer every year. Whether you actively sought it out or not, they were a layer of protection above you, full of love and devotion, supporting you in whatever way they could whenever they could. Their presence is greatly missed.

We lived hundreds if not thousands of miles from most of both our families, so we made sure our kids knew their grandparents. My (Joey’s) mom has been gone for 3 decades, but if you mentioned Joey’s dad’s name to each of our kids you would definitely get a smile on their faces. Carla’s mom’s commitment to being a long-distance yet close in spirit part of our kids’ lives was a big deal to our family. Our daughter Amy passed that love and commitment she learned from my dad and Carla’s mom to Carla’s dad who came back to the relationship he had with God after our car accident. We live in IA and he lived in Northern CA so she rarely saw him growing up, yet Amy set up a digital “date night” with him every Thursday night for a few years before his death.

When he was put in hospice, we could not go see him because Carla was hospitalized at Mayo Clinic and couldn’t be released. Amy went, and was told that he had not been responsive so she shouldn’t expect much. We were joyful when we were told he lit up when he heard her voice and grabbed her hand. A blessed reward for her. Our son went to CA and joined Amy for his service not long after, standing in our stead. When my dad unexpectedly left this earth, all our kids went to CA for his services and when Carla’s mom unexpectedly left us 5 weeks later, our son and his wife cut a trip to Europe short to come back to the US for her service.

So, I ask you, what did you learn about our family from reading the above? Do you think the things you came up with make our family unique?

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

Why does your family need to be unique? By that we don’t mean in a quirky or unusual way, we mean what about it makes it special to those who are a part of it? What identifies your family to you and your kids and to others? “Identity” means being the same, being united towards a goal.

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. Make doing it that day non-negotiable.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 and offering to come alongside you when you falter.
  4. Be positive. Being positive starts with our tongues. 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 he reported on. This helped him think of the positive about his day and he would actually look for good things to share.
  5. Take family vacations. Vacations shouldn’t be about the destination but rather about having fun together. Make memories that can last forever.

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 three 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 this 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?

“He and all his family were devout and God-fearing;
he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.”
Acts 10:2

When Kids Need Encouragement

By Joey and Carla Link
July 27, 2022

It is so easy to get frustrated with your kids when they don’t do what they should do and you know they know better. But have you ever considered what would help your child to choose to do the right thing? Consequences certainly motivate kids to do the right thing and God often used them in the Bible. Is there anything else you can do?

First why did they choose the wrong path? What was so alluring to them? James 1:14 says it’s what tempts us.

“Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by
their own evil desire and enticed.” (NIV)

What would be a child’s evil desires? It is his/her intent to please himself first, and to do whatever it takes to accomplish this. What can help your child overcome these temptations? What can help them turn from the pull of their friends, phones, social media, television, video games and so forth? What can help them when they are discouraged and defeated because they keep getting in trouble for doing the same old thing over and over and over again?

In Judges 20 Israel was tired from fighting.
“But the Israelites encouraged one another and again took up their positions.”
Judges 20:22 NIV

If you have used lots of consequences with your child and see no difference in his behavior, how about taking a different approach and try encouragement? Do you know encouragement means “To give courage to”? If your kids are struggling in one particular area, perhaps they need to be given courage to do the right thing.

Do you know when your kids need encouragement from you instead of another lecture?
Think about these:
When he/she is too tired to finish the paper that is due the next day for school
When he/she is overwhelmed by all that he has to get done
When he/she is too busy to focus on the things that have to be done
When he/she doesn’t think he is smart enough to do the school assignment
When he/she doesn’t know how to complete the task
How do you verbally encourage your child/teen in the way they are to go?

Something like:
I know you can do it!
What do you think you should do? That’s a great idea. Go for it!
When you do obey, you always feel better.
How much happier are you when you are not in trouble?
When you make the right choice, you have more fun.
I would be happy to help you with this project. Just let me know when you are ready to finish it.
How do you encourage your child/teen with action instead of words? When my kids were working on studying for finals plus trying to finish papers, I told them I would do their chores that week. That’s one way – step in and take things off their plate until they catch up.
Encouraging your kids to do right is a great and underestimated tool in training them in the way they should go. Encouraging others is not only a way to get a child’s focus off themselves and on to others, it’s a powerful force to do what is right. The more encouraging they are, the more thankful they will be!
Paul’s final words to the Corinthians:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”
If we are not encouraging our kids, how are they going to know how to encourage others? What are you doing to train your kids to become encouragers?

Training Your Child’s Temperament

By Joey and Carla Link
July 20, 2022

“Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Proverbs 22:6

Parents have hung on to this verse from Proverbs for dear life, hoping and praying their kids will “not depart” from the way they have trained and taught them what is right and what is wrong.
“I’ve taken my kids to church their entire lives. How did my 14 yr. old son start hanging around with the wrong crowd? Now he fights us every week about making him go to church.” “My teenage daughter is pregnant. I took her to church and we are a good Christian family. What happened?” are questions we often hear.

Each one of your children has a “way to go” that God has given them to be who He wants them to be so they can do what He wants them to do. When we train our kids according to “the way they should go,” or their “bent”, they will more easily recognize how God made them and will see where they fit into His plan. The word bent means “someone who is determined to take a specific course of action, a knack or aptitude for doing something.”

When God designed each of your children while they were in your womb, He put together their temperament blend. One’s temperament, or one’s “bent” is the part of your personality that determines how you think and feel. Everyone is a blend of two temperaments. I (Carla) think this is God’s way of balancing us out. It doesn’t hurt to learn your own bent and that of your spouse’s too!

God gave your kids specific spiritual gifts and talents that their temperament works best with, all parts which make your child unique. As parents, it is our job to watch for these as our children grow and to learn how to parent them accordingly. Learning more about your strong-willed Choleric, laid back Phlegmatic, sensitive Melancholy, or energetic, out-going and fun-loving Sanguine will help you help them build on their strengths and work on their weaknesses.

For each of your child’s strengths, there is an opposite weakness. Your strong-willed choleric child has the potential to make a fine leader someday but at the same time can be bossy, demanding and has the need to control all situations he finds himself in. He/she doesn’t have the patience for lectures so he will deal better when you give him bottom lines. Granted, he will immediately decide whether to give in to them or not, but parents who know to stand their ground waiting for compliance or to see if they have a fight on their hands are way ahead of the game. Your laid back, even-keeled Phlegmatic is a born peacemaker but at the same time is lazy and unmotivated. His energy dwindles as the day goes on and parents who understand this will give them the necessary things he has to get done first thing in the morning. They will also understand he needs time alone and will give him that instead of feeling rejected by him.

A sensitive, task-oriented Melancholy can be judgmental and expect others to stick to his/her perfectionistic standards as well. They need time to talk as that is how they work things through and the parent who gives him/her this time will learn much more about where this child’s heart and head are on most subjects. And your fun-loving Sanguine? They are easily distracted and don’t follow through on what they say they will do. Keeping track of this child to see if he is following through on what he said he would do is tiresome but parents who get that they need to keep this up until their child steps it up will enjoy his success. Yes, the flip side of every strength is an underlying weakness.

We encourage you to ask God to open your eyes to the traits that make up your child. Ask Him to show you His design for your child. Ask Him to teach you how to train your children in the way they should go, in keeping with their individual gifts and the natural “bent” He gave them. When we train our kids in such a way that they find fulfillment in who they were created to be, we have done what God has called us to do as parents with the kids He gave us.

Others First!

By Joey and Carla Link
July 13, 2022

Have you ever told your kids to treat others as they want to be treated? Perhaps we should ask, “How many times over the years have you told your kids to treat others the way they want to be treated?! Do you know this phrase has a title to it? It is called “The Golden Rule”.

So why is this phrase called “The Golden Rule”? Some people think it means, “He who has the gold makes all the rules”, but the “Golden Rule” really comes from Matthew 7:12 which says

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”

Interesting how this little “rule” sums up the entire Old Testament! Something we should all teach our kids. There is a funny story Carla often tells in our conferences about a time she opened our kitchen cabinet that holds the plastic containers and everything fell out on the floor. Finding out from the older siblings it was the chore of our youngest 4 yr. old daughter, she asked her if that was the way the plastics were supposed to be put away. She said she didn’t know since nobody had shown her how to stack them. Apparently, her sister had passed the job on to her without her mother’s knowledge or approval. It is a funny story to us but it is a common experience in every household. It’s so easy to have taught the oldest child how to do something, expecting the information is passed on to the next child and the next child. While the chore may have been passed on, rarely is WHY we do something a particular way passed on with it.

It is the “why” that motivates us to use our brains to get us to do what we are supposed to do. Otherwise, our feelings determine what we do and they lack sustainability to do the right thing over what our kids are being tempted to do when they know they shouldn’t.

If your kids are driven by their feelings, treating others, especially their siblings as they themselves want to be treated will fly out the window the instant they get mad or upset with them. If they are driven by “Why” they should treat others as they treat themselves, they will do so.

So, why should your kids (and yourself) treat others as you want them to treat you? All the laws God gave to Israel could be summarized in two commands: love God above all else, and love your neighbor as you love yourself. (Mark 10:31-32) If we do those two things, we don’t need the other laws. We will automatically obey them as part of loving God and loving others.

Treating others as we want to be treated means we must be willing to set aside our own desires and rights in order to love and therefore serve those in our lives. When our focus is on treating others as Jesus would, we don’t need lots of laws telling us what to do or not to do. A heart filled with the love of God will be honest, kind, trustworthy, and loving. When the heart is right, right actions will follow (1 Peter 1:22).

So how can you teach your kids/teens to treat others like they want to be treated? Work with them to get them to ask themselves “How would I like my sibling to treat me if the tables were turned and I was in his/her situation?” Another good question to ask is “How would I feel if they treated me the way I am getting ready to treat them?”

If you want peace and calm between your kids, a great way to achieve this is to get them to work on treating others like they want to be treated. Why not make this a family project?

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly,
since love covers a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 4:8