Parenting Made Practical » Blog

Celebrating Jesus

By Joey and Carla Link
December 16, 2020

How do your kids celebrate Jesus’ birthday? It’s one thing to play Christmas songs, have a manager set up in your home, and read Christmas stories to them. It is quite another thing for them to understand this baby grew up to die on the cross to take away their sins so they can live forever in heaven.
To kids, Christmas is all about the presents under the tree. They (and we) get bombarded with this picture everywhere we look. When you go shopping in a store, you see a glistening tree that is all about what you are going to get for Christmas. Rarely do you see a tree that celebrates the birth of our Savior. You can take your kids to see Christmas lights on houses and you might even say “Look! There is baby Jesus in his manager!” But when do you sit down with them to tell them in ways they can understand just what the Christmas story and its importance to them is?
If you feel they already know it, look for something new in the story. This year I (Joey) read this story looking for some fresh new facts about it to encourage my faith in the Christmas story. Carla is going through a Christmas Advent Devotional this month for the same purpose, to get excited about Christmas again. Not because we will see some of our kids and grandkids, but to once again be in awe of what God did to send Jesus to us in human form.
HOW CAN YOU GET YOUR KIDS EXCITED ABOUT JESUS THIS CHRISTMAs?1.    Celebrate Advent as a family. Each week represents one aspect of the Christmas story: prophecy, shepherds, wise men, angles and Jesus’ birth on Christmas Eve. When our kids were little we got candles that represented each of these and assigned one week to each of our children. We had them do research and present that week’s emphasis to our family. They were creative and it was a memory making time for our family.
2.    Read kid-friendly Christmas stories. Around the dinner table a couple nights a week would be a great time to read Christmas story books to your children. We encourage you to add a book about the cross one night too to bring Jesus’ life full circle.
3.    Read Christmas devotional books each morning or before bedtime. The Jotham’s JourneySeries, consists of 5 books about kids that lived during the time Jesus was born. This excellent series follows their lives and adventures as they intertwine with the life of our Lord. Imaginations come to life as they hear a story of a child on a Christmas adventure. Amazon carries these books so be sure to check them out.
4.    Christmas dramas bring life to the Christmas story. Act out a Christmas play in your own home with the parents as the narrator, having the kids play different parts, even dressing up with robes for wise men or shepherds, and getting a baby doll for baby Jesus.
The key to all these ideas is the discussion they should encourage your family to engage in. Get feedback from your kids on what they learned. Just as kids’ minds are stretched learning new math skills, they need to be stretched learning new facts and insights from the Christmas story to encourage their faith and for them to allow Jesus to be the King in their lives.

  • Ask your kids what new fact they heard. If they can’t come up with anything, they likely are not listening intently.
  • Ask questions like:
  • What do you think will happen next?
  • What would you have done if you were in their place?
  • Would you have made a different choice?
  • If you were a Wiseman would you think you were following the wrong star?
  • Would you have followed a star in the sky for 2 years, riding a camel and sleeping in the hot desert?
  • “If you were a shepherd, would you have really left your sheep, which was your responsibility in plain sight to go worship a baby?
  • What if someone came and took off with your flock? What would you do then?
  • If you were Joseph, would you be worried about finding a place for Mary to rest when she was in so much pain? Would you have felt like you failed her when you ended up in a stable with cows and camels?

It’s one thing to celebrate Christmas with your kids, it’s another thing to encourage and build up their faith in God through Christmas every year. May your family be excited about the celebration of our Lord!

Teaching Your Children the Joy of Giving

By Joey and Carla Link
December 9, 2020

God loved everyone in the world so much He sent His Son to live on earth, demonstrating for us what love is by giving Himself up for us so we can not only live life fully, but have the promise of eternal life. (John 3:16) This promise is especially meaningful at Christmas. During the Christmas season, we celebrate the wonderful gift God has given us by giving gifts to one another. We spend a lot of time thinking about what presents to get to show our love and appreciation to one another. When you stop and think about all the work everyone goes through to make Christmas special, have you thought about how you are using this once a year event to train your children to do the same?  I (Joey) remember my parents taking me shopping so I could buy presents to take to church for the Sunday School gift exchange party. I didn’t pick the gift out, pay for it, or even wrap it (my mom did), but I proudly walked in to the party with my gift! This scenario repeated itself for the gifts I gave to family members on Christmas day. What were my parents teaching me through this whole experience? When it came to giving gifts, I had no ownership in the process. They decided everything; I was simply along for the ride. I didn’t have to think about what to get, how to earn money to pay for my gifts or how to wrap them. Yet I walked away from the event with gifts for myself. This taught me to think of myself and “getting” instead of teaching me to put the needs of others first and “giving”. At what age will you teach and train your children to begin thinking, planning, saving, and shopping for the gifts they give? Christmas gift-giving is a great time to teach your children:

  • A gift costs the giver something
  • A gift does not have to be something you buy; it can be a talent shared or service provided
  • There are many creative ways to earn money to pay for gifts
  • Giving gifts takes time and preparation

 Preschool age children can help wrap the presents they give. Get plain paper bags and have them color them. I remember Carla had our girls dusting the baseboards in rooms when they were this age to earn money for the gifts they wanted to give. When kids are in elementary school, make lists of who they each want to give gifts to and what they want to give. Take them shopping to get an idea of the cost and put a budget together with each child. Have them come up with ways they can earn the money to buy them or they will need to cut back on the gifts they give.  Working on lists together gives you the opportunity to talk about why you give gifts and share reasons why the people your child is giving them to are worthy of receiving them. I (Carla) remember the time one of our daughters did not want to give her brother a gift because she didn’t think he deserved it. I asked her if she deserved God’s gift of eternal life. Giving gifts is a wonderful time to remember we all get gifts we do not deserve. When your kids are old enough to earn money outside the home (babysitting, mowing lawns, etc.), have them add to their stewardship goals a savings account for gift giving. We taught our kids that a percentage of the money they earned went to tithe, savings, to spend as they pleased and for gifts. Early in December we had our kids choose toys or other items they were willing to give away. I (Carla) had each child help me clean the toys they picked and we gave them to a community organization that collected used toys in good condition for gifts for needy children. As a family, pick a local homeless shelter or a project like Samaritan’s Purse you can get gifts for as a family. Wash your kids’ coats and outerwear that no longer fit and take your children to a place where they are collected. By doing these kinds of things, you are teaching your children that God gave the gift of His Son to everyone and so should we. Your children can develop giving hearts and spirits. Remember it’s not just about giving a gift, it’s also about the thought that goes into a gift, the purpose and the cost for it. Jesus knew He was going to be the GIFT God gave everyone who believes in Him. He knew the purpose was so we would have a way to have eternal life. He also knew it was going to cost Him His life. God knew that too. So the giver of this gift, God, gave sacrificially for us to spend eternity with Him. He knew His Son was going to suffer and be in pain, both emotionally and physically. Yet both God and Jesus gave this gift to you and me and our children. As you teach your kids to give as Jesus did, what a better time to ask them if they are living like Jesus lived and if He lives in their hearts.

Jealous Kids

By Joey & Carla Link
December 2, 2020

If there is one thing that can destroy the bond between brothers and sisters, it is jealously. Siblings may say they want each other to do well, but when one succeeds over the other it is quite a different story.

We have worked with many a family that had a child who used negative behavior to get attention from their parents. While the parents justifiably tried to drive the bad behavior out of their child through discipline, it often didn’t work to change this child’s behavior. The reason for this is because the issue was never their bad behavior, it was the jealously that lived in this child’s heart.

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.
Proverbs 14:30;

Don’t you love how Proverbs puts things?! Envy (jealousy) rots the bones! That’s an ugly picture. Jealousy eats away at all that is good.

Ways parents can work with a jealous and envious child:

1.    Focus on who God made them to be. The primary reason kids get jealous is they are not sure of or are not confident in their own skills and talents. They don’t see themselves as who they are or can and should be, so they often view themselves through a sibling’s activities and success. They need to look at what God intended their life purpose to be and seek to fulfill it.

2.    Focus on their uniqueness. Psalms 139:14 tells us every child God created is “wonderfully made”. We like to think of kids (especially our three kids and 5 grandkids) as “unique and delightful”. Do your kids see themselves like this? If not, what can you do to help them see that their skills and talents are as special to you and God as their siblings’ skills and talents are? We are talking about creating a different perspective in their hearts and minds, not flooding them with false praise.

3.    Focus on you. Do you recognize when one of your children is struggling with jealousy? Even if you think it is unfounded, do you look for the root and try to understand what drives it? Do you elevate one child’s abilities over another? Do you encourage one child more than the others because his/her interests are the same as yours? Parents have a huge effect on how a child sees and views themselves.

4.    Focus on family unity and support. We worked hard at this with our kids. We all went to everyone’s activities and cheered each other on. When our son was attending college 90 miles away, he came back to watch his sisters play in their state band performances just as they had sat through his for many years. When we showed our surprise when he arrived, he looked at us and said it was a non-negotiable for him to be there. Cheering each other on is a big way to combat jealousy. Encourage competition amongst your children and you are throwing the seeds of jealousy into the foundation of your home.

5.    Focus on building a healthy family identity. Who are you as a family? What core values do you stand for? Do you have regular family nights doing something other than watching a movie? Do you help each other through tough times? Do you play together and pray together?

We know a lot of families who create a mission statement with goals of who they are and what God wants them to do collectively. This is a good unifying tool for families. When our kids were growing up they each put together a shoebox for Samaritan’s Purse to distribute in third world countries at Christmas. They earned the money to buy things for their box. It was a family project we worked together on for months. Doing family service projects was part of our mission statement.

Negative Kids

By Joey & Carla Link

November 18, 2020

Carla used to walk our son back and forth to school. One day she realized when she picked him up after school and asked him how his day was, he never had anything positive to say. When he was in 2nd grade, about 7 yrs. old, she told him he couldn’t say anything bad that happened at school that day until he had shared 3 good things. Once he had shared 3 good things, he could share 3 bad things but had to share 3 more good things to share more than 3 bad ones. She would smile in her heart when he would say “These are the 3 good things that happened at school today and now let’s get to the bad.”
Carla had succeeded in her goal of teaching him to look for the good, as when he was especially negative all through his growing up years, we would just look at him and say “3 good things” and he would immediately switch gears. 
Thinking of the negative first is inherent in the Choleric and Melancholy temperaments. Telling our son to stop being so negative would have been useless because that was a part of who he was. Working with him to focus instead on the positive, yet give him opportunity to share the negative too was a great way to teach him to look at both sides of the same coin.
Now it’s Thanksgiving time, and everyone is working with their children, both the positive and negative oriented ones to be grateful and thankful for who they are and what they have and get to do. Even kids who are positive oriented can be ungrateful.
How do you do this?
1.Say something positive vs. negative. We decided to do the same thing at dinner for the benefit of our Melancholy daughter. Our son would tell his father the positive first when he asked him how his day had been. Because it is so much easier to be negative, parents need to train their kids to be positive.
2.Focus on the less fortunate: We highly recommend finding ways to help your kids think about how they can give to those who have less than they do.
Have your kids/teens do extra “not normally done” chores and pay them for them. Don’t tell them how much you will pay for each chore. When they are finished, give them a lump sum to spend on a special family night. Be sure to praise them and tell them they got extra if they did their chores cheerfully! Go out for pizza and go shopping for coats, hats, gloves and scarves (this year do it online). Your kids should be able to pick out a hat and scarf with the money they have earned plus one toy. Take them to your local homeless shelter so they can donate them to the kids who live there.
3.Love others in the family.Galatians 5:14-15 says the entire Bible is summed up in one command:
Love your neighbor as yourself. If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”
Do your kids verbally bite and devour each other? Allowing this destroys the positive family identity you have been trying to build. One reason it continues in families is because parents verbally remind or lecture when they hear it, but they don’t give a consequence for it. Losing the freedom to speak is the best consequence when your kids aren’t using their words wisely. For kids 6 yrs. – 9 yrs. we would start with 15 minutes. For the 2nd offense double it and so on. For kids 10 yrs. and up we would start with 30 minutes and double it from there.
Requiring them to speak kindly and nicely in non-sarcastic ways to each other is foundational to them thinking positively about and loving each other.
If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.” I Corinthians 13:7 (LB)
“Love” Is a verb that shows an actionJust saying it is not enough. Teach your kids they need to show others they love them.·        Are your kids loyal to each other no matter what?·        Do they believe in each other?·        Do they defend each other? 

How Is Your Child’s Judgement?

By Joey and Carla Link

November 11, 2020

I recently saw a boy riding his bicycle down the middle line of a road because he thought no cars were coming. There was no mirror on his bike and he had his earbuds in so he didn’t hear or see the police car coming up behind him. You may be thinking this boy’s brain wasn’t operating on all cylinders, and we would agree with that opinion, but how is this different from your kid when you tell him to do something and he keeps doing what he wants to do, not thinking or caring about the consequences? When you have to make a decision, whether you are young or old, you are using your judgement. Kids will face these dilemmas when faced with everyday issues: “Should I invite my sister to play with me when she asks if she can or turn my back to her and keep on playing by myself?” “Should I clean my room when Mom tells me to or just shove stuff in the closet hoping Mom won’t check there?” And the list goes on. These issues may not seem like big deals to you but they are big deals to your kids. For kids/teens, using their judgement wisely starts at a young age.

  • Will your kids choose to do what you say?
  • Will they choose to remember to pick up their toys after playing with them?
  • Will they choose to play nicely?
  • Will they choose right friends?
  • When their eyes see something they shouldn’t be looking at, will they choose to look away?

 Many parents will discipline, lecture or remind their kids for their disobedience, but they really need to be teaching them to use good judgement that comes from the teaching and training of God’s Word. This happens when parents hold kids responsible for what the parents have already taught them. You do this by insisting your kids tell you WHY they didn’t do what they were supposed to do in the first place. Before kids are allowed to ride their bike on a street, their parents will teach them which side of the street to ride on, and where the imaginary bike lane is. A wise parent will also take their child for several bike rides showing him/her how to ride on the busy street before they let them ride anywhere alone. When the police follow your son home to tell you he was riding his bike down the middle line of a busy street, it isn’t that he didn’t know the right way to ride his bike, but that he chose to do it his own way. It was a judgement call on his part to see if he could get away with it or not. WHY didn’t he use his wisdom and sound judgement? Many parents let their kids get away with the response of “I don’t know”. Please don’t do this, because we can assure you, they do know! The wise father Solomon wrote this to his sons: “My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve (like canning fruit, put away for future use) sound judgmentand discretion.” (Proverbs 3:21) Dad: Did you use sound judgement when you were riding your bike in the street?Son: No!Dad: Then why did you do it? (Dad is thinking his son was just messing around while riding his bike so he will consider taking away the freedom of his bike for a month.)Son: I don’t know. (He didn’t want to confess to messing around while riding his bike)Dad: Until you can answer that question, you have lost the freedom of riding your bike. And you have lost the freedom of using your earbuds until you are ready to talk about the proper use of them. Dad’s goal here should not be to just punish his son, but that the consequences should give him wisdom. As Solomon said, “Do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight…” What this boy did was let his dad’s wisdom and teaching go in one ear and out the other. When he was thinking about weaving all over the road, discernment should have yelled into his ear, “Dad said…” and his judgement monitor should have kicked in and stopped him. Don’t think about punishing your kids, think about training your kids to right thinking and Godly character. Solomon gives 10 reasons in Proverbs 3:22-26 for giving your kids “wisdom and understanding and preserve good judgment and discretion;
They will be life for you,    an ornament to grace your neck.Then you will go on your way in safety,    and your foot will not stumble.When you lie down, you will not be afraid;    when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.Have no fear of sudden disaster    or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,for the Lord will be at your side    and will keep your foot from being snared.”