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When Sorry Isn’t Enough

By Joey and Carla Link
May 11, 2022

When our son was about 12 years old, we were struggling with an on-going behavior issue with him. We kept talking to him and dealt with his refusal to obey consistently.

One day, out of frustration, I (Joey) said to him “You need to admit you are wrong” and he responded by saying, “that will never happen because I am never wrong!” Well, at least we knew what the root issue was. He was strong-minded and we knew his temperament had trouble admitting when he was wrong, so we can’t say any of this was surprising to us.

It’s one thing for kids to change what they are doing to please you for a while, but that usually only lasts a few days or so. When kids verbally acknowledge what they have been doing is wrong, then they have to start working on changing their behavior and attitudes to comply with the standards of moral character they know is right.

When he said he was never wrong, that was like an electric shock to us telling us that he wasn’t changing his ways because he really didn’t think he was ever wrong so why put the effort in to work on making character changes? This is not an isolated issue with kids with the Choleric temperament. The problem is that they are rarely wrong in how they think and what they do. It is their attitude (which drives their wrong actions) that is the problem.

Kids have many words and phrases that give lip service to their parents to get out of trouble and to disarm parental intentions of dealing deeper with kids’ behavior and heart issues. Your kids might apologize and say they are sorry and use words and phrases to lead you to think they are going to work on their behavior, but they have no real motivation to change unless you force them to.

Phrases like:
I will work on it (though they don’t plan on changing anything)
I am sorry, I will get right on it.
Don’t worry, I know what I need to do.

That day with our son, we realized he needed to admit he was wrong, and we needed to wait him out until he did. And we did.

It took several hours and he had no freedom to do anything during that time. You may think this sounds harsh, but who was making the choice to sit that long? All he had to do was admit he was wrong. Carla took a sandwich she knew wasn’t his favorite and a glass of water to him in his room for lunch. I took the girls out for ice cream. When he heard us laughing and having fun, he finally gave in.

We knew this was just the beginning of a long road ahead of us all. We sat the kids down that night and told them that starting their apology with “I’m sorry, will you forgive me?” would no longer work in our family, and that included Carla and I too. We told them their apologies had to be specific because that showed the one you are apologizing to that you really understood what they were upset about. From then on, apologizing would look like this:

“I’m sorry for speaking to you harshly. It was wrong of me because I was disrespecting you as a person when I did so. It wasn’t kind or nice of me. Will you forgive me. I will work on taking a deep breath the next time I get frustrated with you and calm myself before I talk to you.”

We told them that apologies were pointless and meaningless if their siblings and us didn’t feel like the offender meant it, and if the offender didn’t actually plan to change in the future. It took several consistent months for us to stay on him to see the change in him owning his behavior instead of us trying to fight him to change it. When he started to admit he was wrong, and tell us how he would work on changing his behavior, it made all the difference in his actions and attitude. Today he is a friend, one of the first people I go to when I am looking for advice. He is a great husband and father and loves the Lord. We are thankful for that day so long ago that turned apologizing in our family around.

If you would like more information on this, you will find it in the Mom’s Notes presentations, “Understanding Freedoms, Pt.1” and “Understanding Freedoms, Pt. 2”.

Training Your Children’s Hearts

By Joey and Carla Link
May 5, 2021

Your kids are squabbling at the breakfast table. Again. With a deep sigh you go in to intervene, not really caring who started it as they are all guilty. You long for a day that starts in peace and quiet. Is it really too hard for your kids to sit there and eat their cereal without going into battle with each other? Do you need to catch up on the moral character training of your children? If so, we want to give you a boost of encouragement to get back on track before more time gets away from you. First, keep your training ‘to-do’ list narrowed down to working on one thing at a time. I (Carla) used to make a list of four things I wanted to work on with each of our children. Joey and I would have one date a month we called our “Kid-Date”. We discussed the things on my list and Joey added things he had noticed need our attention too. Then we pared it down to four things for each child. We would actively work on the first one or two items and give reminders for the third. The fourth was just there as a reminder to us we would get around to it eventually! I am often asked “What do you do about the other things when you are working on one thing at a time?” Seeing that 4th item on the list was a great reminder to us we would get to it, and we always did when we saw victory in the things that were listed in #1-3. As the others were taken off the list because they weren’t a problem anymore, #4 kept moving up with others added below it. Do you have a plan to train your children? Do you have a firm idea in your mind of what “training” looks like? When we say you need to work on something with your kids, “Training” them is what we mean. There are three steps to training:1.   Sharingknowledge – Your kids need to know why this is important to you and God and why it needs to be important to them. Kids don’t listen to lectures. Come up with creative ways (I know, this takes time!) to teach them the moral character traits that will please God and others too.
2.   Showing your kids how it works – Knowledge alone will not motivate children to work on a character trait. They need to know how to do what you are teaching them. You tell your 3-yr old to be kind to her brother. Do you think she really knows what “be kind” looks like? Instead, ask her to tell you one way she could show kindness to her brother. These types of questions will show you if your kids know what you mean when you say a certain word or phrase. 3.   Giving them motivation to do their best. How can you motivate your kids to do the right thing? Motivation has two sides. The first side of motivating your kids to do their best ispraise and encouragement. When your child is working on improving in a certain area, make sure you praise him/her for it. If he is struggling to get himself to do the right thing, encourage him by letting him know in a positive way you think he can do it. Praise and encouragement go a long way to motivating a child to right behavior.The 2nd side of motivating your kids to do their best is consequencesBefore you start working on a character trait with your child, have in mind what appropriate consequences can be applied when necessary that are agreeable to both you and your spouse. Knowledge, practical application and praise and encouragement or consequences are the three steps to effectively training your children, and all three are required to do the job successfully. It is a process, not a one-time event. Step back and evaluate the level of obedience each one of your children has.

  • If they don’t come to you when you call their name 75% of the time or better, then put that at the top of your list.
  • For review: The 4 levels of obedience training are coming to you when you call their name immediately, they say “Yes Mom/Dad” as they are coming and look you in the eye when they get to you, they don’t argue with you or whine and complain  as they come.

If they are doing well in all 4 of these areas, sit down with your spouse and come up with a list of 3-4 things for each of your children that need work and think about what the root character trait is behind them. Is it a lack of patience, kindness, self-control or thinking of others first? Put them in order of most urgent and decide how you will work on it.If they aren’t doing well in any of the 4 levels of obedience training, come up with a plan for how you can get them to step it up in the areas they need to improve. When thinking in terms of character traits, don’t put down that you want to teach them to remember to do their chores. Put down you want to teach them responsibility instead. That is thinking in terms of character traits. Now you might use doing their chores as the tool to accomplish this, and that’s okay. Take your spouse on a “Kid-Date” (because you are going to talk about the kids) and come up with goals and a plan and get to work! “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”Galatians 5:22-23 Note: We learned about the 4 aspects of obedience training in the parenting resource Growing Kids God’s Way.

Do Your Kids Know How to Pray?

By Joey and Carla Link
May 4, 2022

Have you taught your kids how to pray? As parents, we try to teach our kids healthy eating and sleeping habits so they’re able to develop properly. In the same way, we hope you’re teaching your kids how to talk to God and helping them develop a healthy spiritual life. The Bible tells us that Jesus grew in favor with God (Luke 2:52). We hope you’re reading stories from the Bible to your kids and helping them develop a daily quiet time. This is one of the reasons we carry so many age-appropriate devotionals for kids of all ages in the Parenting Made Practical bookstore.

If you teach your kids how to pray when they are young, it helps them to have an active prayer life and ask God to guide them when they are older.

Do you have an active prayer life? The reason we ask this is if parents don’t have the example of a good prayer life, how will kids grow up with one or thinking one is important? If you are not an avid prayer, please don’t stop reading or get discouraged. Let’s look at how you can help your kids to develop a prayer life.

Praying is talking to God, and that is what you want to teach your kids. It is not a formal conversation, but it’s like talking to anyone else. We want to teach our kids that they can talk to God their heavenly father ANY TIME, by just praying.

How to teach kids to pray:

  1. At meals. As soon as they sit in the high chair, before they get to put their hands in the food, grab their hands and pray a very short prayer. For older kids, have them start praying at meals.
  2. At bedtime. At night before bed is a great time to pray. One of my (Joey) favorite things to do when my children were in our home and now with my grandchildren is to go in and talk with them before they go to bed, then pray with them. I ask them to tell Jesus 2-3 things they are thankful for that happened that day that we had talked about. In our talk I also asked them something they wanted to do better and suggest they pray and ask Jesus to help them with that too.
  3. After Bible reading. A couple of days a week, read Bible stories or the Bible to them depending on their age or have family devotion time. After you read, pray that they will learn from what you read that day.
  4. When kids are having issues. Kids have issues with siblings and friends at school. When kids come to you with these issues or you hear about them, ask them if the two of you can pray about it. You can remind them what Jesus said in Matthew 18:20 that if two people are together, Jesus is there with you and He loves them and wants to help them through it.
  5. When kids are in constant trouble. When you are dealing with a constant sin issue with your child and they keep struggling with it, ask them if the two of you can pray about it at least once a day. You can talk to Jesus about it with them and then you can ask them to talk to Jesus about it. It’s one thing to say pray about it, it’s another thing to pray with them for it. It makes it more real, and makes them more accountable too.
  6. Keeping a prayer list or journal. Keeping a prayer journal as a family to end the devotion time with is a great idea. It teaches them to write down their requests and to also write down when God answers them. Nothing will teach them that God answers prayer in a memorable way more effectively than this. When our kids were 8 yrs. old we started them on having daily personal devotions. The books we got them for this had a couple questions each day we had them write down the answers to in a notebook. This is where they kept their written prayer requests too. It is a joyful time when one of your kids says to you “Do you want to hear how God answered one of my prayer requests?”
  7. Pray with your kids. We have mentioned it at other times here but there is no better way for your kids to see that you can pray anytime and anywhere than to see you do it. If I got concerning news that it was okay to share with them about, I (Carla) would ask the kids to stop what they were doing and pray with me about it. I often told them when I had prayed about something.
  8. God DOES answer prayer. The #1 reason both kids and adults give up on praying is because they don’t get the answers they want. I used to tell my girls when they were learning to pray that God wasn’t a magician who waved His magic wand and gave you what you wanted. All too often what we think is for our best God knows it is not. That’s where trust comes in.
    
    Be sure they learn to thank God more than ask God for things. Prayer is the open door of talking and communicating with God. God loves to hear his children talk to him!

Failure, The Back Door to Success

By Joey and Carla Link
April 27, 2022

Let’s be honest, do you ever feel like a parenting failure? Do you wonder if what you are doing is right in training your kids? Are you afraid of making a mistake, or that you are going to mess them up? Do you worry if you are too strict, or too lenient? Welcome to the parent panic club!

When our first child was born, I (Joey) was afraid to hold him. I was sure I was going to break him somehow. The nurse, who was a friend of Carla’s told me I had to get over it sooner than later and she put him in my arms and my whole world changed. I felt the weight of the world on me as I was now responsible for a little person.

Every parent fails many times in the 18 years they have to raise their kids. Since none of us are perfect, it is a good thing failure is the back door to success. That is assuming you are teachable and are able to learn from your mistakes. Our mistakes usually show up in our kids’ bad behavior, so learning from them is best all around.

This is where God’s grace comes in. Like God said to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

When we don’t know what to do, God’s grace covers it. When we are unsure, God’s got it. When we mess up, God has our back as His power steps in.

To ignite God’s grace, we have to ask God what to do. That is the one thing He wants us to do, just ask. When we admit we don’t know what to do and we do ask God for wisdom, James 1:5 says:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

When your kids are asking to do things you feel uncomfortable about, throw up a Peter prayer (when he was walking on the water). He asked God to help him as the disciples were on a boat and being tossed about by the waves and wind.

“But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Matthew 14:27-31

Jesus tells us to be strong because we have come to Him for answers and He knows He has them. He also tells us not to be afraid, which is the opposite of trust. Jesus wants us to trust Him and we can do that when we throw fear and worry out the door.

Instead of trusting Jesus, Peter asked for the ridiculous and Jesus gave it to him. But instead of saying “Hallelujah!” Peter took his eyes off Jesus and looked around him. When you pray and ask God for help, how often do you take your eyes off Him and look around you? Well, what he saw made him fearful. He obviously forgot who was standing right there in front of Him.

He cried out to Jesus asking Him to save him when he began to sink. Jesus reached out His hand immediately.

So, what in this passage tells you that Jesus won’t be there for you when you tell him you need Him? Where do you see that He takes His sweet time and makes you sweat it out? He does say we don’t have to worry, but we do so anyway. Why?

When your kids are frustrating you, instead of losing your temper one more time or giving in and letting them have their own way, ask God for what you are missing with your kids. Joey and I would do this. We would ask God to remove our blinders and help us to see what we were missing. What biblical principal are your kids violating that you are not seeing? How did their moral compass get turned upside down?

If it means you need to take a break from the kids to spend a few minutes with God to seek Him, put them in a safe spot (if they are too young to be left alone) with a snack and video and take 5-10 minutes for yourself and God. He will empower you. I (Carla) remember the time one of my kids was looking for me and was headed to my bedroom. One of my girls was sitting in the hall and told her brother to find me later because “I’m in trouble and Mom’s trying to find her happy heart with Jesus right now.” Indeed I was!

If you ever feel like you are failing, remember, as perfect as God is, He gave Adam and Eve the freedom of choice that brought sin into this world. We and our kids have that same freedom, and we need to help them learn to succeed through their failures too. When your failure kicks you out the front door, there is always a back door to revisit the problem and start over again.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

Can Your Child Talk the Gospel?

By Joey and Carla Link
April 20, 2022

Have you ever heard the old phrase that “Some Christians are so earthly minded they are no heavenly good?” This means these Christians live their lives as they see fit, not caring how the Bible says we should live. In the same way, it can be said in the reverse, “Some Christians are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good”, meaning they isolate themselves from associating with non-believers so they won’t get dirtied by them. For the sake of balancing the scales, there must be a middle ground where all Christians should be living. There is a middle ground in which Christians are to live their lives by the principles in God’s Word so they shine the light of Jesus to the world around them.

This middle ground is how we taught our children to live, by setting the example ourselves to show them what it looked like to live by the principles in God’s Word. If God told us to be kind to each other (Ephesians 4:32), we would ask if they saw any exceptions in that verse, such as you don’t have to be kind to someone who wasn’t kind to you. If there wasn’t, then no “exception” they or we came up with was acceptable to God.

Interestingly enough, living in this middle ground of being heavenly minded and living to shine God’s light to the world, can be a tenuous place to be. Many kids being raised in Christian homes live their lives their own way when they are not around their parents. Being a youth pastor for 16 years, I (Joey) certainly saw this play out. I worked diligently to teach the kids to live the way God and their parents said they should while the teens were busy living the way they thought they should. Many of these kids had little respect or liked kids who tried to obey their parents, show respect and honor to authority, the elderly and others, and so forth.

Kids who choose to live this way do shine Jesus’ light to the world around them because it is our experience that peers who were non-believers wanted to spend time with them. It was up to us to make sure our kids’ moral compasses were heaven bound to hang out with these kids so they didn’t pick up their way of living, and we did this by being active participants in their lives and the lives of these kids.

Our kids had non-believing peers as friends they made in the high school band. I (Joey) would video their football halftime shows, and they invited their friends to our home for pizza and to watch the video after the game. This is how we got to know them as well. We chaperoned band events and the band always met in front of our house for the homecoming parade so we let the kids come into the house to change into their band uniforms.

One day, my son and I were out on a father-son activity. While we were gone the doorbell rang and when Carla answered she was surprised to see two of the girls she recognized from band dressed as though they were going to a nightclub. She invited them in and talked with them.

When we got home, our daughters excitedly told their brother about the visit and how the girls were dressed. Our son told us he needed to go find them before they got into trouble. We knew his moral compass was where it should be, so we didn’t discourage him, but prayed a lot for him and the girls as he left. When he came back he said he found them with some older guys, told the guys the girls were in high school, took them to their homes, made them change clothes and told their parents what had happened.

A few days later, I did a double-take as our son was sitting on our porch swing reading a Christian book on dating that we had taken him through with one of these girls. He wasn’t interested in dating her, which she knew, he was concerned about her spiritual soul and this was the door God had opened for him to talk to her. Another time, I (Carla) asked these girls why they spent time with our son. They both immediately said he was the only gentleman they had ever met. We called this “talking the Gospel”.

One of our goals for each of our kids was that before they left our home, they would have the privilege of leading someone to Christ and each of them did. We prepared them for this by working them through the “4 Spiritual Laws” by Bill Bright. It is a small pamphlet they could tuck in their backpacks and have on them at all times.

When our girls were in high school, I talked to each of them at different times (as they were 2 ½ years apart in age) to invite friends over and I would work through the book “A Young Woman After God’s Own Heart” by Elizabeth George with them. They each had non-believing friends come as well as believing friends. When the friends of both our girls wanted to do another book, I told my daughters it was their turn to lead the study and I would be in the next room to assist them if needed. I did this because it was another goal of ours that they would be comfortable leading Bible studies as adults.

The question is, are you preparing your kids to share their faith in Jesus to the world around them? If you don’t teach them how to do this, who will? Don’t count on the church to do this. We are told by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20 to go into the world and make disciples. Do your kids know what disciples are?

Recently I (Carla) was talking to a young mom who didn’t know who King David was and had never heard the story of David and Goliath. Every day our world moves further and further away from knowing anything about God’s Word and the everyday stories in the Bible.

It wasn’t that long ago I (Joey) was sitting amongst a bunch of high school ballplayers with another man and the teen asked us, “Where do you think black skin peopled come from? After some discussion that didn’t answer the question, I told them it came from a story I read in the Bible in Geneses 6 about the Tower of Babble. I briefly described the story and they decided it made sense. This opened up a lot more discussion about the Bible and what it said about life. After the teens left, the man I was with told me he had read the Bible through as a young adult looking for answers and after this discussion he thought it was time he read it again. He has since started coming to church with me.

We encourage you to keep reading the Bible to your kids and go through books on how to live God’s way with them as they grow and mature. Prepare them to live out the faith they have in Jesus with a world that so desperately needs a fresh look at who He is. Make it a family goal to “talk the Gospel”.

In the words of Jesus –
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19-20