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Getting Along with Others

Joey and Carla Link

January 18, 2023

How many times a day do you say to your kids, “Why can’t you get along?!” when you are on your way to intervene in another sibling conflict. We can relate. We said it plenty to our three when they were growing up in our home. We are sure you have all talked with your kids about getting along at one time or another. We thought we would give you concrete ways to do this. 

Think about doing this for a family night or two: Give one of these ideas to each of your kids/teens and have him/her come up with a skit to show how it would work. Your child can use you in his skit or ask his siblings for help. This is a great way to make them think about what these principles look like in real life. We wouldn’t tell them Family Night is going to be about learning to get along with each other. I would tell them it is about “Respect”. Covering all of the principles listed below in one night would be difficult, so we encourage you to plan for two Family Nights.

1. Respect the needs of others but most importantly siblings and parents, because family comes first.

-This starts when your kids are young. How? Ask if they can play with another’s toy before grabbing it out of their hands.

-If one of your kids is doing his/her schoolwork in a designated “quiet place” the younger kids shouldn’t be allowed to disturb him or make noise around him.

-If one of your kids is doing his/her chores, the others should stay out of his way and encourage this sibling rather than talk negatively to him.

-If Dad brings work home, the kids should not be noisy wherever he is and not pester him.

-As a family, come up with a catch phrase to say “quit bothering me” that will tell all this person is asking for some space.

2. Encourage your kids to treat others as they want to be treated. As a family memorize Matthew 7:12:

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

for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (NIV)

This could be one Mom and Dad do for the kids on Family Night.

-Ask each of your kids what stands out to them about this verse and to give an example about what this would look like when they put it into practice. 

-Ask one of your kids to define what “in everything” means. Have each of your kids give an example of what “in everything” doesn’t look like.

-Ask your kids what “for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” means. Work with your kids, asking them questions that will help them understand what “this sums up”, “the Law”, and “the Prophets” means. This is the core of Inductive Bible Study – to break down every part of a verse to understand its meaning to your life.

– “for this sums up” – it is the totality of what we do, meaning it is the “whole of something”, the total of all we do. So you could draw it on a piece of paper like this:

Mom told you to pick up your stuff + Mom told you to do your homework +Your sister asked if you could help her with one of her math problems + Dad told you to get off the computer + Mom asked you to play nicely with your brothers + Your brother asked if he could play with your Legos© + Dad told you to get ready for bed without squabbling with your siblings = Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

How your kids responded to each of the things that come up in a day represents who they are in the eyes of others, especially God. If I (Carla) was telling Joey about our son’s day, I would tell him the “sum total” of the day, meaning I would take all the things that happened during the day and summarize them into “He had a great day, responding well to what I told him to do and didn’t fight with his siblings at all.” What I was saying in essence was “For ‘Do unto others…’ he got an A!” 

Explain to your kids that they get to start over every single day, and the sum total of their responses to what comes up during the day at the end of each day represents to you and others what they are characterized by.

· What is “the Law”? Since it is in capital letters, the meaning would refer to biblical law. Throughout Scripture we are told repeatedly to put the needs of others first.

· Who are “the Prophets”? Again, since the word “Prophets” is in capital letters, it means biblical prophets like Elijah and Jeremiah. So “this sums up the Law and the Prophets” means it sums up all they are trying to tell people to do, which is in the Bible for us to read and learn from.

-Once your kids understand the meaning of a verse, they will have no trouble memorizing it. The first kid who could say the verse with no prompts in our home got to go out with Dad for an ice cream. The more fun you make learning about God the more your kids will remember it.

3.   Show respect for others.

-Your kids know they are supposed to say “please”, “thank you” and “excuse me”. Stop reminding them to do so and hold them accountable with correction when they don’t. Teach your toddlers the signs for these words. Encourage your older kids to use the signs when talking to the younger ones.

-Do not use words like “shut up”, “idiot”, “You’re stupid”, “moron” and so forth. The child being called those names is hurt in a way that doesn’t easily go away. Kindness does matter. Teach your kids to choose to speak positive words that encourage not tear down. That’s what speaking life is all about.

4. Always apologize when you do something wrong. This is part of showing respect to others and also falls under Matthew 7:12.

-Apologizing is a lot more than saying “I’m sorry” in a rude tone. We hope you have taught your kids to tell the one they offended what they did that was wrong, why it was wrong, ask this person for forgiveness, and then tell them how they are going to make it right. Going through these steps this way is how to wipe the slate clean in the heart of the one who was offended.

-When your kids hit the preteen years (11-12), work with them to see that they need to apologize if someone was hurt, even if they didn’t mean to hurt them. We often said to our son in particular “We know you didn’t say anything wrong. But your sister is in her room crying. Your harsh tone hurt her. You should be willing to apologize for speaking that way to her.”

-When your kids make mistakes, encourage them to make it right whenever possible.

5. When someone is having a conversation, do not interrupt.

When we first took the parenting class Growing Kids God’s Way, we loved learning about the interrupt rule”, especially since I (Joey) was a pastor and both of us were often in the middle of conversations our kids didn’t need to hear. When they used the “interrupt rule”, we could ask the other person we were talking to if they could wait for a minute, find out what our child/teen wanted and then resume the conversation. 

-The Interrupt Rule: You are talking to someone; your child/teen places their hand on your arm or hand to let you know they want to speak to you. 

·Squeeze their hand to let them know you know they are there. They should step back and wait for you to talk to them. 

-If your kids are doing this as a skit for Family Night, have them show the ways not to do it.

-One of our daughters was not characterized by patience. She would continuously pat my hand until I looked at her. I would squeeze her hand and point to the ground, and she knew she was going to have to sit and wait longer than normal to teach her patience.

·This same daughter would come to us, pat our arm and start talking. Again, we pointed to the ground and she had to sit and wait for us to deal with her.

·Our older kids would touch our arm and instead of stepping back and waiting, they would stay close so they could listen to the conversation. We would use the sign for “no” then point to a chair for them to sit and wait until we got to them.

We have tried to give practical ways of teaching your kids what “respect” looks like in daily life. Please remember it is useless to teach your kids something you are not characterized by doing yourself. They are always watching and pick up on more than we think they do.

Respect has left our society in the “me-first” world we live in. Think what it would look like if parents raised a generation of “others-first” kids!

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, 

but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

Philippians 2:3

Teaching Your Children the Joy of Giving

By Joey and Carla Link

December 7, 2022

Why do we give gifts at Christmas? Those who believe in and love God do so because it is a way of honoring the gift He gave us in His Son Jesus, through whom we have the promise of eternal life. We do wonder why celebrating Christmas is such a big deal to those who have chosen not to love God, but we are glad it is.

During the Christmas season, we spend a lot of time thinking about what to get as gifts to show our love and appreciation to one another. We try to find things we think will please each of our loved ones. When teaching your children about giving gifts however, it is important they realize giving gifts isn’t always about things. It is often about intangible things too. “Intangible” is a big word for kids. It means “things that you can’t hold or touch, that don’t have a physical presence.

Early in December, we had our kids choose toys or other items they were willing to give away. They had to choose a toy for each year of their age. Even preschoolers can do this. 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. 

Our family loved doing Samaritan’s Purse. As a family we would go out for pizza, go shopping to fill our boxes, take the goodies home, and put the boxes together to take to church. The Angel Tree project collected gifts for kids of prisoners. I loved the idea of sharing with these kids the love of Jesus and that it surpasses anything we do that is wrong, and that people care about them despite what their parent did to be incarcerated. Wash your kids’ coats, boots, gloves, scarves and hats that no longer fit and have your children put them in a barrel where they are collected. We went to a local nursing home where our kids sang for the residents and prepared a skit to share. By doing these kinds of things, you are teaching your children that God gave the gift of His Son to everyone, and to follow His example, so should we.

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 wrap their presents. Get paper bags and have them color them. I remember Carla let our girls dust the baseboards and windowsills when they were this age to earn money for the gifts they wanted to give.

When kids are in elementary school, they can 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 again about why you give gifts and share reasons the people your child is giving them to is worthy of receiving them. When your kids are old enough to earn money outside the home (babysitting, mowing lawns), 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.

Your children can develop giving hearts. Remember it’s not just about giving a gift, it’s also about the thought that goes into a gift and the purpose for it. As you teach them to give as Jesus did, what a better time to ask them if they are living like Jesus wants them to and if He lives in their heart. 

The words of John 3:16 demonstrate for us what love is that Jesus gave Himself up for us so we can not only live life fully, but have the promise of eternal life. We should always, when celebrating the birthday of Jesus remember why He came to earth in the first place.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; 

by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.”

John 3:16 The Message Bible

Grateful Kids

By Joey and Carla Link

November 16, 2022

“What does it take to get grateful kids? It doesn’t matter what they get, they always want more.” Have you ever thought this about your kids? I know there are times I thought this about mine. 

The opposite of gratefulness is selfishness. From wanting a bigger or better helping of dessert to wanting to be the first one in the car so he can get the best seat, or wanting to wear inappropriate clothes; “Me, Me, ME!” rears its ugly head. If the child who is putting himself first doesn’t get their way, they can make it difficult for the whole family.

The real problem for this child is a lack of gratefulness. Every child thinks they are grateful because they say “thank you” when they get something but a lot of the time they have to be reminded to do so, and then it doesn’t count as coming from your child’s heart (unless they are just learning to say it). But when it comes to putting their grateful spirit into practice, being willing to do without something or sharing their toys, or accepting a small or lessor sized cookie than someone else, the look in their eyes or their body language or what comes out of their mouth says it all.

Do you deal with an ungrateful spirit when you see or hear it? Or do you think not saying “thank you” without being reminded to do so is not a big enough deal to take on? By not dealing with their ungratefulness you are telling them it is okay to be selfish.

Kids today do not accept the disappointments of life. They think they should get what they want when they want it. This is called entitlement.

A teen girl we know was frustrated on Christmas Day when she didn’t get the latest Smart-Phone like all her friends did. The saying is true that “you never know what you have until you don’t have it.” She begged and pleaded with her parents but they didn’t think she was ready for the freedom having a cell phone would bring. This did not matter to this girl. We helped the parents realize the problem was she just wasn’t grateful for the things she did have, because this “wanting what others had” was a common thing for her. They could see she had never shown gratefulness for a lot of things in her life. She wasn’t pleased with all the other gifts she received on Christmas day demonstrating she wasn’t appreciative of her siblings, parents and grandparents for the thought or money they put into the gifts they had gotten her.

During our conversation with this girl’s parents, they answered our questions thoughtfully until we asked them who was first in their daughter’s life. They quickly told us God was first followed by family. We asked them what she was doing to show God was first in her life and then what was she doing to show them they were important to her. They realized her friends had crept right up to an equal plane with God and family, and they needed to work with her to get her priorities in order. She did finally realize her parents wanted more than her happiness, they wanted her to be holy too and she did start to show them her appreciation and gratefulness for what she had.

It’s actually normal and very easy for our kids to love things over people by taking them for granted, leaving little to no appreciation or real gratefulness for what parent’s, siblings and friends do for them. It’s easy to selfishly seek their own way over what Jesus said in Matthew 22:39 “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Here is a test you can try with you kids. Ask everyone where they would like to go to dinner one night. Each will likely have their own favorite place. Then ask whose opinion is most important as to where they should go. See if they pick their own. Then go to where Mom or Dad picked and have a talk over dinner about gratefulness versus selfishness.

Anytime our kids are more concerned with pleasing themselves than pleasing others, they are self-focused and they need you to work with them so they can be God-focused. It’s really difficult to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength when we are self-focused because in reality, we love ourselves more than we love God.

How do you teach gratefulness to your kids?

1.   Require them to say “Thank you” for little things. Saying these words should be a regular part of their day.

2.   Have them make a list of what they are grateful for. Mom or Dad can work with the ones who are too young to write. Give them their lists after dinner each day for a week and have them add 3 things to their lists that weren’t already on it.

3.   Have them write on the bottom of their list one way they are going to show their gratefulness to their family that day. Have everyone read their lists after dinner on Saturday/Sunday night.

When your kids aren’t showing thankful hearts, do this again. When you are focused on the things you are thankful for, it is hard to have an ungrateful attitude.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;

for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I Thessalonians 5:16-18

3 Steps to Plan Good Stuff in Your Child’s Heart

By Joey and Carla Link

November 9, 2022

You have told your 6 yr. old son he has to be kind to his 4 yr. old sister no matter what. God said to be kind to each other and so that is what you all were going to do. (Ephesians 4:32) Yet time and time again he is hitting his sister when he gets mad at her. Never mind she broke apart the Lego© set he had been working on putting together for days.

What do you do when he hits his sister again? Do you just tell him he has to be kind to her no matter what one more time? When you “tell” your kids the way it is supposed to be, you are just giving them information. Your son probably does remember what you have told him when he hits his sister, but how is he supposed to be kind when she broke apart his Legos©? Have you told him how to do that? Have you shown him how by your example, or is he remembering you shouting unkind things at a car that cut you off when you pulled into school that morning?

Telling your kids to be kind is not training them to be kind. Step 1 of the training process is giving them information. If you are telling your children what to think instead of working through with them HOW to think, you become a lecturing, reminding, threatening, demanding parent.

Step 2 is telling/showing them how to do it. Tell him how hard it would be for you to be kind to him if he walked across your clean floor with muddy shoes. Tell him what you would do to convince yourself to be kind to him instead of yelling at him. For you, being kind doesn’t mean taking away a consequence, since he was told to take his shoes off before he came into the house, it means not yelling at him first. Ask him to come up with a way he can stop himself before he hits his sister and comes to you to ask you to intervene instead. For him, not hitting her is being kind.

Okay, you have told him why he needs to be kind, talked with him about what it looks like to be kind, so why is he still not kind? Where does the “want to” come from? Good or bad, it comes from the heartUnless Step 1 and Step 2 get to the heart it won’t stick.

There’s one more stepStep 3 has two different looks. One is to give your son praise when you see him showing his sister kindness. When you do this, make sure you let your husband know too, so he can praise your son when he gets home from work. The other thing to do is to give him a consequence when he isn’t kind to his sister. Once ALL 3 of these steps are in place, you will see what you tell your children go into their hearts.

Ultimately, your kids need to be kind just like you do because God tells us that is the way to live.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law.”

Matthew 7:12

Give Your Kids the “Why”

By Joey and Carla Link

November 2, 2022

When kids want to know something, they ask you “why?” This would be especially true of little kids. “Why is the grass green” “Why is the sky blue?” “Why do you stop when the light is red and go when the light is green?” The first 2 questions above are curiosity questions. The 3rd question is a comprehension question, meaning your child is trying to understand something. We suggest you answer the curiosity questions until you can’t bring yourself to do it anymore. Our youngest daughter has the Sanguine temperament and their curiosity radar is sky high. I told her when we got in the car to go someplace, she could ask 3 questions before we got there, then she could ask no more. I got to the store or church with my mind intact and she learned to think before she blurted out a question. A win-win all the way around.

There are “why” questions parents need to take the initiative in asking. In the parenting class “Growing Kids God’s Way” these types of questions were called “the moral reason why”. This, of course is age appropriate. Kids under 5 yrs. do not need or understand long explanations. The shorter and simpler, the better.

There is nothing wrong with explaining how to do a chore and telling your child the reason why he needs to do it is because everyone in the house does them. Is this a moral explanation? “Moral” is “a person’s standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do. If your child believes he should do his/her chores because everyone in the family does, then your explanation was indeed moral.

What do you do when this child continues to give you attitude about doing his chores? When he/she has attitude coming and going or just refuses to do them, he/she has moved “doing his chores” from a “moral reason why” issue to an obedience issue and it should be treated as such.

The problem with explaining the “moral reason why” to your kids is we get so busy things slip between the cracks. In other words, we are sure you tell your kids how to do a task, but have you also at some point given them the moral reason why? When you have more than one child it gets hard to remember what you have told who. When this happens, instead of telling them again, ask your child a question he would know the answer to if you had told him. If he doesn’t have a clear idea of what you are talking about, tell him again what the moral reason why is.

When you give your kids a task to complete, you have a picture in your mind of how it should be done. Do your kids come up with the same picture? The only way they could is if you have specifically showed them how you want it done, and this must be age appropriate.

We often told our kids to “settle down” when they were growing up. This is a neutral statement. You really expect your kids, especially if they are with other kids to stop and define what you mean by settle down? A different way of handling this would be to say, “Stay out of trouble. Give me two examples of what you think I mean by trouble.” Trouble can vary given the circumstance, so having them define it on the spot puts you and your child on the same page.

Instead of telling your son to be kind to his sister, ask him to give you one way he can show kindness to her and why he needs to be kind at all times. If he doesn’t know why, have him sit until he comes up with something. Ask him if he is willing to do what he came up with at that time and to work on being kind to everyone in the family. If he says “no”, he sits until he is willing.

The best way to teach your children the moral reason why is to talk about it as you go about the normal tasks of the day. When you read a book to a young child, ask a couple questions like, “Why do you think the elephant thought he should be kind to the turtle?” When my kids could read for themselves, when I was making dinner or folding laundry, I would ask one of them to come and read to me and then we could talk about ‘the moral reason why’ behind what was happening in the story.

Asking questions will show you what your kids know. One of my daughters was impulsive and always wanted to be first. To work on this, we told her she had to wait to get in the car when we were going somewhere until her siblings got in. I asked her why I wanted her to do this, and she immediately said it was because she pushed her way in to be first and often hurt one of her siblings. When I asked her why this was wrong, she said because it was not fair. That was an acceptable answer for a 1st grader. That is the other thing to keep in mind when teaching your children the moral reason why; it changes, not in definition but in application with age. Keep your explanations as simple as they have the maturity to understand. This means as they age you may need to explain it to them again, using examples that apply to them at that moment in time.

God wants us to define for our kids what they should do and what they should believe in. How are you doing at sharing the moral reason why with your kids?

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

Isaiah 5:20