Words Mean So Much!

“He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.” Proverbs 21:23 NAS

My fifth grade teacher didn’t like me, and at the ripe old age of 10, even I knew it. To this day, I remember Mrs. Chadwick talking about me and ridiculing me in front of all the other students. I would either pretend not to hear or act like it didn’t bother me. But on the inside, not only did her words hurt, they began to rip apart my self-esteem. It didn’t occur to me I should tell my parents. After all, she was an adult authority figure in my life. Who was I to question her?

Modern society has legitimized sarcasm and labeled it comedy. Many people think its okay to put someone down, call them names, or make fun of them, especially if it’s followed up with the disclaimer, “just kidding”. But it’s not okay.

The Bible teaches us words can be a blessing or a curse. Whether spoken in sarcasm or in an uncontrolled moment of anger, words like “stupid” and “clumsy” or “what’s WRONG with you?” definitely fall into the latter category. We have the responsibility as parents to protect our children. Yet without realizing it, sometimes our words are what bring our children the greatest harm.

Think about the words you use when you speak to and about your children. Do they lift, encourage and affirm them? If not, it’s time for a vocabulary change. Sit down as a family and discuss ways to de-word and re-word your home. It’s a lesson none of us are too young (or old) to learn.

PRAYER: God, forgive me for saying things to my children I didn’t mean. Please heal their wounds and help me have the self-control and wisdom I need to guard my tongue every time I speak to them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

More Effective Than Grounding

“And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”

Matthew 6:13 NIV

When our oldest daughter Gwen started taking driver’s education classes, my mother gave us an extra car she didn’t need anymore. It was a little Chevy Citation hatchback – nothing fancy, but the price was right and it was in great shape. Unfortunately, Gwen hated the car. She was embarrassed to even be SEEN in it, and horrified to think of driving it. Grant took pity on her, and as soon as she got her driver’s license, she got his sporty red Nissan and he drove the Citation. Life was good – for Gwen and for me. As the mother of four, I was thrilled to have a new driver in the house who could run errands and drive herself to and from school. The time savings was huge – except when she did something wrong and Grant took her car keys away. It easily added an extra hour of driving to my schedule every day. After a few “groundings”, I had a heart-to-heart with Grant explaining that when he grounded Gwen by taking her driving privileges away, he was in effect grounding me too. Because then I had to drive her everywhere. We were in agreement she needed to be punished. We just needed a different plan – something that would motivate her to make good choices without making my life more difficult. The answer was simple. We wouldn’t keep her from driving. We would make her drive…the Citation.

This was the worst (or best, depending on your point of view) punishment EVER. And it worked! Just a hint Gwen might have to drive the Citation was enough to keep her moving in the right direction.

Staying on the right path is never easy. Temptation is constantly pulling at our kids …trying to seduce them into making harmful choices that can affect their lives forever. As parents, it’s our job to steer them in the way they should go without breaking their tender spirits. What works for one child won’t necessarily work for another. As “painful” as it was for Gwen to drive that Citation, she was better off in the long run, and likely saved from situations that could have caused her real pain. We must stay on our knees and seek God’s direction for the right kind of discipline needed in each circumstance, so our kids stay healthy and safe as they grow into the young adults God wants them to be.

PRAYERHeavenly Father, I pray You will continually guide each of my children towards the path You have set out for them. When they stray, help me know how to discipline them in a way that brings repentance and not rebellion, in a way that molds but doesn’t tear down and in a way that plants in them a desire to follow You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.



galveston-jail“For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” Luke 8:17 NAS

As a young mother, my days were spent teaching our four children the importance of choosing right instead of wrong – and how to know the difference between the two. At times it seemed I was fighting an uphill battle because even when they clearly knew better, the kids were deliberately disobedient. To make matters worse, when I confronted them, they lied. And if there’s one thing this mamma doesn’t tolerate, it’s a lie. I can’t tell you the number of times I doubled a punishment because dishonesty was added to the “crime”.

Despite their sneakiest efforts, I always managed to find out when my children did something wrong. I didn’t have eyes in the back of my head. I just had a secret weapon – prayer. I knew if they didn’t get caught, they’d grow comfortable making wrong choices and continue to walk down a path that would eventually lead to bigger risks and more serious consequences. So I prayed – regularly –  a simple prayer in line with the truth of God’s Word in Luke 8:17. I asked Him to expose all things where my children were concerned, and to cause all things hidden to come into the light. The result? Time and time again, when they least expected it, they found themselves BUSTED!

Because it was God and not ME who found them out, the kids learned even if nobody else saw what they did. . .God saw. And no matter how carefully they spun a lie. . .God knew. Eventually, each one of them decided right is better than wrong. Always. No matter who sees or doesn’t see.

Prayer: God, thank you for being faithful to your Word and for helping me teach my children they couldn’t get away with making bad choices. Continue to work in their lives so they will walk in integrity in every circumstance. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Getting Through Tough Times

IMG_7593“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him.” Romans 5:13a NIV

In the “olden days” music was recorded onto a round disk like it is today — but instead of CD’s (they weren’t invented yet) these disks were about 12″ in diameter, black, and we called them record albums.

I remember music playing all the time when I was young. We sang a lot in our home, and the words of the little “ditties” my mom played penetrated my spirit and helped shape my developing personality. One of my favorites was “The Donut Hole Song” where Burl Ives sang repeatedly, “watch the donut, not the hole”. The lesson of the song was to be happy for what you have, rather than focusing on what you don’t have.

Another favorite was Frank Sinatra’s “Rubber Tree Plant” where an ant, faced with the impossible task of moving a rubber tree plant, perseveres and succeeds. “Any time you’re getting’ low, ‘stead of lettin’ go, just remember that ant…” The musical fable is an admonition to never give up.

Anybody can have a bad attitude. It takes more effort to put a smile on your face, be grateful for what you have, and never give up — despite your circumstances. The only way to do that well is with God’s help. He will give peace that passes all understanding, and help us face anything without feeling despair or defeat.

Children learn how to trust (or fear) by seeing how we respond to adversity. Their little eyes are always watching. Prayer should be our first course of action, not the last resort. Set aside a special time each week to share prayer requests with family — encourage and pray for one another. Look up passages on “trust” in the Bible. Give your problems to God and see your entire family’s faith…and peace…grow!

Prayer: God, I want my life to be a reflection of my faith in You. I need Your peace in my life. When I get caught up in my problems, help me remember to give them to You to untangle. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Surviving Sibling Rivalry

our kids“Don’t grumble against each other.” James 5:9a NIV

I have come up with the guaranteed way to avoid sibling rivalry in your family…don’t have more than one child. What? “Too late”, you say? Well, if that’s the case, don’t sweat it. This too shall pass.

I’ve counseled with many parents who felt like they were failures because their kids fought with each other. They were surprised (and relieved, I think) to discover fighting was actually quite normal. Children aren’t born knowing how to share and get along, it’s a learned process. When you put more than one of them together in a household, they will inevitably “learn on each other”. Growing up, our four kids had plenty of squabbles. They shouted angry words, and even threw a couple of punches that I know about. And yet today, they are the best of friends.

Just because I say it’s normal doesn’t mean we allowed free-for-all’s at our house. We didn’t condone the fighting. In fact, Grant came up with a pretty clever way to squelch their bickering. Any time the kids fought, we would make them stand facing each other, holding hands and staring into each other’s eyes. The “time” always fit the “crime”. The worse the fight, the longer they would have to stand. I remember one incident when Gwen and Shannon had to stare at each other for a full hour. If they stopped or looked away, the time would start over. By the end of the “exercise” they were giggling and finding ways to help each other pass the time…and they were motivated to work harder to get along.

Sibling rivalry has occurred almost since the beginning of time. Abel was killed by his brother, Cain. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. Jacob cheated his brother Esau out of what was rightfully his…these stories may help give us perspective, but they also serve as a warning not to let sibling rivalry run amok. Jesus told us to love God and love one another. As we mediate, that must be our message to our kids…choose to love, not hate.

If you want your children to learn how to get along without fighting, remember to model what you preach. If they see you argue with your spouse or other adults or them…they will grow up thinking that’s the socially acceptable way to solve a problem. It’s not.

Prayer: God, I want my children to learn how to get along with each other so they won’t grumble and fight. Give me the wisdom to teach them how to solve their differences in a loving way. Fill our home with Your peace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

When NOT To Discipline

IMG_0004“…do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”

Colossians 3:21 NIV

A young child’s mind is filled with wonder. It is one of the things I suspect God chuckled about as He created their DNA. As parents, we have to keep our sense of humor well-oiled, because interesting (ahem) things will happen when children ask themselves, “I wonder what would happen if…”

One of the funniest “wonder moments” I can remember happened in 1980 when Gwen was only five years old. We were seated at the dinner table…Gwen sitting directly across from her dad. Grant and I, caught up in our own conversation, didn’t notice our daughter’s cheeks bulging from a mouth filled with milk. I looked up just in time to see her place a hand on either side of her face. The look of “wonder” shone through her eyes as she squeezed her cheeks flat with a SQUISH! Instantly her mouth became an erupting “milk fire hose” and Grant was the unsuspecting target.

For a few very long seconds, we all sat in silence and shock…until Grant, followed by the rest of us, broke out in hysterical laughter.

That event was a multiple choice option for us a parents. Was Gwen disobeying us? No. We had never thought to tell her not to spit milk at the table. Would we use it as a teachable moment? Of course. Otherwise, we’d be sitting targets at every meal. Was it funny? Absolutely! So laugh, have fun, and learn together.

Discipline should be reserved for willful disobedience – when your children deliberately do what you’ve taught them not to do. They must learn to value and respect rules as a part of their character development. But when they do something they didn’t know was wrong, punishment (to them) isn’t fair. During those situations, take great care to discuss and train, but never discourage a child by holding them accountable for something they didn’t know.

Have rules. Make sure they are fair and age appropriate. Clearly define both expectations and consequences for your children, and follow through with what you say you’ll do. Oh, and one more thing…it’s OK to laugh…and then tell them not to “ever do that again!”

Prayer: God, help me keep a sense of humor so accidents and messy acts of “wonder” don’t cause me to lose my temper and lash out at my children. Give me wisdom to respond and not react, so I never cause my children to be discouraged. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.