If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

SR Nametag on Mouth

“My words come from an upright heart; my lips sincerely speak what I know.” Job 33:3 NIV 


If I worked on the production line in heaven, I would ask God to put a safety valve on people’s tongues to shut it off when their brain gets too heated. Why? Because when people get hot-headed, the overflow of their frustration and emotion often comes billowing out of their mouth in the form of mean and hurtful words.

I’ve often used an object lesson with children to illustrate this concept. Several students are chosen to take part in a race. At the sound of my whistle, each contestant tries to be the first to squeeze all the toothpaste from their tube. Lively music plays in the background while classmates cheer them on. Just when someone thinks they’ve won, I explain the race is only halfway over. Next, they must put the toothpaste back in the tube! They quickly realize it can’t be done. The point is…what flows out so easily is absolutely impossible to put back in.

Words that are spoken can never be taken back. Their effect can last a lifetime. When I was a little girl, my mom used to cut my bangs. Evidently I didn’t sit still for her and the result wasn’t pretty. As we walked along a sidewalk one day, a woman looked at me and said to her companion, “…that poor little girl”. Those words were spoken over fifty years ago, but I still remember today how they made me feel. It was embarrassing, humiliating and unnecessary.

Teach your children the importance of speaking well of others. It’s a lesson we should ALL take to heart…if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. And if you THINK it, but it’s not nice, ask God for the grace to see people and circumstances through His loving and forgiving eyes. Ask for your thoughts to become like His thoughts.


Prayer: God, give me the self-control to speak only words of kindness to others. Keep me from lashing out in anger or saying things I have to apologize for later. Help my children learn how to speak kindly or remain silent. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

A Fish Story

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18 NIV


Everyone needs to have an aquarium at least once in their child-rearing lifetime. In the early 80’s, Grant brought home a 20-gallon tank stocked with a half-dozen goldfish, and our short lives as fish caretakers began. We went through the usual life and death experiences you would expect, from the excitement of watching fish eggs hatch into fish “babies”, to the disappointment of finding one of our pets floating lifelessly on top of the water. We named the fish, celebrated their birthdays and had funerals for them when they died. The aquarium provided us with many teachable moments about the miracle and delicacy of life.

One day, my 3-year-old decided playing with our fish would be much more fun than watching them…so he went fishing…without permission. When I “caught” him, he’d already pulled every fish out of the aquarium and was cheering them on as they flopped helplessly back and forth on the cabinet. I still remember how hard it was, getting those slimy, squirmy and probably frightened fish back in the tank. To my surprise, they survived their near-death experience and we all had a good laugh.

I’ve often thought about Drew pulling those fish out so he could play with them. Watching them and having them watch him wasn’t enough. He wanted to touch them, to be with them…to have a real relationship with them. In his innocent effort to be their friend, he simply reached across the barriers of a glass wall and made it happen.

As parents, we must reach across the barriers of life’s busyness to have relationship with our children. Watching isn’t enough. The true measure of our love will not be measured by the words we speak to them, but by the time we take being with them.

Schedule regular family times where your children know they have your undivided attention. Talk, listen, laugh, play, hug and get to know one another. The younger they are when you start, the easier it is to keep the lines of communication open as they grow.


Prayer: Father, I get so overwhelmed with my responsibilities and find myself taking the people I love for granted. Help me redeem the time and be the parent You want me to be. Order my steps each day and give me wisdom to put the right things first. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Awe & Wonder

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“How many are Your works, O Lord! In wisdom You made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures.” Psalm 103:24 NIV


My children should be in the Guinness Book of World Records for the number of times they were able to ask “why?” in a 24-hour period. It was usually more a game to see how long it would take to annoy me, than inquisitiveness on their part. But I was actually pretty good at coming up with answers.

Asking questions is one of the ways children learn. We would all be smarter if we could learn to harness the sense of wonder we were born with. In far too many cases, impatient adults and misguided teachers crowd the wonder right out of kids with their “color in the lines” expectations and unrealistic “kids should be seen and not heart” philosophy.

Kids need to be challenged to wonder more. They need to be guided in experiences that create awe at the miracles of God’s creation. Our heavenly Father has placed us in a world created by incredible imagination…at every turn, if we take the time to look, we can see the work of His mighty hands. When children are taught first to notice and then to respect the world we live in, they can’t help but recognize Who God is…and believe!

Start when your children are young. As an example, instead of just remarking how beautiful the sky appears when the sun is going down, help your children wonder about the Creator of the sunset. After all, somebody did have to put it there! You might say, “I wonder what God was thinking when He painted all those colors on the horizon. Do you think He used a giant artist’s palette, or maybe He splashed colors on the angels and told them to fly across the sky…” What fun it will be to imagine God painting a sunset for us to enjoy!


Prayer: God, the beauty of Your creation is all around us. Help me to teach my children Who You are, and to never take Your great world and Your many miracles…for granted. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Weedle Words

“Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 141:3 NIV


When God got a hold of my heart, He also lassoed my vocabulary. Four-letter words I’d once used on a regular basis just didn’t seem appropriate anymore. God didn’t even have to wash my mouth out with soap…

Some words weren’t on my “forbidden” list, but they still sounded crass and unladylike…like the word for expelling gas. With a house full of kids, this particular topic came up (and out) on a regular basis, so I devised a more acceptable and polite word for our family to use…”weedle”. Just say the word a few times…weedle, weedle, weedle…it’s a fun word to say…and even funnier when you know its secret meaning.

When you want kids to stop doing something, it usually works better to redirect their behavior than to jut say “don’t”. In this case, I gave them a funny word to replace the one I didn’t want them to say. In the broader sense, changing what flows out of your child’s mouth begins with redirecting what regularly enters in through their ears. Kids think of and repeat the words they hear…at home, in their music, on TV and from their friends. Don’t use words you wouldn’t want them repeating in front of your grandmother or your pastor.


Prayer: God, I want every word spoken by my children to be pleasing to You. Protect their impressionable minds from foul and perverse language. Help me be a good example for them to follow. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Surviving the Bullies

1964 4th grWhen I went to school in the 60’s, there were no rules to protect kids against classroom bullies. We had three categories of kids: the cool ones, the uncool ones, and those who somehow flew under the radar and escaped all the drama. For most of my elementary years, I was in the uncool category…awkward and lanky, uneven bangs, a nose too big for my face…lots of things for people to laugh at and make fun of.

The cool kids maintained their status by “putting down” the uncool kids. They teased and talked about us with made-up stories and pulled mean pranks on us. I even had a 5th grade teacher in Houston who was chummy with the cool girls and said mean things about me (in front of me) to the other girls!

Did it hurt my feelings? Of course it did. Did I ever show it? Not on your life. I stuffed those feelings way down in my socks and pretended I didn’t hear or didn’t care. It never occurred to me to tell an adult or my parents because it was my “normal”. I thought I had to accept it. To this day, I’m not sure how successful adult intervention would have been. When kids want to bully another child, they will always find a way.

Despite being bullied, always being chosen last and not being invited to the popular kids’ birthday parties, I grew up secure and confident with my self-esteem intact. How? I had the best home life a child could ask for. Little did my parents know how emotionally beat up I was at school. But when I came home, they treated me exactly the opposite. They lifted me up. They made me feel special. They took time to listen to my ideas, my dreams and my stories. They nurtured and admired my talents and showed me unconditional love. I knew by the way they treated me that I was important to them…and I chose to believe their opinion of me rather than the opinion of the school bullies.

A wise man once told me it takes seven compliments to soften the sting of one negative comment. Whether your child is ever bullied or not, remember to look for the good things in their life and tell them you’ve noticed. Make it your goal to fill the positive side of their emotional bank and offset anything the world may throw at them!

Stay Off the Fence!

Luke Fence

“Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers.” Proverbs 4:24 NIV


In the late 80’s, we turned a dreary unused parking lot behind our downtown church in Abilene into a lovely courtyard and children’s playground with tall, modular slides and climbing equipment for the boys and girls to play on. A beautiful ten-foot brick wall securely enclosed the entire area, preventing children from running into the nearby busy street.

One Wednesday night as Grant and I sat in Fellowship Hall visiting with friends, our 5-year-old son Drew slipped out the back door, down the stairs and onto the playground to play – alone. Thankfully, a few minutes later, one of the dads saw him and quickly rushed to rescue him from certain disaster. Drew, our “climber”, had crawled over the upper peak of the tornado slide and somehow (it still makes me catch my breath) maneuvered himself to the TOP of the brick wall, and was walking it like a tight rope. I’m glad he was down and safe before I knew what had happened!

As a child and teenager, I was guilty of a different kind of fence walking. Many times when an adult gave me a rule, I’d feel challenged to see just how close I could get to the line of demarcation, without crossing over and breaking the rule. Often I walked on the line because I was only told I couldn’t cross the line. With one wrong move, my reckless attitude could have been as dangerous as if Drew had taken a wrong step on that playground wall!

The very first rule God gave Adam and Eve in the garden was that they could not eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They were told not to even touch it (Gen.3:3). The closer we get to sin, the easier it is for temptation to win us over. The devil is alive and well, whispering “the grass is greener on the other side”. When you try to walk the non-existent line between good and evil, it’s easy to lose your balance and fall in!

Children are curious…or ornery like I was, and naturally want to get close to things that are forbidden. The reality is, your authority won’t always be enough to keep them safely under your umbrella of protection. Keep the lines of communication open. Stay involved in their lives – even when they try to push you out. Know who their friends are. Get to know the parents of their friends. Monitor their activities. Stand your ground and never compromise principles. Pray without ceasing. Love them unconditionally. And for those times they make it to the top of the fence anyway…be close enough to help catch them when they fall.


Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for protecting me when I  made bad choices as a teenager. Please keep my children safe and help me know how to guide them without pushing them into rebellion. 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.

 

Who Do You Call?

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?”

Psalm 27:1 NIV


It was early January, and the kids were still out of school for Christmas break. Grant and I had to go back to work. Mid-afternoon one day, I received a frantic call from my oldest daughter, Gwen, telling me I had to come home immediately because the police were on the way to our house. Apparently sibling rivalry had run amuck with no parents at home to referee our two preteen girls, and a great shouting match had erupted. Drew, having just learned how to handle emergencies, did what any concerned 5-year-old might do. He called 9-1-1 and said, “Help! My sisters are fighting!” And then he hung up.

Unfortunately for Gwen and Shannon, the Abilene Police Department had caller ID and they immediately called back to assess the problem. Gwen’s quick hang-up was probably not the best response to make. Needless to say, we were properly embarrassed when our house was listed in the Abilene Reporter News police notes as “Call for domestic violence”.

The fact is, life gives us plenty of reasons to need someone we can call on for help — and 9-1-1 won’t be the answer. Our children need to know we are a safe and trustworthy sounding board for them. When they are hurt or afraid, those feelings are their reality and must be respected and taken seriously. If we dismiss their fears, criticize them, or even worse…ridicule them, we are not the protectors they need us to be.

Listen to your child. Never make fun of their thoughts or concerns. Walk alongside them through their “crisis”, and help them find ways to solve their problem. Pray with them and teach them to pray for themselves. Remind them God will always be with them, even when you can’t be.


PrayerGod, I am so grateful! You are a BIG God and You watch over my children even when I’m not around. I ask You to keep them free from fear and help them trust in You for their protection. Help me be a trustworthy confidante for them, always listening and never judgmental. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

1 3 4 5