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Posts tagged ‘Parenting’

Dads, Hang in There Through Christmas Chaos.

Christmas gifts

Does your family take a Christmas photo every year? Oh the memories!

And sometimes, oh the headache.

Last year, we managed to get all our kids and grandkids together in the same location, dressed just right for the perfect portrait. But you know how kids are …

Most of our grandkids are toddlers and preschoolers, so if I said it was chaos, that might be putting it mildly. What I remember was kids melting down, running off in the wrong direction, or just about falling asleep. Then, a diaper change and a mess on a sweater.

I mean, is it even worth the hassle for a photo?

Those thoughts did go through my mind that day. And I might be overstating it a bit, but for a while it was not fun. And as a granddad, I wasn’t even involved in most of it.

But when I saw the photo, I never would have known there were all those challenges. Everyone looked great! And 10 or 20 years from now when I look at that photo, I’m sure I won’t even remember what that day was like. I’ll just be thinking about my amazing grandkids and how they’ve grown and changed, and I’ll be wondering where those precious years went.

If your family is anything like mine, there are a lot of holiday events and activities like that. You anticipate the “perfect” meal or evening or outing, but things go wrong. The kids argue and fight. Or there’s a blizzard. Or you can’t get in to see the Christmas play. One thing builds on the last, and pretty soon you wonder if it’s even worth it.

Well, I’m here to tell you, it is.

In many ways, I think our kids’ memories are like that photo. What they remember in the years ahead is going to be better than what you may feel at the time as the dad. It might be hard for you to get past today’s challenges, but I urge you to “see the bigger picture” … so to speak.

So expect a little chaos. But also expect a great family time this Christmas. Invest yourself 100 percent in connecting with family members and bringing home genuine joy for them.

When things go wrong—and they will—you don’t have to worry so much or get stressed out. Just smile, keep rolling with it, and look forward to the next thing on your schedule.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Think proactively during the next week. How can you help your kids—and their mom—be well-rested, calm, and content during your family events?
  • Whether or not you take a formal family photo, get lots of candids. Have a contest with your kids for the silliest holiday-related shots.
  • Spend an evening going through old photos and/or videos—and talking about the memories—as a family.

Guys, please share your experiences. What’s the most stressful family event for you? And how do you make the best of it? Give your feedback either below or on below.



Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment.

For the original article, visit

God’s Grace for the Struggling Single Mom.

single mom with daughter

Sometimes it’s easier to apply God’s truths to my life than to the lives of my children. I don’t know why that is. Maybe I feel like I should be able to fix things for them because I’m their mom.

If I just love them enough, they won’t feel the void their Dad’s departure left. Nope—not possible. Only God can.

If I just spend enough time with them, they won’t miss their father so much. Nope—not possible. Only God can.

If I just do enough for them, they’ll know that they are valuable and loved. Nope—not possible. Only God can.

If I make life easier for them, the pain won’t be as acute. Nope—not possible. Only God can.

What I’ve done in my feverish attempt to fill the hole left by their father is become completely exhausted and a bit ineffective as a parent. It might have served a purpose to a degree at the beginning, but now I have children who are selfish about my time, demanding of my resources, thoughtless of the dynamics of our family and a bit entitled in their mentality.

Lest it sound like I have the rottenest kids on the East Coast, let me say they are all wonderful. They all have lovely, sweet moments and kind words often. My teenage daughter still calls me “Mommy” sometimes, which absolutely melts my heart. My tweenage son still enjoys reading with me each night while we snuggle. My 6-year-old loves to draw pictures to encourage me. And at the most surprising and sweetest times, my 5-year-old will flash me the sign for “I love you.” They all bless me; they just don’t really help me!

I’ve noticed recently that they don’t seem to be getting some pretty obvious house rules. You know, the knock-before-entering thing. The don’t-help-yourself-to-mom’s-things-without-asking thing. The pick-up-after-yourself thing. The whole obey thing.

I’ve made myself entirely too available for them, so now they expect me to always be available for them. I’ve allowed them to enter my space freely and, boy, am I paying for that now! There are always people in my room messing with my stuff, making a mess.


Letting Go of the Bully in You.

child crying in mother's arms
(© szefei
During two years of an overly distracted life, I communicated more to a screen than to the people in my family. My schedule was so tightly packed that I constantly found myself saying, “We don’t have time for that.” And because there wasn’t a minute to spare, that meant no time to relax, be silly or marvel at interesting wonders along our path. I was so focused on my agenda that I lost sight of what really mattered.
Calling all the shots was a mean voice in my head. My internal drill sergeant was continually pushing me to make everything sound better, look better and taste better. My body, my house and my achievements were never good enough. Holding myself to such unattainable standards weighed heavily on my soul, and my inner turmoil eventually spilled out at people I loved the most.
Sadly, there was one person in particular who bore the brunt of my discontent: my firstborn daughter.
She could not make mess without me shaking my head in disappointment.
She could not forget her homework, her jacket or her lunchbox without me making a big deal about it.
She could not spill, stain, break or misplace without being made to feel like she’d made the worst mistake in the world.
Although it pains me to write this, I remember sighing heavily in annoyance when she fell down and hurt herself because it threw me off my “master schedule.” My daughter was not allowed to be a child who learned by trying and, yes, sometimes failing.
The truth hurts, but the truth heals … and brings me closer to the person and parent I want to be.
Every time I came down hard on my daughter, I justified my behavior by telling myself I was doing it to help her—help her become more responsible, capable and efficient and preparing her for the real world. I told myself I was building her up. But in reality, I was tearing her down.
I vividly remember the day my mother was visiting from out of town. The children were playing alone in the basement. My younger daughter began crying hysterically. I ran downstairs, fearing she was seriously hurt.
The first question out of my mouth was directed at my older daughter. “What did you do?” I asked angrily.
My child didn’t bother to explain that her little sister had slipped on the library book that was sitting on the bottom step. There really was no point. My beautiful child with humongous brown eyes that once held so much optimism looked defeated. Silent tears of a broken spirit slid down her face. My daughter knew it didn’t matter what she said, she’d still be wrong; it would still be her fault.
And there was my mother standing beside her, a silent witness to the whole ugly scene.
As my older daughter ran off to the sanctity of her bedroom, an unexpected question came out of my mouth. “You think I am too hard on her, don’t you?” I snapped.
My mom, who’d experienced her own difficult parenting moments and struggles, held no judgment in her eyes, only sadness. Her simple response of “yes” only confirmed what I knew in my heart.
I mustered up the courage to find the words that needed to be said. Apologizing didn’t come easily for someone who strived to make everything look perfect all the time, but I knew what needed to be said.
I found my child crumpled up like a dejected rag doll on top of her bed—her face puffy and red from crying.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled.
My daughter didn’t move.
I sat down on the edge of her bed and began saying things I’d never said to another human being—not even myself. “I feel mad inside a lot. I often speak badly about myself in my head. I bully myself. And when I bully myself, it makes me unhappy, and then I treat others badly—especially you. It is not right, and I am going to stop. I am not sure how, but I will stop. I am so very sorry,” I vowed, trying not to cry.
My daughter looked unsure as to what to do with this confession, this unusual offering from her mother who rarely admitted any wrongdoing. I didn’t blame her for the skeptical look she gave me. I understood why she didn’t say anything back, but somewhere in those eyes I saw hope—hope that things could be different.
I desperately wanted things to be different too. It was time to stop being so hard on my child; it was time to stop being so hard on myself. I prayed I could stand up to the inner bully. I knew I needed an easy first step. I decided to use one simple word: Stop.
Within the hour, I had a chance to try it. The first critical thought that popped into my head arose as I was preparing to leave the house: I looked at my reflection and thought, “You look fat. You can’t go out looking like that.”
Stop!” I assertively thought to myself, shutting down any further criticisms. Then I quickly turned away from the mirror and recited these words: “Only love today. Only love today.”
I used the same strategy when interacting with my child a few minutes later. Before any harsh words came out of my mouth about the way she was sloppily packing her bag of things, I cut off my inner critic by saying, “Stop! Only love today.” Then I swallowed the hurtful words and relaxed my disapproving face.
Within mere days of using the “stop” technique, I noticed a change. With a more positive thought process, it was easier to let go of the need to control, dictate and criticize. In response, my daughter began taking more chances and began revealing her true passions.
She started movie-making and website design on the computer. She made doll furniture and clothing to sell in the neighborhood. She began baking new recipes without any help.
Nothing she did was perfect. Nor was it mess-free or mistake-free, but the moment I said something positive, I saw her blossom a little more. That is when I began to clearly see beyond the mistakes and messes to what was truly important.
I began noticing my child’s inner beauty rather than looking for perfection on the outside.
I began paying more attention to the person she was rather than the successes she achieved.
I began letting her be who she was meant to be instead of some idealistic version I had in my head.
When I stopped being a bully to my child and myself, opportunities for growth and connection opened up. Over time, significant progress was made. In a little less than two years on my journey to let go of perfection and distraction, I received the confirmation I never thought I would receive.
My daughter was outside before school, tending to a garden she created smack dab in the middle of the yard. I watched from the kitchen window as she lovingly tended to her miniature plot. I was captivated by the utter joy on her face. She was clearly at peace.
Since my dad loves to garden and had taught my daughter a few things, I took a picture and sent it to my parents. Nothing could have prepared me for the gift I would receive in return.
My parents wrote, “Thank for this precious picture of our beautiful granddaughter. Over the last two years, we have seen a tremendous change in her. We no longer see a scared look in her eyes; she is less fearful about you being upset or impatient with her. She is much happier and more relaxed. She is thriving and growing into a content, creative and nurturing person. We know for a fact the changes we see in her coincide with the changes we have also seen in you.”
My friends, I have the following message to offer anyone who wants to believe today can be different than yesterday:
If you think that criticizing, belittling or critiquing yourself will make you smarter, fitter or more valuable, please reconsider.
If you think badgering, bullying or constantly correcting your child will make him or her more likable, more confident or more successful, please reconsider.
Because the truth is this:
It’s hard to love yourself with a bully breathing down your neck.
It’s hard to love yourself when the one person who’s supposed to love you unconditionally doesn’t.
It’s hard to become the person you’re supposed to be when you aren’t allowed to fall down and get back up.

A Great Holiday Idea for Fathers.

Christmas Dad

Joshua is an active Watch DOGS (Dads of Great Students) dad at his child’s school who came up with a great idea for the holiday season.

Like in many other families—especially those that put emphasis on their faith during the holidays—he and his wife use an Advent calendar to help them and their young sons count down the days in anticipation of Christmas. Maybe you do something similar—and there are all kinds of great resources to help if you wanted to start this.

Well, a few years back, Joshua was working long hours and couldn’t always be there with his wife and his boys to go through the daily Advent readings and activities. So he started his own special calendar for the holidays. And you know what he called it?

DADvent—of course.

His DADvent calendar was all about simply having fun with his sons, holiday style. He used it as a reminder to do something special for his sons every day leading up to Christmas.

With his schedule, many times that meant doing things while the boys slept. One night he decorated their rooms with paper snowflakes that they saw first thing in the morning. Another night he strung lights from corner to corner. Then there was the night he put up a Christmas tree in each bedroom without waking them up.

Joshua knew it was worth all the late nights and lack of sleep when he heard his 11-year-old say that DADvent activities were a “great memory” and a tradition he looks forward to every year.

And Joshua found that once he was in the habit, these special things spread into other parts of the year. And he started doing similar things for his bride as well.

If you wanted to really follow the Advent calendar, we’ve already missed the first couple of weeks or so. But there’s no reason you can’t start right now. Joshua doesn’t mind if you use his idea. Go ahead and call it “DADvent.”

But whatever you call it, the important part is your attitude and your commitment to make the holidays fun for your kids this year. How cool would it be for them if every day between now and December 25th, you came up with some kind of surprise or small gift or even just spent a few minutes doing something they enjoy?

Maybe you can bake cookies, do a crazy craft project, make some paper angels or whatever. You can find all kinds of ideas online. And the cost would likely be almost nothing.

Here’s an idea: On the way home from work today or sometime tomorrow, pick up four boxes of candy canes and hang them on every hook, ledge or doorknob in your home. Announce the official beginning of DADvent, and watch the expressions on your kids’ faces.

So, dad, how do you make the holidays special for your children? Share your ideas with other dads either below or on our Facebook page.

Action Points for Dads on the Fathering Journey

  • Tell your kids about a holiday tradition that was special for you as a child. Maybe surprise them by doing something similar this year.
  • Be purposeful this year about finding ways to have fun as a family—and avoid the common holiday stressors. Consider relaxing a household rule for a few weeks to give your kids the impression that it’s a “special” time.
  • Lead your family in spreading the true spirit of the holidays this season by helping someone else who has a need. And prepare to learn something! Often kids can be more sensitive to people’s needs than we are.
  • Buy a gift for the whole family that everyone can enjoy together, or invest in an activity you can all do together.
  • As you decide on gifts for your kids, start thinking about gifts of time that you can also give—like redeemable coupons or a commitment to enjoy a new toy or game with him or her.



Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “YesI want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.”

Taking off the training wheels…

By Pastor Bobby Schuller

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.”
-Psalm 119:17

I remember when my dad was teaching me how to ride my bike once I got the training wheels off. So, I’m riding my bike as he steadies me. I was riding along, thinking he was holding on, and then I looked back and he wasn’t there! I got scared, started to wobble, and then I ate it all over the asphalt. Was it okay that my dad let go? Let me ask you. Was that all right? Was it a good thing that my dad did that?

I had skinned my knee, so I cried. My dad came up to me, picked me up, and said, “Are you okay?”

I said, “I’m fine, I’m fine.”

He said, “Are you crying?”

I said, “I’m not crying! Leave me alone.” You may have experienced this kind of a thing. Nevertheless, despite my initial injury, Dad put me back on the bike, he pushed me again, and finally I got it.

Would it have been better for my dad to leave the training wheels on, and for the rest of my life, even now at the age of 31, to be always there every time I want to ride my bike? Should I give my dad a phone call? “Hey, Dad, I want to go for a bike ride with my wife and I need some help.” He’d be there with the training wheels, walking alongside us as Hannah and I enjoyed the view, having an intimate conversation, ignoring him. No, I don’t think so.

God has made you the incredible person you are with intelligence, and a mind, and choice, and ability. But, to be our best, we must learn and grow through experience. Life without suffering isn’t life at all.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for teaching me through my trials. When I stumble or make a mistake, sharpen me, grow me, and mold me so that I become all that you have designed me to be. Amen.

Reflection: When did you grow the most through a trial in your life? What did you learn from that trial that helps you today?

One Way Love and The Phone Store.

When it comes to the raising of children, one-way love is both the easiest thing in the world and the hardest. How many of us have responded to the experience of becoming a parent for the first time by saying, “I finally understand how powerful and profound of a thing it is that God considers us His children!” The relationship we have with a baby, after all, is about as one-way as it gets. They need and we give, period. They have no illusions about their own power. The very idea that a baby might do something to deserve our love–other than exist–is laughable. It’s no coincidence that Jesus speaks so highly of children; he praises their ability to receive love.

It’s once our kids grow up that understanding the difference between law and grace becomes so difficult—but also so urgent. I’ll give you an example.

My wife and I had a rough year last year with one of our sons. His hardheartedness and willful defiance was not only affecting the rest of the family (sound familiar?), it was breaking our hearts because he was enslaving himself and he didn’t know it. Needless to say, he was not as convinced of the gravity of his misbehavior as Kim and I were. His unrepentant attitude was driving us crazy, so it was decided that he would be put on social lock-down. No car, no phone, no nothing. If he wasn’t at school, he was to be at home. No exceptions. The law had to do its crushing work. He needed to realize the seriousness of what he had been getting involved in. Being the social butterfly that he is, social lock-down was his worst fear, so that was what we chose. To make things even worse, we sold his smartphone.

He wasn’t happy about any of this, and it wasn’t a walk in the park for Kim, me, or the other kids either. It actually made things harder. Without his phone and his friends, he haunted the house like a drug addict going through detox. He couldn’t help out by giving his brother and sister rides, so Kim and I had to go back to serving as chauffeurs.

A month or so after the clampdown had gone into effect, I was traveling back from speaking at a conference. Before I left, I had told my son, in my most earnest, authoritative-father voice, that there was only one thing he needed to do while I was gone and that was to not give his mother a hard time. If he didn’t give her any unnecessary headaches, when I got back, we might revisit the phone issue. Midway through my 48 hour trip, I received a call from Kim, who told me that my request was not, shall we say, being respected. I couldn’t believe it. One thing. 48 hours. He couldn’t do it. I was furious.

I spent the plane ride home battling with God. I mean, really going back and forth with Him about what I should do. I knew I had to deal with the situation as soon as I returned. I was angry with my son for putting me in this situation, and I was tired of dealing with his ingratitude. Clearly my son had not learned his lesson. As far as I was concerned, more law was needed. Yet as I prayed about it, I had this haunting sense that God was telling me it was time to relent. Time to, at least, give the boy his phone back. What? No way, God. Every fiber of my being was resistant to that idea. Not only did the law afford me control over my son (a boy who had proved that he didn’t know how to handle his freedom), he didn’t deserve to get his phone back. The one thing I had asked him to do, he hadn’t done. He’d understood the condition before I left: be good, and you’ll get a phone. Well, he hadn’t been good. So no phone. Very reasonable to me. I was looking for an excuse, any excuse, to keep the handcuffs on. That I was flying back from a conference where I had spoken about one-way love was not lost on me.

Well, I got home, called my son out of his room, and told him we needed to talk. I reminded him of everything I’d said before I left—the conditions under which he would get a phone. He looked at me very sheepishly, knowing he was guilty—again! I talked to him for a while about life and choices and sin and how much we loved him. He listened intently–really listened. In fact, it was the first time he had looked at me in the eyes and really paid attention to what I was telling him. I could tell that what I was saying was finally making sense to him. After we were done talking, we prayed together. First me, then him. When we finished praying, I looked at him and said, “Now go put your shoes on, and let’s go to the phone store and get you a new phone.” He was completely shocked. His lip started to quiver, and he finally burst into tears. In the months since we first caught him doing the stuff that originally got him in trouble, he had shown no remorse, no sorrow. This was the first time I had seen tears. Real tears. I asked him what was wrong. With tears streaming down his face, he looked at me and said, “But, Dad, I don’t deserve a phone.” He was right. He didn’t deserve a phone. He didn’t deserve a pad of paper and a stamp. His words revealed that God knew a lot better how to handle my son than I did. The contrition was genuine. The law had leveled him. It had shown him who he was in a way that left no doubt about his need. It was time for a word of grace.

Notice that his humility did not precede the invitation. The chronology is crucial. His admission was not a condition for mercy; it was its fruit! I looked at him and said, “Listen, son. God takes me to the phone store ten thousand times a day, and I have never ever deserved one…so go get your shoes on and let’s get you a phone.”

It was a happy day.

Now, before you line up to give me the father-of-the-year award, know that the reason I tell the story is because it was such a surprise to me too. My son had come by his rebelliousness honestly, after all. One of the main reasons his behavior bugged me so much was that he reminded me so much of myself when I was his age! I only tell the story for three reasons: One, it illustrates that the law is useful. Grace could not have done it’s curing work if the law had not first done its crushing work. But two, it illustrates how resistant we are to grace. We feel much safer with our hands on the wheel. I was so afraid that he would go nuts, that he would prove himself to be his father’s son once again. It was as hard for me to give up the sense of manageability the law provided as it was for him to lose his phone. It had to be taken from me. And three, the emotional response at being let off the hook was a powerful reminder that only grace can inspire what the law demands. The law was able to accuse him, but only grace could acquit him. The law was able to expose him, but only grace could exonerate him. The law was able to diagnose him, but only grace was able to deliver him.

God showed me one more time that, when it’s all said and done, love (not law) is the essence of any lasting transformation that takes place in human experience.

[Excerpted from One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World.]

Tullian Tchividjian
William Graham Tullian Tchividjian (pronounced cha-vi-jin) is the Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Visit his website at and follow him on Twitter @PastorTullian

6 Ways to Keep Your Kids Honest.

Children sharing secret
How do you encourage your children to tell the truth? (Phaitoon/Free Digital Photos)

Our world, in big ways and small, gives a wink and a nod to dishonesty. This makes it difficult to bring up children who are fully committed to truthfulness.

So, how do we teach our children to tell the truth even when it’s hard? There are lots of ways, and they all start early:

1. It’s never cute. There’s a great temptation to overlook the dishonesty of preschoolers because we’re a little charmed and amused by it. But it lays a foundation that will be hard to undo down the road. Save yourself the extra work by catching the lies of little tykes and correcting them immediately.

2. Watch the back door. Often, dishonesty in our children doesn’t come barreling in the front door with a big whopper of a lie. It starts small, with a little fudging of the facts or an omission of key information. But it’s intentionally deceptive—and they know it. When you’re talking with your children, listen intently. It’s the only way you’ll pick up on the telltale signs of a misleading story and be able to blow the whistle and correct the habit.

3. Practice what you preach. The only way to teach a life of honesty and integrity is to live one in front of your children. They hear every word you say on the phone and to your spouse, and they’re as able to spot deception as you are. If your children find you rationalizing how your dishonesty is OK, they’ll do the same. So before you say, “Tell them I’m not home,” think again.

4. Explain the impact it has on relationships. Honesty is important not just because it’s the officially sanctioned right thing to do. God’s laws always have our best interest at heart. It’s important because good relationships are built on trust, and trust can’t exist without honesty. If you catch your children lying on Monday, how can you trust them on Tuesday? Help them understand the long-term consequences of dishonesty by letting them suffer some of those consequences now.

5. Stop them when you see it coming. You know those situations where your child will be tempted to play with the facts: when they’re explaining their actions or faced with the possibility of being disciplined. Before you even ask for the explanation, remind your child what the standard of honesty is in your home and that they will only create a greater problem by lying now.

6. Don’t let the details dictate whether the lack of honesty is important. Parenting is hard work, and sometimes we’re tempted to overlook dishonesty in our children if the lie doesn’t involve something of obvious importance. But a total commitment to honesty in all things only comes about when there are no small lies. Take the time to correct your child, even when the deception seems immaterial.

What are some ways you teach honesty to your kids? Please share them below.



Mark Merrill is the president of Family FirstFor the original article, visit

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