15 Parenting Thoughts on Ethan’s 15th Birthday

I have a habit of blogging on special days for the family. Perhaps, the moment demands reflection and thought. And like most occasions, when I start processing things, I journal in order to frame together what is stirring in me.

Today is my son’s 15th birthday. As usual, theses moments in your children cause you to reflect upon the parenting job you’ve done and are still doing. I’m sure something will stir in a few weeks when Cammi turns 18. But till then, I thought on Ethan’s 15th birthday, I’d give 15 parenting tips I’ve learned over the past decade and a half.

  1. It’s more important for my kids to see Jesus in me than anything else.
    • Kids need to see how Jesus is lived out, not inside the church, but outside of it. Even though I am my kid’s lead pastor, they need to see Jesus in me in our home MORE than from the iPad stand I preach from.
  2. My children are not beyond a bad decision.
    • To be blunt, I don’t want to parent in a way that says, “my kid would never do that.” Yet I don’t believe they’re always guilty. My kids are capable of bad decisions because, well, they’re human.
  3. Own mistakes in front of your kids. 
    • If you’re kids never see you make a mistake, it makes their mistakes look that much worse as they’ll compare to the “perfection” they’re always exposed to. Show your kids how to be humble in the face of something you’ve not done correctly. They should hear the words, “I’m sorry” and “Please forgive me.”
  4. Don’t do anything alone.
    • From a task around the house to a trip to the store. I’ll get one of my kids to go with me to do whatever is on my list of things to do. It’s not about having another hand for the project/task, it’s about the time and connection of just being together.
  5. Work isn’t lethal.
    • Work ethic is a wonderful thing; Entitlement is not. I believe when we foster a good work ethic, we’re set our children up for success.
  6. Work to find a connection. 
    • Don’t allow a mentality of “my kid are too different” prevent you from discovering a way to connect. Ethan doesn’t like most sports (which breaks my heart) and he isn’t the most active kid. But I decided years ago we’d “try” a number of things and see what sticks. Going action movies stuck. Going to hockey games stuck. Going hiking (which I’ve never done before) stuck.
  7. Physical touch is healthier than you realize.
    • UCLA did a study that says every human being needs 8-10 meaningful touches a day. I love hugging my kids randomly. When I encourage them, I’ll do a little side-hug. Sometimes, I’ll walk up behind them and put my hands on their shoulders to ask them about their day. Appropriate physical touch helps them to not go looking for it in inappropriate ways.
  8. My marriage is more important than they are. 
    • I always have a panicky parent contact me after I say or blog about this. Statement like this don’t mean we don’t care for our kids. But they NEED to see your marriage as a priority. It sets them up for a healthy marriage.
  9. Value their interests. 
    • As much as sports/competition are important to me, I cannot force that upon my children. In the same breath, I cannot allow my unfamiliarity of their interests to make me apathetic or unfeeling to them. When you pull your attention away from what’s important to your child, you’re not rejecting the activity, you’re rejecting the child.
  10. Effort and commitment > achievement.
    • I’m not a “give a medal to all of the kids” type of parent. But my being proud of my kids isn’t based upon a grade nor an achievement. Making effort and following through on commitment is what we ask of them. The rest is gravy.
  11. Position other voices of authority.
    • My kids need other voices in their lives. For that reason, I really didn’t want to coach my kids as I wanted them to have other voices of authority besides mine. If I did, I wanted to serve under a “head coach” as to make sure the kids saw someone else in authority over them (and me). I will be eternally grateful for those Kids Pastors, Youth Pastors, small group teachers, and youth leaders who’ve poured into my kids.
  12. Have a united front.
    • Anne and I disagree on a variety of things. We’ve disagreed in front of our kids but not on major issues. We work hard to make sure that our kids see a united couple when it comes to the big decisions. We also work hard to support each other when one of us isn’t around.
  13. Seek and value their input.
    • I don’t ask my kids input to pander to them. I legitimately want to know they’re opinion on a number of subjects. Let them own some decisions for the home even on stuff that they don’t necessarily care about. To me, it’s not about the actual decision as much as what the process does: helps them to know that they are a valued member of the home.
  14. Every event is a learning opportunity. 
    • When my kids are processing things, they don’t always deal with them appropriately. So when things “cool down” we have a “sit down.” I usually sit on the edge of their bed and we walk through what happened and I ask the question, “what did you learn?” I want to know, now that everything is over, what they could have done better to handle things. If they own their issues, they’ll own the growth that’ll come from them.
  15. Discipleship is my responsibility. 
    • I pour out from what is being poured into me. As much as I love the Godly voices in my kid’s lives, it should be in addition to what I am doing, not supplementing what I’m not doing.

As always, I look to the words of Paul who said,

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. Philippians 3:12

I’m still working on these as well as learning new lessons for later lists. I’m still striving to be the example they need. I know my parenting will never stop, but I want to make the most of every opportunity I have with them.

I love you Ethan. My heart is for you to be a much greater man of God than I could have ever dreamed for you to be. Thanks for being you. Thanks for your patience with me. Thanks for being such a great son.

 

 

Love all of you parents out there. I’m cheering for you!!!

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

PKs: 7 Thoughts For Pastors About Their Kids

If you’ve ever heard the term, “PK” then you’ve been in church a while. It’s part of an exclusive club that requires one thing: You must have a parent as a pastor (unless you are the child of a missionary…then you’re an “MK”).

I wouldn’t say I’m a “true PK” because I didn’t become one until sixth grade. I was brought into the collective (Star Trek reference). I guess I’m what you would call a “hybrid.”  I’ve lived in both worlds; seen both sides.  Being a pastor, my kids know nothing of the “other side,” but they have talked about it.  It’s not that they don’t like being a PK.  But they recognize that they are seen and treated in a different lens at church and school.  

It was at a funeral of a pastor where my entire world of parenting as a pastor changed.  

A 45-year-old youth pastor had just passed away.  It was sudden and unexpected.  Tim was very loved and respected around the state and the funeral was packed.  The usual funeral elements were there. It was wonderful and meaningful.  Then Tim’s young adult daughter got up to read a letter to her father.  Within that letter, she rocked my pastoral and parental world. 

“Dad…I remember teenagers would line up after youth service to talk to you.  They would stand in line waiting their turn to share their heart with you.  One Wednesday, I got in line because I needed to ask you something and I didn’t want to interrupt others.  What they had to say to you was important and I didn’t want to be rude.”

“You then stopped mid-sentence and motioned for me to come forward.  It was then you said, ‘You NEVER have to wait in line for me.  You are the most important teenager in my life and in this church.’  Dad, that’s how you always made me feel.”

I hope my memory gave her words justice because it transformed me.  I sat in a puddle of tears.  Does Cammi and Ethan feel like the most important children in my life?  Has my parenting taken second to my pastoring? We’ve pastored a few hundred kids.  Anne and I consider them spiritual sons and daughters.  But did my kids feel that they were held in higher regard than any one of them?

I just want to encourage our pastors that are parents.  I don’t want to heap the guilt that the Enemy would love to use to crush us.  At the same time, if this blog can be the wake-up call that funeral was to me, then it will be worth it.  

1. They have more pressure than you realize and/or that you remember.  I hear it from Cammi a lot.  She has people apologize to her for what they do around her.  She also gets left out of things (not sinful) that people assume she wouldn’t/couldn’t do because “her dad is a pastor.”  She loves being a PK…but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t frustrate her.  People say ridiculous (IMO stupid) things to PKs: “You should know better, you’re a PK.” “Does your dad know you do that?”  “I expect more of you because of your dad.” 

That leads me to #2…

2. Let your kids be kids. Not sure what normal is, but let them be kids. I’m not saying to stop parenting.  They need to be allowed to be children and not have to live out a persona.  Are we as parents putting more pressure on them because of what other people are going to think? Is our desire to impress others and/or protect the “office of pastor” stronger than the desire to allow our children to be, well, kids? 

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3. Be there. I sat with a very wise pastor on a plane coming back from Africa.  He simply said, “Dave, someone else could’ve taught that class.  Someone could’ve lead the meeting.  I didn’t have to be me to head up the committee.  I should’ve been on the sideline, in the stands, or in the audience.”  I’m not saying you have to coach (even though it’s not a bad thing to be involved in your community…but that’s for another blog). You don’t have to lead anything (in fact, I’d encourage you to serve instead of lead in your local schools).  Your presence is powerful.  Your children being priority and feeling priority (there’s a difference) is impactful. 

4. Only use them as sermon illustrations IF they give you permission.  I know a pastor who pays his kids $5 per illustration.  My kid’s dad doesn’t hold to that policy. 🙂  But the policy I hold to is all about permission.  I don’t share unless they know.  I even check with them on details of the story.  They don’t mind.  Why?  I don’t make fun of them.  I don’t demean them.  There’s nothing embarrassing.  In fact, they love that they are a part of conveying the Gospel.  How did that happen? “Permission” paved the way. 

5. They need permission to interrupt. PKs know that you are NEVER off the clock.  Everywhere you go, you’re “Pastor.”  I’m Pastor Dave at Kfirst, the mall, Target, the park, etc.  I get stopped frequently in restaurants.  I get contacted most evenings by people and have conversations over Facebook Messenger and Twitter DM.  It’s just the reality of the day and age of social media.  BUT…my kids have permission to interrupt. Why? They’re more important than anyone in my congregation with ONE exception: my wife (click here if you missed the first part of this series and here if you missed the second part on pastor’s wives ).  My kids always walk up and say “excuse me” when they need my attention for something. Why are they polite about it? Because they know they are valued and they reciprocate the value.  

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6. Dates are not optional. Just as, I believe, relationships build the pulpit you preach from in your church, the relationship you develop with your children will build the platform to speak into their lives. I still go out with my kids on dates.  They both need individual time with me and it looks different for each. Also, they need “collective” time with me.  It’s a time where the three of us go out and have time together.  You need both.  If you don’t have time for that, it’s time to re-look at your schedule. 

Lastly…7. Don’t forget: you are “parent” before “pastor.”  You’re not called to be their best friend.  If you try that, they’ll lose all respect for you.  You’re not there to heap the mantle of PK upon their shoulders.  They already feel the weight.  Be a parent.  Love your kids.  Show them they are the most important children in the church because, well, they’re your kids. It does’t mean they get the best parts of the kids play at Christmas nor does it mean people have to salute them when they walk by.  It just means, in your life, they are highly valued and prized.  

Please hear my heart: If guilt is what you are experiencing, then recognize it as a tool of the Enemy to anchor you to past regrets.  He uses guilt to keep us from moving forward so that we drown in our past.  We are all products of grace.  We are all learning as we go.  None of us are experts as we all continue to learn. 

To some, if your kids are outside the home now: call them often, send them messages, and love on them.  If there are wrongs, repent if there needs to be repentance. If there fond memories, recount them and celebrate.  Continue to foster relationship.  No matter what, you will always be a parent and they will always be your kids. 

To others, if your kids are inside the home: make sure they know how valued they are.  I say the same things to you. If there are wrongs, repent if there needs to be repentance. If there good memories being made, recount them and celebrate.  But don’t stop fostering relationship.  

I love being a parent and a pastor.  I wish I did both better.  But I think if we’ll humble ourselves and continue to grow, God will continue to help us lead in both of these very wonderful roles.  

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Warning Shots: 10 subtle actions your marriage needs to pay attention to.

You’ve opened my ears so I can listen.
Psalm 40:6

I’m an aficionado of military movies.  And there’s certain lines and terms that you can count on hearing frequently.  For some reason, especially in movies involving ships, you’ll hear the term: warning shot. 

A warning shot is a military and/or police term describing an intentionally harmless shot toward the opposition.   The intention of the shot is to get the attention of the party at hand letting them know you mean business.  The warning shot doesn’t harm or hurt anyone.  It’s what I call the “attention grabber.”  It tells the opposing person that if you do not head the “warning shot”, consequences will follow. 

I’m not being a proponent of firing a shot, both literal and physical, at/toward your spouse.  But there are subtle things that happen in a marriage that are the “attention grabbers” of your relationship.  Many times, these are not intentionally done by a spouse.  They’re the subtle responses to situations that are not completely healthy. But to ignore these “warning shots” is to inviting the issuing circumstances. 

10 warning shots to take notice of: 

1. Taking for granted “The Big 5.”  They consist of: 

  • “I love you.”
  • “Will you forgive me?”
  • “I forgive you.”
  • “Thank you.”
  • “You’re welcome.”

2. Love languages are becoming a side issue. I think couples should monitor the changes in their love languages as they get older.  The seasons of life change you.  What used to speak to your spouse may not speak to them now.  Take time to read, talk, pray, and discover each other all over again. The pursuit will feed the passion. 

3.The schedule doesn’t allow you to worship or pray together.  We are more than physical beings. We are spiritual as well.  When the two became one, the two were meant to experience everything together…including worship.  If the schedule is preventing time of spiritual refreshing, something needs to change.  When you can’t remember the last time you haven’t prayed together, served together, or worshiped together, they’re subtle hints that spiritual intimacy needs to be a priority. 

4. The decisions you used to make together are now being decided without the other.  This is a sign that communication and unified decision-making are beginning to break down.  It always starts off with the little things. 

5. Sex isn’t happening.  My love language is “Physical Touch” so this isn’t a subtle hint.  But for those of you who are not driven physically, if sex isn’t happening in a healthy frequency (no magic number for that), it’s a definite sign that something needs to change. The heart should drive the mood.  Both spouses should possess the heart of a servant to make sure that the most intimate needs of their spouse is being served. As I’ve always said, “you are the only one that can meet that need in your spouse.”

6. There’s much more tolerance for what you never tolerated before.  There’s freedom in Christ and there’s just cashing in on Godly standards.  Your entertainment, conversations, thought-life, and private time should have healthy Godly boundaries.  If they’re not attended to, it amazing me what gets past them and desires to take root in our lives. 

7. “This is your problem not mine.” becomes a common line.  This is one of many quotes that shows the breakdown of oneness in a marriage.  “Mine” and “yours” are natural words used by couples whose unity is beginning to erode away.  Take notice on how much they’re being used and in the context they’re being used. Take a step back and realize: you are in this together.  Make sure your words follow suit. 

8. Date night? I hear couples joke “Does that happen anymore?” and it makes me cringe every time.  When you can’t remember when it’s happened last, it’s a sure sign that you desperately need time alone.  It doesn’t have to cost much if anything at all.  Take a walk.  Go on a drive.  Do something together. 

9. Kids are higher priority than the marriage. I know you have such a short window of time to raise your children. I’m a firm believer that kids are a high priority…just behind my spouse. I don’t neglect or ignore my kids.  BUT…my wife is a higher priority.  She needs to know that.  My kids need to see that.  This is why so many people get divorced after 20-25 years of marriage.  Everything was poured into the kids and nothing into the marriage.  

10. There’s more talk about what you DON’T have than what you DO have.  Envy is a killer of joy in your marriage.  It wants to guide your eyes and heart to what others have and what you lack.  You end up forgetting the blessings of God because you can’t see them past all of the “stuff” that should be yours.  “If only I/we had it.” is a lie.  Why? Because when you do get “it”, you’ll still continue to say that line. 

My prayer for you is that of Psalms 40:6.  That you would be able to say, God “opened my ears so I can listen.”  Ask the Lord to open up your 5 senses to hear the subtle things that you haven’t noticed before.  If you see these things, they are the attention grabbers that are screaming at you saying, “it’s time to attend to your marriage.”

Don’t grow deaf to the “warning shots.”  Open up your senses and listen. 

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Confessions of a Marriage Blogger: Part 2 “Our kids are for sale.”

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We started a series of marriage blogs last week. If you missed last week, check out Confessions of a Marriage Blogger: Part 1 “We irritate each other”.

I started off by telling my own feelings about how I felt like marriage blog and book writers lived in a Ken and Barbie world of perfection.  I’m not afraid to admit how wrong I was (it wasn’t the first time and won’t be the last time). But my thrust behind this series to help aid others in the marital cancer called “comparison”. Comparing causes a “double-jeopardy” of misery.  You get hit on a personal level and then you bring that into your marriage.  You think it won’t happen that way. You try to keep it to yourself.  But the problem resides in the oneness of marriage. When something effects you.  It WILL affect your spouse. Remember: The two became one when you were married (Genesis 2:24).  Again, stop comparing your marital journey with someone else’s trek. 

Part 2 – “Our kids are for sale.” 

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(Disclaimer for people with no sense of humor: I don’t really want to sell my kids.)

As a kid, I was a huge fan of the poet Shel Silverstein. Having a little sister, there was one poem in particular that I was very fond of.  The poem, “For Sale” was all about an older brother trying to sell off his younger sibling. The lines, “One sister for sale! One crying and spying young sister for sale! I’m really not kidding, So who’ll start the bidding?” should tell you enough about his frustration with her.  She “spies” and “cries” and thus must be removed and, according to the poem, to anyone who will bid.  I didn’t always feel that way about my sister.  I know I frustrated her and would bet she probably wishes she could’ve sold me a time or two.  Hey, it’s what us siblings do.

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I’m a pastor.  I’m a marriage blogger.  I love my two children Camryn and Ethan more than you can imagine.  Some boys want to grow up and be a fire fighter, police officer, or an astronaut.  I wanted to be a dad when I grew up.

But…

Sometimes they tick me off.
Sometimes, when I’ve had a long day, I lose my cool way to easily with them.
Sometimes I feel like a failure as a parent.
Sometimes I’m so frustrated with them find myself counting down the days to “empty nest” (7 1/2 years).
Sometimes I wonder if I have a leg to stand in helping (through blogging, preaching, and counseling) people with their parenting skills.

But I can’t be the only one to feel this way.

When I survey the disagreements and the frustrations that we have with our kids, and of course, they have with us, I begin to see some issues:

I see too much of me. What Anne and I discovered is some of the most frustrating things is that we see is…well…US. Cammi shows a lot of Anne.  Ethan shows a lot of me.  The question we have to keep asking ourselves: Is it their actions that are causing the conflict or are we seeing reminders of us? It has been said that opposites attract.  Perhaps it’s why moms and sons are closer and dads and daughters are so connected.  Seeing me in my kids, many times, is so irritating, not because they’re doing something wrong, it goes deeper into me seeing something in myself that needs correcting.

Advice: When confrontation starts up with the kids, Anne and I will stop each other and simply say “he/she’s being you.”  We’re not doing that to take a jab at the other.  We do it to remind each other to take a breath and realize that what we are confronting more within the moment is NOT our children but ourselves. When I’m confronted with myself, it forces me to deal with “ME”. Take a moment to think and reflect upon what the confrontation is really about. Ask Christ for healing in your own life.  Ask your kids for forgiveness for your impatience.  Share your story with them and how you’ve grown through Christ.  Rev. 12:11 says, “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Help your kids be an overcomer by allowing Christ into your conflict and let your testimony lead them to freedom.

I’m too protective of them. Every parent wants to save their children from the pain and frustrations that they, themselves, experienced. We try to stay two or three steps ahead and prepare the way for them as to make sure we can keep them from all of the faults, mishaps, and challenges we had to face. This is where, when I was youth pastoring, I used to categorize some parents as “helicopter parents”. They are the ones that constantly hover over their kids and can’t let them grow up. Most parents can be uber controlling over their children as their way of protecting them from any type of pain (physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental).

Advice: It’s very hard to admit, especially when it comes to our kids, but pain is necessary. Studies have shown that in this day of so many antibacterial soaps and lotions,  we are actually destroying the immune systems of our children. Without them being able to confront bacteria, their immune systems can’t develop the strength to fight. Could that same principle be in play when we don’t allow our kids to fail or go through “painful” moments?  What we need to teach them is HOW to make decisions and then let them MAKE the decisions. If they succeed: praise the effort and celebrate with them.  If they fail: praise the effort and teach them how to grow from failure. Proverbs 24:16 reminds us “The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.” We will “fall”.  But help your kids know how to get up and grow.

I’m dictating and not leading. As a dictator over the home, there is no responsibility for me to live and/or lead in any way. It’s my way or the highway. Even though there’s some truth to your rules as a parent being the rules to live by, there’s also something to be said about your example. I heard it said years ago, “What you do in moderation, your children do in excess“.  We don’t necessarily have a democracy at home, but I find if I go into dictating mode, my rules are inconsistent with my lifestyle. Why? Because I am the leader and I can do what I want. The problem: It’s confusing for the kids and teaches them to not live out what they say.

Advice: No matter what you think, you are always mentoring them. From your example, you will show them one of two things: 1. What to be like or 2. What they don’t want to be like. My father used to tell me, “Carefully watch the pastors that you work for. You will learn what the ministry is and what the ministry is not.” You’re kids will see the same thing in your family. Strive to give them the example of humanity possible.  Let them see you succeed AND fail.  For some reason, we don’t want them, out of pride, see our failures.  I’ll give you a tip: one of the greatest memories of my father was when he apologized to me for disciplining me when I didn’t deserve it.  Him asking for forgiveness and seeing his humility FOREVER marked my life. Proverbs 11:2Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

2 more that Anne and I also observe…

I want to be their best friend. I’ve notice that parents who, themselves, grew up with very tough parents are more likely to go to the opposite extreme and strive to be their kid’s best friend. It’s such a “feel good” move but in the end it’s damaging to the relationship. Why? Because when the child is in need of a parent, there’s none to be found. When they need parental discipline, it isn’t received with respect. Why?  Friends don’t/can’t discipline another friend.

Advice: I never knew my parents as my friends. Yet there wasn’t an issue I was not allowed to come to them about. Not having them as a friend didn’t keep me from going to them. In fact, it made them a safe place to go. Why? I knew they would approach it as a parent and there was such a safety in that. Your kids don’t need another friend.  They need a trusted and respected parent to be the voice of trust, strength, and Godliness in the home. Ephesians 5:1 says “Be imitators of God…” Don’t be an imitator of their friends. They don’t need it and, really, they don’t want that. Reflect The Father to your children and live out His example before them.

I live vicariously through my kids. Maybe because your parents would have never “bought you that”. Or your parents would’ve never let you “go out looking like that”.  As parents, we like to provide for what we didn’t have. My parents never bought me legos (those suckers are expensive), but what do I buy Ethan? Legos. As silly of an example as that is, there is a problem that goes far deeper.  There are parents that push their kids into sports, academics, and even relationships.  The goal seems to be to encourage the kids to be the best they can be. But for some, it’s to re-live moments. “Just to be on the field one more time.” “Just to get the grade I didn’t get.” “Just to not make the same relationship mistake I made.”  The problem: our kids end up hurt, confused, and damages, not over their lack of effort, but over a parent’s inability to let go and let them live.

Advice: Let your kids live. Set them up with wisdom, Godly counsel, prayer, and encouragement to make the decisions and paths they want to follow.  I’m a sports nut.  As much as I DESPERATELY want Ethan to play sports (specifically football), it has to be his choice. My position as father is not to reproduce me.  It’s to reproduce Christ in them.  Deuteronomy 6: 6-7 “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Keep the Lord as the focus and foundation of your parenting. He’ll guide you and He will help you through this parenting thing.

I know it’s a lot to take in. But I want to encourage you that you are not alone in your parental frustrations. You are not the only one going through the storm of raising kids. Be of good cheer and be encouraged that this, as tough as it is, is going to be one of the greatest seasons of your lives.  You are only promised a window of 18 years to pour into them. The best thing for you to do is be the greatest encourager your child has. Proverbs 11:25 says “those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” Do you want to be refreshed as a parent, refresh/encourage your kids.

Set them up to live Godly lives.

Then let them go.

Thanks for letting me ramble…