Thoughts that inspire, challenge, and help increase your influence

Fighting your Instincts

Of course we need to protect our kids, but Dr. Kelly Flanagan shows us the main thing we need to protect our kids from is ourselves!  In a recent article he asks,

“What if the thing we really need to protect our children from is our own protectiveness?”

As a youth pastor, I often have a front row seat to well-meaning parents going to the extremes to make sure their kids are “ok”.  I understand every situation is different and perceptions can be misleading, but if we are not careful our protective instincts can actually hinder our child’s growth.

Our goal as parents, simply put, is to prepare our kids for adulthood.  Sometimes that means that we have to withhold our protective instincts for the sake of their growth as a person.  If you look around and pay attention to what’s being written, you will notice we might have a problem.  This is highlighted by a quick Google search of “college students and parents” –

“How Helicopter Parents are Ruining College Students” – Washington Post

“Snowplow Parents Overly Involved in College Student Lives” – Boston Globe

“College Students and Their Helicopter Parents:  A Recipe for Stress” – Huffington Post

These articles were sandwiched in between articles written by universities offering “Tips to Parents” to help them let go.  Essentially, these articles are begging parents to let their kids be responsible for their own life, grades, time, etc.  In other words, let them be adults, make mistakes, take responsibility…grow!

It Will Not Produce the Results You Desire

As parents we need to protect our young kids from the danger of an ill-advised jump off the coffee table.  As they grow older though, there are some things that we can’t protect them from and that’s where we get into trouble.  Providing physical safety as a parent is necessary.  The instinct to want to protect our kids is as natural as waking up.  However, there comes a point where we have to fight this instinct.  Dr. Flanagan writes,

“We’ve got their physical safety on lockdown.

So what do we do next with our protective instinct?

We try to perfect our children because, deep down, we believe perfection is protection…If we are flawless, we leave no chinks in the armor. The more perfect we are, the more likely we are to come out on top in the game of social comparison. If our kids are perfect, we hope it will protect them from peer rejection, poor self-esteem, disappointments in life, and the pain of being human.”

We know the realities of this world.  We know what is out there waiting for them.  But as a follower of Jesus, I also trust the words found in the book of Philippians.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Part of that completion is the journey through successes, failures, pain, joy, bad decisions, and making the right, hard decisions.  Here’s what I know for sure:  my protection cannot produce the results I ultimately desire.  At some point, I have to trust the Author of this life, my child’s life, to do his work.  During that time, I have to fight my instincts.


To read Dr. Flanagan’s full article click here (the last section might be worth printing out and putting on your fridge!):  Why We Need to Protect Our Kids From Us

Shaped By Scripture

As a father of two daugthers, I’ll admit I got real close to getting emotional in my office as I read this Q&A with Jim Burns and the Fuller Youth Institute (luckily for my co-worker’s sake, I held it together).  He answers 3 simple questions about parenting, but his second answer is that one that got me.  Check it out:

‘What verse of scripture has most shaped your parenting?’

I’m not sure we had one favorite verse for the entire time we were raising our kids, but three scriptures come to mind: “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.” (Prov. 22:6) We claimed this verse as a promise, especially in the tougher times. As our girls reached the teenage years, they all took a turn away from what we had hoped and expected. Our goal was that by the time they became young adults, we would have taught them how to find their “Mission, Mate, and Master.” This doesn’t mean that they would have it all together, but that we at least helped them learn a biblical view in all three of those areas. Today we are reaping those rewards, but it sure wasn’t easy during the tougher times.

The second scripture is “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be written upon your hearts. Impress them on your children.” (Deut. 6:4,5) This scripture is called the shema, a Hebrew word meaning “to listen,” and it actually is the plan and purpose for the Hebrew people. It’s the most often-quoted scripture in the entire Bible because it has been recited every morning and evening in every Orthodox Jewish home since the time of Moses. I can imagine Mary holding the baby Jesus in her arms reciting these words to him. What this scripture taught Cathy and me is that we are called to live our faith out to the best we can, and then in a healthy way “impress” or pass it on to our children. We came up with a Sunday night fun night that included games, fun food, and a short spiritual formation time. Our kids didn’t mind, as long as it was a positive environment with fun food!

We also kept a nightly quick prayer time at each of the girls’ bedside. I got in the habit of placing the sign of the cross on their foreheads. One time when one of my adult daughters was going through a tough time, I asked her if I could pray for her. When I was finished praying she took my hand and had me put the sign of the cross on her forehead. I had no idea all those years that this experience meant anything to her.

The third verse is, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Prov. 4:23) Neither Cathy nor I were raised in Christian homes. No one ever taught us how to “guard our hearts.” We believed it was very important that we taught our kids (through both words and action) how to have healthy relationships by guarding their hearts as well as learning to guard their hearts in their faith.

You might have guessed, it was the third paragraph that snuck up on me.  I can only hope I have that kind of relationship with my daugthers when they are older.  There is so much in his answer that is worthy of emulating.  Personally, I’m stealing quite a few ideas from Jim.  I’m sure he won’t mind if you do as well.

In our family, my wife has started a great tradition of speaking truth and purpose over our kids each day.  Every day they engage in a call and response.  My wife will say to them, “Remember, love God, love others, and…” to which they respond “do great things!”  As we read the biblical story, we realize that simply put our everyday calling is to love God and love others.  In the process of doing that, we trust that God will do great things through our simple, obedient love.  It’s my prayer that as we speak these words of Scripture over our kids, it will be a foundation for them as they grow.

What about you?  What scripture passages have most influenced your parenting?  Feel free to share them in the comments below!

To read the answers to the other two questions (they are both shorter than this one and worth reading), check it out here.

Is this Why I’m frustrated as a Parent?

“Sometimes I feel like superman.  Sometimes I’m just recuperating.”  — Bob Schneider

That song lyric rolls around in my head often, but during this season of life it has become the theme.  In our life with kids some days it’s all we can do to survive.  Some days we are knocking it out of the park.  Then, of course, there are the days we think we are at the top of our game, but as soon as we relax, satisfied with ourselves, well…you know the rest of the story (something breaks, someone gets sick, kids fight, all hell breaks loose).

The main question I seem to be asking myself everyday is, “Can I make it until the kids go to bed without coming unglued or am I going to lose it today?”  

Sometimes I feel like Superman.  Sometimes I’m just recuperating.

Now, many are quick to say this season with young kids in the house is the most demanding. They also say it’s the toughest time for marriages and individuals, so we should give ourselves (and our spouse) a ton of grace.  It’s just a season and it will pass.  This is absolutely true and I know this is part of what I’m about to say.  However, for me personally, I think I’ve discovered something else going on.  Something a bit deeper.  Something hiding out behind the scenes.  Something that I need to confess.

I’m discontent.  I’m tired of the rhythms of my days.  I’m frustrated with my state of my life.

This has been bubbling up in my mind for awhile, but I was reading an article recently that helped me process my discontent.  Paul David Tripp was being interviewed and his response to this question got me:

In what ways can the trials of the teenage years reveal what is really going on in the parents’ hearts?

“I wish I could say that the only time I got angry was when one of them broke God’s law!  However, the truth is that often I wasn’t angry because they had sinned, but because their sin got in my way.  And what often gets in the way of parenting teenagers are the idolatries of the parents.”

And there it was.  I want comfort, success, respect, control and these have become idols in my life.  I’m not discontent with my kids.  In fact, I’m having the most fun I’ve had as a parent in this current stage.  The problems is not them, it’s me!   Why else would I take the fact that my 4 year old doesn’t respect me in a particular moment so personally?

Here’s my complaint:  The morning routine isn’t giving much space for the personal quiet I need.  School dropoffs and pickups are getting in the way of my work and productivity.  Bedtime routines are stealing any head space or emotional capacity I have left at the end of the day to share with my spouse.

Bottom line:  I’m trying to work hard and get ahead in life and they’re trying to be kids and enjoy life.  Go figure.

“God-given Ministry Opportunities”

For those of you who are parents of teens, I think this is HUGE!  It’s hard and it requires an honest look at yourself, but to me it feels like if I can get this, I will save myself, and my family, a lot of heartache. 

Paul Tripp goes on to say if these things (idols) rule our heart, then in a moment of normal teen trouble, we will overreact.  It will be more about the fact that your teen “has stopped you from doing or having what you really want” than what they actually did.  In the those misguided moments, we just want to get the situation over with, we get frustrated, and we seek the quick fix.   In doing so, “we turn a God-given ministry opportunity into a moment of anger”.

Did you catch that?  What a transformational idea!  Moments of trouble are God-given opportunities and a unique chance for us to connect to the heart of our child.

Hitting a Rock

This reminds me of a story in my life.  There was a troubled teenager I was working with and I was taking him home one evening.  He was the last kid being dropped off and I could sense there was a lot on his mind.  It was a school night and his parents wanted him home quickly or I would have suggested going to grab a bite to eat and talk.  I tried to draw it out of him, but nothing was coming.  As I dropped him off, I was backing out of his long, narrow driveway just praying and wishing I had a chance to encourage him at some point.  As I began to turn into the circle to head home, I hit a bump and the car stopped moving.  I was pretty sure I just flattened his mailbox.  Either way, I was stuck.

I had run my bumper over a decorative rock at the end of the drive and it was stuck between the wheel and the bumper.  I wasn’t going anywhere.  I went back to the house.  The student and I rigged a way to get my car off the rock and laughed about the situation.  The laughter led to deeper conversation and I was able to encourage him in his current struggles.  Without the rock, I’m not sure we would have had the conversation we had that night.

Is it possible that some of the the bumps we encounter are holy moments waiting to be discovered?

Finding Contentment

As I reflect, my moments of anger are clearly revealing the idols of my heart.  The main problem in these moments of anger haven’t been my kids wrongdoing, it’s been my idolatry.  I’m discontent because they are getting in the way of what I want most – namely, the idol of comfort.

To find contentment, I’ve got to deal with my own heart.  I’m not there yet, but I can tell you that I can’t wait to go home tonight and look my kids in the eyes and tell them how incredible they are.  It’s a start!

Does this resonate with you as well?  As you reflect on recent “moments of anger” with your kids, what do they reveal about your heart?  How can you remind yourself in times of disruption and trouble that this might be the God-given opportunity you needed to connect with the heart of your child?

You can read the full article quoted above here.

“Cultivating a heart for God in teenagers is the hardest work a human being could ever do.  We must realize that there is no hope apart from Christ.  If I could turn the human heart by the force of my voice, the strength of my personality, the logic of my argument, or the wisdom of my parenting strategies, then Jesus would never have needed to come.  As a parent, I’ve hit something I can’t do by myself.  It makes me angry.  It frustrates me.  It discourages me.  I want an “instant fix”.  Just give me the three steps to producing godliness in kids.  But the Bible doesn’t do that.  It doesn’t give us a system of redemption; it gives us a Redeemer.”   –Paul David Tripp

A Quick Look In the Mirror

And that’s when I knew I had a problem.

My 2 year old was running towards me in a panic, “Daddy, Daddy!  You’re Phone!”  “What’s wrong?”, I asked.  “You need to put it in your pocket!” she emphatically responded.

My daughter had, through observation of my behavior, come to the conclusion that I was not complete without my cell phone attached to me in some way.  It was as much a part of me as anything else she observed.  It was a deep concern for my well-being that told her an immediate reaction was necessary when she found my phone on my nightstand and I was in the other room.

This became a consistent pattern and had me thinking about what I was modeling to my  very new-to-the-world daughter.  What have I already shown her about the way the world works?  Did I just screw myself for the teenage years?  Now when she has a phone attached to her and won’t pay attention to her family, is there where it all began?  

The folks over at Fuller Youth Institute just shared some research I think you will find worth your time to read.  They interviewed “50 amazing parents” and published a book based on their findings in relation to what they call “Sticky Faith”.  Basically, faith that stands the test of time.  Faith that sticks long after the kids leave the nest.

If you’re interested in the book, you can find it here: The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family: Over 100 Practical and Tested Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Kids

Here’s a portion of what they found when it comes to technology use in the home:

One of the most dominant themes in our fifty parents’ descriptions of their homes is that they limit their kids’ use of technology.

These boundaries are needed because of the way young people today are marinated in media.

Let’s consider together a generation whose lives are heavily flavored by technology:

• Fifty-eight percent of this generation possess a desktop computer.

• Sixty-one percent own a laptop.

• Eighteen percent use a tablet or e-reader.

But the real king of all technology is the device in their pocket. Almost 90 percent of this generation carry a cell phone. 1

When asked to describe their cell phone in one word, this generation answered, “Awesome,” “Great,” “Good,” “Love,” “Excellent,” “Useful,” and “Convenient.” 2

You might be thinking that some of those words don’t sound very adolescent. Especially the words useful and convenient. That’s because the generation I’m describing isn’t teenagers. It’s adults.

Are young people avid users of technology? You bet. But the data suggests that while teenagers may be digital natives, we adults are fast-adapting digital immigrants. Before we judge teenagers for their quick-texting thumbs and seemingly permanent earbuds, we adults need to put down our smartphones and think about our own media consumption.

Eighty-three percent of young people are involved in social networking. So are 77 percent of their parents. 3

– See more of the article here:  Parents’ Smartphones:  Sticky Faith Builder or Breaker?

When I read this article, it was just like my 2 yr old running up to me again.  For a time, I was very cognizant of how I was using technology.  My wife and I even discussed a “technology basket” where we dropped our phones or iPads when we were in the family room with the girls.  This is especially important when we get home from work and they so greatly desire our attention.

I hate to admit it, but the conviction has waned and the old habits resurfaced.

What about you?  Do you feel like you have adopted the same practices you complain that your children have?  Do you feel like technology is hampering your communication?  Or you may feel like technology has improved your communication?

Either way, I think it is important to evaluate our relationship with technology from time to time.  I know I need to.  I encourage you to take some time this week and evaluate the role of technology in your home to see what you find.

If you feel the need to make some changes, I’ve written on ideas for restricting technology use and you can find those thoughts here:  Raising Kids in the Digital Age – Part 3

I would encourage you to read part 1 of the series as well, so you can understand the heart behind the restrictions.    (I mention the use of a family agreement in the restrictions.  Here’s an article with an example of one family’s contract with their son –

Feel free to share how you’ve navigated these waters in your own family in the comments below!

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