Thoughts that inspire, challenge, and increase influence

Practical Ideas to Help Your Child Become the Adult You Want Them to Become

Looking for something practical you can do invest in your child’s life?

Last post, Play the Long Game, I discussed the importance of having a long term perspective in parenting and introduced the concept of “Imagine the End” from our friends at Orange.  With that in mind, we want to give you some very practical ideas you can implement this month to help foster that growth in your children.

As a parent, it can be heart-breaking to think ahead to the day when your child packs up his room and leaves your house, to (hopefully) at least return for the holidays. At that moment, everything you have taught, modeled, and encouraged will be put to the test in the real world. That’s why it’s never too early to begin laying the foundation for the kind of adult you hope your child will grow into and the kind of relationship you hope to have after all the cheerio-smashing, music-blaring, curfew-breaking years have passed. Here are a few ideas to get you started…

Show Compassion.
“Compassion for others” is probably high on the list of qualities you want your child to have. And what better place to start than with an organization named exactly that? Compassion International is an incredible organization for you to use as a tool to teach your children about serving and loving others. Spend some time researching an organization as a family and decide on a way you will help this month!

Keep A Secret.
Imagine your kids becoming people who think of others more than themselves. Interested? At your next family dinner, ask this question: Who do you know that needs a little extra help or attention this month? Then think of one person (a family member, neighbor, friend, classmate, peer, etc.) per family member. But don’t let anyone outside the family know what’s up! Plan together and then check back in throughout the month to see how each family member is serving his or her secret person.

Bake A Tradition.
Traditions make a family a family (well, traditions and embarrassing photos – all denim photos anyone??). This month, pass on a family tradition by working together to make a dessert that grandma or a favorite family member makes. As you eat your dessert, talk about the importance of family and how sweet your favorite traditions are!

Mail A Letter.
Get your kids in the habit of “writing home” this month by giving each person in your family three notecards, envelops and stamps. Have each person pick three people who serve them well and write or draw a picture to say “thank you for how you serve me.” Talk about what you wrote as a family and send your notes in the “snail mail”!

Guess Who.
Bring serving home this month by encouraging your family members to serve one another. Put every family member’s name on a piece of paper. Then, draw names and keep it a secret. Challenge each family member to make their secret person a priority and make them feel special. At the end of the month try and guess who each person’s secret person was.

Not all of these will work for you  and maybe you have a better idea!  If so, go for it.  The goal is to begin to think about what you can do NOW in the time where you have your children under your roof to prepare them for the FUTURE under their own roof.

You only have so much time, but it’s amazing what you can do when you do intentional things over time!  What are you waiting for!?  Today is a great day to influence the next generation.


Play the Long Game

Why do we have such a hard time sticking with what we know will be better in the long run instead of sacrificing the greater good for a short term gain?

We cheat on our diets, we make the impulse buy, or we allow our child to watch TV for way too long because, frankly, there’s no other option.

In parenting, this shows up in a lot of places – discipline, moral development, spiritual development, helping them become adults, etc.  We know what we want, but we never quite get around to executing it like we would like to.  We have a vague vision of our hopes for the future, but we really are at a loss for what to do in the short term to get there.


Neuroscience lets us know that when we give in for a small gain in the short term we get a dopamine hit.  And it feels good.  Our biology likes it.  Sure, the greater good or level of intention or ultimate goal might have been sacrificed, but honestly if the bribe got me out of that embarrassing moment with my kid, I’ll deal with the consequences later (sound familiar to anyone?).   This is the curse of lawnmower parents – those that can’t stand to see their child experience anything negative in the short term, but don’t realize the way they are jeopardizing their child’s future.  But at least they got their dopamine fix!

Here’s the deal – our biology is not set up for success.  It’s just not.  It’s set up for survival.  Our biology is drawn to the dopamine drug we get when we do something in the short term that feels good.  We go back for more and  we cheat, we sacrifice, we compromise, we give in.   So, how do we break free from the survival mode our brains often are drawn to?


“Here’s the paradox:

Easy short term choices lead to difficult long term consequences.  Difficult short term choices lead to easy long term consequences.

But (those who have broken free) have realized that procrastination and indulgence are like these creditors that charge us interest…it ultimately creates the more difficult life.”


Rory Vaden – Take the Stairs


Again from Rory, “It’s not we struggle as much from a lack of discipline as much as it is we struggle from a lack of vision.  The amount of our endurance is directly proportionate to the clarity of our vision.”

In order to play the long game we have to have a vision of the future.  We use the phrase “imagine the end” to help with this process.  Imagine your child at 18.  If our goal is to create mature, Jesus-following adults by the time they leave our care, then that will require certain actions in the short term to create the desired outcome in the long term.  What do you hope they understand or who do you hope they are becoming?  Or maybe just imagine your child at the end of the current phase of life – who you hope they will be at the end of elementary or middle school years.  Whatever will help you create a vision.

Once the vision is there, we will have the endurance to stay the course and follow through in the difficult daily grind of parenting.  When we create the vision of the future, we realize the sacrifices of today move us toward the future we care about.   Our ability to be disciplined will kick in naturally and override those survival instincts.

So, here’s a simple invitation to take the time to “imagine the end”.  What is it you desire for your child?  What steps will it take to get there?  What small ways have you been sacrificing the long game for a short term fix?  How can you make some small, difficult decisions today that will lead to a better future?


Two Related Posts:  Don’t Give In!  and   Fight Your Instincts

So That’s What’s Going On!

“What is going on in that brain of yours?”

Why are kids/teens so difficult to understand sometimes?  It’s just a fact – kids do things that are simply frustrating to a parent.

The culprit to my frustration often, if I’m honest, is expectation.  I have an expectation of what should happen and that expectation is not met.  Perfect example – our newborn sleeps through the night one night, so we expect the a full night’s sleep the next.  When it doesn’t happen it’s all the more frustrating.  In reality, I should expect a newborn to be…well, a newborn.

But what about teens – what are your expectations in regards to your teenage son or daughter?

What if the unexpected is what we should expect or at least anticipate?
What if there are neurological reasons for that illogical behavior?
Could it really just be that their brains are “under construction”?

I found the below article and suggestions incredibly helpful.  I’d be curious if you feel these line up with the reality of your own son or daughter!

Your student is changing fast. Chances are this isn’t a surprise. Their classes are changing. Their friends are changing. Their bodies are definitely changing. But one change you may not see as quickly are the changes that are happening in your student’s brain.

As our students approach puberty, their brains are being physically rewired to function less like a child and more like an adult. New connections are forming. Old ones are collapsing. Parts of the brain are being reorganized. And with all of that activity, it’s no surprise that they may experience occasional “outages” or glitches in their judgment, their memory, and their emotional control.

That means…
** your straight-A scholar may suddenly forget their homework.

** your sweet, quiet child may now have teenage emotional outbursts.

** your reasonable, responsible student may have a few mindboggling lapses in judgment.

When that happens, our first reaction may be to panic and wonder, “What went wrong here?” But, most of the time, nothing is really wrong. Our students’ brains are simply under construction.

In their book, Teen Stages, authors Ken and Elizabeth Mellor describe this as a “cognitive rebirth” beginning around age 13 and continues into young adulthood. That means during middle school and high school, your student may show some behaviors reminding you a lot of their toddler and early elementary years. And…it’s perfectly normal.
While no two children are the same, and development is surely going to look different and take different amounts of time for each one, it may be helpful to look at the stages Mellor outlines to see where your student fits and what may be coming next.

As you check out the table below, find which descriptions best match your student and read to see what maybe coming in the next year. No matter what phase of rewiring your student is in, it’s important to remember that it’s only a phase. Enjoy them exactly as they are today and know that you play a key role, even during the later stages, in guiding them toward what’s next.



13   – The Baby Stage – Thirteen-year-olds experience increased child-like neediness (p. 85). Many things they previously understood very easily turn into unsolvable mysteries. Cause and effect no longer seem to exist. And they may go through times when they literally no longer understand no longer remember, no longer have a sense of the previous week, day, hour, or even minute (p. 87).

14 – The Dissenter Stage – (They) are reworking the two-year-old period. This is why so much of what they do seems so like the behavior of an angry toddler (p. 107).  At the end of this stage, young people are considerably more at peace…by the time they get to fifteen, they can think fairly clearly, plan well, and act appropriately even when they feel passionate about things (p. 104).



15 – The Fledgling Stage – This is one stage that most parents enjoy. It signals an end to the struggles, and it is a period of learning and curiosity about the world…Many aspects of this stage involve bonding with the adult world: fifteen-year-olds are ripe for this and our job is to ensure that we and other adults are available so they can bond with us (p. 123.)

16 – The Sweet and Sour Stage – Sixteen-year-olds start to challenge again, at home particularly. Through much of the year, they struggle with taking personal responsibility for themselves. With our persistence, they gradually soften and come to terms with their actual capacities and responsibilities. Our part is to learn to act with more detachment (p. 143).

17 – The Romantic Stage – Exercising responsibility for themselves is central. They organize themselves, make plans, and follow through on them, are increasingly considerate and sensitive to others, and fulfill their household and other duties. As they do, they learn the benefits and the consequences of taking personal responsibility. The increased autonomy of our seventeen-year-olds results in many wonderful ways of having fun. This is often a happy time, so many options open up naturally (pp. 164-165).

18 – The World Leader Stage – A desire to contribute to the world is very important. They generally do want to make a difference. They are understandably preoccupied with the practicalities of finishing school or getting on at work. Parents may now seem somewhat irrelevant emotionally as these young people start to commit to other people outside the family. Continuing as friendly consultants works particularly well if we cultivate respect for their privacy and their interests (p183).

©2015 The reThink Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Good News:  It’s Just a Phase!  It’s part of the process and the end goal is still intact.


Sometimes the scariest thing about our students’ wiring is that it comes from us. It’s tempting to focus all our attention on the traits in our students that make us cringe—especially when we know they learned it from us. But those aren’t the only traits we’ve passed down. If you think about it, there are also some pretty great things in your students’ wiring that came from you.

This week, take notice of one positive trait in your student that they inherited from you. (This can be something you can do as a step parent, adoptive parent or foster parent as well. Genetics may be responsible for some traits, but observation and learned behavior play an important role, too!)

Maybe you’re both good at math. Maybe your son is starting to show some of your great conversational skills. Or maybe your daughter is wired to be , just like you. No matter what it is, pay attention to the positive traits passed on to your student. Then, try something like the below.  Fill it out and leave it somewhere for your student this week.




4 Ways To Grow Your Parenting

Every little kid that loves the idea of growing up.  And most of the time, we know what it takes to get from one level to the next.

Chances are it’s been a while since you hit a growth spurt,  but we all go through spurts where we grow, learn, and change. We are challenged to learn new things at work, in our marriage, in relationships, and in other areas of our lives. And, that challenge to grow is a good thing.  Today we are going to ask you to consider how you are growing in regards to parenting.

We all need growth spurts in our lives.  That’s why companies provide professional development classes. It’s why gyms have fitness training programs. And, parenting is no different. Just like the rest of life, there will be times when we need to stretch and grow our parenting.  So here’s 4 thoughts to consider:

We are constantly advising our students, giving them insight so they’ll make good choices. We say, “Eat healthy food.” “Get enough sleep.” “Be kind to others.” “Keep good boundaries in relationships.” And if our teenagers would just listen to us, that would be great. The problem is they watch us, too! They pay more attention to what we do than what we say.  That’s why, even in the exhausting and complicated world of careers and adult responsibilities, it’s important that our students don’t just hear our advice but see us acting it out in our daily lives. Words are important, but actions make our words believable for students. In other words, they’re more likely to believe what you say when you do what you say.

The truth is, there will be times when your student doesn’t want to talk to you and won’t seek your advice. That’s why it’s so important to have other adults in their lives that you (and they) trust. Maybe that’s a church small group leader, a school coach, or a friend’s parent. Make a list of a few other adults who you both like and trust. Then decide together who your student will go to when they don’t feel they can come to you.

There’s no question that serving benefits teenagers. The Minneapolis based Search Institute has reported that children and teens who volunteer just 1 hour a week are 50% less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or engage in harmful behaviors. But the benefits aren’t just limited to the student. When families serve together they create situations where they will have to depend on each other, work together, and have real conversations.

Teenage years are full of big moments. Dances. Big games. Hard tests. Award Ceremonies. Breakups. Drivers licenses. But every once in a while, our students experience a different king of big moment, one that can cause their entire life to pivot or go in a new direction. Maybe its when the family moves to a new state, or dad loses his job, or there’s a divorce or the death of a friend. When those moments come, as parents, it’s more important than ever that we lean in and let our students know that we’re going to walk through this tough stuff with them. It’s never easy, and there’s no manual for what to say or how to respond. But just knowing you’re there, you’re present with them, through the biggest life-changes may give your student the anchor they need to weather whatever storm may come.


Sometimes the best way to grow an area of our life up is to figure out where we are now. Take a look at each of the four areas above and…

•GIVE YOURSELF A SCORE. On a scale of one to ten, how are you doing in the 4 areas above?  No need to be a 10, who is really?!?  I can tell you, not only am I not a 10, I’m pretty close to 0 in some areas.  This just helps find a starting place.

•CELEBRATE THE WINS. Did you give yourself a high mark on something? Then celebrate that! Parenting isn’t easy, and it’s great to celebrate the areas where you’re doing well.

•TAKE ONE STEP. Take a look at the area with your lowest score. What’s one step you could take to move up one point? Maybe it’s signing up to bring meals to the homeless one time. Or perhaps it’s time to brainstorm the names of a few other adults that your student could go to with questions.

©2015 The reThink Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Speak Up! You Might Change Their Life.

Your words have power and more than likely you keep them to yourself way too often.

You’ve heard the story of the husband who gets frustrated with his wife asking why he never says I love you…to which he replies “Honey, I told you I did when we got married, if anything changes I will let you know.”

I watched once again this past weekend, the power and significance of words.  Without going into too much detail, I witnessed what happens when people are asked to speak their words of love and encouragement to someone they care for.  One girl shared that she felt she now had a new direction in life based on one sentence from a friend.  Another person shared they had years of guilt and shame lifted off their shoulders from a single sentence on a yellow post-it note.  I’m sure you know stories similar to these in your own life.

Words have power.

Words move people.

Words give direction.

Words shape people.

I see this with my kids all the time.  I say they are good at something and they believe it and it brings confidence and further exploration of their abilities.  They may not be all that good at doing a somersault, but they are young enough to believe it from their dad and it allows them to continue to test the waters of their gifts and abilities.  In fact, I would wager that most kids don’t know what they are good at until someone tells them.  Someone speaks life and direction into them.

It’s even more important that we aren’t stingy with our words, when you consider this — Did you know research from the Gottman Institute found that:

For every 1 comment of encouragement we receive, there are 7 comments of criticism.

So, on average you and I hear 7 comments of criticism with only 1 positive comment in the mix.   No wonder you might be feeling a bit down today.

Unspoken Love Isn’t What We Think It Is

You’ve heard the phrase, “actions speak louder than words”.  It’s true if your actions don’t match your words – actions win.   The only problem is we think our actions are speaking much louder than they actually are.  At some point along the way, we stopped speaking words and decided to let our actions do the talking and it’s not working.

While my wife appreciates everything I do for her, she wants to hear my voice.  She wants me to stop what I’m doing (actions that I think show my love, but are really just part of life together) and look her in the eyes and tell her what she means to me.  She wants my words.

I think this happens in families all the time.  I imagine many parents feel like they are showering their kids in love, while their kids are just waiting for a moment to hear how special they are.  This disconnect is common in most homes with the busyness of life, school, work, sports, activities, etc.   We DO a lot for each other, however, if we don’t stop, look each other in the eye, and speak words of life, I’m not sure that the message gets through – at least not with the weight we might hope in a world where 7:1 is the ratio.


Your words have power.  

Your words are needed.  

You words carry potential for change.

So what are you waiting for?  Speak up!  You might just change someone’s life!


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