Thoughts that inspire, challenge, and increase influence

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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Not Enough Time? Do it Together!

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been feeling a real tension between my work life, home life, spiritual life, physical life (i.e. – excercise), and personal life.  Who has time to nurture all these things?  Who can meet each one’s demands at the end of the day?

This a great, simple article, “The Easy Way to Double Your Fun with Your Kids” by Jon Acuff that reminds us that relationships and parenting don’t have to be that complicated.  Sometimes there is incredible power in just doing normal things together.

I don’t like to run, but I do like my pants fitting.

In order to enjoy that second thing I have to do more of that first thing.

A few times a week I go running, but sometimes my schedule gets really busy. Balancing my career, my family and my faith, sometimes feels like a juggling act.

I have two daughters, age 9 and 11, and a beautiful wife I’ve been married to for close to 14 years. I also have a new book that comes out this spring, you should order it right here, and a speaking schedule that takes me across the country.

I don’t have big swaths of free time in my calendar and need to be really smart about the ways I spend my hours. One trick I’ve had a lot of success with this year is simply inviting my kids into the things I am doing, like running.

My daughters are old enough to ride their bikes with me while I run. Instead of jogging by myself or listening to a podcast, for the last two months I’ve been running with one of my daughters. They take turns going with me so that it becomes a 30-minute midweek date with Daddy.

It’s amazing how much they’ll talk to me during the run. Something about the fresh air, the exercise, and the fun of riding a bike opens up a lot of conversation.

As parents, it’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to balance it all. What if this week you looked at your calendar and simply said, “What do I need to do that I could invite my kids into?” I needed to run, so I invited my kids. I turned “me time” into “we time” and was blown away by what a simple tweak could do.

Do your kids want to go sit and wait while you get an oil change this week? Maybe not, but they might if it meant you brought a board game they’ve been wanting to play.

Double the fun you get to have with your kids by inviting them to be part of your day.

So, what’s one thing that you can invite your son or daughter to do with you this week?


Hope this is encouraging.  If you’ve got a great idea to do together with your child, post it in the comments.
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Choose Your Own Adventure

“The dominant ideology of our culture is committed to continuity, and success, and to the avoidance of pain, hurt and loss.  The dominant culture is also resistant to genuine newness and real surprise.  It is curious, but true, that surprise is as unwelcome as is loss and our culture is organized to prevent the experience of both”

— Walter Brueggemann

Recently my daughter shared something in the car that made me realize we were moving through some big changes in our life, but more importantly we were making the transition.  Change in life is inevitable.  Change happens and comes in many forms.  But what I realized in the car that day was that it’s the transitions in life that matter most.  Or another way to say this, transition is how we react, process and grow through that change.


I have an idol of comfort.  I realize that a lot of my frustration in life often comes with a disruption of my comfort.  As the quote of above would suggest, this idol of comfort causes me to seek to avoid both pain and surprise.  Even though pain and surprise are always opportunities for growth and newness.

How about you?  What are your reactions to disruptions of comfort or normalcy in your life?

No one likes the disorientation that change can bring.  But if change is inevitable, the better option is, not avoidance, but leaning into the change.



I’ll never forget a man I met and worked with several years ago.  When I met him his cancer had been in remission for 8 years.  As he told me the stories of his life, it was obvious that his battle with cancer had changed everything.  After cancer, his perspective on life changed.  How he spent his time changed.  What he valued in life changed.  He was so refreshing to be around because he would share wisdom and perspective that oozed joy and hope.

Cancer is a terrible disruption and disorientation and no one wants to “welcome” it as a surprise in their life.  But as his cancer came back and he had to battle it all over again, I watched a man embrace the challenge knowing that this disruption — which was messing with his comfort and his ideal, normal life — had the possibility to bring new orientations and surprises that were worth the pain and potential loss.

He was incredibly thankful for the lessons cancer taught him and the 8 years of life with a new orientation that cancer made possible.  He was loving his wife and kids better, giving his time to walk alongside young people and help them make sense of the world, he was driving a motorcycle across the US, he was noticing the beauty in life all around him, he was skiing areas that you had to helicopter in to get access to, and he was filled with joy and hope and the mystery of what can happen when we embrace change.

This man could have easily shrinked away and become bitter in the face of his diagnosis, but he embraced the pain and surprise and emerged thankful for newness of life.


In the last 6 months, our family has sold our home, been “homeless” for two months, moved into a new home, had a baby, and started a kid in kindergarten.  Significant change, but the question is have we transitioned?

After we got back in the car from the “meet the teacher” night, I asked my daughter, –“You’ve been through a lot lately, has it been hard or fun?”

Umm…It’s been in the middle of hard and fun.  But…

New house – check!
New baby – check
And now I have started Kindergarten – check!

She has been through the change, but now she is making the transition.


How have you recently experienced change in your life?  Have you leaned into this change and what has been it’s effects on your life?

Are you shrinking back from the change and therefore neglecting the opportunity to grow and embrace surprise and newness?

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Back to the Grind! A Way to Leverage the Hectic Life of a Parent

One of the reasons I love summer is the opportunity for relationship and quality time as a family.  As the window on summer closes and the school year grind is gearing up, I’ve been thinking about ways to keep a focus on relationships in the midst of the busyness of a school year.  And let’s be honest…

We are busy people.  We have a lot going on.

It’s not just the adults that are busy.  Many kids today are just as busy.  My greatest fear, as a parent, is becoming nothing more than a taxi cab!  As if my only role in life is carting them around to school, sports, friends, and wherever else they think they need to go.

As we gear up for the busyness of the fall, I wanted to share something that I’ve found very helpful.   It’s a chart from the book, Think Orange: Imagine the Impact When Church and Family Collide….  It gives you a way to think thru your day (maybe in ways you’ve never thought about before) and see that you have many opportunities to come alongside your son or daughter and influence, love, shape, and nurture.

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There are times in the day that can be leveraged for relationship.  Can you imagine the last time in a day you were able to establish values, interpret life, build intimacy, and instill purpose???

Meal time, drive time, bed time, morning time are all great opportunities to parent and influence your child.

Here’s the deal:  it’s not that you are going to have to give an impressive speech at each one of these moments everyday.  That’s simply not realistic!  However, the cumulative effect over time of you leveraging these moments (with different levels of success) over the course of a child’s life will shape that life!

This chart helps us think through how we can still find places to influence and parent in the middle of our shuffling around.  It reminds us to slow down and be intentional.  It might even encourage you to try to create some new habits with your kids so you have the times listed above (Anyone getting their kids to sit at the table with them for dinner these days?)

Summer is almost over and the school year is upon us.  I hope this is a practical tool that you can use to be the parent you want to be to your kids!

Have you ever thought about your day this way? 

How can you take one of these ideas and implement into your routine today?

Which role of the of four listed above do you most often play?   Which do you neglect?

I would love to hear your thoughts!

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