Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Best Parenting Teen Ideas - part 2

Most parents warily face the prospect of their children moving from child to adolescent.  It can be scary, overwhelming and the cause for many parents simply to drop their children off at a relative's home for 6 years.

However, there are a few ways to make the transition a little less stressful.  First of all, gradually give your kids more and more responsibilities and appropriate freedoms.  You need to let them know that you actually want them to grow up and be an adult (and to get out of the house, but don't say this). Therefore, you're going to give them more liberties but with that come some adult-like expectations.

For example, they may get to adjust their bedtime a bit more but at the same time they are now going to help more with evening meals, the laundry, yard work or whatever. Don't let too many activities keep them from this important involvement in your home either. Just because they work hard at football practice or cheerleading doesn't mean they should get the evening off.  And if they are doing too much for them to be an active participant in your home then cut something and simply say "no."

Second, talk to them.  You've seen the commercials about drugs, smoking and the like where parents are challenged to talk to their kids about both the joys and dangers of life.  The commercials ironically are right.  We need to keep the stage set for dialogue.  Now some of you are already responding with, "But my teenager won't talk to me."  And yes, some kids are more open and verbal than others.

But I'm pretty convinced we let our kids off the hook by first not starting to talk to them openly at an early age and secondly letting them beg out of talking to us.  We can help things by not turning our talking into an interrogation.  Don't simply badger them with questions.  Simply ask them to tell you about their day or some specific part of it.  Don't freak out when they tell you something a bit "out there" either.  Ask them to tell you more about that, then go crazy later when they're not around.

Finally, consider a 13 year old challenge. This is where at around age 13 you give them a six month or yearlong project to grow spiritually, intellectually, socially and physically.  And in each of these areas you put together things they will need to do during that time period which can help them become more mature and prepare for their future.

For example, we had a book list for them to read.  We had a savings goal for them to reach. We required that they job shadow three people, one in Christian ministry, during that time.  You can be as creative as you want with this.  What's the reward?  We made payday that they would receive an equal amount from us to what they saved during that time as long as they met all the requirements. In additions we would do something else special with them.

A quick update?  Our son Tim spent one of his job shadowing days with the manager of a local, Christian radio station.  Guess what he's doing today? 

The teen years can be challenging but they can also be some of the most rewarding as we see our kids grow and mature.  So maybe you need to go back to Aunt Sally's and get those kids. What do you say?
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Best Parenting Ideas With Your Teen - Part 1

The other night we were on an evening boat cruise here in Austin.  In front of us was a mother, father and two teenage daughters, one of which clearly didn't want to be there.  We've all seen it - the arms crossed, constant frown, rolling of the eyes while trying to let everyone around her know that she was totally miserable.

Of course, the answer was easy.  Throw her overboard.

OK, maybe that wouldn't be the best option but dealing with an emotionally challenged teen is rarely simple.  And while our adolescents come in all sizes, personalities, and ways of reacting there are a few ideas we've tried that can help in parenting a teenager or two depending upon the situation.

First, give options when you can.  This tactic is a carryover from the elementary years just taken to a new and broader level.  When kids are 7 - 8 there are usually fewer options than when they become teens but the concept is the same.  Maybe the princess on our cruise the other night had said, "I'm not going on some stupid boat trip!  That is SO lame."

Options might be, "Well, you can either stay in a hot car for the next 90 minutes while we go or you can join us out on the lake and suffer spending some time with us.  Which works best for you?"  ( I have found that brief humor helps sometimes - not them, but me!)

Or, "Honey, you are going because we're on vacation and we're the parents.  This may not be your favorite thing but you have one of two options - be miserable, but not spoil the rest of the time for us or the other people on the boat or make the most of it and try to enjoy it for 90 minutes.  Which do you want to do because there are no other options."

Giving options of course can involve clothing, activities, how things get done, etc.  When our kids would ask us something rather spontaneously when we'd not had time to think about it we would use this line:  "If you need an answer right now, the answer is no.  If you can wait 15 minutes (or whatever time needed) the answer is maybe. Which of those would you like to go with?"

Or, "No you can't wear that outfit, period, but you can choose from these.  Take your pick."

"Mom, everyone's going for pizza right now and Allison wants to know if I can ride with her."  Let's say that riding with Allison is not ok for some reason.  You might say, "Well, you can't ride with Allison but there are several other possibilities.  If you can wait 20 minutes we'll drive you or you can drive on your own or [fill in the blank].  Why don't you decide which of those options you'd prefer."

I'm not suggesting you won't get a fight but your child will first of all learn that this is how you do things in these situations and second they will more likely feel like they still have some choice in the matter.

You see, choices help develop their already developing mind. Their thinking is moving more from the objective to the subjective. They will need to learn that a lot of life is about choices and making the best ones.  So when we as parents give them practice with making choices in our own discipline structure we're actually helping them learn to think rather than just be told what to do. 

However, as I've suggested in other posts, you have to stay firm and not give in.  If you keep changing your mind because they whine or protest they'll learn that whining and protest work and you'll get  more of that from them every time.

And be sure to think about your choices ahead of time when you can.  Hear yourself actually saying the choices that you're prepared to offer. You'll become more creative and effective the more you can plan ahead!  I'll share some other ideas next time such as when a parent should actually consider pulling them out of the water. :)
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

How Sacrificial Is Your Love?

There are few spouses or parents who wouldn't do most anything for their child or spouse, right?  I know I think that and would jump to protect any of them in a heartbeat.  However, I wonder sometimes if we are as loving as we think during the not-so-critical moments of life. Do we really know what sacrifice for each other is during the everyday times?

For example, when it comes to our time, our money, our things, our preferences . . . do we defer or demand?  Notice the word our in each of the previous phrases.  There's a clue right there.  When something belongs to us, when it's ours, we can get selfish more than loving. Now, don't get me wrong.  There's a place for having what belongs to us, protecting it and enjoying it.

But God seems to suggest that sacrificial love doesn't hang on to anything very long but is more willing to give it away.  The classic short story writer O.Henry tells this story in The Gift of the Magi.  A young American couple, Della and Jim, were very poor but much in love.  And each had one special possession.  Della's was her long, beautiful hair.  Jim had a gold watch given to him by his dad.

It was the day before Christmas and Della only had one dollar and eighty-seven cents to buy Jim a gift so she went out, had her hair cut and sold it for twenty dollars. She then bought Jim a beautiful case for his watch.  That night when Jim came home he was stunned to see her with her hair cut short.  And then he handed her his gift . . . a set of expensive tortoise-shell combs with jewelled edges . . . for her to comb her beautiful hair.  He had sold his watch.

Wow.  That's sacrificial love.  Each willing to give the other all they had to give.  What are you hanging on to that you could give away for those you love?  It may not be a possession.  It could be time, attention, words or a listening ear.

I deal with people every week whose lives are changed by a significant event such as a major change in their health or the loss of a loved one.  I heard of another situation just two days ago.  And in most every case I know there are people who wish for just one more moment to live like it was before.  To say or do one more loving thing that wish they would have said or done but simply did not.

You and I have those opportunities left with those close to us.  Love someone radically today.  Give of yourself sacrificially to your spouse, child or friend.  Spread that love to others around you who need love, too.  As singer James Taylor wrote, shower the people you love with love.  And as Jesus more profoundly challenged us, "Love your neighbor as yourself."  Don't miss out on one chance today to love like Jesus did. And have no regrets later.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Don't Just Look Like The Real Thing

I'm likely going to get into trouble here but I don't see the point of soft drinks like Coke Zero.  Seems to me it's just colored, carbonated water without the good stuff.  But OK, if you like it, go for it.

However, I wonder if sometimes our marriage and family relationships just look fine, but like diet beverages are missing the good stuff.  For example, if a husband and wife get along pretty well, don't fight much, and are generally problem-free, does that mean their relationship is great?  Not necessarily.

Or if our kids get good grades, have friends, enjoy lots of outside activities and don't balk too much about going to church, does that mean we really have a healthy relationship with them?  Maybe not.

Great relationships require several important elements.  First of all, honesty.  The Bible tells us to speak the truth in love, so I'm not suggesting that we be rude, brash or insensitive in our truth-telling.  However, we get closest together when we're vulnerable, open and blatantly candid with each other.  Do people in your home talk about things that really matter, about what's bothering them as well as their joys?  Is there an atmosphere at your house that fosters that kind of openness?

Second, great connections focus on the important things. We often get caught up in just being busy, doing one more thing, trying to keep up with others and the like and miss the little, but important activities that make lifelong memories.  I wonder if we'll look back and be glad that we spent so many hours watching our kids do things and so little time engaging WITH them in everyday activities.  I doubt it. 

I remember a story of a teacher who brought a large glass container into class and started placing large rocks into it putting as many in as possible.  He then asked the class if the container was full.  They of course said yes.  Then he took some pea gravel and poured it all around the big rocks.  He asked again, "Is the jar full now?"  To which they agreed, "Sure, now it is."  He then took and added sand until no more would fit.  The students now decided it was truly full.

But the teacher then poured water in until it ran over the top.  "Is it full now?"  the teacher asked.  "Yes," the students said. And the teacher finally agreed.  Now he asked, "What's the point of this demonstration?"  One student immediately piped up and said, "You wanted to show us that while we don't think we can accomplish any more in our lives, if we'll just arrange things correctly we can always add more."

To which the teacher replied, "No, that's not my point at all.  I wanted to suggest that in life you have to put the big rocks in first.  If you don't all the other things will crowd out what's most important."

If we're going to enjoy all that God intended for us and our families then we must be sure we're putting the big rocks in first and not letting the tyranny of the urgent crowd them out.

What are the big rocks that you want in your marriage and family?  Do they get first priority? 

If honesty isn't a hallmark of your home and the big rocks really aren't what you give the most time and attention to you might now have the real thing . . . just something that looks like it.  And trust me,  it's just not as good.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Best Parenting Ideas With Young Children - part 2

Here are a few more parenting suggestions that just might work or at least make your parenting a little more effective during those early years.

Often kids don't want to go to bed.  OK, they never do. But the last thing a parent should allow is kids to determine their own bedtimes or to feel like every night they can "negotiate" a better deal. On the other hand young childen have reasonable, normal reactions and even fears that the wise parent needs to keep in mind.

So one thing to try is letting your child listen quietly to some appropriate music after you've put them into bed.  You can determine the ground rules. Some kids will enjoy reading while others just like the sound of the music to help soothe them.  The point is that the CD becomes the guide for their behavior not you.  They can read or "stay awake" (while still in bed) until the music finishes but then they are to go to sleep.  We found that our kids usually went to sleep before the album finished but even if they don't you now have a stopping point when they know they must settle down.

This idea also gives them more time to meet the requirement of going to bed rather than just facing an abrupt stop when the lights go off and then must immediately sleep.  Of course before too long (perhaps years though) they figure out going to sleep is a good thing!

A second idea relates to TRAVEL.  I know that these days parents have more options in the car for DVD's and other technical advances that can help but as I've suggested in other writings, it's not wise to let kids have too much technology when they just tune you and others out for the entire trip.  Try a few old standard options that keep the family engaged together at least part of the time.

The alphabet game.  You see who can find the next letter of the alphabet on billboards, signs, etc.  The more advanced version requires a word to actually start with that letter except for X.  Or the License Plate Game.  Make a copy of the states that you keep with you or give everyone one if they can all read.  It's usually best to just keep this a family game, however, and see how many states you can find by the end of the trip.  We found that our kids kept looking even in parking lots, strip malls and anywhere else they could think of.

You can go online for lots of other simple, inexpensive ideas, too.  The key is be prepared!

Finally, let kids help with the chores.  Yes, there are many times when doing it ourselves is faster and necessary.  But with a little planning our younger children can learn how to assist, the importance of working together and how to do everyday things around the house.  And this can start as soon as they learn to walk as long as we keep it simple.

As kids get older, chore responsibilities can be tied to allowance, privileges and other disciplines as needed.  And if you have a problem with WHO has to do what on a given day, try this time-tested idea.  Use odd and even days, if you have just two kids.  If you have three or more, try certain days of the week with other days being "free."  Again the calendar becomes the bad guy instead of you.

And let me say it one more time.  Whatever you do - BE CONSISTENT or none of these ideas will work for long.  Happy parenting.  Ideas for older kids next time.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Best Parenting Ideas With Young Children - Part 1

OK, let me be honest. Most of what we've learned as parents has been through trial and error or we stole it from someone else. We generally didn't have a clue any more than anyone else. But that's probably true for most parents.  We simply don't know much when we have that first baby, do we?

But that doesn't really matter.  As long as we finally figure it out, have some modicum of success and raise kids that love God and function as reasonably healthy adults, we've done pretty well.

So let me tell  you about some of our best parenting tips for parents who have young children. And if they're helpful to you feel free to steal them and at least give them a try!

First, use a timer to give kids a cutoff time for when they must act.  One of the huge challenges for most parents is getting kids to actually move or do something when we tell them to such as going to bed, getting in the bathtub, picking up their toys or getting in the car.

So make the timer the bad person instead of you.  You could say something like, "when the timer rings you'll need to go get ready for bed (or be going out the door or whatever)."  Young children can't tell time anyway so letting them know they have to do something in ten minutes is meaningless.  The key to this working however is that you then have to hold them to it without fail.  It may take a few tries but it works.  Giving kids a little lead time before they have to stop an activity is just good parenting anyway.

Second, give them choices about battles you don't have to win.  There are some things you just have to lay down the law with but some decisions merely need us to provide some parameters and then let the kids choose from there.  And when they get to choose they have more of a sense of control that sometimes can help take the steam out of the conflict.  "Marcy, no you can't wear that today to school, but you can choose from these three outfits.  You decide which one you like best."  Or, "Ryan, you can have either of these videos to watch.  Which would you like?" 

Sounds simple and it can be - again, as long as we hold to our choices and don't dicker or argue with them about some other options.

Three, use the three-things-on-your- birthday-method regarding food.  Most kids have things that they don't like, at least for now, and it's always a challenge to know when to push them to try something and when to just let it go.  Unfortunately, many parents rarely help their kids learn to try other foods and just let them have what they want most of the time.  Not smart unless you want to be cooking 4 meals, making 4 lunches or driving to four different take out places for most of your mealtimes.

So consider this option.  Every birthday let them pick three things that they don't have to eat any time during that year.  Even if they're at someone else's house, they have permission to decline these three things. Then when you serve them there's no hassle, those things are on their list and they can decline.  However, everything else they must at least try.  And with trying things we had the rule that they had to eat the same number of bites of that food as their age.  I'm currently eating a LOT of bites by the way!

Each birthday, you give them the option of changing their list if they want to, either because something else has become so "gross" to them or they now like something on their list.  This can save a lot of hassles but again you must simply be consistent.

More next time. And if you have your own ideas that worked well for you, leave them as a comment for others to learn from.  Thanks.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.