Let Them Be Bored

By Scott James

Summer is here and my kids have that wild look in their eyes. They are ready for high adventure, ready for freedom. They fly out the door in search of excitement, attacking the day with vigor and boundless potential. Ten minutes later, they’re back inside reciting what seems to have become their summertime motto:

“I’m bored.”

Seriously. What am I supposed to do with that? I’ll tell you what I usually end up doing — I become an activities coordinator, which basically amounts to me endlessly listing things to do in the face of children who insist there’s nothing to do. But no matter what I suggest or how egregiously I bend the screen-time rules, I only seem to exasperate their boredom more.

Eventually, I quit trying and just let them be bored.

Oddly enough, on the other side of a few minutes (or hours) of moping, they always seem to break out of their funk and reengage the day in fun and creative ways. Sometimes it’s the invention of a new game; sometimes they finally settle into that book they’ve been meaning to read. Whatever it is, when left to their boredom, they find a way past it and into new adventures. I can’t say for sure whether it was wisdom or just being fed up that led me to leave them be. Whatever my motivation, I now see that by being too quick to step in with a list of possible activities I was robbing them of the chance to flex their imaginations and work it out on their own.

Beyond stunting their imaginations and problem-solving skills, I think I may have been feeding into an unhealthy frame of mind as well. Their problem isn’t a lack of things to do; their problem is discontentment. If the Apostle Paul can sit in a prison cell and write, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself” (Phil. 4:11), then I think my kids can suffer through a lazy afternoon. Sure, I may have a fun suggestion every now and then, but if I continually cater to their fear of boredom then I may simply be validating their discontentment.

Paul’s point is that, in “whatever circumstance,” our contentment speaks volumes about our relationship with God. Sometimes, my kids’ boredom (and the whining that accompanies it) is an opportunity to point them toward the grace and contentment found in Christ alone. Other times, we go play a game together. Either way, these are the low-key moments of discipleship in which I’m striving to be faithful.

Scott James is a pediatric doctor and a member of The Church at Brook Hills. He loves helping families grow together in Christ and is the author of several family worship devotionals and children’s books. He lives in Birmingham, Ala., with his wife and four children.

This article appears in the Dad’s Life column of the June 2019 issue of ParentLife.

Got the Giggles? 3 Reasons to Fight Worry With Laughter

 

By Joshua Straub

Just the other night at bedtime our nearly 4-year-old son told me his favorite part of the day was when his mom threw a dirty diaper and hit me in the face. He said, “Dad, it really made me laugh.”

Getting our kids ready for bed, Christi and I got into a little battle with our daughter’s diaper. Before you judge us, it wasn’t a number two, and yes, it was wrapped. It ended in the playroom with me covering my head in fear of it actually coming unwrapped. The laughter filled our house.

To be fair, many nights are not like this. If you were to walk into our home during the bath/bedtime routine, you’d likely hear more frustrated end-of-the-day nagging than laughing. If you’re a parent, I’m sure you understand. Especially right now.

School is in session. So is soccer. Field hockey. Homework. Practices. Concerts. Performances. Church programs. More practices. Even more homework. Oh, yeah, and stress. Lots of stress.

So much stress that you may even be growing a bit angry right now — either at me for posing this irresponsible idea of having more fun, or at yourself for still reading this article. I get it.

One — if not both of you — works outside the home. If the other is home with preschool or homeschooled kids, your work is uncompromising. Once you’re all finally at home together at the end of the day…oh wait, there’s homework. And dinner. Do we have to feed the kids again?

Friends, the daily grind is real. But lying in bed with my son the other night reminded me that if we’re not laughing, we’re not living. We need to laugh more. Our kids need us to laugh more.

Here are three reasons why.

1. We’re teaching our kids how to manage stress.

Though it’s rarely discussed in parenting circles, one research study found that the second most effective parenting strategy behind love and affection was how we — parents — manage our stress. And by the way, behavior management (i.e. time-outs, etc.) was found to be a “poor predictor of good outcomes with children,” turning up seventh on that list.

In other words, the quality of our relationship with our kids, and how happy and healthy they become, begins not by how well we reward positive behaviors or use time-outs, but by how well we control ourselves.

Please don’t misunderstand me when I say this. Our child’s behavior matters. But I’m willing to guess there are more parents who, just like me, need to stop worrying so much about our child’s behavior, and start focusing on our own. Stressed parents raise stressed children.

As Landon reminded me the other night, they’re watching us.

2. We’re teaching our kids how to relate well.

As soon as Landon told me his favorite part of the day involved Christi and me chasing each other through the house with a soiled diaper, I went and got her so she could come hear it too. We sat on his bed together and legit belly-laughed.

I write often about the power of the marital relationship on our kids. Turns out, how well we get along with the other parent is the third most effective parenting practice. Yet, of the ten practices studied, it ranked eighth in parents’ list of actual abilities. How parents manage stress ranked dead last.

If how we manage stress and treat our spouse have more influence on our kids’ outcomes than even their education, behavior management, life skills, and safety, then perhaps it’s time we prioritize ourselves as parents. Prioritizing our kids over our marriage will wreak havoc on both.

Christi and I have a date every week. Sometimes, we have to be super creative to make it happen. But it’s when we don’t that we’re tempted to use the wet diaper more as a weapon than a toy.

As our mentors Dave and Claudia Arp tell us, “Your kids will wait while you grab a few moments to work on your marriage; but your marriage won’t wait until your kids grow up.”

3. We’re teaching our kids what really matters.

Picture yourself sitting around the dinner table 25-30 years from now with your kids’ families, your grandchildren begging for stories. What we won’t hear from our own kids is how well we kept the kitchen clean. How we successfully had them in bed by 7:30 pm every night. How we taught them never to splash the water out of the bathtub. In fact, I don’t even think they’re going to mention the 105 percent they got on the spelling test.

Instead, we’ll hear about the moments that brought laughter. Mom and Dad’s diaper fight through the house. The time the whole family got caught out on a walk and decided to just dance in the rain. The time we stayed up past bedtime to play games as a family. The camping trip. The pancake dates. The leaf piles in the fall.

Jesus said, “Do not be anxious about your life…which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his life?” (Matt. 6:25, 27).

And if I may, parents, “Which of you by being anxious can add more joy to the moments he shares with his kids?”

Let’s worry less and laugh more.

Joshua Straub, Ph.D. is a speaker, author, and marriage and leadership coach. He and his wife, Christi, cohost the In This Together podcast and are coauthors of What Am I Feeling? and Homegrown: Cultivating Kids in the Fruit of the Spirit.

This article appears in the May 2019 issue of ParentLife.

Is Your Child Anxious?

By Dixie Walker

What is that all-consuming, dreaded “something” for your child? You know — the thing that starts your stomach churning and palms sweating at the first thought of it coming up on your agenda?

My number one dread in life has always been flying. I absolutely hate it! So, when I know of a trip coming up when I’m forced to fly rather than travel by ground, my symptoms of anxiety start revving up with great intensity:

  • Fearful thoughts
  • Sadness
  • Nervousness
  • Discomfort internally
  • Sweaty palms
  • No desire to discuss the upcoming trip

It’s no surprise then that apprehensions of many types are an issue for many people — including our kids!

Anxiety defined

True anxiety actually goes beyond the “normal” state of being worried. It would be typical for your child to worry about the results of an important test in school. Or having to stand in front of classmates to deliver a presentation. It’s not unusual to be afraid of frightening things like tornadoes or snakes. But when our worries and fears begin to affect our ability to function in our daily lives, it’s likely anxiety has taken over.

According to anxiety.org, some common symptoms related to anxiety include:

  • Excessive, irrational, or uncontrollable feelings of worry and dread
  • Sensations of panic and uneasiness for no apparent reason
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Ritualistic behavior
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Heart palpitations
  • Muscle tension
  • Inability to remain calm
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Rapid breathing, or hyperventilation
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Cold or sweaty hands and feet
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Stomachache

If you think your child — or yourself — is struggling with anxiety, consider these coping methods to help (adapted from a list by Psychology Today):

Make a problems list

Form a list of specific problems/fears to overcome. Then break each problem down into a series of tasks, and rank the tasks in order of difficulty. Attempt the easiest task first and keep on returning to it day after day until you feel fairly comfortable with it. Give yourself as long as you need, then move on to the next task and do the same thing, and so on.

Use relaxation techniques

One common and effective strategy, called ‘deep breathing,’ involves modifying and regulating your breathing:

  1. Breathe in through your nose and hold the air in for several seconds.
  2. Then purse your lips and gradually let the air out, making sure that you let out as much air as you can.
  3. Continue doing this until you are feeling more relaxed.

A second strategy that is often used together with deep breathing involves relaxation exercises:

  1. Lying on your back, tighten the muscles in your toes for 10 seconds and then relax them completely.
  2. Do the same for your feet, ankles, and calves, gradually working your way up your body until you reach your head and neck.

Other general strategies your child can use for relaxing include listening to classical/instrumental music, taking a warm bath, reading a book, chatting with a friend, or playing sports.

Implement simple lifestyle changes

These might include:

  • Simplifying life beyond the necessary (school, church, family)
  • Having a schedule and keeping to it
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Exercising regularly (for example, walking, swimming)
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Taking time for enjoyable activities
  • Connecting with friends to share thoughts and feelings

Seek help

If your child continues to suffer with severe anxiety despite implementing some of these measures, you may want to seek help through a Christian counseling center. You can check with doctor offices or churches in your area for local centers.

Dixie Walker is a freelance writer of Christian family ministry resources. She and her family reside in Nashville, Tenn.

This article first appeared under the title “Put Your Child’s Anxiety to Rest!” in the April 2018 issue of ParentLife magazine.

 

8 Weekly Prayers To Pray for Your Kids While They’re at School

By Joshua Straub

I genuinely believe there is no greater parenting technique than to pray boldly for our kids.
For many of us, sending our children back to school can feel like an emotional roller coaster ride. Fears and questions concern us. Will they make friends? What challenges will they face? Who will influence them? Can they keep up academically?

If you homeschool, your fears about your kids may be a little different, but are no less valid or worrisome.

The reality is that God gave us our kids to steward well. God chose you to raise your kids. I think that’s incredibly generous and really cool of Him. It’s also humbling.

That’s why we need God’s help.

Whether you homeschool or send your kids off to school, here are some prayers you can regularly pray for your kids each day this coming school year.

Monday: Father, though grades matter, I pray that you instill in my children a love for learning. Give them wisdom, insight, and understanding above all else.

Tuesday: Dear God, surround my children with friends, mentors, and loved ones who champion and affirm their worth, strengths, and gifts. Place people in their lives who love them dearly for who they are.

Wednesday: Father, help my children to be honest, hard working, rested, patient, faithful, empathetic, and kind. (Insert your own values into these prayers for your kids. You can pray a different value for your kids each week as well).

Thursday: Dear Lord, instill in my children the courage to do the right thing, even in the face of being unpopular or being picked on for it. Give my children the call and resolve to be kind and strong, and to walk confidently in Your love for them.

Friday: Father, your eyes are looking throughout the earth for a heart that is completely yours. I pray for these hearts for my children. Woo them to be undeniably in love with you.

Here are a few extra I pray regularly as well:

A prayer for character: Dear God, develop my children’s inward character. Help me to show my kids, by how I live and teach, that I value it more than outward success or the accolades of others.

A prayer of lovingkindness: Father, whether it’s a word of affirmation, helping with a task, standing up for someone, or giving a gift, help my child to show someone they’re valuable today.

A prayer for good belly laughs: Dear Lord, I pray for a belly laugh today for my children. Teach them the value of having fun and laughing hard. And, Lord, do the same for me.

Tell us, what prayers do you regularly pray for your children?

Joshua Straub has two cherished roles—as husband to wife, Christi, and dad Landon and Kennedy. He serves as Marriage and Family Strategist for LifeWay Christian Resources and leads Famous at Home, a company equipping leaders, organizations, military families, and churches in emotional intelligence and family wellness.

This article appears in the September 2018 issue of ParentLife.

DIY Giant Games for the Backyard

Looking for a fun summer diversion? How about one of these giant games for the backyard? Take your favorite board and computer games up a notch by creating jumbo versions you can play outside. And if you can figure out how to incorporate the hose and some water fun, all the better!

giantbananagrams

Giant Bananagrams via Constantly Lovestruck

DIY-Giant-Lawn-Matching-Game-600x900

Giant Matching Game via Studio DIY

diysquares

Cloth Picnic Games (Squares and Tic Tac Toe) at Say Yes

candylandoutside

Giant Candyland at Ashlee Marie

Giant-Garden-Chess-Set-L13298872

You can purchase this Giant Chess Set for about $60 for some big-time backyard fun!

What backyard games do you play during the summer?

Stopping the “Summer Rust”: a Teacher’s Perspective by Stephanie Ingerman

Old School
photo source: Ryan via Flickr Creative Commons

Summer–we all love it and we all need a little time off. But your child can fall as many as four months behind in their learning during the short break of summer if we aren’t continuing to focus on learning. I affectionately call that the “summer rust.” So, how do you keep the rust from settling? There are plenty of great workbooks out there and even some great websites, but there are also some sneaky ways to add in some learning with things you are probably already doing.

Let’s focus on literacy first. If you read your child will be more likely to read. If your child is a hesitant or reluctant reader, read aloud to them or listen to audio books together, especially on those long road trips. When you are listening or reading be sure to ask your child questions about what they are reading or listening to such as, “What is happening in the story? Who are the main characters? What was your favorite part and why?” Encourage your kids to write about trips you have taken together in a journal or draw a picture and write a story to go along with it. Another idea we enjoy is to keep a correspondence journal where you write to your child and they write back to you.

Now for math! Have your children tell you what time it is on an analog clock. Allow the kids to help you cook, measuring the ingredients and noticing which amount is more. Identify, count, or sort coins after receiving change. Go on a shape hunt around your house or neighborhood. Lastly, play games! Games that involve numbers, dice, patterns, addition or problem solving will help your child keep those math skills sharp.

In addition to literacy and math I am hopeful you will explore with your children, take a hike, try something new, and genuinely enjoy one another’s company.

Stephanie Ingerman is an elementary-school teacher in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and a mom to two kids, ages 7 and 9. 

New & Upcoming Parenting Resources

teennotcrazy

Your Teenager Is Not Crazy by Dr. Jeremy Clark and Jerusha Clark – Although sometimes parents find their teens unrecognizable at best, they still are the same kid deep down. In this book, the Clarks guide parents to make the teen years a time of creativity and passion instead of fear and conflict. Release April 1, 2016.

 

spiritualchampions

Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions by George Barna –  Famed researcher Barna speaks to churches in this work on why children’s ministry should be of the utmost importance to the church. The author explains how to make a successful children’s ministry that forms “spiritual champions.” Released January 1, 2016.

 

inthearena

In the Arena by David Prince – Coming September 1st, this paperback will explore what sports means in Christian culture and how sports can be used for discipleship, parenting, and recreation.

Planning for Summer

sprinklers
source: jodimichelle via Flickr Creative Commons

In this month’s print issue of ParentLife, writer Emily Pardy urges us to grasp on to “Summer Sanity” by making a list of priorities and plans for the summer. Have you been doing that? I’ve been thinking a lot about how summer will go around our house.

In the fall, my three children will be in second grade, kindergarten, and 3-year-old preschool. I am pregnant, so this will be the last summer for awhile we can take advantage of having all children who know how to hold hands in a parking lot and I’m not too worried about killing each other if we send them outside for half an hour. But because I am pregnant, this also may be a summer where I need more rest than usual. We may or may not be moving apartments. We have a lot of “ifs” up in the air.

So we haven’t really made any firm plans – camps, many trips, etc. Usually we schedule our older two for at least one week of day camp, but we’ve decided to put that on the back burner for now.

Here are my priorities for the summer:

  • Take our third annual beach vacation to Tybee Island. We all enjoy this; it’s relaxing, and we have fun.
  • Go swimming. If needed, get swim lessons for my 7-year-old to be fully competent as a swimmer.
  • Send kids to “Nana Camp” and “Grandma Camp.” We are so blessed to have both sets of our parents within driving distance, and they LOVE having the kids come to stay for a couple days during the summer. The kids love getting one-on-one time. We get to spend a little more one-on-one time with the kids left at home, too. It’s nice to mix things up.
  • Help my 7-year-old daughter become proficient in the kitchen – and get my 5-year-old son started, too. They both love cooking and have been inspired by MasterChef, Jr. I can be a little too territorial about my kitchen space, but I want all my kids to learn to cook.
  • Playground hop in Chattanooga.
  • Spend time with great friends.
  • Encourage reading.

I also intend to let the kids make a little bucket list of things they want to do or places to go. I won’t promise to do everything, but I want to let them play a role there.

Have you started planning for summer? As Pardy writes, summer can be the right time for “structure, sunshine, skill-building, and sleep.” Sleep. There is a summer plan I can get behind!

Verses to Memorize with Your Kids about Easter

I can read Bible stories to my kids all day long, but Scripture memorization is an area where I can falter. They often learn verses at church, but with three kids running around sometimes I just get lazy.

That said, I think learning Scripture is an important part of growing in faith, no matter your age. Here are some suggestions for age-appropriate verses to learn about Easter.

2009 LUMC Palm Sunday
source: Scott Adams

Young Toddlers

“Now Christ has been raised from the dead.” – 1 Corinthians 15:20a, NIRV

Preschoolers

“God raised him from the dead. He set him free from the suffering of death. It wasn’t possible for death to keep its hold on Jesus.” – Acts 2:24, NIRV

Elementary Age

” ‘Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. But blessed are those who haven’t seen me and believe anyway.’ ” – John 20:29, TLB

Preteens

” ‘Why are you looking for the living among the dead?’ asked the men. ‘He is not here, but He has been resurrected! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee,  saying, “The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day”?’ ” – Luke 24:5b-7, HCSB

Any other verses that are a good fit for Easter?

Looking at the Beatitudes through the Lens of Parenting

Parenting and the Bible
source: MarcosReis07 via Flickr

John MacArthur wrote, “The Beatitudes demonstrate that the way to heavenly blessedness is antithetical to the worldly path normally followed in pursuit of happiness.”

Parenting isn’t about feeling good all the time.

Make it that, and you’ll have kids who run the house and don’t understand the word no. Some of my best parenting moments are when I feel the worse, I think. Holding a screaming, flailing 5-year-old who is throwing a temper tantrum – when really I just want to shut her in her room and go eat chocolate cake. Taking a deep breath and explaining to my 3-year-old onemoretime that “I need” is not the way we start sentences to ask for things. Not biting back when my 17-month-old decides to gnaw at my shoulder.

Often parenting is going against my human nature and trying to latch on to my Jesus-nature instead, asking for His power to flood me. Because seriously, there is no way I can do this on my own.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus shows us a flip-flop view of His kingdom versus the world’s. He says, “You’re going to mourn. You’re going to be persecuted. You’re going to need to show mercy and peace and gentleness when you don’t want to. But I am going to bless you for it, and it’s how I am going to work through your life.”

How many times as a parent do you feel mournful? Poor in spirit? Persecuted, even, by your children or other parents? Jesus blesses that.

The Beatitudes are everything I want to be as a parent. Gentle. Peaceful. Merciful. Pure in heart. In my study Bible, MacArthur also writes that “gentleness is supreme self-control empowered by the Spirit.”

I’ve seen a graphic around Facebook lately, with a toddler laying on top of his mama on the beach and the words, “You’re never going to be loved like this again.”

Until we see Christ, no one on earth is going to love us with the uninhibited crazy love of a toddler or preschooler. So let’s pour back that love, praying for the Spirit to fill us with mercy, purity of heart, gentleness, and peace, not giving up when we are mournful or feel persecuted or want to hide in our rooms and throw stuff at the wall.

In The Message paraphrase, Matthew 5:3 is, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”

Praise God and Amen!

Originally published on JessieWeaver.net.