How to Reward Your Child

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As the school year’s end gets closer and closer, many students will be getting awards for their achievements. Honor roll, good attendance, high school, and athletics are just a few. Awards are good. They encourage students to do their best and to strive for greater heights in the future. I remember my first trophy. It meant the world to me that I had done something that warranted recognition. For some, participation trophies are necessary because doing one’s best takes a lot of effort regardless of the outcome. I remember football being such a sport. We all got trophies and to account for all the running this heavy boy did, I should have received two trophies.

In the home there are also small doses of recognition that encourage children to work, participate and consider positive behavior. We do this though giving money, more TV time and at my house it’s chocolate. I believe my 5 year old girl would clean every toilet in our house for a good piece of chocolate. Again, these rewards are good. Children will never see the value of cleaning their closets now because it will make them a better person later in life, but they do see the value in getting something in return right now.

What you give your child (and when) is up to each parent. However, there are some things that children should just be expected to do and there are categories in which children should get something because they may not see the big picture. A balance must be struck wherein the child learns just what is expected and what he gets rewarded for because maybe the act requires a little more effort.

Things the child should just be expected to do. Things like speaking respectfully and being nice to his sister should just be done. This is a mistake on the parents part if you constantly reward your child. You are teaching your child that everything he does gets rewarded and he is partially controlling your behavior rather than the other way around. Good behavior is its own reward.

What should your child be rewarded for doing? Maybe you are encouraging them to start or stop a habit. By giving them an expectation and a reward at the end, you can help them find the motivation to do better. Small events wherein he/she shows they are growing up. As potty training gets easier and easier, you should recognize this and praise the child. Maybe not with something tangible, but emotional recognition goes a long way. For older children, driving for a week or a month and not getting into an accident. By recognizing this small accomplishment you show that you’ve noticed their responsible behavior. Sometimes we are too busy speaking about the negative to notice the positive.

Helping around the house with things that aren’t a normal part of their regular chores. Your child may get an allowance each week for completing their chores, but what about cleaning out the garage? That’s not done regularly but you sure could use the help and you know that to your son or daughter, nothing could be more boring. One thing to consider is what your child’s specific needs are. Does he/she need a lesson in humility? Don’t pay them anything. Does he/she need a lesson that a good job gets rewarded? Promise to pay them and then promise a little extra if certain guidelines are met.

However you treat your child when it comes to rewards, make sure you are leading your child down a path of good character. By teaching them about lessons involving work, you are leaving the world hopefully a little better than you found it.

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How Bad Do You Want A Happy Family?

We must invest in our families, but too many of us do other things besides build the relationships with our children or with our spouses. We spend time at work and all too often doing things we want to do which typically doesn’t involve family activity.

The story is told of a man who wanted to be successful so he met up with a guru and asked, “how can I be successful?” The guru told him to walk out into the ocean. The two men walked way out until it was up to their necks. The guru then held the man’s head underwater and asked him when he let him up what he wanted more than anything else when he was under water. He said, “I wanted to breathe.” The guru then said, “when you want to be successful as bad as you wanted to breathe, you’ll be a success.” How bad do you want to have a happy family?

Too many of us want to watch football more than we want to spend time with our family. We’d rather work in the yard, look at our phones or watch whatever is on TV. How we spend our time shows what we value. Do you value your family or whatever it is you do at the end of your day? Your actions speak louder than your words and your kids notice. Your spouse does too.

Teens & Social Media: The Unattended Playground

In a recent 7th grade class I discussed the responsible use of cell phones. While in class I did a quick survey to see what percentage of my students actually had cell phones and who used social media. I’ve included the numbers below along with a few points to ponder.

  • 93% of our 7th graders have a cell phone, iPod, or tablet. While you can’t make phone calls on all of them, you can interact via social media.
  • 32% use Twitter
  • 58% use Facebook
  • 59% have YouTube accounts which allow them to post videos
  • 36% use Google+ which is like Facebook
  • 51% use Skype
  • 51% use Snap Chat
  • 59% use Instagram
  • 55% use Kik
  • 53% use Vine
My intent with this information is to show that kids are active on these platforms, several of which require parent permission. Being on these is neither good nor bad, but the behavior that takes place on them is quite often of an unsavory nature.

“Curiously, the minimum age on LinkedIn is 14. On WhatsApp it’s 16, and on Vine it’s 17. Some platforms, such as YouTube, WeChat and Kik, have a minimum age required of 18, although kids aged 13-17 can signup with parent’s permission.”

Does your child use these sites? If so, do you have access to his/her password and username? There is plenty of good that can be gained from the above sites/apps, but it is just as easy to see and experience negative things. Like an unsupervised playground, the internet has all sorts of possibilities for mayhem and for your child to be influenced in ways you do not approve of.

Consider the following article: Are Your Kids Hiding Their Apps?

Also, a program called Team Viewer will allow you to watch your child’s activity on the computer without them knowing. Sounds like a secret spy tactic doesn’t it? You may have access to all their accounts but they may also have accounts that you don’t know about. Plus, the instant message feature of Facebook is easily kept secret. So, if you really want to watch what your child is doing on the internet (while they do it in the next room in real time), you can get a free version for your home use.

Some things to consider if you go this route. First, you need two computers. There’s the one they’re on and the one you are watching them from. Second, this needs to only be done through computers you own. There are all sorts of privacy issues if you start watching on computers that aren’t yours or if you watch someone other than your child. Third, is  your child’s stage in life such that you really need to do this? You may have a level of trust here that will be breached if your child finds out. However, if you are worried he/she is hiding something from you, it is ok to start investigating. Finally, you can’t let your child know you are doing this. If you run into the next room out of anger and yell, “I saw what you just typed” they’ll know you’re watching. Then, the one and only window you had is now gone. This may keep them off those sites for a long time which isn’t a bad thing but they will find other ways to keep stuff from you if they are already doing it. So, be careful of how you handle this tool.

Parents must take steps to ensure that their child is growing and developing appropriately. This means to the point of monitoring their internet use because of the immense influence it can have on young minds.

 

Christian Parenting Books

Below are my books available on Amazon.com, all from a Christian perspective.

 

1. My latest work on parenting, published by 21st Century Christian.

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2. No More Yelling formerly titled, How to Argue with Your Teen and Win; a good primer to start communicating better, tonight. Available in Kindle .

This book was formerly titled, How to Argue with Your Teen and Win; a good primer to start communicating better, tonight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. A collection of my best posts on marriage. Available in Kindle and paperback.

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4 Tips for Play Time – Dad Edition

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It was a cold Sunday afternoon and I was scurrying to get my share of the housework done so I could play with my son. Waking up on Monday with the realization that I didn’t spend any play time with him makes me feel like a failure as a father. My 8 year old son was so excited that we were going to play Legos. He worked diligently to get his room ready so we could “battle” with our own customized versions of mayhem machines. I completed my final chore, stepped into his room and for the next 45 minutes . . . was completely bored out of my mind. 
 
How can something I want to do so badly seem like such a chore? I wanted to spend some quality time with him but the moment it begins, I feel as though I want it to be over. Maybe you have felt the same? Let’s face it. It’s because we’re men. Long gone are the days of imaginative play. We typically see no value in it. There are no rules. How will we know who wins? How will we know when we’re done? All these questions point towards our task oriented minds. You know you’re supposed to play with them but what does this mean? The following are how I turn play time into fun time for the both of us.
 
  • Set your phone’s timer. There’s nothing that says, “I’d rather be somewhere else” than when you look at your watch which happens when we’re bored. Whether you legitimately have something else you need to do in an hour or to simply keep yourself from checking the clock, setting a timer can help you focus your energy on the task at hand. Tell yourself, “I will play with my child for an hour, at least” and do it. You may end up playing for two.
  • Allow him to carry the narrative. As men we are goal oriented and with no clear and definable purpose we see little value in what we are doing. Your child on the other hand is playing and this involves an evolutional of a storyline for what is happening right at the moment. He hasn’t thought it out. He is just playing. This is the essence of what’s going on so listen to him.
  • Let him win. The goal is to help him feel good about being with you and losing doesn’t help this.
  • Understand that the value is in the end result. You are playing with your child because you want him to know that you care. You are interested in what he’s interested in and you want a hug and a memory because someday your child’s world will not be filled with fantasy but rather with the cares of this world. Cherish his innocence and enjoy it with him.

The Clock/Cloud Approach to Parenting

Parents often base their actions on how they were raised. If it worked on them, they will use it. If they are bitter about it, they will cut it out of their parenting style. The trouble with this approach is that parenting is not a one to one science. It’s not a recipe or a blueprint where if you apply the right ingredients or materials at the correct time, you will reap the desired results.

In his book, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, David Brooks describes the difference between a clock and a cloud. A clock can be taken apart, its pieces measured and then reassembled. A cloud on the other hand is more fluid in nature and while it can be studied, its behavior can also be unpredictable and puzzling. Humans are like clouds in many ways especially in respect to how we relate to one another.

With your children you can do all that you can for them and they may still disappoint you. You can read books, seek counseling and even pray but at the end of the day, your children are human and contain a will of their own. In the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15), the father lets his boy go. He felt it was time to say goodbye to a boy who was discontent at home. What should parents do when they feel their own child pulling away?

First, gain understanding. Proverbs 3:13 says, “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom,
and the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver,
and her gain better than fine gold.” With the books we read, we gain knowledge, but do we really gain an understanding of what is happening in our families. What is underneath the surface? There may be a lot going on and it may be out of your control.

Second, Proverbs 22:6 says to “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Well, why do Christian families lose their children to the world? This is a proverb, not a money back guarantee. Those who are faithful as adults were likely taught at a young age and many who leave return to their faith because of those teachings. So, teaching your child is still imperative in Christian homes. You must also remember that even God loses His children.

Third, treat your child for who he is, not for who you think he should be. It is important to consider your child’s strengths and weaknesses and build from there. Where can they be successful? Where do they need help? You may get a “that’s not fair response” from siblings who view your treatment of them with disdain, but you must remind them that fair doesn’t mean equal and you are only giving each of them what they need.

Finally, your child isn’t a microwave dinner, scheduled to be done at age 18. We rush our children into adulthood too fast sometimes without giving them the proper experiences that help them grow appropriately. Some are ready for college right after high school while others could use some work experience first. Maybe they need to experience some independence or maybe they need to sleep with the hogs. Wherever they find themselves in their path, be there to help them and know that God isn’t done with them yet.
 
 

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Are You Raising A Wimp?

The month of January has been cold to say the least. Much of the southeast has seen prolonged temperatures that haven’t happened in a long time. Especially in Tennessee, we are a bit crazy when it comes to the cold. We don’t have snow blowers or even shovels much because we know that even if we get several inches, it will melt in a day or two. No big deal. Head a few hours north or south and it is a completely different story. They are either constantly dealing with the white stuff or they have never seen it. 

To give you a little more of a window into Tennessee weather as it relates to the cold, many people don’t own heavy jackets. Unless you hunt or work outside, there’s little purpose for them around here. They are more of a fashion statement. Furthermore, our buildings are heated well and so long as you can stand the temp from your car to the door, who needs gloves, a hat or a scarf? I suppose people who live in Michigan do but not us. 

Given the winter of 2014 many parents may reconsider whether or not they will equip their children with adequate cold wear next season. Many cry out when the mercury dips below 20, “it’s too cold to send our kids to school.” Granted, there are some of these circumstances where the cancelling of school might be necessary. I would submit that this might also be an indication that parents aren’t working to prepare their children for difficult times in general. 

All too often parents try to hide their children from any form of discomfort. Why? It is through difficult times that a child is made stronger and learns he or she can do it himself. I am not suggesting that we send our children outside when it’s five degrees to see who will come in first. Frost bite is real, people. But I am asking all parents to look at their behavior and ask, “Am I developing a strong individual or raising a wimp?”

I want my child to have what I didn’t. LOL!

I think it’s hilarious when I hear people who were born after 1975 say, “I want my child to have what I didn’t.” Granted, there were poor people then who struggled and did without, but the majority of Americans, even what you’d consider poor, had more than any previous generation. My dad worked to give me what he didn’t have; a house with running water and heat. Yes, those are things people in a civilized society need and deserve. However, for those who had Little Debbie cakes served to them every afternoon and a beta player or VCR, to your lament over luxury, I say, “Give me a break.”

If you’ve ever seen a Duck Dynasty episode you may have heard one or more of the family members speak fondly of the poverty they endured growing up. “We didn’t know we were poor.” I’m afraid that the standard of poverty for some today means having anything other than a smart phone, jeans that cost less than $20, and owning only one video game system. 

Going without teaches you a lot of things. It teaches humility, self-reliance, and an appreciation for what you do have. It teaches that you don’t need thingsto be happy which forces you to look at your family and get along; things that really matter.

Having too much can teach you a lot of the wrong things. It can teach entitlement and a dependence on others and things for your happiness. It does not teach hard work but rather that luxury can simply be handed to you if you ask the right way.

What did you do without? Maybe you did without some comforts and are working to ensure a better lifestyle for your family so they have fewer worries which will enable them to succeed beyond your level. That’s good. 

Maybe you did without some basic teachings like empathy, commitment and honesty. That’s what’s missing in our homes today. Instead of more and more toys for Christmas, our kids need things that you can’t touch; they need character.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder: Who’s In Control?

As the parent of an Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) child, you probably never feel completely in control of your child. There are constant attempts by you to get your child to comply with your requests that quickly become demands and that finally turn into prayers for something better; a better relationship or at least one good day.
Control is the crux of the matter when dealing with an ODD child. Society says to control your kid, the parent wants to do this, but the child will not allow it. Being controlled is like drowning to an ODD child.This is why their behavior is so puzzling. But if you consider that all behavior gets the person to his/her desired end, and when you consider that a child’s only goal is to be in control, suddenly there is logic.
Any decent parent is horrified at the notion of not controlling their child, but when it comes down to it all parents are in control of a lot less than they think or would care to admit. Those children that you see complying in the grocery store are deciding to do what they are asked. The parent isn’t making them do anything. How can you form the samedynamic with your child? It can be done.
When Kimberly Abraham, co-author of The O.D.D. Lifeline, let go of some things she couldn’t control in her son, she found that she had more control and things got better. You can’t be a helicopter parent, constantly hovering over your child to ensure he never gets hurt. You can’t be a shielding parenting, keeping consequences from your child. Finally, you can’t be an aloof parent, hoping that your child learns by doing everything only to find out later that you have no guiding force over him at all.
Ensure that your child is safe but at the end of the day, you must realize that all the control is in your child’s lap. How much did your parents control you? They didn’t. What they probably did was controlled their response toward you and the consequences of what would happen if you didn’t obey. You decided, based on what would happen if you didn’t listen, that you were going to do what you were told. 
Therein lies the answer: to improve your relationship with your child, you must stop trying to control what is out of your hands and begin looking to what you can control.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder