4 Areas Where You Can Help Develop Your Kids
“Mom!” my five-year-old son exclaimed. “Dad said the F word.” His mom, my wife, thankfully decided to ask some follow-up questions. Turns out he heard me saying “freaking.” Kids are listening more than you think—and they’re changing faster than you can imagine.
My son is growing up and processing everything, including what he hears his dad saying. He’s changing. He’s maturing. Child development happens so fast. Here are four changes to be ready for with your kids.
Maybe you have young kids now. If not, think back and recall all the physical changes they’ve had. Kids go from laying there crying, to rolling over, sitting up, standing, and walking. From walking, it isn’t long before they’re running. My youngest is at the stage of climbing everything. He loves to get up behind me when I’m working at my desk and climb as high as he can. He usually gets wrapped around my neck before he stops. It’s often annoying—until I’m reminded that he won’t do this forever. Kids change so quickly. We need to take advantage of the time we have with them in every stage.
This is a crazy time unlike any other when you think about it. During those early years, we need to be there physically for our kids and engage with them. Sure, talk all you can, but just being there to get on the floor, wrestle, and horseplay is invaluable for your child. By showing up, you’re creating a bond that won’t easily be broken.
Your child’s first relationships are with you and his or her mom. Then come siblings and other family members. My son is in kindergarten and learning about friends of his own. Soon, there’ll be birthday parties every weekend. It’s a vital time for your child to learn how to interact with others.
Who you hang out with matters. Jim Rohn says, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Proverbs 13:20 says, “The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.” The point is, as your child matures, he or she will be strongly influenced by many voices. I’ve not enjoyed kindergarten for any of my three kids, mostly because I’ve seen how my kids are influenced by classmates. They came home like different kids than the ones I dropped off at school.
Be prepared for the influence of others on your kids. It happens quicker than you think. That said, over time, your voice as a dad shapes your kid’s life more than any friend. Keep talking to your kids. Talk about everything early and often. You’re storing up points for later so when they really need your help, they’ll come to you.
Think about those first years, when your child quickly learns words and language. Every experience is new and exciting. My son will jump for joy to go to the store with me on a quick errand. I’m treasuring it now because I know it won’t be long before I get a sigh—like when I ask my teen to go with me now. My youngest wants to “help” with anything. And, he questions everything—always asking why this or that exists or why the grass is green. Kids learn to talk and have feelings quickly.
One study says we spend less than 85 minutes a day with our kids. We must guard our time with our kids as they mature. It takes time to truly connect with your kid. We need to be available for long periods of time in order to be there mentally and be engaged. As your kids age, they’ll have more and more experiences and circumstances that need your care and advice.
More unseen but just as vital, your child is developing spiritually. You have a huge role in every change, but especially in the spiritual development of your child. In fact, you are your child’s primary disciple-maker. Whether you know and love God or you ignore God’s role in life, you have an influence on your child’s spiritual development. You either point your child to God or away from Him.When you rightly relate to God, you can relate to yourself, others, and your circumstances rightly.
The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:36-39).” Then he said, “All the law and the prophets depend on these two commands (Matt. 22:40).” Everything hinges on your view of God. When you rightly relate to God, you can relate to yourself, others, and your circumstances rightly. Relating to God is the most important thing your kids will do—so they need to see it modeled well with you.
Sound off: Which area do you need to help your child with the most?
How to Encourage Kids to Try New Things
I was fortunate enough to grow up with a dad who encouraged us to broaden our horizons, to dream, and to try new things. As a young person, trying new things helped me grow. So I’ve tried doing the same thing with our kids. Some kids are really adventurous and will try anything—you may have to hold them back a little and warn them to be more careful.
However, many kids are afraid to step out of their comfort zones or to do something out of the ordinary. So they need some encouragement. Here are 3 things I say to my kids to encourage them to get out of their comfort zones and try new things.
1. “Try it!”
This may sound simple, but just saying these two words is all some kids need to hear to go for it. Don’t just say it—say it with enthusiasm. It will communicate to your kids that stepping out of the box and broadening your horizons is exciting.
2. “Don’t worry about failing.”The most successful people are the ones who aren’t afraid to step out where it’s uncomfortable.
My dad used to tell me not to worry about failing. Failure can actually be a great teacher. Saying this to your kids will reduce their fear by taking some of the risk out of it. Sometimes the win is just attempting something new. The most successful people are the ones who aren’t afraid to step out where it’s uncomfortable.
3. “You’ll learn something.”
Whether you succeed or fail, you will always learn something by trying new things. Again, venturing out helped me grow a lot as a young person and has continued to do that as I’ve gotten older. New experiences have a way of challenging our perspectives and understandings of the world.
Sound off: How do you encourage your kids to try new things?
5 Times Disappointing Children Is Necessary
Recently, my daughter taught me that disappointing children is necessary sometimes. She’s a high school senior who has played soccer since she was seven years old. This fall was her final season and probably her last chance to play competitive soccer. Unfortunately, a week before her state tournament began, she suffered a concussion after a blow to the head during a drill at practice.Disappointing children is never easy, but sometimes it is necessary.
Throughout the following week, we monitored her recovery progress closely. As game day approached, her symptoms persisted. When it became apparent that she would not be ready to play, we had to break the news to her. Having to sit out may have been one of the most disappointing moments of her young life. She had to stand on the sidelines and watch her final season come to an end when her team went to overtime and was eventually eliminated after a penalty kick shootout. Disappointing children is never easy, but sometimes it is necessary. Here are 5 times to disappoint your kids.
1. When There’s a Health or Safety Issue
The health and wellbeing of our kids must always take priority. There is a line between being overprotective and making a safe decision. Whether by keeping our kids from participating when they have an injury, not allowing them to drive during hazardous weather conditions, or keeping them from wandering into the wrong part of town late at night, it’s important to put safety first.
2. When They Need to Follow Through on Commitments
A few weeks ago, my daughter was invited to a birthday party. All her close friends were planning to attend, but she had a cross-country meet. She asked if she could skip the meet to go to the party. She was disappointed when we told her no, but she understood that keeping her commitment was important.
If your kids are like ours, your calendar is probably filled with events, and your kids are being pulled in various directions. It’s important that we reinforce their need to follow through on commitments.
3. When They Want to Make Poor Financial Decisions
We all want to be able to provide for our kids, and we want to be able to have nice things. But we must also make sure we are setting a good example for them. When they ask us to spend money on them, it’s important that we talk to them about fiscal responsibility and how we can’t always buy what we want. This is often disappointing to them, but if we start these conversations when they are young, we can help them grow into adults who make good financial decisions.
4. When They Want to Give in to Urges
My youngest daughter is diabetic. We have to monitor her blood sugar closely and she needs insulin shots when her sugar is too high. Because of this, we have to be diligent about what she eats and when she eats it. She can’t just have a snack or piece of candy without consideration of her blood sugar level.
Her situation has forced us to be aware of urges to snack, but there are many other temptations that can affect our kids. We need to teach them the self-discipline necessary to resist urges because sometimes, we all have urges to do things that aren’t good for us.
5. When They Want Us to Bail Them Out
Not too long ago, my daughter got home late. She was about ready for bed when she remembered she had a test to take the next morning. She hadn’t prepared and was concerned that she would do poorly. She asked if she could stay home during the first two periods the next morning so she could take the test the following day. She hadn’t studied, and she wanted me to bail her out.
We will all have times when our kids come to us to bail them out. We need to be ready to help them deal appropriately with the situation without giving them an easy out.
Sound off: Are there any other times when disappointing children is necessary?
20 Questions Every Dad Should Ask Himself
Owning my own home has forced me to become a jack-of-many trades. Of all the things I’ve learned to do, I have the hardest time with plumbing. Plumbing mistakes aren’t as obvious as a light that won’t turn on properly or a spot missed while painting. Even a slight leak can worsen over time and cause significant damage. After any plumbing job, I regularly check on my work, looking for leaks or signs of water damage. I find that these occasional inspections can help identify issues before they become more serious.Small problems become big problems if they are left unchecked.
At times, parenting seems a lot like plumbing. Each of my kids has unique needs and there’s a lot of parenting advice out there ready to help me out. Much like my plumbing work, problems aren’t always obvious. But small problems become big problems if they are left unchecked. Every father-child relationship can benefit from taking a closer look at how things are going. Your parental inspection could start with these 20 questions every dad should ask himself.
- Do I tell my kids I love them?
- If I saw them, did I hug my kids before I left for work and before bed?
- Do I make my kids laugh (or at least groan) on a regular basis?
- Do I make an effort to listen to my kids?
- Do I get down on my hands and knees to play with my kids? If they are older, do I try to play with them on their own terms?
- Do my kids know they are more important to me than my job, my phone, and my favorite sports team?
- Do I make an effort to let my kids share in the things I love most?
- Do I make an effort to discover the things my kids love most?
- Am I invested enough in my kids’ lives to have learned their friends’ names?
- Do my kids know that I celebrate with them on their best days and weep with them on their worst days?
- Do I allow my kids the opportunity to try new things and fail?
- Am I quick to forgive my kids when they’ve put a hole in the wall or scraped my car with their bike?
- Do I discipline my kids in healthy and constructive ways?
- Do I apologize to my kids if I’ve overreacted and yelled at them unnecessarily?
- Can my kids be proud of my honesty and integrity, both in what they see and in what they don’t see?
- Did I compliment my kids today for something that they tried or accomplished?
- If I died today, would my kids be able to look at our relationship and know they are loved?
- Can my kids look at the way I treat my wife (or their mother, if I’m single or divorced) as a healthy example of the way I’d want my kids to relate to their own spouses someday?
- Am I looking for ways to be a better dad to my kids tomorrow than I was today?
- Do I pray for my wife and my kids?
Sound off: What other questions should every dad ask himself?
6 Ways to Handle Kids Who Won’t Listen
We had just finished a great morning of tailgating and made our way into the stadium at Notre Dame for the big game. That’s when my son decided to throw temper tantrum after temper tantrum, refusing to obey my wife and me, mocking our rules, and disregarding years of established acceptable behavior in our family. Instead of listening and behaving, my son would give us the “evil eye” and laugh when we attempted to reprimand him. Not only that, but he would also mimic everything we’d say to him.
“Michael, sit down and stop throwing your popcorn,” I said. He had been throwing popcorn and yelling “hello” at the other fans seated near us. “Michael, stop throwing popcorn, blah, blah, blah,” my son replied in his 8-year-old mocking tone. I felt like a parental failure and, in my mind, was revisiting everything I thought I knew about raising kids who listen. I knew there had to be something I could do to make sure my kids were better behaved and I set out to figure out what. Here are 6 ways to handle kids who won’t listen.
1. Don’t back down from rules and limits.
Nothing is worse than being inconsistent with your rules and limits. It can be arduous and even embarrassing when your child throws a fit, but don’t give in. This is a foundational principle in getting through to kids who won’t listen because it teaches them you won’t give in no matter how bad their public outburst is. If there are no cracks in the foundation, they’ll quickly learn your resolve is real and no act of disobedience will move you from your rules and limits.
2. Be realistic with punishment.
If your child does break the rules, be practical and committed to a penalty that sets the tone but doesn’t go over the top. If it does, your chance of sticking to it is next to nil and you’ll teach the child your words ring hollow. Then, he or she will continue to push, knowing there won’t be follow-through. I learned this again recently when, in a moment of weakness, I threatened to ban my boys from video games for good. They knew that wasn’t realistic, so my words didn’t mean much. Here’s how you deal with a child who doesn’t listen: You have to make sure your actions match your words.
3. Listen, listen, listen.There’s no better way to teach your children to listen than modeling the behavior yourself.
There’s no better way to teach your children to listen than modeling the behavior yourself. By allowing our kids to speak while we listen, they can see firsthand the importance of the behavior and how active listening always matters. Your kids will feel your respect and be set to return that respect when you speak to them. So much of what our kids do is based on what they see their parents live daily. Model active listening when interacting with your children and they’ll return the favor.
4. Reward the right behaviors.
When your child listens and does the right things, make sure you praise it and let them know it’s appreciated. Praise goes a long way toward changing overall behavior. Everyone, including your kids, wants to be rewarded for good behavior. By showing your kids a significant upside to acting the right way, they’ll make a habit of it and reap the rewards.
5. Give kids another chance.
While sometimes giving a child a second chance can be difficult, allowing them to see grace in receiving a reprieve will help them appreciate the opportunity. Second chances teach kids that even when they make mistakes, you will love and guide them. At the football game, I could have quickly taken my son to the concourse and offered him a chance to settle down and reset his behavior. This vital lesson teaches our children it’s never too late to start over and do the right thing.
6. Live the Golden Rule.
They might be struggling with unruly behavior, but treat your kids with respect. Treating your kids with respect—the kind you’re asking from them—means they’ll understand more fully what you are aiming for and it does help when you’re trying to figure out how to deal with a child who won’t listen. It’s easy to be disrespectful when your child is defiant. But even in times of difficulty, mutual respect shows our kids doing the right thing is always the best way to solve conflict or a problem.
Sound off: Do you know how to deal with a child who doesn’t listen? What has worked for you?
3 Ways You Have to Show up for Your Kid
My oldest daughter is on the junior varsity cheerleading team. On Thursday nights when they play, there are no dads in the stands. You might rationalize missing a game or two. But, nine out of 10 games, I haven’t seen any other dads. What do you think the absence of dads at the games says to their kids?The things you do as a dad today affect your relationship with your kid later.
The things you do as a dad today affect your relationship with your kid later. First Timothy 3:4 says, “He must manage his own household competently…” Your primary responsibility as a dad is to be there for your kids. It’s vital I do the work of being present with my children. Being there says you love them, you value them, and you care. Here are 3 ways you have to show up for your kid.
1. Show up physically.
My daughter probably never noticed whose parents were there and whose weren’t. The season ended and the year-end awards banquet was last week. When she arrived home with her certificate in hand, we reminisced about the season and all she had learned. By being there, I reinforced to her how much I care. Trust me, watching a local JV game over NFL Thursday Night Football wasn’t always easy. But, between practices and games, I used my choices to show her that she’s valued.
2. Show up mentally.
My younger daughter once ran for class president. She didn’t win. I remember the talks and tears after the results that night. We had spent time printing headshots, creating posters, and talking through her campaign promise. It was an awful feeling to lose, but she learned a lot during that season. As I think back, thankfully, I was there through it all. My mind was in the game. Think about what your child’s experiencing right now. Is there anything tough to deal with? You can be physically present but mentally absent. Focus and engage.
3. Show up emotionally.
Two different girls recently told one of my daughters some ugly things. One girl told her she should cut her hair. Another girl told her she was too skinny. In both instances, I could sense my daughter felt confused. To help her process what happened and talk through her feelings, I needed to be emotionally present.
Why is it that we don’t seem to get into the emotional stuff our kids are dealing with? Are we uncomfortable with emotion? Or, do we avoid putting in the work to connect emotionally? Maybe we’re so easily distracted by our own issues that we feel like we can’t handle more emotional stress. We need to make time for lots of connecting points with our kids. When your kids are young, it’s joining in their interests and sharing experiences together. As they mature, it’s about knowing when to let them grow through pain rather than brushing it off and going for ice cream.
Sound off: Which of these three ways of showing up comes most easily to you? And which one’s most difficult?