Is Your Child Secretly Struggling? Here are 5 Signs
My daughter picked up a college course this summer. She loves writing, so we encouraged her to continue to explore that interest through our local community college. One night, I sat down at the computer and noticed she left open a paper from her class. I’m interested in her writing, so I read it. The paper chronicled her sixth-grade year and the devastating effects a male classmate’s bullying had on her self image. By the end of the paper, I was in tears. This was, in part, because I was heartbroken to hear what my daughter went through and, in part, because I was ashamed that I had completely missed it. I was clueless.When your children are struggling, it’s almost certain they’re telling you, but rarely with words.
When your children are struggling, it’s almost certain they’re telling you, but rarely with words. So we need to pay attention to signals they’re sending. Here are five signs your child is struggling.
Every person is different, and you certainly don’t need to expect your child to be a socialite, but if he or she begins to show a pattern of isolation—refusing invitations from friends, opting out of events he or she once would’ve said yes to, hiding out in his or her room for extended periods of time and only coming out when forced—don’t simply shrug it off as a phase. Ask questions. Dig deeper. This could be a sign of struggle.
2. Obsession with Dark Themes
Does your child spend lots of time immersed in books, movies, websites, or video games that are focused on death or violence? When you check his or her search history, do the items searched for worry you? Does he or she spend hours immersed in violent virtual worlds? Pay attention to those things. There’s a difference between occasionally reading a book about someone who dies or playing a video game that involves shooting and obsessing over them. Trust your instincts. Talk to your child about what he or she focuses on and the impact those things can have.
3. Changes in Eating Habits
Look for sudden changes in eating patterns that don’t make sense. Is there an increase in comfort food consumption? Does your child pick at food or often skip meals altogether? Talk with your child about these changes. There is rarely a reason a child should ever skip a meal (excluding in advance of certain medical procedures). So no matter what the excuse might be, he or she needs to eat something at each meal. If your child is obsessing over calories but is actually healthy, talk with him or her about that. If he or she is consuming unhealthy food regularly, talk about that, too, and work to reduce the amount of junk food readily available in your home. Diet changes may be pointing to something deeper, like a struggle with self-image.
4. Changes in Personality
Children change. They are not the same at 13 as they were at 8. Nor are they the same at 18 as they were at 13. However, if your normally upbeat and outgoing teen is suddenly sullen and withdrawn, don’t write it off as teens being teens. This could be a warning sign that something deeper is going on.
5. Changes in Sleep Patterns
If your child seems exhausted all the time, is suddenly unable to get to sleep at night, or was once a sound sleeper and now wakes up regularly throughout the night, it may be a sign of a silent struggle. If your child’s sleep patterns are changing negatively, this could be a sign of anxiety or depression.
It’s hard for everyone when your child is struggling. But you don’t have to face it alone. Yes, have conversations, pay attention, listen to your child. But also talk with your pediatrician. See a counselor. Utilize all the tools at your disposal to ensure your child has what he or she needs to thrive.
Sound off: Have you noticed any significant changes in your child’s behavior that concern you?
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3 Reasons to Praise Your Kids More
I have a much easier time noticing the bad than recognizing the good. It’s also important to me to keep things clean. So even when our kids have spruced up part of the house, it’s still a whole lot easier for me to focus on the other areas that are still undone than to focus on the positive, to praise the good work that’s already been done.
I look more often for reasons to be critical than I look for reasons to praise. However, I’m learning that while my criticisms can be deflating to my family, my praise can be edifying and motivating. I’m constantly reminded of the power of praise. A proverb says “death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” Our words matter and we will eat the fruit of them. Here are three of the fruits of praise.
1. Praise is powerful.
Every day, we can infuse life into our families through words of affirmation or we can take life away and crush their spirits through unnecessary words of criticism. Our words have tremendous power. When I intentionally praise my kids, they smile instantly. Why wouldn’t I want to build my family up with my words? One of the best places to do this is during the pride exercise at our All Pro Dad Chapter meetings. Check to see if there is a chapter in your area or learn what it takes to start one.
2. Praise is positive.
Our families face enough negative in the world around us on a daily basis. To receive praise in the home is sweet and refreshing. If we focus on the positive and praise it, our kids know we are on their side and that we are proud of them. Praise reminds our children that “home is where I want to be, and where I belong.” A praise-filled home is a positive place, where I am loved for who I am, not judged for who I am.
3. Praise is productive.
When we acknowledge that we’ve seen what we want to see, we’ll start to see more of it.In any area of life, you always get more of what you affirm. When my children know I’m proud of them and I go out of my way to praise them for a behavior, they’re motivated to do more of the same. One of our children especially desires to be praised and when we praise him, he is motivated to please us even more. I love the principle “say what you want to see.” When we acknowledge that we’ve seen what we want to see, we’ll start to see more of it.
Sound off: What kind of “fruit” are you experiencing in your home as a result of your words?
5 Threats Kids Face Today That We Never Had To Worry About
I still remember it like it was yesterday, riding our bikes down those dusty roads in our small town as we enjoyed the simplicity of childhood. We had no cares or worries, just the drive to enjoy life and the freedom of being a kid. Even our parents didn’t worry much about child protection. Life was simple, good, and safe—or at least safer than it is today.
There are concerns now that weren’t concerns then, at least not to the same extent. Parents need to be aware of that and help their children see dangers in advance. So here are 5 threats kids face today that we never had to worry about.
1. The Saturation of Media and Technology
Most of our children don’t know of a pre-iPhone world. And while this comes with advantages, it comes with even more concerns. Never before have kids spent as much time in front of screens or had as much access to the entire world at their fingertips. Consequently, the threats this creates range from laziness, to obesity, to worldview implications, to low self-esteem.
2. The Relational Challenges Associated with Social Media
Parents need to decide carefully if, when, and how they will allow their children to participate in social media.Parents need to decide carefully if, when, and how they will allow their children to participate in social media. While it can be a fun way to build better relationships, it also can be a trap for young people, drawing them into unhealthy habits of drama, poor self-image, the need for approval from others, cyberbullying, and many other threats.
3. The Ease of Access to Pornography
Growing up, we might have had a few inappropriate pictures hidden under our mattresses, but porn isn’t hidden today. Soft porn is flaunted as socially acceptable and hard-core porn is more accessible than ever. The average child’s first exposure to porn happens between 8 and 11 years old. We must take this seriously and put protective measures in place. This threat hit close to home for us recently, as one of our boys picked up someone else’s device and inadvertently was exposed to pornography.
4. The Harsh Realities of Child Sex Abuse and Sex Trafficking
Statistics tell us that one in five children will experience some form of sexual abuse, and in 90 percent of those cases, the child knows the abuser. “Stranger Danger” is no longer the greatest threat when it comes to child abuse. Parents must be proactive rather than passive, even with family and friends. They must have sensitive conversations about what is and is not appropriate touch as well as about the dangers of sex trafficking.
5. The Attitude of Entitlement
Most of us had to work hard for what we have. And if we got in trouble growing up, our parents allowed us to face the consequences rather than rescuing us or blaming our authorities. We were expected to be dependable, responsible, and respectful. However, one of the great threats to kids today is the mindset that the world owes them something. A recent survey of school counselors said “entitlement mentality” is one of the top five problems young people have today.
With these threats and others facing our children, what is a parent to do? Be proactive. Purposefully talk with your children about these issues and the threats they pose. And most importantly, pray for God’s guidance to wisely navigate these threats that your children are sure to face.
Sound off: Which of these 5 threats hits closest to home for you and your family?
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3 Uncomfortable Questions Most Parents Don’t Ask But Should
Someone once said, “you’ll never realize the importance of something until it’s gone.” This is true in so many areas of life, especially in parenting. When raising children, the days seem so long but the years seem so short. And as a result, parents often overlook tough questions during the parenting years that they later will wish they had prioritized.
They are tough topics, yes. And while it isn’t easy to think about them, it’s important to address them before it’s too late—especially by asking these three uncomfortable questions.
1. Will any of my children rebel when they are grown?
What’s in your child’s heart will determine what’s in your child’s future. While there is no way to tell what the future holds, parents instinctively are given firsthand access to the direction of their child’s heart more than anyone else. A parent’s greatest responsibility is not to be a rule-enforcer or a family referee. A parent’s greatest responsibility is to nurture and protect their child’s heart. Because what’s in your child’s heart will determine what’s in your child’s future. We’ve found in our own family that this is hard to track. There is so much being thrown at our kids from every direction that it requires our intentionality to protect their hearts and their futures.
2. Are my children actually learning how to be great spouses and parents?
Have your kids ever looked up at you and said, “I want to be a daddy just like you someday”? I can remember when mine have. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that our children one day will become adults—mothers and fathers, husbands and wives. And what they are learning now is what will shape them into the adults they will become. It is most important to remember that more than our children will become what we say, they will become who we are.
3. Do my children even know to handle forgiveness, bitterness, and reconciling relationships?
Everyone gets hurt by others. And everyone hurts others. Pain is a two-way street. Learning to deal with it properly is key to living successfully. And one of the greatest ways to set your child up for relational success is for them to see you being quick to forgive, willing to reconcile, and letting go of things that hold you back from your full potential as a person and as a parent. To live successfully, our children must learn how to deal properly with life’s hurts and they need our example and help to know how to navigate their own.
I heard this quote recently: “Our world 20 years from now will be what we have raised our children to be today.” How true. Our parenting has a multi-generational effect, and so we intentionally need to ask ourselves what patterns are we setting for our grandkids and what kinds of traits we want to make sure get transferred to future generations through our children, such as respect, generosity, and faith. Unfortunately, important factors like these can fall by the wayside and be lost forever in just one generation. As you honestly think on these three uncomfortable questions today, here’s a great reminder: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” -Frederick Douglas
Sound off: Which of these three tough questions stands out the most that you could prioritize?
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Building Proper Respect for Authority in Your Children
A key characteristic of a thriving family is a well-established chain of command—respect for authority. An All Pro Dad is responsible for delivering his precious cargo successfully into adulthood, and the family can’t be rudderless, with mutiny afoot at every turn. Building proper respect for authority in our children is an essential task.
A child who sincerely respects his or her parents, teachers, and neighbors will develop powerful qualities such as humility, integrity, personal responsibility, and accountability.A child who sincerely respects his or her parents, teachers, and neighbors will develop powerful qualities such as humility, integrity, personal responsibility, and accountability. Those traits will serve him or her quite well in every aspect of life. So how do we build respect for authority in our children? Here are four ways.
1. Set the Correct Example.
We want our children to be respectful, but are we living what we are preaching? Reflect on your actions and carefully consider what the kids are absorbing. Do they see you obeying traffic laws? Do you pay your taxes? Are you respectful to the employees of their school, your neighbors, civil servants, or even the worker at the drive-thru window? In the chain of command, everything starts at the top, with you. What do your children see? We must model the expected behavior.
2. Be a Parent, Not a Friend.
No dad loves hanging out with his kids more than this one. I love them, and we have all the inside jokes, laughs, and good times that best friends would have. But my kids are not my friends. They are my daughters and I am their dad. Our dynamic can’t work any other way. A big line of respect runs through our relationship that is not to be crossed. We are to teach our kids to say thank you, please, yes sir, and no ma’am. We should never allow our kids to speak with malice or disrespect to their parents or any adult figure in their world. It’s great to have close bonds with your kids, but maintain your authority at all times.
3. Don’t Ignore Moments of Disrespect.
Nip disrespect in the bud at an early age. Don’t ignore the moments of disrespect that surely will occur, whether at home, at school, or in public. When my kids were younger, they knew they’d better keep it together in public or discipline would come. My oldest challenged this often, and I’d look at her and ask, “Have you lost your mind?” She understood by multiple examples that when I said those words, she would lose something she cared about if she didn’t stop. Always apply discipline to undesired behavior, and do so in an incremental manner. The first time, maybe they lose a favorite stuffed animal for an hour. The second time, it’s gone for the day. Third time? That’s up to your discretion. Never ignore these highly teachable moments.
4. Communicate the Expected Behavior Clearly.
If we are modeling the behavior we expect, maintaining our parental authority, and disciplining when our children make mistakes, we are going to be in pretty good shape. Clearly communicate to your children what you expect. When you discipline them, be sure they understand the reason for the punishment. Communication is always key to mutual respect, so keep the lines open. Stay calm, reinforce your love for them at all times, and reward great behavior just as much as you discipline the negative.
Sound off: How have you handled disrespect from your kids?
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5 Ways to Make Your Home Irresistible to Your Kids
In our family, we intentionally have tried to help our children feel happy at home. Over the years, we’ve used board games, pool and foosball tables, a zip line, themed family nights, and special family outings for them to look forward to. Our ultimate goal is for family life to be fun and memorable, and for our home to be a place where our kids want to be—both now and someday. Recently, one of our kids said to my wife and me, “I just really want to spend more time together at home.” Something about those words made us smile on the inside.
Imagine if your kids enjoyed being at home more than anywhere else. What if your kids grew up and actually looked forward to coming home? Andy Stanley has said, “We want to raise kids who one day want to spend time with us, even when they no longer have to.” What a great goal. But this doesn’t happen by accident. How do we make our homes irresistible to our kids both now and then? Here are a few ideas:
1. Make your home a place of fun.
The greatest memories your children can have should surround your home and the time spent there. I want that to be true of our family. I’m guessing that you want it to be true of yours as well. Family life should be fun. Laughter should be normal. Good memories should be made. While this can sometimes happen through entertainment and technology, some of your children’s greatest memories will probably be of playing outside together or of having that tickle fight.
2. Make your home a place of peace.
The world is not a peaceful place, but your home should be. When your kids come through the doors of your home, they should know that this is their place to find peace and comfort, despite anything that has happened in their day. While no home is perfect, your home ought to be the closest thing to heaven on earth for your kids. This requires that as parents, you choose not to argue in front of your kids and to make being a peacemaker a normal part of your family culture.
3. Make your home a welcoming place for their friends.
Relationships matter. The right relationships can be a springboard to your child’s success and the wrong relationships can be a huge setback. As a parent, leverage your influence to cultivate your children’s relationships as close to home as possible. Get to know your kids’ friends and make them feel comfortable in your home by providing a fun and engaging place to hang out. Having food, toys, games, and activities for your kids and their friends can be a helpful advantage.
4. Make your home a place of safety and security.
Home is supposed to be a child’s safe place—a place where a child feels secure. Children’s senses of safety and security come from knowing they are loved as well from boundaries and rules being clearly explained and enforced. So don’t shy away from being the bad guy when necessary and also don’t hesitate to lavish your kids with your love and affection.
5. Make your home a place of unconditional love.
Our children should believe in their hearts that there is nothing they can do that will ever change our love for them.Your home should be a place that your children know they can always come back to, no matter what they have done. Our children should believe in their hearts that there is nothing they can do that will ever change our love for them. This is the greatest key of all to making your home irresistible.
While each of these 5 ideas is important, none of them is instant. Ensuring that your kids are happy at home ultimately rises or falls on our intentionality as parents. You can do this!
Sound off: In which of these 5 ways could you improve the most?
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