Parenting’s not rocket science…

I’m at home…anxiously watching my three kids verbally chew into each other without a moments hesitation…simple conversations becoming complex multi-faceted examples of modern pschological warfare, right in my kitchen! No blood spatters yet, but the wounds are deep and just as painful as if they had been inflicted with a fully automated m-16 and some grenades!

Enough raw carnage to make a parent sick… where do they learn to battle and wound each other like that?

Who teaches our kids to attack first and ask questions later? I mean who models this kind of verbal warfare, who makes it seem like a good idea to rip into each other with put-downs and cricisms’ 24/7/365? I’m thinking somewhere at the top of my hit list should be… cynical and irresponsible teachers, modern-day TV sitcom screenwriters… hardcore religious & legalistic preachers…bitter old people? It’s clear that someone out there is messing up my kids and by God I’m going to get to the bottom of it and find me some answers… it’s seriously time to stop this nonsense!

Sound familiar?

Yeah… me too.

I am loosely describing one of a hundred experiences over the past five years with my three teenagers. They learn to bite and nip and gnaw at each other like it’s their first language. Their immediate knee-jerk reaction to look for the flaws in each other, to hold grudges and keep track of failures, disappointments and broken promises. They fall into a pattern of looking for ways to painfully remind the others of past compromises and weaknesses of character…and they have no clue what they are doing.

Nope, they just mimic what they see…no real thought goes into it…they just live out what they observe…

Oh SNAP!

Yesirreebob, those kids are OUR KIDS.

If your finding yourself defusing more emotional bombs than Dr. Phil…it may be time to take a personal inventory of our own attitudes and habits. It may be that we parents are the ones who need to re-tune our hearts to move from a critical focus and a complaining spirit… to a complimentary one.

exploration.grc.nasa.gov

Training kids up in “The Way They Should Go” is not rocket science… its real life.

Learning as we go, let’s be careful to model behavior at home that encourages more than it corrects, that loves more  and serves more than it demands of others… it’s the way we want them to go… right?

Peace out, RTP families!

Today’s blog is submitted with genuine humility and personal conviction…apparently this is something I have to work on, so i’m sharing it with you too 🙂

brad.

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Fear and Anger, a parents worst nightmare

How many of us know all to well the terrible twins… “Fear and Anger“?  As parents its such a temptation to let those loose on our kids only to regret it later. If you’re scratching you head about this, well then this blog is probably not for you. If your holding your head in your hands about now… don’t be discouraged, you’re in good company and there is hope for change.

I got a call late one night from a nineteen year old who was really and truly hurt and upset at her father and mother and felt she couldn’t “talk” with them. She and her now grown siblings were struggling with a dad who didn’t seem to listen, or care or have a sensitive bone in his body. He was rigid, demanding and final in his words with them. He made laws and expected them to be obeyed without question. He had made it clear to his family, once he had made up his mind… well you get the idea.

The problem is two-fold and it’s critical we understand it enough to change its devastating impact in our homes.

1 – As parents we often “over-react” emotionally and vigorously out of fear and guilt and utter frustration with our teenagers. We remember our past mistakes, or the horror stories of our peer parenting friends… we ponder the risks and dangers of our kids being allowed more and more freedom.

We fume inwardly at the risks of broken hearts from boyfriends and girlfriends, of faded dreams and hopes that lay shattered in our past. We project those historical memories into our current homes and it scares the “crud” out of us. When we see one of kids stepping right up to the line we crossed… we might “freak” a little and in doing so, FEAR and ANGER emerge.

Wouldn’t it be so much healthier if we just allowed ourselves a moment to not flare up, and instead be straight with our kids about the “why” behind the reactions of fear and anger. To explain to them the past mistakes and humiliations, and tragedies of our own adolescence and to show them our love and our desire to protect and provide and nurture them.

2 – When we make a habit of giving in to the terrible twins of “FEAR and ANGER” we develop a pattern of inter-action between us and our love ones. It slowly builds a wall between our lives and eventually it blocks all communication from coming back from our kids to us. In the aftermath of such unchecked emotional reactivity… we see the charred remnants of what used to be a loving and intimate trust between us and our teenagers now blackened by the lack of any sensitivity to their thoughts, opinions or ideas. We teach them that a parents role is to  “TELL” them what to do, and kids are just there to “OBEY”.

It’s a forgone conclusion that if we react in Fear and Anger enough, they will withdraw  and never even dare to respond any longer. We will lose their trust, their respect and ultimately all of our influence to their heart. They will in time repeat the same with their kids and the painful cycle will continue to one more generation. Someday they might get the courage up to actually confront us with their own frustrations and anger and pain at the way they have been trampled, but that is a whole different issue entirely.

So… The Apostle Paul taught a bit differently on this, He suggested that only three things will endure into eternity… “Hope, Faith and Love…and the greatest of these is Love“.  It also is said in the bible that “Perfect Love casts out all fear”.  If that is true, then we need to seriously step back from our knee jerk parenting reflex of “Fear and Anger” for something better. We should seriously and soberly ask God for wisdom in how to Love our kids better and react to them slower.

Spend some time on that idea today… and ask yourself, why do I react the way I do ? Is it out of fear, anger or pride ? For me it was pride, it was the concern for my own reputation as a parent, as a pastor and out of the belief that if I was the parent, then I had to have the right answer every time etc.. yada didah doo. I was SO Wrong.

When your kids are little they will sometimes need fear and anger… if they want to play with electricity or drink paint etc.. but as they start to grow into adults, its time to lower your guard a bit and let them in. Let them see your own personal doubts and fears about life for themselves, let them consider with you the realities of our world and its dangers. Let them see your LOVE and Compassion and Concern for them in the struggles of it all. That DOES NOT MEAN BE THEIR BEST FRIENDS.  Let me be clear, as teens they will seek to manipulate and twist you for their own way. That is not what I’m suggesting at all, but when they do (and they will) don’t over-react anymore.

In the end they may not like what you decide any better than before, but they will LOVE the fact that you considered carefully before you spoke and that they had your ear in the process. That leads to respect and respect will lead to trust and trust will lead them to follow what you have taught them.

So lets throw out the terrible twins of “Fear and Anger” and let them leave our homes. Instead lets invite Peace and Love to rule our lives and ask for Gods wisdom and discernment instead of our own. Blessings to you as you like me… “seek to keep your kids on the road and in between the lines of life

Brad.

Belly Button Parenting…

It’s a weird concept I grant you, but “Belly Button Parenting” is a dangerous trap that I and many others have fallen into. What is “Belly Button Parenting”?  Simply this… raising kids from our own perspective and opinions.  When you think about it, our individual opinions are so varied and so common they are like Belly Buttons…EVERYONE HAS ONE.

Is that really a healthy way to raise kids ? No of course not, none of us would consciously seek to raise our families from just our own viewpoints would we ? Shouldn’t we read parenting books and seek the counsel of those older and wiser, parents and pastors and friends for advice ? Wouldn’t it make sense to gather as much information and research and reviews as possible before we take the next step in helping our little ones become adults ?

I know you moms are saying already… I DO THAT. ALL THE TIME, and I READ SO MUCH about this it confuses me to no end. There are SOOO MANY books and SOOO MANY opinions from SOOO MANY experts it’s truly exhausting. So what’s a parent to do ? If you tried to do what every good idea or opinion suggested, you would end up tied in so many knots you literally wouldn’t be able to do a single thing.

In my seventeen years of parenthood, I’ve read many books by some very wise and Godly men and women and from those I’ve gleaned some great nuggets of truth, those tidbits combined with my own history and my families past mistakes have helped me to form my own philosophy of parenting. But that philosophy is very much an extension of my own preferences and opinions and as such is only as helpful as the truth behind it.

What can we truly turn to for sound advice and Godly counsel that is distinctly helpful and unbiased ?

The Word of God. (get it for free on your ipod,phone or email at Daily Audio Bible.com ) I’m sure you already guessed where I was heading with this one, but it’s so simple and yet so profound. Reading in the word on a regular basis is the only sure way to gain the wisdom and discernment so essential to a healthy home and faithful parenting. Go ahead, read and research each issue, but in the end, I believe  it must line up with the Scriptures if we are going to have any chance of seeing our little ones follow Jesus with their whole heart.

I have counseled many families, couples and single parents over the years and the one repeated danger I find repeated in almost every case, is the tendency to over-emphasize the opinions of the well-intentioned and under state the timeless and priceless principles of the word of God.

In today’s world of multi-media saturation and myopic ministries, families can become torn apart by the temptation to figure it out on the fly…to “cross that bridge” when we get there, or to simply read the latest best seller when life circumstances get out of control…Please don’t.

Consider instead, investing in a regular time every day in the word and in prayer. Consider asking openly and unashamed for help from our creator and our perfect “Heavenly Father’. I believe that the Word of God combined with the very active and gentle Holy Spirit will guide us into perfect peace and wisdom for each and every child we care for, with specific and unique insights that are essential to winning their hearts and minds.

Cookie Cutter templates of discipline and devotions are o.k., but in the end, I believe if we are not seeking out God’s perfect plan for our kids we risk creating little monsters who learn to avoid our wrath and fake their responses to get what they want. In doing so, they avoid the real issues of their life and faith and living altogether.So many parents find themselves at a loss for what to do when their little ones grow into teens and face the absolute horror and confusion of finding out that their child has suddenly become disconnected emotionally from their home, their families and their faith.

What then…?

Don’t PANIC, seek out wise counsel, pray with your comrades and spouses for direction and wisdom. Get in the word and find His perfect solution, it’s in there… I guarantee it! God will not leave us alone and lost and confused. But in your anxiety, don’t revert to someone’s opinion for something so critical to your life.

Blessings to you all, as you like me… want to “keep your families in between the lines and on the road of life ! ” And as a reminder, it’s never too early to get your kids interested in God’s word, check out the new i-Shine tween biblesfrom Tyndale House Publishers. They have an unique interactive online and smart phone function that engages kids with the gospel on their wavelength. Super cool.

Peace Out, Brad.

Can you REALLY Hear God…?

Can you REALLY hear God’s voice ? This significant question came up from one of my teenagers last year. My daughter was struggling with feeling friendless and alone in her freshman year of High School. She had been praying for God to provide her some guidance, to help her out, but felt He had abandoned her.

What began as a simple request from a fourteen year old had become a frustration that was rapidly evolving into bitter resentment that God didn’t hear or respond to our pleas for help. She felt that IF God was alive and interested…, why didn’t He choose to act ? When would He actually answer her prayers ? How would she know if He did ?

Those are tough questions, important questions! I mean we all kind of know…basically the general idea of what it means to “hear from God”. Don’t we ?

As parent’s we can’t afford to blow through the sincere fears and frustrations of our kids as “incidental”, or secondary issues that will resolve themselves in time. Doubtless my daughter would have made a new friend in time and doubtless this little concern would fade into the memory of a difficult adolescence, but the opportunity was rare to actually engage her with the faith her mother and I held so dear.

Recognizing the opportunity is one thing… providing good sound advice on how a person can Hear from God is quite another…

It was time to step out in faith, and trust that the God who has always had my back… wouldn’t change or fail me now. He didn’t, and he won’t fail you. But to find out how He actually showed up for my daughter and for me…well thats detailed in my next blog.

Part two… on Tuesday.

Peace Out Fellow Parents,

brad.

Sweet Sixteen…Really ?

My youngest daughter just turned sixteen…we’re going to get her driver’s license tonight after school. I’m nervous. She is about to become mobile…not in the “technological” sense, or the “I’m no longer crawling but walking” sense… but in the “I’m going to be able to drive my car at any speed she can conceive” sense.

Sweet sixteen… Really ?

Who coined that phrase “sweet sixteen”…, what knucklehead made that little pronouncement for all of teen-ager-dom ?

Someone crazy, or someone who doesn’t pay an Allstate drivers insurance rate for high school girls. Someone who has no idea how insane it is for a “yet to be eligible voter” to be given the legal right to operate a $30,000 vehicle without adult supervision.

I mean seriously, what is wrong with just raising the drivers age a wee bit…? Maybe to like 21 or something just more adultish than being a sophomore in High School ?

I’ve heard other freaked out parents cope with this issue my whole life, but I was silly enough to think that when a parent of a sixteen year old said … “Oh…it’s not a big deal, really so convenient to have someone who can do errands for you or drive themselves to the school club events…” they actually believed it.

I now know that is sooo not true. It’s a coping mechanism that they repeat as often as possible to as many other parents they can find to help them believe it for themselves, and they are simply deceiving us all that it’s really totally o.k. that their child is behind the wheel. Because any sane adult parent would absolutely freak out thinking that their hormonal almost adult child is out there, trying to keep up with their instant messages, texting, and updating their Twitter, Facebook status and shuffling through their iPods and listening to the radio while they check out all of the “hot” guys they can find in other vehicles as they drive from their local Sonic to Taco Bell to McDonalds and on to Starbucks and occasionally, sometimes…they even watch the road

Ohhhhh my. I am rambling... So as you have no doubt discerned by now. My middle child, Bethany Rose Mathias my little “munchkinaroo” is now a 16-year-old barbie doll, dude magnet with wheels. OH MAN, OH MAN, OH MAN !!!

So, while I’m digging frantically through the medicine cabinet this morning for some Valium… it dawns on me. My parents had to deal with this, as all parents must and God has to deal with our immaturity each and every day.

Freewill is the deal. God gave us the terrible gift of being able to “choose” our way through life. He watches us as we hop in our life-cars and motor our way through one near miss after another and waits patiently for us to finally understand and trust and believe enough in Him, for us to scoot over and let someone else take the wheel.

I love my daughter, I’m very proud of her and I know in all seriousness that she will be a great driver and someday she will teach her kids to drive and the cycle of sweet sixteen will continue. My prayer today is for my daughter to grow enough as a young woman to see it’s really not soooo important to have the license to drive…, its much much more important to see clearly enough to know you don’t need to.

Peace out and God bless… as you “keep your families in between the lines and on the road of life”… literally this time 🙂

brad.

Snow Days, Sledding and Scattegories !

Snow Day today! My tweens went crazy AGAIN..its like the ninth snow day in two months and for south Nashville that’s an epic winter. My son immediately grabbed his coat and went straight to the garage for our neon orange plastic sleds.  We hit the back yard for some rare Central Tennessee sledding time. As is often the case with my kids, sledding can become a very competitive sport, complete with intense racing, longest distance travelled contests and best rider titles being won and lost over and over. When it was finally done,… we all had won.  

That’s the stuff that life is made of. If we’re not careful we miss them. Been kinda stuck on this theme lately as I have a growing awareness that our lives are made up of beautiful moments that we either take the time to enjoy or brush by them in a hurry to get somewhere else. As the parent of three, I’m learning these events are often the most critical for our families to embrace. I sometimes think that church, or devotions or correction are more necessary than sledding, but in the end if my kids don’t understand that I genuinely value them more than the work I do, then I’m in real danger as a dad.  

After sledding, we dumped our still damp jeans, boots and hats at the back door and cozyed up in the living room… it was immediately suggested that we have some “board game” time. Not a movie, not “american idol season whatever”, but “Scattegories” was chosen. So to my surprise we quickly dusted off ours from the hall closet and had tons of fun eating butter popcorn, cookies and whatever junk food we could get our hands on. For the next two hours we talked, played, burped, joked and generally goofed off until we had all had enough. The snow continued to fall outside and as the day-light faded to night, we never turned on the television again (except to check if school was out for tomorrow :). It was awesome and it was real, and I almost missed it.

This morning we hit the road to do our traditional “Cracker Barrell” breakfast on snow day mornings. We ate way too much, laughed too hard and I missed getting all but two of the pegs on the triangle game once again… but man oh man, we connected as a family.

Parents; we must push “PAUSE” sometimes. For somewhere in our crazy over scheduled lives…its vital we slow down the pace a bit and remember our  kids will only be with us for a very short period. It’s already flying by so fast… 

I needed to remember the big picture of parenthood. My greatest privilege, responsibility and joy in life should be to share the precious time I have been given with my three unbelievably beautiful kids… wisely.

I was/am so grateful for being able to take a time “out” for a snow day and to share the happiness of life with them one more time. Our days on earth here are so short, “as only a vapor”  King David says in the Psalms. I forget that far to often.

So, I’m hopeful my “Snow Day” story can serve as a simple reminder for all of us for anytime of the year…, before we rush out to make our next planned business meeting, community event or obligatory school function. Let’s be sure to reconsider our commitments from this parenting perspective of time, and make sure that when the next opportunity comes… we are able to jump into the world of our kids and leave our grown-up distractions behind for just a moment. My chance came as a snow day, what will yours be?

 It doesn’t matter what it is, only that it is. Lets all agree, its important enough to our homes that we intentionally make the sacrifices of our time to invest in the lives of those who matter the most. Our families.

For those who can’t sled or find a board game, no worries… just discover your tradition for your family and be ready to guard it and keep it alive with your kids. It helps us all on the journey of life as we seek to keep our kids in between the lines and on the road of life.

Peace out,

brad.

Super Scheduled Sundays and Parenting

 

Sunday. Oh how we dread the day, with our push to get out the door and the guilt we feel if we don’t. So we rush through our Sunday mornings to get ready, one of the kids seem to be a bit cranky and slower than the rest. Makeup, hair, showers, breakfast, finding the one pair of my son’s dress shoes, reviewing the girls wardrobe before rushing out the door and considering if its “appropriate” for a service etc… by the time a mom and dad get to the mini-van and load everyone up, we’re about ten minutes late already. Upon arrival to the service, the kids scatter, mom and dad grab a seat and we do Church.

Sundays were designed by God to be days of rest and refreshment, of common-unity with other friends and family and a day of hearing from and talking to our God. What is it that sabotages us?

It seems obvious at first glance to most of us that our lives are out of control “crazy” busy. But does it really have to be that way ?…  Especially for those of us who have experienced the power of Grace and Forgiveness which we understand (at least conceptually)has abolished the need for us to work ourselves to death trying to get into heaven.

If your like me, we fail to remember our freedom and find ourselves caught in the tyranny of our over-scheduled day. Making the effort to belong to a community of faith is a huge sacrifice of time and energy and effort every sunday and for most of us, it means loosing out on a sunday morning snooze, enjoying a slow sunday morning -paper reading, coffee sipping moment and the pleasure of a few quiet hours of idle time.

I believe the greatest threat to modern-day parents and families is our relentless schedules. We book our days like they are going to be judged by how much we did and how fast we did them. Like a massive final exam that never ends. Its time to SLOW DOWN and REST. (I’m speaking to myself first here)

John Eldridge (the author of “Wild at Heart” and head of Ransomed heart ministries) has many great quotes, but one of favorites is perfect for this blog… ” Busyness is no substitute for significance”.

Our significance comes from our identity in Christ and from our acceptance of who we were created to be and the realization of our specific life purposes. Once we grasp our significance is not found in what we do, but who we are… we can be freed from the relentless need to “prove” ourselves and work at our religion like we do our jobs.

As parents, we have already established great purpose in our lives. Our Kids. We may say that God is our “savior” and that we long ago accepted Him as our “Lord” but if our daily schedules don’t reflect that truth, we’re in danger of undermining our testimony to our kids and of living out a psuedo-compartmentalized faith.  

So, the fact your willing to read this far is testament to your interest or concern on the subject.Peace, Health and Wholeness are promised by God to those who receive Him. Sabbath rest is a Commandment of God. When we ignore the commandment we miss out on fully experiencing the promise. So instead of trying to survive our days by living at the speed of light, lets remember to NOT schedule one day a week of our lives. Our families deserve the rest and so do we. Without this discipline, I believe we place enormous strain on our lives and our homes and our marriages that is completely unneccessary. 

Parents like me… let’s work hard to reduce our Super Scheduled lives into days we look forward too and lets invest that time into our families and homes and lives and remember it’s not about legislating that we rest, it’s about learning how to allow yourself to enjoy it.

Here’s to helping families like mine to “keep it on the road and in between the lines“….

Resources for Busy Parents… www.ishineministries.com

PEACE out.

brad.