Streamlining

For a couple of years now, I have posted on a few different sites for a few different people. It has kept my quite busy and often times overwhelmed. After talking with a few people, I have decided to move my content to one site. It will allow me to focus on better content and makes posting much easier for me. I hope that you will understand and continue to follow at the new strategic parenting blog site. If you are subscribed here for my blog posts, you will automatically be subscribed to the other site. If you do not want that to happen, please let me know and I can get you taken off that subscription list. I look forward to producing better content at a consistent pace since all of my blog writing will be directed towards one site. Thanks for traveling on this journey towards strategic parenting with me.

What is your family focus?

 

IMG_1801I love this picture of our family taken over Christmas break at the Miami Beach Bowl. As you look at the picture, I am sure that you notice something about my daughter in the picture. She was not concerned about looking at the camera. Instead, she was solely focused on the trophy. The more I look and laugh at that picture, the more I realize that this is the battle we face each day as parents.

Are our children looking more to the things of this world or more towards the things of God?

It is our job as parents to make sure our kids are focused more on God’s glory than their own. The world is constantly bombarding them with image after image suggesting that life is all about them. The vision of manhood and womanhood has been blurred. Truth has been redefined. Self sufficient, self-directed lives are promoted and the results are clear.

Focusing on the world’s trophies leads to pride. This fleshes out in having rude, impolite kids who show very little respect to others. It leads to a generation of children who choose the love of pleasure over the pleasure of God. We find a generation who question the truth of the gospel because they hate the practice of it. So who’s to blame?

As parents, we are called to be the primary teachers, counselors, and coaches in our children’s lives. Sadly, our fear of opinion often hinders us from fulfilling the role that God has called us to as parents. We become dead fish families that simply float along with the current of the culture. So how do we point our kids and families towards the one thing that truly matters? Here are five suggestions:

  • Make it a daily priority to root our children in the existence and the glory of God.
  • Take advantage of every opportunity to put a Godward focus on the mundane moments of life.
  • Focus on heart issues rather than surface solutions.
  • Don’t communicate to our children that they would somehow be better off if they more like us. Teach them to be more like Jesus.
  • Don’t point our kids toward something we are not willing to follow ourselves.

I pray that our homes are a picture of redemptive community and that we can point our kids to God’s glory and not their own.

 

Fantasy Football and Parenting

imgres

We are in the middle of football season and for many people Fantasy Football is an integral part of their sports life. Leagues are formed, drafts are held and trash talk resumed. Games are watched intently each and every week. Many people watch certain teams or games only to see if their players are going to score fantasy points so their teams can win.

Interestingly enough, I think we have transferred the motives of Fantasy Football to parenting. I think we have become a generation of fantasy parents. We see ourselves vested in our kids so much that when they do well we feel good. We compare our kids “points” to the kids in other families or on other teams. Our comparative theology pushes us to look at other families so we can compare what we are doing in our families.

We have created this “point” system that is based solely on what our kids do and not who they are. Academic, athletic, and musical accomplishments are counted each week and judged accordingly. We begin to parent in a way that is motivated by what we can get out of our child or how many “points” they can get us. The pressure put on our children begins to look like the pressure we feel when our fantasy team is down going into the last game of the night.

This might sound crazy but I think it is something we have to consider. Is our focus more about what our kids do or who they are? I pray that we don’t value performance over the status of their heart. We should want our children to become people who love Jesus. We want them to love Him so much that they surrender their lives to Him.

So how do we know if we are falling into that “fantasy parenting” trap? Here are some questions to ask:

  • Are we more concerned with our kid’s performances than we are with how they treat others?
  • Do you find yourself constantly looking at the accomplishments of other kids and pushing your kids because of it?
  • Does your mood change based on the performance of your children?
  • Is your family schedule so filled with performance-based activities that your intentional family time is affected?
  • Are your family conversations focused mostly on performances or matters of the heart?

My prayer is that we can steer clear of this “fantasy parenting” trap and focus on teaching our kids what it means to follow Jesus and how to live as a godly man or woman.

 

The Family Google

imgres

What if….?

Why do….?

Do you remember when….?

What was it like….?

Question after question after question is asked at my house. I would feel certain that it is not much different in other houses. We are bombarded with seemingly endless questions from our kids day after day. It can be fun at first but can often lead to frustration. We are busy people with busy lives and we often dismiss the simple questions thrown at us throughout the day. Perhaps, we are missing out on a greater opportunity.

Think about this idea with me for one moment.

We are the family Google.

Our children want the answers from us. They want to know that we have the answers to life’s simplest and most complex questions. They want the security of asking without the threat of feeling foolish.

Technology has given us access to information at the click of a button but it cannot give our kids what they desperately need: a deep, meaningful relationship with their parents. Intentional conversation is a key component to being a strategic parent and it starts early. Answering questions and leading conversations will lead to consistent conversation as your children get older.

The worst mistake we can make as parents is to give in to the technological pressure of today’s world and miss opportunities to get to the heart of our children. Technology has provided an easy escape from the work of having conversations with our kids. Sadly, it has only increased the relational gap between parents and children and we are seeing the effects.

So what do we do it about it? Here are some proactive steps to take:

  • Don’t use technology as a crutch to avoid having conversations. I know it is easier to let them watch a movie or play on an IPAD but it does not help foster strategic conversation.
  • Stay off your phone when you are with your kids. They will imitate what they see from you. If conversation with someone else is more important than conversation with them, you are setting the table for them to go elsewhere for important conversations.
  • Ask great questions. Try to phrase your questions in a way that force your kids to answer in more than one word. You must train them to talk without using one-word answers. If you start this habit early, it will pay off greatly as they get older.
  • Answer questions even if you are at the point of frustration. You never know when that heartfelt, meaningful question is going to come out. Shutting them out with frustration might eliminate an opportunity for an important conversation.
  • Take time and schedule for strategic conversations. You have to be proactive in this area. Schedule time to do something with them that they like to do and use that as an opportunity to cast vision and discuss strategies for dealing with issues that will occur in the upcoming months and years.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to be the family Google. Use those opportunities as a springboard for intentional and strategic conversations with your kids.

No Dress Rehearsals


imgres

There are several people in life that you don’t want to hear say “Oops!” Your barber, your mechanic, and your surgeon come to mind. Another is your parents. None of us want “Oops” to sum up the influence we’ve had on the lives of our children. But more often than not in our culture today, that is what I am hearing from parents both in and out of the church. It is crucial for us to become intentional about what we are giving the next generation in the short time they are in our care.

If you don’t know this, time sneaks up on you. At first it was sleepless nights and leaky diapers. Exhausting and disgusting, but a fair trade-off for getting close with such a little bundle of joy. Then they raise the bar with bumps and bruises, dinnertime spills, crayons on the walls, and the word “No” in response to, well, everything. Still cute, but the trade-off seems a little less fair. Before you know it, you pole vault over issues you never were part of the parenting package- that first cuss word, awkwardly trying to explain sex, or crying together after that first time they are picked on or excluded.

We get no practice round or dress rehearsal. With the birth of that first child the curtain raises and we are on stage immediately. There is no secret formula for becoming “super” parents- faster than a runny nose, more powerful than a temper tantrum, able to leap willful rebellion in a single bound. The only “S” on your chest should stand for Sinners raising Sinners and that equals conflict!

It is our job as parents and a church to give them a biblical framework for living- to equip them with a strong sense of identity that comes from knowing who made them, who they are, and how they fit into the larger drama of life. We must help them understand their story from the Author’s perspective, to enjoy the wonder that comes from knowing that with God everything is sacred and nothing is meaningless.

We must wage war in this battle for truth and teach the next generation about:

A personal, loving God who created them for relationship.

A sense of purpose and meaning that transcends the often confusing and painful experiences they will endure.

Timeless truth that frames the choices they will face and explains the seemingly hapless circumstances of life.

A profound hope only found in Jesus Christ that can overshadow the deepest despair.

Our clear purpose in parenting is to inspire and nurture the faith of the next generation as life’s greatest privilege and priority.

I pray that we are all up for the challenge!

10 Questions That Every Father Must Ask Himself

imgres

Eight months ago I had back surgery to repair a ruptured disc. For the weeks leading up to it, I was in a great deal of pain. The first time I went to the doctor, I went through some tests and an MRI to find the cause of the pain. Once the doctor diagnosed the problem, fixing it was pretty straightforward. The doctor had to cut me open and take out the disc that was causing the pain. Not long after that, I was able to be up and walking without pain or discomfort. While I still have some discomfort every once and awhile, walking has become far more enjoyable.

I don’t like being in pain. In fact, I don’t like being in discomfort at all. The good news is that God often meets us in uncomfortable times and inconvenient moments. As fathers, I think we must being willing to go through some discomfort and maybe even pain to be the father that God calls us to be. That means asking ourselves some very tough questions. We can’t cast a vision for something we are not willing to model. Are you willing to ask yourself the tough questions so that you can grow to be the man calls you to be for your wife and children? Take this self-test with me today and ask God to put on your heart areas that you need to work on so that you can be the strategic and intentional father your son needs.

10 Questions That Every Father Must Ask Himself

  • Where in your life could your son see evidence of self-glory?
  • Where in your parenting are you more dominant than you should be?
  • In what situations do you fail to listen to your child when you should?
  • What things do you attempt to control with your son that you do not need to control?
  • What specific situations with your son are you tempted to speak more than you should?
  • In what areas do you fail to recognize and encourage the gifts of your son?
  • In what areas of manhood are you unwilling to examine your weaknesses and admit your failures?
  • Does your son see you thinking of yourself as more important than you actually are?
  • By watching your life, does your son see that you care too much about people’s respect, opinion, and appreciation?
  • Does your son see you relying more on your own strength and wisdom or the grace and wisdom of God?

 

The 3 Primary Roles of Fathers

One of the key ingredients to being a strategic and intentional dad is teaching our boys to apply biblical truth to everyday life. I have often found that life as a follower of Jesus often gets fuzzier the closer it gets to real life. As fathers, we must understand that we must fulfill three primary roles in the discipleship of our boys.

Dads must be primary teachers.

A father’s goal for his boys should be to root their identity in the existence and glory of God. Far too many times, I parent as if God doesn’t exist. We should never allow our children to believe in a God who is distant and uninvolved. That means we must make it abundantly clear that God is with us in the mundane, ordinary tasks of the day. Our boys must see us glorifying God in all areas of our life. We must seek to embed the story of our sons in the larger story of God.

Dads must be primary counselors.

A father must realize that he is the negotiator in a house full of sinners, of which he is the worst. God’s plan for the family is to be a picture of redemptive community. In order for that to happen, fathers must lead their families in gospel centered conflict resolution. Our sons must see a godly example from us on how to talk with another, serve one another, make decisions and deal with differences. We must make sure that we do not give into surface solutions rather than dealing with our son’s heart.

Dads must be primary coaches.

Great coaches prepare, model, and adjust. Dads must prepare like coaches by parenting with the end in mind. We must know our “personnel” and prepare them to be people of hope even in the midst of a fallen world. We must also parent with a humble awareness of our own sin. Last time I checked, I don’t recall Romans 3:23 saying that just our boys sin. Boys must hear from their dads that only through Christ can we truly experience freedom from the things with which we struggle. The hope of the gospel must be the constant theme in the life our family. Finally, we must be willing to adjust and make sure that we never let the minor trials of life take our mind away from the major issue at hand, casting and modeling vision for our boys about what it means to be a godly man.

These three roles will play a critical part in how we teach and shape the worldview of our sons. My prayer is that we all take each role seriously and that we strive to glorify God through the way we invest in the lives of our boys.

A Father’s Responsibility

imgres

Fathers are called to show their sons what it means to be responsible. Responsibility shows that your son is growing up, maturing, and can handle bigger things. Doing dishes, mowing the yard, watching and playing with younger siblings and other acts of service are things that can yield more than allowance. We must teach our boys to take initiative to do those kinds of things without being asked. We must train them with the future in mind.

One critical element of growing into manhood and being responsible involves how to be an integral part of the family. I think many dads fall short in this because we either assume that our boys know what that means or we spend our time teaching other things. If we want our boys to lead their future family well, there are certain things that they must know as a son, which will help guide them when it is time for them to raise a family. I thought I would share just a few in today’s post.

*Teach your son not to measure their love of you by the material things you give or don’t give them. The last thing we need is another generation of young men who feel entitled, spoiled, and place too much emphasis on possessions.

*Teach your son that your love for him does not depend on his performance. The most stressful conversations for boys are often in the car after a game or in carpool after a difficult test.

*Teach your son that he is wired for connection and intimacy. We live in the most connected time in all of history, yet our families have never been more disconnected. Teach your son that family time is valuable and is a priority.

It’s easy for us to get caught up in the fast paced life and forget that we are seeking to raise up a generation of godly men who can lead their family well. If we do not take time to talk about family and model what that really looks like, I am fearful that we will continue to push our families farther and farther apart. Take time this week and make sure that your sons begin to understand what it means to be a godly man and how they are to lead their future family.

 

Are you willing to let your kid hang?

imgres

Are you willing to let your kid hang?

Sky hanging.

Ever heard of it? I hadn’t either until I read this article and saw this picture courtesy of mustang wanted.

Apparently, a Ukranian daredevil has decided to get his picture taken from high places while he dangles from his hands and feet. I must admit that looking at the pictures freaks me out. I can’t even imagine the phone call from one of my kids telling me they are going to do anything remotely close to this.

The more I looked at the pictures and the more I thought about the craziness of this stunt, the more I began to think about how much control I actually try and place over my children.

Let me explain.

When God called our family to move into the inner city of Memphis, our parents were not pleased. They have since changed their opinion but it was tough at first. As our children are growing older, I began to think about how far I am willing to let them hang?

I can talk a big game but am I really willing to let them make decisions that others might consider “dangerous”? If they want to go live, love, and serve somewhere for the sake of the gospel, will I be excited for the opportunity or worried about their safety?

How about some questions that might hit even closer to home?

Am I willing to let my child fail? When he makes a bad decision, do I let him suffer the consequences or immediately try and bail him out? Do I even allow him to be in a position to fail? I think our default is to clean up the mess without letting our children get dirty.

Letting our kids fail and work through difficult situations helps them develop resilience, a trait that many college coaches say is lacking in college students today. While it may be a result of laziness on the child’s part, I believe that parents should bear the weight of responsibility on this one.

Part of being a strategic parent means giving our kids the opportunity to fail under our roof and teaching them how to deal with it. Teach resilience now so they don’t crumble later!

 

Application Not Just Information

One of the key messages that I try to convey to dads is the idea of parenting with the end in mind. We must have a strategic plan for what we want our sons to know and be when they leave us for that next season of life at eighteen. We must think and parent with college in mind. The best thing you can do as a father is take a day and walk around a college campus. This will give you a great perspective on what’s ahead for your son.

Thinking about college reminds me of a great story I heard from a parent about their son’s first few weeks at school. This particular young man was ready to go. He registered for classes and moved into his new home in the dorm. This young man was working his way through college and was on a strict budget. All he could afford for his meals were cheese and crackers. Day after day he would scrape by eating whatever he could afford. After two weeks of this misery, he decided to splurge for a meal at the cafeteria on campus. As expected, he loaded his plate as high and far as the tray would hold. When he finally made it to the cashier, he was nervous that it would be a huge blow to his limited budget. He asked the cashier what the total would be and the cashier asked for his student ID. The cashier politely told him that the cost of the meal was included in his tuition when he registered for classes.

From the first day of class, this young man had access to all the food he could eat yet he failed to understand how the meal program was applicable to him.This is parenting in a nutshell. Our job as fathers is to be the spiritual leader of our household yet we forget to think in terms of why we teach it. Our boys need to understand how the truth we are teaching applies to their life now and in the future. We are preparing them for life on their own. They must know God’s truth, why they believe it, and how that applies to their everyday life. Proactive dads  seek to be a representation of God’s truth and pass it on to their boys.

My prayer is that we take every opportunity we have to impart truth into the lives of our boys. We have a limited time with our boys. Don’t waste an opportunity to prepare them for life on their own. They need us to cast vision for what it means to be a godly man and how that applies to their life on a daily basis. Don’t let them feed on cheese and crackers when you can give them a whole meal. Take advantage of the time you have. It will be over before you know it.