Don’t Freak Out!


“I told her, whatever you do, don’t freak out.”  – my husband, recalling advice he gave to a friend going through a troubling time with her pre-teen son.

That, my friends, is brilliant advice for those of us in the trenches of parenting.  Especially for us moms – we tend to be the big freaker-outers.  :)

And why wouldn’t we be?  We spent nine agonizing months nurturing those children inside our bodies, and after they came out, it was our job to supply this completely dependent human being with everything they needed to survive.

But after a few years, there’s this new trajectory.  They start to become more and more independent, and let’s face it, we hate that.  So we keep trying to grab back the control.  When they make a mistake, we want to clean up the mess.  When they rebel, we want to “fix” them.

Here’s the cold, hard truth: when we freak out, our kids will take their behavior underground.  Instead of working towards change, they will just try harder to hide it from you.

I offer a kinder, gentler, dare I say it, godlier way to handle those parenting moments that send us into a frightful panic:

  1. Instead of punishing, allow natural consequences to discipline.
  2. Gently and calmly show them the right way (including providing any necessary tools), and give them the opportunity to do the right thing.
  3. Give them confidence to do the right thing by telling them you believe they will (even if you don’t).
  4. LET IT GO.  Refuse to give in to the temptation to remind them of past mistakes.
  5. Be there to pick up the pieces if they blow it again.  Rinse and repeat steps 1-5.  :)

And through it all, DON’T FREAK OUT!





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Jesus on Parenting Teens: Make It Easy For Your Kids to Honor You

Hunter showing his meek side :)

Hunter showing his meek side :)

“Stay hungry, stay young, stay foolish, stay curious, and above all, stay humble because just when you think you got all the answers, is the moment when some bitter twist of fate in the universe will remind you that you very much don’t.”― Tom Hiddleston

Parenting provides many reminders that we don’t have all the answers, am I right?

So far, this study of the Beatitudes has revealed we need to recognize our dependence on God and mourn over our sins.  It’s difficult to do either of those things without a healthy dose of humility.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” – Matthew 5:5

The meaning of the word “meek” is gentle, mild, humble.  I don’t know about you, but these are the not the words that come to my mind when I think of my own parenting style.  When my kids sass, whine, or push back, it is not my first instinct to be mild-mannered.  After all, I’m the mom…I’m the authority, and I demand respect, right?

Although God commands children to honor their parents, we can certainly make it easier for them to keep that commandment.   To summarize parenting instructions in the Bible, we are to bring children up in the ways of the Lord, and we are not to exasperate them.  (Ephesians 6:4)

Does that mean we just let the little brats do whatever they want?  Of course not.  That does not instruct them in the ways of the Lord.  We are to model the love of a Heavenly Father.

Think of how gentle God is in dealing with US when we misbehave.  “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.” (Psalm 103:8-10)

God doesn’t throw his authority in our face and demand respect, even though He is well within his rights to do so.  We always have the choice to respond to His authority, and when we don’t, He is the perfect picture of meekness.  He forgives and wipes the slate clean.

At this point, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Yeah, well, He’s God.  He can do that.  I can’t!”  But that is where you are wrong.  (Remember, I warned you, you don’t know everything!)  :)

It is true, we cannot be meek on our own.  Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  It can only be attained through the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  That makes sense, doesn’t it?  If we could conjure up humility by our own efforts, we would be puffed up with pride, which would defeat the whole purpose!

A favorite pastor of mine, David Holt, explains how we can be filled with the Holy Spirit.  “In order to be filled with the Holy Spirit, we must surrender control of our lives to Jesus and ask Him to fill us with His Holy Spirit.  Based on Ephesians 5:18, we must desire for God to control and empower our life.  If we yield to Him and ask to be filled with the Spirit, we can be confident He will fill us because He wants us to be filled with His Spirit.  Yield and ask!  Do this every day.  Do this every time you are in a situation where you feel the need for His direction and power.  The filling of the Holy Spirit is to be an ongoing, daily, moment-by-moment experience.”

Wow, that really takes the pressure off, doesn’t it?

When we parent our teens in meekness, empowered by the Holy Spirit, Jesus says we will inherit the earth.  We will be given what we did not try to take on our own in this life.  I don’t know exactly what that looks like in regard to our children, but I suspect it will be a truly beautiful thing.




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Jesus on Parenting Teens: You Are Not Raising the Perfect Child!

Jeremy dimples

I will never forget the moment I realized my son had a sinful nature.  It caught me completely off guard when I discovered he had lied about something.  After all, here was this sweet, innocent little boy who could melt butter with his dimple-filled smile (see above picture).  He was loving, kind, and well-behaved.

I don’t know why, but somewhere in my self-conscience, I thought I was raising a perfect child.  (I laugh at myself about this now!)

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  (Matthew 5:4)

Usually when we think about this Beatitude, we think about mourning over the death of a loved one.  It’s true…only God’s love and peace can comfort us when we are grieving.  But that applies not only to death, but to sin.  Jesus is telling us that sin is not to be taken lightly; we should truly grieve over our offenses to God, and in turn He will comfort us as only a Savior can do.

I certainly grieved over my son’s sin that day.  We will all face these days as parents, when our kids mess up.  And yes, no matter how good they are, they WILL mess up.  If you haven’t experienced this yet, or even if you have, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Remember that ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  This includes our kids, as much as we don’t want it to.
  2. Teach your child the beauty of confession.  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
  3. Ask for your child’s forgiveness when you blow it.
  4. Model forgiveness when your child sins.  Make sure the discipline is appropriate to the offense, and then LET IT GO.  This is not the “forgive and forget” concept – only God can do that.  Let your child know the slate is wiped clean, and it’s a fresh start.
  5. Don’t rat them out to other family members or friends.  Would you want your sins announced to the rest of your inner circle (or beyond)?
  6. Pray.  Pray daily for protection from the enemy and for God to continue to work in your child’s life.
  7. Allow God’s peace to comfort you.  Remember, He is working in your child’s life, and He has even greater influence that we do as parents.





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Jesus on Parenting Teens: You are not God

Poor in spirit

If we want our teens to embrace Christianity, we can’t just take them to church or simply talk about it.  We have to be living it!  There is a difference between being religious and modeling Christ, and teens can spot that a mile away.  They want, and need, authentic believers to show them the way.

One way to check your progress in this area is to spend some time reading Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount”.  He outlines the character and conduct of a true Christian, beginning with “The Beatitudes.”

I’ve often heard them referred to as “the Be-attitudes, not the Do-attitudes”, because they describe whom we should be when we are living in fellowship with Christ.

I’ve also heard them described as “the beautiful attitudes”.  I don’t know about you, but I frequently struggle with having a beautiful attitude, and parenting can bring out the worst attitudes in us…especially during the teen years.

“None of these descriptions refers to what we may call natural tendencies.”-Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones

The first beautiful attitude we are to have is to be poor in spirit.  This means to be aware of how totally dependent we are on God.  Left to ourselves, we are spiritually bankrupt.  We can do no good thing on our own, and that includes parenting!

Jesus says we are blessed when we have this attitude, because it is only when we are aware of our own emptiness that we can acknowledge our need for a Savior.  It is the door into the kingdom.

Also, God favors the humble, those who trust in Him rather than their own strength.  We can read every parenting book or blog (including this one), rely on our own intelligence, and take advice from friends and family…but ultimately we must rely on God’s guidance, provision, and strength to do this parenting thing every day.  Admitting our weaknesses to God grants Him access to work in power in our lives, for the sake of our children.

This kind of humility produces a variety of fruit.  For one thing, the humble are not easily prone to anger.  It’s pretty hard to get upset with your child when you have a full comprehension of your own struggles.  Our teens are just as poor in spirit as we are!  That recognition opens our hearts to compassion and patience.

Also, realizing that we ourselves are not God takes a lot of pressure off, doesn’t it?  Ultimately, God loves our kids even more than we do.  That’s hard to comprehend, but even just thinking about it gives us hope and peace.  Yes, we are to “train up a child in the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6), but we cannot force them to believe.  Our job is to introduce Jesus to them, through instruction and example.  The rest of the work is up to the Holy Spirit, and our best work is done on our knees, in total dependence on God.

Does that mean every one of our kids will automatically and immediately become a believer with a rock solid faith?  Of course not.  There are no guarantees here, because our kids are born with free will, just like the rest of us. (That stinks, doesn’t it?)

It also does not mean that even if they have accepted Christ they will behave perfectly.  In fact, some days, between the raging hormones and the continual pressing for independence, you may feel like you’ve the lost the battle.  When those days come, remember Jesus’ encouragement:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” – Matthew 5:3 (The Message)

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Jesus on Parenting Teens: Relax, Jesus Will Seek Them

This is another installment in a series of posts entitled “Jesus on parenting teens”.  I’m prayerfully working my way through the gospels to dig out gems of parenting wisdom from Jesus Himself.   


JESUS SEEKS THEM  (Matthew 4:12-25)

As a Christian parent, there’s nothing I want more than for my kids to be radically sold out for Jesus.  One thing I pray for them daily is to establish a relationship with Christ that is truly their own, not just an extension of mine.

Several years ago, I wrote a song called “Second Generation”.  (I will post the lyrics at the bottom of this post.)  Volunteering with youth, I witnessed plenty of Christian kids who thought they could “inherit” their parents’ faith, and they were just going through the motions of religious life.  These were great kids, but I knew that until they really chose to follow Jesus themselves, their faith would falter once they no longer lived under their parents’ roofs.

I realized that parents were setting high expectations for their children in the spiritual realm.  Kids who are eager to please their parents tried to reach the bar that was set for them, but in the end, they were simply reaching for the wrong bar.

It was a hard truth for me to stomach, because I realized I had done the same thing with my own kids.  I was pushing so hard for them to have a faith that looked like mine, that I nearly shoved them out of it altogether.

I think some of this stems from a misinterpretation that is often portrayed in Matthew 4:12-25.  Jesus is walking along the Sea of Galilee, and he calls Peter and Andrew to follow Him.  Verse 20 says they followed Him “at once”.

I have heard countless Sunday school stories and sermons that have encouraged me to spontaneously drop everything I am doing to follow Jesus, just like the disciples did.  While there would be nothing wrong with doing that, there’s more to the story.

It’s important to know that Peter and Andrew already knew Jesus.   He wasn’t just some hip guru passing by who compelled them to leave their jobs and family (which, by the way, is another misnomer.  They still fished for a living, and mention is also made of their families.)  Prior to Jesus showing up that day, Peter and Andrew had been followers of John the Baptist, and were there when John revealed who Jesus was (John 1:29-40).

Also interesting to note is that Jesus sought them out. Jesus had gotten word (v. 12) that John the Baptist had been thrown in the slammer, so Andrew and Peter had just lost their spiritual guide. Even though they knew about Jesus, and John had told them Jesus was greater than himself, they did not go running to Jesus to ask Him to be their new teacher.  Jesus came to them.  Though the Scripture doesn’t say, one has to wonder if this was even the first time He asked.

Like Peter and Andrew, our kids already know Jesus.  Like John the Baptist, we have been “preparing the way” for Him in their lives.  And guess what…Jesus is seeking them.  He is looking for them when they wander, like the Good Shepherd that He is.  He is asking them to follow Him.

It seems part of the plan was for John the Baptist to be out of the picture in order for Jesus to start HIS ministry to the disciples.  When our kids are about ready to enter the “real world”, it may be time for us to back off.  Jesus doesn’t need us to be the spiritual police in our kids’ lives.

That does not mean we stop talking about the things of God.  John the Baptist didn’t, even while in prison.  It just means we relax, step back, and let Jesus do His thing.   Here are a few ways to do that:

  1. Relax the rules on church attendance/church choice.  I realize this is controversial.  In my experience as a youth leader, there is nothing less productive than trying to help a child grow in their faith when they don’t want to be there (i.e. their parents have forced them to be there).  Also, some kids are uncomfortable due to social anxiety or a very introverted personality.  Forcing them into group settings is not valuable.  Find alternative ways to expose them to the Gospel.  This does not mean you preach them a sermon or make them do a Bible study with you!  YouTube is a treasure trove of great preachers and teachers, and there are even online churches.  Make way for a mentor in their lives who will spend time with them and help guide them in matters of faith.
  2. Find creative ways to worship that appeal to your teen.  I already touched on this in the previous point, but also look for ways to do this in every day life.  If your kid is into music, note songs they really love, and dig out a theological truth (if there is one).  Find Jesus in current culture and dialog about it.  I know, this is difficult, but doing so teaches kids to think critically about the world in which they live.  Don’t be afraid of the hard issues or questions.  Your teen is already forming his/her own opinion on things; this is your opportunity to weigh in.  The trick here is to listen first…let your teen share their view.  If you disagree, try not to react negatively, but thoughtfully, so they know you are listening and considering their take.  Offer your perspective in a gentle, humble manner, and back it up with God’s Word. 
  3. MOST IMPORTANTLY, model Christ in your own life.  Kids who grow up in a Christian home often tend to see Jesus as a task master, rather than the lover of their souls.  Make sure your kids know that Jesus is GOOD news!  Let your kids see you enjoying the time you spend reading the Bible and praying.  Talk about how Jesus is helping you in various struggles.  Share when you have a victory or answer to prayer. 

Finally, don’t lose heart if you think your teen has lost interest in Jesus.  Pray daily and know that Jesus will never stop seeking them.


You know the vocabulary
Learned the words by heart
Hide behind the mask of decency
Pray it won’t get blown apart
You leave feeling empty
Knowing this doesn’t work
Wishing you hadn’t bought the tradition
Left holding a hollow hurt
You are the second generation
You are a frozen fire
You are the second generation
It’s your turn to walk the wire
You are the second generation
Finding faith to make your own
You are the second generation
And you’ll never be alone 
Who decided this for me
How did this become the plan
Want to be alive, not just living
Breaking out the hidden man
Won’t leave feeling empty
Knowing this will work
Time for one man’s new tradition
Trading in the hollow hurt
You are the second generation
You are a frozen fire
You are the second generation
It’s your turn to walk the wire
You are the second generation
Finding faith to make your own
You are the second generation
And you’ll never be alone 
All eyes judging me
Have to shut that door
Set me free, set me free
Set me free, set me free
I am the second generation
I am a frozen fire
I am the second generation
It’s my turn to walk the wire
I am the second generation
Finding faith to make my own
I am the second generation
And I’ll never be alone






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Where are all the stories of hope?


I’m saddened by the current trend in Christendom to tear each other down.

There are scores of blogs, written by Christians, devoted to picking apart various factions of the church.  Some of these are written with the intent of calling out false prophets, and others are written out of passion for a particular theology.  All those things are good and well, but many of these platforms spiral down into ungentle, unkind, and unloving attacks on individuals and ministries.

Not only is this not the way Jesus told us to deal with one another, it’s not the witness we should strive to present to the world.  Why would anyone in his right mind want to subscribe to a community of cannibalistic piranhas?

More so, where are all the stories of hope and deliverance?  When Jesus walked the earth, word spread like wildfire of the beautiful things He was doing.

Guess what, folks?  Jesus is still walking the earth, through us.  He’s still doing miracles, changing lives, and bringing healing of all kinds.  Why aren’t we talking about it?

In an effort to get the ball rolling, I’m willing to open up my blog to share your stories.  Email me with your testimonies of the awesome things Jesus has done (or is currently doing) in your life.  I’ll do my best to accommodate all submissions.

Maybe it’s as simple as something nice that a brother or sister in Christ did for you that really made a difference.  Or perhaps it’s a life-changing transformation that came through a series of events you could have never imagined.  Whatever it is, we want to know about it.

We are the light bearers.  Let’s not keep it to ourselves.  The world is watching…and waiting…for hope.  Let’s give it to them.

Email your story of hope to:  Stories can be submitted anonymously.  


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Jesus on parenting teens: It’s a wilderness!

Note from Lisa:  This is the first of what I hope will be a series of posts entitled “Jesus on parenting teens”.  I’m prayerfully working my way through the gospels to dig out gems of parenting wisdom from Jesus Himself.  (Yes, I know, Jesus was never a parent on this earth, but He’s still smarter than any of us!)  Each post will list the passage of Scripture I’m drawing from, so you can follow along or use as a devotion.  

Yep, this is me, during my "awkward years"!

Yep, this is me, during my “awkward years”!

THE WILDERNESS (Matthew 4:1-11)

Every time I pull out the old home movies we took when the kids were younger, my daughter cringes.  While I enjoy reminiscing and appreciating how much my children have grown and changed, she only sees her middle school self, which she refers to her as “the awkward years.”

I think most of us can relate to feeling that way in the early teen years.  Everything we had known in childhood was changing:  relationships, school, friends, and our bodies.  We had no control over what was happening, and there were new temptations galore.  Most of the time, there seemed to be no road map, no clues how to navigate our way through.

Moving into adolescence is a lot like walking into a wilderness, a place that is frightening and filled with uncertainty.  If you were lucky, you had parents or other adults to lovingly guide you through the turmoil of that time.

Now, it’s your turn to lead your own child through this stage, where the only constant seems to be change.   That makes parenting as much a wilderness for us as it is for our sons and daughters.  It’s difficult to survive on our own.  We will face all kinds of deception, temptation, and confusion in the desert of parenting.  We need help…divine help.

Jesus spent some time in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:1-11).  Here are 6 ways we can draw wisdom from His experiences there and apply them to this season of parenting:

  1. Go willingly.  According to the Scripture, He was led by the Spirit into what He knew was going to be a difficult time.  The teen years can be rough, but try not to be dragged into it kicking and screaming.  Accept that it is a necessary season of growth for your child, and possibly even for you.
  2. Recognize it will be a battle.  Ephesians 6:12 calls it a war.  A war against “the rulers of the darkness of this world”.  When things feel strained between you and your teen, remember that your child is NOT the enemy.  Attack the problem, not each other. 
  3. Come prepared.  War requires strategy, and Jesus knew the Word of God was the best weapon of choice.  With each accusation launched by Satan, Jesus counterattacked with truth.  When applying to parenting, this does not mean beating your child over the head with the Bible!  This means using God’s Word to defeat the REAL enemy (see point #2).
  4. Recognize your need for the Father.  It can be tempting to rely on our own authority when it comes to parenting.  Even Jesus (who WAS God, for crying out loud!), acknowledged His need for God:   “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  God’s wisdom, power, and protection are the life that sustains us in the wilderness.
  5. Don’t give up.  Jesus says it’s dangerous to test God by throwing our hands up in the air in defeat, with the notion that God will just fix it all anyway.  We need to have skin in the game and work in conjunction with what God is doing in our kids’ lives.
  6. Remember what matters.  Satan is a great at diverting our attention to something more pleasurable.  There will be times when we will be tempted to focus on career, hobbies, or even other people.  Like Jesus, we need to draw a line in the sand and proclaim that the things of God, which are eternal, are all that matters.


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My kid is driving me crazy!

 Family Fighting


I’ve been hearing this from a lot of moms lately.  I think it’s directly related to several weeks of polar vortex, during which “cabin fever” has morphed into  “housebound psychosis”, aggravated by children who seem to push every button (figuratively and literally!).  Eventually, you find yourself barking at your child, “I love you, but I don’t like you very much right now!”

I don’t have the market on sanity (believe me), but I know this for sure:  when I’m annoyed with my kids, most of the time I just need to see them differently.  To recognize that the way God made them is for a purpose, and if I look hard enough, my irritation can be transformed into joy.

As a child, you could often find me holed up in my bedroom, either reading or writing.  That room was my sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of a busy household, where I could listen to my favorite music and process my innermost thoughts.  I may have, once or twice (or a thousand times), snuck off to my room right around the time dishes needed to be done or when the house was full of company…which was often, growing up with parents who were copiously hospitable.

Looking back now, I can see how my behavior might have been tagged as lazy or anti-social.  I’m sure those tendencies drove my family members crazy at times.  In actuality, those character traits were early indicators of the gifts and abilities God gave me.  Even though I had no idea I would grow up to be a writer, I was in the beginning stages of honing that craft.  Also, though I had never even heard the term “introvert”, I was learning how to reenergize and function in an abundantly social daily life.  (Did I mention there were always extra people in our house?)

Philippians 4:8 tells us to focus on the positive things in life, and nothing could be more valuable than seeing what is excellent in our children.  However, we tend to zoom in on those irritating factions of our child’s personality.  The truth is, those traits actually point to a strength!  It’s all a matter of perspective and choosing to focus on what is lovely and admirable.

What we see as weakness, God has given as an asset.  When we change our thinking and focus on what is actually true, we are better able to guide them down the path God has marked out for them.  Also, it makes for a much more peace-filled home!

Here are a few examples to get you started looking for the praiseworthy attributes in your kiddos:

 TRAIT                                                                  STRENGTH

Argues about everything                                   Won’t buckle to peer pressure,
(always has to be right)                                     high self esteem
Stubborn                                                              Determination, dedication
Risk taker                                                              Leadership
Curious to a fault                                                 Problem solver
Oversensitive                                                       Compassionate
Obsessively neat                                                 Organizational ability
Class clown                                                          Able to diffuse tension, charming

In addition to adjusting the mindset, you can build up your child by pointing out the strengths you see.  This helps them begin to realize where their talent lies and (hopefully) build on it.

What are some other traits you can see as strengths?  Please share!

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8 (NIV)


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Parenting lessons I learned from my dogs


Several years ago, we got a pug puppy. Mugsy was a great dog in so many ways – affectionate, funny, and obedient. I prided myself in the training I had done with Mugsy. What I didn’t realize was it had very little to do with me at all. We were just very blessed with a dog of that temperament.

Unfortunately, Mugsy got cancer and passed away before he turned 5. Our hearts were broken, and we missed the love and companionship of a dog. After doing some research and checking out a lot of dogs, we rescued a beagle mix from the Humane Society.



Molly was not quite a year old when we got her, and she had been found as a stray, so I went back into training mode. Even though Molly was equally wonderful and terribly sweet, she was not quite as compliant as Mugsy had been. When it came to push and shove, she would obey if I got stern with her, but otherwise everything had to be on her own terms. It took a couple of years to get her on board with my plans, and even then, she was inconsistent with it.

A couple years later, we decided Molly might enjoy a companion, so back to the Humane Society we went, and there we claimed Hunter, another beagle. Hunter was 3 years old and was a hunting dog who had been surrendered. Since he had been an outside dog all his life, training took on a whole new meaning with this little guy. He knew nothing of boundaries or manners. He was loud, insolent, and didn’t listen to anyone except my husband. And even then, he did not listen well! He has come a long way since then, and we’ve managed to coax out his affectionate side, but it has definitely been a gradual journey.



It occurs to me that dogs and children have a lot in common. For one thing, I can’t manipulate them to do everything I want them to do. Even if I could, it would come at a cost – our relationship – and that’s not a price I’m willing to pay. Besides, I’m not raising little robots. I’m raising individual human beings, lovingly and purposefully created by the God of the universe.

Just as all of my dogs have been unique, so have all of my kids. The training that worked with my oldest child simply made no sense for his younger siblings. Just because one child was compliant in certain areas doesn’t mean the next one will be. They will each come with their own distinctive qualities, good and bad. Parenting requires more than just following the same patterns, especially as kids reach the teen years. (i.e. throw out the temptation to say, “This is how my parents did it, and I turned out just fine!”)

It’s easy to get frustrated when kids (or dogs) don’t do what we want them to do. I was able to train Mugsy to do his “business” in the park, so I could dispose of it there and not have to do poop patrol at home. I was miffed when I couldn’t get Molly or Hunter to do the same. I would come home from our walks, growling about it and irritated with them. And then I realized, this was not about them…it was about my own selfishness and pride. They weren’t doing anything wrong, and I was letting the situation steal the joy of our relationship.

This extends to my children as well. When one of them does something that annoys me, I have to step back and assess: Is this sinful behavior that needs to be addressed, or is this a control issue for me? I think of the Pharisees in Jesus’ time. They were great puppeteers, weren’t they? They were happy as long as the people did what they told them to do. And Jesus was not very impressed with them.

Realizing that, we will still be annoyed by behavior that does not line up with our ideals. In those situations, gratitude is the key to unlocking joy. I’m no theologian, but I think Jesus was trying to tell us this in Luke 17, in the cleansing of the ten lepers. Only one returned to express appreciation. Jesus asked where the others were and wondered why they hadn’t come to give God praise. He sent the one healed man off with a blessing, something the others missed out on, and clearly the man was full of joy. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss out on that.

Raising children can be irritating, for sure…but we can find joy in the process by being thankful. Make a list (at a time when your kiddos are being cherubs) of all the things you appreciate about them, and all the things God has provided for you as you care for your children. When irritation comes – and it will come – bring out that list and just start praising.

We just bid goodbye to our sweet Molly last week, and once again I was reminded of the brevity of life on this earth. It holds true of the time with our kids too. Our babies are born, we blink, and they are grown up. Make it your goal to “seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11), even if it means you don’t get your way.

RIP Miss Molly

RIP Miss Molly

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A few tips for living with ungrateful teenagers


It happens to the best of us.  You’re sailing along, raising a beautiful, compliant child who is a joy in nearly every way.  Suddenly, almost overnight it seems, you’re living with a sullen fiend with a sense of entitlement.  Nothing you do for the child is appreciated, and in fact, he/she just wants more.  You question yourself, “How did this happen?  Where did I go wrong?”

Rest assured, you are in good company.  Chances are, YOUR parents went through this…with you.  :)  It’s normal, and maybe even necessary.

Author Po Bronson, in the article “Why Counting Blessings Is So Hard for Teenagers” (Newsweek Blog, November 24, 2009), says this:

Parents and teachers need to recognize that being grateful, and being a teenager, are often diametrically opposed. To be a teenager—in the classic sense—means expressing a fundamental desire to individuate from one’s family. This is not unhealthy behavior; it’s completely normal. They are soon to be independent adults, and they need to take themselves for test-drives. Pushing parents away, and wanting things to be none of your business, and exhibiting total ignorance of all you’ve done for them, are all behaviors that conjure independence. Asking them to be grateful—and wishing they’d be more aware of how their success is due to you—is difficult for them to feel at the same time as they’re trying to get out from under your thumb. Thus grateful teenagers are rare, not the norm.

Additionally, Bronson says this in his book, Nurture Shock:

For kids with a strong need for autonomy and independence, it might be demoralizing to recognize how much they are dependent upon grownups. They might already feel like adults are pulling all the strings in their lives-controlling what they eat, what they study, what they’re allowed to wear, and who they hang out with. And they’d rather feel self-reliant than beholden. Their sense of independence might be an illusion, but it’s necessary illusion for the psychological balance and future growth into genuine independence. Their lack of gratitude might be the way they maintain the illusion that they are in control of their own lives.

So, before you toss your teen’s ungrateful behind out the door, or curl up in a ball with the leftover Halloween candy and box of tissues, here are a few ways to get through this ugly stage of parenting.

  • Realize this is normal, and try not to take it personally.  Think back to your own teen years, and how you treated your parents.  Then call them and apologize.  :)
  • Resist the urge to preach to your son or daughter.  Don’t look up every Bible verse you can find on ungratefulness and plaster them on the bathroom mirror.  Refrain from comparing your child to the nation of Israel wandering in the desert.  Stop yourself from forcing them to participate in the 30 days of thankfulness on Facebook.
  • Know that this is temporary.  You survived teething, potty training, and the terrible two’s.  You’ve got this.
  • Model gratefulness.  ALL YEAR.  Out loud and in front of the children.  Thank your husband for taking out the garbage.  Thank your wife for the meal she prepared.  Thank God for a safe drive home from school.  The more you do it, the easier it will come.
  • Check your own complaining.  The more we complain, the less grateful WE are,  which sets a poor example.
  • Make a list of all the things you love about your teenager.  Every time they rattle your cage or make you want to scream, lock yourself in the bathroom and read the list over and over again – maybe even as a prayer of gratitude to God – until you remember how much you love the little darling.
  • Pray.  Only God can change your teen’s heart, so pray for them…but also pray for your own heart to be shaped through the process.  As you learn to respond in love and kindness, respect and gratitude will grow.



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