Posts

Readers respond: What’s your best parenting advice?

In August, some of Heart to heart’s contributing authors shared their best parenting advice. (If you missed it, read them here!) Then I turned the tables and asked you to submit your best parenting advice. I’m happy to share a few great tidbits with you here. We named this column Heart to heart: Parent conversations because we want to hear from you. Please keep sending your parenting thoughts to fic@wels.net.

In addition, this month I’m sharing a snippet from John Juern’s book, Patient Parenting: Raising Your Kids in the Shadow of the Cross. In this excerpt, Juern goes to the heart of Christian parenting, and it’s a reminder that I need every day. May it bless your family as well.

Nicole Balza

Our readers respond:

What parenting advice do you give?

Don’t hold yourself to the high standards you form in your mind from social media posts and memes! – Sarah Mayer

There is no one perfect way to parent. Soak in the advice given but trust your gut and your God to know what’s best for you and your kiddos. – Mary Hansen 

Read to those littles! – Sallie Draper

Be respectful of, be honest with [your children]. Think of “discipline” as positive proactive motivations to guide and develop favored behaviors rather than punitive means of correction to humiliate. – Ann Hubbard Waltz 

Take nothing for granted. Appreciate your kids no matter what. Be firm, show discipline, but educate them why you are doing it. – Ryan Thomas

I was part of a small group Bible study for dads at my church where a fellow dad shared books that studied why youth will often eventually leave the church and what we can do about it. (Since then I’ve read other articles and a book affirming the information he shared.) Kids will many times leave the church if they don’t see faith play out in their parents’ lives.

It can be easy to take our children to worship and Sunday school and send them to Lutheran schools and think we’re set (and we certainly thank God for using these church leaders to nurture our kids’ faith!). However, children so look up to their parents that what happens at home has a major impact.

We parents should be in the Word at home personally and with our families. We will joyfully attend church and Bible studies. We will show love to others and be intentional about evangelism. We can address life problems from a spiritual perspective and teach our kids that prayer to God is not a last resort but the primary place we should turn. Especially as kids get older we can address challenges against Christianity so that they learn to turn to the Word to “always be prepared” (1 Peter 3:15). We emphasize God’s grace, apologizing and forgiveness, fresh starts.

Just as we help our kids grow in the academic, athletic, and social aspects of life, we guide them in their growth in understanding and practice of their Christian faith.

– Adam Goede

What’s the best parenting advice you received?

Well, my Mami wasn’t a person who gives me [much] advice, but she gives me the best example as a godly woman. I remember clearly—and with tears in my face—her last advice before [I headed] to the USA from my country, El Salvador, when I was 18 years old. She said to me: “Love of my life, take care of yourself. Don’t eat many carbohydrates and eat lots of fruits and veggies. And the most important thing in this life for you is this: Stick to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and never consider to change to another doctrine. Always be a Lutheran girl, attached to the Bible. I pray to the Holy Spirit for this.” I wasn’t very obedient with her food advice, but the Holy Spirit never let me change my faith in my Savior. I’m still a Lutheran girl. Thank you, Jesus, for that! – Dali Campos

Advice from a Christian psychologist

For the Christian child, obedience to parents flows out of a love for Jesus. All of us as Christians—adults or children—do what we do because it’s our way of showing our gratitude for all that the Lord has done for us, beginning with his gracious gift of salvation. The Bible says it this way: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

This is a fundamental principle: We obey God by living according to the Ten Commandments, and we live that Christian life out of love for him. So, the essence of all Christian discipline is serving the Lord with our lives.

Loving the Lord doesn’t happen on its own. The Holy Spirit plants the seed for such an obedient life at the moment of Baptism. And God is with Christian parents every day as they teach children that misbehavior and disobedience are sins. It’s really quite simple: Christian parents teach their children that wrong is wrong because it ignores God’s Ten Commandments.

But along with teaching children right from wrong, parents need to tell their children about the wonderful gift of forgiveness that is theirs through faith in Christ Jesus. Their sins are forgiven. That forgiveness brings joy. And the joy is expressed in the children’s obedience. It’s that message of forgiveness that motivates them.

Yes, a child will sin again. And probably again and again. But each time, there is forgiveness and joy and a renewed commitment to do God’s will.

Parents don’t need to go through this explanation every time their child does something wrong. The key is to remain consistent with God’s will in setting rules and expectations for children; let the Ten Commandments set the standard.

There is still an appropriate time and place for time-outs, grounding, other types of punishment. Sin has consequences. Star charts posted on the refrigerator door and surprise hugs can still reinforce good behavior. But these things in and of themselves do not bring about compliant behavior. Christian children obey their parents because they love their Savior.

Reprinted from Patient Parenting: Raising Your Kids in the Shadow of the Cross by John Juern.

 

What legacy will you leave your children?

Math word problems were never my “thing.” But math was my dad’s forte. As a paper scientist, he loved its logic and precision. I would struggle for what seemed like hours with “One train starts from Chicago at 10 a.m. . . .”—then go to Dad. He would look at my scratchings, smile, and say, “Okay, let’s start fresh—a clean piece of paper is a clear mind!” Then off we would go as he explained how to solve it in a way my young mind could grasp.  

Dad is gone now. But his lessons live on. What legacy will we leave for our children and grandchildren? Dad supported my dream of teaching, and, after nearly 40 years in a Christian classroom, I’ve gleaned a few “dad” lessons.  

Enjoy the adventure! From the time our little ones arrive to the day they leave home is a precious window. It’s easy to get caught in the everyday grind. Before we know it, they’re gone and we wonder, “What happened?” The diaper days, toddler years, school days, and adolescence—they all pose challenges. Do your best to treasure those times. Make the most of your hours with your sons and daughters. The Lord promises “a time for everything” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). 

Play show and tell”be involved and supportive. Dads need to intentionally “be there” for their children, building relationships and making memories. “Teaching them the way they should go” (cf. Proverbs 22:6) means talking, asking questions, hanging out together. Know your children’s dreams and be their cheerleader. Most important—tell them that you love them. Dads can have a hard time sharing those words their children long to hear. Remember to “show and tell” them they are loved. 

Be yourselfnot your kid! Guard against forcing your own “agenda” of unmet needs on your children.  

Discipline in love. Children make lots of mistakes. They sin often. We sin often. A life of forgiveness is what we need to model. We have been forgiven much. Avoid disciplining in anger and shaming your children. God reminds dads to never “exasperate” their children (Ephesians 6:4). 

Live your faith and be honest. Children are God’s gift to us. Being a Christian dad isn’t easy. Sometimes it’s messy; often we’ll fail. That’s the nature of our Christian walk. Our heavenly Father knows that. His Word is our guide. He offers full and free forgiveness. We need that forgiveness from our children as well. Being authentic and honest in our faith walk will leave a lasting legacy for our families.  

And just for the record—I jotted these thoughts on a clean sheet of paper.  

Dave Payne and his wife, Joyce, have four adult children and two grandchildren. Dave serves at Fox Valley Lutheran High School, Appleton, Wisconsin, and is a member at Eternal Love, Appleton. 

Jesus’ love drives out fear

“It must’ve gotten dinged in the parking lot.”

That’s his story, and he’s sticking to it. But eventually the truth emerges: Your son took the car to the unchaperoned party, indulged in some underage drinking, and backed into a hydrant.

I think lying, like so many sins, is born of fear. When we lie, we’re afraid of being found out, aren’t we? As imperfect. Sinful. Human.

For kids, being found out has consequences. Maybe discipline—time-outs, loss of privileges. Maybe public embarrassment. Maybe our disappointment, which, like a temporary abandonment, can be terrifying.

But that doesn’t mean we dismiss our children’s lies: “Aw, they’re just afraid of letting us down. Let it slide.” Nope. Deceit demands a firm dose of the law. That’s because malicious lying—as opposed to polite white lies or flights of fancy—is so dangerous. Like its father, Satan, lying is insidious. It poisons everything.

Lying poisons relationships. When our kids lie, they need to know: “You’ve betrayed our trust. Everything you tell us now is suspect. We’ll have to check up on you. We’ll need to see your phone. Everywhere you turn, we’ll be hovering. We’ll have to, because your word is no longer good.”

Lying poisons the liar too. It seeps into the cells and the psyche and becomes a way of life. Lying children become lying adults. Inveterate liars unconsciously assume everyone lies, hindering them from ever fully trusting another. And sometimes whole families become liars, especially when hiding a family secret: a schizophrenic mother, an alcoholic father. Even if the intent is to protect the family’s privacy, children develop a doctrine of duplicity, always concocting some new tale to keep up the beautiful, brittle family facade.

If our kids lie regularly, we may want to ask ourselves some hard questions: What are they afraid of? Have we set such high standards they feel they’re not allowed to fail? Is our discipline overly harsh? Or are we liars too? Like Adam and Eve in the garden, are we so ashamed of our faults and mistakes that we’re always hiding, always blaming others, never ‘fessing up?

Maybe the most important question is this: Do our children know the truth about the God who lives in our home and hearts? Our Savior is kind. He understands human weakness and fear. He knows why we’re tempted to lie, and he invites honest confession, because no sin is too monstrous, no shame too deep, to be forgiven.

That’s good news.

Jesus’ love and compassion drive out fear. His love lifts the shades and lets the sunshine in. His love—and our reflection of it—makes our home a safe place, where we can air our failures, forgive, and be forgiven. Then it’s absolutely okay to be found out—because we’re loved and accepted just as we are.

Honesty matters

When I was expecting our first child, a friend gave me some advice: Be honest with your kids. You can’t expect them to be honest with you if you’re not honest with them.

I’ve endeavored to stick to that principle, both because I want to model good habits for them, and because I think they deserve honesty from me.

But what about honesty with other people? Do my kids understand when a “little white lie” might be acceptable? Is a little white lie ever acceptable?

One afternoon I ventured to Target with both young kids in tow. We only needed three things so I didn’t bother with a cart—living on the edge! With full arms, I was trying to wrangle both kids into our car when a man pulled his car up behind mine, blocking me in, and asked me for gas money. I felt cornered and unsafe (whether those were his intentions or not). I told him that sorry, no, I had no cash.

As I was trying frantically to get my kids into their seats and get out of there, Anna asked, “Is that true, Mom? Do you really not have any money?”

It wasn’t true. I had five dollars floating around in my purse. But I wasn’t about to admit that to a strange man while cornered in a parking lot with my kids. I had to tell Anna that it wasn’t true. I had lied to that man. (And then we had a long talk about listening to your gut when a situation feels unsafe and where to go to find help in public.)

The words that come out of our mouths are important. The words that don’t come out of our mouths are equally important. I’m trying to teach my kids that honesty matters, but so do kindness and showing love to others. We don’t need to be 100 percent brutally honest with people. There are ways to be truthful without being hurtful.

I answered honestly when Anna asked if I was really the tooth fairy. I gave an age-appropriate, honest answer to the, “How is that baby comin’ outta there?” question that every mom dreads (in public, no less!). I teach the kids to practice phrases like, “That’s not my favorite,” when asked if they like something that they don’t. And we talk a lot about forgiveness and trying again when we inevitably make mistakes.

Little white lies are still lies

“It’s just a little white lie. No one was hurt.” An internal argument raged. “But it’s still a lie. You didn’t tell the truth.”

It started over a blob of tangled crayon lines.

“Awesome picture of a tree,” I told my grandson. But I lied. It didn’t look anything like a tree. Or anything I could identify.

I cleared a place on the refrigerator to mount his masterpiece. “Taa daa!” I trumpeted, bowing toward his picture with a grand hand gesture.

I could have truthfully said, “This is the best tree drawing you’ve ever done.” Instead I said, “This is the best tree drawing ever.”

Christians easily recognize the harm in lies that misrepresent God and misinterpret his Word. Deception that takes advantage of others is also obvious sin. But other liberties with the truth can seem not quite wrong. Sometimes justifiable. For instance:

  • Hypocritical lies that promise to allow us escape from the consequences of our convictions. (Have you pretended that living together outside of marriage is acceptable in order to escape ridicule?)
  • Convenient lies that rescue us from situations we find distasteful. (“I’d love to go shopping, Honey, but my foot is killing me. I should just sit here and watch the Packers.”)
  • Fairy tale lies that lead children to believe in Santa, the tooth fairy, and other implausible fables.
  • Protecting lies that are meant to shelter others from life’s hard truths. (“Your father doesn’t have a drinking problem. He’s just under a lot of stress.”)
  • Privacy lies that save us from sharing what we want to keep to ourselves. (“Missing that party doesn’t bother me a bit.”)
  • Caring lies, like the one I told my grandson, that are intended to avoid hurting others.

Our Father, the God of Truth, makes it clear in his Word of Truth that his grateful children are to be people of truth. “Do not lie to each other,” he says, “since you have . . . put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:9,10).

God’s grace calls on us to be tactful and careful in the way we use truth. But, before all else, the truth of God’s grace compels us to be truthful.

Truth-telling is a life lesson our children and grandchildren need to see lived out in us. And when we fail, they need to hear us admit it, claim our cross-won forgiveness, and pledge to do better.

‪Little white lies are still lies. God’s children gently tell the truth. Even about trees grandchildren draw.

Those little white lies

I’m sure you’ve had a moment when you have “caught” your son or daughter twisting the truth of a story to avoid a consequence, especially regarding school and homework. I had one of those opportunities the other night when I needed to remind my kids about the importance of telling the truth about their homework deadlines. As soon as I finished talking with them, the phone rang.

It was a friend of mine whom I hadn’t heard from in probably three years. After a great conversation, he asked if we could get together the next weekend. Can you see where this is going? Yes, in front of my daughter I gave him an answer that was perhaps not completely accurate. One of those, “We are busy this weekend,” responses.

As soon as I hung up the phone, I heard, “Dad, what are we doing this weekend?”

I blew it! My heart moved up into my throat. Should I try to twist the weekend story so I don’t look like a complete failure as a parent? Should I try to walk away and pretend I didn’t hear her? Could I quickly get my wife to help me create a cover story? What to do!

Surely my “little white lie” is not on the level of Abraham passing off his wife as his sister. And what about Peter—denying he even knew Christ, three times! My weekend excuse can’t be that bad, right?

Who are we kidding? It’s a lie. Clear failure on my part to keep God’s law perfectly. It was intentional deception just like Abraham and Peter. It was a failure with my friend and a failure with my daughter. No excuses.

It’s the same thing that we all complain about in our society. Who is telling us the truth? Have you watched any political debates recently? You know what I mean. It makes me wonder if Pontius Pilate’s question to Jesus, “What is truth?” might have been an exasperated response to the politics of his time. Was he exasperated with the lies, betrayals, and inconsistent stories?

We want so desperately for our children to be different. We want them to reflect the love of God by speaking truthfully. We want them to be trusted, successful, and honest. We don’t want them to grow up to live dishonest lives—existing by adding one lie on top of another.

Yes, my weekend story to my friend was a failure, but it gave me the opportunity to demonstrate confession and admit that I made a mistake. It also gave me the opportunity to talk about Christ and the reason we have and need his forgiveness—something I did not emphasize earlier when I was lecturing my kids.

We are forgiven! God’s grace abounded in my family’s failures that evening. It won’t be the last time, either.