Top Ten Posts for 2019

I am grateful for those who read this blog in 2019 and those who shared it with others. I hope that the posts have been encouraging and helpful. Below are those read most often in 2019.

Besides the ten below, other consistently popular posts include those on the reasoning with children, the seeming lack of conscience, purposes of marriage, self-esteem, and hearing from God in subjective and mystical ways.

10.  Josiah’s Fire This is a book review that, due to pushback, led to a series on hearing from God subjectively. Serving up the attraction of warm, fuzzy sentiments and titillating claims that a little autistic boy visited heaven, talked with the dead, and heard from God frequently, this book promotes trusting one’s subjective experiences and undermines the doctrines of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture and the person and work of Christ.

9.  He…thought of me above all? This is an attempt to remind us of who God’s plan of redemption, kingdom, and glory is really about.

8.  In the Shadow of His Wings (Pt 2): What are the Benefits?  How might the beautiful imagery of the shadow of God’s wings comfort and encourage a believer in the midst of hardships, grief, oppression, or other trials?

7.  No Trust, No Love. Really? It is a popular notion that a person cannot love another unless they first trust him or her. Trust is, in certain relationships, extremely important and enhances love, but can it be justified as a necessary prerequisite before you can love another? This post is one of a series. The related posts will set it in a broader context.

6.  When You Send Your Child to Residential Treatment  Handing the care and nurture of your child over to a residential facility may pose challenges for the family. Here are what parents might experience personally, what siblings might experience, and some big-picture ideas on what parents can do to grow spiritually, help the siblings adjust, and prepare for successful reentry of the troubled child into the home. 

5.  Parenting the Difficult Child  This page introduces my book and gives some background on it that is not in the book. The book is being used by parents whose children are often disobedient and oppositional. Additionally, it appeals to adoptive parents and parents whose children behave according to the psychological label Reactive Attachment Disorder. While psychologists have helpfully categorized behaviors under a label, their views and solutions are a mix of what the Bible already teaches and what is not biblical. Part of this book contrasts this man-made view with the Word of God and, in doing so, sets the Christian moving into biblical thinking about other psychology-constructed models.

4.  Marriage: Procreation is Important, But Not Primary  Some people believe that the primary purpose for marriage is procreation. Others say the primary read for sex is procreation. Regarding the latter position, Genesis 2 emphasizes the “one flesh” of marriage (which includes sex) a whole chapter before Eve conceived a child, which seems to imply sex expressing oneness in relationship more than use for procreation. The “family” is husband and wife; children are secondary and temporary. First Corinthians 7 ties sex to the relationship, saying nothing about children, and indicates that sex is to continue apart from children. Sex is intended for joy and intimacy in marriage. See more in the post.

3.  The Secondary Primary Purpose of Marriage: Companionship  Everyone who marries does so for a reason, often not realizing that God has purposes for marriage far more important than ours. Living for God’s purposes rather than our own transforms how we view our communication, decision-making, sex, child-rearing, finances, socializing, and relational conflicts. Taking God’s view for our own will change our behaviors, which usually results in a more satisfying relationship with one’s spouse. The pleasure and glory of God is more important that our satisfaction, so I recommend: The Ultimate Purpose of Marriage: Image-Bearing.

2.  Visit the Sick – Using Scripture In suffering it is easy to forget to trust God. You know that Scripture can re-focus a sick person’s attention back to the character of God and His love for the sufferer, but you’re just not sure which passages to use. Here are some specific verses that speak to anxiety, discouragement, or a person approaching surgery, and other situations.

1.  An Unloved Woman  This is the second year in a row that this post made #1. What does Proverbs 30 tells us about a woman who has experienced significant rejection? What is likely to happen if she marries? Is there hope for change?

Thank you for reading.

I wish you a 2020 full of God’s grace and peace!

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Chores: How to Determine Reasonable Responsibilities

In agrarian societies the idea of children working in the home and on the farm was not unusual. Children had to work to help put food on the table. Now, families no longer need children to work and that has been to their detriment. In the previous post I encouraged parents to have their children work at both personal care and household chores starting very young but limited to their abilities. The goal of teaching young children to work begs the question, what are some ways to determine reasonable responsibilities? Parents can’t expect a two-year-old to vacuum the car.

One helpful guideline recommended to me was, if she can do it, don’t do it for her. For example, if she can put on her shoes but can’t tie the shoe strings, have her put on her shoes and then come to me to get the strings tied. This isn’t intended legalistically to mean a parent should never help a child do something he can already do, but rather that there should be a strong trend in that direction, for the sake of  gradually preparing the child in character and habits for responsible adulthood.

As to kinds of work, let me give an example. Something I found our eldest could do well before she was two was “make” her bed. Her bed at the time was actually a crib with a loose blanket. We made it fun to wave the blanket and let it settle onto the mattress, complete with plenty of wrinkles appropriate to her age which, in respect for her efforts, Mommy did not straighten. Thus began a habit of making the bed that prevented conflict over this particular chore when she graduated to a twin bed. It became something you just do. Something else she could do fairly early was to carry spoons to the table for meals. Well before she was four, she could shake (sort of) a small rug outside once a week. Such responsibilities are age-appropriate, not burdensome, and can even be made fun.

So how can we determine reasonable responsibilities for young children?

Is the child physically able to do it?

  • Can he take toys out of the toy box? Then he can put them in the toy box.
  • Can he put on his own shirt, put on his shoes (and come to you to button or tie as needed)?
  • Does he rearrange a blanket or other fabric items to suit himself? He can “fold” his own laundry (in simple and more or less imperfect fashion), perhaps while you also fold yours, and put it away in drawers he can reach.

Is he mentally able to do it?

  • Young children can entertain themselves. If they entertain themselves at some time in a day when they want, they are capable to do so at a time of your choosing (such as fifteen minutes for you to read uninterrupted, talk on the phone uninterrupted, or simply for the sake of him learning to play alone quietly).
  • If they can get the toys out quickly, they can put them away without dawdling.
  • Children can do assigned chores without being told at set times on scheduled days. When they know “Monday,” they can also know and do Monday’s chore.
  • Once they can read a clock, they can come home from the neighbor’s by a predetermined time without a parent texting or calling to remind.

Does he know what he needs to know?

  • The love of the parent
  • That work is good and rewarding 
  • Scope of the job
  • How to do the job
  • Rewards and consequences

Will possible negative consequences of his use of personal responsibility permanently harm him or someone else?

  • He wants to go into the cold without a coat. Using prudence, judicially allow him some choice. After all, he may not get cold like you do. Or he may become so uncomfortable (but don’t allow frostbite) that next time he will choose differently.
  • He refuses to eat. That’s okay. He’ll be hungry for the next meal or pre-designated snack time (as long as you don’t let him snack or drink something with calories between times). Kids throughout history have survived and thrived without having food available at all times of the day.
  • He doesn’t start his paper for an assignment until the night before it is due. If you’ve done your training work well and he is still procrastinating, there is no need to remind. In fact, he may be waiting to see if you’ll step in and save him from “forgetfulness.” This may be a great opportunity to allow him to carry his responsibility without your interference and to allow an outside authority to provide the consequences.
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Chores: Good for Children, Families, Society

When my oldest child was five months old I went to a married couple I respected who already had six children and asked what parenting advice they would give me. The advice I remember went something like this: “Unlike moms with several children, with only one child you can get by with doing everything for her. Don’t. It wouldn’t be good for her. Children need to work and carry appropriate responsibilities. So expect your child to work and to do things for herself.” That advice bore good fruit for my children, our family, and our society in character-building and for their independence and productivity. There is basis for it in Scripture, such as in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, 1 Thessalonians 2:9, Ephesians 4:28, and the book of Proverbs.

Training children in chores requires much investment in time and parental self-discipline. A mom could easily say to herself, “It’s just easier if I do it myself.” But when a chore is learned, a child can do it by himself. Over the years, chore by chore, children can do much of the household cleaning, lawn care, gardening, and food preparation. The work can be made fun, sometimes turned into a game. Or point out the reward of satisfaction in a job well done–“That sink sparkles! Doesn’t that feel good now that it’s done?”

Children doing daily chores can increase family fun time, teamwork, and a sense of family oneness. Effort started very early in a child’s life builds habits that pay increasing dividends throughout childhood and into adulthood in self-discipline, personal responsibility, and a sense of gratitude. It builds a service orientation and an industrious work ethic that will reward them for the rest of their lives.

The next post will make some application, answering the question, how do we determine responsibilities reasonable for children?

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How can I get my parents to stop saying “Because I said so”?

If you’re a teen, you don’t like parents saying “because I said so.” Parents don’t like it, either. Despite appearances, they don’t actually want to drive kids nuts. In fact, they make efforts to avoid it. So they usually resort to “because I said so” only after increasing frustration from a word battle.

Why would there be conflict? As you already know, you and your parent disagree and two opposing forces cannot each rule the other. But your problem is not really with your parent. There is an authority higher than either of you–the Word of God. The principles offered below from that Word will help on a merely horizontal, behavior level. But if you do it from the heart to please God–because He says so–you will reap eternal as well as temporal rewards.

That said, try this.

  • First, consider your own responsibility in triggering a “because I said so” (Matt. 7:1-5).
  • Next, when your parent tells you to do something, respectfully answer, “Yes, Mom” or “Yes, Dad,” and go about getting the job done well (Eph. 6:4; Phil. 2:14; Col. 3:17).
  • After you do what is asked, if you still want to know why, ask respectfully. “Dad, you told me to…. I did it and now I’d like to get a little more understanding. Will you please tell me your reasons for what you wanted me to do?”

Here’s why this works.

  • Pragmatically, if you don’t challenge with “why” you give your parent no prompting to answer “because…”
  • God’s command in Ephesians 6:1-3 to honor and obey parents comes with a promise of reward.
  • Humility, respect, and unselfish service build relationship. Proverbs 20:11 says “It is by his deeds that a lad distinguishes himself, if his conduct is pure and right.” If you obey respectfully, you demonstrate maturity, which earns the trust and respect of your parent.
  • If you respectfully ask for reasons after you do what your parent wants (without complaining–Phil. 2:14), your parent will realize that you actually want to understand and are not just trying to manipulate your way out of doing something you don’t want to do. 

Add some hope.

Considering the results of how the young Joseph and Daniel responded to authorities, even harsh and cruel authorities, there is good reason to hope that respectful responses will reap rewards (Genesis 39-50; Daniel 1-6). In the near term, you might gain a platform to make an appeal for an option to do something different next time. In the long run, right responses now lead to greater freedoms. Even better, they will cultivate maturity and reap lifelong rewards in character, wisdom, and reputation. (Check out Proverbs 12:24 and 22:29, too.)

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See also: Reasoning with Children and Answering Why and Because I Said So

 

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Because I Said So

It seems this generation of parents finds “because I said so” objectionable. As one website says,

One thing is for sure: “Because I said so” doesn’t apply to this generation of savvy-yet-stubborn kids. And millions of parents are at their wit’s end trying to figure out how to get the cooperation they’re looking for

The truth is, the authoritarian “Because I said so” method of parenting is on its way out.  Collaboration and respect are replacing the top-down dominance of the previous generation.

“Savvy-yet-stubborn kids”–not exactly an honorable description. How did a generation evolve into a state that could be assessed as “stubborn”? Well, “because I said so” implies authority and “Authoritarian…parenting is on its way out.” In other words, kids are stubborn because parents stopped demanding obedience. That is why “‘Because I said so’ doesn’t apply to this generation.” No wonder “Parents are at their wit’s end trying to figure out how to get the cooperation they’re looking for.” (By the way, if cooperation is all they want, again, no wonder it isn’t working.)

To buy that low goal of cooperation, “Collaboration and respect are replacing the top-down dominance of the previous generation.” That’s a problem, not an asset. Since stubbornness is neither collaborative nor respectful, what this really means is that respect is a one-way street–parents toward children, not vice versa.  Parents are abdicating authority. That is the problem.

Collaboration functionally steps off the solid road of authority and onto the marshy patch of persuasion. It trains the kids in manipulation. Collaboration fails to lay the issues of authority, submission, and the sinful heart of the child on the table to be very clearly and openly dealt with God’s way. A child trained to believe he has the right of collaboration with and respect from authorities is likely to have relational problems as an adult, such as difficulty holding a job when he enters the world in which his boss won’t collaborate.

The Collaborative, Cooperative Way

What are today’s parents advised to say when a child responds, “Why”? Parenting gurus suggest a variety of answers. Here are several I found online.

  1. My answer is still No. Here’s why…
  2. I’ve already answered. Do I seem like a parent who changes my mind?
  3. It seems you don’t agree. Can you think of a solution to which we can both agree?
  4. What do you think the answer is? 
  5. Asked and answered.

“Because I said so” may not be the best response, but these options are far inferior to it. Number one has Mom defending her position. Number two has Mom actually inviting critique by a child. Number three makes the child an equal and begins a negotiation. All three abdicate authority, a set-up for savvy arguing and angry stubbornness.

Number four does put the responsibility on the child for his “why” challenge, a good start but not enough. It opens the door to (“savvy”) discussion when discussion is not appropriate; obedience is. Number five, while it doesn’t clarify that resistance to authority is the real issue, it at least refuses to be drawn into a debate.

Because God says so

Children don’t like “because I said so” because it exerts authority over them and their hearts are innately rebellious. That’s exactly what they need to see! Therefore, it is unloving to turn the management of a family into collaboration.

Answering “Because I said so” is not wrong. What is wrong is autonomous authority. According to Ephesians 6:4, parents are not authorities simply because they say so. Rather, they are stewards, granted authority by God and accountable to God for their exercise of that authority. Likewise, Ephesians 6:1-3 unapologetically commands children to obey and respect parents and children are accountable to God for this responsibility. Parents need to explain from the Word of God that parents must parent and children must submit because God says so. 

Telling the reasons for house rules and commands is important. It should be done to build wisdom, not cooperation. However, timing is important, like “a word spoken in right circumstances” (Prov. 25:11). It requires humility to receive commands (Prov. 10:8). When resisting obedience, a child’s pride is high, so he is not teachable (Prov. 9:7-8). At the point of a command is the time for him to obey, not to listen to the rationale behind the particular command.

Therefore, teach truths about authority and submission ahead of time, at non-obedience times of day, not at a moment when obedience is required. Then, when a child asks “why” instead of obeying a command, call the child to his responsibility. “Sweetie, your responsibility is to do what I said.” This reminds him of the divinely-mandated hierarchy of authority of which you have taught. It calls him to his responsibility and his accountability to God.

If from the start parents kindly insist on obedience at the first command without a debate about why it removes the incitement for saying “Because I said so.” It also prevents a multitude of frustrations for parent and child for all the years to follow. It facilitates a good relationship, enjoyable by both parent and child.

Do not be afraid to stand as the authority who must be obeyed because you said so. It isn’t that you have authority because you say so. It is that you have authority over your child because God says so in Ephesians 6:1-4. It is divine authority, no less. You must steward it God’s way, but you don’t have the right to give it up!

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See also: Answering Why and Reasoning with Children

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Source of quote above: https://www.positiveparentingsolutions.com/parenting/updating-because-i-said-so-four-things-to-say-instead

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I Can’t Wait Until School Starts!

“I can’t wait until school starts so the kids go back to school.” How many summers have we heard that sentiment from parents? I confess that I thought it a few times, but since we homeschooled I didn’t have the option of getting away from my children. I’ve even heard parents say it in front of their children.

“Lighten up! It’s just a joke.” Is it? Do the kids really not perceive a grain of truth in it? Are you sure your children don’t get a sense of, “My children are inconvenient. I feel irritated. I want to send them away so I can have relief and get life back to the way I want it.”

Now, most parents love their children sincerely and fervently and are glad to have them. Being human, parents also tend to dislike being inconvenienced by other people. I’m right there with you. And I think that in the discomfort of the interruptions, irritations, and inconveniences parents might speak without considering the underlying message in their words. We all do that. That’s why “he who restrains his lips is wise” (Prov 10:19). So here are a few questions and suggestions to think about.

  • Is this the attitude you want to have toward your own offspring? 
  • Is the implication in that statement what you want your children to hear? Perhaps some day we’ll hear them say, “I can’t wait to get Mom to the elder day care so I can have some relief!” Will that get a chuckle from someone?
  • The Lord says that children are a blessing. When we imply that they are disruptions that we would prefer to do without we are disagreeing with the Lord and His assessment that children and the inconveniences they cause are His sovereign best for us.

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Pr 16:24). If we really think about it, what we would like to speak in the hearing of our children are words that give grace, that edify, that build honor and godliness in their hearts.

  • Rather than complain, choose to thank the Lord for His gifts (your children) and the growth in godliness they help you with by virtue of the many inconveniences that call upon you to think of others rather than self.
  • Choose to enjoy your children. Children are a blessing from the Lord and ought to be enjoyed as such. You have so few years with them. You will never again have this summer with them. Play together. Work together. Whatever you do, choose to enjoy their company.
  • Is your child unpleasant to be around? You trained her; change your training. “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Teach your child manners that make him or her an enjoyable person. Fix your parenting, not the child.
  • Perhaps you are not pleasant to be around. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger” (Eph. 6:4). What are you like to live with? Do you need to change your attitude and demeanor?
  • Encourage your child. This doesn’t mean to build self-esteem; that is pride. But a child ought to know that his parents are glad for his company. A child who hears that you’ll be glad to have him out of the house may be disheartened or angered. A child who hears that you’re glad to have him around or thankful to God for your child is enticed to be more congenial.
  • Choose to encourage other parents. The Lord says, “Consider how to stimulate one another to love…”  Our words can influence other parents to view their children as inconveniences hindering our happiness or as blessings from the Lord.
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