Modeling & Correcting Behavior: Being Our Kids' Trainer

I was listening to a great parenting message by Shaun Nepstad a couple of weeks ago and he got into something that really stuck with me.

I’m not a gym rat by any means. Truthfully, I don’t know the technical names for most of the equipment, so that’s basically the level I’m at. I am familiar with basic exercise and nutrition, though, and I would gladly join anyone for a 30-minute Core Inferno workout. Through the years, there have been times where I have consulted trainers or used video workouts to better understand how to stay fit.

There are two things I’ve seen that a good trainer does that translate so perfectly to the raising of our kids every single day of their lives:

1. A good trainer does not tell just you what to do without instruction or guidance. They first model the exercise, showing exactly what they expect and talking you through each portion of it. Then, after watching them do it, you get the chance to try. At that point, you copy what you have seen. Even if the exercise was done incorrectly, you copy what your trainer showed you.

Our kids copy what we show them! Tough questions: do I exaggerate when I speak? Do I make dishonest statements to get ahead? Do I speak rudely to my wife or other people? Am I lazy and short-tempered while asking my kids to be the opposite.

We must be so aware of the things we do and the attitudes we present, no matter how small we think they are. As our children breathe our spiritual air, they will act out our habits, attitudes, and words. We may look at them and say, “Where did you learn that??!?!” The best answer is sometimes right in the mirror.

2. A trainer is also never hesitant or afraid to correct our form when working on an exercise. The reason for this is very powerful and applies deeply to our parenting… bad form causes injury. Lifting a weight incorrectly or at too heavy an amount has seen many muscles get twisted, strained, and wrecked.

Have you ever been somewhere in public with your children and they’re acting… well, like you cannot believe?! This may just be me, but have you also felt reluctant, at least for a moment, to discipline them? I’ve asked myself things like, “What will these other shoppers think?” or “What if this is embarrassing?”

In disciplining our kids, what we ignore, we excuse.

In the gym as in life, bad form causes injury and we cannot be timid to correct it. Poor character brings all kinds of trouble for a maturing person and as parents, we have the chance to shape something better. By holding back our correction, we are allowing conduct, behaviors, and attitudes to continue that will hurt our children as they grow into adults. This applies both in public and at home- what we ignore, we encourage. Our great responsibility is to train our children by gently correcting their form, then praising them when they succeed.

As parents, we may not be workout or gym pros, but in the end that does not matter nearly as much as being expert trainers with our kids. Showing them how to live well will give them a guideline for living well. Lovingly correcting them as they make mistakes will teach them right from wrong and consequences for their actions. With these thoughts in mind, we can be well on the way to raising great kids who will one day raise great kids of their own!

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Adjusting My Perspective to Understand My Kids: Seeing Their Logo

It had been a long day and it was time for bed… not for me, but for the kids. They were little at the time, maybe 6 and 4. Quite different than the towering scaled-down teenagers that they are today. Baths were done and teeth were brushed. The finish line had almost been reached and I was so ready to tuck those little dudes in, grab a bowl of ice cream, and relax. I think we’ve all been there.

But instead of settling in neatly under their covers, they both started to randomly jump up on me, pounce at me, and grab a hold me. It was sort of strange and out of place, because the routine at that time of our night is to wind things down, not up. They must’ve forgotten that time. They continued to laughingly poke and physically prod me. I then realized what was happening, so I responded. I snatched onto their cute little bodies and turned our tuck-in routine into a rolling, giggling, twisting wrestling match all over the floor. It was a sweaty bit of mess after some clean-smelling baths.

After ending the match by pinning their mini kid-frames together, we called a truce for the night and got things back under control. The tucking commenced and they went to sleep.

As I went to get my ice cream that night, I recognized something about my kids. They are not mature, grown, or fully capable of expressing what they need, so they sometimes have a funny way of letting me know their desires. On that evening, when they were physically jabbing, digging, and pushing at me, I understood that what they were telling me was “We want to be close to you. We want physical touch from you.” On an evening after work, the natural thing to do is to look right past that and miss what they are trying to tell me. My perspective as a parent needs to be fixed on what my kids’ still-growing brains and bodies are trying to express, even though that may come out in interesting ways.

We’ve all seen this logo….

FedEx has one of the most recognizable emblems ever and has won more than 40 design awards with it. Lindon Leader created it in 1994 and there is probably not a day that we don’t drive down the road near a truck, building, or billboard bearing the brand.

With all kudos this logo has received, my favorite part of it is the arrow. You may say, “What arrow???” If you look between the “E” and the “X”, there is a forward-motion white arrow subtly slipped in.

Since FedEx is a delivery company, this arrow represents sending items on and moving them ahead. It tells the entire story of what that company is about in a single hidden arrow. It’s genius and thought-provoking.

What are my kids doing and saying that I am not seeing or paying attention to? Am I looking for their subtle “white arrows” that tell me what their needs are? They sometimes have unique ways of sharing hurts, asking for affection, expressing joy, and conveying disappointment. I can be so much more helpful and understanding to them if I adjust my perspective and look for what is really present in the delicate logo that is my kids’ lives.

Oh, and who’s that mysterious third person in the picture at the top? That’s my nephew… and yes, he’s chewing on Bauer.

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Managing a Crisis: The Word I Never Wanted to Hear

Brian Compton is husband to Andrea, dad to two great kids, and pastor of Hillcrest Church. In 2007, he received the news that changed his family forever. In this post by Brian, he shares how he and his wife navigated family life after hearing what no one wants to hear.

I’ll never forget the moment I heard the worst news of my life.  

It was big—bigger than I could handle at the moment.  

It was daunting—things felt like they would never be the same.  

And if I’m honest, it was scary—the future felt extremely uncertain and the outlook was dim. 

It was a Friday back in 2007 when my doctor told me I had cancer.  

Cancer is a dreadful word that none of us take lightly and it had intruded into our happy lives and home.  My wife Andrea and I were parents to an 18 month old boy at the time and he was our world.  But parenting through that season of uncertainty would suddenly begin to look much different than the previous 18 months.  We made it through the cancer diagnosis and treatments with our family intact, healthy, and happy.  Not only that… four months after I left the hospital for the last time we welcomed a healthy baby girl into our family! 

My family learned a few things through our journey of parenting through crisis that I’d love to share with you.  My crisis sounds extreme, but these things are not cancer specific.  Your crisis might look like a layoff, car accident, house fire, rebellious child or financial struggle.  

When crisis strikes there’s a feeling that everything has changed and we tend to react.  That’s normal.  But I want to remind you to stay the course.  Remember who you were the day before the crisis.  Keep in mind your goals and dreams, because you and your family can use those as handles of hope as you navigate the crisis.  Andrea and I still talked about trips we wanted to take, things we wanted to do, and we somehow found time to go on dates here and there. 

Our greatest parenting strength comes from the depth of our family relationships.

Our greatest parenting strength comes from the depth of our family relationships.  A crisis will be stressful and test the mettle of those bonds, but it will also reveal the beauty and strength of them.  Let it reveal what it reveals and fall back on your strengths as a family.  Parent and live from those qualities, for I believe they’re God-given.

During a crisis, find a way to parent in a way that doesn’t put children into the world of “adult problems.”  My son struggled to understand why I wasn’t around as much.  He didn’t see me as often and that upturned his whole world for a time.  So when I was with him, even though I was plagued by anxiety, I did my best to make things seem normal for him, and my wife was a huge stabilizing factor in that.  We played, we watched shows, we went to the park, we ate as a family.  I remember being super sick but still going to a fall kids festival with him, because he wanted the fun and I wanted the memory.  Even though this is your crisis, it’s still your kid’s life and they need to live it.  They need to see you find courage in a scary time.  They need to see you love your spouse though hardship.  They need to see you laugh despite pain.  They need to see what it really looks like to trust Jesus in the difficult moments so they can appreciate the happy ones.   

Through whatever situation you’re facing, or will soon face… you can do this! There is hope on the other side- stay strong and focus on the things that keep you encouraged.

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Kids Follow Our Lead- Everyone Grab a Middle Seat!

It was early at the Oakland Airport, but the kids were excited. I was excited too, because we were about to leave for Florida on vacation. We’re a Disney-loving family, so our first trip to the (other) happiest place was the perfect way to start the summer.

It was time to board our plane and I knew we could run into a little fun, because I had sort of goofed up. You know that procedure on Southwest Air where you need to check-in exactly 24 hours before your flight, or you board last? Well… I had forgotten to check in early and we were boarding last. Also, you probably know that there aren’t assigned seats on Southwest. This is also a key component to the story.

We got on the plane and realized that there were hardly any seats left. There were a few open “middles” with the person in the aisle pretending not to see anyone else, hoping that would cause them to keep walking. This is the point where my wife and I said to each other, “Do we raise unafraid, independent kids or not?”

We told the kids that they needed to find a middle seat somewhere/anywhere and that we’d do the same. Also, we told them to have a nice fight and that we’d see them in 6 hours on the east coast. As it turns out, our daughter was in row 33 between two strangers, our son was in row 23 between two strangers, and my wife and I were up near row 5. We also were getting to know new friends.

In this situation and so many others, I believe that our kids take cues from us and respond in kind. I quietly thought to myself as we boarded, “What if something happens? What if they have nothing to do? What if someone takes them?” Although truthfully, where is someone going to take them anyway? But Renee and I both calmly said to them with our demeanor, “You’re strong. You’re independent. You don’t need me to entertain you.”

Their reaction then followed suit. They got into their seats, settled in, and had a pretty boring flight. This could have all been different if we had begun freaking out, asking the workers to get a bunch of seats switched, and infusing anxiety into the kids. They would pick up on our behavior right away, because they watch and listen, even when it doesn’t seem like it.

I ended up learning a lesson after accidentally getting into boarding group Z (there is no such thing, but it felt like it). My job as the parent to my kids is to stay calm and pass that along to my kids. They should eventually learn from me how to calmly handle issues and that they are more capable than they realize. All went well that day and we made it to Florida just fine… at least until my son got his foot stuck in the escalator at baggage claim, but that’s a story for a different day.

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Using Affirmations to Build a Strong Inner Voice

At the start of each week, you can go into the first grade classroom at my school and find the inspiration and optimism you need to tackle whatever is ahead of you. In the corner of the white board are two phrases that are new every Monday. They’re meant for the children to memorize, but they are true for all of us. The teacher calls them “affirmations.”

One of the posted affirmations said, “I believe in myself and my abilities.” Another read “I give and accept compliments.” This week, one of the affirmations is “God has a great plan for my life.”

During the week, the students practice these affirmations, commit them to memory, and discuss how they apply in life. I recently asked the teacher the purpose of this weekly habit. Her response inspired me and caused me to think about how I build confidence in my own kids. She said, “Affirmations can be a truth that we need to remind ourselves of when we are in a difficult situation, or they can serve as a reminder of a goal or something we hope to achieve.”

The time is coming fairly soon when my kids won’t be around me everyday. They won’t always have nonstop daily access to my guidance, advice, and encouragement… or my refrigerator. They won’t live under my roof, be tucked in each night, and asked about the details of their day. For this future that’s ahead of them, I want one thing: I want them to know who they are and what they can do.

The world that awaits them will tell them things like, “You’re NOT good enough,” “You’re too big/small/skinny/fat/loud/quiet/etc.,” and “You are not worth being loved.” At that moment, each of our kids will look to their inner voice and lean on what they believe about themselves, which largely comes from us. They may become shell-shocked, depressed, or incapable of overcoming what’s coming at them. They may not have an inner voice that gives them confidence. But… we can build that inner voice in them now! We can tell them, “You matter,” “You are strong and you were born for a reason,” and “God loves you and sees great things in you.” If we do this, our kids will have a reservoir of strength to draw on when times get tough. They will know who they are and whose they are. They will be able to look at situations they face and remind themselves, “God made me for a reason,” “I am confident, loyal, and strong,” and “My BEST is SUCCESS.”

I want my kids to know who they are and what they can do.

Tonight, when I tuck those two sweet kids of mine into bed, I will be sure to look them in their eyes and fill them with affirmations. I will then go into first grade tomorrow and remind myself that those are true for me as well!

NOTE: For more excellent affirmations for your child, take a look at these from Priscilla Shirer.

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Is it Okay for Our Kids to Be Bored? Building Motivation and Creativity

You can already smell it in the air… pollen? Well, yes. But, I’m talking about summer. Children everywhere rejoice at the free horizons ahead of them! Parents, however, see right through this and know that by June 10, their sweet little ones will be whispering those seven letters that can make the summer screech to a halt- “I’m bored.”

All of us have heard this from our kids. My parents heard this from me during my childhood. They typically responded with, “Go outside.” Ugh, how could they?! Some parents today kick swiftly into gear at the mention of this phrase. IPads appear, Netflix is switched on, iPhones are handed out- anything to avoid the guilt associated with torturing a child with boredom.

As summer quickly approaches, it’s important to understand that “boredom” is not a curse word, especially relating to our kids. Actually, it can be of great benefit to them if we will just back away and let it happen sometimes.

  1. Boredom helps them practice for life. Our kids will grow up and stand in line, sit in doctors offices, drive in traffic, and endure tedious work meetings. Hopefully, they are used to managing this by then.
  2. Boredom builds creativity. Parenting author Nancy Blakey says, “I cannot plant imagination into my children. I can, however, provide an environment where their creativity is not just another mess to clean up, but welcome evidence of grappling successfully with boredom.” Yes!
  3. Boredom builds motivation. When I’m not setting up everything for my kids, they are forced to self-motivate and think. This too will be another skill that’s useful down the road. As child psychologist, Lyn Fry said, “If parents spend all their time filling up their child’s spare time, then the child’s never going to learn to do this for themselves.
  4. Boredom builds contentment. This applies to adults too… we GO too much! Some of us can hardly sit in quiet without wanting to hop up and do something. Contentment is strengthened when we bring calm and peace to our homes, teaching our kids that life is not just a series of activities that we jump one to the next.
  5. Boredom creates contributors, not consumers. If we allow it, our children will naturally slip into constantly “taking.” That’s how we’re all born! Allowing them to experience a little boredom gives them a chance to build and contribute, rather than simply wait for someone to do that for them.

“Preempt the time spent on television and organized activities and have them spend it instead on claiming their imaginations.” ~ Nancy Blakey

I can hear you asking, does this mean I just sit in a chaise lounge with my lemonade all summer?! Well, part of the time, but we are in this to train future adults, not toss them into the yard and hope for the best. With that in mind, here are a few ways to guide our kids through the boredom:

  1. FIRST, love on them. Cuddle them, eat breakfast with them, share regular and meaningful conversation with them. Parenting is a balance between making these deposits and building independence in them.
  2. Get them outside. The outdoors is somehow fertile for a child’s imagination. Things come to life out there that don’t in the house. Let them sweat, get dirty, and create out there… without your help.
  3. Create a no-screen zone. Give yourself permission to say YES to screens during the summer, but also to say NO sometimes. Screens will provide relief from the immediate boredom issue, but they will not shape creativity or encourage motivation. What they may do (as most parents know) is start an argument of some kind;)

This summer, be reminded and encouraged that you are doing a great job. Even during the “boring” days, there are chances to help our kids grow in character and life-skills. We can guide them to be creative, learn contentment, and gain motivation. This may not be glamorous, but it IS what counts!

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