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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Exposing Our Kids to Great People: The Gift From Mrs. Keys

I didn’t think that a gift from Reese’s teacher would touch MY heart so much. Although, it wasn’t the gift itself, but the message that came with it. To start this sixth grade year, Mrs. Keys held a special ceremony in which she told her class the significance of her favorite book, the Bible. She shared about different Bibles she had owned in her life and the special people who had given them to her. She revealed times when passages in her Bible had guided her through dark, difficult, and painful places. She talked about when verses in God’s Word built her up and gave her inspiration to succeed.

Then she presented each of her students with their own leather bound Bible, complete with their name imprinted neatly on the front. Each student came to the front and she presented it to them, encouraging them to use it as a roadmap for life.

The kids all left school that day THRILLED about the gift and Reese came home with hers. She showed it to me and it was beautiful. I looked at it, opened the front cover and saw life. Life being given from Mrs. Keys to my daughter. She wrote to my daughter, “Reese, You are loved, redeemed and made for a great purpose. I cannot wait to see all the amazing things God will do in your life. Love, Mrs. Keys” STAWP. IT. NOW!

There is something so very special when someone you respect breathes inspiration and words of affirmation into your kids. It feels as if you’re pulling on this rope called parenting, which is heavy and hard to pull. Then another supportive hand grabs on with you, tells you to keep going, and starts to pull as well. Every single parent knows the way this goes… we speak to our kids and tell them all about how things should go, meanwhile wondering if they even hear us. But, sometimes it takes another respected voice to say the same exact thing in order to penetrate their heart and reach them deeply.

For this reason, we believe in our home that we MUST expose our kids to “high impact people and high impact events.” Looking back on my childhood, my parents provided a steady and loving home. They were wise in the things they told me and taught me. But, being the goof I was, I didn’t usually take much note. I mean, they were just my parents. So they put me in the path of Bret, Barb & Doug, and others who guided me in the same direction. Those were high impact people who simply supported what my family was doing at home. Without this, I would be a different person today.

As a parent, I’m grateful for the Mrs. Keys’, Mrs. Friesen’s, Apollo’s, Karlo’s, Kevin’s, and others who are in essential places in my children’s lives. I can’t give my kids everything they need as they grow, and even if I could, they wouldn’t listen to it all from me. The truth is that kids will talk to someone in their life at some point, and the last thing they need is to get consequential advice from a peer. With this in mind, we can give them places to go (besides us) when they need to confide, celebrate, or think.

Let’s release control and find some high impact people to help speak life into our kids. We can’t do it alone!

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Teaching Compassion: This Student Inspired Me!

I can tell my kids lots of things, but what I do matters more.

Kylie inspired me this week. This creative and kind fourth grader at our school came up to me with a huge smile and handed me a custom key chain. “Here is one for you, Mr. Jackson. I made these!” Well first of all, the key chain itself is rad. It’s has “Bulldogs” stitched onto a long shiny slip of leather material… a great way to show off our mascot.

Even sweeter than the actual gift was the reason she made it. In a little pouch that Kylie held in her hands were a whole bunch more of these key chains. They were different colors and had a variety of stitching shades. I asked her, “What are all those for?” Her response was perfect, “I made these to sell to people. The money goes to our class Compassion student.”

Each classroom at school sponsors an international student through Compassion International. The children send letters and encouragement back and forth, and our students are responsible to bring money in for their sponsorship. This then helps that child and their family by providing medical assistance, school uniforms, and resources for parents. We presently support children in El Salvador, Kenya, the Philippines, and several more.

The thought behind this situation at our school is not solely to raise money, or to have a pen-pal overseas. The main thing we are trying to do is plant seeds of compassion and empathy in our students that will stay with them forever. One day, we hope to see adults who see needs and take action.

Kylie gets it! Somewhere along the way, she has seen, heard, and been inspired to HELP. I’m sure that some of this came from school, but I’m convinced that the biggest factor for her is that she has parents who care, act with others in mind, and share kindly. It’s no accident that her mother guided her in creating these inventive pieces. Mom is not only saying what is right, but doing it.

Us parents talk a whole lot. We repeatedly tell our kids how they should and shouldn’t act, how we’d like them to treat people, and also that they should stop bickering with each other in the backseat of the car. No one, actually everyone, probably feels so often that those bundles of joy are just not listening! But… they are always watching. I can say all kinds of stuff, but what I do matters more. If I tell them to be honest, then lie about their age to get a discount at a movie… they notice. If I encourage them to be flexible, then yell around the house when things aren’t just right… they notice. Even when I ask them to be polite, then treat the server at a restaurant like trash… they most certainly notice.

Kylie and her family taught me three lessons this week. One, compassion and empathy are qualities that make kids better people. Two, the best way to develop any trait in my kids is to show it to them. Finally, Kylie is fantastic at making bulldog key chains. I believe I can be an improved parent with the first two lessons. The third lesson… I’ll leave the key chain creating to Kylie.

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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The Power of Parents’ Words: You’re Beautiful

When my daughter was in preschool, we had a song.  We’d sing it to each other almost every day and it went like this:  “I see your face in every sunrise, the colors of the morning are inside your eyes.  The world awakens in the light of the day, I look into your eyes and say… you’re beautiful.”  Actually, she changed the last phrase into “you’re handsome” and I LOVED IT.  Many times, as Reese and I would get into the car her first words were, “Dada, will you play our song?!”  Why yes, I believe I will:)

My daughter was only three and I wanted her to know something that I still want her to know today- she is beautiful.  I want her to know that from a man in her life who loves her and cares about her just for who she is as a young lady.  I also want her to know every day of her life that she is beautiful for far more than what she wears, what her hair looks like, or what style of shoes she puts on her feet.  Many times, my affirmations to her are followed by this statement: “It’s the most important for you to be beautiful on the…” and she answers, “inside.”

Our culture has placed immeasurable importance on outer beauty and is doing its best to convince our children that they must look the best, feel the best and have more than every one else.  Additionally, many of us adults are being convinced of the very same thing as we constantly compare ourselves to everyone around us.  The Bible says that God sees things quite differently than us.  1 Sam. 16:7 says, “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  We can easily look gorgeous on the outside, but have emptiness on the inside.

When I’d look into Reese’s adorable face every day and sing, “You’re beautiful” to her I wanted her to know two things.  First, she is made by God uniquely and specially JUST the way He wanted her.  Every hair, birthmark, wrinkle and freckle was placed exactly where it is meant to be by Him.  There is no accident.  Psalm 119:73- “You’re hands have made and fashioned me.”  For that reason, she is a beautiful girl made by a beautiful God… on purpose.

Secondly, I want her to know that her inner beauty is more important than anything on the outside.  That is why we will teach her to dress modestly.  That is why we will raise her to love God and experience the love He has for her.  That is why we will encourage her to be confident enough to speak up when she feels uncomfortable. That is why we will help her learn the Bible, so that she has a strong foundation to make good choices as she grows older.

If you have a daughter, tell her she’s beautiful.  If you have a son, tell him he’s handsome.  Those words will stick and build confidence that will last. You don’t have to sing to them, but trust me- it’s much better that way.