My essays about healthy relationships with God, others, & yourself.

Author: Mark Forstrom (Page 1 of 25)

Why I think you should give your kids HEFTY allowances! (Part 2)

[This is an update from a post I did in 2018].

In Part 1, I made the case for why I believe every kid should be given an allowance.   Scroll down and read that post first if you haven’t already.

Today I want to make the case for giving responsible kids HEFTY allowances.

Someone will say, “But we don’t have any extra money in our budget to start paying our kids hefty allowances.”  I’m not suggesting you add even $1 to your overall family budget.  I’m merely suggesting you transfer some of the money you’re already spending on raising your kids–to them!

Think about it–right now, you’re already spending a certain amount of money to buy them treats, gifts, clothes, fashion accessories, cosmetics, games, entertainment, etc.  How about handing them some of that same money and letting them pay for some of their own expenses!  This will lighten your load and teach them a lot about managing themselves.

Realizing that every family’s amounts will be different, let me share how it worked in our house.  We paid our girls $1 a week for each year of their age.   That means when they were three, we gave them $156 a year and by the time they were 18, that had increased to an annual amount of $936. That may sound like a lot, but it’s really not, compared to the total cost of raising a child.

Six considerations

  1. We made them put 10% of it in their savings bank and 10% in their “Jesus bank” to take to church periodically to put in the offering.  From the earliest age, we wanted our kids to learn the importance of generous living and wise saving.  (Savings money could only be used for investments that we parents agreed were worthy ones:  e.g., musical instruments, computers, major school trips, cars, etc.)
  2. Their remaining *80% of “discretionary” money, was theirs to spend as they chose–for the most part.
  3. Parents will need to restrict what purchases are–or are not–allowed based on their own values.  Examples of “outlawed” purchases might be explicit music or violent video games.  Be sure to major on the majors though, and don’t be afraid of letting them waste their money!  (For years our 8-year-old daughter Lexi would spend all of her weekly allowances on frivolous purchases, living from “paycheck to paycheck.”  Then one day she decided she wanted an American Girl doll.  She started saving almost all of her allowance for the next 6 months and when that doll arrived, it was a hard-earned treasure.  She learned an important lesson on how “the best things come to those who wait”–a lesson she’s never forgotten!)
  4. Each year on their birthday, they would get an increase in allowance, and often be informed of new things they would need to start purchasing for themselves.  Parents would do well to envision how much much financial responsibility they would want their kids to have on their first day of college and work towards that.
  5. Depending on the age and situation, parents might physically dole out cash or transfer amounts into an account–perhaps even a debit card.  Admittedly this takes some time and effort, but the benefits from creating financially responsible and independent kids make it worth the effort.
  6. As I’ve blogged about elsewhere, allowance money can easily be deducted from the child’s next “paycheck” to pay for fines, consequences, unfinished **chores, etc.  No arguments are required!

What kids might pay.

  • Here is a list of expenses kids might be expected to pay for, starting from age three and progressing through high school:
    • Small Toys, snacks, candy–anything the 3-year-old might beg for at Walmart!
    • Hobbies and crafts (slime comes to mind!)
    • Pet expenses (100%–food, cages, shots, etc.)
    • Bikes, scooters, etc. (parents might choose to pay for safety equipment, helmets, etc.)
    • Electronic games (including batteries, accessories, etc.)
    • Entertainment (movies, bowling, books, magazines, etc.)
    • Hot school lunches (if they don’t want to pack their own)
    • Netflix or other streaming services (e.g., parents could charge a fee per movie or show watched to help defray the entertainments bills)
    • Room decorations (paint, themes, accessories, etc.)
    • Clothes/shoes (anything beyond the basics–they pay for unneeded clothes or expensive name brands)
    • Cosmetics/accessories/toiletries (anything beyond the basics of deodorant, essential hygiene items, etc.)
    • Haircuts/hairstyling
    • School/church trips, proms, club sports (a percentage–see below)
    • Cell phone/data (beyond the basics–see below), apps.
    • Car (purchase, gas, insurance, repairs–see below)
    • Saving for College (see below)

What parents might pay

  • Parents should make clear what expenses they will cover.  For us, in addition to the basics (food, essential clothing & toiletries, school supplies, transportation, housing, utilities, insurance, etc.) we told them we would pay for the following:
    • 75% of church activities/expenses.  (The high percentage shows how this was a priority for us.  Yet, we also wanted them to participate in deciding which church activities were most important.  However, if they had been reluctant to go to church at all we would have gladly paid 100%.)
    • 25% of extra school activities/expenses such as uniforms, trips, prom costs, band trips, club sports, etc.  (School costs were admittedly a lower priority to us than church ones.)  One time, this policy of ours forced our 15-year-old daughter Lexi to decide which was more important–paying 75% of a spring break band trip to Ireland (which would cost her several thousand dollars) or saving her money to purchase her own car.  She opted for the car.
    • Birthday presents for friends (However, this was a predetermined “flat rate.”  They would need to pay the extra if they wanted to purchase extravagant gifts.
    • Basic phone and data costs (If they wanted the latest, coolest iPhone or unlimited data, they would need to pay that difference)
    • One weekly music or sports lesson.  We wanted to encourage their skill development, but we didn’t want them burning out.  If they wanted a second type of lesson they would need to pay those costs.  (BTW, if kids are too lazy to practice between lessons, they should pay for those lessons!)
    • A percentage of car insurance or fuel costs once they own their own car (this is because they are saving us money by driving themselves.)
    • Half of college expenses (This helped one of our daughters determine where to attend since it would significantly affect her pocketbook.)

I hope this gives you some ideas of how you might incorporate allowances into your family structure.


*Others, like Jeff Anderson, have suggested making kids save a third, give a third and use 33% for discretionary spending.

**I’m not suggesting allowances are given in exchange for doing chores.  I explain the difference here.

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Why you should give your kids allowances! (Part 1)

[This is a revision of a post I did in 2018, but it’s just as relevant in today’s economy.]

Our goal as parents is not to raise children, but rather to raise responsible adults.  Sadly, too many parents end up with chronically-dependent high school graduates who can’t manage their lives — or their money.

So today I want to make the case for giving your kids allowances, which will make your kids better prepared for life.  And that means your life will be better too!

But first, I want to share with you an email I received from a missionary mom in Nicaragua, where I did a parenting seminar a number of years ago.   She followed my advice about giving kids allowances, and surprised me with this beautiful testimonial about doing it with her THREE YEAR OLD!    [I’ll insert my comments between hers.]

.Our 3-year-old son is learning the value of $ as he spends all his $1 per week on gum.

We might think of gum as a waste of good money, but to him, this is what he values most.  He’s had to do some self-reflecting in deciding what he cares about most.  Someday he’ll figure out that there are better uses for his money, but that’s something he’ll need to figure out on his own.   Most importantly he’s learning that his parents are trusting him with the responsibility of making his own decisions and that he’ll be living with his decisions.

He is quickly learning which gum pack gets him the most pieces.

Amazing!  Notice how he already is learning to stretch his dollar, to look for bargains, and to do comparison shopping to get the best value!  He’s being forced to use simple math to figure out what is in his best interest.  He’s already learning to advocate for himself.

He is learning not to eat the entire pack in 2 minutes because he doesn’t have $ to buy more.

See how he’s learning about delayed gratification, patience, pacing himself, relishing what he has, and living within his means!  How many teenagers never learn these lessons!  How many adults never do!

He even paid me a nickel the other day to carry the laundry into the house because he did not want to do it.  I explained to him that it is one of the small chores he is required to help with and therefore would have to pay me for his portion of the work.  Amazingly he looked at me square on and asked, “How much?”  I told him, “One nickel,” and he paused, thought awhile, and finally said “I want to pay you because I don’t want to do it.”

Wow!  This three-year-old is already learning to weigh pros and cons, to make decisions, to negotiate with others, and to wrestle with priorities regarding his time, money, work & leisure!  He’s learning that “time is money” and about simple economics.

I share this because if someone told me that this stuff would work on a 3-year-old I would never have believed it.  But, he is the youngest of 3 so we included him in the [allowance] process because he was feeling SO left out.  Now we know it is effective even at 3.

I love this story because it vividly demonstrates how giving some measure of financial control even to the youngest of kids can serve to build their character.

My next blog, Part 2, makes the case for HEFTY allowances, but let me close this post with some general thoughts about giving kids allowances.

  • It makes children feel valued and trusted and gives them a measure of control over their lives.
  • It gives them money to waste.  Failure is a great teacher.
  • They can experience the joys of giving and the rewards of saving.
  • It minimizes whining in stores about things they impulsively want (“Did you bring your money purse?  No?  Well I guess you’ll have to remember to bring it next time.”)
  • It gives you opportunities for reasonable, non-emotional disciplinary action (“If you forget to do your chores, no worries, it just means you’ve hired one of us to do them!”)
  • It doesn’t cost you anything.  You’re already spending money on your kids — this just transfers responsibility onto them for certain purchases.
  • If you don’t give allowances, because if you hold all the money, they’ll always be coming to you for withdrawals, which can cause conflict.  Better to transfer at least some of their money into their care and let them learn to manage it.
  • Parents can still set limits on what money is allowed to be spent for (but remember, don’t prevent them from wasting it.).
  • Instead of butting heads with them about their financial wants, it forces them to make decisions about what matters most, learning important life skills.
  • It gives them cash that can be used to reimburse you for any damage they may cause.
  • It gives us opportunities to consult with them about their financial choices.
  • It makes you the coolest parents on the block!
  • Cash might be best for younger children.  Reloading a debit card might work for older children.

 

 

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Honesty is not the best policy

 

I don’t want you being honest with me — and I promise not to be honest with you either.    I want us to withhold the truth, avoid transparency, and be pretenders.  In fact, I don’t want anyone in the world being honest with each other.  Honesty is not the best policy.

My friends may be surprised at me saying such an outlandish thing.  As a God-fearing person who often speaks about truthfulness, integrity, and accountability, this doesn’t sound congruent.

Here’s what I mean.

We don’t need to disclose everything we’re thinking.  Just because it’s in my head doesn’t mean it needs to be spoken.   Before talking, I need to consider whether speaking my thoughts would be beneficial.

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Here, Paul tells the Ephesians not to let everything in your head come out of your mouth.  In other words, “Put a filter on it!”   Prior to opening up your mouth, make sure your words suit the occasion, build up, and give grace to the hearer.  Less is more.

James, in 1:19, agrees, telling us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Our culture today completely fails in this area.  People are slow to listen, quick to speak, and filterless — particularly in our online communications!

Less is more.  We don’t need to share all of our opinions or always get in the last word.  Why do we feel it so necessary to tell others all the things that displease us about them?  How about putting a stop to our constant critiques and obeying Philippians 2:3 instead, which tells us to treat others better than ourselves!

We’ve drifted a long way from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous Sonnet 43.  “How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.”  If written today it would read, “How have you offended me?  Let me count the ways.”  People are quick to point out their dissatisfactions, grievances, and disappointments in brutally honest, hate-filled attacks.  Let’s be different;  let’s never insult others by our honesty.

But what if the honesty of others insults us?  What then?

I recently read a book about apologizing, where the author contends that we must honestly tell people whenever they hurt us.  I completely disagree.  As I’ve blogged elsewhere, we can forgive someone who has hurt us without needing to inform them of the hurt they caused.  Let me take my hurts to Jesus, who understands mistreatment better than anyone, and then let me treat the offender with undeserved, unconditional mercy, grace, and love.  Only if it would benefit the other person do I suggest telling them what they did to me.

Is honesty ever a good policy?  Certainly.  Here are occasions where I think honesty is vitally important:

  1.  We need to be honest with God, ourselves, and others about our own weaknesses.  To hide our fatal flaws is foolish.  That’s why one of my personal Life Resolutions is to “keep no personal secrets of any kind, but rather disclose any areas of weakness to trusted friends that they may hold me accountable…”
  2. If I become aware that I’ve hurt someone, I should confess my sin honestly, request forgiveness, and seek to restore harmony.  Matthew 5:23-24 says, “…if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
  3. When a person has hurt me AND it would also benefit him or her to understand the effects of that hurt, my honesty would actually be a kindness.  But make sure our motive involves his benefit, not our vindication or comeuppance.  The goal of such honesty must be to help him learn the ways others may be adversely affected by his actions.  The focus should be on educating more than confronting.
  4. When someone’s performance is sub-standard, a supervisor’s honest feedback and possible discipline are necessary.
  5. When someone exhibits behavior that is unethical, self-destructive, or harmful to you or others, honest, constructive criticism is essential.  Such honest communication may help reveal the person’s blind spots and prevent further harm or abuse.  But be sure the motive behind such honest feedback is protection and reformation and not judgment or condescension. Galatians 6 admonishes us to restore a straying person gently, something that takes great sensitivity, courage, and honesty.

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Resolved…

(A re-post, with this year’s revisions.)

New Year’s Day is a good time to think about where we’ve been and what lies ahead in the coming year.  Today, many will be setting New Year’s Resolutions in hopes for better days ahead, but it’s well-known that most of these short-term goals will be short-lived. But what if we had a longer-term look at the things we need to change?

A few years ago,  I was challenged by reading The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards, by Steven J Lawson. It highlights the determination/focus of Jonathan Edwards, one of my heroes of the faith. This man from the 1700s was a spiritual giant, a great evangelist, and an intellectual genius (he was a President of Princeton) who has also been called the greatest theologian America ever produced. This is someone to learn from! While still a teenager, Jonathan carefully crafted seventy Resolutions that he would live out during his entire life. They are amazing to read, in fact, click here to read them now! They make most of our New Year’s Resolutions seem shallow by comparison!

Reading Edwards’ resolutions made me resolve to come up with my own Lifelong Resolution list, which I’ve been working on over the past few years and revising annually. Jan 1st is a good time to re-post them in their latest form.

Here then, in the spirit of Jonathan Edwards, is my updated list of my Forty Life Resolutions.

 

MY FORTY LIFE RESOLUTIONS

Note:  I do not claim to yet be living out all of these resolutions consistently in my life.  They are more statements of intent — the things I want to be realities in my life.  

Revised Jan 1, 2022

PREAMBLE: (adapted from Edwards)  Aware that “apart from Him I can do nothing” I humbly entreat God by His grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, as much as they align with His will.

RESOLUTIONS OF THE HEART

  1. Resolved that my primary delight be in God alone, irrespective of my circumstances, regarding Him as my only true need.
  2. Resolved to view His Word as a chest full of treasures providing spiritual riches, and to partake of that Treasure consistently–daily when reasonable to do so.
  3. Resolved to attentively listen to the voice of God by whatever means God would speak—general or special revelation—and not to limit God’s channels by my narrow thinking, prejudices, and assumptions.
  4. Resolved to make personal prayer a spiritual lifeline and top priority–pursuing relational intimacy with Him and surrendering myself to His service.
  5. I aspire to seek to love God with my emotions, fighting against my natural tendency toward stoicism and intellectualism.
  6. Resolved to regularly pray “Thy Kingdom Come,” interceding for God to bring His justice and abundant provision and the proclamation of the Gospel to all His creation.
  7. Resolved to increasingly develop and portray a longing for heaven and to maintain an eternal perspective.
  8. I intend to allow any discomfort, suffering, or mistreatment I experience to deepen my appreciation of the suffering Jesus embraced for me and the plight of the persecuted church (Philippians 3:10).
  9. I intend to be willing to sacrifice my life if God so directs.
  10. Resolved to be a faithful husband to Cindy until death.  I will seek ways to love her sacrificially as Christ does and dedicate my eyes, my body, and my affections to her alone.
  11. Resolved to have absolutely no secrets of any kind in my personal life. I will fully disclose all my areas of weakness to trusted friends that they may hold me accountable — that I may always be a man of complete authenticity and integrity.
  12. Resolved to be at peace with all men as far as it depends on me, (Rom 12:18) which to me means that there should be no one on the planet with whom I would not gladly share a meal.
  13. Resolved always to treat every person with a heart of respect regardless of how much I may like or dislike that person’s personality, values, or behavior.  I will take special care to show extra love and respect to those whom evangelical Christians and others have historically mistreated such as gays, atheists, the disabled, people of other religions, & that society would call “ugly”.

RESOLUTIONS OF THE HEAD

  1. Resolved to be continuously attentive to my weaknesses, that I may surrender them to Christ’s mercy and transforming power, but not so obsessed with them that they distract my attention from God thus becoming an idol.
  2. Resolved to hold my loved ones loosely: never presuming upon God’s propensity to bless, but rather viewing them always as a temporary blessing and never as an entitlement (Job 1:21).
  3. Resolved, like Paul in Philippians 4, to be content with and thankful for whatever God gives me: whether prosperity or adversity, comfort or suffering, joy or sorrow, health or sickness, abundance or scarcity.
  4. I intend to gladly submit to any injustice done to me without claiming my so-called “rights” just as Jesus modeled. (1 Peter 2:21-25). I will, however, actively oppose injustice toward others.
  5. Resolved to protect and preserve my life only as much as is prudent and a matter of reasonable stewarding of the brief earthly life God has granted me.  I want to welcome death when it comes.
  6. Resolved never to hold a grudge against, seek revenge toward, rejoice at or wish for the misfortune of anyone who may have wronged me or surpassed me in achievement.
  7. Resolved to never take personal offense at anyone, knowing that given the same circumstances and apart from the grace of God I would have treated me likewise.
  8. Resolved to recognize that we live in a spiritual as well as physical world and that our true battle is not against flesh and blood but is fought through prayer in the unseen spiritual realm.  (Eph 6:12)
  9. Resolved to be a lifelong thinker, learner and reader so that I may continuously challenge my own perspective and worldview. I want my faith to be an intelligent one and one that recognizes truth, wherever it may be found.
  10. Resolved to never put my hope in political parties, governments, ideologies, personalities, science, myself, or in anything other than God Himself and His church insofar as it submits to His headship.  (Psalm 46:3)
  11. Resolved to care very little about fashion, fads, trends, pop culture, amusements, or technologies except as they serve to advance what I perceive to be the purposes of God in my life, i.e. being in the world, but not of the world.  (John 17:15-16)
  12. Resolved never to judge anyone inwardly or outwardly to whom God might hold to different standards in these matters of asceticism, spiritual disciplines, fitness, finances, and lifestyle.  (1 Cor 7:17)

RESOLUTIONS OF THE HABITS

  1. Resolved, like Jonathan Edwards in his 63rd Resolution, to seek to behave in the same way as if I were aspiring to be the godliest person in my generation.  (1 Cor 9:24; 1 Tim 4:8-9)
  2. Resolved to live an authentic, exemplary life worthy of imitation as I seek to imitate Christ. (1 Cor 11:1)
  3. As long as I’m physically able, resolved to keep my body in excellent physical condition as a matter of stewardship and enjoyment, but not of vanity or condescension.
  4. Resolved to surrender my natural inclinations toward laziness and comfort-seeking and instead rely on God to transform me into a diligent, proactive, risk-taker, prone to seek out hard things rather than easy ones.
  5. Resolved to surrender to christ my natural tendency toward introversion that I may better influence others by proactively investing my life in them.
  6. Resolved to keep under control my God-given appetite for food and to always remain thin as an outward display of my inward convictions to live an ascetic lifestyle of contentment, moderation, and restraint.
  7. Resolved to fight against my natural lack of proficiency at remembering names, faces, and details; i.e. to sharpen my mind and take extra effort to remember, allowing me to better honor and influence.
  8. Resolved to faithfully and regularly intercede for those individuals that God has put in my circles of influence and awareness, praying God-sized prayers, expecting the miraculous, as frequently as I perceive Him to direct.
  9. Resolved to be highly influential in the lives of those around me as I seek ways to encourage, inspire, and equip them to grow in goodness and godliness.
  10. I aspire to be honest, direct, and prompt to hold crucial conversations and educational opportunities rather than resorting to silence (as is my tendency).
  11. Resolved to continuously strive to improve in my effectiveness as a highly involved husband, father, grandfather, son, relative, friend, neighbor, and counselor.
  12. Resolved to be a reasonably and responsibly engaged citizen in whatever country, state, city, and neighborhood God may place me.
  13. Resolved to strive to remain debt-free (except in the matter of love, Romans 13:8) and to generously give away as much as I reasonably can, considering my obligations to love and provide for my family and those who would benefit from our hospitality.
  14. I aspire to bear as much fruit as I reasonably can, storing up treasures in heaven in order to reap a bountiful eternal harvest.  (Matt 6:19-21)
  15. Resolved to stay attentive to keeping these resolutions for the duration of my life that I may finish well to the very end and thus hear these words at the Bema seat of Christ, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  (Matt 25:20-21)

One final, but important section must be added to communicate the attitude of Jonathan Edwards towards the resolutions that he set.

Edwards recognized that sheer will power alone is useless in keeping any such resolutions. God has to do it—we are unable. The book mentioned above includes quotations from his journal, reflecting on how he viewed them and lived them out. Here are some excerpts.

“If God should withdraw His Spirit a little more, I should not hesitate to break my resolutions, and should soon arrive at my old state. There is no dependence on myself.”

“But alas, how soon do I decay! O how weak, how infirm, how unable to do anything of myself! What a poor inconsistent being! What a miserable wretch, without the assistance of the Spirit of God…How weak do I find myself! O let it teach me to depend less on myself, to be more humble.”

“Our resolutions may be at the highest one day, and yet, the next day we may be in a miserable dead condition, not at all like the same person who resolved. So that it is to no purpose to resolve, except that we depend on the grace of God. For if it were not for is mere grace, one might be a very good man one day, and a very wicked one the next.”

May this be the attitude of all who set resolutions of any kind, whether they be for the New Year or for the rest of life! Only then can we hope to accomplish them!

How I read 52 books in 2020

 

Don’t you love it when your kids tell you about something amazing!  Lexi, introduced me to a great resource that has quite literally changed my life.   I’m blogging about it because many of you may find this resource as helpful as I did.  What is it?  Hoopla!

Hoopla is a free service, provided by public libraries (including Cedar Rapids), offering audiobooks, e-books, and videos.  To log in, you just have to use your library card number.  I use it almost exclusively for audiobooks, of which there are tens of thousands to choose from.   You simply stream or download the books to the app on your phone and listen to them!  They return automatically in 21 days.  I started using Hoopla in January and I was shocked to see that I’ve listened to 52 books this year!

How did I have time to read a book a week while being a full-time grad student doing a counseling internship?  It has amazed me how much time can be reclaimed by making use of otherwise wasted time.  I read while at the gym, on the treadmill, in the car, running errands, traveling, mowing grass, shoveling snow, vacuuming, gardening, working on projects, etc.

To give you a taste of what is available, here is the list of books that I listened to in 2020 (in no particular order), along with a short description of each.

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung. A riveting memoir about a Korean adoptee who searched for her biological family.
Understanding People by Larry Crabb.  He talks about what it means to be human and how each component needs to be mended.
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman.  I have been meaning to read this culture critique for years.  Written in 1985 but just as relevant today as ever.
Blessed are the Misfits by Brant Hanson.  The author shares his reflections on life with Asperger’s Syndrome.
St. Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton.  An interesting biography of a person I wanted to learn more about by an author I’ve wanted to read more from.
The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer.  A classic that I hadn’t read since college days.
When the Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper.  Encouraging reflections for Christians suffering from depression.
The Search for God by C.S. Lewis.  A collection of short essays about faith and culture. 
You and Me Forever by Francis Chan.  My daughter Brenda considers this her favorite marriage book and I now see why she says that.
The Hidden Smile of God by John Piper.  Three interesting biographies of suffering saints: David Brainard, William Cowper, and John Bunyan.
Why Marriages Succeed or Fail by John M. Gottman.  Scientific evidence about what builds or erodes marriages.
Knowing God by J.I. Packer.  Another classic that I hadn’t read since college days.  Are we balconeers (watchers) or travelers on the journey?
Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel.  He unpacks the folly of talking the talk without walking the walk.
Paradise Lost by John Milton.  A literary classic.  I was amazed at the theological depths of human depravity expressed through this extended poem.
Dangerous Duty of Delight by John Piper.  A short book about the importance of delighting in God.
Contentment by Chip Ingram.  A good book on the subject.
Atomic Habits by James Clear – Book Summary by Dean Bokhari.  A client recommended this book on self-management, so I wanted to check it out. Good tips.
George McDonald by C.S. Lewis. This is Lewis’s compilation of many of McDonald’s profound reflections.
Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas.  I re-read my favorite marriage book. What if marriage is about becoming holy, more than happy?
The Marriage Builder by Larry Crabb.  I really enjoyed this book.  Are you manipulating your spouse or ministering to your spouse?
Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage by Greg Smalley.  Humorous personal stories and principles for a healthy marriage.
Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan.  A historically researched fictional account of Joy Davidman’s life and marriage to C.S. Lewis.
A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis.  Lewis’s personal reflections on losing his wife to cancer. 
Soul Keeping by John Ortberg.  This book was mentioned twice in other books, so I decided to read it.  A good one about caring for your soul.
The Truth About Us: How We Fool Ourselves and How God Loves Us Anyway by Brant Hansen. I really enjoy this author, his style is humorous, poignant, and convicting.
Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud.  My biggest take-away:   my spouse should not complete me, but rather complement me.
Crucial Conversations book summary (Flashbooks)  Good, quick 30 min overview of an excellent book on communication.
Summary of Crucial Conversations by (Abey Beathan) More comprehensive than the previous, but sounds like a robot is reading it
Costly Obedience by Mark Yarhouse.  Thoughts about Christians experiencing same sex attraction.
That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis.  Part 3 of the space trilogy.
Prelandria by C.S. Lewis.  Part 2 of the space trilogy.
Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis.  Part 1 of the space trilogy, which allegorizes creation, the fall, and redemption.
The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis.  Thoughts on the education system and how human emotion is overlooked.
Becoming Whole by Brian Fikkert. Excellent follow-up to When Helping Hurts by the same author.  Compassionate agencies must address the whole person.
The Disciplines of the Christian Life by Eric Liddell.  I believe this is the only book written by Eric Liddell, published after his death.
Eric Liddell by John Keddie.  A wonderful biography of the Olympic runner.
Eric Liddell by Janet and Geoff Benge.  Another great biography of Eric.
The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson.  Part 4 of the fictional young adult series.
The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson. Part 3 of the fictional young adult series.
North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson. Part 2 of the fictional young adult series.
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson. Part 1 of the fictional young adult series by this famous Christian singer. It’s a fantasy, which allegorizes the Christian message.
Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud.  How change is sometimes necessary, though painful.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba.  A fascinating memoir of an African boy genius who brought wind-generated electricity to his people from scraps he found in a junkyard.
Amazing Grace by John Piper.  A biography of  William Wilberforce, who brought slavery to an end in England without war.
The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield.  A call to be neighborly, by opening up our lives and homes to our literal neighbors.
Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray.  A short, but good book, dealing with depression from a Christian point of view.
Dispatches From The Front by Tim Keesee.  Amazing stories from around the world of how God is working in hostile places.
What Your Body Knows About God by Rob Moll.  Scientific evidence of how our bodies are designed to connect to the spiritual.
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van der Kolk. This was required reading for my degree, but it was amazing to learn about how trauma is connected to physical responses and the various ways to recover.

.

Aside from Hoopla audiobooks, the Bible, and school textbooks, I also read four paper books
Silent Night by Susan Thomas.  The autobiography of the subject of the tv show Sue Thomas: FB(eye).  She was blind and did lip-reading for the FBI.
Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis.  Ancient wisdom from one of the church fathers.
Out of Your Comfort Zone by George Verwer.  A call to live a life of sacrifice and service by one of our modern-day heroes.
Marriage Matters by Cheri Swalwell.  A collection of stories about how to have a healthy marriage, edited by a former youth group student of mine!

Logging Out

Those who know me best know that, though I’m generally a content, positive, optimistic person, there is one thing that makes me absolutely incredulous:  observing others being made to feel insignificant, voiceless, devalued, and invisible.

I’ve seen the damaging effects such treatment causes.  People I know and love have been devastated by having what they love torn from them with no recourse, no negotiating, no alternate ideas, no compromising, and no say in the matter.

And I’m well acquainted with the fallout of such treatment:  the sleepless nights, the bewilderment, the anger, the disillusionment, the grief, the insecurity, and the despair.   I’ve spent far too many hours consoling such needlessly-wounded friends.

My incredulity usually compels me to draw attention to the unjust treatment of others;  I sense a duty to come to the defense of the marginalized.  I feel obliged to point out those being overlooked, to speak up for the voiceless, to enlighten the unaware, and to write passionate letters or emails.   Sometimes it helps.

Sometimes it doesn’t.  In those cases, I have found it useful to focus on two things:

  1. healing the wounded (my interest in becoming a counselor was augmented by the desire to better help such hurting people) and
  2. viewing the hurtful ones as blind, not evil.

About Blindness

My choice to view the perpetrators as blind rather than evil has been very helpful in allowing me to forgive rather than get stuck in bitterness.  But it didn’t stop me from judging them.  How could people be so blind to the obvious?  How could they not see the devastation they were causing?  How could they sit by and not be affected by suffering saints?  It was right for me to judge them.  Blindness is stupid.

And then last month happened.

At the beginning of the month, I found myself in a leadership position where I was in charge of carrying out the directives of a national office.   Being a responsible rule-follower, I was determined to carry out my duties to the best of my ability.  I studied the procedure manual and made a detailed list of all the tasks to be done.  I memorized the organizational flow chart and told everyone where they fit.

However,  the passions and priorities of some in our group differed from those outlined in my rulebook.  This problem was easily solved by viewing them as out-of-step and a hindrance to progress.   So I discounted their viewpoints — after all,  proper procedures must be followed,

Ironically, I was now the blind one — blind to how my actions were making others feel unimportant, unnecessary, and unwanted.  I was now the one causing people disillusionment, grief, and sleepless nights.

At the end of the month, through a series of hard conversations, God mercifully opened my blind eyes.  Here I was, doing the exact same thing that has bothered me so much in others over the years.  I was completely blind and didn’t know it.  I found that I am as capable as anyone of viewing people as problems, rather than as precious.

I quickly apologized and made things right with those I had wronged and my victims showed me grace in their forgiveness.  Happily, we are now moving forward at great speed — together — in reaching our goals.  This experience was humbling for me.

But an even greater humility came from realizing these things about myself:

  • I have been such a hypocrite in being prone to judge others for the very thing I am prone to do.  I can be just as blind as those I’ve criticized.
  • All of us have blind spots, but we are completely unaware that we are blind.
  • Blindness cannot be avoided.  When we think we are mature and incapable of blindness we are just fooling ourselves.  We can’t see what we can’t see.
  • Only God can give sight to the blind.  It takes a miracle to open a blind person’s eyes.
  • This awareness makes me less prone to condemn others.  Except by the grace of God there go I.

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.  Matthew 7:5 (ESV).

  • Logging out starts with asking God to reveal my own faults before I start fixating on the faults of others.

Why I resolved NOT to read through the Bible in 2020

I’ve always admired those people who can read through the Bible each year.  I once met an elderly saint, who shared with me — shortly before his death — that he had read through the Bible something like 50 times over his lifetime.  Wow!  He has been a spiritual mentor to me, teaching me more about intimacy with God than anyone else.  In many ways, I want to be just like him.

But unlike my mentor, when I’m on my deathbed, I will not be able to report having read through the Bible 50 times–or anything close to that number.  Sure, I’ve tried it on occasion over the years, but most of the time unsuccessfully;  it was one of those New Year’s Resolutions that I couldn’t sustain.   Most of the time I would fall behind, then quit, and then feel guilty.

I admire those who can read through it in a year, and encourage people to do it, but here are five reasons why I am unlikely to make reading through the Bible in a year my annual goal.

  1.  My comprehension level is insufficient to skim-read effectively.  Compared to most people, I’m the kind who needs to read slowly in order to grasp what is being said.  Reading the entire Bible at my speed would take an unreasonable amount of time each day.
  2.  I am committed to the belief that every word (and jot and tittle) of the Bible is God-breathed and purposefully written and so I seek to fully understand all that God is communicating.  If I did try to skim-read the Bible I would feel like I’m just getting the headlines — an overview — and not the details of God’s message.  (This is also why in my Bible study I prefer a more literal translation rather than a more contemporary paraphrase; I’m more interested in the details of what God actually said than man’s interpretations about what God might have been saying.)
  3.  Someone once said, “What matters is not me getting through the Bible, but whether or not the Bible is getting through me. ” Unless I slow down and meditate on what I’m reading I know that God’s Word will not get through me–I will miss the vast majority of personal applications.   Someone else said, “We should read God’s Word for inspiration, not information.”  I want to read it with the mindset that it’s about God’s heart reaching my heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit.  For me, that takes time and a lot of focus.
  4.  I don’t ever again want my Bible reading to be associated with guilt;  instead, I want it always to be a joy and delight.  To me, having to stick to a prescribed daily reading schedule for 365 days in a row makes reading God’s Word often feel like a chore on a checklist.
  5.  My lifestyle is too sporadic and inconsistent to do anything for 365 days in a row!   I know that there will be days when it is just not reasonable for me to spend a chunk of time reading the Bible.  Driving straight through to New Jersey, being sick with the flu, experiencing days of extreme exhaustion, or dealing with an unexpected crisis — these things are realities in my life where grace is needed.  If I were tethered to a strict Bible reading schedule, any missed readings would begin to pile up, necessitating more skimming, frustration, and guilt.  Or just quitting altogether–as I have done many times!

Many years ago, I changed the way I read the Bible.

Now, I prayerfully determine a specific number of minutes that I want to spend in God’s Word each day, knowing that some days it will not be reasonable to do so.   When the appointed time comes, I go to a quiet place with my Bible and a highlighter and I set a timer for my predetermined amount of time.  Then I dive in, absorbing myself into God’s Word, reading as slowly as I can, comparing relevant passages, and underlining the things that are particularly meaningful or insightful.  I get so absorbed that I often lose track of time completely.  When my timer goes off, I simply draw a line in the margin at that point and pick it up there the following day.  No quota to meet, no rush, and no pressure:  just the enjoyment of meditating on what God is saying.  Sometimes I get through two chapters, sometimes no more than a single paragraph.  It doesn’t matter in the least!   Sometimes, God gives me opportunities to share what He showed me that day.

Whatever your plan and pace, I hope that 2020 finds you growing in your reading of God’s Word!

[Update:  in 2021, I tried something new.  Using the Youversion app, I read through the Bible Chronologically, reading through the text and also listening at the same time.  I didn’t stick to the daily calendar schedule, my life is too sporadic for that level of consistency.  But I was able to set aside irregular blocks of time, completing the whole Bible in 7 months, something I’ve never come close to doing before. There was value in chronologically “speed-reading” the entire Bible this way, but it’s not something I will do very often for all the reasons in this blog post.]

 

“Hey while you’re up, grab one for me too!”

Last night, while sitting in my Lazy-Boy chair, I said those startling words to our daughter, Lexi.  My wife, Cindy, not realizing I was joking, called me out for my rudeness.   Lexi just laughed and brought me the yogurt.

What??  Many people would find the conversation I just described confusing.  What was startling about my words and what made it a joke?  Let me explain.

One of the foundational principles of our household has always been respect for one another and one basic way to show respect is by not demanding things.  None of us feels honored by being ordered around; being commanded by others robs us of autonomy and self-worth.  The stakes are high:  those made to submit to oppressive controls either become bitter toward authority or they become helpless victims.

In contrast, making polite requests of one another, avoiding commands, and using enforceable statements are good methods of building up one another, cultivating trust, forming confidence, and avoiding any abuses of power.

So, as soon as our kids could talk, we implemented a “no commands” policy.  The expectation was that if you needed something from someone else, you must do three things:  1.)  put it in the form of a question, 2.) include the word please, and 3.) say it in a pleasant tone of voice.  As parents we modeled this back to our kids, treating them with the same respect as we required of them toward us.   It was a policy that communicated that everyone matters (parents and kids) and that it’s never ok to presume upon others.  Favors aren’t owed, they are favors.

That’s what made my command, “grab one for me too!” so outlandish.  In our home, we would never speak to each other that way.  What made it a joke was that I was acting the part of a dictator, something completely foreign to the way we normally interact with one another.  Lexi got the joke, took no offense, and brought me the yogurt.  “Yes, your majesty.”

I’m not saying parents should never use commands, but I am suggesting that their use should be rare and it should be attention-grabbing when they are used.  For example, during a snowstorm one Saturday night, I called Cindy and said these exact words:  “Get in the car and drive to Camp Wapsie right now.”  I violated all three of our household rules:  it wasn’t polite, it wasn’t a question, and I didn’t use the word please.  Cindy instantly knew this had to be an emergency and, rather than take offense, she got in the car and drove the 20 miles to Camp Wapsie in a snowstorm.   [The emergency?  We were desperately trying to get 100 kids home from a retreat before the blizzard got too bad, but the bus key had gotten lost in the snow.  The only spare key happened to be in Cindy’s car!]

You can get away with an occasional command if you use them only when necessary.   Screaming “Get out of the street!” is the right thing to do when your kid is in the path of an oncoming truck;  it would not be a good time to say please and use a polite tone of voice!  The urgency justifies the suspension of etiquette.   In fact, a rare, out-of-character command will draw attention much better than the constant issuing of directives.  Too many parents, however, have formed the bad habit of ordering their kids around, which will likely result in resentment and rebellion.

My advice?  Pay attention to how often you use commands in your communications with your kids.  Taking more care with the choice of our words is important.  Here are some simple adjustments that might help.

Instead of… Try this…
Pick up your toys! Let’s get your toys picked up.
Go brush your teeth! It’s time to brush your teeth.
Put on your mittens! It’s cold out, you might want to wear mittens.
Stop making that racket! Can you do mommy a favor and play quieter? I have a headache.
Turn off the TV! In ten minutes it’ll be time for me to turn off the TV so you can do your homework.
Go do your homework! How’s your homework coming?  How can I help?
Get out of bed you lazy bum! It’s time to get up, would my squirtgun help you awaken?
While you’re, up grab one for me too! This one’s ok, as long as you’re joking!

 

Special case considerations. 

Stong-willed kids.  In my observation, strong-willed kids are usually commanded more, but it only exacerbates the problems.  Making specific demands draws a battle line in the sand, a battle that your strong-willed kid will be very determined to win.  Try to find alternate ways of getting them motivated other than telling them what they have to do.  Erase battle lines as much as possible and look for ways to influence rather than control them into wise choices.  Some battles are needed–most are not.  Choose your battles wisely and be sure to major on the majors.

Toddlers and those with developmental, behavioral or mental disorders.  Admittedly, commands will be more necessary for this population.   The “no commands” philosophy works best with those who are rational and reasonable and who have the capability to think about their actions and consequences.  It makes sense that if kids are not able to regulate their own lives, they will need others to do it for them.  However, as they become capable of self-regulation, parents should reduce controls and commands accordingly. This will give them increased dignity as they are given the opportunities to make choices of their own without being told what to do all the time.

You don’t have to like it to eat it.

I am perhaps one of the most qualified people to write this post.

I know some people who are very particular about what they eat.  They immediately spit out whatever they find the least bit distasteful.  That’s not me.

For some unknown reason, I’m oftentimes more interested in experiencing a new taste sensation than I am about needing to be pleased by it.  I’ve said many times, “This thing that I’m eating is very unpleasant–but oh, how interesting!  It tastes awful, but it will sure make a great story!”  I’m also known for accepting food challenges, like chugging a bottle of Tabasco, or winning the Blazing Challenge at BWW.

Anyone who knows me knows that I always strive for “the full experience.”  Adventure matters more to me than pleasurable tastes in my mouth.   I like surprises and trying new things.  So at restaurants, I generally look for the most interesting thing on the menu —  the more unfamiliar or extreme the better!  Or I’ll randomly order “lunch #7” just to see what the waiter brings me.

When Cindy and I took our trip around the world last year to visit friends in Europe, Africa, and Asia, one of my side goals was to sample each country’s most exotic foods.  Ever had African cow udders on a stick?  How about Chinese pigeon heads (including the skull!)?  Or Myanmar’s stinky fruit ice cream?  Or fresh silkworms from the Chinese market?  What about steamed pig fallopian tubes?  Or Togolese goat head stew, including the snout, eyes, and brain?

I’ve eaten all those things and more, and the picture at the top of this post documents some of it! And with only a few exceptions I always choose to finish whatever I start to eat, regardless of how much I may or may not enjoy it.

So why am I telling you all this?

Not merely to merely entertain you, although I hope I made you smile!  Not merely to make you feel better about your own less-miserable life!  Not because I’m suggesting that you join me in my culinary escapades (I know you’re relieved to hear that!).

I share this because my peculiar attitude toward eating might actually provide somewhat of a metaphor for abundant living:  we mustn’t let the tastebuds of our lives filter out everything we find unpleasant.   Too often we allow our personal preferences to be the gatekeeper for what we allow in our lives.

Too often, we allow our personal preferences to be the gatekeeper for what we allow into our lives.

We’d better not parent that way!  Obviously, the early stages of parenting require us to give up our preferences.  Like it or not, new parents’ lives revolve around their helpless infants and, of necessity, these parents give up their own preferences–after all, who really desires to change that poopy diaper!  Yet as the kids grow older, parents may be tempted to reclaim their preference fulfillment, demanding that their kids accommodate their parental wants.  Wise parents know which preferences are worth battling over and which are not.

We’d better not live that way in marriage!  Cindy and I were having a discussion about marriage the other day with a young couple.  As we shared about components of a strong marriage, we reflected on the importance of each spouse letting go of their preferences for the sake of unity.  (You can imagine how much Cindy does that with me all the time!)   In a good marriage, there is a determination that I will remain committed to you even when you don’t do all the things I would prefer.  There’s also an attitude that says, “ I don’t need you to fulfill all my wants and preferences.”

We’d better not practice self-care that way!  How ironic it is when we allow our preference for comfort-in-the-present to sabotage our future well-being.   Immediate gratification keeps us from the growth and development that only comes through hard-earned exercise, healthy eating, soul care, etc.

We’d better not select a church that way!  When choosing a church, shouldn’t we look for a church that challenges us, awakens us, and confronts us where we need it?  If we choose one primarily because we are comfortable with everything (location, music, preaching, facilities, decor, etc.) might we unwittingly be limiting our own spiritual development?

We’d better not determine our calling that way!  I get inspired by people who sacrificially give up their personal preferences on a daily basis to serve a higher calling.  Teachers, social workers, medical practitioners, military personnel, volunteers, and others, challenge me to focus on the needs of others rather than focusing so much on my own wants.  Think what kind of world we would have if no one was willing to give up their preferences to do such things for the sake of others!

We’d better not recast Christianity as a feel-good religion.  The prosperity gospel portrays Christianity as if God is most interested in our comfort and pleasure.  That is quite the opposite of what Jesus modeled and taught, in fact, he guaranteed persecution and suffering for his true followers.  Ours ought to be the religion of sacrificial love, not self-love.  I am impacted by contemporary stories of persecuted Christians around the world who are standing firm even while suffering for their faith.  I admire missionaries who so readily set aside western comforts and conveniences in order to be ambassadors for God in faraway places.  The Christian life was never designed to be easy or comfortable — at least on this side of heaven.  Doing hard things is part of the package, just as it was for Jesus Himself.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to have preferences or that we should seek out the way of suffering all the time.   Pleasure can be a very good thing–indeed, God has designed us with natural desires, cravings, and sensations that must have been made for our delight.  The very existence of beauty itself is an evidence of God’s creative goodness and love.  Apparently, He delights in bringing us delight.  The joys of life are little tastes of heaven and it seems right that we should embrace them when they come.

What I am saying is simply this:  we mustn’t let our preferences have too much sway as we decide what to embrace and what to reject in life.  In other words, “You don’t have to like it to eat it.”

 


In Togo, giant rats like this are a delicacy; this one actually cost $22, that’s more than the cost of a goat!  However, to us, it was no delicacy!  It tasted terrible;  One small bite was all we could stomach!  It’s one of the few things I couldn’t finish!

Enforceable Statements vs. Issuing Commands.

command

Scripture affirms the importance of human submission to authority in all its forms:  to God (James 4:6-7), toward church leadership (Heb 13:17), to governments (Romans 13:1-7), within marriages (Col 3:18) and toward parents (Eph 6:1).  According to God’s Word, our obedience to authority is a big deal!

Therefore, as parental authorities, it is our right and responsibility to be an authority to our kids, which often involves telling them what they can and cannot do.  [By the way, in English grammar, telling our kids what they must do is what we call using the “imperative mood.”]

Here are some examples of this imperative approach:  “Sit still”. “Be quiet.”  “Keep your hands to yourself.”  “Eat your peas.” “Clean your room right now.”  “Stop that screaming.”  “Do your homework.”  “Take out the trash.”  “Do the dishes.” “Get out there and mow the yard!!”  Notice how these are not requests, they are commands!

However, when parents use commands too often,

it causes relational problems:

  • People universally resist being told what to do all the time — and our kids are no different.  Being ordered around makes one feel small, powerless, disrespected, and at the mercy of others.  This can cause a victim mentality and subsequent resentment toward authority.
  • Each time a direct command is given it forces you and your kids into a “battle of the wills.”   The battle will be especially confrontive with kids who are strong-willed, oppositional, or passive-aggressive types.
  • Direct commands that are directly resisted by kids create very precarious situations in the home.  If a child has a mind to ignore commands the subsequent battle over compliance will create a lot of negative energy for everyone.
  • Every battle has the potential to create lingering resentment and a breakdown of the parent/child relationship.

So we have a dilemma.  On the one hand, Scripture says children need to obey their parents’ commands.  But on the other hand, those very commands can jeopardize having a good relationship with our kids.

The Two-Step Solution: 

  1. Choose your battles well–the fewer the better!  Make sure you don’t major on the minors!
  2. Replace most of your command-induced-battles with one of my favorite parenting tools of all time:  Enforceable Statements

Enforceable Statements are declarations of decisions that are entirely within the control of parents.  Instead of focusing on what the KID must do, you inform them of what YOU are going to do.  No commanding needed!

Here’s an example,  “At 9 pm, I will be putting all of the toys that are not put away into ‘Toy Jail’, where you may bail them out later if you want.”   Do you see the difference?  Rather than telling the child what to do, the parent is informing the child what the parent will do.  There is nothing to argue about or push back against.  The parent is in control and asserting authority, but there is no opportunity for battle lines to form.

Here’s another example — from our home.  We had a family rule that said, “We allow in our home any pet that you completely pay for and take care of.”  (Notice that this rule is also an Enforceable Statement.”)  Lexi, our youngest daughter owned a cat.  The only part of cat ownership she disliked was changing the kitty litter, so you can imagine the potential this had for weekly household battles over cat poop!  We used the following Enforceable Statement whenever the smell exceeded our acceptable level:  “Lexi, guess what?  Today is kitty litter changing day! If you haven’t changed it by midnight tonight one of us will be happy to change it for you and reimburse ourselves $3 (for our inconvenience) from your next allowance.”  It worked–we got her to faithfully relocate her cat’s poop for a whole decade without the use of a single command!  There were only a few times that she forgot and ended up “hiring” us. Most importantly, in the 10 years that Lexi owned the cat, we never engaged in a single battle or a raised voice over cat poop!

A Few Pointers on how to Craft Good Enforceable Statements.

1. Make them very measurable and clear. “I pay $1 a bag for leaves put in yard bags if done to my satisfaction.”

2. Only give options you’re willing to live with. Don’t say, “I’ll feed you tomorrow if you finish your supper.”

3. Don’t word them as threats, but rather as positive statements and/or rewards.  “I read bedtime stories to kids who treat me with kindness during the day.  Compare the tone of that to “I’m not reading to you because you were so rude to me earlier.”

4. Be gutsy.  The parent must be willing (and courageous enough) to actually enforce what he or she declares.  If a parent says, “I drive kids to soccer practice after school if I felt treated respectfully by them that morning” then the parent must be willing for the kid to miss practice.  Think long-term:  consistency in your enforcement will make them think twice before behaving badly the next time.

5.  No empty threats. If you make an empty threat that you don’t intend to enforce, the child will quickly figure that out — and leave you helpless forever!  Most of us have seen a parent say to their child in the middle of the mall, “Come over here right now or I’m going to leave without you!”  This is a statement the parent has no intention of enforcing.  Not only does this undermine the parent’s authority and make enforceable statements a joke,  it would also undermine a young child’s basic sense of security and trust.

Examples of Enforceable Statements

Here are a bunch of examples of Enforceable Statements that some friends and I brainstormed for different ages of kids; this will give you some ideas of how these work in day to day life.  Consider how these might reduce commanding, scolding and nagging in the home.

Early Childhood

  • I’ll serve your food as soon as you are buckled in your booster seat.
  • I allow children to be at the table as long as they’re not throwing food on the floor.
  • I respond to requests from those who 1. put it in the form of a question, 2. use the word, “Please” and 3. use a pleasant tone of voice.
  • I provide “big girl pants” to children who are potty trained.
  • I close the door when children scream.  I open it when they are quiet.
  • My ears are special — they don’t recognize the sound of whining, so if it seems like I’m not responding to you sometimes, that must be why.
  • The car is leaving in 10 minutes.  You may walk or I can carry you.  You may be dressed or you can go to school in your jammies.
  • I make disappear all toys that are thrown.
  • I give treats to children who share their toys with others.
  • I read TWO stories at bedtime to children who have shown extra kindness to others during the day.
  • Elementary
  • I will pay the babysitter a tip — an “inconvenience fee” — from the allowances of disrespectful children.
  • I charge two dollars a minute to listen to fighting in the car.  You may pay me with cash, confiscated toys, or extra chores.”
  • I will serve supper until 7 pm.  After that you’ll have to wait until breakfast to eat or eat PB&J.
  • I’ll provide you with a meal of my choosing, which you must eat without complaining — if you don’t like what I serve feel free to eat leftovers .  When you cook, I’ll promise not to complain and if I don’t like what you serve I’ll eat leftovers.
  • I don’t allow pets to be mistreated.  If I feel they are being neglected or abused I will find a new home for them.
  • (depending on the kind of pet) I’m giving you complete responsibility for your pets. If you neglect them and they die, it will be your problem and on your conscience.
  • I provide doors to kids who don’t slam them.
  • I provide desserts and sweets to kids who brushed the sugar off of their teeth last night.
  • I’ll be happy to take you shopping as soon as your chores are done to my satisfaction.
  • I’ll wash any clothes that are put in the hamper.
  • I’ll consider any dishes that aren’t rinsed and in the dishwasher to be considered by you to be reusable, so that’s what I’ll use in serving your next meal or beverage.
  • I lend money to those who have collateral.
  • I will match you dollar for dollar for birthday presents you purchase for your friends.
  • We allow kids to have electronic devices as long as they check them in with us each night before bed. We’ll return them in the morning as long as there are no problems.
  • I drive to practice those who behave pleasantly in the car.
  • I made an adjustment to my car.  The gas pedal now only works when there’s LOVE in the car!  I’ll be happy to pull over and read my book if I’m not feeling love.
  • I’ll provide the power cord for the wifi router whenever chores are done to my satisfaction.
  • I’ll pay for sports for those who show good sportsmanship on and off the field.
  • I charge 50 cents a mile for extra driving caused by your negligence.
  • I’ll pay for music lessons for those who practice in between time.
  • I’m going to mow the lawn at 7 pm.  Any toys that are in the yard at that time will either be mowed or sent to “Toy Jail” at my discretion.
  • I’ll enter the parental control password to the cable tv when you’ve finished all your homework.
  • Pre-teens / Teens
  • I’ll listen as soon as your voice is as calm as mine.
  • I’ll be glad to discuss this when I feel I’m being treated respectfully.
  • I pay show choir expenses for those who treat me like a celebrity.
  • I pay sports team expenses for those who treat me like a superstar.
  • I’ll pay for lessons for one thing at a time (sports, music, etc.)
  • I don’t call in excused absences for procrastination.
  • I write school notes that are truthful.  “Lexi is arriving late to school today because apparently she needs more than 4 alarm clocks.”
  • I impound possessions of those who owe me money until the amount is paid. If need be I will sell those items on ebay or at a pawn shop to repay myself what you owe me.
  • I’ll pay you $10 per hour for time you spend diligently working through the Smart Prep (ACT preparation) course.
  • I’ll pay $6 per book report you get done in June, $3.50 for ones done in July; or $2.00 for ones done in August (to combat procrastination)
  • I’ll pay 75% of all your church trip expenses; 50% of all school expenses.
  • I’m happy to help you with homework until 10 pm, after which time I’m going to bed.
  • I provide internet for those who use it responsibly, have accountability software installed, and who provide all passwords.
  • I’ll pay for a phone for you after you’ve first paid for replacement insurance.
  • I’ll allow you to have a smart phone, as long as you report to me any apps you’ve installed, given me a “tour” of them, and provided their passwords to me.
  • I will make random inspections of your apps to verify your trustworthiness, but I promise not to snoop through your private messages unless you give me reason to doubt your truthfulness or your judgment.
  • I’ll install pornography protection software on my own computer and designate your mother to receive reports of my internet use just like I will expect from you.
  • I provide electricity to the rooms of those whose music doesn’t disturb other family members.
  • I provide 10 minutes worth of free hot water.  After that I charge $1 a minute, deducted from your allowance.
  • I allow kids to go out at night who come home when they say they will.
  • I will be comfortable letting you go on solo dates when you’ve convinced me I don’t have to worry about you giving in to physical temptations.
  • I will be comfortable letting you go to school parties when I am convinced you are responsible enough to avoid substance use temptations.
  • I will be comfortable letting you go to a stranger’s house party when their parents have convinced me there won’t be drugs or alcohol present.
  • I will provide dishes to those who properly rinse them and put them in the dishwasher.  Others may purchase their own paper plates, or eat off the tabletop (which will need cleaning afterwards).
  • I’ll let you drive my car by yourself as soon as you’ve paid me a deposit in the amount of our insurance deductible.
  • I’ll be happy to let you use the car as long as you convince me that I don’t have to worry about you using alcohol.
  • I’ll be willing to let you stay out late on a school night as long as I’m convinced it won’t be detrimental to your school performance.
  • I’ll make exceptions to the normal “curfew” when you’ve convinced me there’s a good reason for it and that I don’t have to worry about what you’re doing.
  • Young Adults
  • I’ll help pay for college for those who don’t smoke pot (as determined by random drug testing).
  • I’ll match you dollar for dollar for paying college expenses.
  • I’ll let you live here during your college breaks as long as you abide by my house rules without complaining, which involve keeping me informed of your whereabouts, being respectful, bringing no alcohol onto my property, asking my permission before having friends over, and doing chores or paying rent.
  • Spouse – yes they work with spouses and everyone actually!
  • I consider projects finished only when all the tools and mess are put away. At that time I will demonstrate my thanks to you! xoxoxo
  • I’ll purchase grocery items that are written on the list on the refrigerator.
  • I’ll wash any clothes that are put in the hamper.
  • I’ll iron any shirts that are hung in the laundry room by 8 pm.
  • I’m always happy to kiss lips that aren’t covered up with lipstick.
  • I’m always happy to kiss faces that aren’t prickly.
  • I’m happy to wash dishes that are rinsed and placed in the right-hand sink.

I need to credit Love and Logic for introducing me to this concept years ago.

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