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Jul 30, 2009

Planting the Seeds – Parenting to mold your children

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My heart is deeply burdened today for the loss of parenting skills in this generation of young people who have become parents. They have not learned God’s Word, so they do not understand His directives in the “How To of the seeds they plant as they mold their children.
I believe that much of the child’s molding will take place during the first five years of his life. Therefore, it is imperative to plant the seeds in this precious young child that will produce the greatest harvest.
I often see young children who “talk back to their parents with no understanding of the disrespect they are exhibiting: they have not been taught the meaning of respect. At these times, it is very evident to me that the parents have not been consistent in their “seed planting. Allowing children to be disobedient is a great disservice to them. Requiring respect provides wonderful security for them to trust and rest in their parent’s decisions as they grow older. This will also have a great impact on those to whom they will go with their fears, problems, and concerns later in life, as well as, whether or not they will have respect for the laws of our land.
Many times, I have heard the term that we must “pick our battles. Perhaps, for some this works, though I do not feel that it holds true. If the relationship between the parent and child is healthy and positive, as it should be, then there will be mutual respect with fewer battles and respect for those in authority. I am not implying that by raising your child in this manner, there will be no trials, only that it will be a more joyful journey.
This type of training starts very soon after a child is born. With heartfelt love and affection, the babe is nurtured. He must have a great deal of his parents’ attention and time, so that bonding, which brings forth security and trust, is established. The most important principle in this process is consistency. A parent’s “yes must mean “yes, and “no mean “no! Otherwise, the son or daughter can easily become a manipulator. God blesses us with His trust when He gives us a child to mold for Him. That is an awesome responsibility!

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Jul 28, 2009

Communication with your children: I just called to say I love you


Part 2

What we say to our children must convince them of our love and care for them! It must set an example for them of what they say to one another, to others, and back to us. Babies learn to speak by copying the words you speak to them. Children never lose that copying instinct. They will copy your words and your behavior, especially when it conforms to their sinful nature. Words spoken in love and truth will also be copied, but even so our children are born in sin and struggle with a sinful nature. Words of love never appease wrongdoing and disobedience. That is not love! It is what the Bible defines as hate. The word “hate in the ancient Hebrew is also the word for “ignore. When you ignore sin in your children you really hate them, not love them.
It is a great responsibility, is it not? Are we really up to the task? I am convinced that it begins with our having an awe of God. Something must seriously get our attention, and nothing does it better than being awed with the God who is, and who is our God! Second, is the view we have of ourselves, a sinner saved by grace. We are not perfect, even when redeemed. We will sin. And we will sin in our parenting. Third, is the view we have of our children, immortal beings for whom we are stewards; stewards who will have to give account for our parenting of them. Finally, we must consider the promises which God gives to parents concerning the upbringing of their children.
Unfortunately, the reality of this life and the circumstances of each day, do a great job of helping us forget all of the above. We are creatures who are always in great need of reminding and refreshment, else we quickly fall into the miry pit, which David speaks of in the Psalms. John Bunyan calls it, “the slough of despond. And we cannot seem to get ourselves out. Then the words come fast and furious, without thought, off the cuff, and certainly devoid of any awe of God. Unfortunately, once a word is spoken, we cannot reach out and catch it before it reaches the ears, the hearts, and the minds of any in our presence. We can always ask forgiveness. That goes a long way to repairing wounds. But still, sometimes the words are not forgotten.
Thankfully, we are refreshed by promises like that in Lamentations 3:22-23, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassion never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! And that is exactly what we as parents must do. We must go to the Lord every morning to refresh our mind in these truths, or else the circumstances of the day will destroy our good intentions. Each day must begin with time in God’s Word, praying for ourselves, our spouses, our children, and restoring our awe of God. Only such devotion will temper our tongue, and aid us in bringing it into captivity to Christ.
Your words to your children must be timely and consistent. Timeliness and consistency requires discipline. Weariness, without the energy from the Holy Spirit to fortify you, is a sure killer of discipline. Children should learn not to interrupt, but they must be heard and listened to with some timeliness. Patience must be taught, but we all know that patience comes only with maturity, so we must not push their patience beyond their years.
What we say to our children must be consistent with the principle that our “yes means “yes, and our “no means “no! When that is not the case, children will quickly understand that your “no does not always mean “no. Then they will figure out how to change your “no to “yes. Crying, whining, temper tantrums, ignoring you, are all methods that children rapidly learn to get their way. If that works for them consistently, they will soon be uncontrollable. When parents do that, they are not expressing love to their child. Rather, giving your child whatever he or she selfishly wants, but does not need, expresses hate.
The Bible promises in Proverbs, “Raise up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. ( Proverbs 22:6) Charles Swindoll once wrote that this speaks to a parent who through careful and prayerful observation figures out the particular “bent of their child; that is, his or her calling, God-given gifts and abilities, to pursue a specific vocation in life. Then the parent encourages that calling and “bent, consistent with the principles of godliness, to the end that when that child is old, he or she will not depart from it. What you say to your child should be an encouragement to live a godly life consistent with how God has made him or her. Do not seek to live out your life and calling through your child, if that is not his or her “bent.
Finally, what you say to your child should not bring you any regret if either you or your child will possibly stand before God in heaven that day. None of us knows “that day. Consequently, we must always keep before our eyes that possibility. What you say is important, vitally important. Words have meaning, and they leave their mark. Speak words that count for eternity in their lives in a good and godly way. Stand in awe of God and remember His compassion. When you fail, go to Him again. He never fails to restore those who consistently seek Him.

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Jul 27, 2009

Communication with your children: I just called to say I love you


Part 1
So what do we say to our children; we who certainly lack perfection; we who become weary; we who are quickly frustrated; we who battle with selfishness; we who never experience days of complete contentment with everything and everyone around us? What do we say to them when we say goodbye for a short time? What do we say when we put them to bed? What do we say when they lie to us? What do we say when they do something wrong, or irresponsible, or irritating, or whatever? What do we say to them when we are bored with them, or tired of them, or do not know what to do with them?
There are many lessons we can draw from 9/11. As we near the 8th anniversary of this “act of war and atrocity, we will have another opportunity to hear numerous opinions of what we have or can learn from this specter of humanity’s evil, as well as the “good that can come out of such horror. Peggy Noonan, former President Reagan’s speech writer and a contributing editor of the Wall Street Journal, in the past has reminded us of a particularly poignant lesson we all can learn from this tragic event.
Ms. Noonan wrote that she was awed by the messages emanating from phone calls or left on answering machines for those not at home. These calls and messages came from people about to die, and were sent to their loved ones. Many others had no opportunity to make that “last call, or say those final words. Noonan was struck, however, by the substance of the calls and messages that got through. What she wrote was, “Life was reduced to its essentials. Time was short. People said what counted, what mattered…there is no record of anyone calling to say, ‘I never liked you,’ or, ‘You hurt my feelings.’ Amazingly—or not—there is no record of anyone damning the terrorists or saying ‘I hate them.’ Essentially, the messages were what Noonan entitled her editorial, “I Just Called to Say I Love You.
Her excellent point was that, “Crisis is a great editor. No one said anything unneeded, extraneous or small. This is analogous to the advice of Solomon in Ecclesiastes: “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words…Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore, stand in awe of God. (5:2-3,7)
Now, you say, this speaks of words said to God, not to our children, or to those we love. Still, we must remember, all words spoken by us are spoken before the eyes and ears of an omniscient and omnipresent God. He is all knowing, and He is everywhere. We must remember this, and stand in awe. In other words our actions, our thoughts, our words must be tempered by our awe of God. If this is believed in our head and in our heart, then we might edit Noonan’s premise to say, “The awe of God is a great editor, even more than crisis.
James tells us with fearful precision, “The tongue is a fire; a world of evil among the parts of the body…No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:6,8) The tongue can do inestimable damage. Coupled with the amazing recall of the mind, words spoken years before can be remembered over and over, and in some cases, never forgotten. Have we considered who it is that are the recipients of our words? As parents we have responsibility for immortal beings, our children. When considered in its full context this is an amazing thought, too difficult to fully comprehend. Nevertheless, it is true.

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Jul 25, 2009

How much punishment is enough?

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The goal of discipline is to teach children four key principles of living a life pleasing to God:

  1. Conviction realizing where we have gone wrong;
  2. Confession asking God’s forgiveness for our wrong behavior;
  3. Forgiveness claiming what God freely offers;
  4. Change Behavior practicing the new principles God shows us.

Therefore, an observant parent should keep an eye on the child while he is being punished: so that the parent detects the moment that the child recognizes his wrong behavior and is genuinely remorseful. At this time, the child is most susceptible to being taught. It is then that he realizes that he will be punished again if the same behavior occurs. While a young man is being punished at the Paul Anderson Youth Home, the staff member often talks to the boy, saying something like, “It wouldn’t be fair to let you get away with what you did. I want you to understand that I care enough about you to make sure you learn this lesson. In that way, punishment is doled out in an atmosphere of love…which is the way God instructs us to discipline.

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Jul 24, 2009

Drug Trends – Teen Issues


The world outside has not become less real just because the prisoner cannot see it.” J.R.R. Tolkien
Recently, several officers from the Sheriff’s Department of a large Georgia city talked with our staff concerning the drugs they were seeing emerge on the streets. As they spoke about what they were witnessing and how drugs were being made, I was struck by one of the officer’s comments: “We will never be able to do anything but play catch up. People who want to use drugs will always be ahead of us.
What a sad commentary, but how true it is that individuals who want to get high, will make every effort to do so, often with that which is most accessible. So what is a parent to do? How are we to know what might emerge next or how can we protect our children? Think how each decade has represented a new era in drugs. In the 50’s it was alcohol, the 60’s marijuana, the 70’s psychotropic drugs like LSD and mushrooms, the 80’s cocaine and crack, the 90’s chemically made drugs like ecstasy (MDMA), and since 2000, it has been a litany of new chemically concocted drugs. A stimulant that is making much of the news lately is Crystal Methamphetamine. One of the officers, when talking about Crystal Meth made the comment that in the 80’s he had thought crack would be the death of this country. Now he would say that Crystal Meth has become far worse than crack ever was. What is even more disturbing is that people are now using fruit flavoring to entice and attract new users.
In looking back over the decades, we as parents must realize that this trend is a natural progression. The economic concept of supply and demand does an effective job of teaching us what we should expect would happen. Think of it this way:

  • There is a demand/desire to get high for the following reasons:
    • Trying something new
    • Experiencing peer pressure
    • Associating with undesirable peers
    • Filling a void that is in their lives
  • The problem, however, is that there are laws/constraints concerning the drug supply
    • So people seek ways to avoid the laws/constraints

For many individuals, since scarcity exists, they seek that which is the most available…what is accessible and easy to get their hands on. Is it any wonder then that people get high by ingesting nutmeg or abusing what is in the medicine cabinet, get drunk and overdose on over the counter drugs like Nyquil, huff gasoline fumes, or use everyday items to make Crystal Meth? There are reasons that Sudafed is locked behind the pharmacy counter and you can only buy a limited quantity of batteries at a store.
There are a number of explanations for why consumers try products, but what is obviously different about drugs is that they alter reality, but after that initial experience, the, “first time can never be regained, so new drugs are abused to regain that high. A current cultural trend is to see chemical drugs, taken from what is not illegal, but made into something that alters reality and provides a new experience.
The data we keep here at the Paul Anderson Youth Home reinforces the drug trends and the age that usage occurs. During the last 10 years, our young men have gone from mainly abusing alcohol and marijuana in their later teenage years, to using prescription drugs like Oxycontin, Ritalin, and Vicodin at earlier ages. These are our current statistics for when drug usage begins:

  • 82% by age 14
  • 63% by age 13
  • 44% by age 12
  • 10% by age 10

(Our youngest drug use occurred at age 7)
The supply is available at earlier ages, and what is being supplied is different than it used to be. For most of our young men, while the first drug remains marijuana, the escalation moves very quickly from there to what is most available or what can be supplied with the least resistance like cough syrup and prescription drugs.
Could the contents of your medicine cabinet or your neighbors’ be ways that a child could get high? Look at what is around your home, change your perspective on what is being abused. As Tolkien said, “the world outside has not become less real just because the prisoner cannot see it.”

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Jul 21, 2009

Counting the Cost — Making decisions about raising a family before you have one

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Before a couple has a child, the husband and wife need to seriously count the cost of the responsibilities of parenthood.
Are both of you willing to sacrifice your own desires and place the needs of your child first?
Are both of you willing to spend time playing with your child and teaching him/her right from wrong?
If one of you chooses to stay at home with your child, can you meet your financial obligations or will you need to cut back on what you are spending?
Because 90% of all divorces are the result of financial problems, these questions need to be addressed before you have a child. By discussing this before you have a child, you can firmly establish your priorities. If your priorities are not at the point where you are willing to make sacrifices for a child, don’t have one until you are ready. Parenting not only takes commitment but also self-sacrifice. If you are not willing to make these sacrifices, your family will reap the consequences during the teen years.

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Jul 20, 2009

Why doesn’t my child listen?

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How often do you have to repeat yourself until you get your child’s or teenager’s full attention? Why won’t my child listen? There are a number of reasons why they don’t listen, but one reason may be that we do not always follow through on what we say.
Perhaps you have heard or used similar statements:

  • If you don’t come in right now I am going to break your neck!
  • If you don’t start to behave, I am going to send you to boarding school!

Sometimes we make statements to our children that are essentially, empty. Not only are they empty, but they are often outrageous! For example:

  • You are grounded for one month
  • You can no longer use the phone

Now in all of this, I am not advocating breaking your child’s neck. I do want to make the point; however, that, from time to time, we all make hollow threats. Somehow we think that our threats are suddenly going to change unfavorable behaviors.
If you have ever called our ministry or heard our radio spots, you have probably heard our messages that make the following points:

  • Your “yes has to mean “yes and your “no has to mean “no
  • Consistency is the real key, and by being consistent, you can turn your child or teenager back on course.

The results of a PAYH online survey to parents show that:

  1. 42% say they are consistent
  2. 22% say their child asks the same question to another parent to get the answer he wants
  3. 22% say their child will throw a fit or start an argument to get what he wants
  4. 14% resign themselves to being inconsistent

When you look at this data, you can simplify it in the following way:

  • 42% say they are consistent
  • 58%admit they are inconsistent

When I look at myself as a Christian, a husband, a father, and an employee, I have to ask: how consistent am I? The answer is not what I would like it to be.
Situations and perspectives change. Wisdom, maturity, emotions, and weariness impact my consistency. To become or be consistent, I must:

  1. Define a very real need
  2. Be committed
  3. Not grow weary and remain steadfast
  4. Find refreshment

Let me anchor the idea of consistency in an example. A number of years ago I attended graduate school. It was a challenge to balance my responsibilities as a husband, father of a 1 year old son, and a full time Paul Anderson Youth Home employee. To manage my time, I stopped exercising, and during a two year period, gained thirty pounds! For years now, I have been working to lose that weight. The need is obvious, and I am committed to losing the weight, but that does not mean I do not grow weary at times from the effort. I didn’t gain the weight overnight, so I am certainly not going to lose it overnight. As I trained for triathlons, a marathon, and other events, I developed new habits.
We are all creatures of habits. Some are good, and some are bad. A simple example would be when guys shave, without thinking about it, every morning we probably start shaving on the same side of our faces. Once I noticed this, I tried to start shaving on the other side of my face. The experiment was short lived after I accidentally cut myself. This leads us to two key points:

  1. Habits are often unnoticed, and we quickly slip into them. When we move outside of what is the norm, we are less sure of what we are doing.
  2. Eventually, we can grow proficient and comfortable in a new routine, which results in fewer problems.

Habits can be broken, changed, and replaced with new habits/behaviors. It takes determination to undo what you have done and become committed to doing things in a new manner.
Consistency takes commitment, but it only comes after you define the need. For some parents that occurs before they have children. For others, it may be caused by a crisis. Unfortunately, there are parents and spouses who may never know how to be committed, so they can be on the same page. Solely identifying a need will not change the behavior.
So, if being consistent and steadfast are just habits, why are they so hard to develop? I would like to offer two reasons why it’s so easy to fall into the routine of inconsistency:

  1. Selfishness
  2. Weariness

How can selfishness impact our consistency as parents? This may be caused by:

  1. disagreeing with our spouse.
  2. ignoring or denying the situation all together.
  3. wanting our child as an ally or friend.

The other reason we establish the routine of inconsistency is often caused from weariness or exhaustion.
As parents, what message are we sending our children when we view our spouses’ discipline or rules as being excessive, severe, or unreasonable? Are you willing to waver:

  1. Because you are tired?
  2. Because you have grown weary of the battle?
  3. Because you are not willing to be steadfast since it is easier to be inconsistent?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes, then are you willing to pay the price? If the answer is “no, then are you willing to wage the war? You will find that being steadfast is a discipline that takes time, but the reward is great.
Do not waver between two opinions. Get over the differences whether that is with your spouse, ex-spouse, or whomever. The price of inconsistency is your child. Consistency is a major principle. In the words of Glenda Anderson; “it is how you can begin to guide the child back on course.“
Do everything you say you are going to do. Don’t say anything you are not willing to do. Be steadfast, immovable, and do not lose hope!

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Jul 18, 2009

Close to Thin Ice — Is My Son Headed for Jail?


Is my son headed for jail?
Many people ask me what are the common denominators of the young men who come to the Paul Anderson Youth Home (PAYH). What they are really asking is what today’s young men are like who have “crossed the line” and have to come to a place like ours in order to be rehabilitated. In other words, “Things are bad enough in our homes now…so how much worse could it get and what does that look like?”
The single most common denominator is that close to 75% of our boys come from broken or dysfunctional families and have no strong father figure to consistently oversee discipline. It has always been our belief that discipline works best when it is carried out by the father or a father figure. God created mothers to be nurturers. When a single mother is also forced to be the disciplinarian, the child doubly suffers. He is denied both a disciplinarian father AND a nurturing mother.
The second most common denominator in a PAYH young man is that he has done something either against what the family can or will accept, or he has broken the law. Many of our boys get into problems with drugs and the wrong crowd. Some rebel against their families and leave home, choosing to live on the streets. Sometimes their parents kick them out. When on their own, they invariably get in trouble with the law, because they have resorted to stealing, armed robbery, or breaking and entering.
Over the years the number of applications has more than doubled, which tells me that there is a desperate need for someone to rehabilitate America’s young men. For every young man we accept, there are many that we do not. That is because we only work with 18 to 20 at a time. We do not view ourselves as an “institution.” We are a family. Our goal is to re-create something these boys, by and large, have missed…a small, intact family with a strong mother and father figure who love them and who will be there for them, day in and day out.

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Jul 17, 2009

Children’s Privacy

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Does your child deserve complete privacy?
The Myth

One use of the “rod in early shepherding practices is that periodically the shepherd would examine each sheep, by opening the fleece with the rod and running his hands over the body. A good shepherd will feel for any signs of trouble such as tumors or parasites. Similarly as good parents, we should be ever ready to use our “rod of discipline to keep our young ones in line, as well as take the time to carefully examine each child for areas in his life that will cause him danger if not removed.
To detect troublesome behaviors requires us to become much more alert to every facet of our child’s life. God made us parents for a purpose, and we need to have our antennae up all the time. If, for example, you sense your child is having a conversation with someone he should not, I believe it is our responsibility to listen. Our child belongs to us, and we must be diligent to guard him from dangers. That may mean checking up to see what he is doing on the Internet, reading his diary, reading notes thrown away in the trash can, reading music lyrics that he is listening to, and randomly checking his bedroom and vehicle. Though they may seem extreme, take whatever measures necessary to protect your child.

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Jul 15, 2009

Marijuana – The Drug of Choice for Life’s Losers


A study recently published in the medical journal, Addiction confirms what many have observed for years. Teens and young adults who smoke marijuana regularly, grossly underachieve in life. This breakthrough research studied the progress of approximately 1900 teens for 10 years and found that regular marijuana users were three times more likely to be unemployed or drop out of school than non users. The evidence of marijuana’s negative effect on young people is so overwhelming that the scientist who conducted the research pronounced that marijuana is the drug of choice,  “the drug for life’s future losers.”
Here’s why. Teens who have the intelligence and motivation to go to college or technical school who begin smoking marijuana regularly, almost always abandon these aspirations for something less rigorous and demanding. The research is clear regarding marijuana’s affect on the brain and behavior. Cannabis impairs memory, motivation, and something called executive functioning, which involves the ability to organize tasks, control impulses and set priorities. In other words, marijuana users adjust their life’s goals and priorities downward to accommodate their impaired condition. It’s hard to smoke weed 3-4 times per week and remain disciplined enough to get up early and work hard and attain the grades necessary to succeed in something difficult. So marijuana users are frequently unemployed or under employed in vocations that are less mentally challenging. Unfortunately it isn’t until they quit that they realize that marijuana has robbed them of the life they really wanted.
If you smoke weed and can’t seem to get ahead in life, talk with someone who can be honest and objective with you. Quitting cannabis is very hard for the first 2-4 weeks. One young man said it was like watching black and white TV—no color, no joy, no excitement. But slowly the color comes back as the brain learns to feel happy again without marijuana. Its difficult and you probably can’t do it alone, so get some help. Your future depends on it.
Patton, G.C., et al. (2007) Trajectories of adolescent alcohol and cannabis use into young adulthood.Addiction, 102(4):607-615.

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