There is Freedom in Parenting

iStock 000013112749Medium 300x199 There is Freedom in ParentingWe’ve made it to March! I love the weather this time of year. Though winter can be stubborn, the first signs of Spring emerge, as they do every year about this time in the Ozarks. Some plants begin to show signs of blooming while others are still dormant, waiting for warmer days to emerge. Plants are a lot like teenagers. They grow and bloom in their own time, at their own pace. All the pushing on our parts as parents won’t change their pace of growth. Every plant and every child is different.

When I was a new parent, Darnell White handed me this article one day.  It’s an excerpt from a book written nearly 60 years ago by R.W. White titled “Lives of progress:”

“Raising plants is one of mankind’s most successful activities.  Perhaps success comes from the fact that the husbandman does not try to thrust impossible patterns on his plants. He respects their peculiarities, tries to provide suitable conditions, protects them from more serious kinds of injury, but he lets the plants do the growing. He does not try to poke at the seed in order to make it sprout more quickly, nor does he seize the shoot when it breaks ground and try to pull open the first leaves by hand. Neither does he trim the leaves of different kinds of plants in order to have them all look alike. The attitude of the husbandman is appropriate in dealing with children. It is the children who must do the growing – and only through the push of their own budding interest.”

As parents, there is such freedom in the letting go and letting our kids grow at their pace and in their timing. Perhaps you’re a frustrated planter these days. No doubt, growing kids is a tough job. We just have to remember that we’re there to protect, respect and provide for our precious plants, not force them to grow at the pace we desire. Let God do the growing and relax in God’s timing. We can trust that even when the budding seems a bit late, that in the difficulty, a plant is emerging that’s better able to withstand life’s storms. God, after all, is the Master Gardener. If I correctly focus on my own growth, a beautiful garden will emerge.

Book Reviews

couch reading sm 300x196 Book ReviewsHere are a few book reviews of various titles that I have read recently.  Some of them are better than others but each of them have something to offer.  Even if you don’t agree with a particular author, reading at least makes you think and take account of your own approach to parenting.

Shepherding a Child’s Heart  – Tedd Tripp

Dr. Tripp has written a great book for parents of young children struggling to find a framework through which to view their child.  With a distinctively Christian worldview, he tries to establish a foundation for Biblical childrearing.  Tripp highlights the often forgotten notion that behavior is an outflow of the heart.  Readers are challenged to look beyond behavior and focus on heart change and connecting with their children at a deeper level.  At times, however,  it appears overly simplistic and fails to provide clear real world direction for captivating the hearts of teens lost in our current culture of computers, drugs, and sexual temptations.

Connecting: Healing For Ourselves and Our Relationships.  – Larry Crabb

Dr. Crabb is a well-established Christian author.  In his recent writings he has worked hard to uncover the power and authority of the Christian community to bring healing to the deep pain of individuals.  While the rest of the world is focused on identifying psychological disorders and providing treatment strategies, Dr. Crabb is resurrecting the power of connection and the value of relationships.  He wants to empower each of us to invest in the lives of others.  He, unlike so many others in his profession, wants us to recognize that we don’t need professional training to connect with the deep soul wounds of others and in fact it is simply the connection that can bring healing.

Dr. Crabb believes that we can experience the healing power of God through others and that connecting plays a powerful role in addressing the core issues that lie beneath all of our personal, emotional, and psychological problems.  His work is a powerful paradigm shift from the current ‘how to’ manuals on the selves today and may unintentionally serve as a blue print for many of the Christian programs that work with teens.

Loving Your Child Too Much  – Dr. Tim Clinton & Dr. Gary Sibcy

Clinton and Sibcy highlight three common ways that parents show their children love: overindulging, overprotecting, and over controlling.  While love is an obvious requirement of parenting, it is often difficult to find balance in parenting styles.  My wife and I enjoyed discussing the various pitfalls of undisciplined love and it helped us recalibrate our own expression of love to our kids.  While it might seem simplistic, the truths are profound and Biblically based.

She’s Gonna BLOW! Real Help for Moms Dealing with Anger  – Julie Ann Barnhill

Okay, I admit it. I have an anger problem. I have no idea where it came from, but it is undeniably here. And truth be told, the problem reared its ugly head only after I had kids. Go figure. Kids have a way of bringing out the best and the worst in all of us and my worst was ugly…not abusive, but ugly. Even though I don’t consider myself a “yeller,” my facial expressions and body language frequently seem aggressive, even when I don’t mean them to. I know that I have high expectations of myself and everyone around me, but when I started to transfer this message to my kids, I knew I needed some kind of help and advice. That’s where this book comes in. This is a book for any mom who has ever “blown it” and yelled at her kids only to feel guilty and defeated once again…and again…and again. Julie courageously shares a lot of her own personal failures and successes as a mom and encourages those of us who want to stop the hollering and negative interactions (and the subsequent damage) in our homes. The book helps us understand where the anger may be coming from, our personal warning signs, possible unresolved issues, and provides a Biblical basis for change and practical tools to build a more peaceful home. Her sense of humor, honesty and conviction that mom’s can change make this book an amazingly easy read. The practical advice and Biblical truths presented in such an honest way made me feel empowered and resolved to make some changes. We highly recommend this book for any mom who knows that SHE is the one, not her kids, who needs a TIME OUT.

Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s Battle  – Shannon Ethridge

It happened almost overnight. My usually kind, loving, sweet daughter had turned into a moody, weepy, hard-to-get-along-with stranger. It struck me that her hormones must be beginning that decade-long rage that I thought was still a ways off. Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s Battle by Shannon Ethridge helped me to understand that my daughter was not weird and I was not imagining things; she was a sponge, soaking up from me and her environment what it means to be a woman. Her getting social cues from me is scary in itself, but her getting them from the media, etc. is terrifying.

This book is set up in two parts. The first one is for moms (or dads) to read alone. It gives insight into how to handle sex education with your daughter and stresses the importance of doing so before it’s too late. Ethridge covers everything from pornography to menstruation to homosexuality, subjects which I had no idea how to bring up. The second half of the book is read with your daughter. We have enjoyed reading together about the changes that are just around the corner and other basic things about sexuality. Ethridge includes some really creative activities to do together that give the child a tangible lesson on the ideas covered. What I appreciated most about this book is that it stresses how a girl should expect to be treated by boys. The “princess” and purity concepts come out loud and clear and I can tell that my daughter feels special when we read it together.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone who has a daughter ages 10-13. It takes the embarrassment and the awkwardness out of the “the talk” and makes your daughter feel like the special child of God that she is.

The Power of a Praying Parent and The Power of a Praying Wife  – Stormie Omartian

Both of these books have been sitting on my bedside table for years now. I need them. Sometimes I don’t know how to pray for my kids or my husband. These books have so many ideas that no matter what my children are facing, I can find a chapter, a prayer and some Biblical promises to comfort me. Whether my husband is having trouble at work, with finances, fatherhood, or (and this rarely happens), problems with his marriage, I can open Stormie’s book and get some direction, help, and the occasional challenge. She likens not praying for your family to sending them out into a battlefield without armor, something none of us would ever do. And yet, when we don’t pray for them, we leave them vulnerable to pain, attacks, and failure.

The books are divided into 30 chapters, one for each day of the month if you so choose. Each chapter gives insight into Stormie’s journey as a wife or mother, tells what she learned from that experience, suggests a beautiful prayer that includes much Scripture and ends with some verses or promises that she refers to as “power tools.” These books are a great asset to anyone who recognizes the power of prayer, but is not always sure what to pray for.

Teaching kids how to deal with their feelings

Well, the holidays are coming to a close and what we looked so forward to a few weeks ago flew by too quickly. Of course, vacations are like that. We plan and get excited, then we snap our fingers and it’s over. Suddenly we’re all planning to go back to work and school. We call it “going back to reality,” but it’s really just going back to life. Teaching our kids how to handle the “Disney Land to work” transition is a valuable life-long lesson.

I read a study once that 80% of people go through some level of depression after the holidays. No wonder. We plan and look forward to the lack of responsibility for weeks, even months. Then the break begins. We sleep late, have meals prepared for us, see movies and get hundreds of dollars of gifts. Then, the clock strikes midnight and we’re back to being responsible again. We have to get up early, fix our own breakfast and pay off the bills for the money we spent.

As a kid, I still remember that fun, exciting drive every summer heading east on I-20, driving from Fort Worth to Georgia for summer vacation with family. I also remember that long, boring drive heading back west on I-20 to Fort Worth after the vacation. It reminds me of the Norman Rockwell print “Going and Coming.” It’s two pictures, one headed out to vacation and one headed home. I love the detailed contrast between the excitement of heading out and the exhaustion of driving back.

It’s important that we process through these emotions and teach our kids how to talk about their feelings. These four suggestions might help:

1. Remember that vacations are not reality. It’s so easy to compare the holiday to the day-to-day. But that’s comparing apples with onions. Not having responsibility is always fun for a while. But in the end, we all find true fulfillment in having a goal. Though we complain about our work and about school, deep down we need that purpose.

2. Keep up with those you love. We all spend extra time with family we normally aren’t around during the week. Don’t let too much time pass before you re-connect with those brothers and sisters you were sad to leave. These days, with twitter, Facebook, and texting, keeping up with each other is easier. Keeping the lines of communication open helps keep relationships healthy.

3. Count your blessings “one by one.” I love that old Baptist hymn. It reminds us to count our blessings so that we can “see what God has done.” That is so important to do during and after the holidays. Everyone secretly compares to the relatives and we usually come away feeling inadequate. “Their kids are better behaved than ours; they make more money than we do; they seem happier than we are.” It’s okay to learn and grow from others, but comparison usually leads to envy and envy leads to jealousy and on and on. Realize the blessings you do have instead of what you don’t possess.

4. Live like there’s no tomorrow. A good friend reminded me of that challenge this week. Too often I fret and worry about what might be. Too often I worry and fret about what was. The Bible challenges us repeatedly to set my sights on today. When I correctly focus on today, it’s awesome whether I’m working or vacationing.

Ward off those post-holiday blues and embrace the excitement of another day of life. Live life to the fullest, whether you’re at Disney world or at the desk.

Student Story in Westword Magazine

Screen Shot 2014 12 15 at 7.23.38 PM Student Story in Westword MagazineThe following article appeared in the Westword magazine, a Denver area arts and entertainment magazine. Heather Cameron attended Shelterwood as a student and then returned to serve as a mentor to other struggling teens.

“Heather Cameron heard the sound of the gunshots that killed her mother. On Saturday, April 20, 1996, the twelve-year-old was waiting for Debra Cameron — Debbie, to her friends — to return from a charity auction at Garland Country Day School, where Heather was in the sixth grade. Debbie had called a little earlier to say she was on her way home and to ask her daughter what she wanted to eat. So Heather sat on the couch of her mom’s loft in the Neusteter building, watching MTV and thinking about dinner.”

You can read the entire article by Clicking to Continue

Westword Magazine, Nov. 23, 2006