Category Archives: Parenting

Random Thought Thursday: May 15, 2014

This weekend, Taylor runs his final high school race: the NM State Championship.  He’ll run the 2-mile, the 1-mile, and the 4×400 relay.  I’m so proud of all the dedication and training he’s put into his running over the past 4-years.  He’s the most disciplined young man I know.  Thankfully, he’ll be running for the University of New Mexico in the fall, so while this is his last big high school race, it won’t be the last big race we get to enjoy with him.


While driving my mom and my in-laws around downtown the other day, we came across this truck with these rather interesting bumper stickers on it. We Potters approved!


Michelle and I are in full mid-life crisis mode – or so say our kids.  We ride motorcycles, go to the gym at least 3-times per week, run triathlons and 5ks, and so on.  A few weeks ago, we traded our mini-van in for a pick-up truck! A Dodge Ram 1500…with a Hemi!  After 20 years of mini-vanning, we decided to cut the cord and get what we’ve always wanted – a big truck to pull our motorcycles so that we can take our mid-life crisis all over the country!


I haven’t seen the movie “God’s Not Dead” yet – and I may not see it.  I have a real hard time with “Christian” movies.  But, I really appreciate movies that surprisingly and powerfully promote Christian virtues without being so blatant and contrived.  The Railway Man is one such movie.  When the movie ended and the credits began rolling, I turned to Michelle and said, “Wow! God’s not dead.”  This film – based on a true-story – reaffirmed my faith maybe more than any “Christian” movie ever would.  Check out the trailer, and then go see it. By the way, it’s rated R for disturbing prisoner of war violence.



Dealing with the Anger You Feel Toward Your Children (Part 2)

GoodAngryA while back, I interviewed Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller who wrote the book, Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids. They talked to me about how parents can use anger as a tool rather than a weapon with their children. Here’s part 2 of the conversation:

You encourage parents to have a toolbox full of consequences. Why is this important, and what are some effective tools?

Scott: Many parents have a poor repertoire of discipline strategies, and they are then left with what comes naturally – which is harshness and negative reactions that aren’t productive. We’ve encouraged parents to start developing a toolbox full of consequences that have a host of things in it – things like missing a privilege, adding a responsibility, giving some extra work, or simple confrontations. Sometimes we should ignore some things, sometimes we should be discreet, and sometimes we should confront directly. All of those are part of the tools, but the primary tool that parents should use with teens is the privilege/responsibility strategy.

Joanne: What we want to do is to take a look at all the privileges our young people have. It’s amazing! There are so many things that they have, but they kind of think that these things are rights that they have. They say, “I have a right to having a phone and an e-mail address, etc.” Parents need to communicate to them that things like this are privileges. Anything right down to having a door to your bedroom is a privilege, and we want to see some responsibility if they’re going to have these privileges. The child who is not able to be honest maybe doesn’t have the privilege of the door to his room because we’re not sure what’s going to go on in that bedroom. We need to be looking at the things our teenagers have and see them as privileges and very closely tie them into responsibility.

Scott: Teens should be held responsible for things like being able to live by family values even when nobody’s watching, being able to follow through on a task that they’ve been given without having to be reminded, being honest, or doing the right thing when nobody else is around.

When you give a child the privilege of an e-mail address or Internet access without the responsibility, then you’re asking for trouble. With teenagers, a lot of what we do is tie privilege and responsibility together. It really comes from the Bible story where Jesus gives the parable of the land owner and the stewards. At the end, he came back and said to the stewards, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Because you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.” Now…we don’t call our kids “servants,” but the idea is that if they can be faithful with a little, we’ll give them more. Privilege and responsibility go together.

Joanne: They need to see that with some of the privileges we give them (we drive them to their friend’s house, we drive them from this activity to that activity), there’s give and take. Before we drive them somewhere, we might want them to vacuum out the car first. That’s the way the real-world works. If you want the privilege, you’re going to have to work for it.

One of the things we need to remind parents is that they need to communicate the responsibilities and consequences to the kids before the kids break the rules, don’t we?

Scott: That’s so important. It’s like changing the rules of the game in the middle of the game. Kids are used to certain kinds of behavior and activities from parents, and when parents change (as they need to do), they need to tell their kids what they’re doing. We encourage parents to have a parent/child evaluation meeting. They sit down with their kids and tell them two or three things that they really appreciate about their kids, and then maybe they point out one thing that they need to do something about and they give their child a suggestion on how to work on it. Their child then needs to know that if something doesn’t change as a result of this meeting, then the parent is going to need to add consequences, because it is not acceptable for them to do this over and over again.

Talk to us about what happens to a child who grows up in a home where the parents don’t communicate well and just explode when they’re angry.

Scott: It’s unfortunate that many parents have a difficult time with anger, and many of us realize that we have more selfishness than we ever thought possible when we have children. We have a lot of growing in our own hearts to do, and there is some real work that the Lord needs to do in our own lives.

One of the important things to realize is that if we don’t deal with our anger, there is a real significant consequence in our kids because anger confuses the discipline process. Instead of having consequences that communicate to children what happens when they break the rules, now they have anger in the process, so they grow up saying, “Wow, I need to be careful or I’m going to upset Dad.”

What are they learning? They’re learning how to please people in life and avoid explosive situations. That’s not what we want our kids to learn; we don’t want them to be people pleasers. We want them to learn how to have convictions and to do something because it’s right not just because someone might get angry with them in the process.

In your book, you make the comment, “You can never get really rid of attitudes…you can only change them.” Talk to parents about this, and give them hope that the bad attitude they’re identifying in their teen can be dealt with and can be changed.

Joanne: Bad attitudes are a common problem, especially with teenagers. It seems to come along with the territory for some reason. I think part of it has to do with the change in emotions of a young person. Their emotions come on really intense and there’s just a change going on in their brains that causes this. But, as parents we do struggle with the bad attitudes in our young people. The reasons we say that we can’t get rid of attitudes is because we all have attitudes. We have good attitudes and bad attitudes. Even when we look at advertising on TV or billboards, advertisers are trying to affect our attitudes about certain things. Attitudes affect how we respond to life.

What we want to do with our young people is help them to change the bad attitudes into more positive attitudes. We have found that attitudes really have three components, and we can address these attitudes from these different angles. 1) There’s a behavior component – things like the rolling eyes and the huffy voice. 2) There’s an emotion component – maybe there’s anger, disappointment, frustration, or some other emotional component behind the attitude. 3) And sometimes, there’s a thinking error that’s creating an attitude as well.

Scott: Thinking errors are common in teenagers. A teen might say, “I don’t understand why you’re making me clean my room. It doesn’t bother you. I’m the only one who lives in that room. It doesn’t affect anybody else. I’d just like to keep the door shut, because I don’t mind living in a messy room. I don’t see why you’re telling me to clean up my room.”

This thinking error could be addressed this way: “I’m a dad, and you’re a son. As a dad, I have the responsibility to teach you character and pass on some values to you. One of those character qualities that I think is important is neatness. One of the ways we’re going to do that is by cleaning your room once a week. That’s why I’m asking you to go in there and finish cleaning it up.” There might be some heated words there, but we’re reeducating our young people. We’re giving them a perspective about work, confrontation, correction, and conflict.

Dealing with the Anger You Feel Toward Your Children (Part 1)

GoodAngryA while back, I interviewed Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller who wrote the book, Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids. They talked to me about how parents can use anger as a tool rather than a weapon with their children.  Here’s part 1 of the conversation:

What makes this book different from other books on anger?

Scott: What we’re trying to do here is teach our kids character and use routines of life to do that. It’s a challenge sometimes to work with our kids, and we get into bad habits with them – especially in the dialogue and the daily grind of family life. We believe that we can give our kids gifts of character and teach them how to respond in difficult situations. The goal is that they will then be able to use these tools for the rest of their lives.

The Apostle Paul says, “In your anger, do not sin,” so it’s assumed that we’re going to be angry. How can parents learn to use anger as a tool rather than as a weapon?

Joanne: Anger is a common problem in families. Parents often get angry but then they feel guilty about being angry. They know they shouldn’t be exploding on their kids, and they don’t know what to do with that emotion of anger. We believe that anger can be a positive emotion if it’s used appropriately. God created us as emotional beings, and anger is a part of that creation, but we don’t want to use it to damage our relationships and to hurt people.

We believe that anger is really an emotion that points out problems. When we’re getting angry, it’s because there’s a problem. The problem may be inside me…maybe I’ve got expectations that are unrealistic. Or, the problem may be around me…maybe my child is doing the wrong thing. Maybe they’re not responding to correction, or maybe my child has a bad attitude, etc. These things make parents angry. We believe that anger can be used as a flag to point out a problem, and we believe that there are solutions to the problem that do not use anger to solve that problem. Parents don’t have to become harsh and angry, but they can use that anger to point out the problem and move into a different direction…one that develops character in our young people.

So, parents need to understand that anger is not a bad thing. It’s what they do with it that can be bad.

Scott: One of the things we’re trying to do here is help parents and young people understand that anger is not necessarily bad. In our counseling practice with parents and with teenagers, we’ll often make the statement that anger is good for identifying the problems, but not good for solving them. That kind of summarizes what we’re saying here.

In the book, you talk a lot about the “instruction process”. You say, “Valuable lessons are hidden in the instruction process.” Talk to us about this.

Scott: We want to help parents establish a routine that kids can understand and expect. Kids need to know how instructions are given and how instructions should be responded to. When a parent gives an instruction, the child needs to respond. It’s good for a child to acknowledge the fact that an instruction has been given, so if parents add that as part of the routine, that will help that child when he or she becomes let’s say an employee someday.

Children also must learn that they need to report back when they finish the job. We suggest that parents use the same instruction routine every day over and over again, and this routine should involve having the child report back. This process increases the child’s sense of responsibility. When the child knows that she has to report back, she feels an extra weight to do the project. If parents want to teach children how to be responsible, part of this is reporting back.

Communication really is an incredible key here to the whole process, isn’t it?

Joanne: Yes! As young people head into the teenage years, family life changes. One of those changes is that young people are more opinionated and they have more ideas, so sometimes that creates conflict in family life. Parents don’t like being questioned and they don’t like their child evaluating what’s going on, so conflict happens.

We believe that parents need to be careful in those situations and know how to deal with conflict and communication in a way where it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. It can be a positive one. One of the things that parents need to learn is to know when to start a conversation that might be a little unpleasant. The last thing they want is to immediately put their teen on the defensive. They need to learn how to start conversations with their young people in a way that draws them out but doesn’t set them off on the defensive.

Scott: Parents also need to know when to stop. Some parents just escalate conflict, but there needs to be a point where they say, “Hey, this is getting pretty intense here. I think we just need to take a break and pick this up later.” So, parents not only need to know when to start but also when to stop conversations.

Joanne: Something that parents need to learn when they are communicating with their children is also how to listen. As parents, we think we have all the answers and all the knowledge, but we really need to learn to listen a little more.

Give parents some tips on ways in which they can become better at introducing touchy subjects with their older children.

Scott: Parents just have to be sensitive about timing. They have to sense the emotional climate in the situation. Sometimes the best thing to do is to confront right on the spot and deal with the issue when it comes up. However, at other times it’s best to wait, because dealing with it right then may produce a flood of emotions that might make any constructive conversation impossible. Just be sensitive to the emotional environment.

Some teenagers set up a facade that makes any time inaccessible. When that happens, parents need not be afraid of a young person’s emotion. Don’t get drawn in, and don’t be afraid of the emotion. There may be times when parents have to confront a situation even if it unleashes some emotion.

Parents have to remember that when they say something to a teenager, they may get an instant negative response, but their teen will most likely go away having heard what they said. Parents must be careful not to be harsh because it may cause their teen to lash out.

Joanne: When it comes to dealing with conflict or even just giving instructions, parents must remember to be sensitive to the environment they’re in. They should connect relationship-wise with their teen first rather than instructing them the second they walk in the door. Talk to them first and then listen to what’s going on; get into their world a little bit and then maybe they’ll be more open for confrontation or instruction. Be very careful about timing and environment.

Part 2 of this conversation will be posted tomorrow.

Weird Name. Good Movie.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie with a compelling storyline, superb acting, and one that authentically but beautifully wrestles with some of life’s more difficult issues. However, this past weekend, I saw one such film: Philomena.

Philomena is a film about a washed-up political journalist who picks up the story of a woman’s search for her son who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent.  The themes of religious abuse, adoption, a mother’s love, and ultimately forgiveness are explored in a realistic way that is at times humorous and at times uncomfortable. But it makes for a powerful (and even rewarding) story to watch.  Here’s the trailer…


Sex and Future Men

I fear for my son, and I fear for my grandson.  Both are growing up as males in a culture that is sex-saturated and where access to sexual images and videos is unlimited via the internet.  If you have a son, you should be afraid too.  What can fathers do to help our sons grow up in this culture to become young men of integrity?  I posed this question to Douglas Wilson, the author of the book, Future Men, and here is what he had to say.

future-menOne of the things that I would say that fathers have to do with their sons is they have to teach their sons to control their passions. They need to instill self-control in boys long before sex has entered their heads. Boys are very much in tune with their bodies. They know when they’re hungry, they know when they’re in pain, they know when they want to play and run more; they are very connected with their bodies. Fathers need to teach self-control and discipline when a boy is hurt and wants to come unglued, or when he wants to demand food because he’s hungry now. That sort of “convenience store” approach to indulging the passions is disastrous if a boy grows up lacking self-control for ten years and then hits adolescence. All of a sudden the strongest passion that he’s ever experiences hits him. If he doesn’t have any experience with self-control, he’s going to lose in this area.  So, the first thing a father needs to do is instill self-control as a default drive assumption; he needs to discipline his boy for a decade before sex has entered the picture.

Secondly, a father needs to teach his son about sex and about what’s going on when a woman is acting seductively, whether it’s a pornographic woman or a girl standing on the sidewalk outside his junior high.  He needs to take his sons through Proverbs. Many Christian moms are tempted to say things like, “Son, you see the way she’s dressed there? That’s awful and gross.” The son’s thinking to himself, “No, it isn’t.” A father who follows Proverbs says, “Her words are like honey, it looks really good at the beginning. If you go to bed with her, you’ll have a really good time, but the steps of her household lead down to death. There’s a consequence to pay. It looks good at the beginning, but not at the end.”

My wife and I first encountered this when my son was a little boy and they were at the supermarket checkout counter. There was a magazine there with a woman almost wearing something and my wife was using her as a teaching opportunity.  She started to explain to my son that this was an awful, gross thing. I told my wife afterwards that a woman might look at that and see nothing but the grotesque nature of it, but for a guy there’s all sorts of pleasant things that strike him initially. Even mothers need to say to their sons, “That looks good, doesn’t it? The Bible says it looks good at the beginning, but at the end is death.”