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Heart to heart: Parent conversations : Shaping responsible behavior

Nagging. It’s as much a part of parenting as juice boxes and crayons. Of course, our nagging always has a purpose. Coats and shoes need to be put on so that we can run our errands. The milk needs to be put back in the refrigerator so that it doesn’t spoil. The dog needs to be fed . . . well, you get it.

That takes us to this month’s topic. I tell myself that I’d nag less if my children were more responsible. So, how can we get there? Reading our two authors’ articles this month gave me some great places to start—and some new perspectives on this topic.

Nicole Balza


Shaping responsible, Christlike behavior in children takes time.

Somehow my father added several hours to his already busy day to drive me around to selected classmates’ homes. The trips were made so I could render apologies to them and their parents. I had shared something inappropriate with several students and been caught. Guilt was forgiven, but I had to learn that what I did hurt others. My dad gave up his valuable time to make sure I followed through on my lesson of responsibility. Later that night I gave the eighth-grade valedictory speech at my grade school. I’m pretty sure I had a red face as I shared “The value of a Christian education.”

This is only one example of how my parents were tasked with trying to raise children who would behave responsibly. There were five of us, but I’m pretty sure I gave them the most practice.

No matter how hectic the pace of their daily lives, they not only addressed irresponsible behavior but gave us opportunities to foster responsibility. There was an assumption that we were competent beyond our own expectations—and most of the time we lived up to it.

Take three city buses to get to school? You can do it! And we did.

Go to college and pay for it yourself? Sure, why not?

Travel abroad on your own dime and come home in one piece? Piece of cake!

Shaping responsible behavior takes the kind of faith that realizes our children are just on loan to us from their true Father. My own children were tasked with daily chores that were part of their preparation for real life. Self-esteem starts with knowing you are a child of God, and conquering skills is an important addition.

Responsible behavior grows when responsibility is given to a child. In my years in the classroom I observed well-meaning parents cripple their children’s growth by assuming responsibilities that could have been given to their children. I was reminded of this myself when I was about to pick up my grandchild’s breakfast dish. My son said kindly, “Never do for a toddler what a toddler can do for herself.”

Follow-through on responsibilities is important. Very early on our children knew that bringing needed books home from school was their responsibility. The first time our daughter forgot a book she knew that even though we lived next door and had a key to the school, we weren’t going to go and get that book for her. It was a hard pill for all of us to swallow but one that would help achieve the desired effect.

At one of the Lutheran schools in which I taught, a very basic lunch was provided for children who forgot theirs. We knew something about the parents when we saw a child pick up that unglamorous lunch without a request to call home. And we saw the growth in responsible behavior as that same child remembered to bring his own lunch in the future.

The motivation for this never-ending job of raising responsible children is simple, powerful, and comes with a promise. Children in our care are a gift from God, and they actually come with instructions: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).


Mary Clemons lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband, Sam. They have three grown children and six grandchildren.


The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message” (Acts 16:14).

My mom will laugh when she sees that I’m writing an article on parenting responsible kids. I don’t think a single school day went by when I could find both of my shoes before Mom was in the car backing out of the driveway. I wasn’t known as a very responsible kid in the traditional sense of the word. She used to joke that if my head wasn’t attached I would probably lose it. And she was probably right.

But I once heard that being responsible really means that one is able to respond. You might think of it as being spelled response-able. I like this definition. This is, after all, what I really want for my kids. I don’t just want them to know where their shoes are and, someday, where their keys and wallets are (though it would be nice if they were more responsible than I was . . . okay . . . am). But what I really want for them is to be able to respond to situations they find themselves in throughout their lives in a God-pleasing way.

I want my kids to be able to respond to God’s law and own up to their sin and their mistakes when the mirror of the law exposes them for the sinners that they are. I want them to be able to respond with genuine contrition and repentance. And I think that ability is fostered the more they come to know and believe and appreciate the gospel. They can own up to their sin knowing that Jesus will forgive it and erase it every time. It also gives them motivation when faced with similar temptations.

I want my kids to be able to respond to the consequences of their actions. I want them to know that God isn’t punishing them for their sin—he already punished Jesus in their place. But I want them to know that God (and sometimes their mom and I) allows or sends such consequences to teach them to make better choices the next time they are faced with similar temptations.

But most of all I want my kids to be able to respond to the gospel as they rejoice in the full and free forgiveness that is theirs through Christ. He offered his life for them and then rose up again in victory for them and for the world. I want them to be able to respond to that gospel victory by letting it fill their hearts and minds with peace as they put their trust in Jesus more and more. No matter what the situation in which they find themselves, I want them to be able to respond by living lives that are pleasing to him in their attitudes and actions, in the way they treat others, and in the way they look to serve those around them.

To me, this is the kind of responsibility I really want for my kids—even if they can’t find their shoes or leave their backpacks at school or leave a coat out in the rain. This kind of responsibility will last—not just for a lifetime but for eternity.

What can I do to foster such responsibility in my kids? I can model it and be responsible myself as I respond to the law and gospel in the way God desires. I’ll make both a part of my life every day and strive to be more responsible to God’s Word. Finally, I’ll pray that God works this responsibility in me and in my kids, because it can’t happen without him. With his help and blessing, our family will be responsible in all that we do.


Rob Guenther and his wife, Becky, have four young sons.


 

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Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 104, Number 3
Issue: March 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: How do parents go about identifying positive role models?

It’s easy to identify bad role models, but how do parents go about identifying positive role models? And then, how do we convince our kids that these are the people they should be learning from and emulating? Read this month’s Heart to heart articles for three perspectives.

Did you know that Heart to heart offers a monthly webcast/ podcast? These short pieces provide a quick shot in the arm as you go about your parenting journey. The October 2016 topic—helping children build their self-esteem based on Christ’s love—resonated with many parents. Interested? You can find a full list of all the episodes under the “Webcasts” and “Podcasts” tabs at forwardinchrist.net.

Nicole Balza

 


As parents, I think we can all agree with the important teaching of Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (ESV). The question is, “How do we train?”

This has been what I have most appreciated about the Heart to heart series. Parents are sharing their unique experiences on how they have trained their children in the Lord. When I read Proverbs, the word train initially brings a picture in my mind of sitting down with my son or daughter and studying Scripture or reading a devotion—perhaps more of an academic experience. I’m also quite certain that modeling the application of our knowledge of Scripture is important for my kids and included in the idea of training from Proverbs.

By default, parents are natural role models for their children, but we can also rely on other positive role models to reinforce that training in the Lord. I want my kids to see how God’s Word comes to life in what we do and say. I’d like them to see how others bring to life the fruits of the spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22).

But who are these people who can be role models, and where do we find them? There seem to be many role models out there in sports, movies, television, or YouTube, but are these the people who consistently bring us confidence in their demonstrations of love for God?

As I wrote this article, I couldn’t help but wonder who my kids would identify as their role models. So I asked them, “Besides Mom and Dad, who would you say are your favorite role models—the people you really look up to?” I asked them each separately, and both of them had the same top pick. They chose their Aunt Lori because “she is so loving and patient and kind to everyone.”

Yes! I couldn’t have picked a better role model, and personally I was relieved that the top pick was not a famous YouTuber or sports hero! Another pick was one of their grade school teachers, Miss Bauman, who has devoted her life to the teaching ministry for more than 40 years.

I’d like to think my wife and I intentionally arranged our kids’ role models to be family members or called workers. However, it’s interesting that our kids picked the same people that my wife and I would consider our own role models. Maybe the secret to encouraging positive role models for our children is to be sure we have our own first. Thanks be to God that he provides faithful, Christian people in our lives who we can look to as examples. Let our kids see us cherishing them as well.

Dan Nommensen and his wife, Kelly, have a teenage daughter and a preteen son.


When I was a kid, I adored Olivia Newton-John’s character Sandy from the movie Grease. I wanted to be her. That perfectly flipped hair. That golden voice. That sweet, upright disposition. Then it all changed in the last scene of the movie. Gone were the sweater sets and pearls and out came the too-tight leather pants and garish makeup. She changed who she was—just to win the favor of some guy. I was crushed! How could I still look up to her?

It’s tough to find good role models, especially for our kids. The “role models” that our society produces—reality TV stars, Hollywood celebs, professional athletes—can have a broken moral compass. Here are a few things to remember as we help our kids find role models they can look up to.

Look for role models outside the norm. Role models can come from all sorts of places: the quiet World War II veteran who lives next door and fought for his country on the beaches of Normandy. The doctor who sets aside her six-figure salary and instead chooses to volunteer in a third-world country. The teacher who has spent over half his life faithfully mentoring kids in and out of the classroom. We can help our kids find these role models.

Look for role models in your child’s interest areas. Does your child love science? Encourage her to study the life of someone who made a groundbreaking discovery despite the odds. Does your child love writing? Help him find an author who endured rejection after rejection yet persisted. Kids need role models who can inspire them and show them what’s possible.

Help your kids understand that even the best role models are flawed, and we can learn from that. David—“a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14)—had an affair with another man’s wife, and when he found out she was carrying his child, he set in motion a series of tragic events that led to the death of her husband and had ramifications on David’s family for years to come. Discuss with your kids why God included flawed heroes in his story: to remind us repeatedly of our desperate need for forgiveness and the power of his grace and also to remind us that God uses us, flawed as we are, for his purposes.

In the end, we need more than worldly role models. We need a Savior. While we can look to Jesus as a role model, we must first see him as our Redeemer. He was perfectly kind, perfectly loving, perfectly forgiving. He prayed constantly, studied the Scriptures, and obeyed his Father in a way we never could. Praise God that when we inevitably fall short of his perfect standards, we can look to the one who lovingly kept those standards perfectly!

Ann Jahns and her husband, Thad, have three sons and a recently emptied nest.

 


Helping our kids develop discernment about the people they emulate is not a one-and-done conversation. The lessons we parents teach our kids about role models is more caught than taught throughout their childhoods.

Like thousands of stone chips in a mosaic, numerous mini conversations about role models create a portrait for our children of the kind of people we Christians pattern our lives after. With every two-minute reflection about Special Agent Gibbs on NCIS, a tile is placed in the mosaic. Comparing the leadership characteristics of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Eli Manning adds another tile. Gently discussing your daughter’s musical idols lays several more. Of course, parents ensure these tiles are colored with the blood-red tones of God’s grace.

Multiple mini conversations about role models remove much of the pressure parents can feel about influencing their children’s choice of heroes. It means parents don’t have to convince their children each time they tackle this topic. It encourages parents to listen to their children’s opinions. It builds confidence in children that they can make the best role model choices.

These conversations work best with some guidelines. I suggest four that are built around the acronym TACT.

T: Testify about your role models. Identify for your children why you have chosen the role models you have. Talk about how, because of them, your life is different and how your walk with Jesus has improved. This is essential: Let your children see you are striving to be the person your role model already is.

A: Ask about their role models. The same questions you want to answer for your kids about your role models are questions you can ask your kids about their role model choices. Ask: Why do you look up to that person? What are the most valuable things you are learning from that person? How has this person helped you more fully appreciate God’s grace?

C: Confirm their role models’ positives. Point out the most positive traits of your children’s heroes and friends. For example, “I’m glad you hang around with Ethan. He’s always polite.” This gains more ground than stumbling through what you don’t like. When you identify favorable traits, you confirm for your children that they are making good choices, and you help them define whom they want to influence their lives.

T: Talk about their role models’ negatives. Talking about the less desirable traits of the people your kids admire is important but tricky. When we put anyone on the defensive, barriers go up. Approach this topic as a conversation rather than a lecture. Questions usually work best: “Justin Bieber said, ‘A lot of people who are religious, I think they get lost.’ What do you think he meant? How much do you agree? How much do you think that’s true in our family?”

Begin the conversations early. Continue them often. Build the mosaic. Use TACT.

James Aderman and his wife, Sharon, raised three daughters and are now enjoying their eight grandchildren.

 


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Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Multiple
Volume 104, Number 2
Issue: February 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: How can we include our children in worship at church?

Church can be a struggle for parents with children of all ages. I’ll admit, there have been times when my husband or I stayed home with a little one because we knew we’d spend the whole service in the narthex. We know, though, that taking children to church is important. So, the next week we’d head back to church with baby in tow. Eventually, we were able to spend small chunks of the service in the sanctuary. And then one day we realized we made it through the whole service in our pew.

Along the way, it can feel like we’re just trying to survive. What I wonder, though, is if survival might be easier if we found ways to engage our children in the service. How can we include our children—of all ages—in worship at church? Two Heart to heart contributors give us their thoughts. 

Nicole Balza

 


Twenty years ago I wrote a column for this magazine titled “Children belong in church.” My kids were two and four, and though I believed what I wrote, it hadn’t stopped me from taking those two kiddos out of church. Multiple times. At least once, I remember hoicking one up under each arm—like basketballs, but louder and chubbier—walking right out the door and driving home.

I never found the secret to perfect church behavior. Sometimes crayons and Cheerios—let’s call them worship tools—were enough. Sometimes sterner looks and firmer hands were needed.

It’s hard. Too permissive, and our ruckus ruins the service for others. Too rigid, and the kids start dreading church.

Okay, here’s the sad truth. When three-year-old Phil trained himself to lean against my arm and sleep through the sermon, God forgive me but I considered it a blessing. Phil’s pretty sure he slept through sermons until about third grade, and I’m pretty sure I relished it. That’s some less-than-stellar parenting right there.

As kids get older, it’s the church after church—the liturgy you hold in your car on the way to the bakery—that’s almost as important as the service itself.

Confession

Mom: “Today when we confessed our sins, I thought of how crabby I was this morning. I’m sorry. I need to be more patient.”

Kids: “We understand. You were mad ‘cuz we were late again.”

Scripture

Dad: “That’s one of my favorite psalms. How does that verse go again? ‘I am fearfully and wonderfully . . .’ ”

Kids: “Made!”

Sermon

Mom: “What was your favorite part of the sermon?”

Kids: “The story about that little boy who thought Jesus couldn’t love him.” (Spoiler: It’s always the story—for all of us.)

Dad: “Did I hear Pastor say . . .?”

Kids: “No! What he said was . . .”

In the church after church, families review, discuss, apply, even question. Sometimes we get downright Berean.

The temptation, though, is to let the discussion devolve into snarkiness: “I hate that contemporary music. . . . The prayers were so long. . . . That sermon had nothing to do with my life. . . . Did you see Mrs. Jones’ purple hat?” And of course: “That crying baby! I wish people would keep their kids quiet in church.”

I guess that takes us back where we started. Sometimes, Moms and Dads, we do need to take the kids out. But mostly we do our utmost to help them stay. Help them sit, stand, bow, sing, pray, listen.

Help them simply be present as the Spirit works his holy osmosis, passing the promises of Christ into the bloodstream of their souls . . . forming their faith, their character, their habits . . . cultivating in them that deep sense of belonging to something larger than themselves—something eternal.

Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her two 20-somethings and his teenage son.

 


I love having kids in church, both as a dad and a pastor. I love it when kids recite the Creed, putting emphasis on different words than I do. It helps me think about what I’m saying. I love it when they smile back at me during the Aaronic blessing. It shows me how they’re receiving it in faith.

There is so much in worship both for kids and for adults through kids in worship. Here are three suggestions to help everybody in the family make the most of worshiping together.

  1. Sit with or near others who are close to your kids. Even though my parents had seven of us, they never handed us off to others. We always sat with my parents. They wanted us to see them worship, but not only them. They made sure I saw Grandpa worship. I remember that one Sunday still today. I looked down the pew and saw my grandpa praying the Lord’s Prayer. I remember the sincerity on his face as he said the words that were obviously so familiar to him. And I remember getting back to praying like I’ve never gotten back to it before.
  2. Strategically teach your kids the liturgy. There is nothing I love better than watching my four-year-old speak the response to the words, “This is the gospel of our Lord.” I love seeing that she knows what it is and better yet knows why it is. We taught her as a 3-year-old, “Elliana, Jesus taught us everything we need to know and he saved us so when we hear from him we get all excited.” Pick some low-hanging liturgical fruit like that for your younger ones. If you have an infant son, help him fold his little hands during the Prayer of the Day. If you have a 5-year-old, help her nail the creeds. If you have a 12-year-old, show him some profound theological connections. For example, ask him to think about why we sing about the Lamb of God right before the Lord’s Supper.
  3. Receive the Word in faith in front of your kids. Most weeks the pastor is going to say, “I forgive you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Receive that in faith and joy as the best news you’ve heard all week. Even consider leaning over on occasion to whisper into your teen-age daughter’s ear, “I really needed that today.” And she’ll get it. She’ll remember your apology for being too hard on her earlier in the week and see how you received Christ then and there for it. Dust off the sermon too on the ride home. Tell the kids why it mattered to you so much. Then ask them what mattered in it to them. If it’s crickets, help them remember. You might just see your kids’ ears perk up a bit more next Sunday.

Jonathan Bourman is a pastor at Peace, Aiken, South Carolina. He and his wife, Melanie, have a four-year-old daughter.

 


What is worship?

The WELS Commission on Worship says, “Worship is the heart of all parish life, the time when the greatest number of members gathers to proclaim the gospel and receive God’s life-giving power in Word and sacrament.”

Want to read about more ways to involve your children in worship? Visit forwardinchrist.net for Brian Heinitz’s practical suggestions. Heinitz is a former member of the WELS Commission on Worship and has four children of his own. He wrote a special, online-only article with his philosophy on involving children in worship, and it includes some perspectives you may not have considered as well as tips to try with your children.

Join the conversation! Visit wels.net/forwardinchrist and look for the Heart to heart link.

 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Multiple
Volume 104, Number 1
Issue: January 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: How can we help our family stay focused on Christ this Christmas?

Our authors this month have some great tips for how to keep your family focused on Christ this Christmas. I’m here to tell you, though, that these are not one-size-fits-all ideas. Going back to the original purpose for Heart to heart, these articles are meant to support you in your Christian parenting journey and to be conversation starters. They are not supposed to make you feel guilty about anything you are or are not doing.

We certainly get enough of that at Christmas, don’t we? The guilt? The self-induced stress? The feeling that we need to check certain boxes off in order for our children to have a “perfect” Christmas? Yeah, I’ve been there, and I’ve discovered that I’d rather be at the manger. At the manger I find the joy. the peace. the purpose of Christmas. Please join me at the manger this year—and leave your guilt at the foot of the cross, where the babe of Christmas fulfilled his purpose of becoming our Savior.

Nicole Balza


Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love the annual reminder that God loved us so much that he sent his son as a little baby to be with us here on earth and, eventually, to pay the price for our sins.

My daughter came home from school recently, horrified, having learned that some people refer to Christmas as X-mas. “Mom, they don’t even want to say Christmas. They take Christ out completely!”

Part of me was sad that my eight-year-old is becoming more familiar with the ways of the world, and part of me was so thankful that she was deeply troubled by something to which I’ve, sadly, become desensitized. Her reaction was a powerful reminder to me of the importance of teaching my kids to keep Christ in Christmas.

One of our favorite things to do as a family in preparation for Christmas is to decorate our home. We put up the tree, hang up wreaths, and look through last year’s Christmas cards.

But our favorite thing to set out together is our creche. Andy and I have a special set that was a gift from my parents on our first married Christmas. While I set out the shepherds, angel, wise men, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, our kids set up a toy nativity of their own. When Henry was two, he set quite the Christmas scene with Jesus in the manger and all his “guys” (Batman, Spiderman, even The Joker) coming to pay their respects to the newborn king.

Another favorite tradition is participating in and attending our church’s Advent By Candlelight service at the start of Advent. There is something so special about sitting next to my daughter and worshiping together, preparing our hearts to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Each of the past few years, we have received a verse-a-day Advent calendar from that service, and we read it together as a family at breakfast. This, combined with working with my kids to memorize their speaking parts for the Christmas services, is a great start to our days during Advent. (I’m convinced Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth is meant to be heard in children’s voices!)

Our family’s biggest blessings in helping to keep us focused on Christ at Christmas are the church and school to which we belong. Worshiping and learning together about the true meaning of Christmas on a daily basis keeps our hearts and minds focused on what matters through the busyness and many distractions of the Christmas season.

Kerry Ognenoff and her husband, Andy, have two young children, Anna and Henry. The family worships at Grace, Milwaukee. Anna and Henry attend school at St. John, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.


“How many Lutherans does it take to change a light bulb?”

“Change?! We’ve always had that light bulb!”

Sometimes we Lutherans can get the reputation for being resistant to change. We’ve always parked in the same spot in the church parking lot. We’ve always sat in the same pew. We’ve always brought the same dish to the church potluck.

But our hesitancy to change isn’t always bad. It’s rooted in our understanding of the value of traditions. Traditions help us learn. Our little Lutherans know the liturgy with ever growing understanding because they hear those same words spoken every week in church. We celebrate baptisms and confirmations to show that they’re special. Traditions teach us values and important truths.

And if there’s any part of the year that’s steeped in traditions, it’s the Christmas season. So many Christmas traditions are designed to point us to Jesus. So if we want to keep our kids (and ourselves) focused on Jesus at Christmastime, let’s consider focusing on connecting Jesus to the traditions we already have.

 

What traditions do you have? What do you do to help you and your family celebrate Christmas? How

• Do your kids participate in a children’s Christmas program? Be a part of it! Help them memorize their parts and look up the Bible verses in their context. Show your children how they point to Jesus.

• Do you have a nativity scene? Consider letting the kids play with it (or buy an inexpensive one they can use). Don’t set out all the pieces at once. Let the kids move Mary and Joseph across the room a little each day during Advent. Put the baby in the manger for the first time on Christmas morning. Then add the shepherds and start the Magi on their journey down the hall to join the scene by Epiphany. Talk about the story and anticipate the joy of the Savior’s birth.

• Do you buy and eat candy canes? Teach your children how the red and white stripes remind us of the red blood Jesus shed for us, which makes us pure and white as snow. Show them the Good Shepherd’s staff which, when turned upside down, makes a “J” for Jesus.

• Do you decorate a tree in the living room? Teach your children the symbolism behind the tree and its decorations. The lights remind us that Jesus is the light of the world who rescued us from sin. The angel or star remind us of the good news proclaimed. The garland that seems to wrap around the tree endlessly, and the tree itself—that’s evergreen and points to the sky—reminds us of the beautiful eternity that awaits us in heaven one day soon.

What traditions do you have? What do you do to help you and your family celebrate Christmas? How have you used those traditions to focus on Jesus and on the eternal peace that he gives? Consider engaging in the online discussion at forwardinchrist.net and share your traditions. Maybe one from your family will help my family and others look to Jesus this Christmas.

Rob Guenther and his wife, Becky, have four sons. Rob serves as pastor at Grace, Kenai, Alaska.


More resources to consider this Christmas

Northwestern Publishing House offers a variety of books, music, nativities, and other resources to help your family focus on Christ at Christmas. Here are a couple newer resources to consider:

• The Christmas Star from Afar: Set up the wooden nativity that comes with this set, and then hide the star each night to create a fun hide-and-seek game throughout Advent. When your children find the star each morning, they move the three wise men to its location. On Christmas morning, the star is found on the top of the stable and your children can move the wise men to worship baby Jesus. This set also includes a hardbound book that includes the Christmas story as well as Scripture verses to read each day leading up to Christmas. Some families hide candy or little treats with the star.

• Tidings of Comfort and Joy: This book of Advent devotions works well for family devotions. The book leads readers through the biblical accounts of God’s Old Testament promises about a coming Savior and their fulfillment in the New Testament through the birth of his Son. Each devotion is a reminder of the good news of Jesus Christ and how he came to earth to live and die for us, which are the tidings of comfort and joy that the angels sang about that first Christmas night.

For more information on these or other Christian books or gifts, visit www.nph.net.


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Multiple
Volume 103, Number 12
Issue: December 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: How to help families who struggle with severe food allergies

Getting together with a friend? You’re likely to meet for coffee or a meal. Throwing a birthday party? You’re sure to serve cake. Celebrating a church anniversary? Enter the potluck or catered meal. In our culture, food seems to equal happiness and good times—which isn’t a bad thing. However, it makes life challenging for families who have food allergies.

So far my own family hasn’t struggled with this—but I know others who do. I can’t imagine the fear that grips a mother whose child’s well-being hangs in the balance during these happy events. That’s why I thought it’d be helpful to hear from two of these moms and get their perspectives on what life is like for families that live with severe food allergies.

Do you have a parenting question you’d like Heart to heart’s authors to consider? Please send it our way! We’re developing our 2017 calendar, and we’d love to have your input. E-mail fic@wels.net.

Nicole Balza


Our life was going according to plan. My husband and I married a year out of college, purchased our first home, and two years later gave birth to our first child.

Then it happened. God took us on our first major detour together. Our infant son had colic, reflux, eczema, and hernias due to muscle strain during bowel movements. Doctors prescribed various medications and suspected his symptoms could be stemming from possible allergies. Since he was breastfed exclusively, I altered my diet to try to ease his symptoms, but it was difficult to track what was helping or hindering the situation. Nothing brought complete relief.

Two years passed, and by this time I had given birth to our daughter who had health issues of her own. She suffered from chronic respiratory infections, ear infections, and intermittent stomach cramping. We took shifts staying up at night making sure she could breathe while she struggled to sleep.

Then it was my turn for complications. I had been losing weight and had large bruises appearing on my body without sustaining any injuries. At a doctor appointment, I heard the words no one ever wants to hear, “We should run some tests for leukemia.” It was with great relief that I received negative results, but I still had no answers.

With two sick children and my own failing health, I went on a quest for a diagnosis. Many doctor appointments later, along with two trips to the Mayo Clinic, we finally learned we had Celiac Disease—an autoimmune disorder that occurs in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.

Armed with this knowledge, we began the healing process. We changed our diet to strictly gluten and dairy free. Even this did not bring complete relief, so we started a specific diet developed to heal the lining of the intestines. It was very time consuming and involved fermenting our own foods; making our own broth; and eating all organic, homemade, raw (unprocessed) foods. Eventually, relief came, and we could reassess our life.

Our debt from medical bills and the new, expensive, lifelong diet strained us financially, so we decided to downsize our house to better manage our budget.

The hard part was over. We had survived the detour.

Whenever I am asked how we dealt with all these challenges, it is so inspiring not to have to search for answers once again. The answer is simple. When God’s plans altered from ours, he held us close to him as we learned to let go and put all our trust in him. He never put us down as he taught us that hard times can bring blessings, too.

Our Christian friends and family supported us, listening with compassionate ears and never tiring of doing good. We had babysitters for doctor appointments, help with tedious food preparations, and a monetary donation to help pay medical bills. We even inherited supportive new neighbors in the process. Accepting help was difficult at first, but through this trial, God taught us how to rely on the help he sends through fellow Christians.

When our children entered school, we again saw God’s love in action. Parents called before parties asking what they could bring that our children could eat. Some sent special non-food projects or toys. Instead of feeling left out, our children often felt special. Upon receiving a toy as a birthday treat, my daughter lamented, “I feel bad for the other kids in my class. They ate their treat, but I get to keep mine forever!”

So while life’s detours are unexpected and often unsettling, go with God because he’s looking at the whole road map and leading you in the right direction. I have learned my life was, is, always will be going according to plan . . . his plan.

Kristin Kutz and her husband, Joel, live in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, with their two children.


My 14-month-old feverishly scratched at his face. Huge white blisters exploded across his chubby baby cheeks. His lips swelled. He spit the food out of his mouth. He

vomited. After a trip to the E.R., we received the diagnosis—my baby had life-threatening peanut and tree nut allergies.

So began a new phase of our life—a constant campaign to keep our son alive. It’s a campaign complicated by many people’s lack of understanding.

Food allergies are on the rise. We all know someone who has them. So what can we do to help? Overall the answer is simple—show God’s love.

Be kind in your interactions with the parents and children dealing with food allergies. Families dealing with food allergies didn’t ask for it, but they have to deal with it on a bite-to-bite basis. Put yourself into their shoes. Go one day thinking about every item you put in your mouth or on your body. That hand soap has almond oil in it. We can’t use it. That popcorn is made in a factory with peanuts and tree nuts. We can’t enjoy it. That dog across the street eats peanut butter as a treat. We can’t pet him. This is the reality of many food allergy families.

Here are a few practical ideas to show your Christian love and concern:

1. Keep kids with allergies from harm. Check and double check ingredient labels. Even if the label stated nothing last time about a particular allergen, it may this time. Make sure things are washed up as much as possible if your church/school/family consumes the food allergen. That means door handles, tables, toys, kids’ faces and hands, etc. And, if families wants to bring their own food, please don’t be offended. Let them do so without guilt. Their first priority is the safety of their children. If they are comfortable with you, the ladies’ guild, or school lunch program making the food, save the food labels for them to double check.

2. Don’t leave kids, their siblings, and families out. Institute ways in your church, school, and home to serve safe foods—or to leave food out of the situation altogether. We have chosen to bring non-food toys/trinkets to school to celebrate our kids’ birthdays. It has gone over so well that one of the teachers asked all of the families this year to only bring non-food items for birthdays—even though there aren’t any food allergy kids in her room.

3. Ask a lot of questions. If a food allergy individual is coming to your home, church, or school, ask, “What is the specific allergy?” Some with egg allergies are fine with cooked eggs, but not raw eggs, so baked good would be safe. Some with peanut allergies are perfectly fine with the walnuts in the brownies you made. Check with the families as to what is safe to eat and what is not.

4. Know the signs of an allergic reaction and what to do. Have the contact information of the parents and local emergency line. Learn how to use an EpiPen and do so before emergency personnel get there. Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) has some great resources for families, schools, and churches at foodallergy.org. Mylan (the EpiPen manufacturer) even gives free EpiPens to schools in case there are children who experience an unknown allergic reaction. Visit epipen4schools.com.

Be a blessing to these families. Little gestures let these kids and their families know you care about them no matter the setting.

Rachel Learman and her husband, Paul, have four children. They live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin


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Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 103, Number 11
Issue: November 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: What do we do when our children say they can’t?

“Mommy do!” insists my two-year-old.

“I can’t!” whines my five-year-old.

“I don’t know how!” laments my ten-year-old.

No matter the age, all children have their moments of insecurity, self-doubt, and—sometimes—laziness. So, how do we tackle those “I can’t” moments? Often my first response is, “Of course you can!” Sometimes, though, a more nuanced approach might be better. This month three Heart to heart authors offer their approaches for how to deal with the “I can’ts.”

Do you have a parenting question you’d like Heart to heart’s authors to consider? Please send it our way! We’re developing our 2017 calendar, and we’d love to have your input. E-mail fic@wels.net.

Nicole Balza


It’s hot in South Carolina in the summer. Sunny too. How’s that for stating the obvious? The solution? Go to the pool. That’s where my daughter’s “can’t” came to life in a way stronger than anything I’d seen in her before. She didn’t want to dunk her head, but at the same time she did. She was at war with herself.

Saying no to something one can do sometimes is always about an inner tension for a Christian. We’ve all felt it. One minute you’re making the grand pronouncement, “I can do it all by myself.” And the next, just like my daughter did, you stare at what’s in front of you and say, “Daddy, I can’t.” Sometimes it’s the unknown you don’t want to face. Sometimes it’s the fear of failure that grips you. Other times it’s the easiness of inertia that captures your heart.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to overcome the “can’ts.” But helping we need to help our children know how God has recreated them in baptism is . I think that’s important. God didn’t baptize us into timid lives or shy choices or despairing attempts at worthwhile living. He certainly did not want us to face life fearing every event. Confidence in our love for our children and especially God’s love for them is a factor in moving forward. He baptized us into lives of confidence, love, and self-discipline. And so for me, saying “can’t” when you can isn’t just a matter of merely pounding on the will or somehow gaining compliance; it’s a matter of understanding the gospel itself.

That’s why I relished my daughter’s “can’t” moment. I saw it not as a moment to develop more grit in her but rather to set loose the grit she already possessed in her recreated self. And I believed that turning her former “no” into a full-bodied “YES” wasn’t really a matter of pushing on her will. I believed it was a matter of putting down her old will that was holding her back and raising up her more powerful, recreated will so she’d turn into the dolphin I knew she could be.

How do you that in real-time, real-life living? You apply law and gospel. Was she scared of her underwater attempt? I gave her the safety net of a father’s gentleness and ever-present love. Was she being lazy or combative? That’s not who God recreated her to be, and I don’t have time for that. Some variation of “Git ‘er done” was occasionally the right medicine for the moment. Was she emotionally tapped out? Then it was time to float with the noodles, take a break, and try again later. My goal throughout? Nurture her recreated self and put down her old one.

How’d that turn out for us this summer? Honestly? I’m happy to report that she has now officially turned into a dolphin. And better yet, she is living her recreated life more powerfully making waves for Jesus. And not just in the pool either.

Jonathan Bourman is a pastor at Peace, Aiken, S.C. He and his wife, Melanie, have a three-year-old daughter.


“I cahn’t! I-I-I cah-h-hn’t!” That’s the lament of my three-year-old grandson as he fit together jigsaw puzzle pieces. Within two minutes the puzzle was complete, and he was on to another puzzle. But the chant continued. “I cahn’t!” Cute.

Doubting one’s adequacy may be cute at three. It loses charm by grade school. So how do we best love our kids when they insist, “I can’t,” but we parents know they can? I have five guidelines as a conversation starter.

Show grace. Lead with love, not law. Let your self-skeptical kids know they are loved—loved by you and, even better, loved without measure by God. Try, “I’m sorry you don’t think you can do this. I want you to know I love you more than anything else. And Jesus loves you much more than that.”

Don’t only begin with an emphasis on God’s grace. Throughout your conversation circle back to your love, a love that won’t diminish because of your child’s failures, a love that is driven by God’s love for you. Make God’s grace tangible with your actions—a hug, a smile, a back rub.

Yes, laying down the law has a place. But refuse to start there.

Seek to understand. Ask, “Why do you think you can’t do this?” Your child is believing a lie. Expose the falsehood to the warmth of truth and the problem evaporates.

There are many reasons we might doubt our abilities, including others’ negative opinions, fear of failure, prior failures, and peer pressure.

Share your positive evaluation. Gently offer your own view of the gifts and abilities God has given your child. Suggest evidence for your view. “I know you can do this. Remember how you swam across the pool and surprised us all?”

Talk about grace and giftedness. Go beyond offering your evaluation. Talk about grace’s evaluation. Grace insists your child is unimaginably precious to God. The Son of God coming to be our Savior proves that. But in addition, God’s grace means your child is spectacularly gifted as the exact person God wants on this planet today. Consider Ephesians 2:10, “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Offer appropriate assistance. You might say, “What if you and I do this together?” “I’ll show you; then you can do the rest.” “I’d be willing to get you started on this project.”

Different kids in different situations at different times in their lives need to be approached differently, of course. What advice would you add?

James Aderman and his wife, Sharon, raised three daughters and are now enjoying their eight grandchildren.


It can happen around age 12.

Your daughter suddenly quits the team. Refuses to enter the music contest. Starts getting Bs when she’s always been an A student.

It isn’t laziness. It isn’t fear of failure. It’s fear of success.

Near the onset of puberty, your little girl who once outran all the girls and out-mathed all the boys wakes up one day and says, “I can’t,” when you know—and she knows—she absolutely can. Why?

Because sometimes success brings negative social repercussions, especially for adolescent girls. Insecure boys don’t like to be outdone, so they reject her for the girls who make them feel stronger and smarter. Competitive girls resent her achievements, so they kick her down the social ladder. In a hundred ways, her peers punish her for outpacing them, no matter how humbly she does so.

What’s a parent to do?

It might be tempting to sit that girl down and remind her, “To whom much is given, much is required.” God demands she use her talents, not bury them.

Let’s not. Let’s not use the law in this way. Even if such tactics succeed and your daughter starts using her gifts faithfully again, she’ll be doing it out of guilt. She may even begin to resent the God whose love, it seems, comes with strings.

Instead, build her up.

1. Tell your daughter you’re proud of her when she works hard, whether her efforts are successful or not.

2. Be generous and specific with praise.

3. Stop saying, “You can do anything, honey.” She knows it isn’t true, and it only makes her wonder whether your other praise is empty too.

4. Make your home a safe place, where your daughter can say, “It felt so cool to win!” It’s honest, and having permission to say it at home may eliminate that feeling to seek praise in public, which really will hurt her social standing—and rightly so.

5. When you see jealousy or pettiness in any of your kids, put your foot down. The family is a support network, not a rugby scrum.

6. When you see jealousy or pettiness in your daughter’s friends, help her recognize it for what it is and try to understand the pain and insecurity that causes it.

7. Foster humility by helping your daughter recognize that every person is gifted, whether those gifts win plaques at award banquets or not. And some of those gifts—humor, empathy, work ethic—will count far more in adulthood than fine free throw shooting. Your daughter may be gifted, but so is everyone else.

One of Satan’s favorite tools is to shut down Christians’ talents. He’ll tempt our daughters to make themselves smaller than they are, to sabotage themselves, to feel guilty when they faithfully use the gifts God gave.

Let’s not let that Liar win. Let’s help our daughters humbly and faithfully say, “I can do this. For my Savior, I can do this.”

Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her two 20-somethings and his teenage son.


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Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 103, Number 10
Issue: October 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: What do we tell our children when a loved one dies?

We’re hurting, but that doesn’t mean we can take a vacation from being a parent. Often when a loved one dies, our children need us more than ever. They need us to comfort them, answer their questions, pray with them, reminisce, cry, and laugh. What are some ways we can handle this emotion-filled time? How do we answer the tough questions? This month three Heart to heart authors open their hearts and share their experiences.

Do you have a parenting question you’d like Heart to heart’s authors to consider? Please send it our way! We’re developing our 2017 calendar, and we’d love to have your input on what topics we should cover next year. E-mail fic@wels.net.

Nicole Balza


In 2013, my dad unexpectedly passed away from complications of pneumonia. I hadn’t ever dealt with that level of extreme grief, and it hit me HARD.

Henry (18 months) had never met my dad but was old enough to notice that I was sad. Anna (5 years) knew my dad, and I dreaded telling her he was gone. To this day I am so thankful for the strong, comforting, supportive man I married. Andy took care of details I never would have thought of in my state of shock. He held my hand and did most of the talking when we told the kids.

We were honest and gave age-appropriate details. We told Anna that Grandpa Denny had died in the night. We wouldn’t see him on earth again. We told her that we were sad because we would miss him and she would probably see me crying. And it was okay if she needed to cry too. Anna’s first response was that it wasn’t fair—Henry hadn’t even gotten to meet him! Then she asked if she could watch TV.

Later she needed to cry and had some questions. We hugged and cried together. We talked about good memories of my dad. I told her that even though we have the joy of knowing heaven is waiting for us, it’s okay for us to miss people who aren’t here on earth anymore.

We still talk about my dad often. Henry, who is now four, has grown up hearing stories about my dad, knowing he died and that I still miss him and feel sad sometimes. His favorite story is about my dad living on his sailboat—after all, pirates live on sailboats!

He asks me what would happen if Andy and I died. Who would take care of him? What if Anna died too? I think the knowledge that loved ones can die raises many scary questions for little ones. I try to address these concerns when they arise. Usually a simple answer is all it takes (we will always make sure you are taken care of; you would be very sad, but you will see her/us again in heaven), and then he moves on.

Sometimes we still cry. And I always tell them that it’s okay to do that.

We held a memorial service for my dad about a month after he passed away. We invited friends and family to share memories of him. A few people came up to speak. At last call to the microphone, Anna unexpectedly walked to the front of the room. I grabbed Andy’s hand, not knowing what she planned to say but admiring her bravery. Her speech left all of us reaching for tissues.

“My name is Anna. Denny was my grandpa, and I love him very much. I will miss him, but I know I’ll see him again in heaven.”

Kerry Ognenoff and her husband, Andy, have a daughter in second grade and a son in preschool.


Talking to your child about the death of a loved one is never easy. Death is simply not natural. It’s the result of sin. No sin—no death—and no need to talk about it.

Certainly the circumstances surrounding the death can impact a child and family, but as parents, my wife and I have found that preparing for death is a natural part of our Christian life. Starting with baptism, we receive the forgiveness of sins and become heirs of eternal life. Death is defeated! As parents, we then have the opportunity to help our children grow in the Word so the Holy Spirit can nurture their faith in Christ and they can be confident of life in heaven. Talking to children about the death of a loved one can then bring us the opportunity to comfort one another and be reminded of the certainty of eternal life in heaven.

Nine years ago, my mother died after fighting cancer for 18 months. My daughter Kayla was five years old. We lived nearby and had many opportunities to see “Humma,” as Kayla liked to call her.

Eighteen months of cancer treatments and a slow decline of health gave us all time to prepare. We would specifically plan “Kayla and Humma” days where just the two of them could spend time together. Kayla was always excited to see Humma, and the door to Mom’s house would always open before we could even knock. Imagine the big smile and hug of a grandmother as she swoops up her granddaughter in her arms. That time was not only important for Kayla, but it also gave my mom a sense of peace knowing that she had the opportunity to have a loving relationship with all of her 14 grandchildren.

The only thing that troubled Mom was that she would not be present at Kayla’s confirmation some day. So I pulled out the video recorder, and we recorded a message that could be played on Kayla’s confirmation day. This last May, Kayla was confirmed, and she had the opportunity to have one last Kayla and Humma moment.

The day did finally come when the Lord took Humma to heaven. How do you tell your five-year-old that Grandma died? The nurtured faith of a child is simply outstanding. It was hard for me to tell Kayla that her grandmother died but easy for her to remind me that my mom was in heaven. That response can only come from someone who heard the Word that has been shared at school, at church, and at home from family—including from a very special Humma.

Dan Nommensen and his wife, Kelly, have a teenage daughter and a pre-teen son.


When my Grandma Pearl died, a cousin wrote a letter to the family that started like this: “Well, the fourth chair is once again filled. The pinochle cards have been shuffled and dealt, and Alvin has the manhattans already mixed.”

He was talking about four Christians—his parents and my grandparents—who’d been friends for decades, bound by blood, marriage, and serious card playing. Pearl had been the last of the four to go to heaven, so he imagined them reuniting at the card table.

Are we all scandalized? I hope not. The letter writer is a pastor, and he was doing exactly what Jesus did—using the finer things of earth to help us see the unseeable and imagine the unimaginable.

We can help our children understand heaven in the same way—especially those plagued by fears and questions. I have one child like that. This child worried that angels would be scary, that the daily routine would be dull, that if she got to heaven first she wouldn’t know where to go.

Realizing it’s impossible to capture the infinite bliss of heaven in finite earthly terms, I tried anyway, saying things like:

• You won’t be alone in heaven. Even if you die today, you’ll blink your eyes once and we’ll all be there together—because in heaven there’s no such thing as time.

• Heaven isn’t boring. You won’t float on a cloud, playing the harp. What’s the most fun you’ve ever had? Were you swimming or laughing so hard milk came out of your nose? Multiply that by a million, and that’s what heaven will be like.

• In heaven you’ll still be you. You won’t walk around in a trance, chanting to other identical floaty beings. You’ll be yourself—but the best version of yourself! No sickness. No sins. You won’t get the flu. You won’t be tempted to hit your brother.

• Best of all, Jesus is in heaven. And Jesus is all love all the time. He’ll call you by name, and you’ll run into his arms, and it’ll feel as if he’s known you forever—which he has.

Death is still horrible. Contrary to Disney’s “Circle of Life,” death isn’t a natural part of the life cycle. It’s an intruder in God’s perfect plan. So when someone dies, it’s good to cry. Jesus himself cried at his friend Lazarus’s funeral, even though he knew he’d be raising him from the dead in about ten minutes.

Death is hard. But heaven? Heaven is amazing.

My cousin finished his letter like this: “At this very moment, Pearl is more alive than any of us. . . . Pearl has already seen the Master’s welcome smile, his outstretched arms, and has heard him say, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Your sojourn on this earth has proved a blessing to many. Welcome to the joy that has been prepared for you from eternity.’ ”

Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her two 20-somethings and his teenage son.


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Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 103, Number 9
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: How does being a Christian affect my parenting?

It’s a label many of us wear with pride: “Christian parent.” What does it mean, though? How does a Christian mom or dad parent differently than a non-Christian one? Our authors this month give us some examples from their lives, which may help us as we continue on our Christian parenting journeys.

Have you checked out Heart to heart’s blog site lately? In addition to each month’s articles, monthly webcasts and podcasts are also available. Visit forwardinchrist.net today.

Nicole Balza


How does Christianity affect my parenting? How does it not? Maybe there’s a bigger question for me, though. Maybe the question is: How does looking like a Christian parent hinder my parenting?

If you have been a lifelong Christian like me, you may have a mental picture of what good, Christian parents look like. I did.

My picture: They are married. They have respectful and well-behaved kids. If they have to discipline, they do it with love and logic. They send their kids to the Lutheran elementary school. Their children are active members of the youth groups—not only for themselves but also for the example they set for the other youth. You could probably put a few more thoughts in there. I could too.

If you look at my list, it paints a pretty picture. My husband and I worked hard at painting it. It’s not a bad painting. However, striving for this painting started to overshadow real Christian parenting.

What did we look like to the other families of our congregation? What kind of example were we to our neighbors? These questions aren’t bad questions, but they became more important than questions like: Are we loving God? Are we loving others? Are we modeling those things to our children?

Stripping away our concerns of how we think others view our parenting gives us freedom to live under God’s grace. We find that focusing on our own relationship with Christ compels us to love others and therefore model that to our children. Sound familiar? “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

My husband, Tad, and I have since made choices that may not look like what good, Christian parents would do. For example, we just finished our sixth year of homeschooling even though we have a wonderful Lutheran elementary school. We take very seriously the command to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Our choices are prayerfully deliberated with this as our goal. Because Tad accepted a call to be “The Youth Guy,” he is gone nights, weekends, and chunks of summers. Fridays are his day off, which is when the kids were in school. How can Tad be a part of “bringing them up” if he isn’t home when they are? We realized how much impact we could have if our kids were home with us.

Finally, I learned to be careful of my opinions when others painted a different picture of good, Christian parenting. Just because it doesn’t look like my painting doesn’t mean it’s wrong or even not as good as mine. I know some people questioned our decision to homeschool. I appreciated the people who asked me about our decision process or why we chose what we did. Those people sought understanding.

Seek God first. Bring your children up in the training of the Lord. Let’s encourage parents, as our picture is always changing.

Jenni Schubring and her husband, Tad, have three sons and a daughter.


It was Friday night. My wife was at an event for church, and my daughter was at a sleepover at a friend’s house. My son and I had a night off together. We decided to go to a movie and looked at the options. There was one superhero-type movie that I thought looked good. My son thought it looked “awesome!” Then I saw the rating: “R.”

My son asked, “Dad, why can’t we go to an R-movie?”

That question reminded me of this Heart to heart topic. Is there a difference in how a Christian versus a non-Christian parent might respond to my son’s question? Couldn’t we both reply by pointing out that the movie has sexual contact, vulgar language, and extreme violence and that’s inappropriate for young children? I think we could—and that was part of my response.

We all have non-Christian friends who do a great job of instilling basic morals and values in their children. After all, everyone has a natural knowledge of God’s law and can use that in their parenting as they train their children not to hurt others (or watch others do so in a movie), steal, lie, etc.

But as a Christian parent, we have something more! We not only have God’s law, but we also have the gospel. We know that there is no way we can keep the law perfectly, but Christ did for us—and gave his life to pay the penalty for our sin. By God’s grace, we are forgiven and heirs of eternal life. Everything we do now is not merely motivated by God’s law. The law has been fulfilled by Christ’s sacrifice. Now what we do comes out of joyful response to the gospel message.

“Dad, why can’t we go to an R-movie?”

We can! But, let’s think about how we can show our love to God? By watching a movie filled with sexual contact, vulgar language, and extreme violence? Or by staying home with a bowl of popcorn and watching Star Wars? We chose Star Wars—and I ate most of the popcorn.

These teachable moments of gospel opportunity are always before us. Let’s admit that we likely err on the side of being more law-based than gospel-based in our parenting. It’s natural, but it’s truly at the root of what sets us apart as Christian parents. Remind yourself of your overwhelming thankfulness that despite your sin and imperfections, the Holy Spirit has led you to know Christ’s love. Now it’s our opportunity to demonstrate that thankfulness in the lives of our children.

Dan Nommensen and his wife, Kelly, have a daughter and a son.


It’s been said that we get our view of God from our relationship with our earthly father. If that’s true, then we parents, and especially fathers, want to do the best we can to give an accurate view of God the Father. We want to parent our children the way that God parents us.

Here are some observations I’ve made about the way God parents me and some things I’ve done as I try to father my sons the way God has fathered me.

• God takes his law seriously. He makes that clear by allowing and even sending consequences into my life. Likewise, as a loving father, I will allow and give my boys consequences for their sinful actions when they rebel against God and me. These consequences are given in love, not anger, and are meant to teach my boys that God’s way is always best.

• But, even as I suffer the consequences of my sin, God regularly assures me of his unconditional love based on Jesus’ work in my place. I am forgiven. I am always his dearly loved child. Likewise, I want my boys to know that my love for them is unconditional. I always try to be quick to assure them of my forgiveness and of God’s. In our house we don’t answer, “I’m sorry,” with “It’s okay.” It’s not okay. It’s a sin. Instead we say, “I forgive you, and so does God.” We live confession and absolution on a daily basis.

• God makes it clear that he’s not too busy running the universe to make time for me and to listen to my prayers. Likewise, I want to show my boys that I’m not too busy for them. To get to know my boys’ hopes and dreams, worries and fears better, I’ve been occasionally taking each one out for breakfast—just the two of us. They promise to answer my questions honestly. I promise to try not to embarrass them.

Role models have an important place in the lives of those who are seeking to grow. But it’s not just children who need role models; parents need them too! And what better model can we find as we seek to grow as parents than our heavenly Father who parents us perfectly? So we study his Word to know him better, to be assured of his forgiveness for our failures to be like him, and to find the gospel motivation to mimic him more closely. Just as God loves me and parents me, so I want to love my children and parent them. We want to “follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1).

Rob Guenther and his wife, Becky, have four sons ages 11 and under.

 

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Author: Nicole Balza
Volume 103, Number 8
Issue: August 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: Explaining same-sex relationships

How do we explain same-sex relationships to our children?

As Christian parents, we can’t bury our heads in the sand about what is going on in the world around us. We can’t expect that our children don’t notice, either. We need to be ready to discuss difficult topics, and homosexuality is one of them. The great part is, that as Christian parents, we have God’s Word to reflect upon and share with our children. Our two authors this month share their perspectives on how they believe that God’s Word and Jesus’ sacrifice are essential parts of this conversation.

Nicole Balza


Just last week we sat together at a Starbucks, the unlikeliest of friends. He a horse trainer from L.A. Me a pastor of a church plant in Aiken, S.C. We sat there amiably chatting about life in Aiken, etc., etc.

I sat there and prayed, “Lord, show me a way to talk to him about you.” And, suddenly, my friend announced, “I’m gay.” Opportunity provided.

I won’t recount his story to you, but I will tell you that I ached for him as he related it. All these years later, you know what thought really killed him inside? He said, “You’re clean before God. I never can be. This is who I am. I will wake up tomorrow just this way. There will always be this fundamental separation between God and me.”

I know. I know. I’m supposed to talk about what we might say to our children about same-sex relationships. But, honestly, in a way I just did. This man had once been a child. In fact, this man had once been a child in a very pious Christian household. And his only present conception of God was one perfectly antithetical to the gospel. We believe in a God who broke down the wall of separation between us and him with his Son, Jesus Christ. We believe in a Jesus who came the whole way to us—no, he didn’t just come the whole way, he chased us down because we were self-consumed and self-willed in ways so destructive that even now we’re still coming to understand how bad it was. And as I sat with my new friend I got glimpses of him, the boy, who’d never glimpsed a God that good—a boy who’d never understood that Jesus isn’t just theological theory. He’s flesh-and-blood Savior for very real inner darkness.

As I stared into that history, I sat in my present and thought of my daughter. I asked myself, “What truth can I deliver to her now that the Spirit can leverage on her heart? I want her to know that good God. When and how do I do that?”

After all, it is in my fatherly job description to answer those questions. In some ways, I suppose I already have. I enjoy her personal flair, but I call her on it when it morphs suddenly into sass. I love to play ball with her, but when she becomes selfish and possessive? She’s going to know about it. And then I always lavish her with Jesus when she “gets” it. Did I say lavish? And why? Her personal darkness is no theory. Neither is her Savior. And if she knows those divine truths, she will be able to deal effectively with any proposed alternatives that surface in her life.

And I tell her The Stories. It’s my favorite part of parenting her. I LOVE to tell her The Stories. I don’t just do the Christmas story. I do them all. Light. Darkness. Sin. Grace. I do the ones that include violence and even death. (It was really something to see Samson through her eyes last week! And how else do you do Good Friday?) I do them all.

I can guarantee you that by the time she grasps by experience the darkness of this world, she’ll already have known that truth from the Scriptures. That “modern” family at the mall won’t surprise her because her daddy told her that story about Lot. That rumor about her fifth-grade classmate won’t confound her because she’ll already have learned from the Scriptures how to think about it—all right there sitting on her daddy’s lap. All in a context of gentleness, love, and the Spirit of God himself.

And then? Well, I plan to live in that moment. Because I just want to be her dad. Not a template. Not a cookie cutter. I just want to be her dad. When her young mind sees sin firsthand, I don’t want to bust out my pre-planned speech. I want to hear what her tender, young conscience is causing her to think. When she confronts big questions about sexuality, I don’t want to get out some canned approach. I want to minister to whatever issues of sin and grace bubble to her surface so I can properly wrap her up in a hug of truth.

What will that look like? I don’t know. I do know where I’m headed, though. I want her so confident in the gospel that at a Starbucks in 2046 she’ll sit with someone just as her daddy once did and say, “I too have evil desires that wage war on my soul. They’ll be there tomorrow too. But I know the gospel, and I want you to know it too. God gave me Jesus as my substitute, and he’s poured his Spirit into me as my new impulse. And can I just tell you this? Jesus is real for you too.”

Jonathan Bourman is a pastor at Peace, Aiken, S.C. He and his wife, Melanie, have a three-year-old daughter.


Even difficult topics can be broached with Scripture as our guide, and the issue of same-sex relationships is no exception. Christian parents are often caught unprepared to give an answer to an inquiring child. But God’s Word has a definitive approach.

If your inclination is to start with Scripture’s unequivocal stance against same-sex coupling, stop and remember Christ’s example. First, we are told repeatedly that God wishes for all to be saved. We are commanded many times to love our neighbor. If your viewpoint toward the weaknesses of others is one of self-righteous condemnation, stop and adjust your attitude. If you have been tolerant of other sinful lifestyles yet find this one intolerable, stop and realize your own bias. If you gossip about people—especially in front of impressionable children—stop and train your tongue to speak well of others.

Christ led with an attitude of love and compassion, and we can aspire to do no less. John 8:3-11 is an example of the way Jesus handled a real-life situation. Jesus was preaching in the temple courts when a group of Pharisees brought a woman in front of the group. There was no doubt as to her sin of adultery as she had been caught in the act. These men of God wanted Jesus to pronounce punishment on her in this very public forum. When pushed for an answer, Jesus reminded these sanctimonious Pharisees of their own sin. He then waited until he and the woman were alone. He didn’t condemn her to death as had been suggested. He told her to go and leave her life of sin. What relief she must have felt when she realized her life had been spared! And how much more receptive she must have been when a simple directive was given by her Savior. No invectives, no finger pointing, just truth.

Discussions with children arising from organic events are usually more effective than contrived lectures. Today’s social climate provides plenty of openings on this issue. Age-appropriate answers to honest questions don’t need to be lengthy. We take our cue from God’s commands and lovingly apply them.

When Jesus met Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) and recognized his many sins, Jesus could have had Zacchaeus dragged from his perch in the tree. As a tax collector, Zacchaeus would not have received much empathy from the crowd. Instead Jesus did something that gave the crowd fodder for gossip. Jesus told Zacchaeus he wanted to go to his house. In so doing he honored Zacchaeus with his presence and took him to a private place to talk about his erring ways. No public ridicule, no cheap shots, rather a one-on-one talk in Zacchaeus’ own home. Facing the Savior’s love, he changed.

We remind our children of God’s love and of his desire for all people to be saved. We recognize this sinful inclination as a cross to bear. We acknowledge the forgiveness for all sins—including our own—and praise God for his goodness.

We give life to our words by our loving interactions with all people. Being motivated by the gospel opens doors that could otherwise be closed by the sting of the law. Friendship without compromising our beliefs gives truth to our love for all of God’s people. Our brothers and sisters who struggle with these wrongful desires often have an aching need to worship. We must own our uneasiness with those who are different and pray for guidance and a heart for souls.

Children learn far more from our actions than our words. Walk in love. Stand firm in the Word. Give thanks for a forgiving Savior.

Mary Clemons lives in Tucson, Ariz., with her husband, Sam. They have three grown children and five grandchildren.

 

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Author: Nicole Balza
Volume 103, Number 7
Issue: July 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: Impact of fathers

What kind of impact can a Christian father have on his children?

In a world that spends so much time making fun of dads and telling them that they are unnecessary, I thought this month would be a great time to remind ourselves of the impact that a Christian father can have on his children. I asked some of the children of our contributing authors to tell us about their dads. Their reflections remind me of many special moments with my own dad.

Do you have a story to share about your father or a dad you know? Send it to fic@wels.net.

Nicole Balza


A lesson from my dad

Rachel Learman writes about one of the life lessons she learned from her dad, Jim Aderman.

He listened quietly and patiently while I poured out my frustrations concerning the new place I was living. Out tumbled discontent with my job, the church, the choir, the location, and more. When I finished my long string of aggravations, there was a brief pause. Then, “Well, I am sorry to hear all of that. Life isn’t always easy, nor what you had hoped. But God does have a plan and purpose for your life there. Grow where you are planted, Rachel.”

As we hung up the phone, I have to admit I was far from satisfied with Dad’s answers. I don’t really know what I was hoping for, but “grow where you’re planted” was not it. At least that is what I thought in that moment.

But as I considered what he said, I realized it was what Dad had been teaching me all along—through new family houses, financial hardships, the anxiety of his pastoral calls, different schools, moving hours away for college and law school, breakups, and job loss. It was, in fact, even an intrinsic part of my confirmation verse that he, as my pastor, had chosen: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). The context for this Bible passage was the Lord finally allowing the Israelites to enter the Promised Land of Canaan. God gave them the Promised Land but didn’t promise them a perfect life in that land.

Dad has shown me this throughout my life.

God puts us in certain places and situations for a reason. We can either follow God’s command not to be afraid and discouraged, living our lives to reflect his love and being joyful in our circumstances, or wallow in self-pity and push away our loving God who has plans beyond measure for us.

Life has changed significantly since that phone call. I have since married; become a mom of four children; moved two more times to two different states, two different churches, and three different companies, yet I continue to apply Dad’s advice.


All about Daddy and me

Elliana Bourman, age three, answers questions from her mom, Melanie, about her dad, Jonathan Bourman.

Melanie: Does your daddy love you?

Elliana: Yup!

Melanie: How do you know?

Elliana: Because he tells me.

Melanie: What is your daddy’s job?

Elliana: I don’t remember.

Melanie: Daddy is a pastor, remember?

Elliana: Oh, yeah. He’s a pastor.

Melanie: What does Daddy do as a pastor?

Elliana: He stands on top and talks a lot.

Melanie: What does Daddy teach you about Jesus?

Elliana: That he washed my sins all gone.

Melanie: What is your favorite Bible story that Daddy has read to you?

Elliana: I like the big storm [Jesus calms the storm] and baby Jesus away in a manger.


A favorite memory of my dad

Kayla Nommensen, now 14 years old, reminisces about a special time with her dad, Dan Nommensen.

When I was about seven and eight, my dad took me up north a couple times to a cottage that my great uncle used to live in. On our four-hour drive up to the cottage, we had a great time singing camp songs, talking, and telling stories and jokes.

When we got up there, it was usually dark. Being the great dad he is, he let me trudge in while he took everything in out of the cold. He lit the fire, and we watched the temperature slowly rise, degree by degree. Then, after about an hour and a half of sorting, putting things in the fridge, and setting up heaters, he would finally get the bed ready and we would hop in. We sometimes watched a movie on the small screen of the portable movie player. Then we’d go to bed after saying prayers.

In the morning, I got up to a nice, warm, handmade meal. He already had everything set up and ready for us to eat and go. We then put our fishing things on and walked down to the lake just as the sun was rising. We got into the rocky boat with cobwebs and all and floated off. Dad rowed while we searched for the perfect place to cast our lures. When I finally threw a lure out with as much strength as I could, it would go off course or cross Dad’s line. But he always said, “That was a good one,” and helped me do it correctly.

I loved having those times with my dad. I love my dad and am thankful that I have such a loving Christian father to always watch over me.


My dad is special

Josh Nommensen, age 11, shares some thoughts about his dad, Dan Nommensen.

At night when my dad tucks me in we pray five special prayers, including one in German and the English meaning that he learned from his dad. My dad learned two prayers from his mom that we also pray. Then Luther’s Evening Prayer. This is special to me because my dad is passing them on to me from his parents, my grandparents, that I didn’t get to know. He plays basketball with me, and he plays Wii with me. He is very patient with me. My dad is special because he helps me get through tough times, and I love him very much.


 

 

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Author: Nicole Balza
Volume 103, Number 6
Issue: June 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: parent conversations: How can we build moms up?

How can we build moms up?


In honor of Mother’s Day, we’re focusing on moms this month. That doesn’t mean everyone else should tune out, though. As Laurie Gauger-Hested reminds us, we can all play a role in supporting the moms in our lives. After all, each mom is a gifted, precious soul that Jesus gave his life to save. As such, we should be kind to one another.

Often the moms I know are toughest on themselves. Wendy Heyn shares the familiar struggle of feeling as though she is not measuring up—to her own expectations or to those of her children and her God. Discover how she comes to peace when her focus changes—and how you can find that peace too.

Nicole Balza


It strikes me lately that we moms can be really hard on each other. We veteran moms can be the worst. My kids are almost grown up, and I know how easy it is to forget the infant and toddler years. I need to remind myself how excruciatingly long those days could be, how hard I tried to be the perfect mom, how guilty I felt when I failed, how tired I was, how overwhelmed, how bored.

Truth is, we veteran moms tend to romanticize and sanitize our memories so much that we forget all about our kids’ tantrums at Target and the Cheerios that lived under the sofa cushions for years. Years.

We need to ask God to help us be kinder to ourselves and others, which brings me to that famous saying: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

That woman whose kids are a little naughty? Her dad was far too quick with the paddle when she and her sisters were little, and she’s trying very hard to break the pattern. She may be more permissive than you’d be, but considering where she comes from, she’s doing great. So let’s be kind.

That woman with the detached look on her face while her toddlers are rubbing mud all over her yoga pants? God made her an introvert, and if she doesn’t get a few minutes of alone time soon, she’s going to implode. So let’s be kind.

That woman who’s always late? She’s low in Vitamin D and can hardly walk down the steps in the morning. She feels emotionally and physically tapped out before she even starts the day. So let’s be kind.

That woman who’s gained so much weight? She’s not lazy. She’s not overeating. Cortisol is coursing through her veins because of stress at work, her gut bacteria are all out of whack, and the doc put her on a new med for her fibromyalgia—all of which led to extra pounds. So let’s be kind.

That woman whose house is dirty? God put music in her, and every time she starts dusting, the dusting turns to dancing and melodies fill her head. She puts down the dust cloth, sits at the piano, and scribbles on staff paper. So, yeah, her house isn’t the cleanest, but—know what?—when she sits at that piano, that’s the moment she’s also doing what God gifted her to do. So let’s be kind.

We need to pivot.

What happens if we remind ourselves that just because we all have two X chromosomes doesn’t mean we have the same gifts?

We have different levels of cooking, cleaning, and organization skills—and frankly, some of us don’t care that much about the surfaces at all.

We have different levels of patience and empathy. Different ways of communicating love.

Some of us are naturals with babies, and some of us fumble around until the kids can clearly express their desire for peanut butter in English. Some of us love dealing with the drama of adolescence, and some of us enjoy kids best when they’re adults. Honestly, some of us are uncomfortable at almost every stage of the parenting process.

What if we just stop analyzing and comparing? We’re all human, and that means the calluses on our feet are not always buffed off, our bathrooms are not always swished and swiped, our e-mails are not always read, and our hot dishes are not always hot.

We lose our tempers. We’re a little frayed at the edges. We cry when no one is looking.

And we’re also amazingly gifted by God—every single one of us—some as administrators, some as teachers, some as healers, some as creators, some as communicators.

God made us, and he declares us gifted, precious souls through his Son, Jesus. That same Son forgives our failures and, being human himself, completely understands our weaknesses. He loves us and accepts us as we are.

Maybe we can try harder to do the same for each other. Happy Mothers’ Day.

Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her two 20-somethings and his preteen son.


I often feel like I don’t measure up. I’m not as fun as all the moms on Pinterest who make creative projects with their kids. I feel bad that I don’t have time in my schedule to volunteer for every field trip and to say “yes” whenever I am asked to help someone. I can be short-tempered and respond negatively to my children. I fall short every single day. When I feel that I have fallen short, I need to be careful to identify my measuring tool.

I’m not as fun as all the moms on Pinterest who make creative projects with their kids.

Comparison. When I compare, I always come up wanting. If I think of 50 other women and list one talent from each of those women, the list is 50 talents long! My list? How do I compare? Yet this is often the measuring tool that I use. False measuring tools like this leave me feeling defeated. Each mom is a complex creation to whom God gave special talents and abilities. God made me and chose me to be just the right mom for my children.

I feel bad that I don’t have time in my schedule to volunteer for every field trip and to say “yes” whenever I am asked to help someone.

Unrealistic expectations. I often feel guilty that I cannot do everything and be everywhere. My children will even add to my guilt by saying things like, “Everyone else’s moms came.” Yet I am only one person who has 24 hours in each day. Measuring myself against unrealistic expectations—whether my own or those of others—only gives me false guilt and makes me second guess my choices. It is wise to prayerfully consider how my time can best be used and then to set limits. There may be things that I would enjoy doing or even that I am gifted at doing but that my family life does not allow time for. My first responsibility is to care for my family, and I honor God by doing so. Saying “no” sometimes is part of being a good steward of my time.

I can be short-tempered and respond negatively to my children.

My own sinful behavior. Using God’s Word as my guide, it is clear that I do not measure up. My shortcomings aren’t a result of a bad self-esteem. They are real. I don’t meet God’s mark. Thankfully that doesn’t matter anymore. My Jesus does meet the mark. He lived a perfect life, died, and rose. Through faith, his perfection is mine.

When I want to shed my feelings of not measuring up, I know exactly where to look—God’s Word. God changes hearts. He can help us be the moms that he wants us to be. He can help us to be moms who let go of our mistakes and bask in his forgiveness. God is the one in whom we boast.

Although time is often limited, time with God is time well spent. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” When we make time and spend it quietly with God, our focus changes. We stop seeing our own weakness and focus on Christ’s perfection. When God is first, our attitude about our family life will change. Pinterest, our own expectations, and the expectations of others will matter less—and the opinion of God will matter more.

Wendy Heyn and her husband, Juerg, have three young children.


 

 

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Author: Multiple
Volume 103, Number 5
Issue: May 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: parent conversations: Money management

Our authors this month are at three very different stages in their parenting journeys. Yet each one offers valuable advice for helping children learn how to manage money in a God-pleasing way. Do you have advice on this important topic? E-mail fic@wels.net to share your thoughts and experiences.

Have you visited Heart to heart’s website lately? The site offers webcasts and podcasts on each month’s topic, as well as expanded versions of the articles printed in this column. Some months, additional articles are also posted that complement what is shared here. Visit wels.net/ forwardinchrist today.

Nicole Balza


HOW DO WE TEACH KIDS TO MANAGE MONEY IN A GOD-PLEASING WAY?


 

A few years ago, our church offered a Christian financial planning program that focused on helping people get in control of their money. The class changed everything money-related in our marriage (for the better!) and made us much more conscious of what habits we wanted to impart to our children.

We ordered a junior financial planning kit for our daughter, Anna. One of the main points in the junior program is that a weekly allowance is out because then kids learn that they get money for nothing. The program favors a chore/commission approach instead.

We created a chore chart for Anna with age-appropriate chores and associated commissions for each one. If she did the chore that day, she’d get paid; if not, then no money. At the end of the week, we’d tally up how much money she had earned and pay up. She sorted her weekly pay into three pouches. She used one for saving, one for spending, and one for giving. The giving envelope came with us weekly to church for the offering. Any time we went to the store, she could bring her spending money.

We have admittedly fallen away from following this as closely as we did in the beginning. But the principles we learned from that program have endured. I’ll offer the kids chores to do, or I’ll support a lemonade stand in the summer if they ask for spending money. They both love putting money in the offering tray on Sunday mornings, and gathering contributions for the offering has become part of getting ready for church in our house.

My rule for shopping with the kids is if they want something that isn’t on my list, they better have brought their spending money. And if they forgot, then we can bring it next time. This has worked surprisingly well at squashing a lot of the begging that occurs on our shopping expeditions.

I feel like Andy and I have established a fairly good base of teaching our kids to manage their money, but there is still a lot we want them to learn. I want to teach them about budgeting and living within their means; about saving strategically for future and potential emergencies; about credit cards not being the key to freedom I thought they were in college; and about giving generously, using their gifts from God to benefit others.

Kerry Ognenoff and her husband, Andy, have a daughter in second grade and a son in preschool.


 

 

As I sit down to write this article, my oldest son is beginning his final semester of college. Our time of instructing him in our home is nearing an end. I’m pretty sure it was only yesterday that I took his little hand and led him into his kindergarten classroom. On that fall day 16 years ago, and on the many days that followed, it seemed like our years of parenting would stretch on forever. It seemed like there were unlimited days left for teaching opportunities in our home. Now I am facing a bittersweet ending, a closing of a chapter in our parenting lives.

So I have a confession to make. In hindsight, one of those teaching opportunities that my husband, Thad, and I often failed to be intentional about was modeling a God-pleasing attitude toward money and possessions, and better yet—a focus on living out of gratitude for the Lord and all he’s blessed us with. We thank God that, in Christ, he forgives our shortcomings as parents!

Here are some important lessons that Thad and I have learned and are still working to teach in our home regarding our attitude toward money and possessions:

• Everything we have—from the comfortable house we live in to the stray paper clip at the bottom of the junk drawer—is a gift “from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17). We are simply the blessed and undeserving recipients of these gifts. When we have that attitude, we start to view our possessions as a “privilege,” instead of a “right.”

• We need to show our kids how to give sacrificially to God in response to all our blessings and verbalize why we give. As parents, we must model how to earmark the first portion of our income to support God’s work. It is a very intentional response to our blessings, and it serves others—and becomes more meaningful than just a few coins hastily shoved into the little Sunday school envelope five minutes before the service begins. (And yes, we did this.)

• We need to model how to do an honest day’s work—for which we earn an honest wage. We can’t raise the next generation to do nothing and yet expect something in return. When we have to work hard for something, it carries a higher value.

• Our value is not dependent on how much money we have in the bank or what brand of car we drive. Quite simply, our value is dependent on who we are in Christ. We are redeemed children of God, and nothing on earth is worth more than that.

Is it too late for Thad and me to teach our kids these lessons in our home? No. Although our boys are legally adults, they are still our children. We are still Mom and Dad, and it is still our number one responsibility to instruct them in God’s truth and in how to view our lives—and all we have—as gifts from a loving heavenly Father.

Ann Jahns and her husband, Thad, have three sons, two in college and one in high school.


 

Laughter. Uncontrolled. “The parenting column wants you to write about teaching kids finances?” My wife’s question was punctuated by gasps for air. “Do they know you haven’t written a check in decades?”

When she regained her composure, I meekly asked, “Wife, would you help me write this article?” Thankfully, she agreed. Sharon’s tips are intended to start the conversation about the financial training of children.

MAKE USE OF TEACHABLE MOMENTS

“Can we go out to eat tonight?”

“No, Sweetie, we don’t have money in our budget for that.”

“Can’t we just go to the bank and get some more money?”

Use these teachable moments to talk about

• your spending priorities (“We can’t afford that right now, but we are saving for it”),

• getting the best deal (“Is the better buy at Amazon or eBay?”),

• judging quality in what you buy (“This coat is less expensive, but will that more expensive coat last longer?”), and

• resisting impulse buying (“Why do you suppose stores put candy and snacks next to the checkout?”).

SHOW HOW YOU MANAGE YOUR FINANCES

“What are you doing, Mommy?” my daughter asked when she was in grade school.

“Paying bills, Honey. That check is for your school. This one pays for that new coat we bought you last month. But there are lots of bills I don’t have to write checks for. We pay many of our bills with money that comes right out of our checking account. That’s how we pay to live in this house and how we pay for our car. But do you see that check over there? That’s the first one I write because I want to make sure there is always money for it. That’s our offering to Jesus.”

EXPLAIN HOW YOU HANDLE YOUR FINANACES

• Show them what happens when you scan your church’s QR code to make a donation.

• Walk them through your family budget sheet.

• Let them sit with you as you electronically transfer money between your savings and checking accounts or set up automatic withdrawals. Of course, keep passwords secure.

• When they are in junior high, help them set up a joint checking and savings account with you. Monitor how they manage that responsibility.

• Talk about the percentage of income you give to your church and other charitable organizations. Emphasize how God’s grace prompts you to be as generous as possible.

• When money is tight, remind them that because Jesus is your Savior, your heavenly Father will continue to care for you. Tell them family accounts of God’s providence.

James and Sharon Aderman raised three daughters and are now enjoying their eight grandchildren.

 

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Author: Multiple
Volume 103, Number 4
Issue: April 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: Responding to children with special needs

Most of us have been “that person”—the one who doesn’t know what to say or do when she meets a person with special needs. We don’t want to ask the wrong questions or make the wrong assumptions. We want to show we care, but we aren’t sure if offering our help might be interpreted as an insult. When our children are present, it just ups the ante. Now we really have to make sure we get it right so that we can model the best behavior for them.

This month, Heart to heart contributor Wendy Heyn shares her thoughts on best practices when meeting a person with special needs. Wendy’s second child, Liam, was born with a rare genetic neurodevelopmental disorder known as MECP2 duplication syndrome.

Nicole Balza


 

How should we and our children respond to those with special needs?

 


“Why does he have that chair?”

“What’s wrong with him?”

These are questions that children often ask about my son, Liam. Sometimes they ask me directly. Sometimes they ask their parents. Sometimes they yell the questions to any listening ears. Many children stop in their tracks to stare. For our family every grocery store trip, library visit, church event, or walk in the neighborhood brings us into contact with people who have questions.

People notice Liam’s chair. They notice that he cannot talk. They hear him make loud noises. They see that his body moves very differently than most. I understand their curiosity. Liam is different, and people just want to understand.

Children are honest and open in their curiosity. I appreciate that they ask questions. Certainly there are days when I want to avoid stares and questions. I want to blend in with the crowd. Yet I know that it is a great service to Liam when we use every teachable moment. If people can become comfortable with Liam and can learn to interact with him appropriately, all of our lives will be richer.

Children’s questions are often intercepted by chagrined parents. The parents apologize and pull their curious children away from Liam without allowing us to say hello or answer their questions. This leaves everyone feeling awkward.

Ironically, when I am out with only my daughters and we meet individuals with special needs, I have trouble knowing how to behave. It is so difficult! The social cues are confusing, any assumptions that I have made are usually wrong, and I overthink every word that I say. Being Liam’s mom has helped me to think about these situations and how we can all respond better. I have found following these guidelines to be helpful for introducing children to someone new who has special needs:

1. Remember that people with disabilities are people first. The disability is certainly a part of them, but it isn’t who they are. They have feelings, ideas, wishes, and hopes just like you do. I explain this to my children, and we talk about what each of my children likes, thinks, hopes, and wishes. We talk about how every person is similar in these ways even if he cannot communicate this or if she looks or moves differently.

2. Start by smiling and saying hello. Even if your child started the interaction with a loud question, parents of children with disabilities understand that this happens. We are human. Our kids are too. Don’t lose this teachable moment because of your own embarrassment. A smile and a kind hello are so much friendlier than pulling your child away. Most days, we will even take a minute to explain the wheelchair to your child or to introduce Liam.

3. Acknowledge Liam, not just his family. Liam won’t answer you. He may not even look at you, but say hello to him. Look at him. Use your regular voice. You don’t need to talk extra loudly. He is a school-aged kid, so baby talk is unnecessary. I will help you out by interpreting his response. Liam is so valuable and worthwhile, and your hello to him helps both him and me see that you know this.

4. An “I’m not sure” is better than a wrong or made up answer. This is always the truth with kids, and it certainly applies to answering their questions about special needs. While “God made him that way” is certainly true of Liam’s inability to talk and walk, it oversimplifies Liam’s differences. It doesn’t answer the child’s questions. It is not true of why he is in a wheelchair (which is usually what kids want to know). Liam wasn’t born with a wheelchair. For a small child, an age-appropriate response that might be better would be to explain that Liam’s brain doesn’t send the right messages and so his body never learned to walk or talk the way that most children do.

5. If you and your child are talking with Liam, tell your child a few things that are similar about him and Liam. “Do you like books? Liam loves to listen to books.” This helps your child to see Liam as a little boy. Conversations like this are a great way to become Liam’s new friend. They also help your child understand that Liam is similar to him in so many ways.

6. Examine your own responses. When I interact with others who have special needs, I am always worried about doing or saying the wrong thing. My kids pick up on this no matter how kind my words are. The easiest way I’ve found to overcome my own fears has been to get to know real people with special needs. Every single person is different, and my comfort with differences grows as I get used to being with all sorts of people.

7. Reassure your child. Recently a girl told my daughter, “Your brother is just creepy.” What people don’t understand feels scary to them. It may seem obvious, but children need to be reassured that children like Liam are not scary. They are actually very much like every other child. They like to play. They want to have friends. They want to be loved. Explain to your child that children can be born disabled or become disabled from an accident. You cannot catch disability from another child. Being friends with them is perfectly safe.

8. Do not reward or congratulate your child for being friends with another child who has special needs. Being a friend to someone with special needs is not a charitable act or an act of kindness. It is a mutually beneficial relationship and should be treated as such. Typical peers often learn and grow through such friendships in huge ways.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Helping your child lovingly interact with others is a natural part of Christian parenting. In his explanation to the Eighth Commandment Luther says that we are to “take [our neighbor’s] words and actions in the kindest possible way.” If each of us strives to approach situations with this attitude, we can truly become comfortable with interactions involving all kinds of people. As you encounter children with special needs, imagine how you would want to be treated. Just as your child and my Liam have many things in common, so do you and I. We are parents doing our best to nurture and love the children that the Lord has entrusted to us—probably more alike than different.

Wendy Heyn and her husband, Juerg, have three children.


Advice from Liam’s big sister, Sophia

Sophia Heyn is a creative 10-year-old who enjoys reading historical fiction and acting out the scenarios that she learns about from Laura Ingalls Wilder, the American Girl series, and other beloved books. Because her father was born and raised in Germany, she has traveled to Europe many times, and this gives her a different perspective on the world. Perhaps having a brother with a genetic disorder that causes severe cognitive and physical disabilities has also contributed to the mature way that she carries herself.

I sat down with Sophia over a cup of hot chocolate to hear her perspective on how other children should treat her brother.

Q: What do you like to do with Liam?

Sophia: I play Thomas [the Tank Engine] with him and help him get a drink. He likes me to set up his Thomas cards so that he can wreck them.

Q: When people meet Liam for the first time, what kind of questions do they ask?

Sophia: Some people ask, “What’s wrong with him?”

Q: How do you answer when people ask that?

Sophia: I tell them that he has a disability and his brain doesn’t work the same way that ours does. I like when they ask questions. Some people just stare, but I think it’s better to ask questions.

Q: How does it make you feel when people stare or treat Liam differently?

Sophia: I don’t like it.

Q: What would you like to say when that happens?

Sophia: It’s okay if you have questions.

Sophia encourages people of all ages to talk with her family about Liam. Her love for her brother shines through as she talks about him, as does her sense of protection. Like most big sisters, Sophia wants children to be kind to her brother. As you help your children learn how to respond to those with special needs, consider sharing Sophia’s thoughts with them.

Nicole Balza

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Author: Nicole Balza
Volume 103, Number 3
Issue: March 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: parent conversations: How do we teach our children to be respectful?

Sometimes I feel like I spend most of my days trying to instill respectfulness in my kids. In a society that increasingly seems to mock respect, it can seem to be an uphill battle. Let’s go back to basics. What does God’s Word say about respect? How can we model that for our kids? Read these articles and be reminded that respect hasn’t gone out of style for God and his people.


Sometimes I feel like that old comedian who after every joke tugged at his collar and whined, “I tell ya’, I get no respect.”

My boys don’t always show respect. And that’s a problem—not just with me, but with God who commands, “Honor your father and your mother . . . ” (Exodus 20:12) and “Each of you must respect your mother and father” (Leviticus 19:3).

So, if I’m going to be a faithful and loving parent, I’m going to have to teach my kids to show me respect. But that’s hard, because my sinful anger gets in the way whenever I feel disrespected. So before I consider my relationship with my kids, I need to consider my relationship to God. How well do I respect him?

If I’m honest, I have to admit that I disrespect God every time I sin—even when that sin is prompted by my boys’ disrespect. In essence I say to God what my boys say to me, “What I want is more important than what you want. I choose to make myself the authority instead of you.”

How does God handle it? He doesn’t allow me to talk back to him without consequences. He teaches me that it’s not okay to do things my way instead of his way in love. “The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son” (Hebrews 12:6).

So I won’t allow my boys to talk back to me without consequences. I will discipline them (with a struggle for great patience and careful instruction) when they are disrespectful.

But that’s not all God does. He doesn’t just discipline me with his law. He also earns my respect and—even more—my love by his gospel. He sent his own Son to face the disrespect and torture of sinful men, to be crucified on a cross for me. And now I am completely forgiven for my disrespectful attitude and for every sin that has resulted from it. This moves me to love and respect God and want to live for him.

So too I will try to earn my boys’ respect—and their love—by showing my love for them. I will try to motivate my boys to show respect by showing them how much God loves them in Christ. And with his help, using his law and his gospel, I will learn to better respect God, and my boys will better learn to respect me—all out of love for God.

To read an expanded version of this article, visit forwardinchrist.net/get-no-respect.

Rob Guenther and his wife, Becky, have four sons ages 11 and under.


People want respect, and yet it looks different for different people. We think we deserve respect, and yet Jesus, who truly deserves our respect, never demanded respect from anyone. I am realizing that I use the word  respect often without much thought to what it really means.

Some very wise women in my circle of friends describe respect this way:

“I believe that respect is attached to value. If you can understand that someone is valuable, whether you agree with them or not, you hold them in high enough regard to allow them to be who they are.”

“Fearless submission. Honoring others above one’s self. Knowing you do not have to protect and defend your ‘self’ but rather live outrageously free in your relationship with others because God is on his throne. Respect is not trying to control the outcome but rather letting it unfold.”

“Respect is love in plain clothes.”

“Recognizing the value God placed on another person because of his Son’s life and sacrifice (Jesus died for that person) and deferring to them because of their value to God.”

“I think respect grows from the seed of humility that you plant in his light and care for lovingly.”

Pretty profound if you ask me.

So how do we teach these concepts to our children? Follow Jesus’ example. Model giving respect to others. Jesus showed respect to those he encountered—from the woman at the well to doubting Thomas.

Paul tells us, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). What does submitting have to do with respect? Re-read the answers my lovely friends shared about what respect means. It is submitting. It is putting others ahead of ourselves. It is not demanding. It is loving.

Show your children what respect is by respecting them, by respecting your spouse, by respecting your leaders, by respecting the referees at your children’s games. Showing your children how to respect others melds into showing them how to love—even the unlovable, even our enemies, even if we think it’s not deserved, even people with whom we disagree and even those who disagree with us. Respect can and does go a long way.

Jenni Schubring and her husband, Tad, have three sons and a daughter.


“Each of you must respect your mother and father” (Leviticus 19:3). This is a direct command from God. The explanation to the Fourth Commandment says, “We should fear and love God that we do not dishonor or anger our parents and others in authority but honor, serve, and obey them and give them love and respect.” Unfortunately, we are born into the world with a sinful nature, and showing respect does not come naturally. As parents, this means that we have to learn respect and then teach our children how to show respect.

We don’t have to look far to find examples of disrespect. How often are grade-school gyms filled with parents and coaches who show disrespect for authority by disagreeing with every call made by the official? And what about political campaigns? Respect is replaced with mudslinging, lies, and rudeness.

How easy it is to think that we have the right to talk poorly about coworkers, second-guess our bosses, lash out at a nearby driver, be short-tempered with the waitress who isn’t meeting our expectations, put devices before a child or spouse, or speak rudely to that person who just can’t see things from our perspective. Unfortunately, these examples all came to mind because at one time or another, I was guilty of them myself.

The reality is that our children are watching. I was stopped dead in my tracks one night at our family campfire. While making s’mores, the inevitable happened. My five-year-old son dropped his marshmallow into the fire. With great disgust he shouted, “C’mon! You’ve got to be kidding me!” My wife’s jaw dropped. Sadly, this didn’t sound odd to me. I had shouted the exact same words with the exact same emotion at the TV while watching a college game about an hour earlier.

More important than pointing out examples of disrespectful behavior, we can joyfully model for our children how to respect others. A great way to begin teaching the lifelong habit of respect is to teach proper manners. We can also teach our children how to respect our country and those who make it great. We should also expect our children to respect their pastors and teachers. We can help foster this by praying for them, speaking well of them, never questioning them in front of our children, and expecting that our children listen to them the first time.

Learning respect will not happen without a few bumps in the road. When a child shows disrespect, it is our opportunity to show love to them by holding them accountable.

Be sure to spend time with your children in his Word. Remind them of God’s love for all people. One of our family’s favorite songs states, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world!” When we show respect to all of God’s creation, we show honor to him.

Aaron Bauer and his wife, Sarah, have 4 children.


Looking for more Christian parenting insights? Watch the monthly webcasts with Heart to heart authors available at forwardinchrist.net/webcasts.

 

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Author: Multiple
Volume 103, Number 2
Issue: February 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: parent conversations: Is all lying wrong?

Is all lying wrong?

Nothing gets past our kids, including our “little white lies.” Is all lying wrong, though? What about when we’re trying to be kind? Hear perspectives from three Christian parents—and from our heavenly Father.


“It’s just a little white lie. No one was hurt.” An internal argument raged. “But it’s still a lie. You didn’t tell the truth.”

It started over a blob of tangled crayon lines.

“Awesome picture of a tree,” I told my grandson. But I lied. It didn’t look anything like a tree. Or anything I could identify.

I cleared a place on the refrigerator to mount his masterpiece. “Taa daa!” I trumpeted, bowing toward his picture with a grand hand gesture.

I could have truthfully said, “This is the best tree drawing you’ve ever done.” Instead I said, “This is the best tree drawing ever.”

Christians easily recognize the harm in lies that misrepresent God and misinterpret his Word. Deception that takes advantage of others is also obvious sin. But other liberties with the truth can seem not quite wrong. Sometimes justifiable. For instance:

• Hypocritical lies that promise to allow us escape from the consequences of our convictions. (Have you pretended that living together outside of marriage is acceptable in order to escape ridicule?)

• Convenient lies that rescue us from situations we find distasteful. (“I’d love to go shopping, Honey, but my foot is killing me. I should just sit here and watch football.”)

• Fairy tale lies that lead children to believe in Santa, the tooth fairy, and other implausible fables.

• Protecting lies that are meant to shelter others from life’s hard truths. (“Your father doesn’t have a drinking problem. He’s just under a lot of stress.”)

• Privacy lies that save us from sharing what we want to keep to ourselves. (“Missing that party doesn’t bother me a bit.”)

• Caring lies, like the one I told my grandson, that are intended to avoid hurting others.

Our Father, the God of Truth, makes it clear in his Word of Truth that his grateful children are to be people of truth. “Do not lie to each other,” he says, “since you have . . . put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:9,10).

God’s grace calls on us to be tactful and careful in the way we use truth. But, before all else, the truth of God’s grace compels us to be truthful.

Truth-telling is a life lesson our children and grandchildren need to see lived out in us. And when we fail, they need to hear us admit it, claim our cross-won forgiveness, and pledge to do better.

Little white lies are still lies. God’s children gently tell the truth—even about trees grandchildren draw.

James Aderman and his wife, Sharon, raised three daughters and are now enjoying their eight grandchildren.


When I was expecting our first child, a friend gave me some advice: Be honest with your kids. You can’t expect them to be honest with you if you’re not honest with them.

I’ve endeavored to stick to that principle, both because I want to model good habits for them and because I think they deserve honesty from me.

But what about honesty with other people? Do my kids understand when a “little white lie” might be acceptable? Is a little white lie ever acceptable?

One afternoon I ventured to Target with both young kids in tow. We only needed three things so I didn’t bother with a cart—living on the edge! With full arms, I was trying to wrangle both kids into our car when a man pulled his car up behind mine, blocking me in, and asked me for gas money. I felt cornered and unsafe (whether those were his intentions or not). I told him that sorry, no, I had no cash.

As I was trying frantically to get my kids into their seats and get out of there, Anna asked, “Is that true, Mom? Do you really not have any money?”

It wasn’t true. I had five dollars floating around in my purse. But I wasn’t about to admit that to a strange man while cornered in a parking lot with my kids. I had to tell Anna that it wasn’t true. I had lied to that man. (And then we had a long talk about listening to your gut when a situation feels unsafe and where to go to find help in public.)

The words that come out of our mouths are important. The words that don’t come out of our mouths are equally important. I’m trying to teach my kids that honesty matters, but so do kindness and showing love to others. We don’t need to be 100 percent brutally honest with people. There are ways to be truthful without being hurtful.

I answered honestly when Anna asked if I was really the tooth fairy. I gave an age-appropriate, honest answer to the, “How is that baby comin’ outta there?” question that every mom dreads (in public, no less!). I teach the kids to practice phrases like, “That’s not my favorite,” when asked if they like something that they don’t. And we talk a lot about forgiveness and trying again when we inevitably make mistakes.

Kerry Ognenoff and her husband, Andy, have two young children.


I’m sure you’ve had a moment when you have “caught” your son or daughter twisting the truth of a story to avoid a consequence, especially regarding school and homework. I had one of those opportunities the other night when I needed to remind my kids about the importance of telling the truth about their homework deadlines. As soon as I finished talking with them, the phone rang.

It was a friend of mine whom I hadn’t heard from in probably three years. After a great conversation, he asked if we could get together the next weekend. Can you see where this is going? Yes, in front of my daughter I gave him an answer that was perhaps not completely accurate—one of those, “We are busy this weekend,” responses.

As soon as I hung up the phone, I heard, “Dad, what are we doing this weekend?”

I blew it! My heart moved up into my throat. Should I try to twist the weekend story so I don’t look like a complete failure as a parent? Should I try to walk away and pretend I didn’t hear her? Could I quickly get my wife to help me create a cover story? What to do!

Surely my “little white lie” is not on the level of Abraham passing off his wife as his sister. And what about Peter—denying he even knew Christ, three times! My weekend excuse can’t be that bad, right?

Who am I kidding? It’s a lie. Clear failure on my part to keep God’s law perfectly. It was intentional deception just like Abraham and Peter. It was a failure with my friend and a failure with my daughter. No excuses.

It’s the same thing that we all complain about in our society. Who is telling us the truth? Have you watched any political debates recently? You know what I mean. It makes me wonder if Pontius Pilate’s question to Jesus, “What is truth?” might have been an exasperated response to the politics of his time. Was he exasperated with the lies, betrayals, and inconsistent stories?

We want so desperately for our children to be different. We want them to reflect the love of God by speaking truthfully. We want them to be trusted, successful, and honest. We don’t want them to grow up to live dishonest lives—existing by adding one lie on top of another.

Yes, my weekend story to my friend was a failure, but it gave me the opportunity to demonstrate confession and admit that I made a mistake. It also gave me the opportunity to talk about Christ and the reason we have and need his forgiveness—something I did not emphasize earlier when I was lecturing my kids.

We are forgiven! God’s grace abounded in my family’s failures that evening. It won’t be the last time, either.

Dan Nommensen and his wife, Kelly, have a daughter and a son.


Looking for more Christian parenting insights? Watch the monthly webcasts with Heart to heart authors available at forwardinchrist.net/webcasts.

 

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Author: Multiple
Volume 103, Number 1
Issue: January 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to Heart: Parent Conversations: Nurturing Contentment

SPOILER ALERT: This month’s authors all agree that if we want our children to be content, we parents need to model contentment for them. Groan. That’s not fun. That’s hard for flawed parents—at least for me. Thankfully, as Ann Jahns notes, we have a heavenly Father who forgives us, thanks to his Son’s sacrifice. So, why read this month’s articles? Because they give great, practical tips and insights, along with some much-needed reminders. At least for this mom.


How can we nurture contentment in our children’s hearts?


Contentment cannot be taught. If it were that simple and easy, we’d all have it all the time. Someone would just teach us the logic of it, and it would stick.

“Don’t you see?” we’d tell our kids. “Contentment makes the same sort of sense as 1+1= 2.” And then they’d nod their heads in agreement, won over by our irrefutable logic.

I’m pretty sure that’s not effective. Why? Because I know me. And I know my daughter. And if the Scriptures are true, I know you and your kids too.

If I’m going to tamp down the whirring, yearning, and chasing of my discontentment this Christmas, if I’m going to help my daughter do the same, there is only one force with both the consistency and the power to deliver. His name? The Holy Spirit. He alone will allow me to walk past the Apple store without a second thought. He alone will allow my three-year-old daughter to walk past racks of Christmas toys without throwing a tantrum. That’s just honest.

Keeping that in mind, here are a few quick thoughts on unleashing the Spirit:

Unleash the Spirit on yourself. In the Word, you’ll find this incredible, mind-blowing God who has met every one of your most basic and most profound needs in totally overwhelming ways. Did I gush enough to make my point? The reality is that if we parents are not convinced we have everything we could possibly want or need in Christ, how could we possibly hope to share that same news with our kids? My daughter can smell a rat a mile away.

Unleash the Spirit on your child(ren). See above. Just think, it’s December! What better picture is there than that mangy manger for teaching the love and promises of God?

Live gratitude. Even shout it! I do, and I heartily recommend it. When I see another stunning Carolina crescent moon, my whole house knows about it—and who put it there! Sometimes at dinner, I’ll very intentionally ask my girls, “What are you thankful for today?” We do that at bedtime too. At the tender age of three, my daughter sometimes has a hard time getting past the zoo, but—hey—I don’t mind asking her, “Are you thankful for Jesus too? Why?”

Ignore, squash, or redirect discontentment. Pray for wisdom on which of those triggers to pull in which circumstance and then pull it. Don’t be afraid to let the Spirit convict through you. Whatever you do, don’t ever indulge it. The human heart is a bottomless pit. One more thing will not satisfy. Only Jesus does.

Finally, build these rhythms into your family life intentionally, practically, and concretely all the time. The human heart doesn’t magically heal from discontent after December 25 rolls by. Before we know it, 2016 will drop in on us, and once again in the new year we will find our hearts in need of Holy Spirit-provided contentment. I am also delighted, however, to tell you that once again in the new year you’ll reliably find the Spirit for yourself and your children in the words and promises of God.

Jonathan Bourman is a pastor at Peace, Aiken, S.C. He and his wife, Melanie, have a three-year-old daughter.


One of the most remarkable things about my husband and his family is their overwhelming sense of contentment in the Lord. Their attitudes have been such a blessing and example to me.

My husband and his siblings were raised in an openly Christian family in communist East Germany. They had very little in the way of material possessions and opportunities. How could people raised in such an environment become such content adults? His parents fostered this contentment.

Although my children are in a country overflowing with opportunities and lavish excesses, the example of my in-laws still applies as I seek to encourage contentment in my children.

My attitude. Contentment is born of thankfulness. Believers know that everything is a gift from our heavenly Father. I can look to God’s Word regularly. I will begin to know the character of God. This amazing God is on my side. My responses to difficult situations or material wants can be filled with God’s peace. I can turn all of my life’s challenges over to him and obediently await his leading.

My words. I can intentionally talk about gifts—spiritual and material—from God. I can take time to thank God aloud. I can lead my family as we thank God for one another and the special qualities that each family member has. I can memorize Bible verses, knowing God’s words will truly change my heart. I must talk often about the greatest gift ever given—that of the Savior.

My time. I can enjoy Advent and Christmas worship with my children. Though it can be a challenge with small kids, I can enjoy extra opportunities for praise and worship.

I can take time to enjoy family devotions each evening. Our family especially loves to sing “Away in the Manger” together each night before bed.

I can focus on the people parts of Christmas—get-togethers, games, baking—rather than the present parts. We spend some time preparing gifts for others, but I try to keep it at a minimum because I want this to be a small part of our celebration.

I can serve. There are so many ways that I enjoy serving, and my kids can sometimes serve as well.

My actions. I avoid having my kids make Christmas lists. I usually recycle toy catalogs before the kids see them. This keeps our “gimmes” down. It has never really been a part of our celebration, so my kids don’t miss it.

We don’t buy, buy, buy. This is not easy and sometimes I fail, but I want them to see that we are good stewards of our money.

So much of parenting is modeling. We can use our words, but in the end it is what our children see that makes the difference.

Wendy Heyn and her husband, Juerg, have three children.


In preparing to write about contentment, I issued myself a challenge. How long could I go without expressing my discontentment in any way? Well, I think I made it about ten minutes. Sadly, it’s not in our sinful nature to be content. Every day on this earth is a battle as we examine our possessions, home, looks, and situations, and find them lacking in some way. There will always be someone out there who is healthier, richer, prettier, more successful than we are. How can we cultivate a heart of contentment in our children—and ourselves—in that environment?

The Bible gives some marvelous examples of godly contentment. Take the apostle Paul, for one. The self-proclaimed “worst of sinners” endured some things in God’s name that would send most of us packing. He lived through shipwrecks, floggings, hunger, a snake bite, and prison. Throughout all those situations, he “learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11). He even gently reminded Timothy, “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6:8).

Does my family have food? Yes. And we often waste it. Does my family have clothing? You bet. So much that we often puzzle over our options of what to wear.

So, at this time of year in particular, how do we as Christian parents teach our children to be content “whatever the circumstances”? It might sound simplistic, but I believe it is critical for us to model godly contentment in our homes by what we say and do. There are many ways to do this, but here are a few ideas:

Guard our tongues. I’m ashamed to admit how often I have expressed discontentment in front of my boys. Our kids are listening and picking up on our attitudes—good and bad. How comforting that we can confess our failings to God and be reassured of his forgiveness.

Seek out situations where we can help others and learn to value our blessings. What an impact on a family to volunteer in a mission setting or help our kids donate their gently-used possessions to those who need them more than they do. These teaching moments will have a greater impact than just saying, “We are very blessed.”

Set aside the first portion of our earnings or chore money to give sacrificially to our church out of gratitude for God’s blessings. We can model that as God has abundantly blessed us with so much and especially given us a Savior. We, in thankfulness, should use our blessings to help advance the work of his kingdom.

At the dinner table or in the car, ask, “What are you thankful for today?” Big blessings or small, they are all a gift from our loving Father, bestowed upon his undeserving children. How humbling.

As a parent, I constantly have to remind myself that by being discontent with what God has given me, I am in effect saying, “God, you don’t know what you’re doing.” I pray for the strength to model contentment for my boys. Although God doesn’t always give us what we want, in his perfect wisdom, he gives us exactly what we need.

Ann Jahns and her husband, Thad, have three sons, two in college and one in high school.


 

 

 

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Author: Multiple
Volume 102, Number 12
Issue: December 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent Conversations: Talking about Divorce

How do we talk about divorce with our kids?

Divorce isn’t part of God’s plan for marriage, but it’s a sad fact of life in our fallen world. How do we explain divorce to our kids as they encounter friends and classmates whose parents are divorced? How can we equip them to help friends struggling with divorce? How can we reassure them that divorce isn’t something that they need to worry about? How can we model a God-pleasing marriage? Here a Heart to heart parent and a professional Christian counselor weigh in.


 

You’ve been friends for years. You and your passel of kids sit together at church potlucks. Carpool to school. Go camping. Share all the requisite happies and sads, from diapers and discipline to report cards and prom dates.

Then your friends make an unbelievable announcement: They’re getting divorced.

The ground shifts, and you have no words for awhile—until you and your spouse look at each other and say it together: “What are we going to tell the kids?”

The answer depends on the ages of your children, but I think every kid needs to hear these three points in some age-appropriate form:

• “The breaking of the marriage vow is a sin. God intends marriage to be for life.”

• “We’re still friends with all of them. We still love them.”

• “Don’t worry—your mom and I are not going to get divorced.”

That won’t be a one-time conversation. It will come up again and again, and you’ll continue to find the words your kids need to hear.

But some children will want more. They’ll want details. Do you tell them? If they’re young, no. More knowledge will only be a burden. These are adult issues. Kids don’t need to carry them.

But if they’re older and the story already is going public, then maybe it’s better they hear it from you. Keep it simple, and be ready to answer any questions they have as honestly as you can.

You might start like this: “Here’s what I know. This is heartbreaking, but Mary broke her marriage vow. She had an affair. Now John has filed for divorce. Mary has repented of her sin, but the divorce is still going forward. John and Mary are both still our friends, but, honestly, we don’t know what our friendship will look like now.”

It becomes more difficult when the reason for the divorce has not been made public. Maybe there’s an addiction or some abusive behavior that’s been hidden behind closed doors for years. Maybe the person filing for divorce is trying hard not to expose the sin of the spouse who broke the marriage vow. Then you might say something like this: “I’m not sure why they’re getting divorced. But we’re going to be kind to both of them, and we’re not going to gossip or speculate.”

In my experience, older children often feel a need to sort it out in their own heads—to find a black-and-white explanation they can be comfortable with. Maybe there is an obvious explanation: an affair, physical beatings, or an addiction to drugs or alcohol that’s led to emotional desertion.

But other times the matter is too nuanced for children to understand, especially if it involves emotional abuse or some kind of online addiction, which can lead to emotional desertion. Truthfully, these psychological tangles are too nuanced for most adults to fathom. Then you can just say, “I don’t understand what happened.” It’s honest.

Your kids may also wonder what to say to the children of the divorcing couple—their friends. What an excellent opportunity for you to massage your children’s hearts, nurturing their empathy and compassion.

• Ask your kids to dig down and think about what they might like to say to their friends.

• Urge them to take their cues from the friends. If the friends want to talk, listen. If they want to go swimming and forget about it awhile, go with them.

• Tell them what you think their friends might ask about: whether they’re partly to blame (no!), whether they could somehow have prevented the divorce (no!), whether they’ll lose their parents’ time or love (no, no, no!).

• Remind your kids that they and their friends are allowed to feel all the feelings: sadness, anger, confusion, worry, relief, happiness. Feelings aren’t wrong, and kids especially need to express them, not keep them in.

When divorce arises in your circle and your kids are looking at you with wide eyes, you know you’re on. You want to clearly express God’s will and also show compassion. You want to be truthful but not encumber your kids with too much information. You want to express your own sorrow but not scare them.

Mostly you want to hug them and reassure them that although this event is rocking their world, some things will never shift: Their mom and dad will always be there for them, and God their heavenly Father loves them more than they know.

Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her two 20-somethings and his preteen son.


When the issue of divorce arises in another family, a child or teenager may wonder if they should be concerned about their own parents getting a divorce. This can present an opportunity for parents to talk with their children and adolescents in age-appropriate ways about steps that Dad and Mom are taking to strengthen their marriage in an effort to avoid divorce.

This can be a great time to talk about—and demonstrate—the importance of:

• Nurturing a marriage with things like date nights, cards, flowers, hugs and kisses on the cheek, plus kind acts. Your children will observe your actions, which can help to calm any anxiety on their part. You will be providing a beneficial template for their own future marriages.

• Communicating well, which starts with actively listening to the other spouse’s message without prejudging it, then using appropriate eye contact, body language, and tone of voice to respond in a respectful manner. These actions will reassure your children of your love and care for their other parent and give them a great example to follow in their lives.

• Resolving conflicts positively using strategies like fair fighting, compromise, negotiation, and maybe even sacrifice. Teach children that conflict is part of life and part of marriage and that it can be managed well to enhance relationships.

• Apologizing and making amends if mistakes were made. How powerful for a young person to see a parent take responsibility and repent for a sinful choice, followed by forgiveness and reconciliation. This is an opportunity for children to see the forgiveness we learn from Jesus in action.

• Celebrating anniversaries, as these are a blessing from God. Give thanks to him for the gift of marriage by marking anniversaries with some fun tradition or meaningful gift.

• Teaching children and teens about God’s design for marriage. Emphasize that Dad is to be the loving head of the household and Mom is to be his respectful supporter. Talk about how Christians should be equally yoked with a Christian spouse. Reinforce that God’s plan is for marriage to be between one man and one woman.

• Worshiping together. We are surrounded by temptations to turn away from God’s design for marriage. Regularly hearing of God’s love in Christ and receiving Holy Communion gives us the strength to live Christian lives.

For teens, parents may also want to broach the topic of sexual fidelity, noting that this too is a gift from God designed to enhance the intimacy between husband and wife. Use this opportunity to reinforce that sex outside of marriage is not part of God’s good plans for us and such sin only leads to heartache.

This may also be a time to reevaluate your marriage. How well are you doing the things listed above? What might you change or improve to strengthen your marriage? What might you want to request of your spouse?

Let’s teach our kids about having strong, God-pleasing marriages through our words and actions grounded in his holy Word. Remember that one of the greatest gifts a parent can give to a child is to love the other parent as God loves them.

Sheryl Cowling is a licensed clinical social worker who is also board certified as a professional Christian counselor and expert in traumatic stress. She provides counseling services at Christian Family Counseling, a ministry of WLCFS—Christian Family Solutions.

 

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Author: Multiple
Volume 102, Number 11
Issue: November 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Not afraid of the world?

How can I help my child be in the world but not afraid of the world?

In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus calls his followers the “light of the world.” Then he encourages them, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (v. 16). As Christian parents, we not only want our lights to shine, but we also want to help show our children how to let their lights shine. Sometimes, though, we want to hide our children from the world so that they aren’t exposed to worldly influences. So, how do we balance Jesus’ call with our instinct to protect our children?


“Be a light!”

It seems like the world is getting darker—and louder. Maybe it’s that, as my children get older and they are in the world more, my ears are more sensitive to the noise of this world. What is the world saying to them? How is it being said?

Chosen Gen Teen Ministry (www.chosengenteens.org) shares an activity where one person is “The Captain.” It runs much like Simon Says except that while the Captain is giving orders to the crew, music is playing. As the game goes on, the music gets louder and louder making it more difficult to hear the Captain. See where this is leading?

We know that our children have to be in the noise (world). In fact, Jesus says, “My prayer is NOT that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:15-17, emphasis added). We want to hear the Captain (God) loud and clear so we know truth.

The evil one is very crafty. He uses so many regular things, and often good things, to create noise. Stress, movies, relationships, books, family, video games, peers, conflict are just some examples of sources of noise.

It would be nice if we could keep all the worldly noise out of our children’s, and our, lives, but that just isn’t possible. As parents, we can be intentional with teaching them how to hear God’s voice. Reading Scripture, prayer, and solitude time with God are rhythms we do in our home that still us enough to quiet the noise and hear God’s voice over and through the noise.

Not only do we want to teach our children these things, we want to model them as well. It isn’t just our children who are in the world. We are too. We want to be prepared as much as they are, if not more so, to stand and be a light in this world. When as a family we hear God’s voice, we can be a light of his love in this world.

Whenever my children leave to go into the world, you will always hear me repeat my tagline, “Be a light!” I have found this to be a good reminder for our family to be in the world but not of the world. Light looks different. Light shines. Light attracts. Light warms. Light shows direction. Light reveals.

So the encouragement I give to my children I also pass on to you: “Be a light!”

Jenni Schubring and her husband, Tad, have four children.


I’m shiny with bright scales, now give me a try. I swim up the river and jump toward the sky. Who am I? I’m a . . . SALMON!”

It’s one of my boys’ favorite pop-up books. Each page offers a short, rhyming riddle where they have to guess, “Who am I?” with each answer being a different Alaskan animal.

But as my 9- and 11-year-olds have outgrown pop-up books, the question becomes less of a game and more of a critical puzzle in life. “Who am I?” is something they ask more and more.

“Who am I? Am I a cool kid? the smart kid? the boy that girls will like? Am I an athlete? a musician? Am I . . . a loser? a dork? a kid that nobody likes? Am I really loved . . . by Mom and Dad? by God? Do I meet their expectations? Am I really forgiven?”

They don’t often voice these questions, especially since boys don’t usually talk about such deep subjects. But I know that they’re asking these questions because every kid does.

“How do we prepare our kids to be in the world and not of the world?” That’s a question every parent ought to consider. And I believe that our kids will be ready when they can answer the question, “Who am I?” with the right response: “I am a forgiven child of God who lives to show my thanks to him in all that I say and do.”

We all have the privilege of finding our identity in Christ. Instead of wondering, “Who am I?” we can trust in God’s answer: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9,10).

“Who am I? I am chosen by God. I belong to him. I’m special to him. He calls me holy. He gives me purpose. He defines who I am. I am a Christian. I am a little Christ. And though I may be considered a weirdo or a dork by others for following him, I don’t care. I care what other people think about me because I want to serve them. But I care far more about what God thinks of me. He is the God who loves me, who saved me, and that’s why I want to live my life for him.”

How do we prepare kids to be in the world, but not of the world? We keep telling them and ourselves where we find our true identity: in Christ.

Rob Guenther is a pastor in Kenai, Alaska. He and his wife, Becky, have four sons ages 11 and under.


Raising children to have compassion for this tainted world without undue fear and feeling love for God’s blemished people without prejudice is a monumental task. Scripture gives us guidelines, a dos & don’ts list for living in this world yet not being of the world.

It is this perilous journey that my husband and I saw as we raised our children. Or as my very wise Christian father said to me, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” We wanted to raise our children to function as children of God and lights in this world without falling prey to its sinful temptations.

Scripture makes it clear that God is to be first in our lives. This will most likely evidence itself in the priorities we model for our children. The frequency of God’s name and Word may range from mealtime prayers to regular devotions and Bible study. Connecting our children to God’s Word outside of the home is also a directive from Scripture. Studies show that what we do has a greater impact on children than what we say. Consequently, living our Christianity as parents, husbands, and wives becomes our children’s textbook. Our hunger for God’s Word and the application of its tenets are a powerful example.

In 1 Corinthians 9:22, Paul tells us that he became all things to all people so that some might be saved. John wrote that we are not of the world (John 15:19). The balance of being approachable Christians and at the same time being different in a way that others know we are Christians is difficult in application. We open our arms and our ears to embrace and listen to those who are different but retain the one thing needful—Jesus. The Lord works his miracles, making believers of all kinds of people: a professor at Martin Luther College; an openly Christian neuro intensive care nurse; and a pink-haired, pierced, and tattooed behaviorist for autistic children who is on her church’s Board of Education.

Self-righteous segregation is not a good witness tool. Neither is allowing our children to participate in questionable activities for the sake of fitting in. In John 15:19, Christ tells his disciples, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” Helping our children cope with the reality of the persecution and mockery of Christians in this world is the inevitable, yet necessary, role of the Christian parent.

When we as parents have a sense of true joy in our faith, it shows itself in our parenting and in our homes. A guilt-ridden sense of obedience can produce fearful, resentful children who are quick to rid themselves of what they perceive as an unloving church or system of values.

A hurting world out there needs what we have. A gospel-filled heart teaches our children by example how to navigate this world, how to live a godly life, and how to share this good news with others.

Mary Clemons lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband, Sam. They have three grown children and four grandchildren.

 

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Author: Multiple
Volume 102, Number 10
Issue: October 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to Heart: Parenting Conversations: Activity involvement

In how many activities should my children be involved?

How can we as parents help our children achieve balance in their lives? How much is too much when it comes to extracurriculars? How much is too little? Is there such a thing as too little involvement? How can you help your children make wise choices about their activities? This month’s Heart to Heart authors give us their perspectives—and plenty of things to think about.


I’m happy to share some thoughts on how my family has adjusted to the myriad of activities and opportunities for our kids. First, though, I want to point out that I believe every family is different and there are no right or wrong answers. I can’t recall ever hearing a magical number of activities that are recommended or required for kids. I think we can all agree that the number of options for activities has exploded.

Back when I was a kid in elementary school, it seemed my athletic options were basketball and softball. I also played baseball in a community league. The only other activity or group option that I can recall was Lutheran Pioneers or Buckaroos. I rarely remember having practices for my teams in grade school. I’m sure we had some, but I really don’t think they were three nights a week.

Now we could fill this page with nothing but structured activity options through school, church, the community, summer sports camps, etc. Our temptation as parents, and on the part of our kids, is to be involved in more than we can handle. Perhaps there is even a bit of worry as parents that if our children are not taking advantage of the plethora of activities that other families are, maybe our kids won’t grow up as well-rounded adults.

Good friends just signed their son up for the community lacrosse team. Now that sounds fun! I didn’t even know that opportunity existed. Should I mention that to my son?

With no easy answers, how do we make decisions on activities? To be honest, my wife’s and my efforts usually fall on trying to limit participation rather than having our kids overinvolved. Here are a couple priorities we try to keep in mind.

Priority #1: Love

Probably the most important thing we have tried to do is make it clear to our kids that their participation and success in any activity is not something they need to do to get our love. God’s love for us through his Son is unconditional. We don’t need to perform—or be the best—in order to receive God’s love. What we do as Christians is simply a demonstration of our love for God. So in that light of Christian joy and freedom, priority #1 is that the activities the kids choose can be seen as other ways to show love for God and not ways to win Mom and Dad’s approval. That comes free!

Priority #2: Balance

This can get tricky. As adults it seems balance in life can be hard to find, and our own activities and responsibilities feel overwhelming at times. If our kids watch us closely and learn from us, what are we teaching them? Are we teaching them to live a balanced life or a life filled with stress and anxiety? What’s the lesson as we move hastily from one thing to the next, getting short and angry with one another because we always feel late and behind?

I think family balance is important. People tell us that the times when the kids are young will go by fast. I definitely agree! Our family needs time. We need time simply to be together, go for a bike ride, watch a movie, and even do some chores together. (Well, maybe I wish we’d do more chores together!) This is time just to be with one another and nurture our relationships. It’s the time needed to teach and show them God’s love. If the outside activities infringe on the family connectedness, then it’s time for us to pull back.

Looking back in my life, with comparatively few activity options, what did I do with all my time? I wasn’t bored. I have great memories of participating in unstructured activities with friends and family. I’m certainly not calling for us to bring back the “good ‘ole days.” I think all the varied activities offered now are amazing, but developing a few simple priorities has helped our family maintain balance.

Dan Nommensen and his wife, Kelly, have a daughter and a son.


We have the same conversation with other parents about the same age about 12 times a summer: “Remember when we were kids? Our moms pushed us out the door after breakfast, and we didn’t come back in until the streetlights came on.”

You can hear us rehearsing this back-in-the-day shtick while sitting at our seventh soccer game of the week, trying to figure out who can take the boys to swimming tomorrow so we can get the girls to dance. Childhood is just different now. Parent-scheduled. Parent-coached. Parent-spectated.

I’m writing this in mid-June, in the interlude between my stepson’s morning baseball practice and afternoon basketball camp. He’ll just have time to eat lunch, play 10 minutes of piano, change from cleat to court shoe, and leave a quarter-cup of the baseball diamond on the carpet before we head to the gym. After basketball, he’ll eat dinner in the car as we drive an hour to a baseball game—one of his three leagues this summer.

As you’re reading this, school is starting, and I bet your schedule’s even crazier. Choir. Band. Math team. Forensics. Soccer. Oh, yeah—and school.

Having only one child to transport at the moment, I shake my head in wonder at the family of eight. Many questions come to mind, all of them variations of, “Is this crazy or what?”

Story: This summer I asked why Billy Schmidt wasn’t playing baseball. Someone explained that the Schmidts went camping on weekends. I’m ashamed to admit that while my mouth said, “Oh, that’s nice,” my mind said, “But Billy’s such a great hitter!”

Another story: Years ago, a dad brought his daughter to her first flute lesson with me. He said, “She probably won’t practice much, but that’s fine with us.” I concentrated on keeping my eyebrows in place. What? They’ll pay for lessons and a fine musical instrument, but they don’t care whether she practices? What about self-discipline? Commitment? Stewardship of God’s gifts?

Years later I think those parents were on to something.

How busy should kids be? That depends on your view of childhood. Which of these sound right to you?

• Kids should dip their toes into many activities—from music to drama to sports to chess.

• Kids should choose just a few activities and fully commit to them.

• Kids should be busy and challenged.

• Kids should just have fun.okay.

And more specifically about each of your kids:

• This kid needs reining in, because she’ll sign up for everything and then whine all year.

• This kid needs a nudge because he’ll play Xbox all day if left to his own devices (no pun intended).

• This kid’s a dabbler, not a committer, and that’s wrong. Or is it?

• This kid only likes the social aspect of teams, which makes sports a waste of time and money. Or does it?

• This kid would do nothing but read, so we need to get her out more. Or do we?

Maybe the ultimate question is this:

• What’s our goal—raising healthy, successful 12-year-olds or healthy, successful 35-year-olds? And how does our answer to that question change our perspective on today’s baseball game or piano recital?

What if we asked the kids? Maybe on that hour-long trip to the game, we could have a discussion—one where we don’t give our opinions at all; we just listen to theirs.

1. What’s your favorite team or club? What do you like about it?
2. What’s your least favorite? What do you dislike about it?
3. Are you doing any of these activities because you think other people—your friends, teachers, or parents—want you to do them?
4. Do we support you enough—driving, watching, cheering, encouraging you, etc.?
5. Do we ever embarrass you at an event? How?
6. Do we ever pressure you too much? How?
7. If you could make one change to your schedule of activities, what would it be?

Our kids are pretty insightful. Their answers might surprise us.

Truth is, I don’t know what’s right for your family. I seldom know what’s right for mine, so I’m not going to judge you.

Maybe the important thing is, whatever we decide, we do so consciously. We don’t thoughtlessly sign every form that comes home in the backpack. And we don’t project our own childhood fantasies onto our kids—not to mention our dreams for their Division I scholarships or the New York Philharmonic.

I’d like to say more, but it’s time for basketball camp. And that quarter-cup of baseball diamond on the carpet won’t vacuum itself.

Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her two 20-somethings and his preteen son.

 

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Author: Multiple
Volume 102, Number 9
Issue: September 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to Heart: Parent Conversations: Discipline

How do Christian parents deal with discipline?

Three parents offer examples from their lives to showcase what discipline can look like as a Christian parent. Do you have a story to share? Send it to fic@wels.net and it may be featured on Heart to heart’s blog.

Have you had a chance to view Heart to heart’s latest webcast? If not, check it out. Visit forwardinchrist.net and choose “Webcasts” from the drop-down menu. One segment features a more in-depth conversation with Ann Jahns on her insights about discipline.


Discipline. The past 14 years of Tad’s and my parenting adventure have included many trials and errors. Just when we thought we had it down, a different child with a different personality—and, therefore, different needs—showed up. But here are a few basic, underlying things that we strive to do.

We start early. The battles when they are little may seem difficult at the time because who doesn’t want to give that cute two-year-old whatever she wants? The earthly consequences when they are little aren’t that big, so it is easy to cave. However, that same behavior looks much different when they are in their teen years and the earthly consequences are much greater. The truth is, disciplining when they are little is much easier than when they are older.

We follow through with consequences. Sometimes that means we, as parents, miss out as well. Although, Tad and I are getting better at picking consequences for our children that don’t punish us in the process.

As our children get older, we let them have a say. As much as possible we share with them why we have the rules and consequences that we do. If they can understand and be part of the process, we believe this helps teach them discernment. This wisdom will be with them even when we are not with them.

We choose what hill we’re willing to die on. Our house rules really fall into two categories: Love God and love others. If a rule doesn’t fit under one of these, then we look at the reasoning behind it. Is it because of our personal preference? Because that’s the way we’ve always done things? Because we are concerned about how the outside world will view our parenting?

We let our creative 10-year-old girl go out in public with the most unique choices of clothing. We let our older boys grow their hair out way, way longer than we’d like. If it isn’t a character issue, we won’t die on that hill. If it involves how we love God and/or how we love others, that’s a hill on which we will stand, fight, and die.

We try to model our heavenly Father. He disciplines out of love for us. He wants the very best for us, which is a relationship with him. Our discipline is out of love for our children. We want the very best for them with Christ as the center of their lives. None of this works if we don’t have a loving relationship with our children.

As much as we know these concepts work for our family, we still struggle with our own flesh and our own agendas. Only by God’s grace are we able to implement these things out of love for our children. We know that the work pays off. We enjoy our children as they grow in God’s grace.

Jenni Schubring and her husband, Tad, have four children.


I wish I could tell you it’s never happened, but it has. I’ve rounded a corner to find my two-year-old daughter about to start dancing on the counter. Yeah, she’s that kind of kid. Wow, do I love her for that!

What do you do with a daughter like that? Sometimes I just grin when I see her antics. How can you not when she looks at you with her big blue eyes and her classic “What, Dad? This is totally safe” kind of look? Other times a grin couldn’t be more out of place, where there’s something far more insidious going on, where we just know. We know it’s more than just innocent curiosity and it’s more than just vibrant wonder. When we see the look that says, “Dad, I know you told me not to and I don’t care,” we know it’s open rebellion.

For us, how we discipline is often decided by her attitude—the why behind it all. We have lots of patience for her fearless approaches to whatever climb she’s after next—metaphorical or otherwise. We’re happy to teach and guide with all the gentleness and tenderness we can muster. And we’re happy to parent her like that as long as she is innocently learning her world, but never when she’s trying to overthrow it. When she becomes self-willed, “whys?” us to pieces, or has that rebellious glint in her eye, we never tolerate it. We move swiftly and firmly to let her know that’s never okay. We love her too much not to.

I suppose everybody’s anxious to know what that looks like. In my experience, it always looks different. I’ve found that it’s a judgment call based on 1) the danger level of the activity, 2) her level of understanding about that activity, and 3) her attitude about whatever it is that she’s up to. Once I’ve ascertained those things, I’m ready to discipline her.

What is the right way to do that with your two-year-old? Yours is different than mine, so I can’t tell you. Does any open rebellion demand some sort of physical reminder? Is a time-out the most attention grabbing strategy? Do you have a tender little conscience in your care that only requires a verbal reprimand? I’m not sure. And what happens when your two-year-old becomes a more nuanced and sophisticated preteen? What does discipline look like then? Ah, somebody help me!

No matter what you and I decide as parents, we’re probably after the same thing. We want our children to “get it” when they sin so that we can comfort them with the gospel until they “get” that too.

When my little girl grasps the seriousness of her situation, there’s no greater joy than asking her in that same moment, “What did Jesus do with your sin?” and having her respond, “He wash it all gone.”

I’m convinced that’s why Elliana lives with so much pep and confidence. Sure, sometimes I’ve rounded a corner only to find her expressing that gospel confidence with an attempted counter dance, but, hey, that’s in the job description too. I’m always more than happy to grab my little Cinderella, explain the danger in a clear and animated way, and be her Prince Charming by dancing with her on the living room floor.

Jonathan Bourman is a pastor at Peace, Aiken, South Carolina. He and his wife, Melanie, have a two-year-old daughter.


As our kids become older, I have come to realize that discipline doesn’t have to be a negative thing, fraught with tears and drama and anger. After all, the root of discipline is disciple—a student who is guided by a wise teacher and spreads that teacher’s beliefs.

What if we start to look at discipline as discipling? It changes the focus. It becomes less on punishment and anger and more on correction and guidance. What a blessing for our children when we discipline in love, according to God’s perfect wisdom! “Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord, the one you teach from your law” (Psalm 94:12).

Do you remember the first time you held your newborn? So perfect. So innocent. Discipline was the last thing on your mind. But then the dreaded day arrived: the first time those pureed peas came flying right back at you. Or the first toddler tantrum, during the quietest part of the sermon. Even our precious babies are sinful from conception (Psalm 51:5).

I admit that discipline is tough for me as a parent, since my nature cringes at conflict. Thankfully, my husband, with his quiet spiritual wisdom and practicality, has balanced me out as we do our best to discipline our boys in love as a united team, using God’s Word as our guide.

As our boys age, our methods of discipline have changed. No longer does a time-out alone in the bedroom cut it. That is every teen’s dream. Our disciplines have taken on age-appropriate forms, like loss of the car keys, not being able to attend a concert or game, or the loss of technology privileges. These disciplines are customized to the age of each child and each situation. They are designed to get this message across: We love you and God loves you, and his Word is very clear on right and wrong. If you break the house rules and God’s rules, there will be consequences. But there is always forgiveness as well.

Parents, let’s hang in there when it comes to discipline in the home! We all want our kids to be honest and hardworking citizens. We want them to be faithful witnesses of God’s Word, living embodiments of Christ. It is our duty and privilege as Christian parents to “discipline those [we love]” (Proverbs 3:12) as we guide our kids in God’s truth. This is so easy to say but often so hard to do—especially as our society increasingly blurs the lines between right and wrong and dismisses moral absolutes.

As our boys become adults, it is getting even trickier to discipline as their choices become bigger and more life-impacting. And sometimes kids simply make poor choices, despite our best efforts and despite hours spent in family devotions, prayer, and worship. That’s when we need to hang on and pray like crazy. We need to keep showing them our love and forgiveness, while not compromising what God’s Word says in all its perfect wisdom.

Ann Jahns and her husband, Thad, have three sons, two in college and one in high school.


 

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Author:Multiple
Volume 102, Number 08
Issue: August 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: parent conversations: overparenting/protecting

ARE WE OVERPARENTING AND OVERPROTECTING OUR CHILDREN?

It’s a common criticism of parents today. We’re often accused of overparenting and overprotecting our children— creating weak adults who are unable to make simple decisions or handle life’s inevitable ups and downs. Just the thought of it makes me cringe. I know I can be guilty of this with my young children. How do I avoid it—and should I even try? Three Heart to heart authors share their insights, giving me something to consider as I continue down this path of Christian parenting.


 

Are we overparenting our kids? I’ve asked many friends about this issue. Most were in agreement that, yes, to some degree, overparenting is common today. Yet I’m having a hard time putting my finger on what exactly overparenting is and whether it’s a good or bad thing that it seems to be the trend.

In my eyes, overparenting is being overprotective, too helpful, too quick to jump in and do for my kids instead of letting them figure out their own problems. Basically, I see it as being so involved in my children’s business that they are deprived of the freedom to learn how to do things for themselves. Hover, smother . . . oh, brother.

Almost every mom I spoke with about this topic admitted to overparenting her kids at some point. I overinvolve myself in conflict management between my kids. To keep them from facing difficulties, I step in and solve their problems for them. Of course I want them to learn how to solve their own problems, but I tend to jump in a little too early to help them “work it out.” I’m working on that (especially since I’d like to hang up this referee whistle I seem to be sporting so often).

Other friends mentioned the fear of predators and the constant bombardment of horrific news stories involving kids as a source for their overprotectiveness. What is the right age to let our kids play outside alone? Have we had the “tricky people” conversation enough that they’ll remember what to do if a situation arises? I don’t think there’s a universal right answer here. Since I’m the one who knows my kids best, it’s up to me to make those calls for them. That is both comforting and frightening.

Parenting is not the cakewalk I imagined it to be. Before I had kids, I was the world’s best mom. I knew exactly how my kids would behave and what they would never do in public (are you rolling your eyes yet?). My child would never wear bunny slippers with a sundress in July (false) or use the safety scissors for anything other than cutting paper (false—the cat had a lovely spikey ’do after an impromptu visit to the toddler salon). My kids would never, ever have a meltdown in public (false, on more occasions than I can count). These tiny humans are blessed with big personalities from an early age. All of my “alwayses” and “nevers” went straight out the window when those personalities came into play. I learned to pick my battles and be flexible whenever possible.

So, are we overparenting our kids? Possibly, but I’m inclined just to call it parenting. It feels judgmental to say we’re overparenting when I really only know my situation. I have to weigh my kids’ safety (and that of others) against the benefits of letting them experiment with their freedom. Sometimes that means letting Henry climb the rope ladder at the playground without hovering underneath him with arms outstretched or trusting Anna to grab a gallon of milk while Henry and I wait by the cereal. I hope my kids look back as adults and see that I tried my best to give them freedom while keeping them safe—even if that meant being too “in their business” sometimes.

Kerry Ognenoff and her husband, Andy, have two young children.


 

Paul, my son-in-law, and I sat together on a park bench. His kids played around us.

“It’s sad,” I said. “Kids aren’t free to be kids like I was in the 1950s.”

My baby boomer buddies and I lived under the neighborhood rule: “Never go beyond earshot of your parents’ shouts.” But within that radius, we could be kids. The lightly traveled street was our playground. The large sugar maples sheltered our clumsily built forts. The sidewalks were bicycle raceways. Parental interference was minimal.

“Today it’s helicopter parents,” Paul said, “parents who hover over their kids . . . well into adulthood.”

Overprotection does seem to be today’s parenting strategy. No matter how safe the neighborhood, some parents can’t envision their kids playing outside alone. No matter how old their children, these parents intrude on their kids’ lives. No matter how culpable their kids, some parents insist someone else is at fault.

“It’s not good for parents to protect kids from everything,” Paul continued. “Kids need to know our world will rough them up now and again. They need to learn their actions have consequences. They need to be held responsible for their choices.” I almost hugged him, but I settled for a manly double thumbs-up.

We scanned the playground, accounting for our kids. My four-year-old grandson had been crawling within a tubular play area that looked like a cross between a 20-foot-long anteater and a sailing ship. When an older child climbed on top of the tubes, Thatcher followed.

“Many parents view their children as fine china that chips and easily shatters,” I said. “They don’t realize kids are Corelle ware that bounces and rarely breaks. Their fears insist that every situation is dangerous. Their fears drain confidence from their kids. Their fears stymie their children’s independence.”

“There must be a balance, though,” Paul countered, “a middle ground between the extremes of free-range parenting and overprotective parenting. What’s hard is knowing if you are standing in that middle. Look at Thatcher.” Thatcher’s feet dangled two feet above the ground as he attempted to dismount from the anteater. “Where’s the middle ground? Do I let him fall or do I help him down?”

That middle ground can be hard to find, but the ultimate parent has provided us with a map for finding it. In his Word we see our Father’s parenting strategy; even better, we see the cross-won grace that directs it. Whether he snatches us from the consequences of our mistakes or allows bruised-knee lessons, God’s parenting flows from an open-spigot love we never deserve. Christian parents stand on that middle ground when they love their children in the same way—when grace determines whether they rescue their children or allow a tough life lesson.

And Paul? He helped Thatcher down. Then he set him free to clamber over the anteater again.

James Aderman and his wife, Sharon, raised three daughters and are now enjoying their eight grandchildren.


 

I found myself cringing when I thought of writing about overparenting because I struggle against it on a daily basis. I know that children need freedom to make choices and have experiences so that they can become confident and independent adults. I also know that my daughters are intelligent and thoughtful people, capable of being given age-appropriate freedoms. Even so, I must constantly check my internal desire to control every aspect of their lives. It helps that my husband is natural about giving freedoms and responsibilities to our girls and is encouraging in helping me feel confident about it.

When I find myself wanting to overparent and I examine my motivation, I am usually not worried about how my girls will handle responsibilities or danger. I am usually worried about how others will view my parenting. I feel like I will be seen as a bad mother if I give the girls too many freedoms or seen as lazy and uninvolved if I give them maturity-appropriate responsibilities. Again my husband’s encouragement and leadership are of such value in the daily struggle with this, but it is also a constant exercise of prayer and looking to God’s Word. In the words of my heavenly Father, I find the confidence to give my children freedom.

I can trust God. My children belong to the Lord. They are his. My hope comes from the Lord. My hope for my children is the eternal hope of heaven. This is the crux of my purpose as a parent. I want to share my hope in Christ with my children on a daily basis. What better way than to live each day with confidence that the same Lord who loved them enough to send his Son to die also has a plan for each of them!

I can foster responsibility. When my girls experience pain and heartache and hard days, I want to jump in and fix things for them. When my girls neglect responsibilities or are just plain sinful, my mother’s heart wants to intervene so that they don’t suffer consequences. A part of me also wants to do it so that I don’t look bad. Yet I know that God will work through my daughters’ natural consequences (and my own discomfort).

How do I know if this is a moment that needs intervention or a moment that needs a silent and prayerful mother? When I take a deep breath, talk with my husband, and take some time for prayer, it becomes easier to evaluate the situation. If the issues at stake are not ones that endanger the children’s phy-sical or spiritual safety, we try to let the girls take care of it independently. Sometimes this is painful, but it is equipping our children to handle the ups and downs of life with trust in their God.

Wendy Heyn and her husband, Juerg, have two daughters, ages three and nine, and a seven-year-old son with severe cognitive and physical disabilities.


 

Join the conversation!
Visit www.wels.net and look for the Heart to heart link. Read uncut versions of the articles, learn more about the authors, and give us your thoughts and reactions.

 

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Author: Multiple
Volume 102, Number 7
Issue: July 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: Bullying?

How do we handle bullying?

Bullying. It’s a part of parenthood that we all hope we can avoid. If our child is being bullied or is bullying others, tough times are sure to follow. What can we do to help? Hear firsthand accounts of bullying from author Laurie Gauger-Hested and learn about the growing problem of cyberbullying from licensed counselor Sarah Reik.


I have stories. True stories.

Seven girls cherry-pick an eighth and assail her with text messages prominently featuring the b-word. Sophomore boys taunt a classmate with a little jingle about his dental issues. An entire third grade channels a boy’s lisp into a nickname that echoes into his adulthood. Cheerleaders criticize the awkward girl on the squad so relentlessly that her mother shows up at practice, calling out their cruelty, questioning their Christianity, crying herself through it all.

I sympathize with that mother—watching helplessly as her daughter shrinks before her very eyes, wondering whether she really is stupid and ugly.

I have no easy answers for bullying. Pray? Of course. Turn the other cheek? Unfortunately, it usually invites more abuse. Reason with the bully—or her parents? They’re not renowned for their conciliatory spirits. Fight back? A Christian psychologist told a boy to punch his bully in self-defense, and—voila!—the sinful behavior stopped. Is that the answer?

Some throw in the towel from the get-go: “Kids will be kids. Sensitive kids just have to toughen up.” Sadly, there’s truth there. We can’t make people behave. We can only decide how to respond.

This is where we parents come in. If our kids are being mistreated, we can shore up their battered psyches: “God made you amazing! Those boys cannot tell you what to do. Those girls cannot decide who you will be. Let’s pray—that the bully will stop, yes, but that no matter what happens, you’ll find ways to rise above this. And while we’re at it, let’s pray for the bully too.”

We can also discuss what drives the bad behavior: “Bullies don’t know they’re bullies. They’re scared—scared they won’t get the acceptance and applause they feel they

deserve. So they fight for it—with fists, with words, with manipulation so subtle even we adults sometimes can’t see it.”

And more: “That bully can’t keep up with you on the court or in the classroom, so she has to reclaim her power position by tormenting you.” Or, “That bully’s father has a short temper, so he’s just paying it forward.”

By exploring bullies’ motivation, we cultivate our kids’ empathetic imaginations—a quality bullies lack, incidentally. And perhaps our kids can find a chink in the bully’s armor—a sliver of vulnerability, a speck of human decency, maybe even a way to the tormenter’s tormented heart.

There’s also a flip side: “Is my kid a bully?” This one takes some humility and maturity to consider.

Are they obsessed with popularity? Quick to mock and sneer? Belligerent or physically aggressive? Frustrated when they don’t get their way? Pouty when they don’t get attention? Do they blame others for their lack of success? Roll their eyes at authority figures?

Have they never mentioned any bullying? Then maybe they’re the bully.

If we’re inadvertently raising little tyrants, we need to make some changes, don’t we? Otherwise they become grown-up tyrants—browbeating their spouses, frightening their children, manipulating their colleagues.

We can start by taking away the little bullies’ insecurities. We help them feel safe, loved, and valuable. Borrowing from Maslow a bit, I’d suggest . . .

1. We make sure we’re dependable parents. We provide hot food, clean jeans, on-time rides to practice and lessons, and general tranquility at home. We keep them safe.

2. We show we love them—just as they are. We have time for them. We listen. We allow them to ask questions and disagree with us. We take them seriously. They belong in this family, and they always will.

3. We remind them they’re loved by someone even larger. Their heavenly Father formed them in the womb. Jesus demonstrated his deep love by shedding his blood and dying for them. He understands their pain, weaknesses, and strengths. They’re very special in his eyes, and—this is important—so is everyone else.

4. We nurture their empathetic imaginations by calling attention to others’ needs: “Did you notice Owen sitting by himself again? What would it feel like to always be picked last, like Amber is?” And going in another direction: “Seems like Emma’s good at everything—do you think her life is easy in every respect? Nick is always cracking jokes—why is that?” We can nudge our kids out of their egocentricity and open their eyes to see the hearts of their fellow human beings.

5. We teach them common courtesy. Unless everyone is invited to the party, handing out invitations at school is unacceptable. Though they’ll have special friends, being unkind is sinful. Social media is great, but being nasty online is unacceptable.

6. We supervise them without apology. This is our job. We won’t tolerate criticizing, marginalizing, or hurting others—including their siblings. We check their texts and all their online accounts. It’s not an invasion of privacy—it’s parenting. When they sin, we dole out consequences.

7. We teach them resilience. When things don’t go their way, when they fail, we remind them they can’t blame others. They’re not victims. They can dust themselves off, make different choices, harness the gifts God gave them, and try again.

8. Maybe most of all, we model kindness—the kind of kindness Jesus showed to us. Our kids need to see us not being bullies—not mocking or criticizing people, not marginalizing those who aren’t as together as we think we are, not losing our tempers at the drop of a hat, not manipulating people to gain sympathy or power.

Kids will be kids? I’d add, “Parents need to be parents.” God help us be wise ones, whether our kids are the victims of bullies or the bullies themselves.

Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her two 20-somethings and his preteen son.


Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a modern and dangerous form of bullying that takes place using electronic technology such as cell phones, computers, or tablets. Over half of young people report being cyberbullied.

Examples of cyberbullying

• Sending hurtful or threatening texts or e-mails

• Starting rumors on social media sites

• Spreading embarrassing photos or videos

• Creating a fake profile to torment or humiliate

Signs your child might be a victim

• Distress when using electronic devices

• Secrecy regarding online use or refusal to talk about online activity

• Unexplained anger

• Withdrawal from family and friends

• Changes in eating or sleeping, drop in grades

• Uneasiness about going to school or spending time with peers

Signs your child might be a cyberbully

• Switches screens or closes the phone or computer whenever you are near

• Laughs at something online but won’t tell you what it is

• Avoids conversations about online activity

• Uses multiple online accounts

• Uses electronic device at all hours of the night and gets very upset if it’s taken away

• Starts spending time with the “wrong crowd”

What can children do if they’re being cyberbullied?

• Never post or share personal information.

• Never share Internet passwords with anyone, except your parents.

• Talk to your parents about what you do online.

• Block communication with the cyberbully.

• Delete messages without reading them.

• Talk to a friend or trusted adult about the bullying.

• Report the problem to an Internet service provider or website moderator.

• Refuse to pass along cyberbullying messages—forwarding or “liking” a message is bullying too!

What can parents do?

• Keep your home computer in a busy area of your house.

• Know your children’s screen names and passwords.

• Regularly go over their “friends” lists with them. Ask who each person is and how your children know them.

• Bring up the topic of cyberbullying and ask your children directly if they have ever experienced it or seen it happen to someone.

• Assure your children that you will not blame or punish them for being cyberbullied. Most children do not tell their parents when they are cyberbullied because they are afraid they will lose their cell phone or computer privileges.

Sarah Reik is a licensed professional counselor with WLCFS-Christian Family Solutions.

Has your family been affected by bullying? Send your story to fic@wels.net or Forward in Christ, N16W23377 Stone Ridge Dr, Waukesha, WI 53188.

 

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Laurie Gauger-Hested/ Sarah Reik
Volume 102, Number 6
Issue: June 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: Parenting styles

What happens when Mom and Dad have different parenting styles?

Many parents struggle to provide a united front when it comes to raising their children. Mom and Dad have different personalities and backgrounds that can’t help but factor into the parenting equation. So, how do we turn those differences into strengths in our parenting rather than weaknesses that our children—and the devil—exploit? Our three Heart to heart authors this month share how they’ve navigated—and are continuing to navigate—this tricky area of parenting. 


My husband and I were both raised in Christian homes, which made for many similar views on parenting. We were not, however, raised in the exact same home. So there are just as many differences. My husband grew up with one studious sister and a stressed single parent who was a university professor. Their idea of fun around the dinner table was discussing comparative wars at the time of the Incas. I was raised in a two-parent parsonage with five raucous siblings. A good time at our house involved counting how many grapes we could stuff in our mouths.

The list of variables in any home is endless. When two people come together to form a family, they bring their pasts. This includes the way they were parented. The sooner my husband and I were able to respect those differences, the better off we were in coming to a common parenting style.

The ground rules that we agreed on after much trial and error were actually fairly few:

• Hash out differences away from the children and present a united front in the presence of the children.

• When differences arise, compromise may entail trying each other’s method.

• If an impasse occurs, always defer to Scripture whenever possible.

• Use great parents as resources. Fellow church members are a wonderful reference library. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice.

Having said this, our children definitely knew that Dad was the “good cop” and Mom was the “bad cop.” They tried to play us against each other occasionally but were usually caught at that nefarious game. Children feel most secure when parents work together. God put the structure in place, and I reminded my children of that often. My rough paraphrase was, “Dad’s the king, I’m the queen, and you’re the serfs. You don’t get a vote, but we take care of you.”

Blended families face a whole different set of difficulties when it comes to parenting styles. There are now multiple people with a voice in the matter. The general principles still apply, however. Respect for the other people involved while putting God’s will above all may not make everybody happy but is the best way to go.

We aren’t born knowing how to parent. If we were blessed to have fine Christian parents, we are truly blessed. We can certainly take away some great lessons. But think about it. We’re required to have a license to drive. Yet we’re allowed to have children without a permit or a written test. It just figures that when you try to get two sinful human beings together on the same page, there are bound to be disagreements about the rules of the road. The best roadmap is always Scripture.

Mary Clemons lives in Tucson, Ariz., with her husband, Sam. They have three grown children and four grandchildren. 


I just love meetings! No. Not really. I don’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the fellowship that we share at our church council and committee meetings. I just don’t think any guy ever said, “I really want to become a pastor so I can go to lots of meetings.”

So why in the world would I choose to have another meeting that I willingly put on my calendar? Because I recognize how important meetings are. They are a chance to communicate the challenges and blessings that we face, a way to proactively address issues before they become problems. And meetings—whether you love them or hate them—are necessary, important, and useful.

So, my wife and I schedule a “Marriage meeting” each month. (I know. I can hear you calling us nerds, but hear me out.)

Each month we get together over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine not for a date but to proactively discuss any issues in our marriage by running through an actual agenda. (Okay, so we are nerds. Fine. I admit it.) But the blessings of this meeting have been huge, not just for my wife and me, but for the kids too. In addition to discussing our worship life, finances, romance and intimacy, workloads, and physical health, each month we talk about the kids too.

We do this because we need to show a united front. Even our two-year-old has learned to go ask Dad for whatever it is Mom just said “no” to. So to stay on the same team, we talk about them behind their backs.

When discussing the kids, we ask these questions:

• Spiritual care—Are we encouraging what matters most? How could we do better?

• Family devotions—How are we doing? How could we improve?

• Church services—How frequently are we attending? How could we get more out of it?

• Education—How are they doing in school? How are we teaching good manners? Finances? Honesty, courage, a good work ethic, etc.? What could we do to improve?

• Health—Are they getting enough to eat? Enough sleep? Enough exercise?

• Discipline—Are we on the same page? Are we being consistent to show a united front?

When we discuss these questions on a regular basis, we often prevent problems before they happen. Others we catch before they get out of hand by discussing how we’re going to deal with an issue together.

It’s said the best thing you can do for your children is have a strong, healthy marriage. That’s what we strive to do as we put God first, then each other, then the boys. And that’s really what our monthly marriage meeting is all about.

Rob Guenther is a pastor in Kenai, Alaska. He and his wife, Becky, have four sons ages 10 and under. 


I have to admit that I laughed out loud when Forward in Christ asked if the topic of conflicting parenting styles is something that resonates with me. Oh, yes, it sure resonates—a little too much. Even after three kids and almost 21 years of parenting, I’m afraid my husband, Thad, and I are still working on this in our home.

I’m convinced that how we parent has a whole lot to do with what my counselor friend Sheryl calls your “family of origin.” Were any of us raised the same way, by the same kinds of parents? Unlikely. For example, in Thad’s home, you only talked if there was something that needed to be said. In my home, we were stream-of-consciousness talkers who lacked filters. In his home, you didn’t open up more than one bag of chips at a time. In my home, the cupboard contained a whole bonanza of accessible snacks.

So it’s not surprising how our unique upbringings can influence our parenting styles. And when you combine two very different parenting styles into one marriage, there is bound to be conflict. Thad tends to be the no-nonsense disciplinarian; I tend to be the softie who can lack follow-through. Over the years we’ve learned some tough lessons about melding our parenting approaches, especially when it comes to the inevitable matter of disciplining our kids. Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned—usually the hard way:

• It is important to agree to age-appropriate consequences ahead of time as a couple, then stick to them. Putting consequences in place then not following through only causes confusion for our kids and sends the message that we don’t really mean what we say.

• It’s critical to be a unified parental team in front of our kids. We work not to undermine each other but to back each other up. If I’m not respectful to Thad, why would our boys show him respect? One of the most empowering things Thad does is tell our boys, “You need to listen to your mother.”

• We strive to apply a healthy dose of God’s law, when needed, followed with the soothing balm of the gospel. We are still learning in our parenting journey about discerning the appropriate use and timing of each, depending on the situation.

Even though Thad and I were raised in very different homes, our homes had one thing in common. We were both blessed with godly parents who loved each other, shared God’s Word with us, and modeled the importance of faithful church attendance and selfless service to others as a reflection of God’s love. So despite the differences in how we were raised, the solid foundation of God’s Word was the base upon which our homes were built. And despite any differences Thad and I have in our parenting styles, how comforting it is to know that with Christ at the heart of our home, we will be blessed—and forgiven.

Ann Jahns and her husband, Thad, have three sons, two in college and one in high school.

 

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Author: Multiple
Volume 102, Number 5
Issue: May 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: Jealousy

What do we do when our children struggle with jealousy?

Since Cain and Abel, the devil has used jealousy to drive a wedge between siblings and make parents crazy. What can we do to help equip our children—and ourselves—for this battle? This month’s Heart to heart authors provide their perspectives. 

For a deeper look into the account of Cain and Abel, read “Sin that entangles” at blog.nph.net. 


God’s timing is always perfect. I received an e-mail asking me to write about jealousy among siblings right after I received the call from the director of the upcoming young actors’ production. The news came in; Micah didn’t receive a part, and his brother Silas did. Micah is the one who has been in a number of productions. Silas has only auditioned once before. This was setting up to be the perfect scenario for a great article on jealousy. All I had to do was watch and see what happens.

The first day of rehearsal came. Silas got ready to go. Micah got up from his video game, walked him out, and said, “Have fun, Silas. You will have a blast.”

Wait, what? Where was the drama? Where was the anger? And most important, where was the jealousy?

When I had a chance to talk to Micah one-on-one, I asked him, “How are you doing it?”

“Doing what?”

“Every day you are watching Silas do something that you love. And you are being so gracious and encouraging. How are you doing it?”

He replied, “I don’t know. I guess I just focus on him more than myself.”

Our conversation led to the old Cherokee legend that talks about the battle going on inside each one of us. In the legend there is the battle between a good wolf and an evil wolf. The battle is won by the wolf that we feed.

As Christians we know this battle. It is the battle between our flesh and the Spirit. One is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, pride, superiority, and ego. The other is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self -control. Which one wins? The one that we feed.

Micah knows who he is in Christ. He gets what it means to love others. He gets what it means to put others before himself. The fruit of this child shows his relationship with his heavenly Father is living and active. Ah, if only I could “get it” like my 12-year-old son.

This doesn’t mean that tears have not been shed. It doesn’t mean that Micah doesn’t struggle when he thinks about seeing his brother on stage while he will be in the audience. What it does mean is that in these struggles, he knows he has a choice: a choice to walk in the flesh or to walk in the Spirit. Our most important job as parents is to cultivate our children’s relationship with their Savior. The more they know who our God is, the more they know his voice, and the more they walk with him.

Jenni Schubring and her husband, Tad, have four children.


 

“It’s not fair,” my granddaughter insisted. “He’s playing with the toy I want!”

Jealousy. It’s inextricably woven into the fabric of family life. Siblings constantly compare who has the biggest or the best, who is most loved or most favored, who got the largest piece or the lesser penalty.

“It’s not fair!” Anger radiated from her stance. Eyes glared. Lower lip pouted. Elbows flared from her hips like flying buttresses.

Jealousy springs from the sin-infected core that festers in us all. It’s more obvious in children because they haven’t learned to mask it as well as adults. It’s apparent in the 7-month-old who doesn’t want anyone else, even Dad, to hug Mom. It’s in the 27-month-old who insists that the toy he tired of ten minutes ago still belongs to him. It’s in the 7-year-old who has learned to cover over her jealousy by calling for fairness. It’s in the seventh-grader who didn’t make the cut for the basketball team and is angry with those who did. It’s in the 17-year-old who contends that he alone, of all his friends, lacks a cell phone.

“It’s not fair!” she shouted again. This time her right foot punched against the floor . . . once, then a second time.

You might expect some advice at this point about helping kids recognize how jealousy has clawed out of their hearts, but this article is heading in another direction. A more personal, introspective direction.

I’m uncomfortable seeing jealousy in my grandkids because I know that I wrestle with it. We never outgrow sin’s selfishness, so none of us ever outgrows jealousy. Worse, jealousy is more infectious than the flu. I recognize that at times I teach everyone around me more about being jealous of others than about being content with the gifts my heavenly Father has given me.

I have to face it: My granddaughter’s selfish indignation was, to some degree, a reflection of the jealousy she had seen in me. I taught her how to grumble about a friend who has a larger bedroom, a newer doll, or a faster computer. I demonstrated for her how to express pained injustice when someone else stole “my parking place” at Walmart. She even might have seen me pout when the family voted down my choice for the last Netflix movie.

Helping my grandchildren overcome jealousy means I must face my own jealousies. My apology for failing to set a better example will go farther than the wag of an accusing finger. Even better is rejoicing together over God’s forgiving grace.

But why stop there? Think of the power in teaming up against jealousy. My grandkids and I can commit to encouraging each other to be content, whatever our circumstances. How wonderful to hear, “Papa, quit complaining. Jesus always provides everything that’s important.”

James Aderman and his wife, Sharon, raised three daughters and are now enjoying their grandchildren. 


 

On our son’s first night home from the hospital, then three-year-old Anna, truly thrilled to be a big sister but exhausted from all the excitement, proclaimed angrily as she went off to bed, “Everything is not fair!” I’ve spent the last two-and-a-half years trying to convince her that what she proclaimed that night was truth.

Nobody warned me that I’d need a training course in refereeing to parent two children. My life has suddenly turned into constant repetition of the phrases: “Work it out!” “Get off of your sister!” “Use your gentle hands!” and “I love both of you very much, neither more than the other.” Though my kids adore each other—it’s truly a blessing how well they usually play together—neither of them likes to feel that the other is getting a larger share of attention, fun, or other good things.

Anna had a loose tooth. Henry pretended his teeth were loose. Anna got mad that Henry was trying to steal her thunder.

Henry and I went to the zoo on a sunny morning to give him something to do other than systematically destroy our house. Anna found out after she got home from school and was angry she didn’t get to go along. Henry saw her reaction and talked about nothing but lions for the remainder of the day, resulting in Anna seething not-so-silently throughout dinner.

Anna, as a first-grader, gets to participate in fun activities like school, Lutheran Girl Pioneers, and birthday parties. Henry often has a hard time understanding that younger siblings are not always welcome at these events and that his time for these activities is coming.

Determining my role in their developing relationship has been tricky for me. I want them both to be happy. Don’t all mothers wish that for their children? But happiness is not a constant, nor a guarantee. So I try to focus on teaching them to deal in healthy ways with the frustrations and disappointments that come with the many great blessings of having a sibling. There will be times when things aren’t equal. There will be situations that are unfair. But I want them each to have the stability of knowing they are loved, regardless of what is going on in the moment.

I want them to enjoy the same experiences and to know that I want to spend time with them both. I hope they grow from this playmate/enemy relationship into a close friendship like I now enjoy with my adult brother and sister. But there’s only one of me. And between trying to keep us all fed, in clean clothes—at least until a spill or fall change that—and somewhat entertained, balance is a bit hard to achieve. Henry, as most two-year-olds are apt to do, requires a lot more of my attention than six-year-old Anna does. Some days she handles this well. Other days, I’m thankful she doesn’t have access to eBay to rid herself of her sweet but pesky brother.

It’s normal and natural for siblings to fight and argue. My goal is to teach them that, while life isn’t always fair, they are, regardless of circumstances, loved immensely by God and their parents. My hope is that by loving them each for who they are, they will grow into adult siblings who can love and support each other.

And maybe along the way the “stop looking at me!” fight will die out. A mom can dream. . . .

Kerry Ognenoff and her husband, Andy, have two young children. 

 

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Author: Multiple
Volume 102, Number 4
Issue: April 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent Conversations: Talking about Jesus

Sometimes we struggle to talk about Jesus in natural ways with our children. It’s easy to read them a Bible story about Jesus, but it’s harder to apply that story as a situation unfolds. This month three parents share how they talk about Jesus in their homes and other ways that they foster spiritual growth in their children.

We recently received bad news. My stepson’s grandma was in a car accident. At 11, Sam is meeting that brutal intruder, death, for the first time. We talk and then pray aloud. It’s a messy, tearful prayer, but that’s okay. Jesus hears the words beneath the words.

 


 

At times like this, when eternity creeps close, it’s natural to talk about Jesus.

Other times we’re less comfortable. Why is that? Maybe talking about Jesus—or even saying “Jesus,” as opposed to “God”—feels disrespectful. Maybe we know only a transcendent God, powerful but unapproachable. Maybe, lacking positive male figures in our lives, it’s hard for us to imagine a loving heavenly Father. Maybe we’re afraid we’ll say something wrong.

Thing is, God doesn’t say in Deuteronomy chapter 6, “Tell your children about me if you’re comfortable” or “A few words at meals and bedtime, and we’ll call it good.” He says, “Talk about [me] when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up”—pretty much all day. But before that—interesting!—he says he wants his words “upon our hearts.” We first take in the Word—in worship, study groups, personal devotions. It fills our hearts and then naturally flows into our speech.

Some of my kids’ college classmates recall their childhood Christianity as an onerous system of rules they couldn’t ditch soon enough. They’ve been taught that Jesus is a squinting judge, noting slip-ups on his blackboard in the sky. Others view Scripture as a loosey-goosey text, open to any interpretation they please. Here Jesus is a backslapping buddy who wink-winks at sin.

When it comes to talking about our Savior, I wonder whether it’s less important to teach children values than to teach them they’re valuable. Children—all of us—are so valuable that Jesus died for us. When the Father looks at our children, he doesn’t see dirty, undeserving sinners he’s compelled to love. He sees his bright, shiny, holy children! They’re so loved it’s safe to be openhearted, to confess their sins; forgiveness is theirs! God’s excited about the opportunities he’s got on the calendar for them. He’s right there with them, and he delights in them. What they do for him today and tomorrow matters, and he can’t wait to spend eternity with them.

BC (Before Children), I had this vision of family devotions: bright-eyed little cherubs with chubby hands folded. Broccoli eaten, candles burning, Bach playing. Pfft. I didn’t foresee fidgety legs and droopy eyes (mine!), not to mention lessons and practices that cut supper short.

But that’s okay. We can talk about our Savior anywhere. In the car: I liked that sermon. Did you? In the kitchen: God really answered our prayer, didn’t he? In the middle of a hug: You’re forgiven, kiddo. Will you forgive me? At bedtime: Jesus loves you, and so do I.

With Jesus in our hearts, on our lips, and in the room, the line between sacred and secular disappears. It’s all God’s world. And eternity—that exciting prospect—is always close.

Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her two 20-somethings and his preteen son.

 


 

Our kids attend a Lutheran elementary school where they hear the Word of God every day and see it applied in all aspects of school. Sometimes I find myself getting a bit lazy when it comes to fostering spiritual growth in my kids or creating opportunities for the Holy Spirit. The Lutheran elementary school does such a good job already! However, I’m pretty sure Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it,” was not written solely for the teachers at school. So how can I help train my children?

The first thing that came to mind was to have a nightly family devotion. I searched and read reviews about devotion books. I made my selection, and one night I pulled out my new devotional book. The kids said, “Oh, that’s the one we are using at school.” Not fair! I started reading it anyway. It was obvious that my kids were listening in school (good thing) because after reading the title of the devotion, they’d say, “This is the one where . . .”

Experiences like these have really led my wife, Kelly, and me to focus on discovering new and varied ways of helping our kids grow spiritually. We are always searching for different ways to complement the exceptional work done by our pastors and teachers.

Nightly blessing has been an important practice in our home. Every night we spend time singing our bedtime prayers, talking to God, and then blessing one another. That regular time of prayer and blessing has become a cherished time.

How about the morning? Since I leave for work at the crack of dawn, I’m not home to help send everyone out the door. My grandfather always said, “Never leave the home without prayer and Scripture.” So I printed out about 50 different passages, and I attach one to the door before I leave.

When Kelly and the kids leave, they read the passage together or take it along and read it in the car to help focus their hearts on the Lord for the day.

One more idea. A friend of mine recently wrote a devotional “book.” It’s not a traditional devotional book but more of a family thanksgiving journal. Our family is now coming together at some point during the day and sharing what we are overwhelmingly grateful for. We are recording this in a thanksgiving journal, and it allows us intentionally to focus our thoughts on God’s blessings. We don’t do this at the same time every day. I’m less concerned with making a “devotion-time rule” and more concerned with using this as a casual but consistent way to demonstrate the love we have for our Lord with one another.

Dan Nommensen and his wife, Kelly, have a daughter and a son.

 


 

My husband and I pray daily that our family will glorify God with our lives. The habits we have established in our home reflect that desire. We pray as a family, worship and sing praises at every opportunity, and study our Bibles frequently. Our hope for our children is that they will continue in faith and enjoy an eternity with their heavenly Father.

Here on earth, the devil is always working to lead us away from Jesus. Recently our three-year-old shockingly insisted, “I no want to pray to Jesus. I pray to Pete the Cat!” A few days later our nine-year-old confided to us that she feels that our family puts Christ on the back burner at times and it bothers her.

I was a bit stunned by each of these incidents. My inner pride wondered how the children in my Christ-centered home could say or feel these things. I wondered if we are pointing our children to Christ with every breath? I pondered the ways that we can do a better job of this.

The Bible doesn’t share a recipe or a daily schedule for Christian parents to follow, but it is full of guidance and reassurance. Isaiah 55:11 says “. . . so is my Word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Incidents that stun our complacency help us refocus and change what we are doing, but the Holy Spirit is at work in my children’s hearts even when my parenting and Christian example are imperfect and when my family life becomes unfocused.

We want our children to have a true love for the Lord and a focus on him. We are always mindful of this as we put household routines into place. But routines are not necessarily born of faith. True praise and worship come only from the knowledge that Jesus died in our place. Thanks to Jesus, heaven is ours. When we keep our own joy about this amazing sacrifice at the forefront of our lives and live our days proclaiming that joy, our children see and hear us. We do make mistakes, but God says that his Word does not come back empty.

We guide our families with God’s Word and with an example of faith in God’s promises. Then we can rest in the assurance that God’s Word is powerful. The Holy Spirit will do the rest. We have a faithful God who loves our little ones more than we do. As we learn in Matthew 18:12,14: “If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? . . . . In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”

Wendy Heyn and her husband, Juerg, are raising three children ages 3, 7, and 9.

 


 

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Author: Multiple
Volume 102, Number 3
Issue: March 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us