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Tag Archives | parenting

An Open Letter From A Parent Of Teens


Today is my youngest’s birthday.  As she turns twelve she wore my shoes to school because she couldn’t find hers.  In about a month her height and shoe size will by pass me.  This is sobering.  In our home we are in the process of trying to guide or raise a 12, 13 and almost 15 year old.  Our niece who grew up with us is still “ours” trying her hand at college and living on her “own,”  at 21.

Yes, I have been in some form of family ministry for almost 22 years now (ugh).  Then one day I started to live with an adolescent and WHOA did my life turn upside down.  My husband  and I realized that as parents,  we truly have no idea what on earth we are doing.  These are the years I thought would “make sense.”  After all I have been hanging out with teens and teaching them about Christ for a really long time.  I knew I didn’t have “ALL” of the time with them, but seriously, no one told me what goes on at home.

There are raging hormones (literally it’s a physiological fact) that makes them erratic and emotional. Some mornings I hold my breath wondering which version of my children will come out of their rooms.  They now want this thing called, “FREEDOM.”   However, they have access to so much more than we did at their age.  When I was a teen they still actually  “edited” movies for television bleeping out the “inappropriate” words and scenes.  We had to get to the movies, a library or an actual physical place like a “store” to take in information we shouldn’t.  We were far from perfect and the world and choices we could make were just as “bad,” but it took some effort to make such decisions.  I sit with my kids who want devices in the palms of their hands that allow them to partake of anything and everything at any moment of the day.  How do we navigate this as a parent?   Communication has changed.  We have to MAKE an effort to engage our kids, face to face, eyeball to eyeball. This isn’t just because they are busy or “teens,”  but because they are a generation that prefers to “talk” in pictures, emoticons, and abbreviated words that are less than 160 characters written for the world to see. I am not their friend,  I am trying to figure out the best way to connect, and talk to them, and get them to stop shutting down.  This cycle is so continuous that I am exhausted and I say the wrong things most of the time.

It’s not just that I worry that they will make a poor choice at a party or drop them off to “hang out ”  at the mall.  They can go behind a locked door and tell the world how miserable they are hidden behind a fake name called, “Hurting Girl 101.” They can be ticked off at a friend and say horrible things to them,  things they would never say face to face, in a “message.”  Worse yet, this can happen to them at any moment.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  What activities should we let them do?  Should we think about everything in reference to college?  I mean a “cheap”  four year degree will cost more than a house, two houses,  maybe a small island.  What if I don’t have savings? How can I get them there? Sports or academics or something might help.  When youth group is just about “fun” the hard truth is we might choose a different thing to “do.”

We have tried family devos.  The best planned ones usually fail.  The ones that are just us driving in the car answering questions seem the best. Finding a church that engages 3 vastly different learning styles is complicated, and I don’t want them to hate it there.

They are watching, always watching.  My kids want to see what I do, who I am, what Jesus looks like in me.   What if I am reading my Bible on my phone?  Should I tell them that I like that best because I have commentaries at my fingertips to answer every question? The days of a kid saying, “I saw my parents with their Bible open,” may be over.   We try to model service, and Christ in everything, but still they don’t seem to like much, and I blow up.  I guess I am doing an amazing job at them seeing how it is when a Christian is far from perfect.

Yes,  I know it seems like I’m not always trying.  I am, I promise I am.  I am doing my best,  or what I think is my best.   So could you please stop telling me what I do wrong, and help me know what to do?  I want to teach my kids well, I want them to follow Jesus,  I want them to be “successful,” (whatever that means in todays day and age),  I just struggle.  No, I probably won’t tell you any of this.  It will seem like I am just passing my kids off to the youth person sometimes.  Honestly, I am at such a loss somedays, maybe I am.  You will wonder about some of the choices I make for my kids.  I get it.  The problem is everyone seems to have a different idea of how to parent a teen.  Could you maybe tell me something I am doing is right?  Is there anything at all?

These thoughts are based on both my own feelings, and things I hear from other parents often.

So what can we do in the church to GENUINELY partner with parents?

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GUEST POST: Parenting Teens Failures

Parents naturally want their children not to fail. They want their kids not to suffer the embarrassment and insecurity that come with failure, and they want their children to enjoy the benefits of success. Parents want to enjoy their children’s successes too.  In an effort to reap these benefits and to minimize failures, many parents attempt to short-circuit the natural consequences of failure and they do so in a number of ways. One way is to lavish their children with praise even for mediocre performance.  Another way is to lower the expectations on their children.

Yet another way is to “overparent” children. Jessica Lahey at The Atlantic cited a recent study which asked parenting professionals whether “they had witnessed examples of overparenting.”  The most distressing overparenting were parents who took “their child’s perception as truth, regardless of the facts” and who are “quick to believe their child over the adult and deny the possibility that their child was at fault or would even do something of that nature.” These parents exhibit “high responsiveness and low demandingness.” They are the parents who “rush to school at the whim of a phone call from their child to deliver items such as forgotten lunches, forgotten assignments, [or] forgotten uniforms.”

The problem with this overparenting is that “the children do not learn to take responsibility (and the natural consequences) of their actions. The children may develop a sense of entitlement…” These are parents who “won’t let their child learn.” Parents should remember that the education of natural consequences is a gift, “not a dereliction of [their] duty.” The benefits of natural consequences is especially true for teenagers whose state of life is expressly to learn how to become an adult.

Coaching Your Teen
Parents can coach their teenagers through the discomfort, embarrassment, and failure that will come in adolescence.  In an article, “The Benefits of Natural Consequences,” James Lehman, MSW gives parents three simple questions that they can use to discuss embarrassment and failure with their teens.

“What part did you play in this?”
This discussion is key for helping teens take responsibility for the only thing they can control: their involvement. Parents should use basic questions to get their teen thinking about this discussion: “Where did you get off track?” “Where did things go wrong?” If the teen still needs help responding, the parent should not supply the teen with the answers but continue to ask questions about possible answers until the teen starts to participate. The parent must challenge any of the teen’s defenses in order to help the teen own up to his or her involvement. And the parent must not accept any excuses.

“What are you going to do differently next time?”
The main goal in this discussion is to help the teen see alternative ways of how he or she could have responded to the situation.  Help the teen think through as many possible alternatives as you can.

“What did you learn from this?”
In this discussion, the parent must ensure not to take responsibility from the teen. The parent must not attempt to solve the problem for the teen. Parents will naturally want to accommodate their teens for circumstances that they feel were unfair: for example, ineffective teachers or less desirable school policies. When this tendency arises, the parent must remember to allow the teen to suffer the frustrations that will only continue throughout the rest of life especially as they enter higher education and the workplace.

Though difficult both to initiate and to endure, parents can learn to let their children suffer the natural consequences of failure if they keep in mind the enormous benefits that will come when their teen becomes self-motivating in all of aspects of life especially in education.

Tyler Jacobson is the Online Outreach Coordinator for HelpYourTeenNow.com. HYTN is a parent advocacy group dedicated to helping families with troubled teens

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GUEST POST: No Rules for 6 Months

The last 6 months I’ve been conducting a little experiment; but, instead of using rats… I used my daughter.

No, I didn’t cage her, send her through a maze and reward her with pellets. I did something a little more drastic in most conservative parenting circles: I freed her from all rules and restrictions at age 17½. Some of our friends thought we were nuts, and at times… we wondered. But we refrained from retightening our grip.

This week my daughter turned 18, and I’m absolutely fascinated with what I’ve learned in the last year. For the last 6 months she’s had the freedom to hang out with whoever she wants, go where she wants, and stay out as late as she wants (this sounds like a Miley Cyrus song).

The results were amazing!

Our theory was basically this: Start strict, and loosen up as our kids get older, eventually freeing them from all boundaries by age 17½. We figured, they can do whatever they want when they’re 18 anyway, so why not get there six months early while they’re still under our shadow? I posted about this in detail here, and Doug Fields and I now teach it as a curriculum, based on our little workbook about setting realistic guardrails for today’s kids who have a smartphone in their pocket.

Well, now my daughter is 18, so some of what was just “theory” has been truly tried and tested in my home. So I thought I’d share with you some of our observations over the last few years:

  • During the early toddler years, my kids didn’t notice we were strict. They grew up learning, If they say it, they mean it!
  • As our kids grew older and began spending time with friends, they noticed some of our guardrails were stricter than other houses. This caused a little pushback. “But Melanie’s mom doesn’t make her do that!”
  • Any progress we made toward open communication and making them feel safe was thwarted by my angry outbursts when they messed up. “I better not tell Dad, because he’s just gonna flip out!”
  • As our kids grew into their teens, we had to be proactive and literally force ourselves to ‘release the grip’ and let them make decisions instead of us making all the decisions for them. “Dad, can I download Lady Gaga?” “No!… I mean… let’s take a look at her lyrics and tell me your thoughts.”
  • By the time my daughter was 16 and then 17, we began letting her make big decisions, like, “Can I go to the Homecoming Dance?” We’d tell her, “You make the decision, then let’s talk about it and see how you think it turned out.”
  • When my daughter turned 17, she began hearing us talk about how she would have no rules at 17½. She began growing excited about the opportunity to make decisions totally on her own. She began to see the big picture of choices and their consequences.
  • By the time 17½ came, “no rules” wasn’t such a big deal. She had been making most decisions by herself by then anyway. She was actually in Uganda on a missions trip the day she turned 17½.
  • Once she was 17½, she kept asking us permission to go places. I would always have to remind her, “You can do whatever you think is best.”
  • Discussions with us were no longer about trying to convince us to give her permission—she already had that. Now conversations were about what she was learning from her decisions, good and bad.
  • She began talking with us about decisions even more. When she wanted to drive over 2 hours to San Francisco with her friends (the furthest she had ever driven), she wanted to know all about traffic, directions and safety. Not because we made her, but because we were “safe” to talk with.

Now she’s 18… and it’s really not much different around here.

She heads to California Baptist University this week. We’re gonna miss this kid!

WHAT ABOUT YOU? What areas have you found it difficult to “release the grip” of your teens?

Jonathan McKee is the author of numerous books including the brand new Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, as well as youth ministry books like Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation. You can find his excellent blog here.

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How To Earn A Parent’s Trust

Courtesy of Vox Efx/Creative Commons License

Courtesy of Vox Efx/Creative Commons License

I thought I knew it all about teenagers and their parents.  I didn’t realize how wrong I was until I became a parent.  Granted I know there is still a lot to learn because my children are still small; however, one thing I do know is a parent’s trust is essential.  The reason my wife and I have chosen certain babysitter’s, daycare providers and even certain children’s products is because of trust.  If there is no trust we will not invest our children with it or them.

A goal of every youth minister needs to be a trustworthy person in a parent’s life.  If you want your ministry to grow and go you need parent’s behind you because they can be a very good reason why their teen shows or does not.  Unfortunately, earning trust is not as simple as showing up, you need to:

  • Communicate Constantly: Parents are inundated with information and responsibilities, saying it once will not do the trick.  Communicate your programs, your announcements and your vision over and over again.  You can not over communicate to parents what you do and why you do what you do.  The more consistency they see in your communication the more they feel like they can trust your word.
  • Stay Humble: Parents want the best for their kids; however, they also understand that you are human.  If you make a mistake own up to it.  If you don’t know an answer don’t make one up.  A parent wants someone who is going to be honest and authentic and will be turned off by someone trying to impress them.
  • Show Them Your Presence:  You are there to walk with parents, not replace them.  Show them your support by listening, allow them to take out their frustration, fears and joys on you.  Help them see that you are there for the journey. When they see you are on their side they’ll see you as a major ally.
  • Help Them Grow: Your responsibilities for discipleship do not just happen within the church walls.  Make sure you are encouraging the family to grow at home.  That means equipping parents with resources, plugging them in to small groups, ministries and other opportunities that will help them grow confident in their relationships with Christ.  When they see that you are helping them to grow, they’ll know you are with them for the long haul.

Youth ministry focuses so much on the teens that it’s easy to forget about the parents.  You need the parents because they are essential to helping you grow disciples.  Everything you do is a challenge and could be wiped away if a parent doesn’t trust you.  While you look to invest in students, look to invest in their parents.

How are you earning a parent’s trust?

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Be a Good Dad

Needed this little reminder: Be a good dad.


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Youth Ministry & Parenting: Should we bring our own kids to camp?

Fields' kids 2As I write this, two of my three kids are at camp. The 24 year old is on a youth ministry staff where she has been in charge of running this particular camp, and her 21 year old brother went to help out (a last minute counselor cancellation).

My kids know camp. My kids love camp.

They should… they are children of a youth pastor.

They tagged along to camp before they could walk and have seen just about every time of camp/mission trip/overnighter there is. I loved having them there and they loved being there.

FAST FORWARD: Today, fortunately, all 3 of my children love and follow Jesus, value the collective gathering we call church, have deep/meaningful friendships, love their family, and even enjoy their parents (which talking about that is the easiest way to get me to cry).

I realize all of that could change at any time.

I talk with youth workers almost every day, and this summer it seems like I spoke with more insecure youth workers/parents than normal. My use of the word “insecure” is different than you might imagine–I don’t mean they couldn’t look me in the eyes. I mean they were insecure in their parenting/youth ministry decisions.

PAUSE: I understand the fear of raising kids in the ministry… for Cathy and I, working with teenagers was a form of birth control early in our marriage. I always wondered, “Are my kids going to be freaks because they grew up in youth ministry?”

Here was the most common question I heard: “Are we doing the right thing by bringing our own kids to camp?”

I’m sure there are many who disagree with me, but that specific question is always met by an immediate “yes” from me. Yes. Yes. Yes.

A significant part of who my kids are (now, as young adults) is because they were constantly surrounded by amazing people (teens & adults) in fun environments (like camp!). I believe one of the key factors in their faith development was watching older “kids” live and fail in their pursuit of Jesus on these trips. As PK’s, my kids went to school on other kids.

Today, many of our friends will ask how we infused a heart for the world into our children (they ask because all of my kids frequent Africa). I’m not exactly sure, but I know that every Spring Break (from when they were in the womb all the way to teen years) they would join us as we ministered in impoverished communities in Mexico. I’m not positive that’s why they have a missional world view–my theology leaves a lot of room for God’s Spirit outside of our parenting decisions–but, I know taking them along contributed.

I realize that this broad-sweeping “yes, take your kids with you to camp” begs more questions and it’s definitely not as simple as I’m making it sound. But, as you evaluate your summer and consider next summer… I would encourage you to make your kids part of your camp. Don’t feel guilty for bring them. Don’t second-guess yourself.

Okay, bring on the questions (parenting and youth ministry) and I’ll do my best to answer some of them.

Enjoy your parenting… they’ll leave the house before you know it (our youngest leaves in 24 days, 3 hours and 18 minutes). Dang, more tears.

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4 principles for raising your kids… while doing ministry

I was honored to be asked to speak at the HIM Conference this last weekend in Waiki, HI. It’s an amazing conference with strong communicators such as Francis Chan, Tony Campolo, Dr. Gary Chapman (5 Love Language fame), and Nancy Duarte (who presented a fascinating message on communication). I had never been and I hope to return… a really good conference.

One of the workshops I presented there was titled, Raising Kids While Doing Ministry. When I was a young minister I feared that ministry would wound my family. I had heard numerous stories of the crazed “PK” (pastor’s kid) who was out of control—they were common stories. Actually, this premises still seems to gather attention and is currently being promoted by the show Preachers’ Daughter.

Today, our kids are 24, 21, & 18 and all love Jesus, the church, and their family. Raising our kids in ministry worked for us and wasn’t the colossal failure that I had feared.

When Cathy and I sat down to identify some principles that could be connected to intentional actions, we came up with the following four. I’m sure there’s more, but these are ones we can say that we intentionally sought out. They are:

1.The PERKS principle: we included our kids in our ministry as soon as they were born. Our kids got to go places and do things that most kids didn’t (camps and conferences). There are perks of being in ministry—you just have to look for them (i.e. keys to the sanctuary, access to the church kitchen/refrigerator, a flexible schedule, etc…).

2.The PEOPLE principle: we surrounded our kids with incredibly wonderful people, friends & mentors. Meetings in our home, amazing volunteers, interns and staff that rubbed shoulders with our family. These were the people who baby-sat, hung-out with, mentored and led our kids closer to Jesus. Our children were influenced by a community of amazing people and we are so grateful.

3. The PRESENCE principle: Because of the flexibility of a ministry schedule (perk), we arranged everything within our calendars to be at our kids’ stuff. Since I didn’t work a 9-5, M-F type job, I had the freedom to attend events during the day and coach sports in the afternoon. Ministry kept us busy, but our calendar time kept us focused and present. Our children have adopted this principle and are now present for us and one another.

4. The PERFORMANCE principle: We allowed and encouraged them to be themselves. Ministers teach their congregation that they should be who God created them to be… but, so often within ministry, families want their kids to be who “others” want them to be. This was a tough one for me, but with the help of my wife, I worked hard not to allow my own insecurity (what others would think of me) to wound our children. We became aware at a young age that we needed to either focus on their behavior (behavior modification) or focus on following Jesus. As much as they didn’t feel pressure from us, we soon realized that they would feel pressure from others (about being PK’s) and that pressure (from others) was more than enough.

We weren’t perfect parents! You won’t be either, but the stories that scared me about raising kids in ministry aren’t the only stories out there. The story that was written about family and ministry is one we’d want written again… and we’d want it for others too.

Question: If you are in ministry, which of these 4 principles seems the most difficult for your family? Share your thoughts here.

[Are you getting Doug's daily blog in your email inbox?] If not, it’s real easy–go here.

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The Power of Words

I guess 16,000,000 people have seen this video before me. Wow! I was sure caught off guard.

What a beautiful use of one minute & 48 seconds

[If you can't see this in your RSS feed, click here]

As a leader, how can your words shape those who follow?
As a parent, how intentional are the words you use with your children?
As a spouse, how important do you see your words with your spouse and how wisely do you choose them?
As a friend, how often do you use words to build others up?
As a follower of Jesus, how would your words describe the condition of your heart?

The right words are a gift to others… what an opportunity we have to use them wisely.

Question: How have “words” impacted you? Share here.

[Are you getting Doug's daily blog in your email inbox?] If not, it’s real easy–go here.

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Would LOVE/VALUE your feedback on the new parent-training idea!

I am involved in one of the most exciting projects that I’ve done in a long time. I’ve filmed a 7-minute parenting video called, Raising Kids in a Crazy Culture.

It’s not your typical “Christian” video—as I think you’ll be able to tell. The people who are financing this project hired a Hollywood type film crew. It’s been well produced! One of the goals of this type of parenting-help video is to deliver the training to a parent’s mobile device.

The pilot is below:

Raising Kids In a Crazy Culture…The 5c’s from Canterbury Partners on Vimeo.

[if you can’t see this in your RSS feed, click here]

I’m asking 2-things of anyone who would be gracious enough to help.

1. Watch the video.
2. Take 1 minute to fill-out the multiple choice questionnaire… click here.

Grateful for your help. It’s amazing how much power this blog audience has. Your votes changed a publisher’s mind on a book cover and the folks paying for this video want your input.

Also, if you can, please share this link with some parents you know and see if they’re participate.

I’m grateful for your participation in this project,

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I blinked… my "baby" is grown up–3 intentional parenting steps

Today my “baby” turns 18.

I knew it would happen… I watched age 18 arrive with my older two kids, but this one “feels” different. Possibly because she’s the youngest. Maybe because I turned 50 a few days ago and that’s messing with me. Or, maybe it’s because Cathy and I are only 8 months away from being “empty-nesters” and our baby will be going away to college.

Regardless, Cassie’s birthday has got me thinking about how much I have loved being a dad.

Last night I was at Dennys with two of my dear friends who are 10-12 years younger than me and are dads with small children. They are really good dads and very intentional about their choices with ministry and home-life (both are youth pastors). We talked a little about parenting and I gave them 3 tips (unsolicited of course).

1. Don’t blink… it goes by very fast. Regardless of what you think, your kids grow up very quickly.


2. Capture memories! Photograph, video, and write letters… the more the better. With each birthday and holiday, use it as an opportunity to write your kids a letter. Pour on the love… even if they can’t read it or understand it. These letters will become eventual treasures. Many of the younger years are forgotten–photos, videos and letters help retain and capture the best of memories.

3. Put your family before your job (even if you’re in ministry… actually, especially if you’re in ministry). Not before Jesus, but definitely before your job. Here’s a little harsh reality: anyone can do your job! Actually, one of the guys I was with last night has the job I held for 18 years and he’s doing a better job than I ever did. And, there’s someone out there who will eventually replace him too. But, no one can replace him as a parent. No one can love his kids like he’s designed to love them.

Time… Memories… Priorities.

I would challenge any parent to become a master of those 3 biggies and, if you do, chances are good that your children will someday thank you. A few days ago on my 50th birthday I received incredible letters from my kids (ages 24, 21 & 18) as well as a time where they breathed life into me with a verbal affirmation at my birthday dinner. It was rich! As a dad, I know I didn’t do everything right… actually, I made a lot of mistakes… but, I fought for those 3 biggies (time, memories & priorities) and now I feel like Cathy and I are in a season where we’re reaping the benefits of being intentional parents.

Those 6,570 days flew by… and now my 18 year old “baby” is an amazing young woman. I’m so grateful.

Happy birthday Cassie… you’re the best!

Question: what are you doing to be an intentional parent? Share your ideas here.

[Are you getting Doug's daily blog in your email inbox?] If not, it’s real easy–go here.

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Parents are memory-makers!

Memories are made during the Christmas season… these are potentially good times for families!

I believe one of the best gifts we can give our children is positive memories. When they hit the age of questioning their identity, good memories serve as a historical reminder of the foundation of family.

What are you doing to create and solidify memories this week? This coming year? How about capturing some of the highlights from last year?

If you are a parent, you are a memory-maker!

It’s impossible to protect your children from all negative experiences and bad memories. Your kids will experience pain… but, positive memories will soften and minimize some of the pain.

This week, my kids (ages 24, 21, & 17) recounted some of the memories they have of different Christmas seasons and I wish I would have video taped them describing their experiences. Each one spoke with such joy and favor about their memories. I see their sense of personal security and family foundation that are a big part of their make-up. I watch in their choices and hear in their voices that the memories we tried to create have paid off. I think Cathy and I could have done a better job, but I’m grateful that my kids have such great memories.

What about you? Do you have intentional plans to create and capture memories? If not, it’s too easy to allow time to slip away.

Question: What are you doing that’s working that others can learn from? Please share it here.

[Are you getting Doug's daily blog in your email inbox?] If not, it’s real easy–go here.

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10 actions that children learn from their parents' marriage

[In a week where we're focusing on Marriage and promoting our "Refreshing Your Marriage" Conference, I thought I'd re-post my most popular post (which has blown-up thanks to Pinterest). Another marriage post that has recently gotten a lot of traction is, "Size Matters...25 ways to go small in marriage"]

When I speak on marriage, I’m always asked if I intentionally taught my kids about marriage.

The answer is yes… and, no.

Yes, there are times when we’ve talked specifically about marriage (either ours or ones that our kids have observed). But, for the most part, Cathy and I have been wise enough to know that our kids are constantly watching and learning from us without us having to do a lot of talking. Our actions (both good and bad) are always teaching them about marriage.

I would be thrilled if my kids had a similar type of marriage that Cathy and I share… it’s definitely not perfect, but we’re both very proud of what we’ve developed over 27+ years.

Here are 10 actions that I know my kids have observed from us over the year:

1. Affection: Cathy & I are very affectionate and I like having my kids see me holding their mom’s hand, hugging, kissing, cuddling, etc… as often as I can.

2. Saying “I’m sorry”: I want to be quick to use this phrase and I want my kids to hear me say it (and I have to say it a lot more than Cathy).

3. Affirmation: this is my primary love language so it’s easy for me to dish out encouraging words. My kids get a lot of verbal affirmation, but they also hear me directing it toward my wife (which is really easy).

4. Attraction: I think Cathy is hot… and, I make it known around our family. I’ll regularly say, “Isn’t your mom beautiful?”

5. Time: our kids know that we like to spend time together. When they see us steal time away to sit in the backyard and talk, or go in the hot tub, or go on a date night, or sneak away for the weekend…that’s a good message I want them to see.

6. Laughter: we laugh a lot in our house and my wife’s cute sense of humor cracks me up. I like having my kids see that my wife makes me laugh.

7. Respect: opening the door for Cathy, saying “thank you” and “please” and showing her simple signs of respect.

8. Faith conversations: we’re not always praying in front of our kids, but they hear and see our faith conversations and know that we’re always talking about Jesus and what it means to be a follower.

9. The value of friends: our house is well worn from the traffic of friends in/out of our house. We love having people over and the Fields’ house is a regular hangout for some incredible friends.

10. Servanthood: I know my kids have had a better example in Cathy than with me because she’s the ultimate servant. Always asking, “How can I help? What do you need to make life better?” Serving one another is seen in the daily, little things and there’s many opportunities to serve.

Kids are always watching their parent’s marriage and yet too many marriages underestimate the power of modeling! Children are taking daily recordings of what a marriage looks like and those recordings are definitely influencing and shaping their view of marriage.
Question: Do you have intentional actions that you’re modeling to your kids? Do you have some actions that are different from the ones I’ve listed? If so, share them here.

[Are you getting this daily blog in your email inbox?] If not, it’s real easy–go here.

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The Need for Daddy

GUEST POST by Jonathan McKee has become a regular guest blogger on this site! He is the author of numerous books including the brand new Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, as well as youth ministry books like Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation. You can find his excellent blog here.

“Show me a girl that dresses like that, and I’ll show you a girl whose father was absent.”

That’s what my friend said. I didn’t believe him when he said it. Sure, he was a 20-year youth ministry veteran, but I thought the statement was dogmatic and shallow. How can he make such a generalization!

I was only a couple years into youth ministry at the time and I hadn’t spent but a few years with teenagers. Years passed, and as my wife and I ministered to a growing number of teenage girls who dressed especially risqué and craved sexual attention, we began to notice a common denominator: the absent dad.

Perhaps my friend was right.

This goes beyond my personal observation. More research is surfacing, even in the last few months, pointing to the vital need for “Daddy’s” presence in his kids’ lives. Presence extends further than just being there physically. Our kids need dads who are actually available for conversation.

The journal Pediatrics released an article on October 15, 2012 titled Paternal Influences on Teen Sexual Behaviors, available for download as a PDF . This review concluded the simple fact, “fathers influence the sexual behavior of their adolescent children.”  The review investigated 13 different studies about the effect that fathers had on the sexual behavior of their kids. The studies suggest communication between fathers and kids is especially influential. Or, in their educated words:

“Paternal attachment was associated with decreased older adolescent sexual behavior, whereas maternal attachment was unrelated, and paternal disapproval of adolescent behavior delayed adolescent sexual debut slightly beyond the effect of maternal disapproval. Specifically, adolescents with increasing paternal or maternal disapproval, independently, were less likely to ever have sex.”

In short, it’s important for parents to have ongoing conversations with their kids about sex… especially dads.

Interestingly enough, these studies all emphasized “conversations,” not rules. The review suggests kids are actually more likely to have sex earlier if they have either extremely strict or extremely lenient parents. Either extreme is bad (not the first time you’ve heard me talk about the overprotective and over-permissive parents’ guidelines). A balanced approach of providing information in frequent conversations is what made the big difference.

In my 20 years of youth ministry and talking with parents after my parenting workshops, I have witnessed the impact a dad can have. Dads make a huge difference when they choose to actually be present in their kids’ lives. The question dads need to ask is, “Do I want to work those extra hours for that Christmas bonus… or do I want to give them a gift that will actually make a lasting difference in their lives: my presence?”

The gift of presence helps your kids in numerous ways. A new study published in the August issue of Child Development proposed that a parents’ time spent with their kids may even raise a teenager’s self esteem and social confidence, especially if it’s time spend with Dad. US News summarizes the study.

Something about the father’s role in the family seemed to boost self-esteem among the teenagers in the study. What most differentiated some families from others was how much the dad was typically around and whether he devoted some of that time to be with his children.

Dads… are you listening?

Question: What do you think? Why do you think these studies are discovering the role of a dad to be so important?Do you think Jonathan’s friend was right about a “promiscuous” girl’s relationship with her dad? Share your thoughts here.

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Wake up, Notice, Pay Attention… win big!

 As part of the debut of my new series, “Be her hero: how NOT to suck as a husband” this week’s posts will focus on marriage.

Years ago if you found me in a mall, you probably would have seen me in Best Buy or a sporting goods store. Now you’d find me in Aldo’s looking at women’s shoes, or the Clinique make-up counter at Macy’s.

No, I haven’t lost my love for electronics and sports… I just love my wife, and finally have grown all the wiser.

Men are funny. They always want to know the secret to keeping their wife happy, but when I ask them about their wife’s interests, the question is often met with, “I don’t know. Women stuff.”

Let me introduce you to what I call “Duh” wisdom—the stuff we should already know.

The secret to a happy wife is this: Notice her.

“I love the way you did your bangs today, it draws attention to your eyes. Wow, your eyes are beautiful.”
Try that one on for size.

Or next time you’re walking out of J.C. Penney’s and your wife stops at the Sephora counter and starts looking at eye shadow, don’t exhale and tell her, “I’ll meet you at Cabella’s in the gun section.” Instead… notice! Take note of the shade of shadow she’s looking at. Make note of the brand. Does she look at nail polish? What color? Jot it down.

Two days later, place a small box on her pillow with that shade or color in it. Better yet… paint her toenails for her.

Dads, this doesn’t end at your marriage, it applies to your daughters as well. My daughters both love shoes. Alyssa loves any kind of boots (and boots are the rage right now), Ashley, my tom-girl, loves sparkly heels and high top Converse (I can’t figure that one out). If I ever want to get some one-on-one time with my girls, all I need to do is poke my head in the door and say, “I’m thinking that you and me hit DSW Shoes and follow it up with some Tasty Time Yogurt.”

Never fails.

The crazy thing is, if I popped my head in my daughters’ room and said, “Hey girls, how about you join me at Wal Mart looking for some sprinkler pipe, and then maybe we get a Del Taco Burrito?” They both would probably just look at me, “Ew!”

I get more opportunities to hang with my daughters because I take the time to just stop and notice their interests.

Is this materialism? No… this is wisdom. I know a guy who thinks that this is materialism. His kids hate him, and he hasn’t had sex with his wife in a month (I’m sure someone’s gonna be offended by that comment… sorry Doug). But this also doesn’t have to revolve around shopping. My daughter Alyssa loves to draw and paint. I can earn big points stopping in her room and asking, “Whatcha painting?” or looking through her drawings and commenting, “This one’s my favorite!”

Don’t underestimate the simple power of noticing.

Next time your wife (or daughter) stops at Bath and Body Works, take note of what lotion they like. (Brown Sugar and Fig!)

Ladies this works the same with men. There’s nothing sexier than my wife asking me the difference between a Plasma and a LED flat panel!

Question: What about you? What are ways you apply this in your marriage? As a parent? Share your thoughts here.

GUEST POST by Jonathan McKee has become a regular guest blogger on this site! He is the author of numerous books including the brand new Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, as well as youth ministry books like Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation. You can find his excellent blog here.

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The Homecoming Dance Playlist

GUEST POST by Jonathan McKee has become a regular guest blogger on this site! He is the author of numerous books including the brand new Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, as well as youth ministry books like Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation. You can find his excellent blog here.

I just had lunch with someone whose father works for Homeland Security. This man knew of threats to our country we are probably glad we never knew about. He’s not allowed to talk about the threats, not even to family… but sometimes he would use indirect communication. This person told me stories of early morning phone calls to their house on the East Coast from their dad in D.C. where he would simply say, “Today would be a good day for you to grab the family and go for a drive… to Kentucky!”
As a guy who studies youth culture for a living… sometimes I discover things that most people are probably glad they don’t know.

I just saw the song playlist for the Homecoming dance at my daughter’s high school this coming weekend, a dance I’ve given both of my daughters permission to go to (which has always been an interesting decision to make as a parent). Some of the students posted the playlist on their Facebook page and my youngest, Ashley, showed it to me. I had her snap a few screen shots and send it to me. As I look over this list this morning, reading through the titles of songs I’ve studied and written articles about… I’m troubled with what I know about this music.

My daughter said, “Please don’t call the principal.” (Ha… I’ve only done that once in her lifetime.)

I talked with my oldest daughter, Alyssa, about it this morning. I asked her, “Why don’t you think I should call the principal?”
“Because it’s not going to do any good,” she said matter-of-factly. “They know it’s bad, but they don’t want to know. They just tell the DJ to play the clean versions and they think that they’ve done the responsible thing.” (More from this conversation in my blog.)

I just wonder what would happen if the principal really knew what was going to be played in the speakers on Saturday night?

Here’s just a glimpse:

I’ll start with the 3rd song on the playlist:

Ayy Ladies- Travis Porter

If you got some good p**sy say (YEAAAAH?)
If you got some good head on ya shouldeeeeers
If you got some good p**sy say (YEAAAAH?)
If you never let a hoe f**k you oveeeer
If you ’bout yo’ check, drank Moet
Know the p**sy stay wet, I need all dat
Tattoos on the back, I see all dat
You already got a man, I ain’t tryna be all dat

I’m just tryna hit it by the end of the night
Lil’ mama so bad and her booty so tight
When I hit it from the back, don’t fuss, don’t fight
When I put it in ya mouth, don’t scratch, don’t bite…

If you’re wondering how they’ll play a song like this, let me introduce you to the “clean versions” of these songs. The clean version of the above song plays the same thing, but with the italicized words “silenced.”

Isn’t that comforting?

Don’t worry. All songs aren’t that blatant. Most are like this one from Usher…

Scream- Usher

Kill the lights, shut ‘em off

You’re electric

Devil eyes telling me “Come and get it”

I’ll have you like

Ooh baby baby ooh baby baby

Ah-ooh baby baby ooh baby baby

Girl tonight you’re the prey

I’m the hunter

Take you here, take you there

Take you under

Imagine me whispering in your ear

Then I wanna take off all your clothes and put something on ya…

If you wanna scream, yeah

Let me know and I’ll take you there

Get you going like

Ah-ooh baby baby ooh baby baby

Ah-ooh baby baby ooh baby

If you want it done right

Hope you’re ready to go all night…

Then there are songs that make you just scratch your head. Before every chorus, here’s the words…

Get Ourra Your Mind- Lil Jon

I don’t give a f**k, I don’t give a f**k, F**K IT!

I don’t give a f**k, I don’t give a f**k, F**K IT!

I don’t give a f**k, I don’t give a f**k, F**K IT!

I don’t give a f**k, F**K IT!

Kinda curious what the clean version will sound like.

Remember, this “poet” is what our society calls an “artist.” We’ve come a long way from Wordsworth, Shakespeare and Keats, don’t ya think?

And We Danced- Macklemore

I am not, I am not going to stand on the wall

I will dance, I will dance, I will break that ass off

And I see you in the corner, corner looking so small

Doing the robot like if I die tonight at least I went hard

I will not, I will not give a damn who watches me

I will live, I will live liberate the fox in me

I will be the discoball, freak and give my all

To whatever girl’s booty I’m freaking on

I’m not skeeting nah, it’s just freaking hot

Alright I skeeted…

And “skeet” is to ejaculate, for those who are curious.

The dances I’ve chaperones always say, “No alcohol or drinking.” Then they play a song like this one:

Bottoms Up- Trey Songz

Bottoms up bottoms up (up), Ay whats in ya cup

Got a couple bottles, But a couple aint enough

Bottoms up bottoms up (up), Throw ya hands up

Tell security we bout to tear this club up…

We (adults) are so stupid. Maybe that’s why the adults in charge of this upcoming dance allowed this song to be on the playlist…

Get Low- Lil Jon
…a song I actually wrote about in my parenting book . because I saw the “clean version” of this song played at a school dance, and the kids were all shouting the explicit version on the dance floor. I’ll let you peak at these painfully explicit lyrics here.

Here’s the lyrics to just a handful of some of the others songs on this weekend’s playlist:

Cat Daddy- The Rej3ctz

Wobble- VIC

Take Over Control- Afrojack

Whistle- Flo Rida

Snapbacks & Tattoos- Driicky Graham

Smack That – Akon ft. Eminem

Carry Out – Timbaland & Justin Timberlake

Domino- Jessie J

Sigh. Do parents even want to know this?

Hmmmmm… to dial the school… or not to dial???

Question: Do you think Jonathan should call the principal? Would you let your kids go to this dance? Do you think parents should respond to this type of thing? Why? Why not? Share your thoughts here.

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