Q: When I met and fell in love with the young widow who is now my fiancée, I felt like the most blessed man in the world! Not only had I found the wife of my dreams, but I was getting three great children in the bargain—a ready-made family. Maybe I was being unrealistic, but winning the children’s love and respect hasn’t been as easy as I expected. Do you have any advice for this struggling dad?
A: You’re not alone. When a single parent remarries, it is often not smooth sailing from the beginning. It takes time and lots of love to become a tightly knit family. It’s common for older children, especially, to resent the new husband or wife at first because they feel no one could ever take the place of the father or mother that’s not with them. Younger children may also resent having to share their parent’s affection with the newcomer. Many new stepparents make the mistake of taking this personally, and becoming frustrated and discouraged and pulling back. Fight to put sensitivity aside. A lot depends on the age and maturity of the children, but here are a few things that have worked well for others:
Communicate. Honest open communication is the first step. If it’s clear that only one or two children are unhappy with the new arrangement, it would probably be best to discuss problems and possible solutions with them individually. This is a good time to follow the biblical advice to be “swift to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19). Then, once each child has had a chance to put their feelings into words and you have established a basis of trust, you might want to try an informal family meeting around a snack or special meal, where each explains how they feel about their new family and what changes or improvements they’d like to see.
Take time. The best investment you can make in your new family is your time, and one of the best places to start is by following through on some of the “changes and improvements” they suggest, if reasonable and doable.
Pray. Children need time to adjust, and overcoming some negative attitudes can take a while. Ask the Lord to give you understanding and deep, genuine love for the others, as well as for His help in changing in whatever ways you need to for the sake of the other’s happiness and well-being.
Taken from Activated Magazine. Used with permission.
David B. Berg
The secret to raising happy, well-behaved, and well-adjusted children is actually quite simple—love. It's knowing how to apply that love that isn't always so straightforward or easy. Here are eight tips that are sure to help.
Teach your children to be motivated by love. Teach your children from a very early age to put love into action by being unselfish and considerate of others' feelings and needs. The following paraphrase makes a great starting place in teaching little ones to be motivated by love: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated."
Promote honest, open communication. If your children know that they can expect you to react calmly and lovingly no matter what, they will be much more likely to confide in you. And if you build a relationship of mutual trust and understanding while your children are small, they will be more likely to keep that line of communication open when they reach their preteen and teen years and their emotions and problems become much more complex.
Put yourself in your children's place. Try to relate to your children on their level and not expect too much of them. Also remember that children tend to be more sensitive than adults, so it's important to be extra considerate of their feelings. We all know how demoralizing it is to be embarrassed, hurt, or slighted by others, so realizing that such unpleasant experiences can be even more traumatic to children should cause us to do our best to spare them from such incidents.
Set a good example. Be the best role model that you can be—not by trying to appear perfect in your children's eyes, but by being loving, accepting, patient, and forgiving, and by striving to demonstrate the other virtues and live the values you want your children to have.
Set reasonable rules for behavior. Children are happiest when they know their boundaries and those boundaries are lovingly and consistently enforced. A spoiled, demanding, and irresponsible child becomes a spoiled, demanding, and irresponsible adult, so it's important that children learn to take responsibility for their actions. The goal of discipline is self-discipline, without which your children will be at a great disadvantage later in school, business, and the social world.
One of the best methods of establishing the rules is to get your children to help make them, or at least to agree to them. It takes more time and patience to teach them to make the right decisions than it does to punish them for their wrong ones, but it goes a lot further.
Give praise and encouragement. Like the rest of us, children thrive on praise and appreciation. Build their self-esteem by consistently and sincerely commending them for their good qualities and achievements. Also remember that it's more important and bears far better results to praise children for good behavior than to scold them for bad behavior. Try to always accentuate the positive and your children will feel more loved and secure.
Love unconditionally. God never gives up on us or stops loving us no matter how far we've strayed, and that's the way we ought to be with our children.
Pray for your children. No matter how hard you try or how well you do at everything else, some situations will be beyond your control or require more than you have to give—but nothing is beyond God's control or His power. He has all the answers and can supply every need. "Ask and it shall be given" (Matthew 7:7).
Originally published in Activated Magazine. Used with permission.
I watched from my window as a group of neighborhood children tried to retrieve a ball that had fallen into a drain. One boy reached in to get it, and pulled out a handful of leaves and dirt instead. That handful was followed by a second and a third of the same. Soon he and his friends had forgotten all about their ball game and were enthusiastically cleaning out the drain. They worked tirelessly for nearly four hours, as a couple of their parents stood by to guide them.
As I watched that group of five- to twelve-year-olds work happily together, I thought about my oldest son, now in his teens, and how much responsibility I had given him when he was a child. By contrast, my six- and eight-year-old sons weren’t nearly as responsible. That’s when it dawned on me that I wasn’t expecting enough of my younger boys. The difference was in me. Like most kids their age, my younger two were sometimes rascals, but they also had a desire to help out and take responsibility. I needed to learn to channel their energy in the right direction and in a way that would inspire them rather than push them.
I decided to start working with them each weekend. We tackled such needed projects as gardening, sweeping the driveway, raking leaves, cleaning the pantry, and making jam. Most of these jobs required physical exertion that burned up their excess energy—and they loved it!
I needed and appreciated the help and it kept my boys occupied and out of trouble, but best of all we found that working together can be a fun and unifying experience. Before long they would actually ask, “Can we do one of those fun projects, so it’s not a boring weekend?”
Some of the things I learned to keep in mind are:
- Be realistic when choosing jobs and setting goals. Don’t get into such a big project that it will leave a mess or create other problems if you run out of steam or time.
- Spending quality time together is more important than getting the job done. If I go into the job with my primary goals being to give my boys attention and to strengthen the bonds between us rather than getting a lot done, we actually get more done and it doesn’t become a chore.
- Pour on the praise and appreciation. I make a point to be both lavish and specific when I thank my boys for their help and the difference their hard work will make for our whole family.
- Reward jobs well done. Knowing that there will be a little treat at the end helps the job go faster, even if the reward is no more than a special snack that the kids fix themselves.
My long-term goal, of course, was to teach the boys to take initiative and be responsible when I wasn’t there to remind them or work with them. As they gradually became more responsible, things that I had first done for them and then with them—like washing dishes, for example—they were able to do on their own.
I could expect more of them, but they still needed commendation from me. There’s a subtle but important difference between doing things out of a sense of responsibility and doing them out of duty alone. I soon learned that if I failed to keep my boys motivated by praising them for being responsible and working hard, tasks that had once been fun and rewarding challenges became drudgery. I needed to be careful not to take their help for granted.
Another tricky situation was what to do when the boys couldn’t fulfill one of their new responsibilities. I didn’t want to be hardline, but also didn’t want to be so lenient that they stopped taking their responsibilities seriously. It was actually my youngest son who helped me solve this dilemma. He had a good reason for not being able to help with dinner dishes one night, so he offered to do one of my small jobs the next day if I’d do his dishes. His sweet presentation put all of our household chores into the realm of a team effort. It wasn’t a matter of bartering jobs in a self-serving sort of way, but rather a matter of shifting responsibilities. Of course I was happy to say yes, and I heaped on the thanks the next day when he fulfilled his offer without being reminded.
From what I learned by watching those neighborhood children clean out that drain and from working with my own children since, I think I can safely say that most children desire responsibility. They are just waiting to be helpful; they’re waiting on us parents to provide the spark that makes it fun and rewarding for them. If they learn to enjoy and take pride in work when they’re little, they will carry that attitude into the responsibilities that come with adulthood. That’s something that contributes to our overall happiness, I think, and something we all want for our children.
Taken from Activated magazine. Used with permission.
These are some of the thoughts that come to mind as I sit down to write you for Father’s Day. I hope you know how much I love, admire, and appreciate you.
For all those times when the outlook was bleak, but you held on and kept trusting Jesus to pull us through—thank you.
For making time, despite your work deadline that day, to help me finish my project for Bible class when I was in the 2nd grade (I still have that booklet!)—thank you.
For not getting impatient over my childish questions and nonsensical conversation starters—thank you.
For all the memorable trips you took us on and for lugging all our extra baggage—thank you.
For the tasty little healthful treats you brought home for us kids, which we always looked forward to and enjoyed so much—thank you.
For being the one to take me shoe shopping and for not stopping till we found the perfect pair—thank you.
For doctoring all those scraped knees, splinters, and maladies of every sort, and for dispensing all that extra attention and moral support in the process—thank you.
For all the amusing and animated tales of your childhood—thank you.
For the bedtime stories, which were always a high point of my day—thank you.
For making me feel safe and secure no matter where in the world we were, just because you were there—thank you.
For all the great basketball and softball games we played together when those were my passion—thank you.
For the times when you had to put your foot down and make me toe the line and abide by our family rules (now that I have kids of my own, I know how tough that is, and how important)—thank you.
For believing in me when it was time for me to spread my wings and fly, but I was sure I’d bungle it—thank you.
For teaching me how to negotiate the rental contract on my first place away from home—thank you.
For being a fun and adventurous grandpa to my kids—thank you.
For those one-on-one times you spent with me, in spite of your busy schedule and long to-do lists, which always meant the world to me—thank you.
Written by Angie Frouman. Published originally in Activated Magazine. Used with permission.
My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.—Clarence Budington Kelland
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My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, "You're tearing up the grass." "We're not raising grass," Dad would reply. "We're raising boys."—Harmon Killebrew
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A father carries pictures where his money used to be.—Author unknown
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When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.—Mark Twain, "Old Times on the Mississippi," Atlantic Monthly, 1874
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The greatest gift I ever had
Came from God; I call him Dad!
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Any man can be a father. It takes someone special to be a dad.—Author unknown
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Character is largely caught, and the father and the home should be the great sources of character infection.—Frank H. Cheley
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You have a lifetime to work, but children are only young once.—Polish proverb
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A man's children and his garden both reflect the amount of weeding done during the growing season.—Author unknown
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Father of fathers, make me one,
A fit example for a son.
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Directly after God in heaven comes a Papa.— Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as a boy
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Noble fathers have noble children.—Euripides
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I watched a small man with thick calluses on both hands work fifteen and sixteen hours a day. I saw him once literally bleed from the bottoms of his feet, a man who came here [to the U.S., from Italy] uneducated, alone, unable to speak the language, who taught me all I needed to know about faith and hard work by the simple eloquence of his example.—Mario Cuomo
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A good father is worth a hundred teachers.--Jean Jacques Rousseau
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Until you have a son of your own, you will never know the joy, the love beyond feeling that resonates in the heart of a father as he looks upon his son. You will never know the sense of honor that makes a man want to be more than he is and to pass something good and hopeful into the hands of his son.--Kent Nerburn, Letters to My Son
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Originally published in the Activated magazine. Used with permission.
Maria Fontaine, originally published in Activated Magazine
One thing that kids do all the time is argue amongst themselves. Often it is more a matter of contradicting what the other has said, almost for the sake of contradiction. Other times they do it to show that they're superior, to show that the other is wrong and to make themselves look better. Children do that all the time, almost constantly.
They need to be shown that trying to put themselves up by putting down others is wrong. Maybe they are right sometimes, maybe their point of view is right—usually they think they are right, if they're arguing—but whether they're right or wrong, they need to learn it's wrong to argue.
Children need to learn to put themselves in other people's shoes. Ask them, "How would you feel if you were to give the wrong answer to a question or make a statement that wasn't right and someone told you, 'That's wrong! How could you be so stupid?' Well, that's how your brother or sister or friends feel when you contradict them or point out their mistakes."
Give your children an example to drive that point home, how it makes people feel, because they need to realize that. Most children, once they understand what effect their words have on others, will try to be more careful about what they say and how they say it. Explain, "If you do this to your friends—try to put yourself up by putting them down—it makes them feel like crawling under the rug. That's the quickest way to lose friends," or, "Think how terrible that makes your sister feel. She's going to feel like never saying anything. And worse than that, it tells her that you don't love her enough to care about her feelings."
We adults need to make sure that we're not guilty of the same offense. We also need to help our children see that not doing this is a part of love—that this is one way in which they can and should show love to their peers and younger children.
Love, instead of tearing people down, lifts them up and makes them feel good, not embarrassed or humiliated. That's what contradicting and arguing does—embarrasses or humiliates. Sometimes the children don't realize this. They realize what it does when they're on the receiving end, but it just doesn't seem to sink in that it makes other people feel just as bad when it happens to them.
If adults have the tendency to immediately contradict or correct one another and to argue—and this is something we've all been guilty of—we can't blame the children when they do it. But we can be more careful to set a good example, and we can teach our children to be more loving and considerate in this way too. It's the difference between having arguing, fighting, bickering, contradicting children and children that really love one another and cooperate and work together in harmony. It makes all the difference in the world!
There are a lot of other aspects of showing love and consideration, of course. It's a big subject! It's also one of the most important things we can teach our children, because children who fail to learn to be loving and considerate in their speech and actions grow up and continue to have the same habit of bickering and contradicting people. If we want our children to be successful in life, what could be more important than teaching them to love?
Teaching Children Consideration – Resources
Scott the Puppy
Guard your tongue
We Can Get Along
The Blind Men and the Elephant
Your children will never forget the special times they spend with you. Aren't those some of the memories you treasure most from your own childhood—when your parents showed their love in the form of time and attention?
Children thrive on personal attention, and if they don't get it, just like the rest of us, they feel bad, unimportant, or even rejected. You don't always have to spend a great deal of time with children to make them know you love and appreciate them, but you do have to spend some—and the quality of that time is just as important as the quantity.
Time spent with your children is not only the greatest gift you can give them, it's also the greatest investment you can make in them. Nothing else will make a more lasting difference in their lives. As someone once wisely said, "Your children need your presence more than your presents." Play with your children, read with them, hold them, encourage them, enjoy them. Go for walks or just sit around together and talk. Ask questions and listen to their answers--really listen.
If you're like most parents, you have more demands on your time than you can possibly meet, and time with your children gets crowded out when emergencies come up. You rationalize that there's always tomorrow for them, but your children need you today.
Determine how much time you need to spend with each of your children each day or each week, and schedule it. Consider it a top priority, an appointment that must be kept. If a genuine emergency happens, you may need to reschedule your time with your children, but don't cancel it. If you find that you frequently have to postpone your time with your children, rethink your priorities and plan, and come up with another plan that will work.
When older children are having problems, they need even more of your time and you need to be even more attentive. Don't be too quick to offer solutions or advice, and try not to sermonize. Hear them out completely before you say anything, and help them reach their own right conclusions, if possible. Then pray and take time to hear God's still small voice in your heart and mind. He's always ready to answer your questions, and you'll be amazed at the solutions He will give.
Many parents of grown children will tell you that their greatest regret is that they didn't spend more time with their children when they were small. You'll have to sacrifice other things to do it, and in the beginning you may feel it isn't the best use of your time, but keep it up and you won't be sorry. Every minute you give your children is an investment in the future. The rewards will last for eternity.
Being there for your children makes a great difference in their lives, even when you don't think you are doing a lot for them or accomplishing much.
Taken from Activated Magazine. Used with permission.
There are going to be times in the day-to-day routine of parenting when you feel overwhelmed by situations and circumstances. You’ve had an especially trying day at work, your eight-year-old won’t do her homework, your teenager’s stereo is shaking the house, your toddler didn’t make it to the potty in time—and your dinner guests will be here any minute! You feel pushed to the brink.
Every parent faces days like this. You’re not alone. And you’re not alone in a greater sense: Jesus is right there with you. He understands, and He waits with encouragement and solutions. If you have the opportunity, talking with someone else—maybe your spouse or a friend—can help you see things differently and calm your spirit.
Whatever you do, don’t give in to feelings of frustration and discouragement. Shoot up a prayer and ask Jesus to give you power for the hour and grace for the space, and He will. Ask Him to help you see your children as He sees them, to see what they are going to become. He will help you view the situation optimistically and with hope.
Because children are often a reflection of their parents, it’s very easy to get discouraged and feel that you have failed when one or more of your children isn’t doing well in some area. But remember they are a work in progress, just like you are.
All God expects is that you try your best, give them your love, and leave the rest up to Him. Now that doesn’t mean you should just throw up your hands in despair, let “God take care of it,” and quit when the going gets rough. He probably intends for you to be part of His solution. You need to find out from Him what He wants you to do, and do it; then put the rest in His hands and let Him do what you can’t do.
The greatest discovery that any of us can make in life is that we can have a close personal relationship with our heavenly Father through His Son, Jesus, because that connection puts us in touch with every other good thing we need.
Such a relationship is not only possible, it’s only a short prayer away. “Jesus, I need You. Come into my heart and life. Forgive me for my sins, and be my Savior, my ever-present companion and counselor, my unfailing help. Amen.”
For parents, the only thing more wonderful than having a personal relationship with God themselves is knowing that it’s just as freely available to their children. “For the promise is to you and to your children” (Acts 2:39).
Families that share that common connection with God, whom the Bible calls love itself (1 John 4:8), are closer, more loving, more unified, and have far fewer serious problems among themselves than families that don’t. Why?—Because they have the most important things in common, besides a clear standard of right and wrong—the spiritual guidance and support they need to make the right decisions and stick to them. When problems and irritations arise, real solutions and heavenly help are only a prayer away.
If you want more for your family and haven’t yet discovered Jesus, connect with Him and start growing together.
Excerpted from Activated Magazine. Used with permission.