Three Things to Do When Your Child Disrespects You

A few weeks ago, I had a situation with one of my children. Upon the child’s arrival from school, the child’s grandmother suggested a haircut from the neighborhood stylist, which the child refused to do. My wife was home but very sick at the time, so she had no energy to get up and address the disrespect; it was actually disappointing that the child showed no concern for the sick mother. I resolved to deal with the disobedience when I got home, but when I arrived, the child was already asleep, so I couldn’t deal with the situation.

bible_rod_discipline_childrenI got my own version a few hours later though, when the child woke me up at 1AM because the child awoke and couldn’t go back to sleep. The scandalous shouting match that followed did not wake up anyone, thank goodness, but I certainly gave this child a piece of my mind for the events of that day.

As Christian parents, we set the example for our children in godliness, respect, integrity, perseverance, and excellence, and we set the boundaries and rules for them so they, in turn, grow up to become disciplined, independent Christian adults. However, it’s inevitable that every parent will experience a situation where their child disrespects their authority and pushes their buttons just right. So what is the Christian parent to do?

Disrespect is ultimately disobedience, which necessitates discipline. It’s important for parents to present a united front, especially if their natural discipline styles are different. Otherwise, the children will run to the more forgiving parent, while the other parent comes across as an angry monster.

My wife and I are united in three things when it comes to dealing with our children’s attitudes towards respect and obedience.

1. Instruct with the heart and deal with the heart. Every disciplining situation is a chance for a parent to speak his heart to his child. As you address your child, remember this is a learning opportunity for your child. Proverbs 15:5 says, “A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.” This is even more important to remember if you feel your child is willfully disregarding your advice or discipline.

No parent intentionally gives his children bad advice, and, on occasion, a child’s disobedience may not be because he intends to disobey but because the boundaries weren’t set or instructions weren’t clear. End of effort, it must be clear the child knew what he did was wrong.

2. Provide discipline that speaks to the child. There are consequences to negative behavior, not just so the child will learn not to do it again, but so they’ll understand how the world works. A home in which there is no justice is raising a child with blurred moral boundaries.

When it comes to discipline, I believe in the concept of “hit them where it hurts.” (This doesn’t necessarily mean the rod, although I have, on occasion, spanked my children when they were younger, and applying Tip No.3 afterward.) If you balk at spanking, you can still provide discipline in other ways. For us, we know our children hold something of value, and we apply discipline by addressing what they hold valuable. For example, my son is a techie, so discipline for him involves grounding from video games; my daughter loves her Shopkins, so discipline for her may involve the temporary withholding of Shopkins benefits.

I do want to also say, though, that it is not enough to (temporarily) remove the object of value; we need to fill the void that it creates. It is important to provide an alternative activity or item that will give the child time to reflect on what they did. For my son, I’ll ask him to clean the room (with me, because I enjoy that); for my daughter, I’ll have her read a few chapters from a book, which we will discuss afterward.

3. Restore. After every disciplining effort, it is essential for the parent to make time to sit down with the child and process the disciplining effort. Make a deliberate effort to speak to the child in their love language, and reassure him that there is forgiveness and grace for him. The child needs to know that you will continue to love him despite what he did, and you always will.

What about you? What are some things you do when you deal with your disrespectful child?

Image taken from here. No copyright infringement intended.

Three Skills You Can Help Your Kid Improve on This Summer

Most summers, some kids tend to vegetate while their parents pretty much allow them to run wild and free. While there’s nothing essentially wrong with that–some might beg to disagree even with that flippant statement–I would like my kids’ summers to count. A few days ago, I wrote about three things Christian dads can do with their kids this summer. In this blog entry, I’ve identified the following skills that I personally am helping my 11-year-old son improve this summer.

1. Improve his typing skills. In this digital age, keyboard mastery can make a huge difference. As a child, I remember playing a desktop game featuring a race car that sped up as I typed words into the text field. I credit that game for helping me improve my typing skills, and while I no longer have that game, there is an abundance of games that kids can play. I recommend Fun to Type, which has a variety of games that can help improve the child’s skills over time.

2. Improve his handwriting skills. No offense to him, but my son’s handwriting is atrocious. (Case in point: last night’s homework, he couldn’t read what he wrote himself.) I tend to subscribe to the “practicing with pegs makes perfect” model of education, so I’m requiring my son to do handwriting exercises with quality pegs during weekdays, and to answer the questions to No.3 in cursive, so he practices often.

3. Build vocabulary, critical thinking, and composition skills. I want to encourage Nathan to think critically, learn how to write paragraphs well, and improve his vocabulary. Towards this, I’m making him read a short story or essay daily, and posing some questions to him that he has to answer. These questions are designed to help him think critically about the material and glean the main points behind the text. At the same time, I’m also having him select at least five words from the text that he may not understand, and look up the meanings in the online dictionary (or occasionally, getting them from context in the material).

I understand that it feels like homework, but all the materials put together don’t take up more than an hour of his day. I believe, though, that these will help him improve his performance in the coming school year, so that’s why I’m doing them.

I’m also taking active steps towards encouraging his own likes, so this summer, we’ve gone swimming and camping–which, if you know me, I just don’t do–and we’re also doing some sports like badminton. I want my kids to move around this summer rather than just stay in their bedrooms playing video games, so that’s why I’m actively making moves to participate in these activities.

What about you? Which skills of your kids are you working to improve, and what steps are you taking towards making it happen? :)

Three Things Christian Dads Should Do With Their Kids This Summer

Filipino Christian dad
I took my kids camping!

Ah, summer! Two glorious months of “no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks!” While some kids probably dream of vegetating in front of their computer or television screens, many of their parents find the summer break a brilliant opportunity to enrich their kids with summer activities and co-curricular classes. Regardless of how your kids are spending the summer, I think we parents can all agree that these are two months containing the potential to help our children step up and be ready for the incoming school year.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” When good skills become habits, we prepare our kids for success. If we want the best for our children, I think we need to actively take steps to prepare them for the best.

For example, if you want your kid to be fit, then arranging for summer sports seems like the logical next move. If you want your son to improve his handwriting, assigning him handwriting work can help him over the course of the summer. If you want your daughter to develop a more organized outlook, then sitting her down and teaching her good study habits over the summer can be a fruitful and rewarding exercise.

You get the idea.

Christian dads, however, need to step up during the summer. Mothers are 200% awesome, but there are certain things that just have a certain “Boom!” when a dad delivers them. If a dad is Christian, his life and example is fueled by faith and powered by the Spirit. Here are three things I think every Christian dad needs to do this summer.

1. Take them out. Never underestimate the power of a “daddy date.” Kids need alone time with their dads. This is an opportunity, not just to connect with a child, but to speak life and strength to them. It is crucial, therefore, that your daddy date be conducted in activities that are enjoyable to the child, and I recommend active involvement. When a dad sets everything aside and spends quality time with his child, it communicates a powerful message of value that, when done consistently over time, will make a deep and long-lasting impact. It’s an investment that promises guaranteed returns.

2. Teach them well. Deuteronomy 11:19 says, “”You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” While this verse was referring specifically to the commandments of God, fathers can use the summer to teach their kids about important life skills.

You can use the summer to teach them a new skill or sport, or set aside time to mentor them on financial management. You could send them to summer classes, or train them yourself for tasks toward which they may be inclined. You could help them learn about the value of work by enrolling them in summer internships at local restaurants, give them summer allowance opportunities by doing house chores or ladderized skill improvement (using the Internet to learn how to type, or practice one’s handwriting or art skills), or help them volunteer at a local charity. The possibilities are varied, and you only have two months.

3. Tell them your story. The best legacy a Christian father can pass on to his children is the legacy of faith. Psalms 78:4 says, “We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.” A father’s life is his testimony; a father’s whose word is based on God’s Word possesses a rare and unshakeable integrity and faith. This summer, Christian dads, please make it a point to share your testimony with your kids. Let them know how far God has taken you; tell them how He continues to change you for good; speak of grace, humility, forgiveness, and love. To children, Bible stories are beloved and powerful, yet these are stories of people to whom they have no personal connection. I assure you: your personal story and testimony will touch them unlike any Bible story they have read, and the impact you will make when you speak truth into their lives will be substantial.

Regardless of how you spend your summer, my prayer for you Christian dads is that God will multiply your time and that you will use it effectively to speak life to your kids! What about you dads? Any great ideas on how you plan to spend your summer with your kids? :)

Four Things Dads May Do That May Kill Their Child’s Spirit

20150226_071903Now that the school year has come to an end, my family and I are about to review March at our monthly family meeting, to see how well we did this month (and to sum up the whole school year).

As we do so, I have to be very conscious of striking the right balance between constructive and destructive criticism. While I am a naturally positive person, I sometimes tend to be a little impatient and critical towards my kids, and this is something that I’m working towards, only because I wanted them to avoid the mistakes I made when I was younger.

However, the mistakes I made did help make me who I am today, and I’m stronger, wiser, and smarter, because of them. A well-meaning dad may not know that his attempts to toughen his kids through constant reminders of their failures, or, on the distaff side, to shield his kids from the hurt and the pain of the world, may not actually be setting them up for success, but contributing to lower self-esteem (“I can’t do anything right”), laziness (“Dad’ll do it for me”), and complacency (“Whatever I do is a ‘great job’ anyway, so why try even harder?”).

Here are four things that I think parents should be conscious of when communicating with their children. I feel an awareness of these particular behaviors can be helpful towards avoiding soul-killing behavior in the future.

1. Dad constantly reminds him of past mistakes. Grace and forgiveness are two of the hallmarks of a nurturing home. Please don’t create a home that fosters habitual, constant bringing down of the child by bringing up his failures. More than just potentially lowering a child’s self-esteem, it creates a mindset that the child can never please his dad, because “it’s never good enough.” This kind of mindset towards performance-based behavior is dangerous; the child may spend his entire life trying to live up to your expectations.

2. Dad says he has no hope of improving. Fewer things in this world will scar a child than knowing their dad doesn’t believe they can improve. If anyone can speak hope to a child, it’s his father; if anyone can take it away, it’s his father. A person would rather the whole world lose faith in him, just not his dad. When our kids don’t believe we believe in them, I believe it becomes twice as hard for them to develop that confidence in themselves.

3. Dad labels or boxes him in. The Bible says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” (Proverbs 18:21) May we never box our kids into pre-cut stereotypes or preconceived ideas of who we’re supposed to be!

For example, when we were young, there were people who labeled me “the smart one” and my younger brother “the handsome one.” While this would appear to initially be a compliment by highlighting our strengths, so to speak, it also had implicit implications: I wasn’t handsome, and my brother wasn’t smart. Today, I work in creatives, have written award-winning songs, and have a great job and family, yet I’m fat and consider myself ugly. Meanwhile, my brother looks amazing and is in fantastic shape, but he still hasn’t finished school. (He’s 37.) Coincidence?

4. Dad does everything for him. Let’s get one thing straight: as dads, we’re here to steward our sons and daughters and help usher them into God’s destiny for them. We didn’t become their dads so we could do their homework for them, find jobs for them, give them money beyond graduation, and essentially baby them throughout life. We’re not here to baby them, we’re here, to paraphrase and adapt the mission of my church to a more secular yet important situation (in which we can and should raise God-fearing kids), to engage our kids, to establish them in the faith, equip them with the tools to live God-honoring lives, and empower them to become influential (and ideally honor God by making disciples).

What are other things you think dads may do that might do more damage than good?

Sharing a Coke with God

Screen Shot 2014-07-26 at 9.09.39 AMThe past few weeks, most of my friends have been agog with Coca-Cola’s Share-a-Coke marketing campaign. To those unfamiliar with it, you can buy Coke cans and bottles with the message, “Share a Coke with…”, and it offers a wide range of names, from generic tags like Bro, BFF, Love, and Hottie, to personalized names like Cat and Niel. (No kidding — I saw this combination at SM Manila’s grocery.)

I have found myself rummaging through rows and rows of Coca-Cola cans and bottles looking for my name and that of my kids. Last night, I found a bottle that said “Rose” – the name of my kids’ nanny – and even contemplated buying that one as a surprise present for her. I’ve bought cans that said, “Mommy,” “Daddy,” “Ganda” (beautiful), for my wife, and “Cutie” (for myself, haha).

Now, apparently, a Share-a-Coke marketing tour is now making the rounds of malls in Manila, where, for a PHP150 purchase of Coke products, you can get a customized Coca-Cola bottle with any name on it (8 characters). You gotta give Coke credit for this incredible campaign. It’s taking pretty much the whole country by storm.

What makes Share-a-Coke so great is that it empowers someone to bestow that “blessing of Coke,” so to speak, on you. “Share a Coke with Al.” “Share a Coke with Richard.”

It’s just a little disturbing for someone to have to pay PHP150 to see “Ganns” on a Coke bottle; “Ganns” isn’t one of the names on the standard list of names identified by Coke for the Philippines, unlike Nathan or Cathy, my son and wife, who could get it, if they happen upon it. There is no relationship between me and Coke; hence, an unusual name like mine doesn’t come normally.

Luckily, someone else knows my name, unlike Coke.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…” – Jeremiah 1:5

I don’t have to pay PHP150 to be recognized or known by God; in fact, I received salvation for free (“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Romans 6:23), because Jesus, God’s Son, paid the price with His life (“…for you were bought with a price…”, 1 Cor 6:20).

“Share a Coke” wins because it’s based on relationship. And the best relationship we can ever have is with God the Father, and you don’t have to pay PHP150 to have a relationship with God. And because of that relationship, God calls me “Son,” and I can call Him “Father.” Or “Friend.”

I’ll drink a Coke to that.

Uncle Delfin’s hugs

This blog entry is about a man named Delfin Ong. No one I know calls him “Mr. Ong.” Everyone I know who knows him refers to him the way I do: “Uncle Delfin.”

Uncle Delfin is arguably the most gentle man I have ever met in my life. I remember meeting him for the first time: he is an usher at Victory Fort Bonifacio, and he welcomed me, a newcomer, to the Fort, with a big hug that took me completely by surprise.

That hug is Uncle Delfin’s trademark. Thinking back, it was not an uncomfortable hug; it felt genuine, warm, pleasant. It was a hug of friendship, of welcoming, of joy, that I was there, to share in the fellowship of God’s family.

I was a total stranger, but our first encounter was that: Uncle Delfin greeted me as if we were the closest of friends, perhaps as father to errant son, telling me this is what it is like to be part of a larger family.

I wouldn’t be surprised to think that Uncle Delfin has hugged arguably thousands of people. God has spoken to people through that hug. That hug has spoken unspoken volumes, telling hurting people that it was going to be okay, consoling grieving people in their hours of needs, and speaking fatherhood to children who never knew what it was like to receive a hug. Uncle Delfin’s hugs may have whispered silent confirmations to people in desperate need of affirmation that they were worthy of affection, of friendship, of love.

I believe God worked through Uncle Delfin’s hugs. I believe that his hugs helped bring about healing – not literal, but the kind that underscored our church’s capacity to welcome anyone in need of a little something extra before the time to worship.

Uncle Delfin is bravely fighting cancer, and we are stubbornly believing that he will receive the miracle for which his family and hundreds of us in the church are believing in faith. Uncle Delfin has already said that he is ready to go; he is clearly at peace with himself and his family. Still, we pray.

I believe Jesus will heal our beloved Uncle Delfin so that we may continue to delight in our time with him. I join the hundreds, if not thousands, of people asking God for more time for him. So many more people deserve to experience Uncle Delfin’s hugs!

Listen to “Healer” by Anthony Evans

But should the time come that God does call Uncle Delfin home, I’d like to think to myself it’s because God wants to sample Uncle Delfin’s hugs for Himself. And how I wish we could all be there to see it. Until that time, fight the good fight, Uncle Delfin! We stand in faith with you. You are loved!

On Father’s Day

Father’s Day 2012 was a bit of a blur for me, which is a little ironic because the day was relatively uneventful.

I got up in the morning to a blog surprise from Caths, who wrote a sweet Father’s Day message for me on behalf of Nathan and Nicki.

Since I was up early, I took Nicki – who was also up early – to Jollibee where we drove-through for breakfast, then brought breakfast home to the thoughtful (albeit sleeping) wife and son.

Then they surprised me with this present.

I was so thrilled because I love For Better or For Worse; it’s one of my favorite comic strips, right after Calvin and Hobbes.

Afterward, my family and I went to the church in Greenhills where we worship, where I took home this central point:

What you may never have gotten from your dad, you can get from God; He will stoop down to make you great.

This affected me a lot, because I remember making this post three years ago, for Father’s Day 2009. In that post, I wrote:

Fatherlessness may very well be the most important sociological issue of our time, and I am inclined to agree. A home with an active and caring father is the best thing you can provide for your children. All your sons and daughters will create their templates of manhood from you, and carry that template over to their children, and so on. Cast your love for them upon them and you change their lives; cast your love for God upon them, and you change the world.

During his preaching, Dennis admitted he never got much encouragement from his father; when he got a hug at 19, he was set for life! My father, on the other hand, was generous with his praise, but I hungered for more attention, more physical presence. And I think that’s what affected me a lot about what Dennis said. In my opinion, this is the gist of his message, or certainly what I took home from it:

Whatever shortcomings your earthly father had do not matter, because your heavenly father is more than enough.

I am not the world’s best dad by any stretch of the imagination. I’m a miserable father, really: my temper could afford to be longer, and I could spend more time with my kids than with this laptop (as I type, my little girl is playing with her Barbie). But see, my shortcomings can be forgiven, and I need to take time to really shower God’s love on my kids.

A lot of dads, myself included, think we need to work harder to provide for our kids. Yes, we need to provide. But they need us more than money. They need our presence, our encouragement, our time.

And that was my big take-home today. I’ve always known it, but it’s always good to be reminded.

My kids don’t need my money. They need me.

And God as the Creator of Time, will multiply my time. And He did today. I enjoyed my time with my family today.

After church, we had a snack at Potdog and some delicious – DELICIOUS! – drinks at Dakasi. We then went to the mall to do some grocery shopping and pick up some awesome – AWESOME! – photos of our family from Pic-a-boo. We then went home, where we took a nap. I awoke to Nicki’s lying at my feet, and we went into the other room to play. (And surf. Sssh.)

Otherwise an ordinary day.

But you know what? I wouldn’t trade this day for most others. I got to spend it with my family, and I praise God that my family and I are together, and whole, and lovely. That’s the best Father’s Day present I could’ve ever hoped for.


Revisiting my role as the “sleepy child whisperer”

The past few days have been difficult. Last weekend, my kids’ two nannies decided to hie away from our employ. They put my daughter, three-year-old Nicki, to bed, then left six-year-old Nathan, who was watching television, packed their bags, and left. No “Thanks for having us,” no tearful goodbyes, nothing. They up and left our kids in our house, with no one else, save Nathan’s nine-year-old cousin, to watch over them. We later learned of the reason as to why they decided to leave, and, well, while I can’t publish it on my blog, it relieves me to know that both nannies did not have issues with us as their employers, with our kids as their main focus of attention, and with the nature of their jobs.

While we have two nannies arriving tomorrow – Thank You, God!! – my beautiful wife Catherine and I have taken turns staying home to be with the kids. My kids are bundles of joy, but we all know that nobody’s perfect, either parent or child. I’ve struggled a bit, but it’s always a good thing to reconnect with your children. You’ll always have work around, but you won’t always have your kids’ childhoods around, so best to enjoy it while you still can. The Bible recommends we dads don’t exasperate our kids, and I’ve been trying my best to ensure that doesn’t happen. They, on the other hand, have continued to pay attention to me, so I think I haven’t completely outgrown my role as father.

Meanwhile, I’m revisiting the book Supernanny by Jo Frost, and it’s reminding me about some solid disciplinary steps to take when my kids (occasionally) misbehave. In particular, it has some solid ideas about bedtime that I’m really interested in reestablishing. My kids, you see, can’t sleep without me. That’s a surefire recipe for disaster, so I’m going to talk to my wife about it tonight. We need our evenings back, and Jo Frost has the master plan for ensuring our evenings belong to us again.

If your child refuses to sleep, Jo Frost says the answer is “The Bedtime Routine,” which “lets your child know there is a consistent pattern to going to bed, which s/he is not going to be able to change or manipulate at will,” and 2) it prepares for sleep in a calming sequence of events that are designed to help her relax.” Sounds good, no?

Her tips include:

  • Keep things as calm as possible. Winding down is important.
  • Tell your child that bedtime is approaching. About ten minutes before you start the routine is good.
  • Give a warm bath. Give a warning before bath begins and before it ends. Enlist the child’s help; praise the child when each stage is completed smoothly.
  • Read your child a bedtime story. (I love this part!) Ask questions to engage their attention. (After the story, the child may want to talk for a while; this is a good time to reassure, praise, and single out good moments.)
  • Give a few minutes’ notice before lights out.
  • Don’t get into the habit of waiting with your child until she falls asleep. (Ouch, sorry.)
  • Lights out! No child will learn how to get  to sleep with the lights on.
  • Don’t leave a stage out of this routine.
  • Be consistent with your partner in this routine. Present a united front.
  • Don’t let your child fall asleep on the sofa and then move him into bed. He may wake up in a panic wondering how he got there.

There are several great ideas in the book, as well as problem/solution situations. (My child can’t sleep alone. My child wakes up in the middle of the night.  My child gets out of bed. My child gets into my bed. My child has nightmares. Etcetera. She has a whole bunch of solutions to these questions, and more. Get the book. It’s awesome.)