Tag Archives: Advice

Being Unequally Yoked Stinks!

yoke

Today I got an email requesting some information on how to find happiness in a marriage where one spouse is Christian and the other is not.

I just came upon your site & looked through the marriage topic for anything on being unequally yoked. Do you have any wisdom on this subject? I am Born Again and in full-time ministry but my husband is not a Christian. This is becoming harder and harder. Thanks.

I replied asking for any specific questions or angles she’d like to hear about… but I thought I could address the whole topic in a general way.

I’ll start by saying that this is a difficult topic to address since I have never been in this situation personally. I have, however, seen the effect of being unequally yoked on the people involved in such a union, both spouses and children, in my 10+ years of ministry. It’s never ideal and in ever situation it’s a struggle for everyone involved.

Why Is Being Unequally Yoked A Struggle?

When is the last time you got into an heated discussion about Religion or Politics with a friend or co-worker with opposing views? There is nothing in the world people are more passionate about than those two topics. Now imagine being married to that person… sharing a home and a bed with someone who thinks everything you hold dear and sacred is stupid and a complete waste of time.

My wife and I always joke about how different we are… how there is no way we should be able to get along… but the reason it works is because our differences are on the surface. Just underneath we are in complete unity. Our Faith, politics, theories on child rearing, the trust we have in one another, our love for our family… exactly the same. But imagine a marriage where the only thing you have in common is what you eat for dinner, what you watch on TV and where you watch it.

Why Do Christian People Marry Non-Christians?

Most of the time folks who marry someone who is not of the same faith do so because they simply do not think it matters at the time. They believe that they can change the person… or that love will be enough to carry them through. Then others are not very committed to their faith and so their beliefs, though different than their potential mate, are not really practiced and are therefore mostly irrelevant. In rare cases one of the spouses find Christ afterward and then find themselves unequally yoked by accident.

Usually people with a Christian background will begin to depend on their faith more as they age and experience life. Having children also gets people taking their relationship with Christ more seriously. If they were raised in church, they’re typically going to want their kids raised in church. Though the Christian parent has the best intentions, they typically become the ‘bad guy’ of the family forcing children to get up early for church when Dad gets to stay home, enforcing rules that only they believe in… it can really be a huge hassle.

If you are a Christian and single, do yourself a favor. Realize that the feeling of being in love is not what keeps a marriage together… it is the depth of your commitment to what you believe that makes marriage vows stick. It makes so much sense it’s scary. How can you trust your potential spouse to believe in and live out his commitment to you when he doesn’t even share, much less live out, your commitment to God.

Three Steps To Take Before Getting Angry At A Comment

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How many times do arguments in a relationship start with a misunderstanding… um… every stinking time perhaps? Something like that. Here are a few hoops you can jump through before dragging yourself and your mate into a three hour shout-fest over nearly nothing.

1. Ask Them To Repeat And Clarify Their Comment

Before you get all angry over a comment, at least make sure you heard what they said correctly. I can’t tell you the times I’ve blown up over something that was never ever said!

2. Assume That You’re Taking It Worse Than Was Intended

I recall in the movie Wolverine where he says “Bub” but The Blob character hears him say “Blob” because he’s sensitive about his weight. We’re the same way. For some reason our brain loves to trick us into thinking folks are saying the exact thing we need to hear in order to be the most offended and hurt. Just knowing this about ourselves can help.

3. Is The Comment A Reply To Your Misunderstood Comment?

When people who love one another say hurtful things, 9 times out of 10 it’s in an attempt to defend themselves against something hurtful. You can judge how bad something you said hurt them by how much their reply stings you. If you say something that gets that kind of response, rather than fire back something awful, realize they may have misunderstood you and find out what they heard you say. Once they understand that you weren’t trying to rip out their heart… things can deescalate.

Two people who love one another are two people who put the other person’s feelings before their own. That doesn’t happen naturally. If it were, it wouldn’t be an act of love in the first place. Take the time and make a decision about your actions rather than allowing yourself to simply react to a comment and you will have that much more peace in your relationship.

5 Simple Ways To Make Your Kids Feel Special

5. Draw them a picture

Think of all the times they’ve drawn pictures for you. It’s how they show you they love you. Drawing you and them standing hand-in-hand with your house in the background… maybe put the dog in there. It’s a great way to let your youngun know how you feel about them. If you really don’t want to bother, let me draw you a picture for them!

4. Take them on a date

If you have a ton of kids, take them two at a time… but if you only have a few, set up a time where it’s just you and them out on the town. Take them out to eat, get dessert, then a movie or just go shopping. It’s a great way to bond and it makes them the center of your world with none of the distractions of home around to bother you.

3. Talk about them to others

There is nothing I loved more as a child than to overhear my mom talking me up to her friends. It only happened a few times that I remember… but I remember each one to this day. She’d talk about how I was bringing my grades up. How I was such a good artist for my age. She’d brag on my improving behavior. Not only will you kids’ heart soar… they will want to impress you even further!

2. Let them help you

If you’re still lucky enough to have kids that want to help you around the house… let them! Yes it’s more difficult and will take a lot more time… but they want to help! That’s priceless! Not only are you teaching them the benefits of work by making it fun… it’s develops a part of your relationship that nothing else can. It makes you a team. Your child feels they are side-by-side with you, for just that moment… it makes them feel big. It gives them a preview of adulthood… and a good one at that. They’ll learn from you and they’ll want to grow up just like you.

1. Tell them you love them

I casually tell my kids I love them all the time. But once in a while I literally hold my girl’s head in my hands and stare deep into her eyes and say, “Girl, I love you so much.” She’s 4 and a half… and she tears up almost every time.

I grew up without most of the things on this list. Chances are you missed out too. I strive to raise my kids the way I wanted to be raised. They’re so much like me already. It’s going to be awesome seeing them become more than I ever could because they’re getting what they need now. Let’s all commit to giving what we didn’t receive.

Expected & Rewardable Behavior: When to reward a child’s good behavior and when not to.

Natural Rewards & Consequences

Children, at their core, are simple creatures. They’re not so different from us. Behavior that has benefits to them is repeated. Behavior that has negative consequences are not. Two simple categories right? Yes… but they both apply in two ways. Let me break it down like this:

  • Good behaviors that have naturally occurring benefits will be repeated.
  • Good behaviors that have naturally occurring (seemingly) negative consequences will not be repeated.
  • Bad behaviors that have a naturally occurring benefit will be repeated.
  • Bad behaviors that have a naturally occurring negative consequences will not be repeated.

Basically I’m trying to point out that some good behaviors are their own reward… other good behaviors are not. Some, like cleaning a room, have built-in benefits. Others, like telling the truth, can seem to have consequences rather than rewards for our kids. Our goal as proper disciplinarians is to exaggerate the benefits of good behavior and the consequences of the bad. This becomes especially important when life seems to reward the bad and punish the good. Parents are wise when they provide incentives for children to choose the right over the wrong in spite of naturally occurring consequences.

Rewardable Behavior & Expected Behavior

If you’ve read any of my other articles on Proper Discipline then you know that I believe in setting Minimum Standards for your Child. Minimum standards help you to be consistent when discouraging unwanted behavior. On the other end of the spectrum is what I would call Expectations. Expectations is a fair and achievable set of goals we set for our children’s behavior.

Have a look at the diagram below:

ExpectedRewardableBehavior

Anything between your Minimum Requirements and your Expectations is Expected or Good Behavior. Note that even the color of the background has a purpose. Expected behavior is not Perfect Behavior. Children are still allowed to have moods, bad hair days and etc… as long as they don’t drop below our Minimum Requirements. Anything above our Expectations is Rewardable Behavior… and anything that drops blow our Minimum Requirements is punishable. I keep this diagram as a mental image in my mind when dealing with my children. Placing a mental pin on based on their current behavior helps me know what my reaction should be.

Practical Application Time

Enough theory… let’s put this into practice. There was a time that my daughter got a Skittle every time she went potty. Back in the day going potty was an action that rose above her expected behavior at the time since she was still wearing diapers. Once that behavior became standard and expected, the reward was removed. I’m not going to be giving her Skittles for the rest of her life! That girl goes so much she’d be bigger than me by now!

I also don’t reward her for keeping her room clean. It’s expected behavior and it has it’s own reward. She loves her room once it’s clean. She’s learning to put things away faster so she can enjoy it once she’s done. Currently there are rewards for eating or at least trying certain foods. My girl is a very picky eater… and though we don’t make her eat things she outright doesn’t like… we insist that she tries one bite each time we have it. Our Minimum Requirement is that she eat at least one bite. Our Expectation (or Goal) is that she will develop a taste eventually and eat it all. She is praised verbally when she tries the food, and she has gotten better at it, but we save dessert for when she eats a fair bit or all. Recently she finally decided she liked mashed potatoes (told you she was picky) and she was rewarded.

Conclusion

  • Some behaviors have their own rewards and consequences.
  • Parents need to make sure good behaviors are rewarding and bad behaviors have consequences especially when life rewards bad behavior or punishes good.
  • Expected behavior is appreciated but not rewarded.
  • Rewardable behavior is that which exceeds your expectations at the time.
  • Today’s Rewardable Behavior is tomorrow’s Expected Behavior.

If this made any sense at all… or if you have questions… please post them in the comments. If there are ever any more specific questions I can answer concerning discipline, please email me at geeklovesnerd@gmail.com

What Is Proper Discipline?

Discipline

Discipline used to be a dirty word to me. It still has a sting to it. I had a hardcore ex-military step-father who loved to throw it around while he rampaged around the house demanding perfect order. His demands on us changed moment by moment based on his moods. A good mood meant we could be ourselves, even careless and carefree with our behavior. A bad mood meant we wished we didn’t even exist enough to leave a footprint in the carpet. This wasn’t proper discipline.

When it was time to have my own children, I was outright scared. I was terrified that I wouldn’t know how to bring up my children properly. Don’t we learn from the example? Don’t the statistics say we tend to repeat the bad traits of our own parents? I didn’t want to… but was I doomed to put my children through the same tortures I endured? That was when learning proper discipline became very important to me.

Discipline is more than “getting onto” kids, correcting them, spankings and time-outs. Discipline done right is just another word for Discipling, literally making your child into a follower of your example… a disciple. Therefore…

Proper discipline is achieved when we provide a relationship of love and consistency where children are shown the consequences of sin and the benefits of obedience.

Proper discipline starts with love.

We all love our kids… but love isn’t all hugs and kisses. Love holds a child down while they get their shots… because it’s good for them. Love exposes a child to food they don’t originally like. Love forces a child to focus on things they don’t have much interest in like homework or cleaning their room. Love is also patient and kind. It is not rude, self-centered or easily angered. Proper discipline starts with proper love.

Proper discipline is consistent and predictable.

When children think about crossing the line… they need to know even before they do it what is coming. Your response shouldn’t be based on mood or circumstance. We achieve consistency by having a vision for who we want our child to be, being patient and selfless, and having a set of expectations and basic rules established ahead of time. When children experience the same discomfort when they make mistakes and the same encouragement when they make good choices… they will move away from one and toward the other. This is greatly enhanced when they see the principals you set for them lived out in your own life.

Proper Discipline has consequences for bad choices.

When a child steps over the line, it needs to be uncomfortable for them. The consequences of the transgression need to outweigh the benefits. A child may want to loose their temper because it feels good to get so angry… but if the consequences of the behavior are severe enough, they will choose good behavior because it’s not worth it. What are those consequences? That’s where knowing your own child comes into play. Some parents use time-outs, some spank, some use isolation or loss of benefits. It’s all about what works best with the smallest effort from you… and doing it consistently.

Proper Discipline has benefits and encouragement for good choices.

This is the part most old school disciplinarians don’t get. It’s not enough to discourage bad behavior, you’ve got to encourage good behavior. Focusing only on the bad only teaches a child to not get caught. Focusing only on the good creates a child who believes they are entitled and can do no wrong. It’s only in the balance of both do we see the results we want. I don’t believe you have to reward every bit of good behavior… but encouragement is free and should be given liberally. It’s easy to catch a child being bad… we almost look for badness by default. I try to catch my daughter being good too. If I see her share her snack with her brother… I’m going to brag on her to her mom so she can hear. They like hearing you talk about them a lot more anyway. 🙂

More on consequences and rewards in future posts.

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Why Parents Don’t Discipline

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It only takes one trip to Walmart to realize something… folks don’t discipline their children very well anymore. You can hardly find a child you’d want to spend any amount of time around while strolling through the isles. Restaurants are even worse. Kids shouting out, squirming, crying or complaining. It’s not just the young ones either… often times the older the child is the more out of control they are.

I think the lack of discipline in the home is the leading contributor to the degrading quality of our neighborhoods, our schools, escalation of chemical imbalances and rising crime rates, drug use and gang activity. It’s a big deal.

So why aren’t we doing it? Why are kids getting away with so much? Why are we pacifying and distracting rather than directing and correcting?

1. Discipline is a dirty word to most of us.

So many adults today were abused or otherwise mistreated under the banner of “discipline”. Proper discipline is not abuse or an overbearing parent… it is a relationship that allows a parent to direct a child into becoming the man or woman God has for them to be.

2. Complicated family situations.

When a family splits up… things get complicated. When money is tight… the urgent will often push the important to the back burner. We love our children… but proper discipline is hard work and so quick fixes become the order of the day. If the child spends time between two households, the rules are different every other weekend. Parents tend to parent out of guilt or as a competition with the former spouse. Since there is almost no consistency parents switch into survival for the moment mode and situations are handled, but not the behavior.

3. Vices

If a parent has problems with smoking, drinking, drugs, gambling, late nights, dating or any other self-destructive behavior it makes it almost impossible for them to be a good parent. If a parent is a liar how can they correct a lying child? If mom has a boyfriend over for the night and the child acts out in school the next day, the parent is defensive against the teachers because she is to blame. Meanwhile the child is left thinking he can do no wrong and will continue to take out his frustrations on every available adult outside of his home. 99% of parenting is leading by example. They will only do what we say for so long… then they’ll do what we do. We must become the people we want our children to be.

4. Simply don’t know how!

There are a ton of parents who would love to have a well behaved child… but they simply don’t know how to do it. They’re trying… but nothing seems to work. I know of several parents who have 3 or more kids… then the 4th one comes along and nothing that worked with the older ones work with him. They have to learn all over again how to get the behavior they need. If you have never seen a model of proper discipline, it’s difficult to know what to do. My hope is that the articles I’ll be writing over the next few days will be of service to you.

Proper discipline is one of the hardest jobs in parenting… but it’s the most rewarding. It’s an investment in your own future… and because of the fruits of your labor… it’s not only the best thing you can do for your kid, it’s the best thing you can do for your own sanity. Children not only need structure, they crave it. Like grass that grows better when it’s cut regularly, children flourish when they are given proper boundaries. They make better choices and avoid common mistakes. They’ll become a blessing to you rather than a drain on you. Check back for more.

Discipline Children With The Big Picture In Mind

I have noticed that a lot of folks have a different approach to discipline than I do… and I’d like to share mine. I constantly see stressed out or embarrassed parents trying to address misbehavior in a public place trying to get the kid to be good in the moment. When I find a behavior that needs to be corrected or redirected in my children my goal is to change the behavior forever, not just for the moment. I think this makes all the difference.

It’s the difference between dealing with the same issues over and over case by case verses changing the behavior so that the child can mature (and move on to the next major issue). Many parents find themselves correcting behavior for the moment because it’s quick and gets the job done… only to find that the same issue arises again and again.

A great example is how children act on a shopping trip. Let’s say a child sees a toy they want. We tell them they can’t have it… so the child pitches a fit. Our knee-jerk reaction is to correct the behavior. We want the child to stop embarrassing us and shut the heck up! But the crying is a symptom of a deeper issues. Shutting them up can be easy… but does it deal with any of the following issues that caused the scene?

A child who pitches fits may be dealing with any of the following issues:

  • Anger
  • Lack of control over impulses and emotions
  • Lack of gratefulness, thankfulness or contentment
  • Lack of respect for parents and others

Quickly pacifying or conversely threatening a child to shut them up does not correct the behavior in the big picture. We must slow down, move past the embarrassment, back up for a moment and look at the big picture when we properly discipline our children. Our goal isn’t to teach our children to be good… it’s to help them be good children. Good behavior is a natural outcome of having a good child.

Here is a list of steps I find myself using when dealing with behavior issues in my family.

What is behind the outburst or behavior? Why has it happened?

Not every outburst is due to bad behavior. Before I run in with guns blazing I like to look and ask questions. What’s wrong? Why are we crying, screaming, spray painting graffiti or whatever? If they’re hurt or being tormented by a sibling… I don’t want to go off half cocked and end up jumping on the wrong kid for no reason.

What is the expected behavior or response I want in future instances of this event?

It helps for you to have a vision of the kind of person you want your child to become. I find myself constantly comparing my children to that standard and working to encourage behavior that leads them to it, and discouraging behavior that would lead them away. If you know what you want from them… it’s easy to know what to correct the moment you see it.

What tools can I give to help my child to behave or respond that way next time?

Kids need to know what is expected. They need to know the reasons why things are bad. If they understand, they’ll take ownership of the standards. They’ll obey the rules because they believe in them… not just because they’re forced to. This makes the difference between a child who acts good and is good.

My daughter threw trash out of the car the other day. She didn’t realize she was being bad. I wanted to modify her behavior so that next time she wouldn’t do it. I explained to her that throwing trash out was wrong. If everyone did it the world would be super messy. That trash belongs in the garbage can or recycle bin. I told her she would be punished the next time she threw trash out the window. Now she knows. Just today she saw some trash outside and told us how someone was being bad and should have thrown it in the trash. A standard I set has now become one of her own standards.

Sometimes we’ve told them, but they have chosen not to listen. They willfully lie, have a temper outburst, or refuse to do something they’re told to do. Talking is still important… but it only works after a punishment that more than fits the crime… but I think consequences are a topic for a future post.

So it’s not enough to squash out bad behavior… you’ve got to deal with the source. It’s like seeing a roach in the kitchen… you can step on him… but you also need to deal with the infestation behind the walls unless you want him to come back. So next time, take a moment, get past the stress and trauma of the situation, keep that vision in mind and help that child move in the right direction.

Do You Deserve The Perfect Spouse?

I went to college late in life. I was in my late 20’s when I started and married. It was a little annoying when class conversations would turn toward the subject of Marriage. The college kids talking about it were only guessing, but being true college students, they spoke as if their word was law. I realized a common theme amongst these Christian college students… they were all waiting for the “perfect” spouse. Every one of them had a different idea of what that was… and a different idea of how they would meet them.

They would go into detail of what this person would be like. Godly, kind, disciplined, trustworthy, faithful, etc. They had it all figured out. The only thing I ever wanted to say was:

Are you the type of person would would attract a person like that?

I specifically remember this one angry girl in one class. She was determined not to date at all until she found the “right man”. It was obvious that she was hurt in the past… and that even if the perfect man did come along… he was going to run screaming from her because of all of the baggage.

So to all the singles out there… have your dream man or woman… but make sure you’re becoming the type of person they would be attracted to. The type of person they would deserve to have. The kind of person who could give back rather than sap all of their good qualities dry.

An honest person wants someone honest.

A loving person wants someone who’s loving.

A giving person doesn’t need someone who takes.

A clean-living person doesn’t want someone with addictions.

Mentally create your ideal mate, then imagine the type of person they would want to marry. That’s the you, you need to be.

The Danger Of Believing In “The One”

Though there are plenty of reasons the divorce rate of the religious is the same as the non, one of those reasons has to be the way Christians tend to over spiritualize their search for a potential mate. After being in full-time ministry for over 10 years now, I have seen enough of the effects of divorce to call this way of thinking dangerous.

Though I believe God knows who we will eventually marry, I do not believe that he chooses the person that we will spend the rest of our life with in marriage. If he did, the divorce rate would be lower for Christians. Here are some of the dangers I see in believing in the concept of “The One”.

1. It Kills Common Sense

I’ve seen well-meaning people make very stupid decisions about who they date and eventually marry because they they believe this is the person God has sent to them. Since this person already had God’s Stamp of Approval, they accept them almost blindly.

2. It Extends Bad Relationships

When a person puts this kind of pressure on a relationship it becomes necessary for the person believing to accept things they wouldn’t otherwise for fear that they will lose it. If they lose “The One”, then their chances of marital bliss is lost forever in their minds.

3. It Shuts Off God’s Will

When we decide for ourselves what God has chosen, we effectively stop listening to God in that area. Some people put God’s label on their own choices. This limits how much friends, family, spiritual leaders and even the God Himself can argue against it.

In Conclusion

Thought I don’t believe there is a “The One” out there for everyone. I do believe there are right kinds of people… but even a right type of person can change and become the wrong person. That is why it’s important to keep your God-given eyes open. Use the common sense you were given. Trust that God has great things for you… and be open to the possibility that you don’t know what those are and when they will come. Allow him to guide you every step along your path rather than deciding which direction he wants you to God and heading off without looking back.

Why Kids Respond To Moms and Dads Differently

“My kids treat myself and my husband very differently. They seem to respect him more… he only has to say things once to get what he wants from them. They seem more needy and whiny around me. Any advice?”

Barb

That sounds a lot like what goes on in our own home. Our two have two different behavior patterns based on which parent they’re around. This seems pretty typical across the board. Kids even do this between parents and teachers for instance. I know of a few kids who are terrible at home, but are the best students a teacher could ask for. I’ve given this a lot of thought and have come to some conclusions as to why kids are different around one parent verses the other.

1. Moms and Dads provide needs differently.

In our home Mom is the primary provider of food and care. Dad is the primary provider of fun and chores. The kids don’t typically come to me when they’re hungry. They don’t typically go to Jenn when they’re wanting to be thrown up in the air or tickled. That results in a different set of behaviors automatically. Approaching Mom when they’re hungry feels and looks a lot different than coming to Dad for some fun.

2. Moms and Dads discipline differently.

In my home I tend to be the primary disciplinarian. I tend to be a bit more demanding as I expect my children to respond the first time I request something. Jennifer is a bit softer and seems more willing to put up with excess whining or complaining. Kids know which parent they can ‘get away’ with such things and which they can’t.

I don’t believe you’re ever going to get kids to act exactly the same around each parent… nor would you want the to. Kids need both types of parents and the differences they provide. I find that Jennifer and I balance one another out quite a bit. Without her influence, I would tend to be to tough and demanding. Without my help, the kids might just run all over her. That being said, there are some things that should be consistent between parents.

1. Kids Should Equally Respect Both Parents

In our home it is my job to make sure my kids understand that my wife is to be respected and obeyed as much they do me. I literally had to sit down with our daughter and explain my relationship to her Mother and how much I love her… and that treating Mommy right is more important to me than the way my daughter treated me.

2. Kids Should Equally Obey Both Parents

Moms and Dads can get more consistent obedience from their kids by establishing constant expectations, limits and consequences. Kids act differently between parents because expectations and limits are different. Face it, if you spank… Dad’s spank harder… mom’s spank more. It’s different and garners a different behavior.

Sit down with your spouse and share what works and doesn’t work about discipline in your home. Share tips and tricks that you use to get what you want from your kids. Establish minimum requirements for behavior so that you both will know when to step in and correct behavior. Set up a series of escalating consequences for bad behavior that you both will follow. When discipline is consistent, behavior is consistent.

For more information on discipline check out an 8-part mini-series I did called Proper Discipline in Children’s Ministry. It’s written for children’s ministers… but the concepts apply at home even more than in the church setting.