Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Keep On Pedaling

One Saturday morning in the spring of 1975 I got up early and rode my bike to the Magic Mart parking lot in my hometown. I was participating in a bike-a-thon for the American Heart Association. This event was a fund raiser and I had recruited a number of people who were going to pay me a small amount of money for every mile I rode that day. I told everyone that I was going to ride 100 miles, and my journey was about to begin.

I remember that there were a lot of people of all ages at the starting line that morning. The organizers had laid out a 10 mile circular course that featured a checkpoint at the half-way point. The riders could begin at 7am and ride until 5pm or when they decided that enough was enough. After a short speech from the lead volunteer about the course and checkpoints, we began.

The first few hours were relatively easy, with the exception of the seat on my bike. There were plenty of people to visit with as we made our way around the course again and again. I figured that I would need to average 15 miles per hour to attain my goal in the time allowed. I rode my bike everywhere and made a concerted effort to ride longer distances at higher rates of speed in preparation for this moment. But I discovered that I hadn’t thought about how lonely this ride would be. After the first three hours or so the crowds began to thin and stretch out as more and more people dropped out and our differing speeds separated the riders along the course.

As more and more people dropped out and as the course became less and less populated I developed a strategy to help me achieve my goal. I would focus my attention on a landmark or a rider in the distance and then pedal until I caught them. I did not allow myself the opportunity to coast, I was determined to constantly pedal until I accomplished the smaller goal along the way to my ultimate destination.

I pulled into the start/finish area seven hours after I started, having ridden exactly 100 miles. There were still three hours to ride but I had decided that my backside was finished and went home. I was the only rider in Arkansas that year who rode 100 miles. I succeeded because I set a goal, trained with that goal in mind and kept that goal constantly before me.

Successful parenting is much like my bike ride that day. We must first remember that we are in a marathon, not a sprint. The raising of adults and not kids will take much more than the act of birthing a child...it is a commitment to the long haul, a long haul with the goal of raising mature, responsible adults. We can never allow ourselves to forget that goal; we must keep it before us always. Every decision, every action, must be made with that goal in mind.

Preparation for being a parent is essential. When we learned that we were going to become parents we threw ourselves into learning everything we could about kids and parenting. We observed parents and their interactions with their kids (I was a Youth Minister at the time), making mental notes and engaging some parents in discussions about parenting. But beware; no amount of preparation can fully prepare you for the roller coaster ride that is parenting. You will need to pray and pray and then pray some more. The task is beyond you, but with the help of God you can accomplish the task.

Keep your goal always before you. There will be days when you wonder if it’s worth the struggle, when your children want to rebel or when you’ve reached a point of fatigue and frustration that makes you want to give up and give in. In those moments all you can do is just put your head down and kept pedaling. Keep that goal in front of you and don’t stop until you cross the finish line. Remember, as my wife once frequently told me: “The prize is worth the struggle. “

What did I get that day I rode 100 miles in 7 hours? I got a certificate, a t-shirt, and a mention in the local paper along with a very sore rear end. Those things are all gone now, I have none of them. Even more than those things, I gained confidence and a sense of pride in accomplishing a task that was worth the effort.

Parenting is like that. There will be long stretches of struggle and frustration punctuated by little glimpses of victory. But at the end of the struggle is the great satisfaction of seeing our kids become responsible adults who make a difference in the world.

And who knows, maybe someone will give you a t-shirt.

You can do this.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Don't Be Afraid

I was blessed to have the cost of my college education covered by grants and scholarships. But even though the major costs were covered by those sources I still had ongoing expenses such as books, supplies, clothes and spending money. I took care of those expenses by working, sometimes more one than one job. Most of my friends worked as well, in fact, I can’t think of too many that didn’t have to work when I was in college.  My freshman year I had one “regular” job and earned extra money in a couple of unusual ways. I washed clothes for the guys on my dorm room floor and changed oil in cars for girls. One of the things I did with some of my “extra” money was buying large golf umbrellas. During the spring I would cut class (this is NOT an endorsement of this type of activity) on rainy days and hang around the student center and walk girls across campus with my large umbrella. While that didn’t do a whole lot for my grade point average, it sure helped my social life.

I remember meeting a girl in college who didn’t know how to put oil in her car. Her daddy put gas in her car and checked the tires every Sunday (she went home every weekend) and sent her on her way. She asked me to look at her car one time because it was making a “funny noise.” The dipstick was dry...not a drop of oil on it.

While there may not seem to be much of a connection between my college life and successful parenting, a look just below the surface will tell a different story. I was able to capitalize on the inability of others to accomplish basic skills. I consider washing clothes and the ability to perform basic car maintenance (changing the oil or a tire) as basic life skills that every college aged person should be able to perform. I would allow some debate on the second (basic car repair), but I will not budge on the first. College aged kids should know how to wash their own clothes, among other things. We do our kids no favors when we fail to teach them these skills.

I think there are many reasons why parents don’t teach their kids these skills, but I think there are three primary ones: (1) not wanting their kids to fail, (2) the parents don’t want to look like bad parents, and (3) it takes time. I cannot tell you how many parents I have observed doing their kids homework or school projects through the years. There is nothing wrong with helping a child with homework or school projects, but there is a lot wrong with a parent doing that work for a child.

Parents should view the time their children are in the home as a time for training. Too many children are being raised as if they were living in a hotel with valet and room service. I have never met anyone who functioned well when raised in that environment. The training should begin early, with age and ability appropriate activities. Toddlers can be taught to put toys and dirty clothes away in toy boxes and clothes hampers. Older toddlers can and should be taught how to carry dishes from the table to the sink and how to help feed and water animals. The list goes on and on and the complexity and responsibility involved grow as the child grows.

Why do I consider this so important? Our kids need to learn how to fail. I have always felt that we have an unhealthy fear of failure. I believe that there would be no light bulbs or air planes or many other things we take for granted if the men and women of yesteryear feared failure the way we do today. When we fail to teach our kids how to properly handle failure we create adults who are incapable of standing strong through adversity and who cannot finish tasks, projects, and commitments. Success through failure requires preparation and practice. You wouldn’t set your dinner table with your best and finest china and then ask your five year old to carry their dishes to the table and you want to make sure that the bleach is nowhere near the detergent when teaching that ten year old how to do laundry.

We owe our children the opportunity to fail, whether in a homework assignment or a household chore. They, and we, may not like it now, but they will be better people in the long run. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Greatest Lesson You Will Ever Teach Your Kids

I played a lot of baseball when I was a kid. For years it was my favorite sport, both as a player and as a spectator. My first hero was Brooks Robinson, the Hall of Fame shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles. If you wanted me to do something for you the best way to ensure my agreement was to attach baseball to it in some manner. I loved baseball.

But baseball didn’t always love me. The game we played was different in a couple of ways than baseball as it’s played today. The first difference is a matter of age: there was no such thing as T-ball or any other type of development leagues. You started playing at age seven and that was that. The other difference was even more significant: there was no ten-run rule. We played a full nine innings no matter what the final score was. It made for some brutal losses as our team was not very good. We lost every game of our first two seasons but one, often by extremely discouraging one-sided scores.

I didn’t mind losing as much as I minded the post-game handshake. It seemed that most of the other teams really enjoyed beating us, and it showed in their mocking remarks during that handshake time. I remember one time that our coach simply pulled us off the field after one pretty bad loss because of the attitudes of the coaches and kids on the other team. The other thing that really bothered me was my dad. He had no tolerance for losing and he was always quick to let me know that I was failing him with every loss. I have no memory of him ever being encouraging or congratulating me on those rare occasions that I did something right. I eventually quit playing baseball mostly because of my dad.

The single bright spot of those first two seasons was my coach. Coach Katrosh was a wise and gentle man who understood that he was molding us into something far more important than a baseball team. He stressed to us the importance of giving our best effort and accepting that things would not always go the way we wanted. He insisted that we learn to lose with our heads held high, having given our best effort. Excuses were not accepted and we were expected to act like gentlemen regardless of how the game turned out. I learned a lot more about losing than winning in all those years I played baseball, but especially those first two seasons.

I have always tried to stress to my kids that learning how to lose was far more important that winning. We may remember the wins, but we will be more remembered for our reaction to the losses. This idea seems especially poignant to me in the aftermath of this most recent election season. I believe that losing is a great teacher because our lives will seldom go according to the plans we have laid out for ourselves. Winning creates hubris, an extremely dangerous form of pride that is incapable of recognizing one’s own shortcomings. Losing serves as an anchor, a reminder that we are not all that we might think our selves to be, that it takes work and commitment and dedication to win – and that sometimes even that is not enough.

My parent’s favorite sport was wrestling. I have vivid memories of watching my parents (and I) watching professional wrestling on TV. My parents hated one wrestler in particular, Fritz Von Erich. Once, during a particularly tense match, one of my parents got so angry with Fritz that they threw a shoe into the TV. Needless to say, I didn’t get to watch cartoons for a few Saturdays after that. My parents didn’t seem to take losing too well.

Why bring up those stories? My parents and Coach Katrosh set the examples that taught me how to deal with winning and losing. I learned from them, and many others, that being a good loser takes much more strength, character and patience than winning requires. Lest you think that I don’t care to win let me assure you that I love to win. Just ask any of my kids or the teams that I’ve coached or helped coach through the years.

Just as all those coaches and other adults modeled for me examples of both the good and bad way to handle losing, I have modeled for my kids and others how to respond to both winning and losing. We need to show, not just tell, our kids that effort and dedication and determination are the valuable life lessons, the things that will carry them far beyond the memories of a few wins here and there.

But how do we do it? How do we teach our kids how to lose with grace?

Play hard...and fair. Why is it that our society has come to celebrate pushing the limits? One famous NASCAR driver once said that if you weren’t cheating you weren’t trying to win. We need to demonstrate to our kids a respect for the rules.

Learn to praise...honestly. One of the reasons I don’t coach kid sports any longer is that more and more parents are interjecting themselves into games and practices simply to promote their kids to a level beyond their ability. There is nothing wrong with being proud of a child’s accomplishments...but keep it in perspective. Not everyone can be the captain of the team or the superstar. If your child is trying their best and having a good time be happy with that.

Keep it all in perspective. Nobody will ever give you a job because you scored a touchdown in a backyard football game or because you set a scoring record for your favorite video game. Education has always been and will always be more important than athletics. God is not going to tell anyone what their turnover to assist ratio was not good enough to get them into heaven. We need to hold sports success in proper perspective...it’s good training but not a guarantee of future success in any endeavor.

Have fun! Life is hard enough by itself...Learn to laugh and always have the ability to laugh at others mistakes as well as your own (Ask me sometime about a particular game of Clue with my kids). Play is supposed to be enjoyable and when you can’t laugh and have a good time it may be time to give it up.

Thanks Coach Katrosh for teaching me that. I hope I have passed it down to my kids as well as you passed it on to me. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Worst Thing You Can Do For Your Kids

In the late 1930’s Europe was on the brink of war. Hitler had risen to power in Germany and was making noise about restoring the “Fatherland” to its former glory. He had broken the armistice that ended World War I and was gearing up a war machine like none the world had ever seen.  And yet many in Europe and the United States felt that Hitler was nothing more than a petulant child.  The British Prime Minister of the time, Neville Chamberlain, after meeting with German officials, announced that trouble had been averted. Announcing the Anglo-German agreement, his crowning achievement, Chamberlain said that this guaranteed “Peace for our time.” In less than a year war gripped all of Europe and would soon engulf the world.

I have experienced open heart surgery and its aftermath, but there have been times when parenting was more painful even than that surgery. Every parent knows the struggle of bending the will without breaking the spirit, and we have all had moments when we just wanted to give up. Those moments are pivotal moments, because it is in those moments that we are most tempted to take the easy way out, to give up and give in, to let our children have their way. There is no parent whose nerves have not been frayed to the breaking point and whose heart has not been broken by words like these:

“I hate you! You don’t love me!”

Our natural inclination in those times is to give in, to let the child have their way. We want our children to like us. There is nothing wrong with wanting our children to like us, but that is a lousy methodology for parenting. Yet that is precisely the method more and more parents are defaulting to in our time. I will not argue that appeasement, whether practiced by politicians like Neville Chamberlain or by the parents of a strong willed three-year old does not bring the short term benefit of “peace for our time,” but it only masks the greater trouble that waits just beyond the horizon.

Children need parents, not friends.

There is a reason that we don’t license 10 years olds to drive or allow 15 year olds to marry...they just aren’t ready for the responsibility. I don’t care to hear any arguments to the contrary...10 year old drivers in 2017 and 15 year olds who marry are, as a rule, unable to master the tasks or manage the responsibilities of driving and marriage (I know that some of you are even now thinking of exceptions to these examples....I don’t care. Would you trust your life to an unknown 10 year old Uber driver? Would you marry your 15 year old to another unknown 15 year old? I rest my case. Now sit down, be quiet and hear me out...you can post your responses on the Facebook page).

Parents who parent primarily with the philosophy of ‘let’s be friends’ seldom have any self-discipline and rarely if ever utilize discipline with their children. They create self-centered children with no concept of or respect for others. These parents deny their children nothing and seem incapable of either understanding or using the world “no.” In short, they create dangerous children. These children are dangerous because they have no sense of authority due to the fact that no one has ever exercised any authority over them. They are dangerous because the know nothing of restraint, having generally been given anything they want so that they will ‘like’ mommy or daddy. The end results are tragically predictable: they grow up not liking their parents and having no love or compassion for them or anyone else and feel as if things like rules and laws apply to others but not themselves.

So what’s a parent to do?

How about be a parent...say ‘no’ once in a while...make the little ankle-biter wait until Christmas or their birthday for the latest ‘gotta have it’ toy or thing...expect respect for both parents and other adults...don’t tolerate back talk, sarcasm, or rude speech or behavior...let them learn to save their own money....expect them to get a job....make them do their own homework...don’t make excuses for them...ground them when necessary...even spank them when they need and deserve it (but only then).

Being a good parent is about doing the hard things and expecting our kids to learn to do hard things themselves. Too many parents today believe that if their kids don’t like them now that they never will. But the truth is that your kids need to respect you now....they will learn to like you later. Being a parent is in large part about shepherding our kids through transitions, and the transition from childhood to adulthood is not quick or easy or fun. But when we do it right our kids will recognize it and respect and love us for what we did for them.

Be their parent, not their friend. The time will come when you can be both.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Most Essential Principle for Successful Parenting

Through the years we have been asked all kinds of questions about the size of our family. We’ve been asked if we were Catholic or Mormon, why we chose to have six kids and if we knew what caused us to have all those kids. But the type of question we received more than any other had to do with the behavior of our kids. People in church who would groan at our arrival would be effusive in their praise just a few minutes later...”Your kids are so good. How do you get them to behave?”

Last week we began discussing what I believe to be the essential principles for raising good kids. I briefly mentioned the importance of the principles of honesty, responsibility, consistency, and respect. Those are all well and good, but they alone are not the key to raising good kids. There is one overarching principle that all others must operate under; one principle that gives all others meaning and purpose.

That principle is FAITH.

Let me state from the beginning that I am unashamedly a Christian. I have a high opinion of the Bible; I believe that it is the standard of our faith and practice, that it provides us with a framework for understanding human nature and the course of history.

Let me further state that I am a Christian who has chosen to be a Baptist and a Baptist who has chosen to be a Southern Baptist. I do not believe that I alone am going to heaven or that I am the only one who has it “right.”

You may wonder why I chose to say “faith” as opposed to “religion.” I strongly believe that religion is one of the many things that are wrong with our world today. “Religion” carries with it the idea of a standardized set of practices and beliefs. Religion tends to force followers into rigid conformity, stifling freedom and creativity.  I do not believe that Jesus was primarily concerned with establishing a religion.

I believe that Jesus came to establish a relationship - a relationship between a living God and folks just like you and me. This relationship was founded and is maintained though His Son, Jesus Christ, and is marked by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  In that relationship we find the utmost expression of human thought, creativity, and purpose. That relationship can best be summed up in the word faith.

When I talk about faith as the foundational principle for successful parenting I am speaking of faith as manifested in the following concepts:

Faith must be PERSONAL.  A parent’s faith alone is not enough. A faith that molds character and influences life choices must be one’s own. There is no such thing as generational faith or secondhand faith. Our children must be led to establish their own faith relationship with Jesus that is vibrant and meaningful. I have serious doubts about any faith that is not personal or that results in no life change. Genuine faith creates change.

Faith must be CENTRAL. This aspect of faith, I feel, is rapidly being lost in our day. Faith cannot be secondary to anything else, not job, not family, not sports, not anything. Yet in today’s culture we discover that the centrality of faith is almost gone as almost everything has become more important that faith. Am I saying that church attendance must trump everything else? Yes and no. Yes, our relationship with Jesus (our faith) must become and remain the predominant principle of our lives. That relationship should inform every decision and every action. Everything should and must be judged in light of that relationship and of the mind of God as revealed in Scripture. When I say no I mean that our blessedness is not dependent upon some type of spiritual bean counting. God is not impressed with devotion by coercion or by just for show spirituality – what God wants is a relationship based on love and devotion given freely and obedience given in the same spirit.

Faith must be INTELLECTUAL. I just lost some of you with the world intellectual. I do not believe that faith is built on superstition and the setting aside of our minds. Yes, there will be times when God asks us to follow him to places that make no sense and asks us to do things that make no sense, but those things will be few and far between. The Scripture is filled with admonitions to study, to reason, to consider...in short, thinking. There are numerous examples of men and women whom God granted great wisdom and understanding, blessing the instruction that they had received. We must instruct our children to embrace the intellectual aspects of belief.

Faith must be MODELED. If you want your children to have a meaningful faith you must model that kind of faith for them. Biblical faith does not develop in a vacuum. Fathers, this is especially true in regards to you. Your sons will grow up to model your faith and daughters will marry men whose faith practice most closely mirrors yours. Genuine faith cannot be passed down, but it can be modeled and serve as a goal for our children to aim for.

Faith must be PRACTICED. This should go without saying, but our children must be taught to practice their own faith. A faith that is not practiced is a faith that is not life changing. Children can be taught the practice of our faith and should be encouraged to engage in those practices.

Why do I belabor the centrality of faith? Faith, a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ, gives each of us a proper perspective of life and our place in the world. Faith gives us an understanding of the concept of authority and a proper relationship to it. And lastly, faith helps us to understand what the nature of genuine love is.

As always, your comments and questions are welcomed both personally and on the Facebook page. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

We Are Raising Adults...Not Kids

There is a trend going through our culture in the last few years that troubles me greatly. Sociologists call this trend "delaying adulthood" and you might say that its spirit is caught up in the phrase "Thirty is the new twenty." All across the cultural spectrum we are seeing the effects of this tend. In addition, many social scientists have advocated lengthening adolescence to the late twenties (some are suggesting twenty-eight years old!). I am of the opinion that nothing good can come of theses trends - the economic, social, and psychological/emotional consequences have yet to be fully considered or observed.  

But what does this mean for parenting?

As I mentioned in my last blog, my wife and I made the decision to raise adults and not children. Needless to say, that's not a very widespread or understood approach to parenting. But I believe that this is one of the two most important decisions that a parent can make regarding their parenting style. In light of that belief, I wanted to begin our conversations about parenting here. 

So what do I mean when I say that we raised adults and not children? First, we raised our kids with the concept that they (and we) were always in the process of becoming. It should go without saying that there is no magic number that confers adulthood, or any other stage of life. Most of us have had the ages of eighteen and twenty-one ingrained in our thinking as those magical ages when one becomes "legal." But legality does not equal maturity. All of us could name many folks of "legal" age who are far from adult in thinking or behavior. Not only that, we each could give personal examples of areas in our own lives in which we took longer to "grow up" than in others. 

Raising adults not children requires an understanding of the process - what are kids are capable of and  ready for and crafting expectations accordingly.  This is done with the desired end always in mind. Good parents wish to raise adults who are able to interact in positive and appropriate ways with the world we live in . This builds itself upon foundational principles such as honesty, responsibility, consistency, and respect. I will take the rest of my time today reviewing these principles. 

Honesty. Dishonesty is deeply woven into the fabric of our lives. The old joke about being able to tell when a politician is lying: his lips are moving is far more widespread in our culture than just our politics. We've created a term for our dishonesty: "little white lies." An entire theology has risen up around Santa Claus - and none of it is true (But that's a discussion for another day). We applaud those who are able to speak in nuance and we try to avoid "hard" truths and the words "I was wrong."

Yet our children need us to model honesty before them in all things. We must make keeping our word a priority in all our relationships. We must be just as willing to confront dishonesty in ourselves as well as our children. Raising adults models and expects honesty in our children's words, attitudes, and actions.

Responsibility. There are more philosophies about child-rearing out there than I can number - and they range from the gamut from "free-range parenting" to "General Patton's guide to creating good little soldiers." I'm joking...I hope. The truth is that no child should be raised in a responsibility-free environment and no child should bear the entire weight of their actions from the beginning. The key word to remember is process. I have never me a two year old who could do their own laundry or get themselves up and dressed in the morning. Responsibility is to be developed in small steps. Communication and consistency are keys in developing responsibility. Remember that your kids get wax (and lots of other things) in their ears and as a result they don't always hear or remember well. A key is to rehearse your instructions clearly, consistently, and continually (or at least it seems that way). Be sure to applaud (appropriately) success and to use failure as a teaching opportunity. 

There will always be questions concerning appropriate tasks for certain ages. I don't believe that there are any hard and fast rules in this regard but I do believe that even casual observation will give you clues as to what your kids are ready for. But some general rules do apply, such as no life-threatening activities (eight year olds are NOT ready to cook unsupervised or drive cars and children about to enter Junior high should be able to wash their bodies and clothes separately and unsupervised).

Consistency. If we were to be honest (haven't we talked about this already?) we'd all have to admit that this is the area that we all feel that we have failed at. I have met very few parents who saw no importance in consistency with their kids. We have all heard, and may even have said, "Do what I say, not what I do." That has never worked and it never will. We model the behavior that our kids will follow. That fact alone makes consistency supremely important. All the teachers and coaches in the world cannot blot our the influence of a parent on a child's behavior. 

To put it as simply as possible: consistency is walking your talk. Parents who raise adults are models of consistency in word and deed. Please note that I have spent most of this topic talking about personal behavior rather than an actual parenting skill. That's a deliberate choice. There is no greater molder of our children's lives than the daily behavior that is observed by our kids. Nothing gets by them and they don't forget anything. 

Respect. Respect is in short supply in our world. God to any ball field or classroom and you'll see ample testimony to this truth. To raise adults requires that we instill in them respect for others, positions, the law, and themselves. We must remember that self-respect is vastly different from self-esteem. Self-respect creates adults that value others while self-esteem creates adults who are only aware of themselves.  

As with each of the other principles we've discussed today, respect is more caught than taught. Our children will mirror the respect that we display for them. Sadly, this most recent Presidential election revealed just how little respect there is for anything in our culture. It would seem that there are few adults in our land today. Respect is demonstrated in how we treat each other and how we drive (yes, I went there) and our forms of entertainment. Respect recognizes the inherent worth that we all possess as the unique image of God. Persons raised with respect will become the defenders of the poor, the weak and the marginalized. Respect creates citizens who recognize the rule of law and its broad application to every citizen. Let me close this section by saying that respect is in written words, although they can convey respect. Respect is not found in flowery speech or powerful performance, it is demonstrated in life as we live it each and every day. 

These are the foundational principles for raising adults, at least as I understand them. But these are not enough in and of themselves. Next time I will look at the one things that ties all these together and makes adults. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Getting Started

I was recently in a local store that sells items that have been bought from insurance claims, store closings, etc. It’s something like a flea market or yard sale where everything still has (most of) its packaging. I wasn’t shopping as much as spending time away from a few stressful situations. My wife and I call it “blowing the stink off.”

While “blowing the stink off” this particular afternoon I was an inadvertent witness to a conversation that went something like this:
“Mom, can I get this bike seat? It’s really cool!”
“That’s nice, but sweetheart, you don’t have a bike.”
“But mom, it’s really cool! And look at how it’s shaped. I bet it’s really comfortable. Please mom!”
I came to the end of the aisle they were on in time to see and hear this part of their conversation:
“Mom, I REALLY want it!!!!” The look on this child’s face was intense, there was no doubting that we really wanted this bike seat.
“Well, I guess you can get it...IF you have your own money.”

I tried hard not to faint from shock. Evidently I was not the only one who shared that feeling as the boy said “Well then I don’t want it” and forcefully tossed the seat back onto the shelf.
Did I mention that the “child” in question was a mid to late teenager and was bigger than both his mother and I. But he wasn’t deterred for long as I later saw them repeating the cycle over a bicycle. 

Incidentally, they left without buying either.

My wife and I have somehow managed to navigate the waters of parenthood for four of our six children. The last two will soon join their siblings in adulthood (they are sixteen and eighteen years old) and move out of our home and into college life and beyond. The truth is that most of our work is done, we have moved into more of a supervisory role with them. This is both an exciting and sad time in our lives. We have enjoyed raising our kids and wish we had some more to raise.

Many times through the years I have been asked just what we have done to raise good kids. I used to tell people that we really weren’t sure, we just prayed a lot and weren’t afraid to discipline them when they got out of line. While that was true, the further truth is that we were much more deliberate than that. My wife and I spent many hours in discussions about our kids and our parenting, we looked at others and their kids, and we read books and talked with others.

In short, we approached raising our kids as both a privilege and a responsibility. We were never afraid to admit, to both ourselves and our kids, when we were wrong and we were always quick to give credit to where it was due....the other spouse and God.  We are unashamed to say that we raised our kids in a Christian home, environment, and with an old-fashioned approach to education and religion. Our approach has always been that we were raising adults, not children. We have never made excuses for our kids...we have held them to a high standard and we weren’t afraid to demand more of them than they wanted to give at times. In short, we expected discipline in their work and in their lives.
So why have I written all of this? I have finally decided to write down some of the lessons about parenting that we’ve picked up through the last six kids and twenty-six years. The catalyst was the birth of our first grandchild. I hope that his parents will read these and perhaps gain a little wisdom that helped us get them to where they are today.  So starting today and continuing on Friday and then on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays until I’m done I will blog about the principles that guided our child rearing experience. I share them with you in hopes of starting a discussion about this topic. Child rearing doesn’t come naturally and it isn’t easy... it takes hard work and commitment and decisiveness. 
I hope you will read and interact with me...maybe something special is about to happen.