The Alice Factor
By Gina McClain
I grew up watching The Brady Bunch. As part of our after-school television line up, Brady Bunch reruns were a favorite past time for me. From Marsha’s broken nose, to the infamous broken vase incident. . .I loved the Brady family. There was a simplicity to life portrayed among the Brady’s. Raising six kids can’t be easy no matter what era you raise them in. But Mrs. Brady had an advantage that every parent needs:
the “Alice Factor.”
You see, Alice was equally invested in the Brady clan. You didn’t have to go far to see that she cared as deeply for the Brady kids as if they were her own children. When they hurt, she hurt. When they struggled, she struggled. And when they fought. . .well. . .she settled it. Alice had a subtle way of revealing the right perspective when Mike and Carol were simply missing it. As creative sitcom writers would have it, Mr. & Mrs. Brady had a trusted sounding board they could turn to for a listening ear and a source of wisdom.
With the antics that take place in my home, sometimes I wonder if I’ve got sitcom writers secretly feeding my kids ideas on how to test the limits of my parenting. And just like Mrs. Brady, I need an ‘Alice’ in my life. I need someone in my life willing to listen and wise enough to tell me the truth. Though there are plenty of people I could choose to confide in and find solace. . .solace is not always what I need. I need wisdom.
I’m a better parent when I invite others to invest in my parenting. When I intentionally seek out those that are proven to be trustworthy and wise. When I give them opportunity to take a peak into my heart, see my fears, speak into my life and give me guidance. When I invite them to ask me hard questions and hold me accountable. We call it Widening the Circle. Inviting others to invest in our children so our sons and daughters have other voices that shape and determine the direction of their lives.
Take a look around you. Who do you know that is willing to speak truth in love when no one else will? Who’s wisdom is rooted in God’s Word rather than the fluctuating opinions of our world. Who won’t back down because they love you enough to apply pressure when needed.
Do you have the “Alice Factor” in your life?
About the Author:
Gina McClain is the Children’s Ministry Director at Faith Promise Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Gina is driven by the idea of equipping parents for the journey of teaching their kids how to follow Christ. Based upon her experience as a mom, she identifies with the everyday challenges parents wade through. Gina and her husband, Kyle, have three kids, Keegan, Josie and Connor.
Because, One Day, Your Kids Stop Bugging You (Really)
by Carey Nieuwhof
You may have a toddler right now who won’t leave your side.
You know the kind. The kid who’s glued to your leg, velcroed to your arm, who keeps wanting you to read the same story again, and again, and again.
It’s driving you nuts some days, isn’t it?
Hard to believe, but one day, they’re going to withdraw.
Ask any parent who has middle schoolers. Or teenagers. It happens…they withdraw.
And you know what happens to most parents?
Most parents have no idea what to do. So they do this: When their kids withdraw, they withdraw.
Why wouldn’t you? I mean it kind of works like that in life, doesn’t it? When someone doesn’t want to be your friend anymore, you eventually give up and withdraw. Which only makes sense. You can’t be friends with someone who doesn’t want to be your friend.
Except that in this case, you’re family. The dynamic isn’t that straightforward.
So what do you do?
As a father of two sons, now 19 and 23, I can give you a few pointers. I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination. I just have just been confused by it long enough and have enough scars to write a few hundred words on the subject.
Basically, if you’ve got a kid who thinks Minecraft is far more interesting than Mom, or a son who doesn’t want to watch movies with you but seems to want to watch anything and everything with their friends, what do you do?
1. Get over your hurt.
Just admit it. It kind of hurts a little. You pour your heart into them, get up at 5 a.m. to take them to practice, do homework with them on nights when you’re brain should have had a rest hours ago, fund everything, and suddenly they find you…uninteresting.
As much as that kind of stinks, you’re the parent. Get over it. Your job isn’t to be their friend, it’s to be their parent.
2. Be around.
When my oldest started high school, he told me “Hey dad…why can’t you just be like other dads and simply hang around more?” It was weird to me to hear that, because I was home a lot. But he was right. I was always busy. Being a driven person who loves what he does, I was always working on a new project or writing something new.
The penny dropped. So basically I just need to hang around and do nothing or at least not be preoccupied? I didn’t know whether I had a category for that.
But I tried. I decided to hang around the house night after night with no particular agenda, just to see what happened.
The first night my oldest son went out after supper to hang out with friends and my other son was tied up with something else. I thought, well this is stupid. I wanted to go get busy with something. But my wife persisted. So I decided to give it more time.
And after a while, we started connecting much more. No agenda. Nothing pressing. Just by virtue of being in the same space in the same time repeatedly, we connected. And I learned this. While being around is no guarantee anything relationally significant will happen, not being around is an absolute guarantee nothing relationally significant will happen.
So be around.
3. Leverage the Ordinary.
Your rhythm changes as your kids get older. Tucking your 5-year-old into bed is an amazingly glorious ritual. Tucking your 15-year-old into bed every night is just weird. You lose a lot of the rhythms of childhood when your kids get older. And if you keep invading the space they spend with their friends, you lose major points.
But there are other opportunities. Meal times are a case in point.
Take the time to eat a meal together…not in the car…not standing at the kitchen breakfast bar sucking back a smoothie on your way out the door, but at a real table, with real chairs, with real forks and real knives. And chew your food. If you take 15-30 minutes to have dinner together and turn off all your devices, amazing things happen. Amazing things like conversations. No matter how busy our lives get, we always try to sit down together for five dinners a week. If you prioritize it, it can happen.
Another great opportunity is during your drive time. I know, you feel like a taxi service. So leverage that. Turn the music off…or up, depending on your mood. Don’t talk on the phone. Stop texting (especially if you’re driving), and talk. Conversations in the car can go deeper faster because you haven’t got the pressure of looking at each other.
So what happens when all this happens?
Well, you grow up. They grow up. And sometimes, they have a habit of coming around.
I’m writing this after having lunch with my eldest son and his wife at a Mexican restaurant they found near their place in Toronto. He had called the day earlier and said “Hey Dad, you and mom want to come down after church? We’d love to hang out with you guys.”
My other son now calls and texts from university out of town…even when he doesn’t need money. Imagine that.
Just remember this. When your kids withdraw, don’t withdraw. It’s so worth the fight.
About the Author:
Carey is the lead pastor of Connexus Community Church, a growing multi-campus church near Toronto and strategic partner of North Point Ministries. Prior to starting Connexus in 2007, Carey served for 12 years in a mainline church, transitioning three congregations into a single, rapidly growing congregation. Carey writes one of the most widely read Christian leadership blogs today. He is the author of “Leading Change Without Losing It” and co-author of “Parenting Beyond Your Capacity” with Reggie Joiner. He and his family live in Ontario, Canada. Find Carey on his blog or follow him on Twitter @Cnieuwhof.
Technology and Kids: Facing your Fears
by Carey Nieuwhof
Millions of smart phones, tablet computers and other portable devices are being sold every month (sometimes even in a single weekend), and more and more are making their way into the hands of our sons and daughters.
A lot of this is catching us parents off guard as we try to figure out what to do with it. On the one hand, there’s the innocence and education value of some pretty amazing apps. And then there’s the fear in every parent’s heart that happens when their eight-year-old starts asking for a smart phone.
For some of us, there’s a temptation to go drastic and disconnect the Wi-Fi, banish phones and Facebook, and decide our children simply won’t have access to any of it. While you could possibly ban technology in your home, you wouldn’t be able to ban it at school, or from your kids’ friends. They can access it anywhere!
So, what do you do?
Well, limits are a great thing. And there should be limits and rules on almost anything our kids use, from cars to TV, to cell phones and internet. And the limits will vary depending on your beliefs, your family culture, and frankly, the personalities of your individual kids.
But you are probably discovering what your kids are discovering:
Externally imposed limits don’t carry the power of internally owned values.
Most of us resist externally imposed rules. That’s why you pushed against bedtime when you were a kid or finishing your plate because your dad insisted. There’s something inside all of us that pushes back against rules we didn’t make up.
So, what has power in our kids’ lives? The same thing that has power in your life as an adult. Internally owned values do. While laws are necessary, most of us are not swayed in our failure to murder by a law: We are motivated by our belief that it is wrong to kill someone. That’s the power of an internally owned value. It’s your character that determines how you live.
And that’s why, even in kids, it’s so important to develop character early. Because character corrects what technology reveals.
It’s easier than ever to venture into great things and questionable things online. Character keeps you moving toward what’s good and avoiding what’s bad.
So, how do you teach the character needed to handle technology in a responsible way?
1. Start the conversation early. Begin talking about life online before they need the conversation so that the dialogue is there when they need the conversation. Starting a dialogue young (even before your kids are online themselves) about what’s good and what’s bad is a way of normalizing the conversation about character.
2. Be honest about the good and the bad. Sometimes we’re so afraid of what could go wrong that we paint a very negative picture. Our kids will figure out pretty quickly that there is good and bad online. When we are honest with them, it makes the dialogue easier. Being overdramatic never helps honest dialogue.
3. Teach them that their choices have long-term implications. Help your kids to see the choices they make today impact the kind of person they’ll become tomorrow. If you can help your kids see what’s so easy to miss (that our choices today impact our life tomorrow), they’ll thank you for it later.
4. Connect the dots between what and why. Parents are legendary for telling kids what to do. I wish we would become legendary at explaining why. Your kids can’t often connect the dots about why their choices are so important. That’s where you can help so much. When you explain why pornography is bad, or why gossip or bullying is damaging, or why self-control is such a valuable skill to develop, you just helped your kids become far more motivated to do what’s best and avoid what’s not. When you understand why, you become motivated to do what.
Our kids are going to make mistakes. But it’s character that corrects what technology reveals, because internally owned values carry much more power than externally imposed limits (even though limits are important).
What are you learning about limits, character, technology and kids?
About the Author: Carey Nieuwhof
Carey Nieuwhof is the lead pastor of Connexus Church and author of several books, including Parenting Beyond Your Capacity (with Reggie Joiner) and his forthcoming book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow (September 2015). Carey speaks to church leaders around the world about leadership and parenting. He writes one of the most widely read church leadership blogs at www.CareyNieuwhof.com and hosts the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast where he interviews top leaders each week.