RESCUING YOUR CHILD WHEN LIFE ISN’T FAIR
Posted by Geoff Surratt
My son attended a small, private high school. It was a wonderful school, that had a rule for everything, and many of their favorite rules had to do with uniforms. Students were required to wear their uniforms, and nothing but their uniforms, whenever they were on campus. As parents, we liked the uniform rule because it made shopping for school clothes simple. Once we knew how many inches our son had grown in the last year we could buy enough ugly polo shirts and steel-belted pants to last a year. Our son, however, wasn’t as fond of the uniforms.
The other thing our son wasn’t fond of was arriving on time for school in the morning. His senior year these two minor challenges collided when he arrived before school one morning to serve an “attention” for too many tardies in a semester. Since the school was deserted that early, and it was cold outside, he decided to wear his jacket to his locker. Before he could get the offending garment stored, however, he ran into a teacher who lived by the letter of the law. She informed him that he had violated Paragraph 5, Subparagraph C of the Sacred Code of School Uniforms, “Thou shalt never cover the blessed logo of our beloved school with a common coat, jacket or hoodie.” Because of this horrendous infraction she gave him a detention to serve after completing the attention for being tardy.
To sum up, he’d have to stay after school for wearing a coat before school on his way to being punished for being late to school.
That night as he explained the situation, asking me to sign the Detention slip, I tried to hold back laughter. I failed. I told him that was the dumbest rule I’d ever heard, and if wearing a coat from his car to his locker is the biggest crime he committed, life would likely turn out well. Though I didn’t agree with the crime or the punishment, however, I signed the slip. I told my son he would face many people like the teacher who doled out this ridiculous punishment. I said, “One of the keys to succeeding in life is learning to deal with irrational bosses, irate customers and irritating leaders. Often the best course is to take your lumps and move on.” He didn’t like the lesson, but he served the detention, graduated Valedictorian of his class, and moved on with his life. And he still wears a coat when it’s cold.
Sometimes as parents we need to stand up for our kids. We need to have a conference with a difficult teacher, confront an angry coach or speak to the parents of a bully. We are called to protect our kids and to give them a fighting chance to succeed.
But sometimes the best thing we can do for our children is let them work out a difficult or unfair situation on their own. In the real world no one will swoop in and fix things for them. In the world I live in, life is often difficult and other people are sometimes unreasonable. I believe that adolescence is as more about learning to deal with difficult situations as it is to solve equations and memorize dates. Successful adults know that while life isn’t fair, that’s not an excuse. The sooner we can help our kids understand this basic fact the better chance they have to excel.
So the next time your child faces a difficult or unfair situation ask yourself, “Should I fix this for them, or should I help them learn to work through it?”
About the Author:
Geoff currently serves as Associate Pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Parker, Colorado and coaches churches and leaders around the country. He is the author of The Multisite Church Revolution, The Multisite Church Roadtrip, and Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing. Geoff is married to Sherry, and they have two awesome kids, a wonderful daughter-in-law, and the most beautiful granddaughters on earth.
FIGHTING FEAR IN THE TONE OF OUR HOMES
Posted by Sarah Anderson
The best thing someone told me as a new mom, was this: “Your baby can pick up on the emotional temperature of the house.” In other words, babies are way more astute than you think.
This little nugget of truth explained a lot. Like, why my babies were more fussy around my anxious self and behaved like angelic dreams for my easy-going husband.
I still remember this—even though my boys are now six and four. Because I think the same principle applies. There is an emotional tone in our home, one we, as parents, are largely responsible for setting, and our kids are watching for. More than watching, they are taking cues.
I don’t know about you, but lately, it’s been hard to keep tabs on the tone of our home. Sure, there is the general insanity of summer—where everything is supposed to feel more low-key and hassle-free but instead feels more chaotic. But I think it’s more than that. I think the emotional tone of our homes feels a little iffy these days because let’s be honest, the world feels a little iffy these days.
It’s the jarring and volatile state of international affairs. It’s the uncertainty of our country’s own political affairs. It’s the seemingly endless stream of news headlines involving terror and guns, discrimination and fear. It’s the sense that things feel out of control. It’s enough to want to run away and hide in an effort to soothe ourselves . . . and we’re the grown-ups here.
What do we do when our own fears keep us up at night?
What do we do when our own anxieties drive us inward?
What do we do when the big questions we find looming seem too large for us to tackle for our own peace of mind—let alone our children?
Three years ago I was home on a Sunday morning and watched our church’s message online. In the message, Andy Stanley made the point that as followers of Jesus we are called to live our lives fearlessly. Not because there aren’t things to be afraid of. But because we are invited to a faith in Jesus so strong and so secure in our Father’s love, that fear does not get the final word. Not because scary things won’t happen. They will happen, but who God is and His love trumps my greatest fear becoming reality.
When the message was over I sat there, watching my computer screen for a few minutes, lost in thought. As a person who often has fear as my default mode, it gave me a lot to think about. And then I noticed, at the bottom of the screen were scrolling tweets from people responding to the message.
Three years ago, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, had made a series of provocative and confrontational remarks regarding their neighbors, South Korea, and the Unites States. At the time it created concern over a potential nuclear situation, dominating the national, and international, news. And as I sat there, I watched a tweet come across the screen.
“We are in South Korea” it said, “and we are not afraid.”
If anyone had reason to allow fear to dominate their lives and their minds, it would have been them. But they didn’t let fear write their story.
The world is scary.
Things are volatile.
We are learning over and over again how little control we really have.
But fear, in the face of things worth being afraid of, does not have to be our response—in us, or in our kids.
Imagine if our kids looked at us, and didn’t see us cowering in the face of the fear. Imagine if our kids looked at us and didn’t see us burying our heads in the sand either.
Imagine if our kids looked at us and saw us living unafraid—in light of the chaos, we sometimes feel in the world around us in the uncertainty that dominates our headlines? Imagine if our kids looked at us and saw parents fully cognizant of all that’s going on in the world, but whose trust in God did not waver?
That’s the tone I want in my home. But that’s the tone I have to have in my heart first. And I have to believe my kids have a better chance of warring fear and winning when they watch their mom and dad do it first.
So today, what if we faced our fears? What if we allowed our unwavering trust in who God is to set the tone in our hearts? And ultimately our homes? I think it’s a big ask. But I think it’s possible. And I think if we did it, we would handle these days, and the next couple of months, with a lot more grace. And that’s the kind of win I want.
Check out Andy’s message here – http://www.followseries.org/fearless
About the Author:
Sarah Anderson is a writer and communicator who has been involved in ministry since 2003. She is a lead writer and content creator for Orange's XP3 High School curriculum. Sarah lives in Roswell, Georgia, and is a big fan of her husband, Rodney, her two boys, Asher and Pace, and, in her weaker moments, McDonald's French fries. Read more from Sarah on her blog,www.sarahbanderson.com.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR FRIENDS ARE RAISING JERKS
Posted by Jon Acuff
Is there anything harder than making friends with other couples?
When you first get married, you tend to run into two possible scenarios:
By “not get along” I don’t mean they have a hard time not fighting each other. To date, I’ve never said to my wife, “I’m so glad you and Samantha are good friends, but last time she was over, her husband hit me over the back with a chair. Fortunately, my core is ridiculous and I was able to absorb the blow, but that guy is the worst.”
By “not get along,” I mean that while the wives are catching up enthusiastically, the husbands stare at each other blankly for two awkward hours over dinner. Or vice versa.
But you struggle through, you do the work of finding friends you both love hanging out with. You even get a few that pass the ultimate test, going on vacation together! There are friends and then there are people you can actually stand long enough to spend a week with at the beach.
Things seem perfect, right up to the moment that kids are added to the mix. Now in addition to wives getting along with wives and husbands getting along with husbands, you have to worry if your kids will mix well. Worst of all is when your close friends raise jerks.
“Raise jerks” is a strong phrase that I used mostly because it’s fun and “have different parenting styles than your own” is such a boring collection of words. Right now, though, I promise that some of your friends have kids that you don’t want your kids to be around. Maybe they’re loose with discipline. Maybe their kid swears like a sailor which is surprising for a toddler. Maybe your friends overlook correctable behavior like “biting” with the laziest of all phrases, “That’s just kids being kids.”
Regardless of the reason, you’re suddenly finding it hard to hang out with your friends because their kids are jerks. How do you handle that? Here are a few ideas:
1. GET A BABYSITTER.
Who says you have to always have the kids connect? Don’t lose friends just because you think every time you hang out has to be a full family affair.
2. MAKE SURE YOU’RE NOT OVERREACTING.
People always say you shouldn’t talk about religion or politics with people you don’t know. Let’s add “parenting styles” to that list. If you want to have the most awkward conversation in the history of mankind, try to force your personal parenting style on your friend. Make sure you’re not overreacting to what might really amount to just a difference in preferences.
3. TALK WITH YOUR FRIENDS.
If you have a real relationship, you can have a real conversation. If you don’t, there’s no amount of kid gloves you can use to broach the topic without a blow-up. But if the issues are bad enough that you’re going to lose the friendship, be honest and be vulnerable.
4. MOVE ACROSS THE COUNTRY.
Is this one extreme? It is, but maybe you hate confrontation as much as me. Maybe when you weigh your options, the only one that makes sense is to sell your house, quit your job and move to California. You can make new friends there. People are very open-minded and there are palm trees and stuff.
I feel like I really brought it on home with that fourth point.
I should turn this topic into a book because I didn’t even have time to address the surprise twist. What if you’re the couple who is raising a jerk? Oh no! The call is coming from inside the house!
Relationships aren’t easy, but they’re worth it. Do the work of building couple friends. Parenting is a tough job and you’ll need other people who are on the journey with you.
Don’t overreact. Be honest. And remember there’s plenty of real estate on the west coast if nothing else works.
About the Author:
When he’s not charging his phone, New York Times Bestselling author, Jon Acuff, teaches a goal-setting course called “The 30 Days of Hustle.” To find out more, visit 30DaysofHustle.com.
4 WAYS TO CONNECT WITH YOUR KID’S TEACHER
Posted by Natalie Kitchen
Do you remember your first grade teacher? I loved mine. I remember how Ms. Parker erased the board from left to right every day and then wrote the new date in the top right hand corner. I also remember how she showed me how to use a ruler because I was sick on the day she taught everyone else. She knelt near my desk and she helped me measure my arm and my folder and my snack.
Now that our oldest is in school, I’m beginning to understand the crazy reality of widening his circle. I know his teachers will spend many of the quality hours of his week guiding and molding him, so I want our partnership with those teachers to be strong.
And because I’ve been a teacher longer than I’ve been a parent, I’m clinging to a few things I hope to remember now that I’m on the other side of the playground fence.
1 – MAKE IT PERSONAL
I know the hardest time to get to know a teacher is when my kid needs help or is in trouble. I want to make it a point to befriend his teachers as soon as possible. Ask them questions about their classroom and their life. Connect with them however I can and as early as I can. Show them that I am interested in them and what they do to love and serve my child every day. That way, when there’s a bump in the road, my relationship is strong enough for honesty and compassion on both sides.
2 – MODEL RESPECT
As our kids grow in their understanding of authority, I know they’ll look to us to learn how to respond when they’re faced with conflict. I feel our disrespect of our child’s teachers will breed their future disrespect of us and other authorities in their life. I want to encourage and model respect, and help them learn from the decisions their teachers make, good and bad.
3 – GIVE
I remember being so touched that a mom randomly brought me new Expo markers that I called her at home to thank her. I want to give my time. My enthusiasm. My old magazines. It doesn’t matter. I know I want to show up and show my kid’s teachers I’m willing to support their every-day, super-tough work.
4 – PRAY
I think I realized how much I like praying on the first day I watched that school bus drive away from our street. Talking to God about my kids’ day is a great way to relieve a lot of anxiety about the things I can’t control . . . and a great way to thank Him for the inevitable and wonderful ways their circles are widening.
What other ways would you add to our list? Let us know in the comments below!
About the Author:
Natalie Kitchen is on the multi-campus preschool team at North Point Ministries, where she serves to equip six area campuses and a network of strategic partners with training and resources. Her love for learning and curriculum is rooted in her experience as a middle and high school classroom teacher. She is married to Britt Kitchen and they have three children: Nolan, Ellie and Ben.
THE POWER OF A GRANDPARENT’S STORY
Posted by Sherry Surratt
It’s time somebody said it. Grandparents matter. We step in and dare to tread where even the bravest of parents won’t. We invite those little people to climb in our lap with their damp bottoms and sticky fingers. We listen to endless jokes that have no punchline. We cram our oversized behinds into itty bitty pink plastic Barbie chairs for princess tea parties that don’t even include tea while wearing a plastic tiara that digs into our scalp. And we like it. We like it because that five-year-old who invited us is the perfect balance of spicy delight and winsome charm.
These are not the activities I would choose to do on my own, mind you. The other day I listened to an endless description of a little boy on the playground that had big ears and a rip in the seat of his shorts who happily shared his candy corn. (That story went nowhere by the way. I think the point was that he had candy corn and candy corn is good.) But as I gaze into the faces of three-year-old Mollie Rose and five-year-old Maggie Claire (both southern girls, hence the double names) who share such stories, something happens. Life gets bigger.
I am captivated by these short people that belong to me even though I didn’t give birth to them. Their faces hold breathtaking glimpses of days long past and delightful promises of days to come. These glimpses remind me that the days are long but the years are short and fly by with lightning speed. It causes me to slow down and consider the implications. Being a “Mimi” (nobody utters the word grandma in my house) is so much bigger than having the joy of saying “yes” to another roll of Smarties before we’ve even had dinner. My husband Geoff and I are the life-giving keepers of their story.
We hold the story of how their daddy came into the world and was the most beautiful creation ever but who also looked a little like Yoda, all arms and spindly legs. We share the wonder of when each of our kids and grandkids came into the world and how it was magical and overwhelming and the most wonderful day EVER all rolled into one. When we share these stories, we’re not just sharing words. We’re giving a peek behind the curtain of our family in ways only we can. As we share the funny (the time their daddy broke eggs on the kitchen floor because he wanted to see their insides), and the frustrating (the time Aunt Boo shared her brilliance by writing the word “FOX” on her wall and carpet and bed with a permanent marker), and their lineage (how their daddy was the first grandchild to my parents and how Maggie Claire was their first great-grandchild.)
With our words, we’re not just passing on a legacy, we’re outliving ourselves. The Surratt name has a rich history of characters who mostly did the best they could, making both good and poor choices, some insignificant and others profound. As we tell the story, both the funny and the hard, the brilliant and the obscure, we paint an imperfect picture; a hot-mess-of-a-crew connected by more than birth. In the very telling of it, it sets the stage. It says “Yes, you will make mistakes too, but you’ll also do great things. Either way, you are one of us, and we will imperfectly share mercy and grace and try to love you like God loves us.”
When we share the story of how their great-great-grandpa started a church in an old storefront and gathered the family for the reading of the Christmas story mispronouncing some of the words with tears rolling down his cheeks, we’re passing along the foundation of who God is and how it shapes who we are today. In the telling and the listening, we are saying it’s okay to be imperfect and messy and broken, but we’re Surratts and that means something. You belong to us and we’re proud as can be.
My role as “Mimi,” and Geoff’s role as “Papa,” matters. When we listen to the grandkids stories that have no point or plot, and as we play games where the rules change with the breeze, our presence screams loudly, “You matter! To me and to our family.”
So grandparents, tell the story. If you don’t live nearby, you’ll need to get creative with Skype or Facetime and tell it in a way that melts the distance into nothingness. Don’t for a moment think that being a grandparent equals irrelevance. You matter. No one else can do what you do.
To think about:
What’s the most creative way you’ve shared stories with your grandkids?
About the Author:
Sherry Surratt is the Executive Director of Parent Strategy for Orange. She is the author of several books including Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears, and Just Lead! A No Whining, No Nonsense Practical Guide for Women Leaders in the Church. A shoe freak and coffee lover, Sherry resides in Denver, Co with her husband Geoff who is Pastor of Church Planting at Southeast Christian. She has two grown children and two incredibly gorgeous granddaughters.