Saturday, March 6, 2010

day sixty-six: develop accountability in your parenting endeavors—part ii of ii

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24

Here are some tips for choosing/developing an accountability partner in your parenting adventure:

1. Choose someone you trust completely. If your relationship with this person develops further, you may feel the need to disclose sensitive information about your children, family situations, etc. I know that during difficult parenting times I so appreciated the fact that my parenting group was discreet and trustworthy.

2. Choose someone who is at the same stage in parenting that you are in, if possible. If you have children in similar age ranges, you might even decide to embark on some of the same types of faith training and relationship building strategies as your accountability partner. Our parenting group moms were all going through the same things at the same time—training toddlers to sign and communicate with us without throwing fits, teaching our preschoolers first time obedience, etc. It was so nice to be in a small group in which we were all trying to do the same things.

3. Choose someone who will not just let you slide by! If your accountability partner isn’t serious about his/her parenting efforts, then he or she will not have motivation to be sure that you are serious about yours. On the other hand, if your partner is serious, but is too much of a “softy” (“Oh, you didn’t do Bible time with the kids at all for the second week in a row…that’s okay…we all mess up”), then you will never realize the benefit of an accountability partner—to help you do the difficult things in your life!

4. Always be on the look out for how you can help your accountability partner to grow in his or her parenting. As Hebrews 10:24 says, we should encourage each other to do good things for God, our family, and others. Yes, if you acquire an accountability partner, you are desiring help for yourself—but remember that your partner needs the same help from you.

5. Do not make your meetings/communication too difficult to continue. With our parenting group, we met weekly as couples for two different winters. We always knew that we were going to see each other then, and it helped to know that time was coming. (We moms also called “emergency meetings” at McDonald’s with the kids in the afternoons once or twice a month!) With my prayer group of three, we always met at the same time every week, as well. Nowadays with FACEBOOK, internet, email, texting, etc, it should be easier than ever to communicate with a parenting accountability partner—possibly even reporting in every day or two as to your parenting successes.

6. Once you get an accountability partner, be extremely specific in your struggles. Verbalize a tangible goal each week that you want to meet, discuss ways to meet it, and report back the next week on it. Just like any goals, if what is shared in your accountability meetings is too vague (“I really want to do more character lessons with the kids”), they will not happen. Ask each other specifically how you are going to meet your goals for that week.

Christian parenting is the most amazing, joy-filled, rewarding thing I have ever tried to do—but it is also the most challenging, heart-wrenching, and overwhelming thing I have ever done. Don’t take it lightly. Realize the potential you have to influence your children’s entire lives—and do whatever it takes (including obtaining an accountability partner) to meet your parenting ideals.

Friday, March 5, 2010

day sixty-five: develop accountability in your parenting endeavors—part i of ii

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up…" Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

I have talked for a while now about doing the things in your family that are the most important to you—attaching things to the already-scheduled activities in your kids’ days so that you can be consistent in faith training; doing things with your kids more often than you miss doing them; understanding that priorities are the things in our lives that we really do; and knowing that when we say yes to something (or someone!), we say no to something (or someone!) else.

So what if you know what you want, but you just can’t make it happen? What if you feel led to be the type of family that is your child’s primary faith and character teacher, but you find yourself day after day not fulfilling that role? What if you want to talk to your teens every day, but you get to the end of the week and realize that you were “ships passing in the night”?

Maybe we need to call for an intervention! An accountability intervention that is! Do you know someone else who is in the same boat as you are? Not someone who “wishes” they were parenting differently, but someone who truly wants to make things happen in his or her family? If so, that person might be a good candidate for an accountability partner for you in your parenting endeavors.

Ray and I have pretty much been each others’ accountability partner our entire marriage (though I have had prayer partners who were similar to accountability partners, as well as small parenting groups who definitely were similar to accountability partners). However, I have often thought during rather difficult times that it would have been nice to have someone on the outside checking up on us. A parenting accountability partner can do just that for you.

Join us tomorrow as I give several tips for choosing/developing an accountability partner. Then stay with us next week—as I introduce our “Recipe for Rebellion” with our teens—and how NOT to make that disappointing “dish.”

Thursday, March 4, 2010

day sixty-four: say yes to the most important things and no the least important things for your family

One of the great truths in time management--one that Ray and I have continually reminded ourselves of--is that when you say yes to something, you say no to something else. There is not enough time for everything. So, in saying yes to something, you are using up some of the limited amount of time that you have. You are filling a time slot with that activity, instead of some other activity. So, you are saying yes to one thing in that time slot--and no to something else that could go in that same time slot. Seldom does a person feel that he or she has time for everything; thus, when we say yes to one thing, we are saying no to something else.

Now, obviously, we could get all hung up on this and never do anything relaxing because that recreational activity is replacing something more noble or more productive. We could become so consumed with doing and accomplishing that we squeeze other people out of our lives. That is not desired either. Time with others, relaxation, and fun are all important aspects of our lives, too.

However, a thorough understanding of the fact that time is consumable--there is only so much of it--is necessary. It is so much harder to say no to outsiders (to say no to coaching baseball, leading speech and debate, working on a Christmas play, etc.) than it is to say no to those who are closest to us. If we learn to prioritize well, we can say yes to those things that we have determined ahead of time are priorities and no to those things that are not current priorities.

We learned about prioritizing early in our marriage, and I am forever grateful that we did. Twenty-five years ago, Ray and I (at ages twenty-four and twenty) had a two year old little boy. We were active in our church and with our extended families. We wanted to "do it all" for the Lord and for others. However, we found ourselves, even with only one child and at our young ages, so busy that we could not keep up.

One evening we sat down with the calendar and wrote on it everything we felt that we should do or participate in during that month: men's Bible study, ladies' Bible study, Ray's extended family, my extended family, Ray's master's degree, church three times a week, home care groups, hospitality, family night, nursing home visitation, church outreach, etc.

This full calendar page has become known to us through the years as "the list." When we were finished, we discovered that if we did everything we thought we should do, everything we wanted to do, and everything we had to do, we would need sixty evenings that month!

Life was controlling us, rather than us controlling life. How many of us feel this way today? We find ourselves doing things that are not really our priorities (or things that we do not desire as our priorities) and not doing the things that we really want as our priorities.

This is not a new concept. Paul said this very thing in the Bible: "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate" (Romans 7:15 RSV).1 This is an age-old problem that even one of Christ's strongest early followers felt.

At that point, we decided that something had to go. We obviously did not have sixty evenings a month to do that list. We decided to take action. We had our first "priority purge."

Prioritizing takes action! It is something you do--or else it is done for you. Ray and I had to take good things off of our calendar in order to make room for the best things. We had to say no to average things in order to say yes to excellent things.

That is another important concept in prioritizing: each person's priorities are his own. We do not need to have identical priorities to our friends. We do not need to do everything someone else does. Our priorities are personal; they are the God-ordained objectives in our own lives for that time period.

If you want to have solid, consistently-kept priorities, you must take action. You must determine, with your spouse and with God's guidance, what your priorities are. And you must say yes to the things that you truly want in your life (and that are reflective of your priorities) and no to the things that are not as important to you.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

day sixty-three: understand that priorities are what you do

Priorities are what you do.” Ray Reish

Yesterday I alluded to today’s topic, that of priorities vs wishes. Probably the greatest hindrance to getting anything done in life is that of misplaced priorities. That is especially true in the case of family living and heart training of our children since those are often non-measurable, non-visual pursuits.

Everyone has priorities. Some have their priorities listed and checked off daily or weekly. Some prioritize by default. Their priorities are not planned, but they have priorities nonetheless--since priorities are what a person does.

If you were to pull out your daytimer, family calendar, or daily to-do lists, anyone could read them and give you a list of your priorities. You might argue about their observations. You might say, "No, that thing is not my priority. My priority is this...” Something loftier, more noble, or more similar to what you would like your priorities to be. However, if you do not do something consistently, it is not a priority; it is simply a wish. Because prioritities are what you do.

The same concept is revealed with your checkbook. You can say that certain things are the most important to you, but when you open your checkbook, the dearest things to you are exposed right there in black and white (or red!).

An eye-opening exercise for anyone is to evaluate--hour by hour, day by day--what you have done over the past month. How much time did you devote to corporate worship, God's Word, knowing Christ, prayer, praise, ministry, and discipleship? How much time did you watch television, play sports, surf the web, or read a novel? How much time did you spend with your spouse? How much time did you devote to training your children?

Break these activities down to determine how much of each waking day you spent on each one. The activities that you spent the greatest amount of time on are your priorities. If you watched television and movies for twenty hours this week and spent three hours discipling your young adults, then your priority is entertainment--not training (at least for that week).

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with any of these things—entertainment, exercising, being with our spouse—they all add up to a balanced, less-stressful life. The problem comes when we delude ourselves into thinking that something is a priority to us when that simply isn’t true.

From my list of activities, I can tell what my true priorities are. I might think my priorities are God; my husband; my children; homeschooling; saving time; being organized; my extended family; keeping my children involved in meaningful activities; building relationships; releasing of our teens and young adults slowly while discipling and mentoring them; and family ministries. However, if my calendar does not show the majority of my time being used in those pursuits, then they are not my priorities. They are simply my wishes--my hopes and dreams of what I want to do, but not what I actually do—because my priorities are those things that I do.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

day sixty-two: do the things that are important to your family “more often than not”

Yesterday I introduced Gregg Harris’ “attachment” principle for doing the many things that are important in our kids’ Christian upbringing. Today I want to introduce another paradigm that has kept us going in all of the myriad Christian training endeavors: If something is important to you, you will do it more often than you do not.

Simple, really. But it has kept us going when we felt defeated, overwhelmed, or unsuccessful in our parenting. No matter what was happening, we tried to follow that principle. When one of us got discouraged, the other would remind the first that we were, indeed, doing what we were supposed to be doing.

I haven’t done afternoon story time for two days in a row with Kara’s colic. Ray’s answer? All that matters is that you do it more often than you don’t. And I knew that it was true. I am not perfect. Managing a houseful of preschoolers certainly made perfection on a daily basis out of the question!

However, I knew in my heart of hearts what I wanted our home to be. I knew what I wanted my day to look like (and what it needed to look like in order to accomplish all that we wanted to accomplish). We knew what we wanted in our children’s Christian upbringing. And we knew that as long as we persevered and did those important things “more often than not,” we could make it.

Make that your goal for new disciplines in your family—that if you plan to do devotions every school morning during breakfast, and you make it three of the five—you have done it “more often than not.”

If you want to read aloud to your tweens before bed during the week, and you read three out of the five weeknight bedtimes, you have done it—“more often than not.” And you are well on your way to success in carrying out the things that are important to you in your Christian parenting.

Raising children for the Lord is not a sprint. It is a marathon, or if you are married, a life-long relay. Running fast and hard at the beginning is not what will get you to the finish line. Slow and steady is what will get you there. And reading, praying, singing, talking, choring, playing, teaching, training, etc. “more often than not” will help you cross that finish line someday knowing that have done what you were supposed to do—without regrets for all of the “priorities” that never truly were priorities but just unfulfilled wishes.

Monday, March 1, 2010

day sixty-one: attach important things to things that are already in your schedule

“Children are unpredictable. You never know what inconsistency they're going to catch you in next.” Franklin P. Jones

When we had three young children four and under, we went to a parenting seminar in which the wise teacher (Gregg Harris) taught us how to manage our day—and get in the things that are truly important to us: “Attach things that are important to you to something that is already in your schedule.”

I was a struggling young mom, trying to teach our little ones to obey, love each other, enjoy learning, be helpful, desire God’s Word, play creatively, and more. However, like many young stay-at-home moms, I had prioritizing and follow through problems. Mr. Harris’ advice helped me get a handle on my preschoolers’ days.

We came home from the seminar and began attaching our “priorities” to the things that were already in place. Some things are predictable in a day automatically; they are “constances,” so to speak. Children get up in the morning, eat three meals (and snacks!), take naps (more on that later!), and go to bed at night (more on that later, too!).

We chose the things that we truly wanted to make happen in our littles’ daily schedule: Bible reading in the morning; chore training; afternoon story time; etc. We attached these to the “constances” of our kids’ days, and before we knew it, we were having successful days…and we soon attached more things to our attachments until we were attaching to our attachments. And our days became one big, long attachment—getting to many of the things that were priorities in our hearts but were not happening in real life.

I have talked a lot in the first two months of this year about doing things with our children that teach them important Christian virtues and behaviors. It is easy to hear someone talk about these things, and think, Yeah, that sounds great….but it is easier said than done! I’m here to tell you today that you can do this! If something is a true priority in your family’s life, you can make it happen, regardless of children’s ages, work schedules, financial situation, and more.

Take the most important thing to you that you know you should do with your children but never seem to get to. Daily devotions? Prayer time? Read aloud? Story time? Chore time? Morning routines? Talk time? Only choose one—and decide that this one thing will become a habit in your home.

Now choose the most constant scheduled activity in your family—rising, breakfast, lunch, after school snack, bedtime, etc. And attach your priority to that. Be realistic. Do not try to do everything at one time. Do not make it a long, drawn-out affair. Just start tomorrow doing the highest priority item attached to the most consistent “constant.”

Keep your activity short at first. If you choose to read a Bible story aloud while the kids eat breakfast each morning, get one of those One Minute Bible story books or some other quick read, and dig in and do it. Do not be discouraged if it is a five minute read. Do not be dismayed if you miss occasionally (the “more often than not” principle will be explained tomorrow!). Just do it!

Once you have some consistency with this, you can tackle another “attachment.” And so on and so forth. Before you know it, your home will be a center—a learning center, spiritual center, fun center, heart-affecting center—all of the things that the Christian home was designed to be. Don’t worry if you mess up—our children are quick to “catch us in inconsistencies,” and they will be sure to let you know that your “attachment” is slipping!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

day sixty: look at the “inner” relationship to find the problem with current one

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8).

Many years ago Ray’s mentor gave him a bull’s eye with relationships listed in the rings. The inner most ring was God, then wife/parents, then children, then extended family, then church, then world. It was this hierarchy:


Wife (or parents if not married)

Children (or siblings if not grown)

Extended family



Obviously, the last three encompass many, many people—and they have hierarchical relationships within them as well. But in a nutshell, the advice was this: When you have problems with a relationship, look at the relationship directly inside (on the bull’s eye—up one on our list above) to see what the problems are there first. Oftentimes, solving the inner problem will also solve, or at least help solve, the outer one.

For example, if my children are showing disrespect to me, I can look at how I am respecting or not respecting Ray, the inner circle on the bull’s eye that is previous to “children.” If I cannot get along with somebody at work (world), I can probably see that same problem, or a similar one, with the church, or fellow believers, in my life.

For us, this advice was a sign to always look at solving problems closer to us to help our outer relationships. It provided a tool that forced us to think about all of our relationships and their affect on any problem ones.

So many times we have used this bull’s eye hierarchy, examined our relationship with each other, then were able to peacefully resolve the problem with the child or children in question.

Obviously, it is not always the case. And certainly looking at a bull’s eye is not a sure way to solve problems. But if one of our children is stubborn towards us, “the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Sometimes straightening our kids up is just a matter of straightening ourselves up.