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Parenting via Email

September 10, 2014

Last night, one of our big kids had kitchen duty after dinner. Wash dishes, clean kitchen. Simple.

Sometimes, when they don’t do a good job of cleaning up, I’ll gently point it out. But when it happens a lot, I begin to sound like a nag. It’s a crummy position to be in, as every parent knows.

It happened again tonight, when my child “cleaned the kitchen” and then climbed into bed to read. But the kitchen wasn’t clean.

Enter technology!  Frustrated with this cycle, I took a few pictures of the cluttered counter and the remaining straggle of items in the sink, and I emailed them to my child, for them to find tomorrow whenever they check their email. Here’s what I said.

Thanks for doing the dishes. I just wanted to show you the few things that were still left out so you’d know to clean up a little more thoroughly next time.

If you ever need help with something like the croc pot, by all means come and get me. I love to help! :-) But everything should be clean before you’re done from now on.

Thank you! I appreciate you and figured you’d want me to clarify our expectations. You the bomb. – dad

photo 2 photo 1 photo 3 photo 4

We’ll see if it makes a difference for next time (I’ll report back next week). Anyone else have experience with parenting via technology? I’d love to know what’s worked for you – and what hasn’t!

 

5 Small Parenting Decisions (with a Huge Impact)

September 7, 2014

First of all, my kids are just as messed up and awesome as yours. They need Jesus bad. But, they are also amazing and make us so proud in so many ways. I’ve thought of 5 small decisions we made as parents that have had enormous impact on who they are becoming. (Ages 13, 11 and. 7).

1. No TV During The School Week.
WAIT!!! Before the big eyeroll, we are not superhero parents with endless patience. And there’s no judgement here. But here’s how it happened…

When the kids were little we eagerly accepted help from Baby Einstein, Bob and Larry, Dora, Diego and Elmo. Then, in kindergarten, screen time dramatically dropped because after school there was just enough time for dinner and reading to them in the bed. The battleground was before school and we dug our trench, hunkered down and simply outlasted them. Around that age, each kid asked to watch tv every morning for weeks – and then months. We said no, over and over.

We don’t watch tv on school days, we said.

And eventually, somewhere near the end of first grade, they stop asking.

What we’ve gained is immeasurable, (they read books like crazy, for example), and leads me to #2.

2. Instrument Practice Every Morning, Before School.
WAIT!!! We are not the Von Trapps! We don’t have titanium willpower! It started with a small decision when our oldest was 6. I gave her 20 minute piano lessons every day (give or take) before school, because after school she was an exhausted kindergardener and I was working till dinner. With no music practice, after dinner there was time for coloring or drawing or reading magic treehouse books, and then the bedtime routine. Now, she’s 13, and she practices violin for 30/40 minutes before (public) school every day (give or take) starting at around 6:45am. We’ve had to hold our ground over the years, but it’s worth it. Both younger brothers expect it and don’t complain (much).

3. We limited video games, and particularly limited handheld video games.
Again, this is not typical, I know. Plenty of wonderful parents have different rules, but for us, we decided to wait till the big kids were 10 and 12 before we got minecraft on our iPad. They had played angry birds and tiny wings, etc. on our iPhones, but it was always limited and understood as a privilege.

That means we said no a lot.

They never had a gameboy or DS or anything like that, and though they complained, eventually they figured out ways to entertain themselves. I remember a Saturday when they made a whole army of tanks out of toothpicks and mini Reese’s cup wrappers. We were always replacing sidewalk chalk. They spent hours exploring the “creek” (drainage ditch of doom) behind our house. They made easy bake (not my fav) cookies, cardboard box cities and armor and LEGOS – oh man… Legos. But most of all, they read and read and read.

Now we play Wii here and there on the weekends, maybe two or three times a month. Same for Minecraft. And they are always SO thankful when we say yes. Which brings me to the next decision…

4. Without A Persuasive Reason To Say No, We Say Yes.
I’ve written about this before, but it’s still a huge deal for me as a parent. It was #1 of my “15 Tips for Parents,” and to keep this post short, I’ll link to that here.

5. We Eat Dinner Together Every Night (when I’m not traveling, obviously).
This is another one that seems hard until you decide to do it. Of course, there are exceptional circumstances when someone’s gone or I’m working late, but we have made it a priority, and it happens. We give ourselves lots of grace for exceptions, but that’s because the habit is entrenched and it’s important to everyone.

The gain is breathtaking when I think about the cumulative impact. So many hours eating and laughing and learning to be humans together. It continues to be a very big deal.

The biggest takeaway for me about this stuff is, small decisions matter. These particular things may not all make sense for your family, but as you trudge through this parenting journey, if you feel a conviction on a decision that needs to be made, don’t let the fear of difficulty stop you. The difficult moments pass quickly. Often by simply outlasting the clamor against them, small decisions can transform a household.

 

Prayer and the Perseid Meteor Shower.

August 22, 2014

I was up late one night last week… really late. And just as I finished my work for the night, I remembered the Perseid meteor shower was supposed to be peaking right then. So I stepped outside onto our back porch and looked up.

In the first 10 seconds I saw two “shooting stars” – then a few more a bit later, then one every minute or two. It was so cool. Finally it slowed. I snuck back inside and climbed in bed.

Funny thing is, this was Tuesday, August 11th, and I still haven’t told my wife or my kids about it. Life moves so fast – so many rich and complex things pass through our days. It can be very hard to stop and reflect on any of it. I’m convinced that this is one of the reasons God gave us prayer. Through prayer, we have a chance to take stock of our worries and fears, our hopes and joys, and all that we’re thankful for, and lay it all at the feet of Jesus… anytime.  come sun or moon or another ice bucket challenge video. There’s never a bad time to pray.

How to Talk to Your Kids About “Love One Another” (John 13:34-35)

July 21, 2014

LoveOneAnotherChalk

 

In the Spring of 2013,  I spent months compiling verse recommendations from friends and family for Sing the Bible.  One of the very last suggestions I received came in the actual mail… from my mother.  I opened the envelope, and found inside, penned onto a small purple leaf of paper, John 13:34-35.

It was the same handwriting that I’ve seen inside a birthday card every year I can remember. It was the handwriting from childhood permission slips and love notes slipped inside brown bag lunches. It was Santa’s handwriting. And now it said,

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

The verse was so perfect for a song that it practically wrote itself.  But how should we talk with our kids about this one? For busy parents looking for Scripture nuggets to feed our kids, this verse is so straightforward it is easy to skim. “Sure, sure. Jesus loves me, so I should love others. Got it. What else you got?”

But if we only look for a moment more… “As I have loved you…” How many of us walk through our lives ready to wash the feet of our friends? How many of us truly think of the good of others before our own comfort?  This verse is a bucket of cold water to my face every time I read it or sing it because of how often I think of myself first.

Unless you are ready to receive buckets of grace for your utter lack of obedience to this verse, don’t bring this one up to your kids. They will totally bust you.  You’ll either have to pretend like you think this way all the time, or you’ll have to come clean. I recommend coming clean, by the way. It’s a great way to enter the conversation about living with the Holy Spirit, and looking to Jesus and depending on him every day.  Clearly, we can’t do this “love one another” stuff on our own.

More about that conversation in our next post. Check back in a day or so… and thanks for stopping by. You can click on the CD cover below to check out our Slugs & Bugs store.

STBcover

 

This post is the tenth in a series on our new CD Sing the Bible with Slugs & Bugs. All the lyrics to Sing the Bible are word-for-word Scripture. I hope this series helps parents talk with their kids about each passage on the CD.

 

Extraordinary Parenting Situations (happen every day)

July 14, 2014

A few years ago, I sat and ate with a preacher and his family after a Slugs & Bugs concert, utterly stunned by their working relationships. The 3 year old son repeatedly hit the mom, spilled his drink on her on purpose, threw his food and spit right in his mom’s face. Meanwhile, the preacher did absolutely nothing to deter or address the insane behavior. I was so incensed and flabbergasted by the whole thing that I ended up excusing myself early before I said something I would regret.

I stewed and prayed the whole drive back to the hotel, and I had a difficult time getting to sleep that night. For days, then weeks, then months, I intended to call or write this guy and have a talk. At first, I wanted to shame him for his utter neglect of his spouse. Later, I wanted to help him – warn him about the kind of kids he was raising, and appeal to his sense of gospel sanity as a father and a leader. Eventually, I let myself forget about it – either unconvinced it was my place to intervene, or too scared of the confrontation.

Then, this morning, I had a conversation with a friend about their 5 year old daughter. She was adopted at 2 years old, like my son Benjamin, and they share unusual attention-seeking behaviors. They both ask constantly ask questions they already know the answers to, and they both pretend to be dumb sometimes. But my friend’s daughter also hit, stomped on, and spit on her in bizarre circumstances. She may simply be working through the pain that she carries from having been orphaned, but still, as they say with a hashtag, #notgonnafly.

For years, they’ve been struggling (with admirable communication, maturity and self-discipline) with how to stop this unacceptable behavior, and nothing has worked, until a few months ago. Out of desperation, they applied a new strategy. They would totally ignore their daughter’s terrible behavior, unless it really injured somebody.

What!?! I can’t imagine the incredible restraint required for this parenting tack, but they did it. And it worked. After two months (two months!) of prayerful endurance in private and in public, the spitting, hitting and stomping all but dried up. Amazing.  There’s a whole ‘nother blog post in there somewhere.

But that got me thinking about that preacher and his family so many moons ago. I really don’t know what they were going through. If I had loved them instead of judging them, a follow-up phone call might have been much easier to make. We might have become great friends.

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Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. – James 1:19-20

The Long Awaited Slugs & Bugs DVD!

June 17, 2014

S&B DVD cover

Our animated videos have always been a huge part of the Slugs & Bugs Live concert experience. At every concert, someone always asks me where they can get them, and now I finally have a good answer! You can purchase all the animated videos from the first three CDs right here at the Rabbit Room.

There are 17 videos on this first DVD, including old favorites and some that have never appeared in concert. Here’s the track listing…

1. Stop
2. The Postman
3. Who’s Got The Ball
4. God Made Me
5. Bears
6. Chicken Wiggle
7. Tractor, Tractor
8. Tiger
9. Jesus Loves Me
10. Shepherd Dad
11. God Makes Messy Things Beautiful
12. I’m Adopted
13. Mexican Rhapsody
14. Where You Gonna Go
15. I Wanna Help
16. Dizzy
17. Ninja

These videos have consistently captured the simple joyfulness of Slugs & Bugs music. I’m so thankful for Scott Brignac and Nora Ashkar for the delightful productions that have brought Slugs & Bugs to the screen for thousands of families, and I’m thrilled to finally have a video for Ninja – by Matt Cosby.

There are 3 animated videos available on Youtube (Bears, God Made Me, Tractor-Tractor), and amazingly, Tractor-Tractor has over two million views. Here it is now for your green and orange enjoyment…

 

 

To purchase the Slugs & Bugs DVD, click here.

Romans 8 – Track 11 from Sing the Bible

May 23, 2014

Get-out-of-sin-free

This post is the ninth in a series on our new CD Sing the Bible with Slugs & Bugs. All the lyrics to Sing the Bible are word-for-word Scripture. I hope this series helps parents talk with their kids about each passage on the CD.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. – Romans 8:1-2

 

 

Even beginning a blog post about this verse, I have to stop and breathe, and pray.

If I take these words seriously, it changes everything. This verse changes how I treat people, how I see the world, how I spend my time, and even my body chemistry. It changes my breath, my heart rate, my stress level, my posture and my skin. It moves the wrinkles from my brow to the sides of my mouth.  It makes me want to sing.

However, this verse is not a popular Sunday School verse for children. Adults usually don’t expect children to grasp the weight of their sinfulness or the depth of their need for forgiveness. But tell me, who really grasps the weight of their own sinfulness? Do you really understand the depth of your need for forgiveness? Do I? No way.

Here’s where I start with my kids: This verse presents 6 questions.

1. What does “no condemnation” mean?

2. What does “in Christ” mean?

3. What is “the law of the Spirit”?

4. How does the Spirit give life?

5. What is “the law of sin and death”

6. How does the Spirit set me free?

The age of the child will dictate how this goes, but if I really listen, I’m usually astounded at the simple truths in their answers. And just as a reminder, our goal is not helping them achieve total understanding. It is spending time with them in the context of Scripture. Trust that The Lord is teaching you both. And when in doubt, remember the cross.

They will probably say something terribly incorrect, but there’s no hurry. Feel the freedom to let some things go unexplained. Or admit you don’t know. You can say “Hmmm” or “very interesting” or even “I don’t know about that” if they start talking reincarnation or something.  Sure, we want them to learn, but we also want this conversation to continue for years to come.

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