Category Archives: Parenting Tips


How Not to Repent

new logoOne of the most challenging problems that parents face is teaching and motivating their children to repent from sin. This is not particularly surprising, I suppose, since many parents don’t know what repentance means, don’t see the need for it, and wouldn’t know how to repent if their life depended on it (which, of course, it does).

The word ‘repent’ has several meanings, depending on whom you ask:

“to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life” — Merriam Webster (1)

“to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better; be penitent.” — (2)

Some definitions of the word speak more to how you feel than what you do:

“to feel sorry, self-reproachful, or contrite for past conduct; regret or be conscience-stricken about a past action, attitude, etc.” — (1)

” to feel regret or contrition” — Merriam Webster (2)

Personally, I think that ‘emotional’ repentance is not worth much, unless it is accompanied with a change in direction. Old Testament references to repentance use a combination of Hebrew verbs, which can be translated as: to return, and to feel sorrow. The writers of the Old Testament books will be gratified, no doubt, to know that I think both are necessary. A pragmatic change in behavior motivated by self-interest is not true repentance; nor is contrition sufficient in itself, without action that shows the contrition to be genuine.

you're in trouble, buddy

Repent, I say, repent!!

Back to parenting. Let’s start with a toddler (we’ll call him Alfred), who is watching his baby sister as she coos contentedly, strapped in her baby seat. An idea comes to Alfred’s little mind: what will happen if I hit her? A born scientist, Alfred forms a hypothesis: “I’ll bet she will cry.” He immediately tests his theory by striking her on the forehead. The sister wails in a satisfactory manner, and the toddler enjoys the happy knowledge that his experiment in causality has been successful. Alfred’s mind immediately turns to additional variants of the experiment, but his plans are spoiled by the arrival of his mother.

“No,” scolds Mom. “You may not hit your little sister. No, no!”

Mom gives Alfred’s hand a sharp swat, and a tear forms at the corner of his eye. His lip quivers, but his jaw is thrust out in defiance. Mom’s disapproval is not a sufficient deterrent at this point in his development. Although the pain in his hand has taught him some respect for Mom’s physical presence, Alfred’s heart intention is unchanged — he’d do it again in a heartbeat. Why should he not be free to extend his scientific knowledge? Who is this Mother, to place limitations on his freedom and enjoyment? Craftily, Alfred waits until Mom is on the phone, and he whacks his sister again, this time on the nose, extracting a loud cry.

Several days later, Mom catches him pinching his sister with a malicious grin on his face, and gives him a hard enough spanking to make it no longer worth his while to torment her. He was beginning to reach the limits of science in that field, anyway, and turns his attention to the reprogramming of household electronics and poking holes in the walls. But what about Alfred’s heart? Skip forward a few years.

Alfred is six, and his friend Eric has come over for a visit. Eric notices Alfred’s cool new action figure, and snatches it up, swooping it around in proper heroic fashion. Alfred, outraged at the liberties taken with his toy hero, tackles Eric and rips the figurine from his hands. Eric appeals to Alfred’s Mom, and Justice is Done — the toy is given back to Eric and Alfred is sharply rebuked. Alfred’s jaw thrusts itself out again … and a little while later, Eric suffers an injury under suspicious circumstances.

Why do people repent? It seems clear from the Bible that God’s standard is very high, and that no one can meet it (Romans 3:23). Clearly, there should be a whole lot of repentance going on, yet it seems a concept very foreign to many. Repentance seems only to come about when the following elements are all present:

  1. An authority is acknowledged
  2. The standard for behavior (given by that authority) is understood
  3. Failure to meet the standard is acknowledged and confessed
  4. A breach in the relationship with the standard-maker is recognized
  5. A deep desire to restore that relationship is felt
  6. A change of behavior is implemented to ensure the standard will not be broken again

Most people (and many children) don’t want to change their ways, even when they are forced to admit that the things they do are wrong. People kick up smoke screens in all six areas, but they often do it in a haphazard and inefficient manner, so I’ve written the following cheat-sheet to help, for those wishing to avoid any form of repentance:

How Not to Repent

  1. Ignore any authority that is set up over you.
  2. Pretend not to understand any behavioral standard, or interpret it in a way that renders it useless.
  3. i didn't do anything

    What? I didn’t do anything.

  4. Never acknowledge or admit that you didn’t meet the standard. Feel free to blame anyone and everything. Claim to be a victim.
  5. Act as though breaking the standard will have no effect on a relationship with the standard-maker. Tell yourself that God is Love, and that a loving God won’t hold your ‘mistakes’ against you.
  6. If you ever do feel that you have wronged God (or any other authority), act as though it is his responsibility to restore the relationship
  7. It's his fault
    It’s not my fault, don’t look at me. Why don’t you pick on someone else?

  8. If caught and forced to endure some consequence, assume that sorrow (even sorrow that you were caught) is enough. Act as though you are performing a great service to accept your consequences. Take no steps to avoid breaking the standard in the future.

naughty naughty

Let’s check back in with Alfred, now that he’s all grown up. Alfred still mostly cares about Alfred, and assiduously pursues life, liberty and happiness for all they are worth, as he has been taught is his constitutional right. Alfred decides to drive home from a party where he’s been drinking, because he doesn’t really think the .08% blood alcohol limit in his State is a legal standard that applies to him.

Sadly for Alfred, he is pulled over by a man with a flashing light and a blue hat. He first tries to pretend that he wasn’t doing anything wrong, and quickly becomes belligerent when the officer insists on a breathalyzer test. Imagine Alfred’s surprise when he finds himself in handcuffs in the back of a patrol car, and spends the evening in a cell. When he appears in court, he is further angered by the severe, lecturing tone the judge takes, but (as he learned from his mother), he conceals his furious reaction under a veneer of contrition (since he wants to avoid being held in contempt and spending more time behind bars). He pays his fine and leaves the courtroom.

Unfortunately, Alfred hasn’t ever learned how to repent, and so he continues living his life without bowing his knee to the standards that God (or even the government, or his employer) have put into place. Ultimately Alfred is fired, jailed and killed. Since he never acknowledged his sin before God, he never admitted his need for a Savior, so his name isn’t found in the book of life. Alfred spends eternity separated from God.

Actually, Kathy tells me I can’t kill poor Alfred off so quickly. “Not everybody who fails to repent is killed in a gang war,” she told me, in a rather patronizing tone of voice. “You’re setting him up as a stereotype, but lots of people never repent and go on to become rich and powerful, oppressing the ‘little people’ around them quite happily.”

david and his very own goliath

This looks like a gang war in the making.

OK, fine. Alfred is not fired, jailed or killed. But his pattern of blaming others and considering himself above and apart from the law continues, so that little Alfred Junior grows up to be much like his father. Alfred doesn’t really know this, because his wife divorces him while his son is still in elementary school, and Alfred ultimately dies in his 60′s of liver failure, alone and unmourned. He still spends eternity in torment, apart from God.

It’s been a long day, and I’m a bit tired, which makes me gloomy. :)

We’ve written before about the Five A’s for Resolving Conflict:

  1. Admit
  2. Apologize
  3. Accept
  4. Ask
  5. Alter

I wish I had a ‘magic bullet’ that would reliably get to the heart of a child and bring about repentance every time, but I don’t. From what I can tell, development of a tender and repentant heart in a child is a long and grueling process, although some children are naturally more tender-hearted than others. What I have discovered is that I can teach the mechanics of repentance through the Five A’s, but actual sorrow of the heart comes more slowly. I’ve tried to accelerate that process by asking these kind of questions:

  • How do you think you would feel if your (sister, brother) did that to you?
  • Do you think God cares about what you just did?
  • How do you think your sister feels, when you spoke to her that way?
  • Does the Bible have anything to say about what you did?
  • Did you know that God is sad when you ignore His rules?

More often than not, my children are angry at me for catching them, or for enforcing the standard, rather than repentant for their actions. They’d rather blame me for being a harsh and unfair ogre than take responsibility for their own sin. I try to get out of the way, between them and God, by speaking to them gently, but firmly, administering any consequences in a dispassionate manner.

I think she can take him

I think she can take him.

As I write this, one of my boys, suffering from idleness, ignored his mother’s suggestion to clean his room. I rebuked him and sent him up to clean it, and his face darkened in anger. As he left the room, I stopped him.

“No one is doing anything unkind to you. You were idle, and so Mom wants you to clean your room. You have no reason to be angry.”

He went off, still unconvinced and angry. When he arrived upstairs, he found a way to bully his little brother, by hiding just outside the door, and scaring him. I took him into my room and closed the door. “Is it such a big deal, to scare somebody?”, he asked, jaw thrust out belligerently.

I tried to help him to understand the sequence of events that led to the bullying; how his idleness often leads to sin, and how Mom and I were trying to protect him from punishment by giving him something to do with his hands. I explained to him how inappropriate it was for him to bully his brother when he was mad at his parents, and how he should have accepted my rebuke in humility. I asked him if he meant to be unkind to his brother when he scared him: “Sort of,” he grunted.

I reminded him of the Five A’s, the first of which is ‘Admit’. His unwillingness to embrace that first ‘A’ stiffened my resolve to send him to bed early. As I turned out his light, I reminded him of 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

I’m convinced that true from-the-heart repentance is possible only when we are willing to confess our sin to God — that when we do that, He keeps his promise and begins cleansing us, ripping sin out of our heart, denying it a chance to develop deep roots. He gives us the power to resist it in the future and the energy to make a new start.

Project 366 – Day 7

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A Submissive Wife

Tim says I have to get to bed by 11 pm tonight.

We read a lot of marriage books during our courtship and first years of marriage. During the submission chapters, I dutifully took notes, vowing to cheerfully submit to my husband. I have a wonderful mother and mother-in-law who model beautiful Christian marriages of mutual love and respect. My grandmother was a staunch advocate of marriage and believed submission was easy when your spouse was laying down his life for you as Christ did for the church.

No one ever warned me submission would involve bedtimes.

That’s going from preaching to meddling to this night owl.

Okay, perhaps Tim didn’t really say I have to go to bed by 11 pm. In fact, all he really did was make a suggestion. And, to be completely truthful (because I’m all about being honest on the blog here), it’s only because I was an emotional wreck today and am very over-tired and he’s looking out for my best interest.

Hmmm. That sounds an awful lot like loving as Christ loved the church.

Unfortunately that means I don’t have a parenting tip for the day. I could have spent some time this evening writing, but I decided to read to the children instead. If I ignore my children but compose a brilliant parenting tip, what have I accomplished?

giving tree presents

Presents for the “Giving Tree,” a project blessing needy children in the community.

So, instead of cozying up to my wireless keyboard and sharing words of wisdom, I was snuggled on Big Blue with three children, reading Christmas books, opening birthday presents and reviewing piano lesson work.

Consider that your tip for the day – relish the sweet moments with your children. Hug them, read Christmas books, play a game, bake cookies. Smile. Close your mouth and wait just a few extra seconds before speaking words of correction and discipline.

It’s three minutes to 11 pm – I still have to publish this post, throw together a lunch for Tim, turn off all the lights in the house, run a quick load of laundry, put the last of the dishes away and start the dishwasher. Maybe I’ll make 11:30 pm. That’s pretty close.

Yep, that’s me, always one to heed good advice.
Project 365 – Day 344

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Tuesday Tips for Parenting – Guest Blogger Tina

new logoTim and I are thrilled to share the Tuesday Spotlight with Tina Burt. It is particularly appropriate that Tina be featured as a guest blogger, since she is a dear friend we first met while living in the Duckabush Valley, for which this blog is named. Now serving with New Tribes Missions in Thailand, Tina and her family are dearly beloved kindred spirits. Wherever they go, Greg and Tina live out the example that Paul laid down for the Thessalonians:

We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. (I Thessalonians 2:8)

kathy and Tina

Kathy and Tina on the eve of Tina’s departure for Thailand.

Hello Duckabush Blog Faithfuls,

As a guest blogger today, I will try to uphold the high standards set by my dear friends. Kathy asked me a while ago to think about submitting a post on her Tuesday Tips for Parenting blog. While obviously very honored by such a request, I was not sure what parenting gems I had to offer. We have our fair share of teasing, annoying, disobedience and unruly behavior at our house.

I mean beyond what my dear husband incites of course! :)

After some deep thinking, (it doesn’t take too long to get to the bottom of my well!), I thought we could share one of our discipline techniques. We like to call it the Jack LaLane method of child training.

It began when with our son, the youngest of our three children. He seemed to find the most trouble of our kids, not always out of rebellion, but from a lack of thought or wisdom. Other forms of, cough, cough, physical discipline did not seem to make much of an “impact” on him, and so we drew on DH’s army training and instituted …

The Pushup!

zach demonstrates

Doesn’t he have nice form, and a smile to boot!

We now use it liberally with all three kids, and they may find themselves dropped for pushups whenever the situation, or attitude demands. Rolled eyes at a request, rude speech, sassing a parent, slow or delayed obedience,…… The number of pushups has a direct correlation to how often the child has been previously corrected for said offense, or how severe the offense.

When beginning, we suggest only 5-10, depending on the strength of your children. Don’t want any excuses to get out of dishwashing!

We liberally used this technique while trying to break our son of his finger sucking habit some years back. Each time we would catch him with his finger in his mouth, he would ‘earn’ 10 pushups. After a particularly long car trip, the poor child sometimes owed us up to 80 pushups! (Yes, we let him take a break in between sets of 20 or so.)

Hey, it came in handy when he began wrestling, and needed all the upper body strength he could get!

wrestling zach

There is a boy (in the #2 place – Great Job, Zach!) who has benefited from some loving discipline.

An extra tip, when an attitude is particularly bad, or you feel you need a little more oomph in your sentence, diamond pushups are great! Instead of having hands under the shoulders, they must have their hands together under their chest, making a little diamond with their first fingers and thumbs. We have found that even the suggestion of diamond pushups will improve cooperation greatly!

zach, leah and ema

Zachary, Leah, and Ema.

What cooperative children, no pushups necessary here.


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Tuesday Tips for Parenting – Christmas Gift Ideas

new logoI can’t believe December is literally racing around the corner. This weekend a friend suggested I write something about Christmas gift ideas for kids. You know, the gifts that will actually hold the children’s interest and survive more than a week or two of playing. Classic toys that have proven to be fun and timeless.

I thought this was a fantastic idea, especially the part about how it should all be organized by age with suggestions for each grade level. Great, wonderful, excellent idea, except for one thing. I don’t have time to write this amazing blog. This particular friend is not only a serious bargain shopper, but a woman of discerning, good taste, so I asked (begged, pleaded) if she would email me the list of gifts that have been favorites in her family. “I’ve started writing down a collection of ideas, including catalog clippings, several times,” she said, “but I just don’t have TIME to finish.”

Obviously what we moms need is more TIME. I hear time makes a great stocking stuffer, gift certificate and looks great wrapped under the tree. Right.

Okay, in lieu of actually doing the work of creating a gift idea blog myself, I figured I would share what I’ve found online. I’m not ruling out the idea of generating my own Christmas treasure blog, but for now, let’s steal from others.

another round of Bang

Of course, games are ALWAYS a hit in our family.

Not Made In China – you’ll love this, a blog dedicated to toys and other products that are NOT made in China. As toy recalls continue to mount up, it’s nice to know there are other options available.

Holiday Gift Guide – this blogging mother of seven shares some great ideas for Christmas.

Christmas Shopping Carnival – this blog post has links to 70 other blogs (each one opens in a separate window) where people share what they are buying this year. If you have time (there’s that word again), you might enjoy browsing through some of the blogs and see if anything inspires you.

Christmas Books – a homeschooling friend has a collection of favorite Christmas books (complete with cover shots) on her blog. I saw some old family treasures as well as some new ones I’m eager to read.

Christmas Countdown – this website helps you get organized and enjoy a stress-free Christmas.

Advent Bible Study for Children – this is a wonderful, inductive Advent Bible study. I have done it several years with the older three children. There are coloring pages, scripture passages to study, and questions to answer.

advent study

Unusual and Unique Gift Items – cause you never know when you might want to buy someone a duct tape wallet.

There you go, I’ve exhausted my knowledge on the subject of Christmas blogs. Now it’s up to you to share your creative ideas, favorite catalogs or blog links. This is a safe place to reveal gift purchases and secret plans, as I highly doubt your spouse or children will pop through and read the comments.

What is your favorite children’s gift idea for this year? What about for your husband or wife? Grandparents? I have an EMPTY gift closet so I can use all the suggestions I can get.


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Tuesday Tips for Parenting – Smile

new logo

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. (Proverbs 15:30)

I was getting in to the van one day a few months ago and I happened to catch a glimpse of my reflection in the car window. I was frowning. There was a little pinched frown in between my eyebrows.

Why was I frowning? The children were busy buckling themselves in their seats, we were off to an event of some sort, we weren’t terribly late, it wasn’t a Bad Hair Day, I had my faithful pink travel mug full of coffee; there was NO REASON for me to be frowning.

I began to sneak little peeks at myself, in mirrors and windows, throughout the week. I discovered that more often than not, my face arranged itself in a little frown. I was shocked. Is this the expression that greets my children and my husband on a daily basis? Is there some underlying trouble or concern in my life that would cause me to have a constant frown on my face? Am I doomed to be branded a sour puss (wrinkles and all)?

I decided right then and there that I was going to make a commitment to smiling. It’s the dumbest sounding thing, and I’m almost embarrassed to blog it, but it’s the truth. I made a decision to smile.

sarah and mama

You have to smile when you get hugs like this!

Whether I’m feeling cheerful or grumpy, I smile.
When I’m walking around doing errands, I smile.
I smile BEFORE someone smiles at me – I’m a proactive smiler.
I purposely compose my face into a smile throughout the day.

Of course, I forget. Of course I fuss at my children and frown and pout. Of course, I feel sad, angry or frustrated and don’t WANT to smile.

Life is stressful. Parenting is hard work that requires discipline and energy. Being a mother, especially a stay at home mom, often means performing menial chores over and over again, most of the time without thanks and certainly without pay. Squabbling, tattling children can exhaust even the most virtuous of Proverbs 31 women.

Smiling helps to tug my heart back to the right place of joy and thankfulness. Amazingly, my inward spirit almost always follows my outward expressions. Smiling at the children somehow helps to increase my patience with their antics and lower my frustration at their behavior. Smiling first and then speaking, results in a lowered tone of voice and a calmer disposition.

Smiling brings a balm of peace and sweetness that is powerful in the make-up of our family.

snuggly duo

A big hug after a YMCA workout.

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)

Project 365 – Day 323
My internet connection went down last night while I was blogging. Sorry this is late.

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