It’s Time for Some Rules

It is Time for Some Rules

Summer is coming to an end and the sigh heard around the country is the relief that the children are headed back to school.  Often, with the return to school comes a return to some structure in the home.  This usually means RULES.

One of the hardest lessons I learned was how I would often frustrate my children when I set rules. Making rules is important because rules hold the family together.  Rules help us understand the expectations within the family.  When the boundaries are clear and respected, this leads to a safe, predictable environment.  But if they are not set clearly and followed through with, chaos will follow.

Here are a few tips on setting rules:

#1- Make the rule positive.  The first rule for parents is to make sure that whatever you instruct your children to do, you say what you want, not what you don’t want.  Instead of saying, “don’t leave your clothes strung all over the bathroom,” say, “before you leave the bathroom after your bath, place all your dirty clothes in the clothes basket.”

#2- Make the rule clear- Next make sure the instructions are specific such as placing the dirty clothes into the clothes basket.  You might even need to show the child exactly how to do what you are requesting.  I was told one time by a preacher to “never over estimate the intelligence of your audience.”  I found that whenever I assumed my children knew what I wanted that it often led to many misunderstandings and much frustration.

Now, sometimes it is difficult to be clear.  For instance, Instead of saying, “don’t you ever talk to your sister like that again,” say, “when you speak to your sister or anyone else, say only words you would like to be said to you.”  That statement will no doubt need to be clarified by simply asking the child how they like to be talked to.  This is where you can address the issues of name calling, sarcasm, blaming, yelling, etc.

#3- Set the rule and the consequences prior to the offense. Throwing down a rule and leveling a consequence on the fly is usually unfair to the child.  We all like to know what is expected of us in advance and even what the consequences or rewards will be.

When you tell the child what you want, proceed to the “when/then” & “if/then” statements.  “When you pick up your dirty clothes and put them in the clothes basket after your bath, then you may watch TV for an hour.  If you do not, then you will not have TV privileges that night and you will go back and pick up your clothes and put them in the clothes basket.”  Ask the child to repeat what they heard to make sure they understand. The consequences should lead the child back to obeying the original request.

#4- Include the child in the negotiation.  The older the child is the more they should be incorporated in the negotiation of the expectation and the consequences.  Children, just like us, want to believe they have some control over their lives.  Letting them participate in the negotiations is one way to help this take place.  You will also find that the rules they have helped develop are more likely to be followed.

Sometimes those same rules that are set need to be renegotiated.   Never renegotiate with the child at the point of their disobedience.  Follow through with the stated consequence and then, at a later time, you may choose to negotiate.

#5- Follow through!  This is often the hardest part of parenting.  If they do not do what is expected, follow through with the consequences in a very businesslike way.  Avoid lectures, scolding, shaming, etc.  I can hear my mom now, “Oh, where have I gone wrong?” Simply state what the rule was and do what you said you would do.  No need to say anything else.  This is where your actions speak louder than your words.

If they want to argue or throw a fit, do not engage.  Anytime you argue with a child, you lose. Simply walk away.  For instance, you have a clear understanding with your child that only after taking out the trash would they be allowed to play their video game.  If they go and play their game before they had completed the task, simply go over to the TV, turn it off, and repeat the rule.  You must follow through with the consequence or they will not respect the rule.  If they try to argue or negotiate, ignore.  Simply restate the rule and walk away.

Now I have heard some parent educators say that when you restate the rule as above, stay in the room to assure obedience.  I think you have to decide which way works best.  Regardless of whether you leave or stay, do not engage in an argument.

These are some tips I have found to be important in parenting children. I have posted this article on  Feel free to leave your comments and questions there.  Good luck.  Be strong and courageous.  Summer is only nine months away.Image


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Discovering Your Strengths

It took me 25 years in the full-time, paid ministry before I discovered this truth.  It changed my life and the direction of my career.  It helped explain why my ministry had progress the way it had.  Many questions I had about me were answered.

In 2004, I read a book called, Now, Discover Your Strengths, by Marc Buckingham.  From the beginning it flew in the face of a principle I had always embraced.  I thought being a “generalist” was a good thing.  Any task presented to me while working in a church setting, I strove to learn about it and tried to satisfy the leadership’s expectations around it.  Instead, what I should have done was identify what my strengths were and excel in those.  But what were my strengths and how would they fit in a church setting?

At the time of the reading of this book, I was working for the fifth congregation.  I had noticed a certain pattern regarding my work that would take place at each of the congregations.  First, a conversation would begin between the congregation and me because they had a problem or a challenge.  Early in my career it was a youth ministry that was struggling or a family ministry that was looking to begin.  Later on it was a perceived need and  how those needs might be met through a ministry or program.  One congregation wanted me to teach young families, develop a lay counseling program, start small groups, and maintain a singles program.  Since I could do anything and everything (ha!), I took those challenges on with a lot of enthusiasm.

At the beginning of each of my hires, I would get a pretty clear understanding of the lay of the land.  I would interview key leaders, determine needs, develop a strategy, incorporate systems, develop training manuals and training when needed, and provide overall leadership.  I loved doing this!  It came so natural to me and it was a real adrenaline rush.  Each congregation would appreciate all that I had done and they were as happy with me as I was with them.

Then something would change.  I had not been able to determine if it was me or the congregation but we both became dissatisfied with each other.  I became bored with my job, and they began to wonder where my energies had gone.

I would try to offset my boredom with finding a new project that the congregation needed.  More often than not, they would tentatively agree and their partial buy-in would ultimately become apparent.  They would remind me that they had hired me for one job and that one job only.  They would voice their disappointment on my desire to change focus.

What I learned after taking the inventory found in “Now, Discover…” was that it wasn’t me that had changed.  My job had changed.  The job I was hired to do moved from a job of research, strategy, and development to a job of maintenance.  I hate maintenance.  Maintenance bores me to tears and is more of a weakness of mine than a strength. Then I realized that unless I enjoyed moving a lot, I was going to have to find a new line of work.  I have yet to find a church that would recognize these strengths and utilize them to capacity.

I was now challenged with finding a job that would allow me to use my strengths more often that managing my weaknesses.  So, I started my own business and see a steady stream of clients.  Each time a new client comes through the doors I am using my strengths.  I am also developing new curriculum and schedule training in areas of my expertise.  I love the new challenges that I face and I leave the maintenance business to my assistant, which is her strength.

So, if you are a minister that is bored with your job or are finding yourself moving to another church again, consider my story.  You might find that your problem is that you are not using your strengths most of the time or you think you need to be a generalist.  Either way, seek out your strengths or find a job where they are exercised daily.  You and the people with whom you work will appreciate it.

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Divorce Rate Among Christians

This article gives great news for Christian marriages.  Read on.

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August 15, 2013 · 3:00 pm

My Amish Adventure: My Last Thoughts

photo (14)I really hated to leave my friends but probably hated more coming back to the busyness that I have come to know as “life”. Janice and I drove for almost 20 hours before either one of us turned on the radio. We talked most of the way back home, sharing snippets of what we had experienced and what we wished we could incorporate in our lives. The reality is, the closer we got to Amarillo, the more distant and surreal our time in Ohio was. Something is desperately wrong with that picture.

We laughed again at how I had to translate “inadequate” for them. It is now known as “not enough dosage.” We also shook our heads in dismay at our culture that spends so much time staying “connected.” The Amish have no FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) in their culture. They connect better without Facebook and Smart Phones than all of us put together.

To be invited into the Amish culture was a high honor. They strive to be self-sufficient and mind their own business. To ask for help from the outside on the matters we had to deal with was a huge step. I hope I will have more times to build on this.

I was asked a number of questions from the young people in the community about my views on alcohol use and appropriate dating practices. In all cases I refused to answer and referred them back to the standards of the community. When I told Sam what I had done, he said, “I wouldn’t have expected anything else from you.” He trusted me after the time we met each other in Amarillo at the Hideaway and even more now.

I asked him why he asked me to come in the first place. He shook his head and said that there was no one in the Amish nation (around 250,000) that deals with the matters of growing relationships and restoring hearts filled with pain. The community can do a lot and it does it very well. He and the leaders were wise enough to know when they were over their heads.

My plans are to return at least two more times over this year to check in on their progress. Probably within the next six months. I told him that some very generous contributors had donated funds to see that this could take place. The German’s eyes filled with tears of appreciation. (FYI- I’m still accepting donations 🙂 )

I do a lot of dreaming. I did a lot of dreaming on the road back home. I thought of a Hideaway Northeast that could reach out to that part of country and provide the kind of service we do in Amarillo and in Atlanta, Ga. I know Steve & Rajan just fainted but I know they are used to my crazy ideas. I would want it close enough to my Amish friends where I could serve them. They certainly couldn’t afford my fees but I know my freezer would be filled and my pantry stacked high. I have had many dreams before and few of them become reality. But as long as I see such important needs that need attention, I will dream. I won’t stop dreaming until God says, “That’s the one!” Then He’ll open the doors, windows and the roof to have it come to pass.

Until then, I will pray that my friends in the little Amish community of over 300 in Ohio will love each other as they have done for years. That they will take what has been given to them and spread it to their larger nation. That alone will heal a lot of what ails them. Now physician heal thyself.

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My Amish Adventure: Day 6, Saying Goodbye

I woke up this morning with a question from Janice.  “Would you like breakfast tacos with salsa?” We had gone almost an entire week without salsa and Janice is in withdrawal.    We did eat at a local restaurant in Cambridge on Sunday.  When we left we were deciding whether to return later.  Janice commented that the food was good but nothing to write home about.  I disagreed.  How many other meals have you had that they served you fried chicken, mash potatoes, dressing, rolls, noodles and gravy over everything?

Her question about tacos reminded me I was headed back to my other reality in a couple of days. This day was a day filled with sadness.  We knew that this was the last day we would see each other for a very long time.

The day started with my visiting again with the group of leaders with which I had worked closely over the last few days.  They quizzed me about how to handle a variety of issues and always seemed to like the answers I gave.  They were a very receptive audience, ready to learn and make their community better.

An issue they have been dealing with is setting up standards for this relatively young community.  Most of the leaders are in their 40’s and want to keep the old traditions.  The younger ones in the community are pushing  for a relaxing of those standards.  Sounds very similar to conversations I have had with church leaders in the past.

Some of the questions before them is whether to allow gas powered engines to run the conveyor as they load hay in the barn.  They want to keep the simpler ways and use the horses when possible.  The constant pull to become more flexible with these rules is causing some tension and the leadership is forging a unified front.

Their way of life does have a strong appeal to those of us who grow weary of the busyness and clutter of our society.  I taught on parenting tonight and started with all I had observed that the Amish were doing well.  The children all have a purpose almost from the time they can walk.  They help the family survive by helping with chores.  There are no simple tasks as even the most mundane is important to keep the family functioning.  The cow needs milked twice each days; three meals cooked from scratch must be cooked; the dishes need washed and put up; the garden needs picked;  tomatoes canned; fruits are ready to be made into preserves; wood needs to be chopped; the horses need fed and shod; and the list continues.  Everyone is needed and is important.

They practice having all meals together.  They pray before the meal and at the end.  No one starts another chore until the meal is through and the prayer of thanksgiving is said.

They are not perfect parents, so my talk was received well.  They are not very affectionate and often bark out commands.  They can focus on what their children are not doing right instead of what they are doing well.  They get angry at their children and often say things that are not very nurturing.  Sounds a lot like us.

The constant challenge, especially when I am addressing a large group, is to make my illustrations something to which they can relate.  I had to constantly think on my feet.  I talked about how in our culture we don’t do dinner together very well.  It is like birds on a wire that come in and go as they please sometimes.  I asked what would happen if you didn’t milk your cow everyday.  They said that when you did get around to milking it, the cow might not be too friendly to you.  That was my opening to talk about touch other for sex.  They laughed so easily.  I think they were laughing with me and not at me.

After my talk for the evening was completed, there were lots of tears of sadness as we said goodbye.  Simple yet wonder gifts were shared.  We have bread, jam, plagues, poems, letters, fruit, tomatoes all coming back with us.  Pictures were hand drawn and painted.  These were real expressions of love that no sweater from Dillard’s could have even come close.

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This is Really Part B

Today was a long day.  We were finally able to come to a plan on how to help the family of focus.  The community has really wanted to do the right thing for them but just didn’t have the expertise to tackle it.  A plan now is set and I think it really looks good.  The mother is in much better shape than when I first arrived and will be able to handle the issues at hand in a good way.  I have told her that if at any time she feels confused or needs a resource to give me a shout.  In fact, I have told all the leaders the same thing which they deeply appreciate.

Janice didn’t get to make cheese or make bread but she did enjoy helping out in the kitchen with all the girls.  As you can tell by the picture I did get an opportunity to drive the buggy.  We will add this to our list of unique experiences along side of teaching in a auction barn, washing dishes in a dry sink, and cooking on a wood burning stove.  The picture is also special because of who took it.  The Amish are not to have a picture taken of themselves nor are they permitted to take pictures.  Someone did me a very special favor on the sly.

While I was sitting on the porch catching some cool air, Janice called me inside to see the “refrigerator”.  Jake and Fannie had tapped into a spring which has never stopped since they arrived 15 years ago.  They pipped it into their kitchen, collected the water into a custom built cabinet and used the water to keep their foods cool.  It wasn’t frigid but it was cool enough to keep things like Mayo, butter, etc..

The Amish were into “green” before we even knew what it was.  Everything is natural or organic.  All the breads are whole grains.  No pesticides or insecticides on their plants and no hormones in their animals.  This community is very much into oils and natural medicine when possible but also not afraid to visit a doctor when needed.

Tonight was a very hot night in the auction barn but at least the mic was working.  I had to change or redefine certain words so they could understand.  “Inadequate”, “humiliated” and “intelligent” were just a few that I could remember.  “Cooperation” is also a word that was foreign but not the concept.

The word that they did not understand that surprised me was “emotion”.  They knew “feelings” but not emotions.  I visited with one of the older men in the community (40’s) and he said the entire concept of designating words for feelings was hard.  He wanted to learn but it was like learning a different language.

They sang Amazing Grace tonight in English, I think just for us.  Janice looked in one of their German hymnals only to find no music notes.  They had another hymnal that was thicker and it had many hymns that she recognized, but still no notes.  We think the tunes have been handed down through the years.

The group is beginning to sense that our time together will soon be ending.  Thank you notes and special gifts are coming our way.  Some are small like loaves of bread and others are larger like the handwoven picnic basket.

Tomorrow will be our last day with them for while… only for a while.  Bishop Sam said that he hoped that we were feeling as welcomed and loved as he did when he was at The Hideaway Experience.  If he felt the way I am feeling, he really felt deeply loved.

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My Amish Adventure: Day 5, General Insights (Part B)


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