Stages of Parenting: Living with the Ebb and Flow of Relationships

Stages of Parenting: Going with the Natural Ebb and Flow of Relationships

The only constant in life is change. Have you heard that before? Just when you think you’ve gotten a handle on life, and you’ve figured out a good routine, and your relationships are on an even keel, something happens to upset that balance. Marriage has different stages. Jobs had different stages. There are even different stages of parenting!

This week I wrote a hard series on my blog: dealing with sexual dysfunction in marriage. So many women write to me torn up with the difficulties they have–difficulties they never thought they would experience. Things were going well, and then–BAM!
I’m glad that series is behind me, because it was hard to write. Yet that attitude–that life throws you a curve ball, and suddenly everything changes–is perhaps the root of the problem.

We expect things to stay the same. We think that SAME is the point of life.

What if it’s not? What if life is supposed to be about change, and adapting to new circumstances? After all, it’s only through change that we grow. And I don’t think God wants us to be all relaxed, with everything all figured out, with our perfect routines and schedules. He wants us to have to rely on Him, and that means that life will be in a constant state of flux. Perhaps if we expected that, and understood it, we wouldn’t interpret regular, everyday things as huge curve balls.

Let’s look at the different stages of parenting to show you what I mean.

Our relationships with our children change over time, and that is a natural thing.

When the kids were first born, they were definitely more mine than my husband’s, in many ways. I fed them. I was with them. He played with them, but not as much as I wanted him to, although he was a great dad.

My youngest even played strange with him (and he was around a lot). She just wanted me, pure and simple. It probably had something to do with that whole nursing thing. Daddy couldn’t do that!

Then they hit one, and could run and laugh and play, and they became Daddy’s Little Girls. They’d go to me if they had a boo boo, but they’d play with Daddy. He was the fun one.

When Katie hit two she decided she preferred me again, and wouldn’t let Daddy tuck her in. That was hard on all of us, but she grew out of that, too, and Daddy became the fun one again. She would wrestle with him, and sneak up on him to see if she could pinch him without him noticing, and things like that. I was still there for the daily things, like getting her dressed, and making her meals, and bathing her, and she always came to me with those types of concerns, but Daddy was her toy.

That isn’t to say he didn’t discipline the girls; just that when they were little, let’s say up to about 10, they preferred him to me when it came to having fun. They preferred me to him when it came to talking things over, but in general they liked him.

When they hit puberty, everything changed. So much of what Keith had done with them was physical: wrestling, hugging, tickling. All of a sudden he had a weird time tickling Becca, and he stopped. It took a few years to renegotiate the “new normal”. And now, as our oldest has a relationship of her own with a guy, Keith has had to learn to deal with someone else holding her hand. It’s quite the adjustment! I’m having a much easier time with it than he is.

Sometimes I get frustrated because I expect him to parent like I do, but I have to remember that first year of their lives, when he didn’t play with them quite as much. He was still trying to figure out where they fit in, and they needed me. I think we’re going through that again. He feels like he’s on the sidelines, because they have all these “girl issues”, and their relationship needs a kickstart. But it will get one; I just have to be patient with all of them.

If you’re wondering why you’re husband doesn’t play with the kids more, ask yourself: could it just be a stage?

Or what if one of your children is preferring you to him right now, and it’s really wearing on you? Again, it could be just a fleeting stage. Katie only played strange for a few weeks. She only made me put her to bed for a little while. And it usually coincided with something big in her life, like she was learning to walk or learning to use the potty. Once these stresses were over she was okay again.

It’s not just men who have ebbs and flows, too.

I have had periods in my parenting when I felt as if I preferred one girl over the other, and it always sent me through heaps of guilt.

But when I look back, I can see that one was going through a difficult transition time, and was naturally more difficult, or moody, or stubborn. And it’s not as if it’s always the same girl, either. Quite often I’ll feel naturally close to one of them for a year or so, and then it will flip. I try not to show favouritism, and it’s not as if I love one more, it’s just that there may be one that I find it easier to be with. As time has gone on, though, I find that it’s more because of developmental stages than it is with them as people. I really do enjoy who they’re becoming.

Looking back on my life I can see years when I’ve had more energy as a parent, and years when I haven’t. I can see years when I’ve been closer to God, and years when I’ve been farther. I think this is natural. Perhaps if we kept that view of life in mind–that it’s rarely a straight line, but more of a series of hills–we’d be easier on ourselves, on our kids, and on our mates. Let’s keep the long term in mind. In the long term, if we’re consistent parents, if we love our kids, and if we nurture them, they’re going to turn out well, most likely. They will be our friends when they are older. They will follow God. But in the short term we may feel like failures with one particular child, or we may resent our spouse because he’s not as involved anymore, or we may feel as if we are doing a bad job.

I think families are more flexible and forgiving than we give them credit for. When your children look back, sure they may remember that one time you totally lost your temper and said something mean. But they’ll also remember all the great times you had, and that will be their primary memory. In the long run, two years that Keith spends renegotiating his relationship with them in these tumultuous years, or several years that I spend trying to get out of a self-imposed wilderness, won’t matter so much. It’s the collection of memories that are important, not each individual one.

So remember those hills and valleys. It’s okay if you’re in a valley; a hill is up ahead. And it will get better. The only constant in life is change, and change is a good thing. So weather those valleys, and keep praying. Another change is up ahead!

Blessing Your Children: How to Spiritually Bless Those You Love

Blessing your Children: How to pray a spiritual blessing over them

Today’s guest post is a wonderful one by Pat Fenner about the Judeo-Christian concept of blessing your children. I love this, because when both of my girls turned 13 I held “blessing” parties for them, where I asked 13 adult women who were important in their lives to come and say a blessing over them–name gifts they saw in the girls, or give them a word of wisdom. Their friends were invited, too, and we turned it into such a fun spa night! It was lovely. And so I’d like to spread the word about this wonderful tradition of blessing our kids–and what a difference it can make in their lives.

Many years ago, our oldest son turned 13.  It was an inspiring time for us as parents, and a significant moment in our family’s history.

About a year prior, when my husband Paul and I were still coming to grips with having our first son enter the teenage years, we began thinking and talking and praying about what we could do to make that transition year memorable and important.  We headed to Scripture, and searched it to see what ceremonies or activities we could possibly adapt from the Hebrew tradition and the early church.  For years we had already been celebrating a Christian Passover as a family, so that wasn’t really a far stretch for us.  We also sought current or popular materials on the blessing, but were somewhat dismayed at what was available at the time.  The few books we could find were dull and dry; not really engaging and a bit too, um, conceptual.  Of course, God uses all things for good (Rom 8:28), so despite the dearth of information, the net result was something that not only truly reflected our family’s beliefs, but the vision and prayers we had for our son, and subsequent children.  How it has evolved and been used over the years is something totally beyond what we could ever have imagined.

Modern Milestones vs Spiritual Steppingstones

What events can you think of that signify a child growing up?

Let’s see, first boyfriend/girlfriend (although these days I hear parents talking that way about their pre-schoolers!  Ugh!), maybe first date, getting a driver’s license, first drink, ears pierced (I guess this one could be for boys, too, these days), sweet-16 birthday, registering to vote or enter the Armed Forces…

These have become what I call modern milestones.  And while they may indeed have some significance, at best they are events on a timeline.  In and of themselves, they add no character to our children’s lives, provide no preparation for their future, and neither strengthen nor build their faith or journey with the Lord.  They are both temporal and temporary.

These modern milestones quite often occur during what we call “adolescence”, roughly between the ages of 13 and 20, when children undergo physiological changes and begin to transition their roles in the family.  (Interestingly enough, this period in life did not even exist as a concept prior to the late 19th century, was not given serious study until the early 20th century, and is generally considered to be an American “discovery”.  But that’s a whole ‘nother post…)

Spiritual steppingstones, however, are more eternal in nature.  They are more a matter of building on and building up than simply marking time.  Daily blessings or an even-bigger and more-celebrated occasion, can become a part of the fabric of your family’s life, establishing routines or customs that can help create a unique family history and identity, among other things.

Why Is It important to Bless our Children?

What are the specific benefits for them?  I believe there are 5 significant ones:

1) Blessing them builds their character and enlarges their life vision

2) Blessing your children encourages them to know you’re giving their future your intentional attention

3) Blessing your kids conveys your dreams and hopes and belief in their future

4) Blessing them daily encourages them to seek and find daily blessings in their own lives

5) Giving a blessing is a tool to grow a deeper and more “real” relationship with them

Responding to The Call

Praying for your Children

As parents, we have not only the right but the privilege to pray for and bless our kiddos, and we can find many ways to speak blessings over them frequently and informally.

1) On a daily basis, we can pray for our children by name during our quiet time.  If there are particular issues that you are working through with them, find a concordance, or use the online one here, and locate Scripture passages that speak to that struggle.  Lift them up to the Father by name.  He already knows, of course, but it’s good for us to ask on their behalf.

2) You can then share that info with your kids, and let them know what you’ve done/are doing!  Tell them how and what you’ve prayed for them (see #1) over a meal, or while you’re sitting together in the family room at the end of the day.  Follow-through by asking them about those situations and how you can further pray for them.  Reassuring them in this way that their issues/problems/requests are important enough for YOU to pray about most definitely blesses them…

3) Decide for yourself the daily events that you’ll choose to use as a blessing opportunity.  For example, when they leave for school in the morning, before practice or rehearsal in the afternoon, at supper, before bedtime.  Locate a Scripture that reflects your dreams and desires for them, or one that is relevant (see #1), replace their name in the appropriate sections and speak it aloud over them!  The first few times may be a little uncomfortable, but I promise that if you persevere, not only will these times become precious to you both, but they will start to remind you if you forget.

A Notable Spiritual Steppingstone

To get back to my opening story, all those years ago, Paul and I did fashion a beautiful ceremony that we have subsequently replicated with unique touches for each of our other children.  It has become a family tradition to celebrate their 13th birthday in this manner.   Referred to in our family simply as “the Blessing Service”, each child has spoken of it (and 1 still anticipates it!) as a memorable and pivotal time in their young lives.

Too much to describe here, I’ve included the information on that celebration in a special booklet I have available on our website, Mom’s Morning Coffee.   Just shoot us an email and we’ll be glad to send you out the free, downloadable document in PDF form, filled with resources and references, the format we use for our family’s service, and sample prayers of blessing.

Blessing your children is a wonderful way to encourage and build them up, and a great tool for releasing God’s best in their lives!

Pat FennerPat Fenner is a Yankee city-girl who has been adopted by the sleepy, sunny south. Married for 28 years and the mother of 5, she woke up one day to discover she reached the stage of life where she is the “older woman” described in Titus 2:3-5. She owns Mom’s Morning Coffee.com with her good friend Candy, and enjoys writing, homeschooling and doing whatever the Lord puts on her plate each day! You can reach her via email and look for her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!

Keeplets to memorize Bible Verses

Does God Make a Difference Part 1: Our Expectations

Does God Make a Difference: A look at how Christians often appear insecure that God will actually workDoes God make a difference in our lives?

Every Friday I like to write a more personal reflection piece on the things I’ve been mulling over. I’ve written about a bunch of different things lately–why teenagers rebel, women getting burnt out from church, why we yell at our kids–and as all of this has been spinning around in my head, sort of like laundry in a washing machine, turning upside down and back and forth, I’ve started to see some common threads.

And one thing that occurred to me is this:

Deep down, we’re supremely scared that God doesn’t make a difference. Deep down, we’re supremely scared that we’re in this alone, and we have to make decisions alone, and all of this rests on our shoulders.

Let’s look at the church example and the teenage rebellion example for a moment to see what I mean.

Our Churches Give off the Message that They are Extremely Insecure

Saying No to Church ActivitiesIn my article on women starting to say “no” to church activities, we had a great discussion in the comments about what sorts of activities really are vital to a church, and what sorts of activities are more like “make work” projects, that we do because churches have always done these things and there really is no way around it. But then I had a few emails that helped me see things in a different light. Jan Cox, an author friend of mine, asked this:

Why is it that we need food at every Bible study? If I go to a Bible study at 7:30 at night or at 11:00 in the morning there’s always the expectation that there will be food. But when I’m at home I eat three meals a day. I don’t eat at 11:00 or 7:30. So why is it that we always have to make and bring food? Shouldn’t the Word of God be enough?

I think that’s an excellent question, and it gets maybe to the heart of the matter. Food is a wonderful thing, and community is often built around sharing a meal. But why do we bring food when food isn’t necessary?

Maybe it’s because we’re trying to make the activity more attractive, because we’re secretly afraid that if there’s not food, and there’s not a “fellowship” time, and there’s not something “fun”, that people won’t come.

It’s almost like an incentive.

Nowhere is this more apparent in the church than in youth groups, which are little microcosms of the wider church. Youth group is set up to attract kids and make them stay by making it FUN. We don’t want to overburden them with Bible studies. We want to give them lots of messages on how God loves them, and not quite so many on holiness. We want to do lots of flashy games! We want high energy, high power, high numbers!

But isn’t this really saying, “we’re afraid that kids won’t show up unless we make every week like a party”? (My 16-year-old just made a tongue-in-cheek video on the 5 Things She Hates about Youth Group, and I think you’d enjoy it, because it gets to this issue. We give a watered down message and a ton of games, and ultimately, is that effective? I know she’d appreciate it if you watched it and SHARED it!)

There’s a very fine balance between creating a great, nurturing community at a church and being so scared that people will leave that you have to make sure that there’s a ton of energy and activity.

We certainly need fun things at church, and we certainly need some food. But I think the wider point is still there: are we throwing these activities and doing these things to try to keep the ones we’ve roped through the doors in the doors, or are we really wanting to grow in Christ? Because sometimes we give the impression that it’s the former. Like the people get through the door, but then it’s our responsibility to make sure we don’t lose any (even though it was God the Father who went out and found the lost sheep). And we seem awfully scared that we’ll lose people if we don’t have the best worship music, the best pews, the right colour carpet, and the right food at coffee time. (Though I love the coffee bars at many churches!)

We Assume Teenagers Will Rebel

Why Do Teenagers Rebel? A 19-year-old explains how it doesn't HAVE to happen!Now let’s turn to the teenage rebellion issue. My 19-year-old’s post from last month on why she didn’t rebel has gone completely viral. It took all of us by surprise, and she’s done radio interviews and been offered internships and all kinds of things since that post came out. It’s kind of ironic, too, because she wrote it in about 15 minutes when she was bored at a university statistics class. So it’s not like we planned it or anything.

But what she set out to argue was this:

Teenagers do not have to rebel. Too many parents treat rebellion as if it’s to be expected, and it’s absolutely not. Many teens won’t rebel, and we shouldn’t expect that they will.

I think that’s a perfectly valid thing to argue. But in the comments many people turned the argument on its head, as if she were arguing this:

If you do these things your kids are guaranteed NOT to rebel.

She wasn’t saying that at all, and I did think that she made it clear. But I’ve noticed a really funny phenomenon on this blog. Whenever I post about how to parent toddlers or how to discipline school-aged children, the comments all revolve around the techniques. But when I post about how to parent teenagers, the comments shift. Suddenly they’re all about, “ah, but you can do all of these things and kids can still turn out badly!” It’s like you’re not allowed to share “best practices” for how to parent teens in case we make people feel guilty.

I just sense that Becca’s first argument is still very much the underlying tone of how we approach parenting teens.

“There are no guarantees. Kids can, and often do, mess up. This has nothing to do with you, though.” Doesn’t this sound like we’re trying to give God an “out”? I believe in you, God, but if it’s not in your plan that my kids stay Christian, that’s okay. It’s not really a prayer of faith, is it?

I do agree that there are no guarantees, but it’s also a matter of emphasis. There are no guarantees that I won’t be hit by a car or get cancer tomorrow, either, but I’m operating on faith that God has me in His perfect plan. And so I don’t worry about those things. If they were to happen, I’d deal with it because God would carry me and He would be with me. But I’m not going to assume the worst right now because that isn’t biblical and it does nothing to help my life.

Yet are many of us walking on default, assuming the worst?

So let me ask you today: are you living out your Christian life as if you have faith that God is in control, knowing that you can hand things over to Him. If something bad happens, He’ll carry you, but you don’t focus on the bad. Do you assume that God will actually make a difference in your life?

Or do you assume that God will only make a difference if we work our hardest and do our best and spin those little legs as much as we can, because ultimately it all rests on us? And so it’s likely we’ll fail. It’s expected we’ll fail. And faith isn’t something we live out. We give lip service to it, but we don’t live it.

God should make a difference. If He doesn’t, what’s the point of all this? But God won’t make a difference until we start living by faith, knowing that He can do His own PR work (we don’t have to). He has the power to draw others to Himself (we don’t have to). He has the power to hold others in the palm of His hand (we don’t have to). He has a perfect plan for us and our loved ones (and we don’t have to worry about it, knowing that if we hit some major bumps in the road, He will then be there for us).

Does God makes a difference? Do you live like He does? If not, what will it take to get you there? Let’s talk in the comments!

Next week I’m going to talk about whether or not God makes a difference in our marriages. I want to explore the fact that in too many cases He doesn’t–and that’s because we’re not letting Him. I think secretly we’re scared that God WON’T make a difference, and so we crowd Him out and ignore what He says. And if you want to watch that video that my daughter did, here it is! (Or you can watch it full size on YouTube).

Teaching Kids to Cook: Spending Quality Time while Teaching Life Skills

Teaching Kids to Cook Spending Quality Time while Teaching Life SkillsI’m a big believer in teaching life skills to kids. I think too many moms do too much for their kids, which ultimately does them a disservice. When they move out they don’t know how to fend for themselves, but they also grow up feeling a little entitled, since little is expected of them.

When Jillian St. Clair asked if she could sponsor this post to share about her new resource, My Very Own Cookbook, I agreed, because cooking alongside my girls has been one of my most fun memories of their childhood!

I grew up with three sisters and a brother. The kitchen in our home was not very big, so not surprisingly we were not allowed to do much in it. When I got married I was not confident with my cooking skills even though I majored in Home Economics in high school.


My mother, aunt and grandmother cooked many delicious meals that I don’t know how to prepare. I don’t want the next generation to follow in my footsteps, so I’ve created My Very Own Cookbook for parents to share time with their children teaching them how to cook. It’s also a wonderful record of time shared with loving relatives who will help them become capable, self-confident adults.

There are many “grown-ups” who have no experience in preparing nutritious, healthy meals for themselves or their families.

Together, parents and young children can create memories of learning useful, cooking and management skills. Perhaps you were given many gifts/presents as a child but lack the training and confidence to care for a home, keep up with the laundry, and prepare delicious, healthy dishes or even how to set a table.

If You Didn’t Learn These Skills, It’s Not Your Fault!

None of these skills come naturally to any of us. We must count on others to help us learn them and this learning can begin as early as 4-years old.  My grandchildren are 10, 8 and 4. When we’ve enjoyed family vacations, we’ve prepared recipes together. Sadly, many children don’t get to spend much time with their parents. This is something they especially crave when they are young. Time passes quickly; if we’re not careful, we may miss the chance to make an important impact in our children’s lives.

When we don’t cook from scratch, too, we tend to eat out more. Not only is that far less nutritious and far more expensive, but it also means that you lose the potential to really bond as a family the way families used to do around the dining room table.

Beware of Technology Undermining the Dinner Hour

Often when we’ve eaten in a fast food restaurant I see parents texting instead of sharing conversations with their children. My concern is that this pattern will go too far and when these children are pre-teens or teenagers, they will no longer want to spend much time talking with or listening to their parents. Cooking and eating together creates opportunities to share important daily events in our lives. Studies show children who share meals with their parents make better decisions and earn higher grades.

As parents, it’s our responsibility to expose our kids to everything we can that will help them succeed in all aspects of their lives. Good manners, respect for others, kindness, acceptance and patience are learned behaviors. Who else is best to teach these than the parents who love them?  Setting up this kind of relationship early will benefit both the children and their parents. Knowing your children can care for themselves is a huge blessing!

The Best Gift of All from Teaching Kids to Cook: Quality Time With Your Kids

Research shows that working parents spend only 19 minutes a day of quality time caring for their kids. Perhaps you have heard this scripture verse before:

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.

The Food Network has featured many young children taking an interest in preparing recipes and even full meals. This early training will be very valuable to them as they mature into adulthood.

My daughters were 7 and 10 when I became a single mom. I was a stay at home mom until that time and when going back to work, the girls pitched in and helped take care of the laundry, their rooms and the home we lived in. Today, they have careers and homes of their own. Thankfully, they spend a great deal more than 19 minutes a day with their children.

As parents, we can help our children become adults by teaching them many things they’ll need to know so they can care for themselves when they leave home. Most parents with grown children remember and cherish the special times they’ve spent with their children. Teaching children how to be independent and self-sufficient is a precious gift.

My Very Own Cookbook is a blank recipe journal encouraging children to share time with their parents and other loved ones. Filling in the details of a recipe being prepared with help from loved ones will be a cherished gift and record of special times spent together with loved ones and a timeless record for their future children to enjoy.

Want to start teaching your children to cook? Download Jillian’s FREE ebook: 15 Recipes You Can Make with Your Kids–and get started today!

Why It’s Okay to Think About Sex

Thinking about Sex: Hey, married women, maybe we should do this more!

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! And today best-selling author Shannon Ethridge is joining us with an excerpt from her new book, The Passion Principles, where she shares about how thinking about sex is perfectly okay:

In the summer of 1999 we took our young children for an afternoon outing to the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, Texas. As we entered an area called the “Texas Petting Zoo,” Erin and Matthew were thrilled over the thought that they’d actually be getting hands-on experience with the animals. Our first stop was the Longhorn cattle pen, where several dozen parents and children waited their turn to pet the new baby calf, which just happened to be tucked up underneath his mama’s udders for an afternoon snack.

My three-year old son watched this scene in amazement, then boldly inquired of me in his loudest outdoor voice, “Mama, did you do that to me when you was a cow?”

Every adult within earshot giggled, and I had to join them. It was an honest question, so I gave an honest answer and replied, “Matthew, I actually did feel like a cow when I was doing that to you!” The giggling turned to guffaws of laughter, and thus a precious memory was made that afternoon.

Not only did Matthew learn how baby calves and baby boys were fed by their mothers, he also learned how many baby animals are made. It seemed like every cage we encountered was filled with animals in heat. The giraffes were necking, the gazelles were horny, the camels were humping. It was like someone spiked the hay with some powerful aphrodisiac. And of course, there was always an inquiring child in the crowd wanting to know, “What are those two animals doing?”

Although humans are certainly on a much higher intellectual and spiritual plane than animals, our basic physical instincts are really not very different. We have four main activities that we naturally gravitate toward over and over—eating, drinking, sleeping, and sexually connecting with our mates. It’s simply how God wired us, and it’s a beautiful thing if you consider the big-picture purposes He had in mind.

Why did God wire us for hunger and thirst? So we wouldn’t starve to death or get dehydrated and make ourselves sick. So our bodies could thrive and manufacture the energy we need to function when we respond to these natural instincts with healthy food and water.

Why did God wire us for sleep? So our bodies and brains could rest and get reenergized for another day of living for His glory. So we could go about our days feeling refreshed, at least until our batteries needed to be recharged once again.

Why did God wire us for sex? Just to name a few reasons:

• to bring beautiful babies into the world,
• so our bodies and brains could experience intense physical pleasure,
• to release stress and tension,
• to medicate emotional pain,
• so our hearts and spirits would feel intimately connected and passionately bonded to another human being,
• so we would feel passionately loved, and have a powerful way of communicating to another that he or she is deeply loved as well.

Most of us can accept our hunger, our thirst, and our need for sleep as perfectly natural, but the fact that we’re sexual creatures can be hard to accept, at least not without a certain degree of guilt. But do we ever feel guilty for experiencing true hunger several times a day? Or genuine thirst? Do we ever feel sinful for growing sleepy every eighteen hours or so? Of course not. It’s how our bodies function, and, like those zoo animals, we don’t waste much time analyzing it at all. We just feed those needs in order to satisfy ourselves.

So why do we waste time and energy analyzing, justifying, fretting, or feeling guilty over our sexual needs and desires? Seems silly, doesn’t it?

I believe the reason we worry about our sexuality is because we have somehow bought the lie that sex is dirty, shameful, base, animalistic, and hedonistic rather than natural, instinctual, spiritual, sublime, and holy. As a result, some of us have lost our ability to accept, embrace, or celebrate that facet of our humanity. Instead, we may shudder with shock and embarrassment to seriously consider how often our brains entertain sexual thoughts. In fact, many of us wish we could just flip a switch and never think of sex at all. Some have actually mastered a variety of techniques that allow them to do just that—to ignore and neglect their natural, God-given sexuality altogether. While I’m certainly not trying to shame anyone, I think the fact that we’ve grown so adept at absolutely starving our natural sexual desires is, indeed, a crying shame.

But what if we learned to accept the fact that God has created us as sexual human beings, and a natural, healthy sex drive comes part and parcel with that blueprint? That sexual thoughts are as natural as a hunger pain? Or a dry mouth? Or sleepy eyes? What if we could grow as comfortable with and ecstatic over a delightful afternoon tryst in our marriage bed as we are with, say, a plate full of our favorite holiday foods, a cup hot cocoa or apple cider, and an afternoon nap to ease the calorie-induced coma? Yes, it is possible to enjoy sex as freely as we indulge in satisfying these other natural cravings!

We must grasp the fact that God placed these human desires in us for a reason—for many divine reasons, actually. If we had no internal compass pointing us toward food, couldn’t we starve to death? If we had no recurring thoughts of drinking liquids, we’d dehydrate within forty-eight hours! No natural gravitational pull toward a pillow means we’d become physically exhausted to the point of delirium within a few short days. Although individuals can live without sex for long periods of time, or even a lifetime if they so choose, let’s think in terms of the bigger picture.

What if humans in general didn’t have any sort of sexual appetite at all? What would happen? Not only would we become painfully disconnected and isolated from one another, but the human race would eventually die off within a century or so! Heaven forbid!

God gave us natural, healthy appetites for everything that our minds, bodies, and souls need. These appetites guarantee our optimum survival. As such, these appetites are certainly a blessing, not a burden. So let’s embrace, cherish, and celebrate them fully!

PRAYER: Thank you, God, for healthy sexual appetites, and for godly ways to satisfy them! May husbands and wives both find great pleasure in one another, and may our marriage relationships bring you great glory as we learn to love each other fully and unreservedly!


Shannon EthridgeShannon Ethridge is a best-selling author, speaker, and certified life coach with a master’s degree in counseling/human relations from Liberty University. She has spoken to college students and adults since 1989 and is the author of 21 books, including the million-copy best-selling Every Woman’s Battle series. She is a frequent guest on TV and radio programs and mentors aspiring writers and speakers through her BLAST Program (Building Leaders, Authors, Speakers & Teachers). Her most recent book is The Passion Principles. Find more information on Shannon here.

Christian Marriage Advice
Now it’s your turn! Have any marriage thoughts for us today? Link up below by putting the URL of a MARRIAGE post into the linky. And be sure to link back here so other people can read all these great marriage articles! It’s a great way to build traffic for your blog, and I often highlight some posts on Facebook and Twitter, so link up below!



Top 10 Effects of Porn on Your Brain, Your Marriage, and Your Sex Life

The Effects of Porn--a Must Read!

Pornography is ravaging marriages. In our culture porn is treated as if it’s harmless, but it’s not. Porn will wreck the arousal process in your brain and end up wrecking your sex life in marriage. The effects of porn are devastating.

I receive emails everyday from women who are desperate to fix their marriages, but they don’t know what to do. They married men who never seem to want sex. Or their husbands are never satisfied. Or their husbands call them boring or unattractive. And the root of many of these problems is porn.

Here’s the really devastating part: Because so much of what porn does to you happens chemically in the brain, the porn use doesn’t have to be going on NOW to have these effects. A boy who grew up on porn in his teens, and then managed to stop watching it in his twenties (with occasional relapses) will still suffer from many of these things.

The good news: There is healing! You can rebuild those chemical pathways to arousal. But first we have to understand 10 ways that porn affects the brain, and thus wrecks many couples’ sex lives. And so today, on Top 10 Tuesday, I thought I’d share:

Top Ten TuesdayThe Top 10 Effects of Porn on Your Sex Life

And remember–women use porn, too! While some of these apply just to men, many of them apply to both genders.

1. Porn Means You Can’t Get Aroused by “Just” Your Spouse

Do you remember reading about Pavlov and his dog in Psychology? Pavlov would give the dog a nice juicy steak, but right before he did he would ring a bell. He conditioned the dog to associate ringing the bell with getting great food. Eventually Pavlov took the food away, but kept ringing the bell. The dog kept salivating at the bell, even though there was no steak, because the dog associated the bell with the food.

The same thing happens when we see porn. Porn stimulates the arousal centers in the brain. When it’s accompanied by orgasm (sexual release through masturbation), then a chemical reaction happens and hormones are released. In effect, our brains start to associate arousal with an image, an idea, or a video, rather than a person.

When you don’t watch porn and save yourself until marriage, then all of those chemicals and hormones are released for the first time when you’re with your spouse, and it causes you to bond intensely (and sexually) to your spouse. But when you spend a ton of time teaching your brain to associate arousal and release with pornography, your brain can’t associate arousal and release with a person anymore. Either you have to fantasize about the porn, and get those images there, or you have to watch porn first. Often people can “complete the act”, but it’s not intense for them the way porn is. You’ve rewired your brain, and now you’re salivating at the wrong thing.

2. Porn Wrecks Your Libido

It’s only natural, then, that many people who use porn in the past, or who use porn in the present, have virtually no libido when it comes to making love to their spouse. The spouse is not what turns them on, and so the natural drive that we have for sex is transferred somewhere else. I get so many emails from young women in their twenties who say, “my husband and I were both virgins when we married, and I thought he’d want sex all the time. But after our honeymoon sex went to maybe twice a month, and that’s only if I pressure him. He says he just isn’t interested.” With so many men growing up on porn, this is just to be expected.

3. Porn Makes You Sexually Lazy

In porn, everyone is turned on all the time. You don’t have to make any effort to arouse someone; it’s automatic. There is no foreplay in porn. And so if your spouse isn’t aroused  you start to think that it’s somehow their fault. There’s no expectation that we will have to “woo” someone or be affectionate and help jumpstart that arousal process. It’s almost as if we approach sex as two different beings and we’re just using each other, rather than thinking of each other. And thus we never learn how to please the other or become a good lover because we’re always thinking that the other is somehow “frigid”. Sex is about getting my needs met; it isn’t about meeting someone else’s needs or experiencing something wonderful together.

4. Porn Turns “Making Love” into a Foreign Concept

Those arousal centers and pleasure centers in our brain are supposed to associate sex with physical pleasure and a real sense of intimacy. But the intimacy doesn’t happen with porn, and so the pleasure is all that registers. Thus, sex becomes about the body, and not about intimacy. In fact, the idea of being intimate isn’t even sexy anymore; anonymous is what’s sexy. We may call “having sex” “making love”, but in reality they aren’t necessarily the same thing. Someone who has used porn extensively often has a difficult time experiencing any intimacy during sex, because those arousal and pleasure centers zero in only on the body.

God made sex to actually unite us and draw us together; He even gave us a bonding hormone that’s released at orgasm so that we’d feel closer. But if that hormone is released when no one is present, it stops having its effects. Sex no longer bonds you together.

Making love and having sex are not necessarily the same thing.

5. Porn Makes Regular Intercourse Seem Boring

An alcoholic drinks alcohol for the “buzz”. But after a while your body begins to tolerate it. To get the same buzz, you need more alcohol. And so the alcoholic begins to drink harder liquor, or drink larger quantities.

The same thing happens with porn. Because porn teaches us that sex is all about the body, and not about intimacy, then the only way to get a greater “high” or that same buzz is to watch weirder and weirder porn. I think most of us would be horrified if we saw what most porn today really is. It isn’t just pictures of naked women like there used to be in Playboy; most is very violent, extremely degrading, and very ugly.

“Regular” intercourse is actually not depicted that often in porn, and so quite frequently the person who watches porn starts to get a warped view of what sex really is. And often they start to want weirder and weirder things.

Now, I’m not against spicing things up, and I do think lots of things can be fun! But when we’re wanting “more” because we’ve programmed ourselves to think “the weirder the sexier”, there’s a problem.

6. Porn Makes it Hard to Be Tender When You Have Sex

It’s no wonder, then, that people who use porn often  have a hard time being tender when they have sex. Sex tends to be impersonal, rushed, and “forced”. I’m absolutely not saying that all porn users rape their wives, but porn itself is often violent. There’s no foreplay. There’s no waiting to arouse someone. It’s just taking what you want.

Being tender means to be loving. It’s to give and to express affection. Because these things aren’t paired with sex in the porn users brain, tenderness and sex no longer go together.

7. Porn Trains You to Have Immediate Gratification and Have a Difficult Time Lasting Long

With porn, when you’re aroused you reach orgasm very quickly, because porn users tend to masturbate at the same time. Thus, orgasm tends to be very fast. The porn user hasn’t trained his body to draw out sex so that his spouse can get pleasure; his body is programmed to orgasm quickly. Many porn users, then, suffer from premature ejaculation.

Some porn users go to the other extreme when they start suffering from erectile dysfunction. They have a difficult time remaining “hard” enough during sex because the stimulation isn’t enough. In their case, orgasm can take an eternity, if it’s possible at all.

8. Porn Gives You a Warped View of what Attractive Is

Sex is supposed to bond you physically, emotionally and spiritually with your spouse. But if porn has made the chemical pathways in your brain go haywire, then sex becomes only about the body. And porn shows you that only certain body types are attractive. It’s not about the whole person; it’s just a certain type of person.

If a woman gains even ten pounds, then, she’s no longer attractive, and the porn user has an honest to goodness difficult time getting aroused, because he associates only a certain body type with arousal.

9. Porn Makes Sex Seem Like Too Much Work

All of this combines to often make sex with your spouse too much work. You’re not aroused; you find your spouse not attractive; sex is blah; and sex requires you to make an effort for your spouse, while you’re used to immediate gratification.

Thus, many people who use porn retreat into a life of masturbation. Even if the porn use stops, they often find it easier to “relieve” themselves in the shower than to have to work at sex.

10. Porn Causes Selfishness

All of this causes a spiral of selfishness where the person ignores his spouse’s needs and is focused only on getting what he wants, and getting it instantly. Often this manifests itself in other areas of the relationship as well, where the spouse becomes annoyed if they have to wait for something, or if they don’t get what they want. Porn has sold them the message: you deserve pleasure when you want it. You shouldn’t have to work to get what you want. Your needs are paramount.

It’s no wonder that shows up in other areas of your relationship.

People who think that porn is harmless and simply helps people “get in the mood”, or “relieves frustration”, are kidding themselves. The chemical processes in our brains are really complicated, and when you start messing with them, it’s really difficult to develop a healthy sexuality again.

However, it absolutely can be done! Later this year I’ll be working on an ebook about it, but for now, this post may help:

Marriage Recovery after a Pornography Addiction

Dayspring My Chains are Gone

Also, let’s remember: too often we tell teenagers not to use porn because it’s a sin, and they’re not supposed to lust. I think we need to start telling them these ten things. If you want amazing sex when you’re older, don’t use porn now. If you do, you’re setting yourself up for a world of hurt. Ask teenagers, “who wants amazing sex when you’re married?”, and pretty much everyone will put up their hand. Then tell them: Use porn now, and you’ll make that almost impossible, without a major work of God in your life. Tell them the truth.

Covenant EyesAnd make sure that in your house everyone–girls, boys, women, and men–are protected from temptation. I’m a big supporter of Covenant Eyes. No, we can’t rely on it alone, and yes, we need a work in the heart. But if we need to reduce the temptation so that God has time to work, I think that’s worth doing. Covenant Eyes sends emails to people of your choice to tell you when someone has accessed an inappropriate site. If kids know their parents will get an email if they try to find porn, or if men and women know their accountability partners will get emails, they’ll be less likely to surf inappropriate stuff.

Show Grace

One last word–please show grace to those who have been ravaged by porn. Especially if the associations in the brain happened when they were young, these people often want to change the most, but it seems really helpless. Rather than pointing the finger in blame, join together to fight the problem together!

Porn is serious. It wrecks people’s sex lives, it makes people selfish, and it ultimately wrecks marriages. Let’s spread the word, and fight against it!

UPDATE: I’ve been asked in the comments and on Facebook to provide citations, so I’ve created this infographic with a few. There’s tons more research at Fight the New Drug, and many other sites.

Top 10 Effects of Porn on Your Marriage and Sex Life: Click through for tons more information and explanations.

How Married Couples Can Help Single Moms

Today Latoya Edwards, homeschooling single mom and blogger, guest posts about how married couples can be a blessing to the single moms in their midst.

 

how married couples can help single momsI learned a lot about marriage when mine started to fall apart.

It’s strange how that happens sometimes. God uses our difficult situations to teach us important lessons.  I was blessed to have some very loving and supportive friends in my life during that hard time. I know that not everyone has that when going through a divorce.  People often ask me how they can best help/support single moms like me. Today I want to share four ways that married couples can be a blessing to single parents and those whose marriage may be in crisis.

1. Prayer

Prayer is one thing that you can never have too much of. There were many people praying for me as I walked the difficult path of divorce for 3.5 years. And there have been even more praying for me since.  If you know of a family that is in crisis or a single mom or dad pray for them. Pray for healing and restoration for all involved. Pray for peace in the home and comfort for the children.  If you have the chance to ask the family for specific prayer needs great! And don’t forget to pray about other ways to be a blessing.

2. Be a Mentor

One of the things that was sorely lacking in my marriage was a godly example of what a husband and wife were called to do. No one sat us down to walk us through the God required of each of us in our marriage. And no one was there to show us the godly way to resolve our issues.  If you know a newly married couple or a couple that is having some trouble consider mentoring them. Walk with them on the journey of marriage.

3. Continue to be a Source of Support

I can’t speak for single dads but as a single mom I need lots of help and support. There’s no man in my home or someone that is around on a consistent basis to be a role model for my boys.  There are things that I struggle with because I’m a woman and don’t truly understand all the inner workings of boyhood.  I have a friend that has adopted my little family. She and her husband pray for us regularly. They have us over for dinner and her husbands takes some time to pour into my boys spiritually.  There are no words that can express how much that blesses me.  Divorce is hard and the hard part isn’t over when the judge signs off on the final judgment.  Single parents need all the support we can get.

4. Be an Example

Invite a single mom and her children over for dinner. There are many reasons for this. You give her a night off of kitchen duty. You also have a chance to see if there are any needs that you can minister to. But another thing that is really important (and often overlooked) is that you have the opportunity to show the children in that family what  God intended a family to look like.

There are all those scary statistics about children (especially boys) raised by single moms.

Want to help with those numbers?

  • Be an example.
  • Give those children a chance to see a husband loving and supporting his wife and children.
  • Show them a wife serving her family joyfully.
  • Let them see children, who respect and obey their parents.

It makes a difference!

When my boys started asking me what a man was supposed to do, it was hard for me to answer. I couldn’t point them to their father at the time because he was not walking with God. But I was able to point to my friend’s husband and say, “You see how hard Mr. X works? He is providing for his family and he always makes sure to do fun stuff with his children even when he is tired.”

There are many other ways to for married couples to be a blessing to single parents. What would you add to the list?

Latoya EdwardsLaToya Edwards is a single, homeschooling mama of two boys. She writes about her journey as a single parent, homeschooler, special needs parent and more at  www.LaToyaEdwards.net.

When Are You An Adult?

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week let’s talk about what it means to be an adult. This week we’ve been talking about how to raise great kids, and my own daughters have chimed in with my 16-year-old explaining why she’s not dating in high school and my 19-year-old explaining why she didn’t rebel as a teen. I thought this was a good way to finish up the series.

When are you an adult.Canadians rejoiced loudly last week when we were victorious in Olympic hockey. Facebook was taken over for 48 hours by a constant barrage of “Way to Go, Canada!” while #WeAreWinter surged on Twitter.

In the midst of the revelry, though, an American story about freestyle skiing halfpipe gold medalist David Wise caught my attention.

Wise is 23-years-old, and has been married for several years to his wife Alexandra. They have a two-year-old daughter together. NBC reported on his win like this: “David Wise’s alternative lifestyle leads to Olympic gold.”

Being married with a child in your early twenties is now an “alternative lifestyle”, and the statistics actually bear this out.

According to Stats Canada, the average age of first marriage in Canada is now 29 for women and 31 for men.

Even more telling to me, though, was that NBC also added this line: “At such a young age, Wise has the lifestyle of an adult.”

The lifestyle of an adult when you’re 23 and–how shall I put this?–an adult! The fact that we can be so surprised that a 23-year-old is behaving like an adult makes me a little sad.

I was married at 21; when I was 23 I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, who is now studying in second year at university. I raised my kids while I was in my mid-twenties, and still in great shape to lug babies and strollers up flights of stairs in the subway system in Toronto. When Keith and I were first married we started saving like crazy. We budgeted well and managed to scrounge together enough for a small downpayment on a house when we were in our late twenties. It wasn’t a large house, and back then neither of us had very well paying jobs. But we figured out how to stretch our money, and we made it work.

When we announced our engagement back in 1991, many were a little incredulous. How can we be so sure when we’re that young? You need to live more, see more of the world, try more things before you settle down! In fact, “settling down” was portrayed as something bad, as if life ends once you make a commitment. Yet for me, that was more when life began. In fact, happiness studies show that satisfaction comes not from living a carefree lifestyle, but instead from finding meaning and belonging while also feeling productive. Maybe younger people have trouble “finding themselves” because they’re looking in the wrong place.

I’m not arguing that people should get married younger; most people, after all, really aren’t ready.

But maybe that’s the root of the problem: we are raising people to not be “adults” until they reach thirty.

That’s become the culturally accepted norm.

Instead of the teen years being the decade in which you grow up, it’s now the twenties. Is that healthy for a society?
I always believed you were an adult at eighteen, but for that to happen an 18-year-old has to be ready to launch into the adult world. That means they have to know how to maintain a household, including knowing how to cook and clean. They have to know how to manage money. They have to be employable (or at least in school to become employable). They have to be responsible. And few 18-year-olds can accomplish all that unless we as parents start raising them to be adults earlier.

I’m not sure we’re doing favours by extending childhood until people are thirty. Perhaps we’d all be better off if we expected people to act like adults once they were, actually, adults.

Don’t miss a Reality Check! Sign up to receive it FREE in your inbox every week!

Why Do Teenagers Rebel? Thoughts from a 19-Year-Old Who Didn’t

Why Do Teenagers Rebel? A 19-year-old explains how it doesn't HAVE to happen!Why do teenagers rebel? Is it automatic? And can you do things that prevent teens from rebelling? I asked my 19-year-old to help us answer that today!

“All kids will rebel, and my job as a parent is to be there to help catch them when they fall.”

I’ve heard Christian parents say that to me time and time again–strong Christian parents, too. But the Holy Spirit does not have an age limit. The Holy Spirit is with ALL Christians, young or old. And so if we can expect ourselves to act appropriately, we can certainly expect our teenagers to as well.

I’m a big believer in this philosophy, and I’ve written about these two different approaches to parenting before. This week, I thought I’d let other people speak about how to raise kids to make good decisions. We started on Monday about how to raise kids who won’t date too young, and then on Tuesday my 16-year-old chimed in telling us why she’s not dating in high school.

Today I’ve invited my 19-year-old to share her thoughts on why teenagers rebel. I said to her, “can you just write something explaining why you DIDN’T rebel?” She sent me this. It makes me tear up to read it.

Hello. My name is Rebecca Gregoire, and I was the perfect teenager.

Obviously I’m saying that as a joke, but by most standards, I truly was pretty perfect. I never drank, never smoked, never partied, never dated, never even swore. (Honestly. I didn’t swear until I was 18.)  I may have been moody, but I always had a good job, and was extremely involved in church and volunteered in childcare and youth ministries. I didn’t rebel at all–I walked the straight and narrow all through high school, and am continuing to do so now that I’m living on my own.

I’m not saying all this to try and make myself look great–I’m saying it to make a point. I’m saying it to destroy a myth that has been hovering over Christian circles for way too long.

Teenagers do not have to rebel.

I am living, breathing proof of that statement. And so are the three girls I live with, and my best friends at our university IVCF group. We didn’t rebel.

Before I continue, let me tell you something else about myself.

I am not demure in any sense of the word. I don’t like listening to authority, and I often get frustrated when I’m told what to do, or how to do it. I like to question everything. I’m naturally extremely proud, a challenger of authority, and extremely stubborn.

Why am I telling you this? To prove that I’m not “naturally predispositioned to submit”. I’m actually the complete opposite.

Whether or not teenagers rebel isn’t contingent on their natural personality, and kids aren’t “guaranteed” to rebel. Obviously teenagers aren’t guaranteed to NOT rebel, either, but there are things you can do that make it less likely.

My family had two children who were complete opposites, and neither of us had a rebellion stage. So it has to be something about the family, not our natural dispositions.

So why do teenagers rebel? And why do some teenagers never rebel? I’ve tried to pinpoint what kinds of things my parents did that helped my sister and me not rebel (though, of course, there are never guarantees that a teen won’t rebel), and here’s what I’ve come up with:

5 Reasons I Didn’t Rebel as a Teenager

My parents instilled in me a sense of family honour

Often teenagers feel distant from their families, like they’re part of it by blood, but that’s it. In my family it was never like that. My mom and dad would make decisions on their own, of course, but they always talked everything over with my sister and me. Even things that we weren’t directly impacted by–we’d discuss everything over the dinner table.

My family is the kind of family where everyone is involved–it’s a team experience. A result of this is that I received a huge sense of family pride, dignity, and honour.

Family honour has been lost in our culture. We are so focused on ourselves, and have become extremely selfish. And I think a lot of that is that parents put their children’s wants over the family’s needs. In our family, Katie and I never went without. But we didn’t get everything we wanted–I wanted an X-Box when all my friends were getting one, but because that would cut out of major family time my parents said no. A small example, I know, but it shows the worldview my family had. No matter what, family comes first.

When your mindset shifts from “me” to “we”, your behaviours and your actions aren’t just going to affect you–you begin to see how what you do affects other people. What I do when I’m in my free time reflects on my family, whether good or bad. And for me, that was a huge incentive to be responsible and make my parents proud.

Dayspring House Full of People I Love

My parents were extremely encouraging, but also demanding

There needs to be a middle ground. I cannot stress this enough.

So many parents I see are all about the encouragement. Their kids can’t do any wrong in their eyes, and they just constantly pour love and affection and butterflies and rainbows into their children’s life. And then other parents are the opposite–they don’t pay any attention to their kids unless they do something wrong and then they blow up. Or, even if they don’t explode in anger, they only ever criticize and never praise their children.

My parents had a happy medium. We weren’t coddled, but we weren’t picked on, either. My parents chose their battles, and also encouraged us when encouragement was necessary but didn’t lie and tell us we were great at something when we weren’t. For instance, my parents never would have told me that I should go for a career in gymnastics, because I am not flexible in the least.

We always knew where our parents stood, and through that, we always knew that they were honest and had a better understanding of who we were.

My family talks about everything

Open communication was big in our family. My mom and dad always made sure not only that they had time to talk to us, but that they had a specific time and place to do it, too. When I was younger, we talked before or after reading bedtime stories, or at the dinner table when we were eating together. When we got older, that spot moved to the hot tub we had in our backyard and car trips to and from the grocery store, friends’ houses, etc.

The biggest part, though, was that we didn’t just talk about school, work, and the like. We talked about whatever was going on in our lives–whether I was thinking about a new blog post idea, how Katie was doing with her skating, or what movie we really wanted to see–anything that came to mind. Our parents became our confidants, and that built a level of trust.

Moreover, our parents shared things with us, too. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a line here. But in our family, my parents simply humanized themselves to us. My dad would tell us about his favourite movies growing up, my mom would ask our opinions on knitting patterns. She’d even tell me when she had angst over commenters on this blog!

This built a partnership between us. A partnership where one was the parent and one was the child, of course, but nonetheless, a relationship where the actions of one person directly affected the other. Because of that relationship, I never felt like I needed to rebel to be heard, to be understood, or to get my way. I knew that if my parents said no, it was for a reason.

We were never expected to rebel as teenagers

My parents never encouraged any idea of teenage-hood rebellion. They never joked about us rolling our eyes, acting exasperated, or having attitude at all. Rather, they actually made us think that teenagers and the whole rebellion process was stupid and unnecessary. I always figured that I would grow up straight from child to adult, with no “silly teenage stage” in-between. You may think that this is no fun, or that kids need their time to be silly and make mistakes.

But what kind of message does that send the teenager? If kids expect that when they hit 13 they’ll start wanting to go to parties, or go out with boys, or watch inappropriate movies, then they will grow up to fulfill those expectations. On the contrary, if they are raised to believe that those are all optional, and actually unnecessary and somewhat frivolous, they won’t want to disappoint or seem silly, and so are more likely to make positive choices and act like an adult. This doesn’t mean that we miss out on a childhood, or miss out on teenage years–it just means that we use them for training for adulthood, and have fewer regrets when we’re through it all.

Also in this category is that we had very few rules. My parents never needed them, because they didn’t expect us to break them. When parents have a lot of rules it always seems to me like they’re trying to control their kids, and if you have to control them, you’ve lost the battle already. My parents always assumed we’d pick up on their values and make good decisions. Through our close relationship, heart-to-heart talks, and–when necessary–confrontations, we learned their expectations, they learned our points of view, and our family worked together instead of parents trying to reign in their children. Now, I only think this worked because we grew up in such a structured, close, and trust-filled family, but that was a big thing for me. I never felt stifled, so I never felt a need to rebel.

God was centre in our home

Our home never revolved around work, sports, school, or activities. It didn’t even revolve around other people–it always hinged on God and his plan for our family. Growing up in that kind of an environment shaped my view of my actions, choices, and the effect I had on others. When you’re used to basing everything on God’s will and God’s plan, suddenly the parties don’t seem as important. It isn’t as tempting to lie about who you’re hanging out with. Smoking, drinking, and the like just doesn’t really have any appeal, because they don’t help with your ultimate goal–to become a person God will use for great things.

So many times I see families who drop everything for good grades, or who don’t go to church if it’s a busy week at work, or who choose extracurricular activities over youth group and the like. My family, however, was the opposite. If we were tired, too bad. Get in the car, we’re going to church, because that’s what God’s called us to. If Mom and Dad had a hard time with work, we went to church because that’s a place of rest. If I was struggling with school and needed the day to study I didn’t have that choice, because it was my decision not to study earlier.

God came first in everything. And my choices were shaped because of that worldview.

As for Me and My House Wall Decal

I honestly don’t think there’s any one way to make sure your children don’t rebel. Every child is different, and every family contains unique people. But all I know is that for me, this worked. In my family, the trust, communication, and centrality of God in our home made my teenage years one of partnership with my parents rather than a constant battle.

So don’t give up hope–the teenage years don’t have to be war!

Like this? Think it might encourage other parents? Please share on Facebook or Pin it! Just use the buttons below.

Life as a Dare

You can find Rebecca at her blog, Life as a Dare, where she writes about her quest to simplify faith, relationships, and life in general.

 

 

 

The Talk(s)If you’re wondering how to foster a relationship like this with your kids, what Rebecca writes about sounds a lot like what Barrett Johnson is teaching us in his book the Talk(s) ! He really emphasizes keeping open communication with your kids. It’s the best book I’ve read about how to talk to your kids about sex, dating, and relationships, and it’s my store here! Or you can order it in paperback here.

 

This post contains affiliate links.

Wifey Wednesday: Are You Modelling a Good Marriage for Your Kids?

Are You Modeling a Good Marriage for Your Kids?

It’s Wednesday, when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can comment or link up a marriage post of your own in the linky below! Today I want to talk about something near and dear to my heart: Are you modeling a good marriage for your kids?

We’ve been talking this week about raising kids to make good decisions. On Monday we talked about how to help kids understand it’s better to wait to date, and yesterday my 16-year-old shared her thoughts on why she’s not dating in high school. Tomorrow my 19-year-old will chime in, answering “why do teenagers rebel?” (and what we can do to make that less likely).

But all of this really comes down to the relationships that you model with your kids. It’s great to teach them things, but it’s so much better to show them. When you model a great marriage, they will want to have what you have. They’re far less likely to look for shortcuts.

Now modeling a great marriage means that you have to actually have a good marriage! You can’t just fake it. But remember that a good marriage is not a perfect marriage. It’s okay if kids see that you’re still working some things through, as long as they also see that you’re doing it in a healthy way. And what is it that you want kids to see?

In a Good Marriage, Spouses are Affectionate Towards Each Other

Kids need to know you actually like each other! It’s so important for them to see you physically touch. It helps them understand more about sexuality, and it helps them feel secure, that your marriage is okay. The majority of women who write to me who have sexual issues in their marriage will say something like, “In our house sex was never talked about and I never saw my mom or dad touch or kiss each other.” It was something that was so distant that it felt like it was wrong.

Affection is a wonderful thing. Now some of us are huggers and some of us aren’t. Some of us can easily give our husband a quick kiss in front of people and some of us would be mortified. Obviously we all have different comfort levels. But I do think it’s very important, even if you’re not a touchy person, to let your kids see you hold hands. Let them see you caress his shoulder or put your hand on his leg when he’s driving. Let them see you put your head on his shoulder if you’re sitting on the couch together. Even let them see you kiss! It helps them feel really secure, but perhaps more importantly, it helps them see that marriage is fun! If the only people they ever see being affectionate are those who aren’t married, what are they going to learn? Marriage is where love goes to die. 

In a Good Marriage, Spouses Fight, but Resolve Conflict

Keith and I have had our share of fights in front of the kids. We’ve snapped at each other. I’ve retreated into silence or short answers at times. I’m not proud of those moments, but they happen. And we’ve always tried to make sure that if they see us mad, they also see us apologizing and working it out.

Often when parents are mad they say nothing because they don’t want the kids to know. But kids sense the tension and they sense the silence, even if you haven’t said anything to them. And when kids know there’s trouble, but they don’t know what that trouble is, they often assume it’s worse than it is.

I’m not advocating yelling in front of the kids, or calling names, or airing all your dirty laundry. But if something happens right then and there, and you start snapping, kids see it. That’s not wonderful. But what is wonderful is if they can also see you resolve it.

Everybody has tension; if you can show them how to get around that tension, how to apologize, and how to forgive and move on you will have taught them something really important indeed.

Bonus points if you can also let them see you praying together, especially about problems. If you get angry and apologize, and then you take each other hands and say a quick prayer of repentance and blessing on the other person, that speaks volumes. I know not everyone who reads this blog is a Christian, but I can’t stress the importance enough of modeling a strong spiritual life and faith to your kids.

Spouses in a Good Marriage Value Each Other’s Opinions

Kids need to see that marriage is a partnership where you respect each other, and where you honour each other by checking in before you make a decision. If your child asks for something like a cell phone, you listen to their reasons and talk to them about it, and then say, “let me check with Daddy and we’ll talk to you together.”

If you’re trying to make up your mind about whether to switch jobs or whether to sign the kids up for sports, they need to see that you consult your husband and that you make that decision together.

And likewise, before he does something big, they should see him talk to you.

We know a couple who genuinely love each other, but where the mom is often exasperated because the dad does things on a whim. He arrives home one day and announces, “I bought a cottage.” And soon it was, “I bought a boat.” Now, they had the money, so this didn’t endanger their financial position, but that was a big decision for him to make that affected the whole family. And she was not pleased.

Talk to each other about big decisions. Even dream together! And the best way to do that is just to check in with each other everyday. Have one time of day when you always talk–maybe you sit on the couch for 15 minutes before dinner to catch up. Maybe you have a cup of tea after dinner and catch up. Maybe you take a walk after dinner together. Do it regularly, and let the kids see it. And if you are talking like this and sharing what’s on your mind, it’s far less likely that one of you will make a major decision without consulting the spouse!

Dreaming together

Spouses in a Good Marriage Praise Each Other

When I empty the dishwasher I get on the phone. I don’t like doing just one thing, so that’s often my time to phone my best friend, or my mom, and talk.

But here’s the thing about being on the phone: kids hear you. Even when you’re not talking to them. So when your kids hear you talk about your husband, what do they hear you say? Do you complain, or do you build him up? Yes, we all need times to talk to a trusted mentor about problems, but those should be the exceptions, and they should be private conversations. In general, let your children hear you saying good things about their dad and honouring him.

And let them hear you praise him, too! When we eat dinner together, Keith always says, “That was an amazing dinner, Sheila.” My daughter rolls her eyes, because he’s so predictable, but he means it, and she hears it. I make it a point of praising my husband in front of our kids, too. Let your kids hear you say nice things about each other!

In a Good Marriage, Spouses Share One Whole Life, not Two Separate Lives

Do your kids see you do things together? Or do they see you sitting on separate screens at night and living separate lives? Many couples live as roommates, not as lovers, or even best friends. Find things to do together! Let your kids see that you know how to keep love alive and that you genuinely have interests you enjoy. When they see that marriage is something that is fun, where you have a constant companion, it makes marriage look very attractive.

Sex is Part of a Good Marriage!

The most mortifying thing many parents can imagine is the teenagers catching you having sex.

But honestly, that’s not really that bad. Sure, it’s uncomfortable, but secretly your kids want to know that you still have fun and you still want to be with each other–though they’d rather not hear any specifics.

I think we err too much on the side of “we can never do anything whatsoever at all if there’s a chance they’ll know what we’re doing”, and not enough on the side of, “it’s our house, and if they don’t want to hear it, they can go to their rooms and shut the door.” It’s a great comfort to kids to know that their parents still have fun, even if they don’t want to picture it. I know it’s awkward when kids are teens, but you can still nurture a good sex life with teens in the house!

If you’re affectionate; if you praise each other; if you resolve conflict; if you have fun with each other, what will you be teaching your kids? You’ll be showing them, marriage is fun! Marriage is worth it. Marriage is work, but it’s wonderful having someone who loves you.

So don’t worry too much about keeping absolutely everything private. Let them see you living out your marriage, because one day, you want them to start living out a good marriage of their own, too.

Gross Parents

I can think of a ton of other things that go into setting the example of a good marriage–showing a united front; complimenting each other; praying together; worshiping together. But I didn’t want the list to become too long! So talk to your husband about these points, and ask: are we modeling a good marriage to the kids? Or are we trying to keep too many things behind closed doors? Now pick ONE aspect that you really want to be deliberate about modeling to your children. And then do it together!

Christian Marriage Advice

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Link up a marriage post in the linky below! Each week I try to feature two Wifey Wednesday contributions on my Facebook Page. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like yours if I didn’t feature it; I try to feature posts that fit in well with what I’ve been talking about lately. And I try to feature different bloggers! So keep linking up, and maybe I’ll send you a ton of traffic this week!

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.