Are You Robbing From Your Teen? Why Chores Matter!

Teenagers and Chores: If your kids don't work, you're robbing growth opportunities from them.

Teenagers should do chores!

Putting teenagers and chores in the same sentence doesn’t sound like a revolutionary thing, but in many families you would think that it was. Too few kids help out around the house–and too few even know how to! Today Joanne Kraft, author of The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids, issues a call to arms for all parents: let’s equip our kids–and that means requiring some work out of them!

Here’s Joanne:

What does the average week look like in your home? Do you make all the meals, do the laundry, clean the house with little help from your teenager? If this sounds like you, you might just be robbing your teenager.

The definition for the penal code of robbery is: To take something by force or fear. When we steal hardworking opportunities from our kids because {force} we can do it better or we’re {fear} afraid they can’t handle it, we rob from them.

I worked for years as a 911 dispatcher and I received more calls from parents of teenagers robbing from their kids than I care to recount. They spent their parenting years doing everything in their power to make their child’s life fairy-tale perfect and problem free. They now had teenagers who were disrespectful, lazy, and borderline narcissistic– Because they were allowed to be.

When the world revolves around your kid--they'll act like it!

When I do for my teenager what he can do for himself I allow my teen to stay a child. Here’s the good news: there’s a magic remedy for their success and it’s called good old fashioned hard work.

How to Grow Your Teen Into a Hardworking Adult:

  • Don’t pay for a cell phone. A smartphone isn’t a need, it’s a want. Put that money towards their college savings, instead. Or, better yet, let them get a job and pay for a cell phone themselves.
  • Turn off the TV/Video Games/iPads. Entertainment only after responsibilities. Is homework done? Is the house a mess? If it is, hand them a broom. They’re a part of the family. A family is a team. There’s no reason they can’t get in the game and do a big chunk of the chores.
  • Schoolwork isn’t a forever excuse. I can’t say, “I have a 40hr a week job, so I can’t be a mom this afternoon.” Begin training your teens now because life won’t care if they’re in graduate school or married. They need to be able to work hard no matter what is going on around them.
  • Driving isn’t a right it’s a privilege. Just because a teenager is old enough to drive the family car doesn’t mean they get dibs on it. Let them get a job and start saving for one. Our daughter, Grace, has been saving for a car since she was 13. She’s now 16 and almost all her babysitting money has gone into her future car account. She now has over $2500.00. She is just tickled she’s been able to do this. I could buy her a car but I won’t. Why rob her of this joy? She will appreciate her future first car so much more.

A few weeks ago, one of my girlfriends’ sent her seventeen year old son to stay with our family for a week. We had a blast. We showed him all around Nashville and took him out for BBQ. We treated him to dinner and a Civil War tour. Each morning after breakfast I gathered my two teenagers and wrote down a list of house chores and tore off a piece of the list for each…Nathaniel, too.

Teenagers and Chores and Part-Time Jobs

“You’re a part of the family this week, Nathaniel, so here you go.” I smiled and handed him his own chore list. I cranked up some tunes and the kids and I got to work. They had the lion’s share of chores but still laughed and sang along to the music while they swept, vacuumed, cleaned dishes and dusted. I told them, “Give me an hour of your time and I’ll give you the rest of the day.” Nathaniel still wants to come back and stay with us again.

Scripture one mom hangs in her kitchen: If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. 2 Thessalonians 3:10

Give your teenager a job. Allow him or her to feel good about themselves. Too often, I hear mom’s say, “If he gets a job I’m the one who will have to take him to work.” Let him get a job that’s a bike ride away! Or, drive him to work for a little while. Weren’t you the one who drove him to baseball or football practice three times a week? So, why are you holding back from helping him get to work now? Other moms say, “She will have all her life to work. I want her to enjoy her school break or summer off.” I like to answer this with my own question: Why hold your teenager back from adult success?

A study released last year by the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program said finding a job when you’re older is harder if you haven’t worked during your teenage years.

In addition, “research shows those who work in high school have wages 10 to 15 percent higher when they graduate from college,” said Ishwar Khatiwada, a co-author of the study and an associate director of research at Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies.

As a mom, each time I steal a hard work opportunity to grow my child into an adult I rob character-building moments.

Parents agree that their ultimate goal is to raise independent, hardworking, God honoring adults, yet still we continue to rob opportunities from our teens to grow them into these types of adults.

Don't rob your teen of opportunities to grow!

Mom, stop robbing from your teenager.

Stop making excuses for doing things they can do. It’s not mean to make your teenager do chores. It’s not mean to stop paying for his wants and to say no to designer jeans or video games and smartphones. It’s not mean to make her do her own laundry, or to put her to work around the house before she spends the day with friends or plops in front of the TV…it’s not mean at all.

Have you been robbing your teen? What do you think about teenagers and chores? Let us know in the comments–and tell us about your own experiences working when you were a teen, too!

joannekraftJoanne Kraft is a mom of four and the author of Just Too Busy—Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical and her recent bookThe Mean Mom's Guide to Raising Great Kids_medium_image_attachmentThe Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids. She’s a favorite speaker at women’s conferences and has been a guest on Focus on the Family, Family Life Today and CBN.

Her articles have appeared in ParentLife, Today’s Christian Woman, In Touch, Thriving Family, P31 Woman and more. Joanne and her husband, Paul, recently moved their family from California to Tennessee and happily traded soy milk and arugula for sweet tea and biscuits.

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Cyberbullying: Why I Decided to Monitor My Teen’s Cell Phone

Today please welcome Amy Williams, who shares her wisdom about raising teens in a time, when cyberbullying is so prevalent.  It’s time to get armed with tactics to battle bullying is all its forms.

Cyberbullying- Why I Decided to Monitor My Teen's Cell PhoneDid you have any nicknames growing up?

Unfortunately, in the fifth grade I had the pleasure of earning the moniker “Dog” from a boy named Kenny. The name stuck and followed me until the middle of seventh grade. It was the cherry on top of a heaping dish that was already filled with adolescent angst and incredibly self conscious feelings about my red hair and freckles. After Kenny blessed me with this new title, things only got worse.

Did I tell my parents or seek help from a teacher?

Of course not! That would have been a wise decision on my part, but I struggled through this bullying episode alone. I relied on tears cried behind closed doors and I avoided Kenny and the other boys in my class at all costs. Looking back, I wish that I had stood up for myself or found a healthier way of dealing with this issue.

My own experience with bullying is one of the main reasons why we chose to actively monitor our teenager’s social media and cell phone activity. The early 90’s were a trying time for myself, but at least I didn’t have to worry about technology and cyberbullying. Today’s generations are growing up in a very connected and viral social media firestorm that can quickly escalate bullying into a full fledged assault of mean, hateful, and derogatory remarks.

The Prevalence Of Cyberbullying

My own children have had a few run ins with a class bully or two and, just like their mother, they avoided seeking adult intervention until we personally witnessed the bruising and tears. Granted these were isolated incidents, but with the information available on cyberbullying we couldn’t hide our heads in the sand and blindly hand over a cell phone or tablet without some safety measures in place.

Many experts believe that cyberbullying can have a devastating impact on our children. There has been proven correlations between victims of cyberbullying and the suffering from anxiety, depression, and attempted suicides. Even with the known problems associated with cyberbullying, teens and children still continue to digitally harass or embarrass their peers.

Here are four cringeworthy cyberbullying statistics that support our choice to monitor our teens:

  • One in every three children have been the victims of cyber threats.
  • More than 25 percent of teenagers were repeatedly bullied via their cell phone or the Internet.
  • Some studies estimate that over half of our children have experienced cyberbullying in some form with 20 percent experiencing digital aggression on a regular basis.
  • Only one out of ten children will seek help for cyberbullying!

Why Monitoring Was A Choice That Worked For Us

Our children have been secretive in the past about bullying and a recent study by McAfee noted that 70 percent of teenagers have hid online interactions from their parents. This creates a digital divide between us and our children, making our jobs of keeping them safe that much harder. To compound this problem, many teens use “dummy accounts” to keep their real social media activity a secret.

With all this secrecy and very real dangers lurking online, we knew we wanted to be aware of what our children were seeing, experiencing, or doing on the world wide web. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that bullying often stops within ten seconds 57 percent of the time when a bystander intervenes. That fact alone encouraged us to pursue monitoring as a viable choice in our parenting.

How To Monitor A Teen’s Cell Phone

We are open and honest with our children about monitoring their activity. There is no snooping and sleuthing occurring, but we do have regular conversations about social media etiquette and hot topics like cyberbullying. In fact, monitoring a teen’s phone has led to many heart-to-heart conversations and learning opportunities to prepare them for life.

Listed below are four suggestions to help monitor a teenager’s Internet and cellphone activity:

  • Be honest! I can’t stress this enough. We don’t hide the fact that we check in on them and they know there is always a possibility that we will see anything they post.
  • Know a child’s accounts, user names, passwords, and sites frequented.
  • Teach social media etiquette, talk about cyberbullying, and teach them about the potential problems associated with sexting. We avoid lecturing, name calling, and yelling while actively listening to our children.
  • Choose an app that allows you to keep all of our child’s accounts in one location. This helps us sift through multiple sites, text messages, and more with ease. We took advantage of TeenSafe’s free trial period and were hooked.

Cyberbullying is just one facet of the big puzzle of social media and cell phones, but it was enough to warrant our attention. I know that a lot of people don’t agree with our choice and it isn’t always popular with our kids, but this solution works for us.

As parents, we naturally want things to be better for our children. Bullying can leave scars behind, they just aren’t visible to the naked eye. I don’t wish that experience for anyone’s children, let alone mine. I feel that monitoring allows me to take a proactive approach and prevent unnecessary heartache down the road.

Would you consider monitoring a child’s cell phone? Why or why not?

Amy Williams Bio

Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.


When Your Job As a Momma is Done (Almost!)

When your "momma" role is over

Next Monday we load up the last of Katie’s things, help the piano movers steady the piano in the truck, and head out on the highway to drop her off at university.

My job as a mom is done.

My youngest child is leaving home.

I know I am always a mom; my older daughter has needed lots of advice over the last few years as she’s been gone, especially around her wedding.

But I’m not a mom anymore. I’m an advisor. It is different. It’s lovely, but different.

I’m proud of my girls. They have both pursued Jesus wholeheartedly, and have a real relationship with Him that many times puts me to shame. They grew up in a healthier family than I did, and I can see the effects of it on them. They are more mature. More grounded. More willing to try new things.

This, again, is all lovely.

And I have a wonderful husband, and we’ve been working on our marriage for the last year, and figuring out new hobbies, and changing around work schedules, so that as empty nesters we won’t just be twiddling our thumbs and staring at each other, wondering, “who are you and why did I marry you?”

And that, again, is lovely.

It is lovely to have two children that you are so proud of pursue their dreams. It is lovely to see them make good decisions. It is lovely to know that my husband and I will stay close in this next phase of our life–and that this next phase will be an adventure.

But here’s the thing: I am going to miss Katie terribly.

Yes, I would miss her more if my husband and I were not solid. Yes, it would be much harder if she weren’t tracking with God.

But even so, I will miss her.

KatieSheila New York

And I will miss being a mom.

My role as mom was all-encompassing. We took Rebecca, our oldest, out of school after kindergarten and decided to homeschool them (Katie’s never set foot in a school; she’s going to get a picture of herself on the first day of university classes holding her backpack and her lunchbox and a sign that says, “First Day of School”.)

Girls Homeschooling Trailer

We didn’t do it because we were afraid the public school would corrupt them. We homeschooled because we felt that academically it would be better for them. And we pushed those girls. School was intense at our house–even if it was punctuated by marathon sessions of reading Anne of Green Gables out loud, or finishing Those Happy Golden Years (the last of the Little House books) in a day and a half “because we just have to get through it”.

We taught them Latin and Greek. They read the classics. We made them write essays and we pushed them in math. They are very well-educated.

We made them earn their lifeguarding credentials and at 16 they started working intensely at the Y. They made great friends, especially with the seniors who would come to swim during the day. One couple in their 80s even took Katie to a strawberry social last June and prayed over and blessed her as she goes on with her life. Their boss made the trip to Ottawa this summer and came to Rebecca’s wedding.

And we homeschooled because we wanted more family time. With Keith’s weird call schedule and my weird speaking schedule we needed time during the week together.

But the biggest thing was this: everyday, we’d go for a walk.

Sometimes even two! Whenever we started feeling restless we’d head outside and do our “loop”. So everyday, for the last ten years, I have taken a walk with one of my daughters. That’s when we talk, and when they open up, and when I learn about what’s happening in their hearts.

With Katie the walks have been intense lately, often lasting more than an hour. We’ve discovered new “loops”, and almost gotten lost several times.

When I visit Rebecca in Ottawa, the first thing we do is put on our shoes and go out for a walk by the river. It’s outside that we open up.

But now Katie is leaving.

Two weeks ago I decided to start taking walks by myself, to get used to the solitude. And I’ve turned them into quite intense prayer walks, replacing the time I used to spend talking with her to talking about her and for her with God. It’s a little nervewracking; I have a hard time praying without talking out loud, so my neighbours may think I’m nuts. But it’s real.

Because Katie is leaving.

Have I mentioned that yet?

It is not that I don’t want her to grow up. It is not that I don’t have a life outside of her. It is not that I don’t have a good marriage.

It is just that so much of my emotional energy has been caught up in my daughters for the last two decades, and now that phase is coming to an end.

I know I will still talk to her; Rebecca calls me twice a day. But it will be different.

And so I take my prayer walks.

I want the girls to still feel my support while they are at school, away from me. Part of that will be through prayer. Part of it will be through phone calls and texts.

But I want to share a fun thing that I was asked to review and tell you about. Kites & Ivy creates care packages for girls going away to college. It’s just little things to pamper college students: some beauty products, a healthy but fun snack, things to relax you.

Kites & Ivy Care Packages for College Students

They come four times a year: to welcome them in September; before they go home for Christmas; before Spring Break; and before Finals. And when you sign up, you tell them what school the recipient is going to, and they make sure the package gets there at just the right time for that particular school’s academic calendar!

Kites & Ivy initially hired Katie to talk about them in her videos. I told her about it, she shrugged, and said, “okay”.

And then the package came.

And she was so excited!

It had: some dry shampoo (because who has time to wash your hair during finals!?!), a yummy sea salt caramel chocolate bar, some essential oils to help you focus, some water flavouring powder, some natural facial wipes, a headband, and a neat water sipper cup. Katie loved it! Here she is talking about it: (the video is set to start playing where she starts talking about it, but if you want to see the WHOLE video of what she learned when she was 17, just rewind it to the beginning!)

And when she says that she’s just going to ask her mom to get it for her, she’s quite serious. She says, “as a university student I’m going to have no money to spend on myself! And opening the box was so fun!”

Here’s the box they sent out last year before spring break:


You can buy just one box and send it immediately as a gift, or you can subscribe so that a college student that you know (a daughter, a niece, a sister) can get a treat when they really need it. I think it would be great for churches to do this for their students leaving, too–to let those students know, “we’re still thinking of you and praying for you!”

(Shipping is free within the continental United States–other than that you have to pay for it. I know that’s tough on Canadians like me, but I do understand as someone who has to ship a lot across the border, too. It is much cheaper to ship within the U.S.!)

Katie enjoyed hers so much–she’s sipping from the cup from the 5 minute point in her new video on Christian romance novels! So I guess I’m getting her a subscription!

It is a cute way of bringing a smile to a college young woman’s face, and I was excited to partner with them. The preorders are going out now for the school year, and you can use the coupon code Sheila10 to get 10% off your order! If you’re a mom, this saves you the work and trouble of putting your own care package together–and the items really are unique and awfully fun.

Kites and Ivy Button

So that is what I’ll be up to this year–I’ll be missing my daughters. I’ll be taking daily prayer walks and remembering them before God. I’ll be talking to them whenever they call when they’re lonely (or when they’re on the bus and they’re bored, which is more typical). And I will be sending Katie Kites & Ivy care packages, too!

It’s hard when your job as a momma is over. I’m feeling it acutely. I know I did a good job–not a perfect job, but a good job, which is perhaps better. But now I need to take a step back, and perhaps that is what will drive me to prayer even more.

Let me know in the comments: how did you stay close to your kids (or your parents) when college time came (or moving out time came)? What did you appreciate from your mom?

I was compensated for this post, but the thoughts are entirely mine (and my daughter’s!)

On Sexual Double Lives, Josh Duggar, and Peace

Josh Duggar and Finding Peace

News broke Wednesday that Josh Duggar had been using the Ashley Madison adultery site to cheat on his wife. Yesterday Josh confessed, taking full responsibility and apologizing.

I found myself so happy reading it. Sad at what that family is going through, yes. But happy because he is taking ownership, and that means that now, in the midst of this mess, even though it doesn’t look like it–that family is closer to peace and redemption and healing than they have been in years.

The mess is so much better than the picture of perfection, because the mess is honest.

On Fridays I usually do a weekly roundup, and I have a lot to talk about this week–my new book was released; I’ve got some hilarious videos of my daughters post-wisdom teeth surgery; and more. But this is important, and needs to be addressed.

How Does a Sexual Double Life Start?

Josh Duggar has been leading a sexual double life. He admitted to being addicted to porn; he admitted to infidelity; and we know that he admitted to molesting his sisters.

I wrote a while back that I believed that the Duggar parents had not handled that molestation well. I had a lot of pushback–“But they’re such a good family, and everyone was healed!”

In many families, though, especially those brought up with extremely conservative sexuality, true healing is swept under the rug in favour of looking like we have it all together. And that’s what I was afraid was going on.

Picture a 14-year-old in a hyper-conservative family. He’s experiencing sexual feelings. He doesn’t know what to do with them. He can’t talk to his parents. And he starts acting out.

He’s punished–but no one deals with the sexual feelings that started this. He’s told those feelings are “only for marriage”. And so he sees sexual feelings as sinful, because people haven’t helped him sort out the good from the bad.

But those sexual feelings are affected in another way: young people are told “sex when you’re married is beautiful,” but they’re also told that kissing is bad and hand holding is bad. And so touch, affection, exploration of any kind is seen as the enemy. This does not magically change once one is married. Passion–that feeling of being “out of control”–has been the enemy for so long that sex in marriage is seen as something which must be clinical to be sacred.

I am not saying that everyone who grows up like this experiences this–not at all!

But many do. Sexual passion is scary, and when we try to bury it, we can easily warp godly sexuality. Godly sexuality is not “controlled”.

But these young people get married, thinking that marriage will control the “lust”–those strong sexual feelings. But it doesn’t, because in their minds, sex in marriage must be entirely about love and never about want.

Where does the want go? It gets buried.

  • In some marriages, a spouse becomes a control freak about everything, not just sex, because these feelings are so powerful they must be kept under wraps. That means working hard to silence your inner adventure-seeker, and it ends up silencing your true self.
  • In other marriages, a spouse splits into two: one half is pure and chaste and unadventurous in the bedroom; the other half is looking at the most outrageous pornography or searching out something daring online.

Denying sexual feelings is very common. I get letters from young people who grew up in families like that, and now they’re married and they are LOST.

There is far too much emphasis in some schools of Christian thought on trying to control someone’s sexuality, as if it is a threat.

To give an example, there is absolutely nothing wrong with an adult deciding, “I am going to save my first kiss until marriage, and I am not going to have any physical contact until I am engaged.” God will ask different things of different people. To walk in obedience to what God is telling you is wonderful.

There is, however, a LOT wrong with a parent telling an adult child “this is what you are going to do.” That is a parent controlling an adult child’s sexuality, and it is wrong. It treats sexuality as an enemy, and it treats the adult child as a child.

We aren’t to control our sexuality; we’re to channel it. To channel it is to acknowledge it, to feel it, to name it, but then, at the same time, to say, “this isn’t for me to explore right now. So God, help me take all of this energy and put it somewhere else, to good use.

Being a PeaceKEEPER Rather Than a PeaceMAKER

And now I want to get to the heart of my message.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentThought #6 in my new book that launched this week, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, is asking us to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers.

What’s the difference? A peacekeeper’s job is to keep the warring factions on their own side of the line. It’s to keep hostilities under wraps–simmering, but not erupting. A peacekeeper doesn’t deal with the root issues; a peacekeeper only deals with the expression of those issues, the fighting. A peacekeeper doesn’t solve anything.

A peacemaker, on the other hand, tries to bring the two sides together so that instead of being on opposing sides of the line, they can join each other on the same side. Instead of shaking fists they embrace. They become as one.

And Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

Being a Peacemaker, not a Peacekeeper

I believe the Christian church spends far too much time keeping peace, and not enough time making it.

Peacemaking Parents & Children’s Sexuality

Josh Duggar, and so many of my readers’ husbands, led a double life. He had two halves of himself that were at war with each other. I believe that Josh was likely heartbroken, mortified, and horribly ashamed not just when the news broke but for years. He likely hated himself and what he was doing. But he couldn’t stop.

We don’t want that for our kids.

As parents, we can be peacemakers hopefully by preventing the sexual splitting. We can call out what is holy and help our children name, admit, and deal with what is not. When a child cannot talk about struggles, a parent is being a peacekeeper.  A peacekeeping parent says:

  • Good girls don’t touch themselves there.
  • God doesn’t want you thinking about sex. That’s only for marriage.
  • If you love God, He’ll take away your temptations and struggles. Just lean on Him more.
  • We don’t do that sort of thing in our family.

A peacemaker has open conversations.

Peacemaking and Sexuality in Marriage

But now let’s turn to what so many of you are facing: what do you do when  you’re married to a Josh (and even overnight, I had three more comments on older posts from people in just that situation. “I just found porn on my husband’s computer…”)

Dear, dear heartbroken woman: how I wish I could give you a hug.

But please listen to me. Please hear me today.

If your husband has admitted to cheating, to using porn, to texting with someone: you are closer to healing right now than you were two weeks ago when you thought everything was fine.

You are closer to God right now, in this mess, than you were when everything looked perfect.

God is in the mess, because Jesus is in the peacemaking business.

So many of the comments I get are like this: “I discovered this by accident. Do I confront my husband or do I let it go?”

Luke 8:17 says:

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

Does that sound like a God who prefers things to look perfect, while sin festers underneath? Or does that sound like a God who is fully prepared to deal with the mess, because mess is better than dishonesty?

When your life blows up, don’t fall back on these typical “peacekeeping” reactions:

We just need to get past this and forgive.

You cannot forgive until you shine a light on the hurts and understand the gravity of what you have suffered. A rush to tell someone to forgive, or to take them through a forgiveness process, doesn’t do the hard but necessary work of the Spirit. And indeed, this was my main criticism of the original Duggar scandal; they made the girls forgive and they forgave Josh too early. The focus was on the forgiveness, and not on naming the hurt.

Let’s keep this just between us. Other people don’t need to know.

True repentance is humble. It does not worry about reputation; it worries about whether or not one is right with Jesus. True repentance asks for accountability. One does not have to confess to EVERYONE, but one does have to confess to a few people–and also give the wounded spouse someone to talk to.

Let’s just get back to normal.

You can’t go backwards. But even more importantly: you don’t want to go backwards. As comfortable as it felt, it was built on sand. Your “normal” won’t be your normal again. But that doesn’t mean that your normal won’t be something better. Let Jesus in to the healing process. You may find life messier. It will be more honest, which may initially cause more conflict. But in the end you will find that you are finally at peace, because you don’t have to hide those scary thoughts or suspicions.

And so, dear readers, I am glad Josh is in his mess.

I am sorry that Anna is. But they are now finally on the road to real peace. And for all of you who are walking in similar stories–peace is there, in the person of Jesus who so wants to redeem the two halves of your husband, and the two halves of your marriage, and make them one again. He can do it, if you both allow true honesty and true humility. That’s how we make peace. And you are never, ever alone as you seek it.

Top 10 Ways to Prepare for the Empty Nest

Top Ten Ways to Prepare for Empty NestToday Gay Christmus, from Calm, Healthy, Sexy, joins us to talk about preparing for the empty nest! Considering my youngest is leaving this summer, I’m eager to hear what she has to say.

Is your daily schedule packed with homework, soccer games, dance recitals, and Scout meetings, not to mention work, church, and community commitments?  Do you feel like a juggler most days, just trying to keep all of your balls in the air?  If so, planning for the “empty nest,” the time when your children will be out on their own, is probably the farthest thing from your mind.  And no wonder – it’s hard to think about the future when you’re just trying to get through each day.

I want to encourage you, though, that now is the time to think about and prepare for empty nest.  Because time flies, and that day “down the road” is going to arrive sooner than you think.  I know a bit about this, because my husband and I have been moving toward the empty nest for a couple of years.  Our older son has graduated from college and is living with a friend, and our younger son is living at home while attending college.  They’re both doing their own thing – even though one still sleeps (and sometimes eats!) at our house – and my husband and I are essentially doing our own thing too.

We’ve been anticipating this for a number of years.  I can’t say we’re fully prepared, but we’ve been aware of it and wanted to know that we could enjoy life together when soccer and basketball and school activities came to an end.  So I want to share with you 10 things we’ve attempted to do (some well, some not so well) to get ready for this new phase of our lives.  If your children are in elementary school or older, I encourage you begin incorporating these things into your marriage and family life too.  On the day when your youngest child heads off to college or moves into an apartment, you’ll be glad you did!

1.  Pray together.

Establish your faith as the foundation of your marriage and family by praying together regularly.  This doesn’t have to be complicated or burdensome; just spend a few minutes together each day thanking God for your blessings and asking for His help with your concerns and problems.

2.  Orient your family around your marriage.

Your children are important, and their needs and activities require time and attention.  But those needs and activities shouldn’t become the “sun” around which your family revolves.  Placing your marriage at the center of your family’s life helps keep things in perspective when your children are young and eases the transition into the time when it’s just the two of you.  It also reminds your children from an early age that the universe doesn’t revolve around them!

3.  Talk about the future.

The elementary school years are not too early to begin talking about life and marriage after the child-intensive years.  Because by the time your children get to high school, they’ll begin focusing more on their friends and outside interests and less on the family.  So enjoy the elementary and middle school years and all the activities they entail, but spend time talking with your husband about the future too.  It’s never too soon to dream about the life you’ll enjoy together when it’s just the two of you.

4.  Take care of your health.

When you reach the empty nest years, you want to be able to enjoy them.  Which means that you want to be strong, healthy and fit, and don’t want to be slowed down by health problems.  Most of the health problems that begin to affect people in their 40s and 50s – diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart problems – are preventable.  And it’s never too early to begin working to prevent them.  So start now by eating well, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and generally taking care of yourself.  And encourage your husband to do the same.  Those simple activities can help ensure that your empty nest years are healthy and active.

5.  Begin developing interests you can enjoy together.

You don’t want to deliver your youngest child to college, only to discover that you and your husband no longer have any interests in common.  So even though it’s difficult to find time for adult activities during the child-raising years, make the time to develop at least one activity that isn’t focused on your children.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive; Sheila has mentioned that she and her husband enjoy bird watching, and my husband and I have taken up bike riding.

6.  Develop friendships and a social life beyond your children’s sports and activities.

When our younger son finished his final season of high school basketball, I (somewhat) jokingly asked my husband, “What are we going to do for a social life in the winter?” Because for many years, our social life from November through February revolved around basketball.  It’s natural for that to happen, because basketball (or soccer or dance or Scouts) takes up a lot of time.  But if you aren’t intentional about developing friendships or a social life beyond those activities, you may experience quite a “social shock” when they end.  So spend some time and energy developing friendships in your church, neighborhood, or other social circles too.

7.  Prioritize sex and intimacy in your marriage.

During the child-intensive years, it’s tempting to let sex and intimacy fall by the wayside.  It’s so easy to think, “I’m tired, I’m busy, the kids are sucking up all of my energy, I just don’t feel in the mood.”  Some or all of those things are probably true, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for you or your marriage.  Sex holds the two of you together in the hard times and creates joy in the good times.  So don’t let it slide.  Instead, nurture it and pursue it.  Deep intimacy and an enjoyable sex life will pay you back in spades, both now and in the empty nest years.

8.  Find ways to serve together.

It’s easy to be so focused on our family’s schedule, activities, and commitments that we forget about real needs that exist right in our own communities and around the world.  But it’s important to recognize those needs, both to keep our own problems in perspective and to find ways to serve others.  After all, crazy soccer and ballet schedules don’t seem so overwhelming when we remember that people are hungry or lonely or homeless.  So look for ways to serve others, as a couple or a family.  It will help keep things in perspective now and create an interest you and your husband can continue to develop as your children get older.

9.  Manage your finances.

The earlier in your marriage you begin to control your finances, the better.  Debt, lack of savings, and living beyond your means take a toll at every stage of life, but the older you get the harder it is to recover from financial mismanagement.  Plus, when you finally have extended time to have fun with your husband, you want to have a little bit of money on hand to do it!  So start now to eliminate debt, control spending, and/or bring in some additional income.  My husband and I didn’t start working on this early enough in our marriage, so we’re having to work harder on it now.

10.  Develop the fun side of your marriage.

Sometimes marriage becomes just a little bit tedious, doesn’t it?  It’s all work and no play, and suddenly no one is having very much fun!  So don’t let your long list of “have to” items suck all the fun out of your marriage.  Set a goal of doing something fun together at least once a week.  More often is better, but once a week is a good place to start.  It doesn’t have to be a “date,” just something both of you consider fun and relaxing – a walk after dinner, a bike ride, an outing to get a cup of coffee, or time to watch a funny movie.  You don’t want to arrive at the empty nest years and find that you don’t know how to have fun together anymore.

Whatever the age of your children or stage of your marriage, it’s never too early to begin thinking about the empty nest years.  And it’s never too late either.  If your children are in high school and you haven’t given it much thought, start now!  Talk with your husband, begin making plans, develop a couple of shared interests, and work on enjoying life together!


Gaye Groover ChristmusGaye Groover Christmus is a wife and mom to two almost-grown sons.  In her “day job” she works as a writer and editor in a health field.  Her passion, though, is encouraging married women to slow down, live with vitality and energy, and create joy and intimacy in their marriages.  She believes that small steps can lead to big changes, and that women armed with knowledge and a plan can transform their hurried, hectic lives.  Gaye blogs at CalmHealthySexy.  She’d love to send you her ebook, 17 Ways to Live Calmer, Healthier and Sexier – Starting Today – as a gift when you subscribe to the blog.

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.

A Dad’s Response to Fifty Shades of Grey

How a Dad Taught His Daughters about Life, Love, and even 50 Shades of Grey!

Today I want to share with you a beautiful story of how a dad makes a difference in his daughters’ lives by deliberately teaching them how they should be treated!

I’m just back from a speaking tour in Texas (you can see some photos here on Facebook!), and I’m tired. So when my friend Rajdeep Paulus sent me this article I jumped at it. It’s awesome. And I hope these are messages we can all instill in our children. Here’s Raj:

Several years ago, about two weeks before February 14th, my husband graciously declares, “From now on, I’m in charge of Valentine’s Day.”

With four princesses and his wife to think about, this is no easy task to take on, in my opinion. To tell you the truth, hubby’s not into feeding the whole commercial industry on big holidays. But he’s a Daddy of four daughters, and he wants them to grow up knowing what it means to be treated with love and respect by a man, long before they ever start dating. Our oldest is now fourteen and the youngest is seven.

So the last several years have been filled with teddy bears, chocolate, hearts and homemade breakfast. And I haven’t had to lift a finger. This year was no different. And yet, it was very different. The packages started arriving earlier this week, and hubby filed them into our bedroom with a hands off till Saturday look in his eyes. No peeking allowed.

And when February 14th morning arrived, not a girl was stirring, but one Dad was.

The sound of rustling came from the living room. Later the bang of pots and pans graced the kitchen. It was nine o’clock, and all I really wanted was a cup of coffee. So I asked if I could help and permission granted. While hubby plugged away at something on the big screen in the living room (our computer was hooked up to the TV,) I ventured off to the grocery store for coffee beans and whipped cream—my version of chocolate and flowers.

Upon returning, the table was set in the living room with a red cloth and china. The couches were covered with blankets (no time for wrapping paper this year,) and music began to roll. After thanking God for his four princesses and his ‘queen,’ we all sat down to eat French toast and watch a slide show of family pictures on the screen. This was all sweet. But this was only the beginning.

After the pics stopped, and our tummies were filled, hubby switched the screen to a power point presentation that read, “Happy Valentine’s Day!” and then began to share his heart.

He flipped the screen, and a quote from Proverbs about the importance of sleep splashed across the screen. “Sleep,” he said, “is a very important part of our lives.”

And he went on to tell our girls how it’s important to sleep enough and not too much.

And if anyone is having trouble sleeping, to figure out why and address the problem. He also encouraged them to one day, when they’re grown up and on their own, to set their alarms and know when their mornings would start. Not to just let the days happen to them.

Next he flipped to a slide that talked about beds. And then he went on to talk to the girls about boys and dating and the importance of respecting themselves, their bodies and the sacred place that their beds play in their lives. “Your bed is where you sleep and no one sleeps with you until you’re married. [He prefaced that he’s not counting slumber parties they have with their friends.]

But your bed is a sacred place.”

He even went on to say, “When you’re in college, if you live in the dorms, don’t let people get comfortable on your bed during the day. Because when it gets late at night, they might not want to leave, and now you’ve already made it easy for them to stay. Make your college bed a no-sit zone. Be bold. Point your friends to a chair. The floor. They can sit anywhere but on your bed. Is that clear?”

And the girls all nodded. I thought this might be a bit extreme, but this mama, who has a bad habit of wanting to give her two cents, kept quiet. This was a Daddy moment. He didn’t need my help.

Then he talked about a movie that was just released. “You might have heard about this movie that everyone’s talking about right now. The one based on a book?”

Only our fourteen-year old responded, “Yes, Fifty Shades of Grey. What’s it about anyway?”

But the others shook their heads. And our seven-year old fidgeted in her chair. Not because the topic made her uncomfortable. She’s seven. She was ready to open the presents.

“Well,” and hubby was honest, “I haven’t read the book, and I have no plans to see the movie, but I’ve read enough posts on line that describe the content, and it’s the exact opposite message I’m trying to give you. And the main thing I want you to leave today with is the importance of respecting yourself and demanding respect from others, especially a boyfriend or a future spouse, because if you don’t respect yourself, you can’t expect other people to respect you.”

I couldn’t resist any longer. My two cents spilled. And I shared very briefly about how I took a self-defense class in college and the number one hardest thing we had to learn was to say, “No,” and to say it loudly. “When you tell a guy no, he has to really push past his internal moral voice to keep doing what he’s doing.

And if he doesn’t respect you enough to stop, he:

1. Doesn’t love you enough to respect you
2. Isn’t healthy enough himself to know the importance of respect in a relationship, or
3. You might need some time apart from each other to work on yourselves.”

And then we made the girls practice saying, “No.” Screaming, “No!” And they each did.

Then hubby told us all to stand in front of the couches, designating a spot for each girl in his life. It was time to open the gifts. On three, we pulled off the blankets to reveal his Valentine’s presents to us this year:

New pillows and new sheets. The girls loved them. As did I.

And after we dropped our daughters off with famliy to go out for our dinner date in New York City, we pulled out of the Midtown Tunnel and turned down a street to face the red lit Empire State Building, pulsing like a beating heart. All the while, I couldn’t help but thank God for this man of mine.

We know the girls will grow up. We can’t stop time. We know they’ll make their own choices. We have no plans or desire to control them. But I’m just wowed by this man, a husband and a father, who thinks about how best to equip them for the years ahead.

For the one area he has the loudest voice in, because until they do start dating. Until they get married. He is the man in their lives.

I hope the girls never forget this Valentine’s Day. I know I never will.

swimmingthroughcloudsRajdeep Paulus, Award-Winning author of Swimming Through Clouds and Seeing Through Stones, is mommy to four princesses, wife of Sunshine, a coffee-addict and a chocoholic. As of this June 2013, she’s a Tough Mudder. To find out more, visit her blog In Search of Waterfalls, or connect with her via Facebook  TwitterPinterest, or Instagram . Here’s an article about her books on the home page of Amazon!

51njxNzwd3L._SL160_Check out Raj’s other blog posts on To Love, Honor and Vacuum (she’s great!):

Top 10 Things Teens Ask About Sex
Top 10 Reasons for Morning Sex
Honeymoon Blues to “O”ver the Rainbow (about reaching the big “O”!)
Ten Hardest Things to Share After Saying “I Do”


Top 10 Questions Teens Ask About Sex

Questions Teens Ask About Sex. Are you prepared?

Teens will invariably ask questions about sex. Are you prepared?

Today on Top 10 Tuesday guest poster Rajdeep Paulus joins us to share the questions she’s had from her teens about sex! Personally, the worst question I had was from my daughter Katie, who wanted to know, “How long does he have to leave it in for?” Let’s just say conversations are often awkward–but it’s so important to leave the lines of communication open! Here’s Raj:

I’m a big advocate of communication when it comes to parenting, and when you come from a culture that didn’t talk about certain things, and you look back and wonder if things had been different if you had talked about the tougher topics with your parents, there’s one thing you can do about it. Change things when it comes to talking to your own children. And I think most parents would agree that they’d rather have their teens ask them then go to their peers or some on line website that might not tell the whole story or tell our kids how to put the delicate information in context of God’s plan for their sexuality. It’s a much more complicated topic than just abstinence vs. experimenting, and our teens need to hear the truth from us, well before they enter serious dating relationships and move forward to wedding days. I’m blessed to have a great relationship with my girls at this point, and they seem comfortable enough to talk to me about things. I tease them every once in awhile about who they have a crush on, and they all know that mom chased down a boy in fourth grade and kissed him, so they know mom’s not someone who doesn’t “get it,” sort-a-speak.

Here are the questions that have come up in the last few years with my firstborn who is now fourteen. Usually after we’ve had some heart to heart about something else. Often when we’re driving somewhere. And always when it’s just the two of us.

The First Ten Questions Your Teen Might Ask About Sex

1. What does it mean “to try?”

When my teen was a tween, she overheard hubby and I chatting with newlywed friends of ours that were trying to start a family. When the kids streamed into the living room, we began to talk in code and assumed the kids weren’t paying attention. Until later when my then eleven-year old asked me, “What did Uncle J. and Aunty M. mean when they said, ‘They were trying to have a baby?’”

I took a deep breath, knowing that my response could end the conversation or open up the door to many more questions. “What are you really asking? What do you want to know?”

And then she said, “Well, what does it mean to try?”

And then we had our first conversation that involved a lot of pauses and, “Does that make sense?” and “What else do you want to know?”

2. Do you have to take off all your clothes?

I thought this was a cute question. I still recall this walk hubby and I took on Devon Street in Chicago a week before our wedding. We were buying garlands and found some nice ones that looked like they were made of real flowers, and Sun turned to me while holding the garland in the air and said, “Can’t wait for our wedding night when this is all you’ll be wearing,” and I nearly fainted with shock. He was thinking about it. Me. Without clothes on. And I went home and cried, because I didn’t love my body, and it just hit me that he would see it. So as a mom who understands that self-image and self-love are important, I try my best to encourage my girls and help them to love their bodies the way God created them so when it’s their time, they won’t be ashamed or afraid like I was.

3. His what goes where? Is there any other way? I mean, it seems so weird. Complicated. Did I mention weird?

I think it’s good to acknowledge that the puzzle piece aspect is both weird and wonderful. And it’s normal to think the whole thing is cu-razy weird when you first hear about it. I recounted my own personal reaction when I first learned about sex in Health class. We had some laughs. And then I reminded her that acceptance and celebration comes with age and maturity and security in a strong marriage.

4. Why do they call it “safe” sex?

I think that’s a good question too. There’s nothing safe about an act that will forever change your mental, emotional, and physical world. I think it’s the furthest thing from safe, and that’s why it’s so special and not to be dealt with or decided lightly. I think that’s all the more affirmation that God created this act for married people. That’s the safest place to learn and enjoy intimacy.

5. Should I close my eyes?

Funny how we often close our eyes when we kiss. But it’s up to each person to know how they want to experience things. And I encouraged her to try things both ways, with her eyes closed and open. With the lights on and lights off. With music and without. There’s something to variety that spices things up and when it’s her turn, I want her to know there’s room for creativity. God made us creative for a reason.

6. Will it hurt?

That’s something I think more teens and young newlyweds need to understand. That it could very well hurt, but there are also ways to keep it from hurting or hurt less. And it’s okay if your kids want to talk about things with a physician. And the knowledge of real truth can also keep teens from rushing into things knowing that it’s not all easy under the sheets like Hollywood often portrays it. Conversations are important to have, closer to the wedding date, in my opinion.

7. Why do all the kids at school giggle when someone says the number 69?

Yep. This came up. And we talked about it. Position and all that fun stuff. But we also touched on how sex-obsessed our culture is and how the exploration and experiencing of things out of place of God’s timing leads to a lot more than heartache. I know of couples who were actually “bored” on their honeymoon. And I always refer back to the picture my best friend gave me close to my own wedding day: sex is like a beautiful garden surrounded by the fence of marriage. You can steal touches and moments by reaching past the fence, but shameless pleasure and wonder comes after you say your vows, unlock the fence and roam the garden freely.

8. What if I just want to stick to just kissing? Is that an option?

That’s the beauty of marriage and communicating and as days and weeks, months and years go by, you learn that not every night is a night to “sleep” together. Some nights are a time to just snuggle and fall asleep in each other’s arms. ☺

9. What if I don’t like sex?

I was very honest with her when she asked this. I said, “At first you might not, but some day, when you figure out how your body works, I promise you, you will!” Hopefully. But there are no guarantees. But if things go as they should, it could go amazingly, but it’s like every great relationship, you learn together, grow together, and grow in your love for each other as God gives you time and patience with each other.

10. Does this mean you and Dad…?

Don’t answer that.

What did I miss? And you and your kids? What kind of questions have come up?

UPDATE: After Raj wrote this, she and her husband learned that he’s been diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a serious heart condition. She’s just asking people to pray for her husband, and for peace for her and her family. Thank you! I know she’d appreciate some kind words in the comments, too, to say that you did pray for her.

swimmingthroughcloudsRajdeep Paulus studied English Literature at Northwestern University, and spent over a decade as an English Teacher and SAT Tutor, during which she married her best friend from Chicago whom she then followed to the island of Dominica where he began medical school. Fourteen years, four daughters, and a little house on a hill in the quaint town of Locust Valley, New York later, she now blogs weekly and writes masala-marinated, Y.A. fiction.When Raj is not tapping on her Mac, you can find her dancing with her princesses, kayaking with her hubs, coaching basketball or eating dark chocolate while sipping a frothy, sugar-free latte. She blogs at and secretly hopes someday she’ll own a laptop that f51njxNzwd3L._SL160_unctions under water.

And check out her first YA Novel: Swimming Through Clouds! Sheila reviewed it here.  The sequel is and Seeing Through Stones.

Their Dreams, His Agenda: God’s Plans And Purposes For Your Children

Today, please welcome guest author Sarah Francis Martin from Live it Out, as she shares about God’s plans and purposes for your children and how to help them walk in it.

God’s Plans And Purposes For Your ChildrenFrom the back seat I heard my son emphatically declare, “Mom, I have an idea…” The tone of his voice told me that he had been marinating on this idea for the better part of the day.

Gearing myself up for a good parenting moment at the steering wheel driving home from school, I inquired about this great idea.

My six year old: When I grow up I’m moving to New York City. Yeah. That’s what I’m going to do.

Me: Oh yeah? Well, you know that’s a big city and you have to work hard to be able to live there.

My six year old: Ok! I will do what Daddy does, you know, make money. I’m gonna work hard and make money and buy legos!

Me: Well, sounds like you have it all figured out.

My six year old: Yep, pretty much.

As I recount this conversation I remember that my initial inclination upon receiving this “big news” was to guide my son along in this “big” life decision with a real, honest look at it.

I was tempted to almost squelch this dream with questions of practicalities:

What job will you have?

Will you make enough money?

Will you thrive in a big city?

We live in a small town, and I know the allure of a big city with exciting tall skyscrapers drove this declared life path of my six year old.

Over the past year I’ve been marinating on the topics of dreaming, life paths, and purposes. The idea of seeking after God and His presence in my life parallels with the topic of purpose and dreaming. How do we marry the two in order to make a difference with our lives and find satisfaction in God and His agenda? How does taking our place in God’s kingdom allow us to find this ultimate satisfaction?

As I’ve taken more of an adult perspective on this weighty topic, the “big idea” conversation with my son caused me to look at it from a different angle.

Facilitate God’s Dreams And Purposes In The Lives Of Your Children

Just RISE UP!: A Call to Make Jesus Famous (InScribed Collection)The following excerpt from my book Just RISE UP!: A Call To Make Jesus Famous speaks to our interactions with our kids about their dreams and purpose. It takes a perspective of the individual, adult nature. But, as I’m circling back to this material myself, I find that it applies to my interaction with my six year old dreamer as well.

There’s a verse that I’ve read in passing before and probably even doodled on a note to a friend as a means of encouragement to her. God reminds us of His Word at just the right times for encouragement. I’ve got this heaviness on my heart in my own journey to rise up, as I want to be used by God. He has planted dreams in my heart, but doors have yet to open to allow me to fully walk through and live these dreams out. I hide ideas and plans in my heart, often checking to make sure they came from the Lord and not from my own fancies. If you don’t quite identify with this, know that it is okay. But if the idea of joining God in His kingdom work and making Him famous gets your heart pumping, that means the Lord is working in you and through you.

Here’s that verse: I am confident that the Creator, who has begun such a great work among you, will not stop in mid-design but will keep perfecting you until the day Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, returns to redeem the world. (Philippians 1:6 THE VOICE)

This great work God is doing in our lives starts with the work God does inside our hearts and minds. The word work is appropriate in my opinion as I imagine Jesus using His gardening tools while digging up roots of pride and jealousy in my heart, patting down fresh soil of trust and peace, watering my God-given talents. And if we believe Scripture, He will continue to toil, root out, plant afresh, and grow beautiful blooms in my life and yours—blooms that will RISE UP! and flourish. Even a novice gardener like me knows that before a plant comes to full bloom time, care, pruning, watering, and sunlight are in order.

Excerpt from Just Rise Up! by Sarah Francis Martin. Download a FREE Chapter from all three new Inscribed Studies Here. (No email required)

We have the privilege of working alongside the Lord to care, prune, and water our children’s life purpose. Just as we take care to nourish their bodies and minds, we can start today to nourish their souls and guide them to seek after God in all aspects of their lives.

As it is a process in our own lives, this endeavor won’t come to full bloom for some years in our child’s life. But there are a few key things to keep in mind along the journey.

Model An Attitude of Kingdom Perspective

We all know that our children are like sponges, soaking in even minute details from their environments.

My husband and I have started to become more intentional in sharing details of what we do as a family and as individuals to serve the Lord. We have learned the importance of taking time to explain on a six year old level why our family gives money to this ministry, or why mommy wrote that book about Jesus. Life gets busy and it is tempting to gloss over details like this during the rush to basketball practice!

Depending on your child’s maturity level, help them work through their own calling from God within their world. Explain how God uses them to be a sweet friend to the new girl at school. Or how they share the love of Jesus when they stand up to a bully on the playground on behalf of another kid. It’s neat to think and pray together about how God works in their lives at such a young age.

Nurture Your Child’s God-Given Talents

I love exploring my child’s gifts and talents and characteristics. It’s important that we spend time in prayer asking God for wisdom to best facilitate these gifts and talents.

How do we accentuate them and draw them out?

How do we express to our child that God blesses them with unique and individual gifts and talents that only they can fulfill?

Be The Soft Place To Land

This is one that I constantly have to remember: to allow space for dreaming and planning. I think this is best achieved when we help our child work through these dreams and plans in their own prayer lives.

If our child trusts us with their “big ideas” knowing that we won’t let practicalities squelch their passion, they will see that their Father God is the ultimate safe place as well. When we seek after the Lord, knowing we can trust Him, we become more in tune to where He is moving in our lives. Our hearts become open to following that path which will be fruitful and fulfilling. Walking with our children in this lifelong process can be exciting.

Several weeks after my six year old made his big city declaration, we sat together as a family watching the popular show American Ninja Warrior––a favorite in many households with boys. As we cheered on the men and women and heard their stories of hard work to get where they are in this physical competition, I could almost see the little cogs turning in my son’s mind. Another declaration burst out from his mouth, “I’ve changed my mind. I’m moving THERE.”

Before I could explain that he would have to train hard and sacrifice much physically to attain this goal, I let that practicality go for the moment. In the lives of our children, dreams and fancies transform and bloom. But it is God’s plan and His kingdom that never changes.

As long as our children take a stand on this firm foundation, they can not go wrong in their life purpose.

Sarah Francis MartinJust RISE UP!: A Call to Make Jesus Famous (InScribed Collection)Sarah Francis Martin is a wife, mother, friend, mentor, author and wanna be artist. She has a passion to ignite this generation to get up off the couch of complacency and do life differently for God’s kingdom. When she is not typing away at her laptop, you can often find Sarah on date nights with her husband, rough housing with her young son, or getting her hands messy with craft paint. She is the author of Just RISE UP!: A Call To Make Jesus Famous


Go to Your Room! Why Kids Should Hang Out in the Living Room Instead

For my column today I thought I’d rerun a Christmas column from a few years ago where I talked about computers in kids’ rooms. It goes along well with our discussion yesterday about protecting kids with all the new gadgets at Christmas!

Computers in Kids Rooms
Disciplining children is a minefield for parents today. You’re not supposed to spank. You’re not supposed to yell. So when a 13-year-old child is tormenting his 9-year-old brother, parents utter the greatest threat that’s still acceptable: “Go to your room!”

Yeah, that’ll teach him.

Here’s a kid who obviously does not want to be with the family, and, in punishment, you send him to a place where, according to the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, 50% have their own television, and another 25% have a computer. “Go to your room!” is no longer sentencing a child to hours of boredom; it’s sending a child to a place where they have access to the outside world, with no parental interference, and often no parental guidance.

Traditionally, the living room was for living; the bedroom was for sleeping. Being banished to the bedroom was harsh indeed. Today, many children prefer to cocoon in their rooms, which they’re trying to turn into entertainment central. It’s not unusual for most kids’ Christmas lists to have “electronics” highlighted right at the top. The Santa in you may be tempted to oblige. The Scrooge in me is asking you to reconsider.

After all, what happens when kids have a television in their bedroom? According to a University of Haifa study, middle schoolers with TVs in their room sleep thirty minutes less a night, on average, than children without a television. The Canadian Pediatric Society calls televisions in bedrooms one of the biggest factors in childhood obesity. These children also score lower on reading and math tests. And perhaps most importantly, they’re twice as likely to start smoking and get involved in other delinquent activities, even controlling for all other factors.

While the health and educational detriments of television are important, it’s that last one that concerns me most.

When kids have televisions and computers in their room, they are more likely to make lifestyle and moral choices that parents don’t approve of because their lives have now become more and more independent.

Kids with TVs in their rooms live in their rooms, not in the kitchen or the family room, where they can hang out with their parents. And perhaps just as importantly, they tend to live solitary lives, not lives with their siblings. If you’ve ever wondered why kids squabble so much, perhaps it’s because they aren’t forced to play together or cure boredom together. Instead, they just retreat to their rooms to be entertained on their own.

I really can’t think of anything much more destructive in a family than encouraging your child to cocoon. Kids need input from parents. They need conversation. They need meal times. They need to have fun! But we’re letting them grow up by themselves, in their wonderfully decorated rooms with every little gadget. It’s wrong.

If your lives consist mostly of gathering the children for the practical functions of life, like putting food on their plates or collecting homework or ascertaining everybody’s schedules, and then you separate during your leisure times, I doubt real conversation or sharing will happen.

If your children hang out in their own rooms, rather than in the family room with siblings, I doubt great friendships will develop.

Before you shop this Christmas, then, ask yourself: what values do you want your children to have? Do electronics in their bedrooms contribute to your vision? Probably not. So maybe the Santa in you should invest in board games for the whole family or comfortable furniture for the living room, rather than for bedrooms. Your kids may think you’ve turned into Scrooge, but they’ll be better people for it.

If your kids have gadgets, computers, or phones in their room, make sure you’ve taken steps to protect them online!

Kids, Gadgets, and Christmas: Protect Your Kids Online

Protect Your Kids Online: If you're buying gadgets this Christmas, don't let those gadgets become traps. Help keep them fun--and safe!

Have you done all your Christmas shopping yet?

Personally, I don’t usually start until panic sets in, likely around the 18th, but I have at least thought about what I’m getting everybody. We don’t tend to do Christmas big; I focus on 3 Gifts (something they need, something they want, and something to nurture their spiritual side). And that’s it.

But with teenagers in the house, often the “gift they want” is some sort of electronic device. And that can be a real treat and a real benefit to them, especially if they’re students.

But it can also be a danger, and so this time of year is a great time to reevaluate internet safety at your home. If you’re going to bring new devices into your house on Dec. 25, that means that you’re going to bring EVERYTHING that’s on the internet potentially into your home, unless you take some steps to stop that.

I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but because I write a marriage blog I get tons of emails everyday. And I would say that half of all the emails I get from women (and men) in troubled marriages revolve around porn. And often the root of that story isn’t “he started watching porn when we got married”–it’s “he started looking at porn when he was 11”, or “she started reading erotica online when she was 14.” Kids often start younger than we even think–younger than we think that they are even interested in it. And then they can easily get sucked in to something that will affect their sexuality, their spiritual life, their social life, and even their future marriage.

I am not against devices in the house. I love computers and I love spending time online.

But you simply have to be realistic about how to protect your kids online.

It’s the best gift that we can give our kids, and our future sons and daughters-in-law: to raise children who were not exposed to that much porn/erotica as early teens and teens.

And this is not just a boy problem. Girls watch porn, too! In fact, most estimates are that 30% of people who access porn sites are female. We often get scared for our boys, but our girls are in danger to temptation, too.

So here are four ideas to keep your family safe–even with all the new gadgets!

Keep Devices in a Central Place at Night

When do kids tend to access porn? At night, when they’re lying in bed on their own and they have complete privacy. So a simple solution is to make it normal to charge all devices in a central place every night. Bonus #1: your kids actually sleep rather than checking Facebook all night. Bonus #2: your phones actually get charged (I always forget to charge mine).

So get a central charging dock that can handle multiple devices, like this:

Great Useful Stuff Rustic Modern Collection: Ultra Charging Station Multi-device Charging Station and Dock for Iphone 5, 6, 6 Plus, 4s, Ipad Mini, Ipad Air, Ipad 4, Samsung Galaxy S3 S4, Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 3, Macbook Air, Smartphones & Tablets

Turn the WiFi off at night–or change the password

Another option? The wifi goes off at 11 every night. That stops kids from staying up too late, and it stops the temptation to browse questionable sites. I’ve also known parents who change the wifi password every week, and kids can’t get it until they do their chores (or their homework!)

Get an Accountability Program

Finally, I think it’s so important to get some sort of internet accountability program for your family, so that the temptation is removed. And I’m a big fan of Covenant Eyes. Here’s how it works:

You sign up for a family plan, and can get it installed on your computers, phones, tablets, and iPods. Covenant Eyes gives all websites a rating, from A-okay to Mature to Pornographic. And you can register each user as to what level they’re allowed to access (adults could access mature but not pornographic; 11-year-olds can’t access Mature either). Then, if that family member ever tries to access a site that’s out of their rating, an accountability partner of your choice will receive an email.

You can also have the option to block those sites altogether.

I think part of being a good parent is protecting your kids from the filth that is out there. So I’d encourage you–if you’re buying devices for Christmas, or if your family already has lots of devices, get some internet protection, too.

And the great thing is that Covenant Eyes is giving a discount JUST for people who click using my link where you’ll get two months of internet safety free!

It’s just $13.99, and that gives you a Family Account on multiple devices–really all that you own. There are no limits. You can assign everybody their unique user name, and add filtering to each account (or to only a select few) for free. You can set what kind of sites your kids can visit (a 5-year-old should be far more restricted than a 16-year-old, for instance). You can even block internet access at certain times of day (which is much easier than turning off the wifi altogether!).

You’ll get the discount automatically when you sign up through my link, but if for some reason it doesn’t appear, just use the code “TLHV” at the checkout (for To Love, Honor and Vacuum!)

This offer is only good until December 31, 2014. After that, you’ll still get one month free–but not two!

Get it here.

Don’t let those Christmas gifts become the vehicle through which your child starts accessing questionable stuff early–and forms a habit which is so hard to break.

It’s not “bad” kids who start to do this. It’s MOST kids, even good kids.

It’s those kids who are solid Christians, who just get lonely, and who are curious. It’s those strong Christian kids who end up marrying other strong Christian kids, but they bring all this sexual garbage into their marriage which messes up their libidos and their expectations and their ability to experience real intimacy. The emails I receive aren’t just from women who are married to BAD guys; most of them are women married to good, Christian guys who never dreamed these upstanding guys struggled with this, because they’re the last people you’d think had this issue. And it started when they were young teens. It often started at Christmas.

Please, talk to your husband about this and consider adding Covenant Eyes to those gadgets and phones you have or the ones you’re buying. It really is part of being a responsible parent today!

Learn more about Covenant Eyes here.

Now, maybe you’re thinking: but that’s just “window dressing”. We should be looking at the heart issues that bring up the temptation in the first place. If you simply take away the temptation, that doesn’t change the heart.

And I understand. But I don’t buy it. These are KIDS. They aren’t wise enough to understand what’s dangerous to them, and they’re naturally curious. It’s very hard to withstand that curiosity. And once they get sucked in, it gets much worse. If you can prevent that from happening in the first place, you do your kids a tremendous favor.

Look, back when I was a kid, if you wanted to see porn you had to find a friend’s father’s stash of Playboys in the garden shed. Or if you were older, you had to get in your car, drive to the corner store, reach for that paper-bag-covered magazine, take it to the cashier, pull out your wallet, pay for it, and drive home with it. Those are a lot of steps–and a lot of chances for your conscience to work and for the Holy Spirit to convince you to turn around and run. Now it’s available with one click. It’s too easy. And so we need to fight smarter.

Get Educated on Teens and Porn

Widespread internet access at home is only about 15 years old. In 2000, 43% of homes had access to the internet (and much of that was dialup). Today it’s 81%. That means that unless you’re in your late 20s, most parents today did NOT grow up with internet in the home when they were teens. But to our kids this is normal. We are the dividing generation. Every generation after this will have gone through it and will understand, and our kids will probably be more careful with their kids. But we didn’t grow up with it, and so we don’t understand. We can’t in the same way.

So we need to get educated.

Here are a few ebooks and resources from Covenant Eyes that you may find helpful. All are free and can be downloaded immediately:

  • When Your Child is Looking at Porn (what to do when you “catch” your child or teen accessing porn)
  • Your Brain on Porn (how porn actually affects the brain)
  • Parenting the Internet Generation
  • A Parent’s Guide to Cyberbullying

And more! Download these ebooks here.

And here’s a quick infographic on teens and porn use:


How Pornography Addiction Affects the Teenage Brain – InfographicLearn How Pornography Addiction Affects the Teenage Brain – Infographic

This Christmas, be a vigilant parent and protect your kids online. We need to live in the real world; I don’t believe in getting rid of technology. But I do believe in being safe. And so I wish you all a very safe Christmas!
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