4 great ways to encourage your children

4 great ways to encourage your childrenAs a parent, have you ever been home and not really home? That is, have you ever been surrounded by your children, but so distracted by the things of this world – your job, hobbies, friends – that you’re really on another planet?

Pastor David Jeremiah asked those questions in a two-part Focus on the Family podcast, and then suggested four ways that parents can improve in their God-given roles of loving their children. He calls them the four ways to encourage your children. I enjoyed it and would encourage you to listen, too, here and here. (If you have an iPhone, download the Focus on the Family app. The broadcasts were on Sept. 23-24. There also is an Android app.)

Parents, he said, should give their children:

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Bad idea: Kids’ football league issues $200 fine if score gets out of hand

Bad idea: Kids' football league issues $200 fine if score gets out of handIf your child is playing in a football league and the other team is winning big, do you want the opposing players to lay down and let your kid’s team score? What about fining the other team $200 if the opposing coach does not cooperate?

That’s exactly what’s happening in the Northern California Federation Youth Football League, where a league for children 7 to 13 year olds is now suspending the coach for one week and handing the team a $200 fine it wins by 35 points or more. It’s called the “mercy rule.” The league’s deputy commissioner says the rule teaches compassion and sportsmanship.

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5 ways parenting makes us less selfish – and why I’m thankful for the lesson

5 ways parenting makes us less selfish – and why I’m thankful for the lessonRemember those times in elementary school when you wanted that yummy pie on your friend’s plate?

“You gonna eat that?” you might say, putting your finger smack-dab in the middle of it.

“Well, not anymore,” they’d reply.

Or maybe you were on the receiving end of such silly antics, frustrated at your friend’s selfishness. Of course, very few of us looked at that delicious pie and wanted to give it to someone. No way. That was our pie.

I remember those days very well. I also remember the day, about four years ago, when I was eating dinner and had some food on my plate that was seconds away from being devoured. But my first child, my then-1-year-old son, had been eyeing it, and he wanted it, too. You see, there were no leftovers on the table. If I ate it, he would not get any more food. But if he ate it, I would not get any more.

What do you think I did? I gave it to him, without hesitation.

Throughout Scripture, God commands us to avoid selfishness, and for good reason; we all struggle with it. Paul tells us to do “nothing from selfish ambition” (Philippians 2:3). Peter tells us to humble ourselves (1 Peter 5:6). Jesus Himself tells us to deny ourselves and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). But it’s hard, isn’t it?

Nothing wipes selfishness out of your life like parenting. I didn’t think I was a selfish person as a bachelor, but in hindsight, I probably was. And I still am – we all are, to some degree — but I’m further along in my goal of selflessness than I was.

I’m thankful for what God’s taught me about selfishness. Here are 5 specific lessons I’ve learned:

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Before they can talk: 7 ways to teach toddlers about God

Before they can talk: 7 ways to teach toddlers about GodEach night, before I put my 1-year-old daughter Maggie or her twin brother William to bed, I ask them simply, “Who made you?” They’re usually their sweetest at these moments, and they often smile while pointing heavenward and shouting in a tiny voice, “God!”

I’ve always been amazed at how quickly small children learn, even though they’re barely – if at all — talking. At 19 months Maggie learned the color yellow and was telling her surprised grandma about her beautiful “yella” dress. I’m pretty sure William knows the color “blue,” but he’s usually too rambunctious for me to stop and quiz him.

Scripture tells parents to teach their children about the Lord from an early age and to talk about Him throughout the day (Deuteronomy 6:5-7). But how do we do that when young children can’t even talk, when their attention span lasts mere seconds?

Isn’t it too early to teach them about spiritual concepts? In one, word, “no.”

We often hear that children are like “sponges.” Let them soak up God’s Word – no matter the age. Start with the “complex” subjects, and the simple ones, too. We teach our 1 year olds about Christ’s death, burial and resurrections, but we also teach them more basic concepts – for instance, simply that God made them.

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Turn it off: 6 reasons not to let children watch television

Turn it off: 6 reasons not to let children watch televisionThe other day, my wife and I – needing a break — picked two random people off the street and asked if they could babysit our three children for 30 minutes. We thought they’d charge a lot on such a short notice, but, believe it or not, they did it for free. Well, sort of. They wanted to show our kids a few products they were selling, and they also wanted to tell them a bunch of things we disagreed with. It sounded crazy, but, hey, they’d done this before, and, besides, they said, all the parents were doing it.

Of course, I made all of that up.

But don’t we do this very thing every time we let our children watch a television program we know little about? It’s essentially random people with (too often) an unbiblical worldview trying to sell our children something they don’t need. No part of that is good.

My family does have a television in our house, and we do let our oldest (who is 5) watch it, but the TV is not on all the time. In fact, when he’s awake, it’s mostly off. He gets to watch some educational shows, a tad-bit of simply fun shows, and from time to time a show his Mommy and Daddy enjoy. But he’s under the national average for TV viewing – children ages 2-5 spend an average of 32 hours a week in front of the tube, according to Nielsen. His twin sister and brother (who are 1) don’t get to watch TV at all.

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