3 reasons we don’t let our children play video games*

3 reasons we don’t let our children play video games*My oldest son was stirring his Oreo milkshake, eating one methodical bite at a time at the local fast-food joint recently, when the conversation turned to his friends.

“I’d much rather spend time at his house than mine,” my son said, referencing a boy his age he had just visited. “Our house is boring.”

I could have been offended, but I wasn’t. Instead, I took a bite of my strawberry sundae and let the discussion progress naturally, free of any knee-jerk reactions.

“He has videos games,” he said. “We don’t.”

A thousand thoughts swirled in my head that went unsaid: We have a large yard. We have a basketball goal. We have a bicycle for every member of the family. We have a basement. We have a large television set. We have a Lego collection that would rival Legoland’s. Besides, what about those starving children in Africa who don’t have any toys?!

But I didn’t say any of that. Instead, I drove the discussion in a different direction: “If we had video games, what would you do less of that you do now?”

My son was stuck. If he answered truthfully – reading? playing outside? doing homework? – then he would be playing into my hands. Thus, we called it a truce, went home, and had a great game of hoops at our old “boring” home.

The Entertainment Software Association reported this year that exactly 50 percent of Americans own either a dedicated video game console or a handheld system.

My household, though, isn’t one of them. Even though we allow our children to play video games at other homes and we let them play the occasional iPhone game of Candy Crush, too, we don’t own a video game console. Perhaps that will change in a few years, but for now, we’re holding off.

Here are three reasons we’ve chosen to have a house free of video games: Continue reading

3 reasons your daughter needs to hear your personal love story

3 reasons to tell your daughter you and your spouse's love storyMy daughter is only six years old, but she’s already in love with, well, love.

She doesn’t have a boyfriend and doesn’t want one, either (thank goodness). Yet she’s engrossed with the animated romances she sees on the big screen — that is, the ones that depict love in a fairy tale fashion. You know: Beauty and the Beast, Frozen and the like.

When the credits roll, you can almost see her heart melt as she discusses Anna and Kristoff or Rapunzel and Flynn or other famous make-believe couples. And it’s often accompanied by a dreamy-eyed “awwwwww.”

Thankfully, her current “knight in shining armor” is me, but the day is coming when she will catch the eye of a boy. And then a young man. And by then, her idea of romance will move beyond Disney cartoons. And if she’s influenced by the culture, that could be a concern. Why? Because society’s definition of romance is anything but biblical.

Take a look at the top-grossing romantic drama movies of all time. Titanic — a film full of stuff our grandparents would have called “scandalous” — is No. 1. Pearl Harbor — which has similar themes — is No. 2. The soft porn Fifty Shades trilogy ranks 4, 11 and 13. The Top 10 list of romantic comedies isn’t much better, littered with titles such as Sex and the City and Knocked Up.

If your daughter or my daughter are to grow up with positive romantic stories — that is, stories worth emulating — then it’s up to us, the parents. The Bible is full of such romances (Boaz and Ruth) and television has a few good ones, too (example: When Calls The Heart). There are even a handful of theatrical movies that are appropriate for teens (try Forever My Girl or Old Fashioned).

But for my daughter, I wanted to start closer to home. I wanted her to know about how Mommy and Daddy met. Thus, on a recent date night to McDonald’s, I gave her an abridged version of our courtship. Perhaps it wasn’t as exciting as an Amish romance novel, but I did elicit a few squeals — and an “awwwwww,” too.

Here are three reasons I did that: Continue reading

3 simple ways to teach children gratitude

3 simple ways to teach children gratitudeAt some point, every home with young children experiences ingratitude. It’s just part of post-Fall childrearing — alongside 2-year-old temper tantrums and 2 a.m. bedtime visits.

I thought about that recently when my two oldest boys (ages 9 and 5) started grumbling as their mom was baking cookies for a special church function.

“You never make these for us!” they complained.

Never mind that the kitchen cabinet was full of other types of cookies they could eat, and that they get desert for virtually meal, and that mom also was busy preparing dinner – a fabulous meal all of us would soon enjoy.

No, they wanted the special cookies – the cookies they’ve never had — and they didn’t want anyone else to have them, either.

They then joined together to whine in unison: It’s not fair!

You can imagine how the subsequent parent-child conversation went. It included stories of starving African children who rarely get a full meal – much less desert and (definitely) not specially baked cookies.

By the time the conversation was over, our children were wishing they had never complained at all. And they could (nearly) point to Africa on a globe.

Of course, it’s easy to criticize my two sons for a moment of ingratitude. If we’re honest, though, we all have moments like that – moments when we lust after our neighbor’s new car, our friend’s new home, or simply the latest-and-greatest Best Buy gadgets. It’s a problem as old as, well, Scripture. When Jesus healed the 10 leapers, only one returned to give thanks (Luke 17:11-19).

How, then, can we instill a spirit of gratitude, thankfulness and contentment in our children? There are lots of ways to do it, but here are three ways to start: Continue reading

‘Dad, can I buy this?’ (3 things to teach your kids about greed and shopping)

‘Dad, can I buy this?’ (3 things to teach your kids about shopping)

I was getting a haircut at the local budget salon a few months back when my 9-year-old son – who had just received his own trim – started growing restless.

“Dad, can I have your phone?”

Normally the answer is “no,” but his choice of magazines in the waiting area was too adult-oriented, and, besides, there are a few educational apps on my phone that he enjoys.

The rest of our trip to the salon was uneventful – he kindly grabbed a few suckers for his siblings and we ate a snack on the way home — but later that evening, after he went to bed, I discovered an unwelcome surprise in my email.

“Thank-you for shopping with us!” the email, from Amazon.com, read. “We’ll send a confirmation when your item ships.”

Umm, what item?

The LEGO Star Wars Millennium Falcon, of course. The expensive one with 1,329 pieces, ready to assemble. The one with Rey, Finn, Han Solo and Chewbacca. Even BB-8!

I didn’t share Amazon’s excitement, though, and I hadn’t ordered any LEGO toys. Continue reading

‘Dad, I dreamed about my birth mom’

‘Dad, I dreamed about my birth mom’

Most families seem to have at least one kid who is the deep thinker. You know, the child who says crazy things like: “Shouldn’t we pray for Satan, too?”

For us, that’s William. He’s the 5-year-old, blue-eyed, curly-haired version of that French “Thinker” statue, except he’s bouncing off walls, jumping off couches and climbing up trees — doing his best to save the world in his muscular Spiderman costume. He would have broken that iconic statue, and out-thought it in the process.

So, it really didn’t surprise my wife and I when he recently hopped in our bed on a lazy Saturday morning and started describing his latest wild dream. It had all the things that make up a typical child’s dream – animals and toys and food and such – but this one was a bit different.

“Dad, I dreamed about my birth mom,” he said matter-of-factly.

We have three adopted children, and all of them know about their background, but William ponders his origins more than the other two, combined. That’s just his nature. He thinks a lot, about everything. Sometimes his questions are substantive. (“Why did God create the earth?) And other times they’re simply humorous. (“What was Yoda’s first name?”)

William wasn’t troubled by his dream, although he seemed to realize it was different than dreaming about, say, elephants.

He simply desired what any adopted child would have wanted in that moment — affirmation. He is not alone. It is natural for adopted children to ask as they grow older: Why did you adopt me?

Thankfully, the days of keeping a child’s adoption a secret are long gone. A 2007 government survey of 2,000 families found that 97 percent of adopted children ages 5 and older knew they were adopted.

We introduced William to his adoption story before he could form sentences, and as he grows older, we will add more details. No, he doesn’t fully comprehend it now, but he eventually will.

Our conversation with him that Saturday morning lasted all of about 30 seconds, but we made three quick points: Continue reading