What to do About the Entitlement Mentality

The phrase “entitlement mentality” gets thrown around a lot as emblematic of today’s younger generation. Merriam Webster defines entitlement as:

  • the fact of having a right to something. “full entitlement to fees and maintenance should be offered”
  • the amount to which a person has a right. “annual leave benefits.”
  • the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. “no wonder your kids have a sense of entitlement”

I don’t see a problem with the first two definitions. Kids, for example, have the right to feel loved, secure, important, and special. God created them with these needs and He designed the family to fulfill them.

What we want to avoid, as parents, is raising kids who think they deserve privileges and preferential treatment because they have a me-centered view of reality. This is where training of their heart-attitudes has to come in.

Here are some practical ways Edric and I are trying to weed out the negative sense of entitlement in our kids:

Learn to Wait

Between Edric and me, I tend to give in more to the kids’ wants so I am thankful that Edric insists on being firm about training our kids to wait.

Last Christmas, Cetaphil, a brand that we endorse as a family, gave the kids GCs for Toys R Us. The kids were thrilled since we didn’t buy them expensive gifts for Christmas. We asked them to purchase presents for each other and gave them a fairly small budget per person to do so. When they received their GCs, the kids shrieked with joy, expecting to be able to troop to the toy store soon after. However, Edric encouraged them to postpone their urge to do so until such time as he deemed favorable.

At first, I felt badly for the kids. During Christmas we told them we would focus on serving an underprivileged community rather than make our celebration about presents. They didn’t complain when they received simple gifts. Therefore, my impulse was to reward their good attitudes.

Yet, I trusted Edric’s leading on the matter and he was wise to mandate that the kids wait once more. A few weeks ago, he finally allowed each of our kids to pick out something at the toy store. We had another photoshoot for Cetaphil where they obeyed and listened to instructions very well so Edric wanted to bless them for their positive character.


In keeping with our emphasis on learning to wait, I asked the kids not to open their purchases till the day after. Once again they complied. There was some resistance from our younger two who came up to me grasping their new toys hoping that they could persuade me to change my mind by batting their pretty eyelashes. But I didn’t cave in and insisted that tomorrow wasn’t very far away. They understood and eagerly anticipated waking up the next morning. Exercising self-control allowed them to thoroughly enjoy the moment when they opened their toys.

Whenever parents express concern about their kids being entitled, Edric and I ask them to think through what sort of environment and values they are perpetuating at home. It’s not our children’s faults when they grow up feeling like the “world owes them.” Most likely, it’s due to the way we are raising them.

One problem may be too much too soon. For example, many parents feel upset about their kids’ addiction to gadgets but they supply their children with devices to begin with. Furthermore, these gadgets are usually given when their children are too young to self-regulate the amount of time they spend on these.

We made this mistake with Catalina when she was younger. Needing to appease her and keep her preoccupied, we would hand my phone to her. However, this had a detrimental affect on her personality. She began to resort to whining when she couldn’t use my phone, thinking it was her right to have it as a form of entertainment. So we had a season of “unplugging” for her.

Now, when I tell her, “Catalina, you can’t play with that or you can’t have that,” more often than not her reply is, “Okay, mommy.” Before, she would arch her head back and cry, sulk, or roll around on the couch or bed to emphasize her disappointment. By God’s grace, she has improved a lot!

Humility and Service

Philippians 2:5-7 reads, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”

Jesus was God but did not insist on being treated like God, nor did he demand the privileges that belonged to Him. He did not appear in His glorious form but in the form of man whom He created. As if this wasn’t humbling enough, He regarded Himself as a servant, not just any servant, but the lowliest of all — a bond servant.

The word for bondservant in Greek is Doulos which implies slave, one who gives himself up to another’s will, or to be devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests. (Source:http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/doulos.html)

“The King of the Universe, the Lord of glory, voluntarily became a pauper for our sake. He had to borrow a place to be born, a boat to preach from, a place to sleep, a donkey to ride upon, an upper room to use for the last supper, and a tomb in which to be buried. He created the world but the world did not know Him. He was insulted, humiliated, and rejected by the people He made. (Source: Ken Boa, Reflections Newsletter, May 1988.)

Our children have inherent worth as people created in the image of God, but like Christ, they don’t have to insist or demand to be treated as special. Neither should they expect the “world to revolve around their needs and wants.”

Instead, they can copy Christ’s example. He set aside His privileges and position to serve our needs. This act of humility didn’t diminish His worth, instead it allowed Him to accomplish the purpose for which He came to earth — the sacrifice of His life on the cross to pay for our sins which met our greatest need — forgiveness. Similarly, are we teaching our children to seek the highest good of others? Are we exemplifying this ourselves?

Edric and I have five kids with five different personalities, and all of them manifested a self-centered perspective early on in their lives. By two years old it was usually full blown in its ugliness and without intervention and consistent training, all of our kids would have been out of control by now. While they continue to struggle with selfishness (who doesn’t?), they understand that as a family we are committed to serving the Lord and others. We are on this earth to be a blessing.

In order to emphasize this, we expose our children to ministry activities where they must serve and think of the needs of others. When our kids minister alongside Edric and me, they experience what it is like to go outside of their comfort zones and channel their God-given talents towards caring for others. In the process they realize that they can live purposefully, beyond the pursuit of self-gratification.


This usually happens when our kids are at the age when they can express their personal reflections and insights. At about nine or ten years of age, we give them opportunities to stand in front of audiences to share what God is teaching them.

Elijah was more natural at this but we asked Edan to participate as well about three years ago. We avoided forcing him. But when he finally got to experience speaking along side us his heart attitude changed. He now says, “I want to be a blessing!”

Edric and I have also learned from my brother and sister-in-law who are part of the sports ministry of our church. They include my nephews and niece in their outreaches whenever possible. At present, their kids also disciple other children and lead bible studies for them. Edric and I asked our kids to do this as well but they got discouraged when their first few attempts didn’t produce desired results. The kids they were teaching preferred to play! However, we have challenged our older children to get these studies started again.

Contribute

Our desire is to instill in our kids what it means to be contributors rather than takers. Whether it is serving in ministry or helping out at home, we want our kids to take initiative to meet the needs they see and learn the value of work. 

Edric recently required the boys to take care of the yard with him.  At first our kids resisted, especially Edan who prefers to be indoors. However, after our kids experienced mowing the grass, taking out the big shears to trim plants, shrubs and branches, sweeping and collecting dead leaves (and then burning them to roast marshmallows), they realized that doing chores together can be a lot of fun! Our yard is still in dismal shape and needs a lot of beautifying! 

Since we have household help we don’t want our kids to feel like someone is always there to pick up after them, straighten their rooms, and respond to their every request. They are able-bodied enough to fix their beds, clean their mess, and be responsible for their toys and belongings.



During our trip to Dubai, Edric had the boys sort through all their clothing and pack their own luggage. I usually prepare all their clothes and shoes, but Edric forbade me from doing so this time around. He reminded me that the boys are old enough to exercise independence in this area, that it was necessary for them to do so, too. At first, I hesitated to agree with him for fear that our sons would forget important articles of clothing.

However, I praise God that I listened to Edric because I haven’t had to micromanage how they pair their outfits or keep track of what goes into their suitcases. They have taken the initiative to put away their clothes and select what they will wear every day which makes it a lot easier for me since I only have to worry about the girls’ luggages. 

Stewardship

Even if our kids technically have material possessions that belong to them, we tell them they don’t own anything. God owns everything we have as a family. We are just stewards of these blessings, therefore our response needs to be one of appreciation and conscientiousness about taking care of what is the Lord’s. Since we don’t own anything, it becomes easier for our kids to share as well. No one is allowed to say, “This is mine!” 

Frugality and Thriftiness

While we don’t want our children to worry about money, we don’t want them to think it comes easily either. It starts with us, as parents, modeling simplicity. When our kids observe us demonstrate restraint it motivates them to do the same. When we don’t exercise discretion they tend to think they can spend indiscriminately, too.

My older boys hold me accountable now. Elijah will challenge me in a polite way by asking, “Mom, do you really need that? Mom, that’s kind of expensive…”

Since Elijah and Edan earn money when they do jobs for Edric, they understand that a lot of effort is entailed in saving and accumulating wealth. It probably helps that we don’t give them allowances since they are homeschooled. Instead, they get paid when they do actual work. As a result, they exercise caution when spending their money, too. They prefer to invest their funds in stocks in order to grow it for future use.

Elijah and Edan both have individual stock portfolios. Their investment philosophy is invest in companies with a healthy track record, give good value for money, and are aligned with their personal convictions. For example, they prefer not to put their earnings into companies that sell junk food. Good call, boys!

Giving children a vision for what they can accomplish if they can save and invest money also keeps their impulses at bay. For example, when Elijah was eleven years old, he bought himself an IPad to increase his productivity. His rationale was, it was a “business investment.” He paid seventy-five percent of the cost of an IPad Air after researching and bidding for the best deal. We didn’t just hand him a new device even though he was old enough to responsibly handle one. We let him save up for it and go through the trouble of finding the best deal. As a result, he has taken very good care of his IPad and he uses it to learn about coding, program, track his stocks, and communicate with. 

Gratefulness

One of the best cures for entitlement is gratitude. This past week Edric had the kids memorize, “In everything give thanks.” (1 Timothy 5:17) Since we are in the Middle East, meeting with old and new friends, visiting different sites and learning about a unique culture, our kids may not always appreciate every experience we have. Furthermore, they may forget to express their sincere thanks when people treat us or take us to places. Church friends have been so hospitable and accommodating towards us that our kids can become spoiled, too! (We feel spoiled!) So we have repeatedly reminded them to be grateful, to avoid being demanding or upset when their expectations are not met. After all, we don’t deserve the kindness being  showered upon us.

Gratitude also helps to guard our hearts from greed, one of the symptoms of entitlement. I don’t know how many of you are from Chinese families but here’s something that I appreciated about what my father did in ours. (I am half Chinese, my father being the Chinese parent and my mother being the American one.) Growing up, my father didn’t raise my siblings and me to bank on inheritance. So my siblings and I avoided planning our lives based on the expectation that our dad’s businesses, investments, and properties would be handed down to us. Instead, my dad assessed whatever needs we had through the years and blessed us when he saw it fit to do so.

He decided what was fair and still decides what is fair because he is still alive. In the process, he also gets to enjoy whatever “gifts” he gives us.

More importantly, my parents emphasized and continue to emphasize faith in the Lord as the unifying identity of our family. They still disciple us as their grown up children (as well as our spouses and children). As a result, we share the same values and perspectives on family, ministry, work, and wealth, and have a deep love and loyalty towards one another.


Nevertheless, I continue to pray that money will never come between us. I know it happens to the best of families and ours isn’t immune so it is by God’s grace alone that we desire what is best for one another and rejoice when we see each other prosper. Some of us have more than others and even though there may be times when it’s tempting to compare lifestyles and privileges, what safeguards our hearts and minds is the truth that all things come from the Lord’s hand. Whom he chooses to bless materially is in accordance with his pleasing and perfect will. 

“Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 5:19
At the end of the day, I believe that a negative sense of entitlement boils down to a theological issue. It may be hard for kids to grasp this when they are young, but as they grow up, we need to remind them that every person is a recipient of grace. All of us are un-deserving of God’s grace, yet He forgave us and gave us the right to become His children.

“Yet to all who did receive him (Jesus Christ), to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…”John 1:12

If we understand grace then we will be gracious when we aren’t treated the way we hope to be, when we don’t get our way, or when we fail to receive what we think we deserve to have. Why? Jesus Christ has met our desperate need for forgiveness. Our Heavenly Father has satisfied our deepest longings for love and acceptance. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to break away from the pain and bondage of sin. And our best life is yet to be, in heaven. Therefore, any good thing bestowed upon us today is a bonus! So we, and our children, can learn to wait, be humble and servant-like, contribute (work hard), be good stewards, practice thriftiness and frugality, and remember to say thank you! 


  

 

Extreme Patience Required (EPR)

I have a son, who will remain unnamed in case he reads this someday, who likes to take his time…all the time. He has little sense of urgency. This becomes a source of frustration for each family member when we are rushing to an event or have to honor a commitment and are pressed for time. 
Whether it’s eating, dressing up, homeschooling, or finishing responsibilities, his tendency is to delay, be distracted, and lose focus. Over the years, Edric and I have disciplined and trained him to be otherwise but it continues to be a challenge. Edric even got him a watch so he could use it to track his time but he lost it! 

Extreme patience is often required of us as we teach and train our son. Furthermore, we have to carefully consider the positive side of his personality type. Because he is such a chill person and so easy going, he isn’t a reactive, easily angered person. He doesn’t make demands on others, harbor bitterness, and his default disposition is joyfulness. So Edric and I have to manage the tension between training him and encouraging his God-given uniqueness. 

These past few days we have been in Dubai. Edric and I are here for a series of talks and business activities and we took the kids with us. Almost every meal, our son who likes to take his time is the last to finish. Before we head out the door, he is putting a shoe on, using the toilet, looking for a jacket, or in the middle of something he should have completed thirty minutes earlier. 

During one of these occasions when everyone was out the door and he hobbled out of it with one shoe on and a sock and a shoe in his hand, I asked him what he was doing for the last hour and his reply was, “Umm…I was swiveling around in the chair of the room.” 

Seriously, he can do absolutely nothing for stretches of time and find this deeply gratifying. He’s a stop-to-smell-the-roses kind of person…”stopping” being the key word. 

Like I said, this personality type comes with its strengths. However, Edric and I move about so quickly that it’s tiring to wait for this son of ours to mobilize. This trip has magnified his character flaw, so it has been a real lesson in patience for both of us. 

I nearly failed as a parent when this son lost a piece of his expanders (it’s like a retainer for the mouth to open up the jaw). The accident happened after he forgot to be ready at the hour we agreed upon and Edric and I had to get to the venue of a seminar we were speaking at. Edric couldn’t be delayed so he went ahead to set up his laptop while I tried to hurry our son along.

Unfortunately, a very important piece of his expanders flew out of its container and landed on a tiled floor that had patterns which completely camouflaged the piece. So I nearly cried in aggravation as this accident required me to get down on my hands and knees while in my heels to comb through each surface area of the tiled floor to feel for the piece. 

This is ridiculous!, I thought to myself. Why does __________________ do these things?! Ahhhh!!!! 

Meanwhile my son showed no distress whatsoever which kind of irked me! I reminded him, “You can’t do this…make everyone wait for you. It’s inconsiderate. It’s something you have to change and improve on, okay?”

I am glad the annoyance came out of me in that way rather than shouting at him like I felt compelled to do. My patience had reached its limit and it took the grace of God to contain my irritation! Thankfully, I was about to do a ministry activity with Edric which kept me mindful of my responses. But if I hadn’t been in prayer that day, or spent a good chunk of it preparing for my talk and being in the Word of God, I am sure my emotions would have taken over in a very ugly manner. 

We didn’t find the piece after about ten minutes of searching which was all I could spare before my seminar. So the kids and I left the hotel room and hung a DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door knob so we could resume our search later on in the evening. At the end of our day, our son did his best to find the piece and recover it which was good news. (These expanders are pricey!) 

Edric and I have considered how to help him after our speaking engagement. I believe the root problem for him is discipline. He has to train his mind to plan wisely and resist the impulses he feels to move on to something else when there is a task at hand. He also needs to discipline his body so that it follows the dictates of his mind. 

Here are some solutions that Edric and I intend to apply:

1. Don’t stop training him until he develops a sense of urgency, proactive-ness, and responsibility. As tiring as it may be to keep telling him the same thing over and over again, the burden is on us to do so until he internalizes and applies these things on his own. 

2. Stay beside him when he homeschools and eats his meals so we can monitor him. Yesterday evening, I sat beside him and he downed his soup and pasta in a fraction of the time it usually takes him. This is because I got to remind him constantly and reach over to rub his back every time he got distracted. 

3. Commend him when he puts effort into quickening his pace. Because he gets corrected a lot, we don’t want him to grow up with insecurities or feel like he is compared to his siblings who don’t have the same issue. So we have to balance out our training with affirmation, too. This also means communicating to him that he is unconditionally loved and accepted, too. 

4. Correct him in private. His siblings tend to feel the same annoyance that we do towards his mannerisms and personality, so it’s unhealthy for them to hear us correct him in front of them. This will only fuel their aggravation. 

5. Edric intends to spend more focused time with him. After all, he’s a boy and there’s nothing like the attention and mentoring of a father to a son. 

6. Extend grace. This son of ours makes mistakes quite often and as tempting as it is to lose our tempers with him, we absolutely cannot as it will destroy the seeds of faith that have been planted in his heart. Our greater desire for him is that he loves and obeys the Lord. If we do not respond to him in ways that are spirit-filled, and if we do not ask for forgiveness when we fail in this area, we will push him farther away from us and this goal. 

7. Thank the Lord for Him. His personality is a blessing and his life is a beautiful gift. Does he need to keep improving in certain areas? Of course. But it doesn’t make him less special or important to us or the Lord. So we need to thank the Lord for being intentional about giving us a son with his unique traits.

8. Pray. Edric and I need to remember that we can’t control our kids. We may be able to train them and discipline them, but their hearts are another matter. This is God’s department. He is the one who causes real transformation of the heart so that the behavior follows. Prayer acknowledges our dependence on Him to make this happen. 

I don’t know if this son of ours sounds like one of your kids. But if he does, be encouraged. Faithful discipleship always produces fruit. 

“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Hebrews‬ ‭12:11‬ ‭


 

Hedgehog & Gameboard Issues & God’s Love 

Since three days ago Edan has obsessed about a game called Sushi Go! Party, hunting for it on Internet board game sights, Amazon, and even local stores. If Elijah is into technology and computer programming, Edan’s equivalent is strategy board games. He is a game lover. His idea of a great day is to gather friends and family around a fun board game that he can facilitate for them.

Since the game is difficult to source and order, it came down to one place — gamewright.com. Unfortunately, my many attempts to purchase it were inhibited by my address. The site didn’t allow purchases from the Philippines through Pay Pal or credit card. I could have moved on and forgotten all about the game, but not Edan. He pushed himself so hard this week, studying to earn tabs (a system I use to motivate my kids). As a result, he collected 60+ tabs, enough to merit the reward of Sushi Go! Party.

Edan isn’t an extravagant person, nor is he demanding when he makes a request for a toy or book. But when he really likes something, he will find a way to get it. I think this is a good trait when the desire is channeled to something positive.

For example, two years ago, he had a fascination for carnivorous plants and took the initiative to research about them online and source a supplier based out of Bukidnon.

This year, strategy board games have been his new interest. He has been researching about strategy games. I thought it was an interest that could be encouraged because it required him to apply, logic, math, communication, and social skills. 

So I put in a lot of effort to find the game, to support Edan, and the best solution was to ask my sister, Candy, to buy it for me since she lives in the US. The plan was to have it brought to Manila through my youngest sister, Carolyn, who is visiting her. Edan hoped to get the game by Tuesday when his Aunt Carolyn arrived. He dreamed and imagined what that day would be like, so much so that he couldn’t rest. All he could think about was Sushi Go! Party

His single-mindedness was both fascinating and concerning. On the one hand, I was excited for him to have the game. On the other hand, I wondered if there was a bigger character lesson he needed to learn…specifically related to waiting and patience. I would remind him, “Edan, if we can’t buy the game then take that as an opportunity to practice waiting.” 

He agreed with me. But since he knew that I asked his Aunt Candy to purchase it on my behalf, he felt pretty certain that waiting wouldn’t be something he had to do. 

Well, today, when he woke up, two unpleasant incidents occurred to produce what he called, “The worst day of his life.” 

First, one of our hedgehogs, named Eve, went missing. She left a trail of dung down the steps to our lower ground storage area, so logically, she must have hidden herself behind one of the boxes. The kids searched everywhere and returned to the kitchen table for breakfast worried and baffled by her mysterious exodus. She had disappeared. 
Edric gave them an impromptu lesson on the importance of good stewardship and responsibility. The hedgehogs fell under Edan’s care so he felt the most distressed. He didn’t get to go with his brothers to play a game called Praxis with Edric because he was tasked to find Eve. 

The second and bigger disappointment for Edan came when I relayed to him the message I received from my sister, Candy, informing me that Sushi Go! Party wouldn’t arrive on time for Carolyn to bring to Manila. Edan began to cry. He hid behind one of the cereal boxes to conceal himself but everyone knew that he was upset about the game. 

I reminded Edan that he ought to be grateful that the game was purchased in the first place since that was a blessing in itself. Furthermore, his Aunt Candy had inconvenienced herself to do this for him. Third, the game would arrive eventually, just not next week. He mustered a thank you but I know he remained troubled. 

Most of the early morning was spent searching for missing Eve. She was found a few hours later, huddled quietly behind some old tiles, clueless about the panic she caused. I praise God that cats didn’t get her! She was returned to her husband, Adam. Problem #1 solved. 

Even so, Edan lounged lazily around on the couch in our bedroom, uninspired to do anything today. He isn’t the type to voluntarily express his feelings so I had to command him to sit beside me so we could talk.

I hugged him while he explained how disappointed he was and how awful the day was as the tears kept falling down his cheeks. He admitted to me that the Sushi Go! Party game had become a sort of “idol” to him, when I explained to him what idolatry is. And I also shared that things can’t replace the joy we find in Christ. Material things, people, and circumstances can offer a measure of happiness but these are temporal and passing. In the end, there’s no one and nothing that can fully satisfy us but Christ. A part of me wondered if I was delivering too heavy message to such a young boy, but Edan listened. 

I went on to say that he can open up to me about anything, that he shouldn’t be afraid to tell me his feelings. It was okay that he felt sad about today. I was going to judge him.

He seemed to relax and then he added, “Actually there’s something that I wanted to say…”

I waited. He took a moment.

“When I read my Bible today, I came across a Psalm that talked about the loving kindness of God.”

Edan began to sob. 

“You know, mom, I felt like God didn’t love me. This was the worst day ever because of Eve getting lost and then the news about the game. So I felt really bad and then when I went to read my Bible, the first passage I read was this.”

He pointed it out to me…

“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” Psalms‬ ‭103:8‬ ‭

“When I read that, I felt like God was speaking to me, telling me that He really loves me.” 

Edan was really crying at this point. He felt like God was against him today but God dispelled that thought by assuring him that He loved Him, that circumstances aren’t to be the basis for interpreting God’s love. 

So Edan and I continued our conversation, this time focusing on what God’s love is really like. We talked about how God’s love need not be proven by the things He gives us. These are all a bonus compared to the gift of His Son, Jesus. When He gave us Christ, He gave us everything. We are His children, His resources are infinite, and heaven is our home. So when He withholds something we really long to have or when circumstances don’t seem to go well for us, we need to trust that this is what is best for us, according to the One who loves us. 

By the end of our dialogue, Edan was smiling through his tears. He realized that today’s disappointments gifted him with an opportunity to encounter the Lord in a personal way today. 

We spent the rest of the morning doing art instead of pouring over books. Edan described it as therapeutic. He drew and painted a dragonfly among other drawing skills. His gloom and doom disposition was replaced with joy. 


I am so thankful to the Lord that He is at work in the lives of each of my kids. He knows exactly what is going on in their hearts, and He intends to meet them and minister to them. But Edric and I have to keep encouraging our kids to read His Word. The truth is what gave Edan the right perspective today. 


“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Hebrews‬ ‭4:12‬ 

In the midst of what felt like turmoil for him, he went to the word of God and received the assurance he needed most…Not that his hedgehog would be found or that his desired Sushi Go! Party game would come on time, but that God loves him. Thank you, Lord! 

On a sweet note, he also told me that he felt much better after talking to me. Let’s all be good listeners to our kids, my mommy friends! 

When Disappointment is a Good Thing

I like to rescue my kids from consequences and problems, and this probably echoes the sentiment of most parents who are well-meaning. Who wants their child to suffer or experience pain? None of us.

Yet, children grow through disappointments. As my father used to tell me, “Disappointments are good for children.” He meant this in the context of not giving in to what they always want, and letting them experience failure, too.

A few weeks ago, the kids and I were at the bookstore. Tiana begged me for a certain toy. It was a stuffed animal, one that resembled other ones she already had. I denied her request and she met this refusal with a sad, pouty face. I left her alone to stew in her emotions. The boys picked out books but she came away with nothing. 


It was clear from her posture and the manner in which she hunched her shoulders forward and bowed her head down that she felt upset with me. She’s six now and I gave her time to think through her feelings before correcting her.

After several hundred meters of walking around the mall, she reverted to her chirpy self. It didn’t kill her not to have that toy. The disappointment enlarged her capacity to deny herself material things. 

At home, I commended her for changing her attitude and choosing to be positive even if she didn’t get what she wanted. She beamed as I told her, “I am proud of you.” 

Two Saturdays ago, I let the boys “fail forward.” They were supposed to join a science fair for homeschoolers. But they didn’t prioritize conceptualizing a worthwhile idea and seeing it through to the end. Although they tried two or three experiments, they surrendered when these didn’t pan out according to their expectations. Instead of pushing themselves to try again, they procrastinated and got distracted by other activities. As a result, they refused to join the science fair for lack of a mind-blowing project that they could be proud of. 

Initially, I felt annoyed with them. Why were they whimping out so easily?! Why didn’t they display more resolve to do their science project, ANY science project?! 

My next instinct was to rescue them and come up with something so they could participate and redeem themselves. But that would have interfered with a life lesson they needed to learn. 

When we got to the fair, Elijah was especially frustrated with himself. I talked to him privately and he admitted to me, “It was wrong that we gave up so easily. We should have pushed ourselves and tried harder.”

This realization proved to be a valuable lesson on how opportunities are squandered due to wrong attitudes and perspectives. The kids wanted to make something impressive but since they couldn’t in their first few attempts, they simply gave up and complained. 

Our kids may get a lot of affirmation and encouragement at home but they have to be prepared for the eventuality that not everyone is going to applaud their work, give them a medal, or thank them. They aren’t going to be appreciated for their efforts all the time. Therefore it’s beneficial for their character growth to experience disappointment and failure without Edric or myself running to save them every time they don’t get what they want or when they make mistakes. If their lives are in danger then of course this emergency would warrant their rescuing. Otherwise, there are a great many lessons to be learned that will toughen them up as they deal with the frustration that comes from blocked goals, unrealized dreams and wants, conflict, and unfavorable circumstances. 

Growing up, I appreciated the emphasis my parents put on perspective. Perspective is so important because what we think determines how we act and move forward in life. Here are some truths that our children need to have as anchors that will hook them back to right thinking and wise decision making when they go through life’s disappointments:

1. Relax. God is in control. My mom used to encourage me by saying, there’s always a God-ordained reason for the things that happen. We can trust that God is sovereign and at work. As a result, my mom wasn’t ever a stressed out person. Similarly, children need to relax when their plans don’t come to fruition and when they mess up. As Romans 8:28 says, God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”

2. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. There’s a difference between self-esteem (thinking you are so awesome) and God-confidence (knowing that your abilities come from the Lord.) Our children will face seemingly impossible situations that will overwhelm them physically, emotionally and spiritually. They have to remember that their strength comes from the One who is all-almighty. If He should will their success, then He can accomplish this through them. Nothing is impossible with Him! 

3. Success doesn’t come without trial, discipline, and struggle, so don’t give up! There’s no such thing as overnight success. Whatever is worth doing entails hard work and loads of effort. Keep going. My dad used to harp on this principle: Never say it can’t be done. Find a way. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…” Ecclesiastes‬ ‭9:10‬

4. Don’t be entitled. Be grateful and content. When my kids told me one day, “Even our friends in Sunday School have cell phones,” my response was, “Well, isn’t it great that you guys are home schooled? You don’t need cell phones.” End of discussion.

As a parent there are occasions when I am tempted to give my kids what they want because I don’t want them to feel like they are “deprived.” But that is dangerous thinking. It’s called parent peer pressure! 

A wise parent must know when to withhold blessing even if it’s in their capacity to bestow it. God exemplifies this for us. He has infinite capacity yet he tempers material blessings according to our good. Similarly, we have to evaluate whether our kids really NEED something (in which case we should try our best to provide it), or if it’s merely a WANT that feeds self-centered thinking. Furthermore, just because other kids out there have toys, gadgets or privileges that our kids may not have doesn’t mean our kids are disadvantaged. Their happiness doesn’t have to be tied to material things. 

Entitlement in children is usually handed down by entitlement in us as parents. It’s a mentality that declares, I deserve this and that. I owe it to myself. People owe it to me. I can’t be happy unless I get what I want or what others have. If our kids don’t see us exercising restraint and self control when it comes to material things, or when they see us complain when we are inconvenienced, we pass on this same entitlement attitude to our kids. So we need to model gratitude and contentment. Otherwise, our kids will be derailed by disappointment when they are denied comforts, pleasures or material things that they want. 


When our kids have the right perspective on disappointment it can be a positive experience that prepares them for the challenging environments that they will enter into. Someday (and even now), when they aren’t always catered to, when circumstances are unfavorable or when they fail, they will be able to rise up with courage and resolve to pursue God’s plan for them and achieve the kind of success that glorifies Him. 

As the apostle Paul said, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body…Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” ‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:8-10, 16-18‬ 
 

When the Walls Come Tumbling Down

Edric and I were awoken at 3 AM to the sound of what we thought to be thunder. It wasn’t until the morning that we were informed by our house help that the wall of our rip-rap fell into the street below.

Shocking! It looked like rubble after a bombing – rocks piled on one another and the earth exposed.

My two thoughts were, Thank goodness this didn’t happen when our kids were playing in our backyard! God is merciful. God protected us. We had a houseful of children because my nephews and nieces spent the night, too. Praise God they weren’t harmed either.

But my second thought was, Oh my goodness! What a disaster! 

I was tempted to blame the people behind our wall’s construction, but where would that have gotten me? As I began to mouth out my frustration, Edric reminded me that this wasn’t going to be productive. He was right.

We took a morning jog and I decided to pray and thank the Lord that he kept us safe. In the grand scheme of things, it was just a wall. Sure, there was major damage to it and it’s going to be costly to repair it. But this Is something fixable. It’s not a person’s life, and praise God, it’s not one our children’s lives we are talking about here.

As I surveyed the rubble and looked at the mess it left on the street, I meditated on several spiritual observations:

First, there’s always something to be grateful for. Our wall may be a tragic mess but we still have our lives and our home. Much of the world can’t enjoy a comfortable home. At least we have one. And by God’s grace, it’s comfortable. Therefore my heart is thankful.

Second, the wall that fell represents what is physical. The earth underneath represents what is within all of us — the spiritual person. Our wall tumbled down but the soil remained compact and stable.

We will go through circumstances in our lives where the walls around us will crumble. Maybe we will experience sickness, financial struggles, relationship issues, or we will enter into a season of obscurity after the high of a success. Whatever it is, will our inner persons survive? What will hold us together?

Years ago when everything I understood about the world was torn apart because I was a victim of rape, I came to a cross road where I had to choose what I would believe in. What would I cling to as truth? Would I choose the path of hatred, unforgiveness, anger, fear, and doubt? I knew these emotions would lead me down a dark path…the wrong one. So I determined to hope in who God is and to interpret what happened through spiritual lenses. He gave me the grace to forgive the men who violated me, which put me on the road to healing.

Colossians 1:17 tells us, “He (Jesus) is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

This has been true in my life and in the lives of countless people who have embraced this reality. Jesus will hold us together during times of crises.

Psalm 16:8 says, “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

Have you ever met people who have gone through incredibly difficult circumstances and yet the Lord transformed them into more beautiful versions of the persons they once were? I have! I have met amazing people who were victims of tragedy and yet they have blessed the world with their testimonies. They have declared what God has done and pointed others to Him.

In tough times, it is the inner person who is revealed. We may be able to hide behind pretenses and mask who we really are, but when we encounter obstacles; when people wrong us; when we lose something or someone important to us; and when we fall on desperate times, our true selves will be made manifest. That’s when we will recognize what anchors us, and what defines us. And this is what others will see, too!

Third, it isn’t the walls of our home that keep us safe at night. We can build a fortress to protect ourselves from intruders, natural disasters, and other calamities. However it is the Lord who makes us “dwell in safety.” “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8) True security is to know that God is sovereign and in control.

Fourth, this world is not my home. Last Sunday, Edric preached a wonderful message in CCF Baguio entitled, “Act Like a Citizen of Heaven.” He challenged the audience to adapt attitudes and behaviors that glorify God and to set our mind on heavenly things. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 3:20)

Well, I believe that God wanted Edric and I to apply this message! So He gave us an opportunity to do so through this unprecedented disaster. Indeed, the broken things of this world remind us that we are destined for a better one.

On this earth we witness decay, death, and destruction. Therefore, let us NOT hope in what is temporal and passing. Let us not live like this is as good as it gets. “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6) May God open our eyes to recognise what He is doing as He molds our character through earthly struggles by way of people or circumstances, and may we look to Him for the life and peace that He gives and promises.

This has been a tough two weeks for me emotionally, and the wall falling was like an exclamation point in the midst of it all. Yet God has been my comfort. He has been my ROCK. “He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken.” Psalms‬ ‭62:6‬

Maybe something is happening in your life right now and the walls are tumbling down, or maybe you are standing in the heap of the rubble, in the aftermath of a tragedy. I pray that you will find your sure footing on the rock that is Christ. He will uphold you. He will help you rebuild what has been broken.

Are You in the Wilderness? 

One Christmas, my daughter received a set of Dora the Explorer clips, hairpins, and slippers from my mom. Instead of thanking her grandma, she flipped out and burst into tears. I don’t want Dora!

I couldn’t believe it! This was my sweet Tiana. How could she respond with such ingratitude? Of course I was deeply embarrassed and apologized profusely to my mom who was very positive about the whole thing, but I was more concerned about Tiana’s attitude and perspective.

When her emotions settled, I took her aside and had a conversation with her. I discovered that she was afraid her cousins would make fun of her Dora things and she wanted something else. In short, she forgot all about her grandma personally picking out the Dora present for her and she focused only on herself.

It became an opportunity to instruct her heart, but it also revealed the very human tendency that all my children have (myself included) to be ungrateful.

Beyond the bad attitude, ungratefulness, on a more serious level, is a rejection of God’s will and plan for us. To grumble is to doubt His character, specifically His goodness, loving kindness and sovereignty.

It equivalent to saying, “I don’t believe you really care about me, Lord, or that you want what is good for me. I don’t deserve what is happening to me. If you really love me, you would take this away or improve my circumstances.”

This is what the Israelites did when they grumbled many times in the wilderness, forgetting how God manifested His power and faithfulness in their midst and choosing to focus on what they missed about Egypt. In my quiet time today, I read about the Israelites complaining that they didn’t have any meat to eat. They were tired of the manna.

Wait a second! Who gets to eat sweet flakes that fall from heaven and settle on the ground like dew?! God provided for them in a miraculous way every day!

“It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.” (Exodus 16:31)

Yet I am far removed from the physical conditions that the Israelites had to weather. I can’t imagine living in tents from one sandy place to another, with five children in tow, bearing the extremes of hot days and cold nights, wondering how I will feed and clothe my family, and listening to instructions from an old man who used to be a Egyptian prince, who became a murderer and then a shepherd and now a prophet.

Whut?! This is messed up. No home, no steady job, no time table for when the experience will end, and no concept of where we are going except that I need to trust that God is speaking to and through Moses because he’s God’s mouthpiece. He’s the prophet who performed all the miracles to rescue my family. Maybe I am crazy for going along with this plan and hazarding the lives of my family. Maybe Egypt was still better. Work was tremendously hard but at least I could count on shelter and food. This, however, is not what I signed up for! I am not discounting the miracles, but I can’t help thinking that I miss my old life.

When I count the realities of what the Israelites endured, especially through the eyes of a mother, I can understand that it must have been challenging to believe that they were better off in the desert.

Some years ago a good friend of mine lost her husband in her early thirties and was left to care for three young childern. She was in a position of real need, physically and emotionally. I didn’t even know what to say to comfort her.

Like the Israelites, I wasn’t sure what God’s plan was all about. And I was tempted to think that God made a mistake in this instance. But it also dawned on me very recently that we can be so consumed with the difficulty of our circumstances that it eclipses the faithfulness of God entirely. We fail to appreciate every thing He has done and is doing.

I felt convicted about my own ingratitude for the many ways that God provides, protects and prospers us on a daily basis. For example, our house is three stories high. Besides that, it sits on a hill. So it towers above the ground of our backyard at about 20 meters. If any of our children were to fall off the highest floor of our house, they would die. Last year, during one of the occasions when their cousins came over to play, my daughter, Tiana, and my niece, Teegan, climbed over the railing of the third floor and stepped onto the two and a half foot wide glass ledge that hangs over the backyard.

They attempted to get a discarded milk carton that one of the cousins tossed onto the ledge. Thankfully and only by God’s divine protection, they did not fall or slip! When I found out about it, it was after-the-fact, as the other children reported the incident to me. I nearly cried from the horror of thinking they could have died!

God watches over our children all the time. However, we tend to make a bigger deal about the instances when He allows them to get sick, injured, or hurt and wonder if He really cares about us. Or, maybe it’s not about our kids. Maybe we look at the problems in our own relationships and circumstances, and feel like life is unfair, that we deserve better.

Similarly, the Israelites scorned the manna God sustained them with instead of appreciating what it was and what it symbolized. They perceived it as a curse rather than a blessing as they cried out for meat, wishing to return to Egypt. They looked at what they didn’t have. But, hello, short-term memory! Egypt = slavery!

“Say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, “Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well-off in Egypt.’ Therefore the LORD will give you meat and you shall eat. You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you; because you have rejected the LORD who is among you and have wept before Him, saying, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?”‘ Numbers‬ ‭11:18-20

In Egypt they groaned under severe bondage, and God rescued them with a full feature show of His incredible power through the 10 plagues, and the parting of the sea. But in the desert, they still called out, give us Egypt! Despite the many instances that God displayed His ability to take care of them, they did not trust Him.

This is so emblematic of our tendency to forget what God has done for us. We don’t recognize what He has saved us from and continues to save us from. Sure, the desert wasn’t Disneyland. It was unpredictable, uncomfortable and perilous, but God gave the Israelites everything they needed.

We read this in Nehemiah 9:19-21, “You (God), in Your great compassion, did not forsake them in the wilderness; the pillar of cloud did not leave them by day, to guide them on their way, nor the pillar of fire by night, to light for them the way in which they were to go. You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth, and You gave them water for their thirst. Indeed, forty years You provided for them in the wilderness and they were not in want; Their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell.” Nehemiah‬ ‭9:2, 19-21‬ ‭

As I sit here, pondering the heart condition of the Israelites, I can’t judge them for their better off-as-a-slave-in-Egypt-than-in-the-desert-with-God mindset. The Israelites were indoctrinated by a culture and belief system of a nation whose people worshipped counterfeit versions of God, whose Pharaoh exalted himself as god and treated them as possessions to abuse and control. So the Israelites needed a soul detox experience to flush out wrong perspectives, appetites, and values that were not just anti-God, but anti-freedom…anti-fullness of life.

This leads me to believe that God’s methods for rescuing us haven’t changed. Perhaps the meaning of “desert” has. We go through different versions of the wilderness in our own lifetimes. And it’s tempting to express discontentment and to grumble, to lose faith in who God is and in His promises.

But God’s purpose remains the same. First, He aims to bring us to the point of recognizing that He is what we need and want — that Egypt represents our state of slavery to sin and a life bound for destruction and He represents our salvation. (By the way, we all come from Egypt.)

Second, the discontentment and discomfort we experience that lead us to compare or cry out, not fair, I don’t deserve this, or why me, is very often God taking us through the wilderness to liberate us from a culture and belief system that has enslaved us to counterfeit pleasure, freedom, and happiness. Sometimes this means that time in the desert will take longer than we hope it will. And sometimes this means that we will be at very desperate points when we are thirsty, hungry and tired of the wilderness living.

However, I do believe that God means for us to see beyond the water, manna and the meat. God knows we need physical solutions and He can easily provide these. But He sees our greater spiritual need and seeks to be the answer to it.

Furthermore, to be hungry is not the most tragic thing. It is the poverty mindset — thinking we are stuck in a desert, abandoned and forgotten, and in need of more (be it money, popularity, control, relationships or maybe even physical well-being) in order to be satisfied. But until our hunger is directed towards God, we will never be content with the little or the much that we have. Our cravings will not cease when we alleviate them with temporal, immediate, earth-centered fixes. Life will feel like a perpetual wilderness even if it may look like paradise to others.

In his book, Life Without Limits, limbless but amazing Nick Vujicic poignantly stated,”Life isn’t about having, it’s about being. You could surround yourself with all that money can buy, and you’d still be as miserable as a human can be. I know people with perfect bodies who don’t have the happiness I’ve found. On my journeys I’ve seen more joy in the slums of Mumbai and the orphanages of Africa than in wealthy gated communities and on sprawling estates worth millions.”

No matter where we go to seek for satisfaction in the world, the answer isn’t going to come from the world. Every person and place that looks like the answer can very soon turn into a wilderness that leaves us wanting and aching for more. In contrast, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” John‬ ‭6:35‬ ‭

God knows when we are hungry. He knows when we thirst. He made us. But these physical yearnings are meant to open our eyes to the spiritual reality of what we truly hunger and thirst for. Until we learn the lessons intended for us in the wilderness, we cannot be ready for the Promised Land. Our cravings and inclinations will remain earth-centered when they ought to be Christ-centered. Only He can develop in us a hunger and thirst for what pleases Him.

As I end this reflection of my time in the Word, I better understand why contentment is a condition of the heart more than anything else. When I was newly married, Edric and I didn’t have much money. We got married young. But since I came from a family with means, I felt embarrassed at times that I couldn’t afford the same luxuries my parents or siblings had. And somehow I felt like money afforded me a sense of security and self worth. In its absence or the lack of it, I began to feel discontent. God had to teach me that money is not what will make me happy.

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Instead, contentment was being able to say, Lord, I thank you and trust you through every season and circumstance. You are my bread, the sustainer of my soul. You have given me everything I need to accomplish your purposes and to know you. Thank you for providing for my needs. But more importantly, thank you for saving me from a life of sin and destruction. As long as you are with me, I can go through the deserts of life. Let me learn the principles you intend for me to embrace, so I will be prepared for your promised land. 

I have to remind myself of the same things even today. There will always be wants that I wrestle with. I pray you and I will be encouraged by the words of Paul: “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Philippians‬ ‭4:11-13

People Are More Important Than Things

My second son, Edan, is very conscientious about his things. As an orderly and organized person, he tends to keep track of his belongings, and he likes to keep them in good condition. When his toys get broken or his plants (oh my, his plants!) don’t grow properly, he is deeply affected.

The other day, Titus, accidentally dropped Edan’s drawing art set. The cover of the set fell off and the contents of the kit tumbled out. Three of the charcoal drawing tools cracked. Uh oh. For a slightly obsessive person like Edan, this was going to be major. His set was now imperfect! Horror of horrors!

Edan wasn’t just upset, he ran off to cry on his bed in total frustration. Titus bawled too because he felt badly. This drawing kit was very new. Edan hadn’t even used it yet.

After Edan calmed down and processed his feelings, he came back out to the study room. His eyes were bloodshot and he was quiet. I empathized with him, but then I gently reminded him, “You know, Edan, I know you feel sad about what happened, but your relationship with Titus is more important than your art set.”

I decided to take advantage of the teachable moment and went on to explain that some family members fight over possessions and property. They let these issues come between them when they should love one another. Why can we love and forgive? Because Jesus has done this for us.

He nodded and acknowledged the truthfulness of what I was saying, but of course this was a difficult challenge for him. I know Edan loves Titus. However, feelings of frustration and anger lingered after he surveyed the damage done to his charcoal tools.

I didn’t force him to accept Titus’ apology. In fact, I left the situation alone first, hoping that the Lord would be the one to speak to both their hearts. Later on, I investigated to find out what happened. Edan told me, “I forgave him, mom. I told him he was more important to me than my art set.” I told Edan I was so proud of him. He had done the right thing.

Often times, as a mother, I have to wait on the sidelines of my older children’s lives when they make their choices. On the one hand, I do my best to instruct, teach, and disciple them. However, I need to leave room and space for the Holy Spirit to minister to them and convict them to make choices that please God. I can’t impose my will. I’m after heart-change in my kids and not external change.

Edan’s art set isn’t perfect anymore like he hoped it would stay. But I saw him playing with Titus this morning and all was well between them. They were enjoying one another’s company without the residual or lingering frustration that was present in Edan’s heart two days ago. It was a more beautiful scene than any art set could’ve drawn.

This situation exemplified a very minor  conflict that can arise between siblings and how love triumphed in the end. However, the sad reality is that many grown up siblings can’t stomach one another.  Very often, the issue that breaks them apart is money. I’m sure there was a point in time when these same angry family members were little children playing together and enjoying one another’s company like my kids were this morning. But along the way, the nature of the relationship changed when money problems came into the picture. This is a common story in the Philippines. Relationships are so often the casualty of fights over property and inheritance.

The Bible tells us, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36) It’s never worth it to let our soul rot in bitterness over mere things…things that have no value in eternity, that we cannot take with us. What gain is monetary wealth at the expense of relationships, especially at expense of the bond between siblings? Real poverty is to have everything in the world but to live in the absence of Christ’s love – His love for us, and His love in us toward others.

My prayer for my kids is they will preserve the bond of unity they share in Christ, that they will love one another the way Christ loves them. The art set was a small thing but I want my children to recognize that it lies in them, in all of us, to make things more important than people. The antidote is to this tendency is to love.

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.” Proverbs 10:12

“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

Disciplining Children Revisited

 
This is a follow-up article to the one I wrote on disciplining my 1-year old daughter, Catalina, which resulted in some eyebrow raising because I talked about spanking. Let it be said that I’m not an advocate of spanking for EVERY wrong behavior that needs correcting. I believe there are different ways to apply healthy correction that produce right thinking and behavior in the hearts and minds of our children. However, I refuse to accept the notion that spanking is the same thing as physical abuse, as some have so quickly labeled it.

First of all, let’s make some clarifications about spanking. Spanking is…

…NOT whacking my child in anger, repeatedly, for every wrong action or behavior.

…NOT a random consequence dependent on how I feel about the situation.

…NOT to be administered before a child understands “NO” or exhibits defiance.

…NOT as effective after the age of 6.

…NOT as effective when a parent uses it as a threat to coerce behavior.

…NOT about using an instrument that will break the skin or bruise it.

…NOT the only way to discipline a child.

…NOT to be used as a method of disciplining if a parent doesn’t have a good, loving relationship with his or her child.

…NOT to be used as a method of disciplining if only one parent applies it and the other doesn’t.

…NOT to be used if the rule that was broken wasn’t clearly explained to the child.

 

 Research shows that…

  1. The most aggressive children tend to be those who are never spanked.
  2. Of the many parents who spank, a minuscule number actually wind up abusing their children. Sweden outlawed parenting spanking in 1979. A decade later, Bob Larzelere conducted a follow-up study in which he found that child abuse had increased significantly since the ban.
  3. Diana Baumrind (considered the foremost researcher in the area of parenting style outcomes) has found that parents who are philosophically opposed to spanking are more likely to overreact to their children’s misbehaviour than parents who have no such philosophical objection. (For example, some parents resort to yelling at their children in order to control their behavior.)
  4. The more often a child is spanked, the less effective the spanking becomes. (A parent needs to consider their overall approach to discipline.)

The above information is taken from John Rosemond’s book, Parenting by the Book (pg. 216 – 219.)

I’ve said this before but I will say it again for the sake of those who may misunderstand spanking. I can count the number of times I’ve spanked each of my children over the course of their early childhood years. In other words, Edric and I haven’t had to spank our children a lot. If a parent spanks very often they need to revisit their parenting in general. Furthermore, there may be other factors that are undermining their attempts to discipline and disciple their kids such as…

…unresolved conflicts within the marriage

…frequent and hurtful displays of anger in the home

…hypocrisy (telling their children to do one thing but modeling the opposite)

…an insubordinate spirit on display, where a wife doesn’t model submission to the authority of her husband

…different parenting styles and philosophies on raising children between husband and wife

…application of unhealthy parenting styles like child-centrism

…relatives or househelp who contradict parents’ rules

…allowing children to have regular exposure to people or media content that opposes the values and character traits that a parent is trying to instill

 

Here are some common issues that parents may have to deal with and suggestions on how to discipline for these:

Dealing with eating issues – A parent can remove snacks in between meals, take away child’s plate so they get hungry by the next meal, or disallow a fun activity that should’ve followed after meal. We’ve had to do this with Titus. Of all the kids, he isn’t allowed to eat anything in between meals because he takes a long time to finish his food and he gets distracted while eating.

Tantrums and fussiness – Speak to your child calmly and let them that you will not give in to their behavior until they stop. Example, “Mommy will not carry you until you stop.” Don’t give in or pick them up to encourage their behavior. When they stop crying or stop making a scene then you can take them and say, “Very good, you stopped, now mommy will carry you.”

We encourage our kids by reminding them of our rule, “No being fussy.” Even our little 20 month old daughter knows this rule. Unless she makes her requests with a smile and a “please,” we don’t give in to her fussing or tantrums. She can pout all she wants (which ends up being very short-lived because no one will pay attention to her doing so). Most of the time, she will change her whining to a sweet “please” and a smile. However, if she screams in disrespect and continues to do so even after being told to stop, Edric and I will spank for this.

Impatience – Teach children to wait before you give them an object or an item that they are clamoring for. Until they stop demanding for it, they don’t get it. I’ve also observed that limiting time on gadgets and playing games on the computer or IPad increases my children’s ability to wait. In contrast, the instant gratification they receive from gadgets and playing games conditions them to be impatient so less is better when it comes to gadges like IPads.

Not sharing/selfishness – Confiscate the toy that two or three children are fighting over if asking them to take turns is not working. When my kids are unable to share a toy, I say, “I have to take it away because you guys aren’t sharing. When you are ready to share, I will give it back to you.”

Fighting with siblings – I sit them down together and we review bible verses on loving one another and treating one another with kindness. Then I ask them, “Are you behaving in a way that pleases God?” and let them come to their own conclusions about their attitudes towards one another. I follow up with a question like, “How can you improve or act in a more loving way?”

When it’s a toddler who bullies or hits their older sibling or other children, I take them aside and talk with them, demonstrating what it means to be gentle. However, if the hitting will put another child in danger (like my 8 month old nephew over Christmas), Edric and I will spank if our child disobeys a command like, “Don’t hit your cousin.”

Interestingly, spanking doesn’t cause a child to be confused when they are disciplined properly (not in anger, not using the hand). The focus is on spanking for disobedience of the command. Occasionally, Catalina will whack her siblings when they pull a toy away from her, as an act of self-defense and frustration. These moments are becoming fewer and far between because she can now articulate herself better. At the same time, I let my older children know that grabbing from Catalina causes her to react in anger so they should ask her nicely before they borrow the toy she is playing with.

As for Catalina, I ask, “Do you want people to hit you?” She will actually reply with a “No” and apologize to her siblings. The point is to let her think about what it will be like to be on the receiving end of a slap on the shoulder from her own siblings. Even if she is just a one year old, she understands! I wouldn’t recommend this as a full-proof solution to children who hit others since it’s hard for them to reason this way at such a young age. But I also think even very young children should start learning the golden rule, “Do to others as you would have them do unto you.” (Luke 6:31)

Teaching kids to get along doesn’t happen overnight and it involves giving them the opportunity to acknowledge their wrong and ask for forgiveness from one another when they hurt each other. We tell our kids to hug and express a sincere apology when they have conflicts. There’s something about requiring them to hug that softens their hearts and there’s something about making sure they say, “Will you forgive me?” that expresses the kind of humility that repairs their relationships. Sometimes, my kids are required to hug for at least 10 seconds so their hard faces turn into smiles!

Destroying objects or toys or losing them – When kids destroy their toys, don’t get them new ones to replace them. Let them realize that they need to practice good stewardship. If they were keen on breaking a toy, they can live with it broken or buy themselves a new one.

Children tend to lose objects and toys, too. One of our sons really liked a marble toy that he got for Christmas a few years back. It came with special, metal marbles. But he would misplace the marbles often. As a consequence, he wasn’t allowed to play with the toy until he found the marbles. Did he do his best to find them? Yes.

Messiness – It took a number of years for our kids to internalize the importance of cleaning up after their mess. But Edric and I refused to let them move on to the next toy or another room to mess up until they cleaned up the one they were first playing in. I don’t mind if they make a mess while they play for as long as they pick up afterwards. Afterall, mess is part of the fun (for as long as they aren’t doing something reckless like drawing on the walls or pulling the stuffing out of their pillows).

When they go to other people’s houses, they aren’t allowed to leave it without picking up the toys they played with. Even if we are in a hurry to leave, Edric and I will give them time to fix up. Some years ago, my sister-in-law temporarily banned them from using her kids’ playroom because they made a big mess and ruined some toys. I thought it was a great way to communicate to my kids that they need to be mindful of the way they play and deal with their mess in other people’s houses.

Being loud and obnoxious – If there’s one thing my children sometimes do that can drive me nuts it’s their boisterousness. For some reason, riding together in a vehicle gives them the prime opportunity to talk and laugh loudly. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because they are thoroughly enjoying one another’s company. But tight spaces and public ones aren’t the best places for them to kick up the volume of their voices. It can be rude and assaulting to the senses.

To deal with this, I talk to them with a serious tone and explain why it’s not appropriate. Most of the time, they respond to this positively because they have learned to obey. If they don’t, I apply a consequence like withdrawal of a privilege. For younger kids, this can be tough. Catalina screamed like a banshee in her car seat for a good number of hours when our family drove from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It was completely unpleasant! But, we had to keep her in that seat for safety reasons so we 1. Let her cry until she got tired. 2. Sat her beside an older sibling who could entertain her. 3. Distracted her with toys or the IPad.

Running off in public places – My kids know that they aren’t supposed to run off while we are in public spaces. With all their expendable energy waiting to be released, this can be really difficult for them. They love to run down mall aisles and hide behind clothing racks. So I let them know our rules for going out together (especially since I don’t bring househelp when it’s just the four older kids). Before we leave the vehicle, I will ask them to repeat what our rule for being in public is. “Stay close to mommy.” They know the risks of getting separated or taken by strangers. But I still remind them, “If you don’t stay near me, you won’t get to come with me the next time.” This usually works because they know I have every intention of implementing this consequence if they don’t follow the rule.

Lying – My personal conviction about a child who lies habitually is they may not yet have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. John 8:44 says, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

If a child already has a relationship with Jesus but is still young, they may not fully understand what lying is. So a parent needs to explain what truthfulness is and make their child feel like home is a safe place for honesty and confession.

Some children may lie because they are afraid that they will be scolded, lectured, shamed or punished if they admit to their mistake or fault. If this is the case then a parent needs to consider whether they encourage open communication in their home or make it challenging for their children to speak the truth. Do our children feel the liberty to share what’s really going on in their hearts?

Dr. Harold Sala, author of The Parent Map, outlines 10 guidelines for successful discipline (pg. 151 – 161). I will summarize them here, but if you have the opportunity to, grab a copy of his book at OMF Literature. It’s one of the most complete books I’ve read on parenting.

1. Establish clear limits of behavior. Dr. Haim Ginnot wrote that children “need a definition that tells them clearly what constitutes unacceptable conduct and what substitute will be accepted. The limits must be stated firmly so that it carries only one message, ‘This prohibition is for real. I mean business.'” Dr. Sala encourages us to expect our children to comply immediately. We shouldn’t be counting 1, 2, 3 and so on before they obey.

2. Enforce boundaries with consistent discipline. Spouses need to agree on the same rules and hold their children accountable for them without contradicting one another.

3. Discipline in private. I’ve made the mistake of correcting one of my sons in public one too many times. By public, I mean at the dinner table, in front of his siblings. He does much better when I take him aside and talk to him in private, one-on-one.

4. Establish responsibility for wrongdoing. Asking our children questions like “Why did you do what you did?” or “What did you do?” will allow them to identify their error, versus asking a question like, “Did you__________?” which warrants only a yes or no answer.

5. Show grief over the offense. Whenever our children disobey us, Edric and I express how it hurts us. We don’t go on and on about how sad we are. But we do let our kids know that it grieves us when they make choices that are displeasing to the Lord because that’s the real issue — we want them to make choices that please and honor God.

6. Discipline should be commensurate with the offense. Dr. Sala states that the “measure of discipline should be in relation to the severity of wrongdoing — neither too severe nor too light.” A mom told me that she put hot sauce in her four year old’s mouth for speaking unkindly to the househelp. She cried afterwards because she accidentally poured too much of it into his mouth and he was traumatized afterwards. On the one hand, he got the message loud and clear, but looking back, she realized it was a little severe.

7. Practice common-sense discipline with a purpose. A parent can use restrictions, time outs, writing assignments, and physical discipline. Restrictions would be things like reducing the amount of time on a gadget, or temporary suspension from a favorite activity. When Elijah was using his IPad to do a lot of research about apps, I gave him a time limit. He actually appreciate it because he wanted to know his “boundaries” when it came to IPad use. Time-outs work better for older children. I’ve asked my older sons to spend some time thinking about their wrong attitudes and praying about how they can change and they will come back to me with renewed spirits and an apology. Physical discipline, according to Sala, should be used only when a child is rebellious or defiant.

8. Allow a child to vent his emotions, then talk about what has happened and how to better handle the situation in the future. Edric and I have done this a number of times with our kids. We let them share their feelings or frustrations and then steer them gently in the direction of right thinking and right actions.

9. Once a matter has been dealt with, consider it forgiven. In other words, parents shouldn’t hold on to the offense of their child and use it against them in the future. We need to forgive as God has forgiven us.

10. Balance discipline with personal attention. I really like this point because children who are consistently problematic probably need a lot of attention from their parents. Dr. Sala writes, “Nothing is a greater gift to your child, nor will anything contribute more to his good behavior, than the gift of yourself.”

So, when is it appropriate to use spanking as a form of discipline?

This is where we have to carefully consider the nature of the offense and the context. Sometimes children make mistakes of the mind. They forget about a rule without intending to break it out of defiance. A mistake of the heart, on the other hand, is making a conscious choice to go against the will of a parent.

For example, one day, I called out to Catalina, asking her to come to me, and she purposefully walked away while looking back at me with a face that spelled, “I don’t have to listen to you, I can do what I want to.” I know that’s the look she was giving because I am with her everyday, therefore I am well acquainted with her personality, expressions, and tendencies. This moment was clearly a mistake of the heart and I couldn’t let her get away with disobeying and disrespecting me. It wasn’t about trying to control her for my own purposes. It was about teaching her to obey authority, for her future good.

Imagine what would happen if we were walking on the sidewalk of a street and she refused to stay beside me and hold my hand, choosing instead to run off? And what if a vehicle was headed her way and she didn’t know it, and she attempted to make her way on to the street itself. I would have to call out, “Catalina, wait for mommy!” or, “Catalina, stop!” or “Catalina, come here!” And if she chose to defy me as the vehicle zoomed past, she would most probably die! So, am I willing to inflict a measure of pain in the present to convey the importance of obedience? The answer is yes.

The point of this article is to say that spanking shouldn’t be quickly labeled as an abusive form of discipline, especially when it can save a child from future hurt and pain. Can it be abusive if done inappropriately? Yes (please refer to the clarifications stated at the beginning about what spanking is NOT). However, it can also be one of the best ways to teach life-saving obedience when a child is very young. Nevertheless, spanking isn’t the only form of discipline that a parent can and should implore to deal with the undesirable behaviors their child exhibits. There are a variety of disciplinary actions a parent can apply to train a child. Depending on the circumstance and the issue, a parent must be committed to the aim of discipline, which is to produce the fruit of righteousness in their child. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit ofrighteousness. (Hebrews 12:11) Proper discipline will be about “heart modification” (a term author Tedd Tripp uses), and not just “behavior modification.”

Let me close with a quote from Dr. Harold Sala’s book, “Discipline is an integral part of love…God instructed parents, fathers in particular, to discipline their children in order to save them from heartbreak and anguish.” (The Parent Map, pg.143,145)

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So…to spank or not to spank? I’ll leave that up to you to pray about and decide. May the Lord give us the wisdom and the resolve to never give up and never surrender to the challenge of training our children! “Discipline your son, for there is hope, do not set your heart on putting him to death.” (Proverbs 19:18)

 

 

 

Make Time to Teach Character

 

  

 It’s a challenge to hold Titus’ attention. I suppose this comes with being a more physical child whose hands are perpetually itching to do something. Thankfully, his capacity to sit through a lesson with me has significantly improved. There are days when he is highly distracted and I need to sit him right beside me in order to check on his progress. But he is old enough to recognize when it’s time to listen and focus on what is required of him. 

My job, as a mother, is not to merely fill his mind with content and information but to equip him with the tools to succeed. This is the same belief I hold for all my kids. Character trumps knowledge as a prerequisite to true success in life. So character instruction must be prioritized. 
There are occasions when this involves setting the books aside as we homeschool to teach a character trait instead. This detour in my schedule and plans feels unpleasant. However, when I am able to remove myself from the myopic view of pages-to-be-accomplished to the greater end goal of preparing my children’s hearts for adulthood, I am comforted by the thought that this is the better pursuit for the moment. 
Today, I gathered the kids around me while I read from their Bible curriculum. Very often, to check their comprehension, I will ask each of them questions about what I am reading. Titus couldn’t answer me the first time. So I told him very clearly that he needed to pay attention. He acknowledged. He is an obedient son so obedience wasn’t the issue. This was about focusing his mind on the lesson of the moment, which he is able to do. 
I read a couple more paragraphs then paused to ask another comprehension question. Titus was chatting with Tiana so he couldn’t respond. And he knew he was in trouble. 
“I want you to write ‘I will listen’ fifty times.” 
Titus isn’t too fond of writing as a six year old boy, so I knew this consequence would be remarkable enough to leave an imprint in his brain. He walked up the stairs in tears to get a piece of paper and a pencil. At first he was resistant but then I sat down with him to give him the opportunity to process why this was a consequence. He apologized and I embraced him, reminding him that I loved him, that this was part of loving him — teaching him character.
It took him an hour and a half just to write that sentence fifty times, but by the end of it, I was sure the message sank in. 
“What did you learn?” I asked Titus.
“I will listen,” was his humble response. 
Attentiveness is one of the most important traits a child needs in order to homeschool. If my children don’t know how to listen to my instruction, there’s no point in jumping to the content and forcing them to sit still. They need to manage their attention spans, no matter what kind of learner they are. 
I have all kinds of learners in my home — auditory, visual, kinesthetic, global, analytical, social, independent, etc. The first hurdle is obedience. The second is attentiveness. 
Writing down, “I will listen,” was the only homeschool lesson for Titus today. Regardless, I would still call it a good day because we spent time addressing a spiritual and emotional need, and this is why we homeschool in the first place! 


Can You Flex?

After the kids have their basketball trainings, they are wiped out and mad hungry. It’s been a little more expensive to feed our sons these past few weeks while their appetites have been amped up to a much higher degree than usual. The good thing is, I want them to eat a lot. All our kids have spider-like bodies because they are on the thinner side.

This afternoon, the kids wanted ice cream after their practice. I dropped by the grocery to do some shopping and my third son, Titus, expressed that he preferred to buy a yoghurt bar on our way home. In fact, he really wanted a yoghurt bar. However, it was simpler to get everyone ice cream at the supermarket, so he ended up with an ice cream cone from the grocery freezer instead.

I had forgotten about how much he desired a yoghurt bar. But on the way home, he stuck his head in between the van seats and whispered to me, “Mom, it’s okay that I didn’t get a yoghurt bar.”

Oh right. I hadn’t really given it much thought that settling for an ice cream cone fell short of his expectations. But he made sure to announce that he was fine, just in case I was wondering if he was.

I kissed Titus and told him, “I’m sooo proud of you for being flexible.”

“What does flexible mean?” He didn’t quite understand as he asked this.

“Being flexible means being able to adjust when you don’t get what you want.” After I explained this, a smile broke out on his face.

When I was little my dad repeatedly told my siblings and me, “Learn to be flexible.” I’ve never forgotten this phrase. Every time circumstances didn’t turn out as planned or expectations were unmet, disappointment was natural. However, my dad reminded us, “be flexible.”

The character trait of flexibility was rooted in something much more significant than the ability to adjust to the situation. My dad taught us to trust in God and be at peace when we didn’t get our way. This approach to fighting entitlement worked for us. We learned that we could be happy and thankful even if we didn’t receive that toy we hoped for, or the ice cream, horseback ride, movie night, beach trip, etc.

When we fail to teach our children to be flexible, their tendency is to wallow in negativity when there is a perceived roadblock to their happiness.

Some years ago, Edric’s Uncle who lives in the U.S. visited Manila with a suitcase full of gifts for our kids. He requested that I email him a few weeks prior with links to the items he could purchase for our children on Amazon. Of course he assumed that these items were our children’s preferences and he was looking forward to surprising them.

A few weeks later, he arrived and gathered the children around him. Each time he pulled out a present from his luggage, the kids would hold their breath in excitement. Elijah and Edan were thrilled with their gifts, exclaiming, “This is my favorite!” They marveled over the fact that their Great Uncle was so intuitive!

Titus’ turn came along and his Great Uncle handed him an anthology of Dr. Seuss Stories. I must admit that this was one of those Amazon items that I wanted for him more than he probably wanted for himself. Titus accepted the heavy book, looked it over, and politely expressed his gratitude. However, as he walked back to the couch where he had been sitting, he very honestly mouthed out, “This is NOT my favorite.” I didn’t know whether to laugh at his candidness or cry in embarrassment!

Of all our kids, Titus ranks high on persistence. He will find/invent a way to reach his objectives. Therefore to hear him say, “It’s okay that I didn’t get a yoghurt bar” with all sincerity was actually a big deal. He has changed a lot! I praise God that he is maturing in the area of dealing with disappointment.

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Every person needs to learn flexibility. Life is hardly predictable. As much as we would like to, there’s no way to ABSOLUTELY control people around us or the circumstances we face. And it’s easy to be pouty, moody, ungrateful, and upset when our demands and expectations aren’t met.

The definitions of flexibility according to the Free Online Dictionary are the following:

  1. Capable of being bent or flexed; pliable
  2. Readily bending or twisting the body without injury.
  3. Able to change to cope with variable circumstances.
  4. Capable of being change or adjusted to meet particular or varied needs.

On the one hand the word flexible refers to the ability of the body to bend and flex. But on an emotional level, it is the capacity to accommodate change and adjust one’s attitude and responses positively. On a spiritual plane, I believe this ability begins with an awareness that God remains in control. When things go out of control it is declaring, I will do my part to focus on what I can control – my attitude and behavior, and leave the outcome to the Lord, willingly bending in the direction he elects for me to go.

How do we know that we are becoming more flexible? We can check the aftereffects. A flexible person is a rested, grateful person who finds enjoyment in the present circumstances and makes the most out of the situation, trusting that God is at work and sovereign.

Let me close with this passage… “Cease striving and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10

At the end of the day, our responses to situations are indicative of our theology. Do we really know who God is? How powerful? How awesome? How loving, good, and holy? Our knowledge of God will dictate the turmoil or the peace that follows. Here’s a statement to reflect on which my mom passed on to me, “KNOW GOD, KNOW PEACE. NO GOD, NO PEACE.”

 

 

 

More Painful Than A Spanking

Since Elijah and Edan are way past the age when spanking is applicable or effective, namely between the ages of 1 and 6 years old, they are disciplined using withdrawal of privileges or natural logical consequences. Discipline and discipleship continues in our home, taking on different forms as our children grow up.

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For someone like Elijah who has access to an IPad (that he paid for), a painful consequence is getting it confiscated. I had to do this a few days ago because he exhibited a negative attitude about finishing his social studies work. Normally, he is a cheery person who pretty much educates himself. But that morning he was mumbling and grumbling about the writing work he was tasked to complete. After warning him that his attitude was not acceptable and he still kept at it, I informed him that he was banned from using his IPad. With the exeption of writing assignments and until he got his homeschool work done in Social Studies and Bible, he wasn’t allowed to use his IPad for entertainment purposes. He wasn’t happy about my disciplinary action and began to tear but he did say, “Thank you mom for motivating me to push myself. Since I can’t use my IPad, I want to finish my work so I can get it back.” Awww…By God’s grace, he is still such a sweet son!

As a mom, I know when my kids are burdened by their homeschool studies because the content is beyond their capacity and when they are acting up because they don’t want to put in the effort to get a task done. This situation with Elijah was about the latter. When his IPad was confiscated, he told me that getting this privilege withdrawed is more painful than a spanking!

On other occasions we let our kids reap what they sow. For example, one afternoon the kids left their basketball in our church building. I didn’t go back and get it even though I could have. In the meantime, they were short one ball for their class and they felt badly about it. A few days later, they had to ask the guard of the floor they lost it on, and coordinate with him about who saw it last. It took them three days before they recovered their ball. Moving forwrad, I’m pretty sure they will be more responsible about it since they were inconvenienced to retrieve it.

Edric and I are committed to disciplining and discipling our kids, weeding out heart attitudes and perspectives that stand in the way of their emotional and spiritual maturity. But it takes faithfulness and a lot of wisdom — wisdom to discern what works for a particular situation or problem. Therefore we pray to the Lord for his insight and discernment. Our knowledge is limited and our understanding of what’s going on in their hearts isn’t always accurate. So we need the Lord to instruct us. The wisdom to address our children’s character weaknesses comes from him.

I like the reminder that Galatians 6 gives…”Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself…” (Galatians 6:1-3 NASB)

Based on the text above, here are some guidelines for correcting our children:

“You who are spiritual…” If we desire to see spiritual fruit in our kids, we need to be spiritual ourselves! We need to walk intimately with Lord. Often times the best way to apply this is to pray when our children act and behave in ways that are frustrating and upsetting. Instead of reacting right away, we can pray for the words to speak and the wisdom to deal with the problem.

“Restore such a one…The goal is restoration — to restore our children to a rightful disposition before the Lord. When my kids aren’t motivated to homeschool; if they deal with one another unkindly; speak to me disrespectfully or resist submitting to my authority, I try to remember that this isn’t about forcing my children to do what I want them to. This is about recalibrating the compass of their hearts so it’s pointing in the direction of Christ. A helpful question to ask them is, “Do you think what you are doing is pleasing to the Lord?” Or, “I know you love the Lord and don’t want to continue acting this way.” The focus is on their spiritual condition and teaching them to please God.

“In a spirit of gentleness.” Correction must be done in a spirit of gentleness, never in anger or we will cause our children to stumble and push their hearts away from us (and the Lord). This is tough one! It’s challenging to be patient!  “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) Losing our temper and displaying our irritation with our kids is counterproductive. It doesn’t encourage them to change, it incites their anger and wounds them deeply. We can be gentle when we remember the previous two points – spiritual parents are spirit filled and their goal is to restore their children to a rightful disposition before the Lord.

“…Each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”  We are just as susceptible to wrong choices and bad attitudes. To avoid falling into temptation ourselves, let us instruct our children with the perspective that, “I’m not perfect. I have areas I have to work on in my own life. I need to keep improving too.” Deuteronomy cautions parents by saying, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Deuteronomy 4:9) Sometimes, we can be guilty of the same things we are trying to correct in our kids, so let’s be careful to mind our own walk before we talk. Let’s examine our own hearts for character weaknesses that we need to change.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” We have a spiritual responsibility to help our children grow in Christ-likeness. Our goal is to present them as adults who love and obey Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Do our children know that this is our goal? Do they know we are committed to helping them pursue this goal, that we are here for them when they fail and mess up…that we will bear their burdens with them?

“For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself…” If we think we are better or spiritually superior to our kids, we are greatly mistaken. God has given us His grace. We need to dispense the same grace to our kids as we instruct, train, and discipline them.

Here’s a comforting promise for all of us parents if we are faithful to do so…“Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.” (Proverbs 29:17)

 

 

A Trait All Gentlemen Should Have

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Having three sons offers Edric and I many opportunities to learn about what boys are like and how they develop into men. One thing is certain, they need guidance and direction when it comes to growing in their concept of manhood. Edric plays a vital role in this aspect of their development, and he has intentionally taken it upon himself to teach them what it means to be gentlemen.

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When teaching opportunities present themselves, he will pass on things like, “We need to let ladies go first. We need to hold the door open for them. We need to help ladies carry heavy bags.” Everytime he leaves the home and the boys are left with me, he reminds them, “Protect your mom and your sisters.” It’s quite adorable when my sons take this to heart and insist on accompanying me when I have to run an errand in order to “protect me.”

I recall an instance when Elijah accompanied me to 168 in Divisoria to buy toys for a birthday party. When I had to use the toilet, Elijah said, “I can go with you, mom.” I thought he was afraid. So I said, “Okay, come wait right outside so I know you are safe.” But he replied, “No, I will make sure YOU ARE SAFE.”

These are simple ways that our children are learning to be gentlemen. However, there is a more important trait that all gentlemen should have that we are trying to instill in our sons – how to be buck-stopping leaders.

For the past few days, our family was at a retreat in Baguio, where Edric and I served as speakers. Our kids attended the children’s classes, where they were grouped by various ages. Elijah and Edan shared the same class. When we asked them if they obeyed their teacher, they confessed to their rowdiness – hitting one another’s heads and playfully agitating each other so they became a distraction to others. As a result the teacher separated them. We encouraged them to apologize for their behavior and they were in full agreement of doing so, acknowledging that their actions had been wrong. The next time they saw their teacher, they asked for her forgiveness, which she readily gave.

On the one hand, being a gentleman is about treating people with respect, being considerate of others before one’s self, keeping one’s word and dealing with people honorably and truthfully. On the other hand, it is about accepting accountability and responsibility for one’s choices and mistakes, choosing to do what pleases God, and encouraging others to do the same.

As Edric likes to put it, “the buck stops with us (men).” He shares this often during seminars where he talks about the role of a man, challenging them to imitate U.S. President Harry Truman example, who popularized the statement “The buck stops here” – a sign that sat on his desk in the Oval Office. Prior to this, it was common to use the phrase, “pass the buck” when playing poker whenever the person holding the buck was tired of the responsibility.

In contrast, the “buck stops here” represents the kind of leader men are supposed to be. Edric refers to the passage in Genesis 3, the tragic choice to eat the forbidden fruit and the aftermath of this decision. Adam and Eve attempted to hide themselves, a ridiculous attempt to conceal themselves from an all-knowing and all-present God. In this chapter, God did something very intentional. He called out to the MAN. “Where are you?”

Edric asks men during seminars, “Why didn’t God single out Eve? Eve, who took the first bite and convinced her husband to sin with her?” God sent a message to Adam – as the man, you are accountable, you are responsible, I put you in charge, what happened? This tells us that a man is accountable to God first, and then responsible to take care of those entrusted to his care, to lead them in the way God would have them go. He should not “pass the buck” by pointing fingers and blaming others or circumstances.

Perhaps I can illustrate this point with a story. When I was dating Edric, we struggled in the area of purity. He was a gentleman in the sense that he took care of me and looked out for my needs. He tried his best to treat me with respect. However, our hormones at that season of our lives were difficult to bridle. I’m not excusing what we did. Furthermore, it would not be fair for me to say that it was entirely Edric’s fault. I made my own choices and I did things I’m not proud of. At some point, Edric and I became very convicted about what we were doing. We broke up in order to put God first and seek his will for us.

One of my prayers was that Edric would sit down with my parents and tell them everything we did so we could “come clean.” I was amazed when, a few months later, while we were broken up, he called me and asked to have dinner with my parents on his own initiative. During that dinner he owned up to his responsibility as a man and put the blame on himself. It was the most awkward dinner of our lives. But I learned something remarkable about Edric, which only wanted me to marry him all the more!

A real gentleman says, “the buck stops with me! I am accountable. I am responsible.” I saw this trait in Edric when he apologized to my parents saying that as the man in the relationship, he should not have allowed our relationship to become so physical. He claimed the fault was is even if I insisted that the blame shouldn’t fall entirely upon him. My admiration for him increased 10-fold.

Up to this day, he is this kind of man. Of course he makes mistakes every now and then, but he will own up to them and burden himself with the responsibility of fixing problems that arise in our marriage and family. Furthermore, he will not let issues linger to a destructive point because he knows that God has put him in charge of the kids and me.

Admittedly, sometimes the problem is me! But Edric won’t say, “See, this is all your fault!” In fact, he has never, to my recollection, ever said this to me. More often than not, he actually says, “You know what, I need to make sure that I disciple you better, to help you.” Or, “I’ve got to step up and make sure I’m leading our family spiritually. This is on me.” He will even add, “I’m back, baby! (for my sake) Have no fear, ‘daddy’ is here (for the kids’ sake),” puffing his chest out and thumping it to give the moment some comedy.

When he makes this profession, I am confident not in Edric per se, but on the source of his ability to turn a situation around for the better or repair what needs fixing. Edric is dependent on God. He walks with Him and seeks to follow His principles. Therefore his enabling comes from God. Being a faithful follower of Jesus makes him a capable, buck-stopping leader. The aim of his leadership is to help those around him, especially the kids and me, to follow Jesus, too.

As women, we have a significant role to play to encourage the emergence of the inner, God-designed, buck-stopping leaders that husbands are made to be.

First, our outlook is important. I believe all husbands have the capacity to lead. This isn’t a trait exclusive to those with dominant personality types. Interestingly, our sons show leadership in very different ways from one another. Elijah has a very big personality but he is a leader by example. Edan tends to be less vocal, but organizing people and delegating tasks comes naturally to him. Titus is a man’s man. No matter what their personalities are like, each one of them can learn to copy the kind of leadership that Jesus Christ displayed for us. John Piper describes this as a combination of lion-hearted and lamb-like. Jesus boldly taught us how to live and he died for us to solve the problem of our sins, but at the same time he was among us as a servant.

Matthew 20:25 – 28 “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Second, we can appreciate the instances when our husbands make difficult decisions for the family. Whether these decisions turn out well or not, we can call out the fact that it must be hard to make the choices they have to make. We can tell them that their leadership means a lot to us.

Third, we should avoid criticizing them when they fail, because they will from time to time. Let’s ban comments like, “See, I told you so!” (Oh, I know this is hard! I have to bite my lip not to do this at times!)

Fourth, let them know that we are there to support them and pray for them, communicating that we believe God will help them to solve the problem and be the kind of leader they need to be. (Pray, pray, pray!!!)

I know it’s hard to communicate these messages when we are disappointed in the leadership or lack of leadership our husbands may display. But our positive outlook, belief in their leadership by the power of Christ’s enabling, encouragement, and prayers will do wonders! Men have so much pressure on their shoulders. The last thing they need is to be pressured by us.

For single women, how do you distinguish between someone who is a gentleman only on the outside and one who has the qualities of a buck-stopping leader? Observe the way a man you are interested in handles conflict, stress, problems, mistakes, and issues. Does he recognize and embrace his responsibility and admit accountability, seeking to find solutions that may entail sacrificing his own comfort and needs? More importantly, does he walk intimately with the Lord so that his responses are aligned with God’s principles and honor Him? In the process, does he motivate others to do the same, including you?