There Will Always Be Somebody Taller

When one of my sons heard a relative say, “You are so short!” he teared…not in front of her but in private. The comment picked at an insecurity that he had been struggling with for the past year. Compared to his older brother, who has gone through puberty, he is significantly shorter. He also has friends and cousins his age or younger who are taller than he is.

In September I finally took him to see a pediatric endocrinologist who was recommended by my pediatrician, Dr. Joy Ty-Sy, from Cardinal Santos. Her name

Is Dr. Siok Sua Cua, also from Cardinal Santos, and she had my son get an X-ray for his hand. She also measured his height and checked her charts. The most encouraging part was that she asked my son to list down ten things he believed he was good at. Together with him, she went over each of these items and discussed them, focusing on the many areas and talents he had to celebrate. This was her way of de-emphasizing the height concern.

The positive news is that he is still within the normal, acceptable range for his height. Edric does have short genes in his lineage so that may be a factor, but so far, there’s no major concern. Furthermore, Edric went through his growth spurt later on than his peers so he too was short at the same age.

I took my son to Dr. Siok Sua Cua for my own peace of mind, and for his sake, to allay his fears. Yet, even if she doesn’t think there’s anything to worry about at this point in time, and even if I try measures to prevent the possibility of height issues through diet, good sleep and exercise, my son may end up being, um, vertically-challenged. Deep inside, he has confronted this very probable reality, especially since people continue to make comments like, “I am much taller than you,” or “Why are you so small?”

Therefore, Edric and I have been processing this concern with him so that he can have the right perspective. In fact, all our kids have to embrace the proper outlook on themselves and the unchangeable aspects of who they are. We have to positively program their minds with thoughts like, Thank you Lord for who I am, even if I would like to change somethings about myself.

I don’t want to minimize the fact that my kids get verbally wounded. In fact, people often ask me if children who are homeschooled get exposed to “real” world experiences like bullying and learning to deal with difficult people. The answer is, “Yes! Of course!”

Bullies and insensitive people aren’t found in classrooms and schools only. They can be present in your own family, among relatives and friends, and even in places like Sunday School or random social settings.

So, yes, my kids definitely have to deal with self-worth issues and overcoming negative messages about themselves when these are pointed out by others. However, the good news is that we are here to help them see themselves and their worth in Christ through spiritual lenses. They can’t control what others will say, or avoid being compared to others, measured against “standards”, and pressured to conform and meet up to the expectations of people. However, they can control how they will respond. We can teach them to receive these hurtful statements with grace and faith. Grace that doesn’t retaliate with anger, and faith to believe that God has a plan for who they are and will use the hurt for their good.

(Please note, when the hurt is beyond verbal jabs and goes into the physical realm, well, that’s a different story. We need to teach them self-defense!)

Recently, over lunch, Edric also reminded all our kids that they are special. They don’t need to perform or do things to impress us or others, we love them no matter what. They are special because they are our children, and more importantly they were fearfully and wonderfully made by God.

“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.” Psalms 139:14

“The fastest way to kill what is special,” Craig Groeschel explains, “is to compare.”

When we compare ourselves with others, contentment ends. He warns that “comparison either makes us feel superior or inferior and neither of these honors God.”

When we look at what we don’t have, we neglect the gifts that we do have. This lesson isn’t just for my kids but for me, too. I have insecurities I still battle with regularly. There are days when circumstances or people highlight how I fall short and fail to measure up to a standard of perfection or success that the world likes to elevate.

However, the focus ought to be on Christ, to run the race He called all of us to, not weighed down by a comparison mindset, the sin of discontentment and covetousness, as well as a-poor-me-mentality.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith…” Hebrews 12:1-2

Edric and I need to tell our kids (and ourselves) that there will always be someone wealthier, taller, faster, better looking, more talented, and more popular than them (and us). It’s not in the chasing after these things that we will finish our race well, but in the faithfulness of our daily pursuit of God and our obedience to Him. Groeschel encourages, “Don’t seek to be important. Instead, be faithful. If you remain faithful, then what you are doing will become important and bring glory to God.”

In my son’s case, if you remain faithful to God, walking in daily obedience to Him, it won’t matter how tall or short you are. You will have His favor and His blessing. I love you, son!

I Have a Son Who Is Bigger Than Me 

It’s official. Elijah is nearly two inches taller than I am. I don’t know when it happened but he’s been shooting up since February of this year, the month he turned fourteen. He’s still looking like Gumby with his lanky arms and legs, and twelve pounds lighter than my weight. However, I strain my arms trying to cut his hair now since I hold the clippers up to his head. I think he’s growing an inch every month?! 

Does it make me feel old to have a young adult in my home? I don’t know. Sometimes, maybe. But then I have a four year old running all over the place, too, who convinces me that I can’t be that old because I need to keep up with her. 

A part of me thought that this transition into a different stage of motherhood was going to be more emotional for me. However, Elijah’s handled his physical and emotional changes pretty well. When I asked him how he processed his entrance into young adulthood, he replied, “Well I have you and dad and I am around adults so I see how they behave, which gives me a reference.” 

He also added that we equipped him to anticipate the changes by having many dialogues with him about what it means to be a young man. “There’s no such thing as the teenage years”, we would tell him. (The word “teenager” was a term coined by the Reader’s Digest, Life Magazine and Popular Mechanics post Depression-era, during the 1940s.)
“When you turn 13 you are officially a young man.” 

Edric also took him on a rite of passage and initiated a gathering with godly men in his life who offered their sound advice on what it means to be a man. 

Now I look at Elijah and feel a deep joy knowing that he is navigating these supposedly turbulent years with the grace I prayed he would have. Here are some of the things I appreciate about the age he is at:

1. He sets a wonderful example for his siblings when it comes to being disciplined with his quiet time with the Lord, responsibilities, and work. 

2. He is my in-house tech support. He understands computers like I never will. Whenever there is a tech issue in the home, Elijah can usually fix it. 

3. He keeps me accountable, in a polite way. Whether it is watching what I eat, like avoiding sweets, or minding my spending, he reminds me to be wise. 

4. He is still open with me and shares his concerns, feelings, and joys with me. I still get to peek into his heart.

5. He assists me with the younger girls and even his brothers. When I need a babysitter, he ably and patiently watches and attends to his sisters. He also keeps everyone in line when I am not around. 


6. He still gives me hugs and welcomes hugs from me. He isn’t embarrassed to be affectionate towards me, even in public. 

7. He’s my bodyguard and my young gentleman. When I need someone to be with me to complete my list at the grocery, carry my bags when they are too heavy, or keep me company at the hardware store, he gladly agrees to come along and help me out. 

Elijah has his moments when he gets agitated, loud, and emotional about blocked goals and failure. Yet, for the most part, he’s turning out to be a wise young man who loves the Lord, as well as his family and friends. He also seeks to make choices that honor God and his parents. 

I am sure every year will have its unique challenges for our kids and our parenting, but my encouragement is that God’s principles for raising children are sound and effective. His Word is dependable. When He declares, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is older he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6),” it is both a charge and a promise. 

If we do our part as parents, modeling the right values and character traits we want our children to espouse, and discipling them to become men and women who love God with all that they are, I know that we can bank on the Lord’s promise. He will produce the fruit we long to see in the lives of our kids. Our efforts will not be in vain, not because we are doing such a fantastic job as parents, but because the Lord is FAITHFUL. Although I cannot see the future or anticipate all the trying life situations my kids will go through, my fears are overridden by the hope I have in God’s faithfulness. 

1 Thessalonians 5:24 says, “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” In the preceding verses Paul tells God’s people to examine everything carefully, to avoid evil, to cling to what is good, and the God of peace will sanctify us and preserve us till the end.  

As we invest in the lives of our children, teaching them to be discerning, to run away from sin, and to hold on to what is good, may God sanctify and preserve them! Let’s claim this by faith! 

Does Your Child Know You Like Her?

Most kids know that their parents love them, but they may not always feel like their parents LIKE them or LIKE being with them. This is an area of my own parenting that I have tried to work on, especially with my daughter, Tiana, who really looks up to me.

We just came from Niqua's Factory where both of us attended their bag making workshop with other friends and relatives and their daughters. What a fun activity!

Tiana did the wristlet bag (leather) for P950 and she thoroughly enjoyed the experience! It wasn't very easy but she persevered and she was very focused. I was so proud of her.

Edric has activities that he does with our three sons to bond with them and I am finding it necessary to be intentional with Tiana, too. Catalina is only four, and she naturally demands my attention, but Tiana is more soft-spoken. With her, I need to initiate building a relationship with her by engaging her through activities she enjoys.

Recently she expressed that she would like to do more arts and crafts which is why I jumped on the opportunity to go to Niqua with her after learning about their workshop from my friend, Mich. On the way to the workshop, Tiana spontaneously revealed, "I like being with you, mom."

She said this while sitting beside me in the car, with her legs crossed like a little lady. What a sweetheart!

Many years ago I learned about the principle of magic moments — spontaneous, unplanned moments when your child opens up his or her heart to you. These occasions happen when kids know that you find joy in being with them, participating in the activities that are important to them. During magic moments, kids believe their parents genuinely like them so they respond with trust and the willingness to be open and vulnerable.

Tiana feels liked by me when we do art together. That's when she comes alive and let's me into her world. Today, she worked diligently to finish her bag, which I thought she made for herself. Yet in the car, after the morning ended, she handed it to me. "I made this for you, mom."

I know how hard she labored to assemble the bag and hammer in the studs. Her fingers got sore at one point so it was very special when she offered the bag to me. When I asked her why she insisted on me having it, her response was, "Because I love you."

The older my kids get, the more convinced I become that raising kids isn't that complicated. Oh, I get how kids can get very complicated. When my children's needs aren't met, when they don't feel loved, important, or cherished, and when there isn't consistent discipline and discipleship from Edric and me, they act up, disobey, have bad attitudes, and antagonize each other. They are also susceptible to negative peer influence and ungodly media influences (which is also why we homeschool.) However, when Edric and I spend quality time with our children so we can invest in teaching, training, and building relationships with them, they are such a delight! They act very differently, in a positive way, when they experience what it means to be liked by us.

We can take a cue from Christ. When the disciples were preventing the parents from bringing their children to be blessed by Jesus, he stopped the disciples. Instead of seeing the children as an interruption or a bother, he gladly received them into his arms. (Mark 10:13-16) He honored them and gave them significance.

This is one of those tender passages about Christ that demonstrates how we, as parents, should treat our own kids. No matter how busy or hectic our lives may get, our kids need us to bless them. They need us to LIKE them and LIKE being with them.

God-Confidence in Kids

I am not an advocate of getting kids into modeling at a young age because it can make them focused on their external appearance as well as derive their sense of identity and worth from the way they look and how others perceive them.  However, I also believe that carefully chosen modeling or acting opportunities can be beneficial for kids, to break them out of their shells so they can shine for the Lord. 

From time to time our family gets offered endorsement opportunities and I praise God that these normally involve all of our kids and Edric and me, or some of our kids and Edric or me. In other words, it’s usually a family endorsement and more importantly, a product or service that is aligned with our values and principles. 

The milk brand, Friso Four, which is for kids above the age of three years old (past the breastfeeding age) is one such product. Their cows are hormone and antibiotic free, and they are cared for by farmers who are personally invested in their farms. Farmers basically own Friesland Campina, the mother company behind Friso. So they love their cows! 

Our family’s contract with Friso involved our daughters and me engaging one another through outdoor activities and play, and promoting the importance of nature in the lives of our kids — eating healthy, good sunlight, exercise, and exploration. 

For the shoot today, Tiana was tasked to memorize many lines. When she first saw the script she felt nervous and concerned about her ability to memorize and execute what was required of her. However, we prayed together and dedicated the shoot to the Lord, and her courage increased. She got through each part so well, and without compromising her personality as a sweet and demure girl. 

I was so proud of her! As a younger girl, Tiana struggled with self-consciousness and she worried about what people’s opinion of her. Sometimes she still does. However through the years I have encouraged her to consider the needs of others and bravely attempt to make friends and reach out to people instead of focusing on herself. It’s taken some time but in the last few months, I have seen her grow and mature in this area. She is friendlier towards kids, like her ballet classmates and art class friends, and she has a better understanding of God-confidence. 

God-confidence, as opposed to self-confidence or self-esteem, is knowing that God is the one who gives us the ability and capacity to do things that are difficult or out of our comfort zones. Self-confidence or self-esteem is believing in one’s strengths and who they are to accomplish what they want and need to. A God-confident person relies on Him to meet the challenges He calls him or her to. 

For example, I don’t like speaking in public. It’s still stressful for me to prepare a talk and muster up the courage to stand before an audience even if I have been involved in public speaking for years. Yet this is something I do as unto to the Lord, giving seminars and talks alongside my husband on relationships, marriage, parenting, and homeschooling. I have to remember that it’s not about me, it’s about being a blessing to others, a vessel to communicate God’s principles on these topics in order to help people. But I have to depend on the Lord and not myself if I am to be effective. 

Therefore, I am also teaching Tiana how to exhibit God-confidence when she is asked to do something that is beyond what’s comfortable for her. There were several instances when she teared today, primarily because she didn’t like it when she couldn’t do an excellent job with her lines or with the acting. Catalina assisted by wiping her forehead and handing her tissues when she would tear. The crew and I assured her that she was doing a wonderful job and that it was okay to fail. That’s what retakes were for. Plus, I told her I loved her no matter what and I was there for her. We prayed together several times. 


When she finished the difficult takes, she felt a sense of accomplishment, which is also why I encouraged her to complete her job even if it wasn’t easy. I didn’t force her. I just gave her a pep talk to calm her nerves. We also chatted about how I used to get scared and cry and we had a good laugh about it. 

Kids need to be conditioned to do hard things. For as long as these “things” aren’t abusive, against God’s Word, or imposed upon them because a parent is trying to live out their dreams through them, then kids can benefit from positive pressure, healthy competition, real world challenges, and difficult character-building tasks. However, it matters how we process the experiences with them, reminding them that motivations, purposes out to be for the Lord, and empowering ought to come from the Lord. 

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”‭‭ 2 Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭

When I asked Tiana, “How were you able to do all your lines and acting?”, her sweet response was, “I have Jesus in me…” 


The Family that Gardens Together…

Towards the end of last year, Edric and I decided that we want our kids to be more involved in chores around the house, specifically gardening. This would allow us to approach two needs simultaneously – getting our kids outdoors to exercise, and instilling responsibility.

We canvassed for a grass cutter since the Carabao grass in our backyard was getting out of hand, and found a great deal at HMR in Cubao. After calculating how much we would save by utilizing our own grasscutter versus paying a gardener to come in once a week, we jumped on the opportunity to buy a motorized lawnmower that was sold for ¼ of the cost it usually was. Plus, Edric nostalgically recalled the days when he mowed his aunt’s lawn in the U.S. over the summer, and was excited to relive this experience.

In fact, he fended off the kids when he first got the lawnmower working, even if they eagerly asked to have their turn! Eventually, he entrusted the machine to them (and even to me) and we all got a chance to test its efficiency.

I must say that mowing the lawn can be very therapeutic and fun.

When Edric and I spent those days time outdoors, the kids naturally followed our examples. Over the holidays, Edric recruited our sons to perform gardening duties with him beyond cutting the grass and they thoroughly enjoyed their bonding time. They also got to exercise which was a nice bonus.

The girls and I assisted by sweeping, using the shears, pruning, and collecting trash. Surprisingly, even Catalina found the experience of yard word engaging and worked hard to do her role. She didn’t complain at all. It was an afternoon well spent together.


Neighbors’ househelps looked on curiously as our family worked together. I don’t know what they were thinking but I’m guessing it’s not typical to see five kids and two parents gardening in Metro Manila. I’m hoping our family can do this consistently and take it to the next level by doing some crop-growing and small-scale farming.

Kids, including my own, may default to indoor activities because of gadgets and media, but once they get outdoors with the family and do something productive, they actually enjoy the benefits that these experiences provide. 

I’m really thankful that this gardening initiative began with Edric. His pull on our boys is much greater and he knows how to turn grass-cutting, weeding, pruning, and garbage collecting moments into a good mix of fun and challenging. The kids, especially the boys, operate like good soldiers when he is around! If you haven’t yet considered gardening as productive family bonding, you might want to give it a try! 
 

Letting Siblings Shine in Their Own Way

I used to think it was a great idea that our three boys were taking up the violin together. However, as our oldest son, Elijah, began to show significant ability as a violinist, Edan and Titus got left behind. It hasn’t mattered so much for Titus, who started off much later on than his older brothers. However, the disparity in talent became very evident between Elijah and Edan. As a result, Edan was less inclined to push himself. He liked learning to play the violin, but he fell under the shadow of Elijah.


Not too long ago, Edric and I decided that Edan ought to pursue piano playing. After all, he had expressed interest in doing so, and this would be an area where he could excel apart from his brothers, especially Elijah. Elijah wanted to take it too, but we told him, “You focus on violin for now because you are very gifted at it.”

Later on, we may allow Elijah to take up piano as well. However, we’ve allowed Edan to get a headstart to build his own confidence as a musician. In fact, Edan has been incredible at playing the piano. In the first two months, he exhibited so much progress, his teacher had to find him pieces to play that weren’t part of his piano curriculum. Edan felt accomplished and affirmed in this area of musicality. As a result, he dedicated hours every day to learn his pieces and practice, something he never quite did with the violin. While he still takes up the violin, he now has something that he can do well and better than Elijah at this point in time.

Recently, Edan performed on the piano for extended family and they lauded him for his talent. This encouraged him all the more to pursue piano playing.

Edric and I aren’t trying to advocate our sons’ competitiveness in a negative way. But we also want to give each of our kids the opportunity to shine. We believe they each have God-given abilities that should be explored and developed so they can be a blessing to others and glorify God. However, Elijah can intimidate his siblings and de-motivate them from trying because he is older and more advanced in many areas. Although we don’t compare them, we can tell that they compare themselves with one another. So it’s been healthy for Edan to grow in a skill where he sets the bar.


I’ve also had to tell my kids in the past, “You all have different gifts and abilities. Some of you will be better in one area than others and vice versa. So be thankful when your siblings are good at something. Each of you is good at something.”

I guess the tricky part is discovering what area our kids are good at, which takes careful observation and years of studying what they enjoy and where they excel. And sometimes, it takes some experimenting, like trying out different musical instruments or sports programs to see what clicks with them.

For a long time, I insisted on Edan playing violin because I believed in the cognitive benefits of learning this instrument. However, I also had to recognize that not all children fit the same mold and it’s our job as parents to help them uncover their uniqueness and talents. After all, our children will shine most and enjoy themselves most when they pursue what God designed them to. This means that we have to keep seeking God’s will for our kids and heeding it. It’s very tempting to insist on our dreams for our children, our wants. But our dreams and our wants for our kids cannot be better than God’s plans for them. Therefore, we have to prayerfully go to the Lord for the wisdom to discern what He wants for our children so we can encourage them in that direction.

I’m so thankful to the Lord that Edan has found something that he loves to do and something that he is good at. It brings me deep delight to see him enjoy sitting on the piano bench, engrossed in learning or playing his pieces. Our home is filled with a new kind of music. I also believe that someday, God will use this musical talent for His glory if Edan faithfully practices and hones his piano-playing skill. And maybe, if God should elect it for my kids, all of them will make music together, as a team, with each one providing his or her own unique musicality to the mix!

From Arch Enemy to Friend

My daughter, Tiana, and her cousin, Teegan, are only months apart. Teegan is the big American version and Tiana is the petite Filipina one. There is something about those Arian bones! The difference in height and size between them is significant.

But I don’t really want to talk about genetics. I wanted to write about their journey to friendship.

Three years ago when Teegan came to the Philippines to live, she was excited to be with all her cousins, the majority of whom are based in Manila. Tiana was looking forward to Teegan coming too but when they encountered each other, things didn’t turn out the way we hoped.

Teegan came across very strong and dominant and Tiana was totally frightened by her imposing nature. Unfortunately, Tiana backed away and Teegan was bent on asserting herself all the more in the face of weakness. She semi- terrorized Tiana by scaring her with growling sounds that made Tiana cry. It was her attempt to play but she also knew it wasn’t the kindest thing to do. She intentionally terrorised Tiana to get a reaction out of her.

Thankfully my brother, Peter, and sister-in-law, Jennifer, tried their best to tell Teegan to stop bullying Tiana and they disciplined her when she did. Teegan began to improve.
Tiana also gained greater confidence as we let them play with one another more frequently.

The fighting between became more and more infrequent. It was good for both of them to learn how to adjust to one another. As for me, I had to relax as a parent and refrain from developing a critical attitude towards my niece or her parents. I love my brother, Peter, and sister in law, Jennifer. I didn’t want this issue to come between us. After all, Teegan was only 3 at the time and had a lot of maturing to do. So did Tiana.

For as long as Teegan wasn’t pushing her or hurting her I figured that they would both grow out of this and get along eventually. It was a team effort on the part of all the parents involved, too.

We used positive reinforcement. I would say things to Teegan like, “Tiana likes it when you share with her. That is very nice of you.” Or I would tell Tiana, “Don’t be scared of Teegan. She wants to play with you and be your friend.”

We also implored positive training. We demonstrated to both Teegan and Tiana how to relate to one another and play together.

It took about a year for them to get one another. And lo and behold, the two have become such good friends. They are together as often as possible and they have loads of fun! Teegan is such a sweetheart today. She embraces Tiana every time she sees her and makes her cards for her birthdays. They have make believe games and cute little conversations about girl stuff.

It’s a joy to see them relate to each other so well, especially because I remember the season when they were like arch enemies. I remember my mom sharing a principle to me that has always encouraged me about people and the capacity to change. She said, “Don’t see people for who they are today. See them for who they can become in the Lord.”

Whenever we encounter difficult, trying people, it’s tempting to reject them right away or avoid them to safeguard ourselves. Who wants to willingly make themselves susceptible to getting hurt?! However, not all difficult, trying people are beyond hope. And we may miss out on the opportunity to discover just how amazing these people can actually be, especially when the Lord gets a hold of their hearts.

Teegan changed significantly in terms of gentleness and Tiana changed significantly in terms of confidence because they are two young children who have a relationship with Jesus. He continues to transform them daily just as He will transform every person we know, including ourselves to become the persons he wants us all to be. But we have to believe that with Him in our lives and in the hearts of others there is hope for positive change.

Philippians 1:6 tell us, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” If the work is started by Christ we can be CONFIDENT that He is committed to making our kids, other people and ourselves more and more like Himself. So let’s be encouraged, and let’s not be ones who zone in on the things we don’t like about those around us. Let’s be the ones who recognize that Jesus transforms people!

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 
 

Teaching Kids About Healthy Sexuality

The question “When and what do I teach my kids about sex?” comes up in parenting huddles, where moms gather together and air their concerns about how difficult it is to protect our children from the sexually-charged world we live in. It is seemingly impossible to completely shelter our kids from the images and messages that blatantly celebrate sexiness and sex outside of marriage.

Moms have opened up to me about their children being exposed to pornography at ridiculously young ages. My own kids constantly feel the need to turn their eyes away from magazine racks that exhibit half-naked women on their covers in places like groceries, hardware stores, and bookstores. These places are supposed to be family-friendly places! However, our children’s eyes are hardly “safe”. It’s also difficult to sit through television programs because the ads between shows aren’t always wholesome for kids.

Let’s take a realistic look at how challenging it is to raise our kids with healthy views and convictions about sex and sexuality:

– Nearly 60 percent of sixteen to eighteen year olds have had sexual intercourse.

– Nearly one third of thirteen to fifteen year olds have had sexual intercourse.

– Nearly 60 percent of sexually active teenagers do not use a method of birth control, and the same number of kids have never once talked with their parents about birth control.

– Ninety percent of kids surveyed believe in marriage, yet 74 percent say they would live with someone before or instead of marriage.

– Thirty-one percent of teen girl virgins say they have felt pressured by a guy to go further.

– Sixty-seven percent of teens who have had intercourse wish that they had waited.

– Over half of the young people in America claim to have had oral sex by the age of twenty-two.

– The average age of the first Internet exposure to pornography is eleven years old.

– Three million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) occur each year among teenagers.

– In the summer of 2000, Twist magazine did an online survey of ten thousand girls, over half of whom were under fourteen. Amazingly, 24 percent of the girls who said they were virgins responded that they engaged in oral sex.

– There are fourteen thousand acts of intercourse or sexual innuendo on primetime TV. (Teaching Your Children Healthy Sexuality by Jim Burns pg. 17 – 18)

Even if our kids are growing up in a morally toxic world, the good news is we don’t have to resign to this reality. There are several ways that we can be part of the solution to help our children grow up with healthy views and convictions about sex.

First, we need a mindset change. Sex is an amazing thing! Sex is God’s beautiful design for creation, intimacy, and pleasure in marriage. Why have we let the media, wrong experiences and inherited perspectives distort this truth so that we are ashamed and embarrassed to talk to our kids about it?

Unfortunately, this means that most kids don’t have conversations with their parents about healthy sexuality. They also hear confusing, negative messages about sex from their peers, role models or media. When it comes to the “sex talk”, many parents simply avoid the discussion, wait too long before educating their kids on the topic, or they simply tell them, “Don’t do it!” The message that religious organizations often pass on is that sex is a BAD thing so don’t do it outside of marriage. As for the rest of the world, it’s all about safe sex practices — how to do it without getting pregnant or STDs.

We need to have positive conversations with our children about sex, letting them know that it is neither ugly or dirty. It is wonderful! So wonderful it’s worth protecting and safeguarding for marriage.

After having five children, I realized that all kids, at some point wonder how they physically arrive into this world. Some kids are curious at younger ages, others at later ages. By the age of 7, our kids pretty much understand what sexual intercourse is and why it is beautiful in the context of a husband and wife relationship. Edric and I have this conversation with them early.

We answered (and continue to answer) their questions without substituting cutesy names for their private parts. Here’s a summary of what we cover…Girls have a vagina. Boys have a penis. There’s nothing immoral with those words. The two parts fit together according to God’s design so that a husband and wife can express their love for one another in the most intimate and special way. When sperm comes out of the man’s penis and goes into a woman’s vagina, one of the sperms will meet the egg inside the woman to form a baby. When you get to a certain age, you will start to find a girl beautiful or a boy handsome, and you will want to share this experience with them. But God wants you to save this for your husband or wife because it’s such a special thing.

Whew. That wasn’t too tough, was it?

We try to have these dialogues in a straightforward, non- squeamish way. Edric is better at this than I am. Sometimes I get uncomfortable going through the details. But I praise God that we are on the same page about educating our kids on sex in marriage early. If they hear unbiblical views on sex from friends or media, they can cross-check this info with the truth we’ve told them.

It’s also important to explain gender differences early. Because we’ve helped our kids to properly identity their body parts and the differences between female and male anatomies, they understand gender distinctions as early as 2 years old.

I remember asking our sons one time, “How do you know you are a boy?”

One of them blurted out, “Huh? I have a penis!” Like, hello, mom, did you intentionally ask a dumb question? Of course he didn’t say this. But I loved that his answer was so confident and uncomplicated.
On a comedic note, when we moved into our home and our 4-year old daughter walked into her bedroom, she announced, “No boys allowed. This is the vagina floor!”

Edric and I busted out into laughter. Basically she meant, “This area is for girls only!”

Beside teaching our children gender distinctions, we also need to tell them that their sexual organs are to be treated as sacred and private, educating them on what is appropriate and inappropriate when it comes to being touched. 

So many kids today become victims of sexual abuse, molestation and even rape. Tragically, most of it happens in their own homes and they get confused about whether it is wrong or not. If these is anything that makes me angry, heartbroken, and terrified at the same time it is that children are so commonly violated in this way in this country. About 60 to 70% of the people who come to me for counseling can recall at least one instance when they were abused by someone, and usually it was a relative. And they aren’t coming to me for counseling for these past experiences per se. However it comes up during the session as I ask questions or as the person opens up to me about their history.

My struggle as a mom is not to live in fear and pass on this fear to my kids because of my own past trauma as a rape victim. Yet at the same time, I want them to be aware that this can happen to them. So they need to protect themselves.

Edric and I tell them, “Don’t let anyone touch your private parts. These are private parts. Other people aren’t supposed to see them or touch them. And if anyone ever does that and tells you not to tell anyone, you can always tell mommy and daddy and we will protect you.”

Here’s a great book that teaches kids how to protect themselves. Available through @belugadreams


We also tell our household help not to touch our children’s private parts, unless they are bathing the little ones. (By two or threeyears of age children can be taught to wash themselves.) We teach our little daughters to dress modestly and cross their legs, too, so they aren’t exposing their underwear. We tell them, “Sit like a lady.”

As parents, we also have to model for our children how a woman and man interact with one another, relate to each other, and how we fulfill our roles within the family.

Furthermore, dads should spend time with sons to mentor them and moms should spend time with daughters to mentor them. Edric took Elijah to Mt. Apo when he turned 13 so he could have a rite of passage into young manhood. During their climb they were with a seasoned mountaineer and his son, too.

After four days, Elijah came home scruffy, stinky, and weathered! He learned how to have grit, to push himself and survive difficult weather conditions. He also watched Edric very closely. On the mountain, they spent time worshipping the Lord, sharing the gospel with other climbers, and reading Elijah’s letters from family members for his 13th birthday.

Not too long after this event, Elijah wrote a touching letter to Edric that included these lines, “Dad, thank you for teaching me what it means to be a man because I need you to be my role model. I really look up to you and I want to be like you…” With happy tears, Edric and I glanced at one another and smiled. What a privilege to meet this need in our kids!

Our children’s first concept of gender identity comes from us. Whether we acknowledge it or not, they are observing us and looking to us to understand what it means to be a man or woman according to God’s design.

At the same time, we need to affirm their worth in the Lord because relationships at home have a significant effect on the choices our children make and will make, especially when it comes to sexual purity.
My dad used to tell my sisters and I something like this: Each of you is like a “Rolls-Royce.” Think of a common car versus something like a Rolls-Royce. Everyone gets to drive a common car. Not a Rolls-Royce.

What he meant to say was, “No test-driving allowed! Don’t let guys treat you like a common car because you aren’t!”
Granted, it was totally a guy thing for him to compare us to cars, but the principle behind his advice was important. He wanted us to realize that we are special, that HE THOUGHT WE ARE SPECIAL, that guys should treat us as special. More importantly, he demonstrated what it means to be treated as special by being available, encouraging, and discipling us. (My mom was the same way.)

Very recently I was counseling a beautiful lady who suffered the after-effects of a painful breakup and bad relationship with a guy who was controlling and manipulative. When I asked her about her family culture, she told me she never felt good enough or important to her parents. So she thought it was normal for a guy to treat her badly, too. After all, she was brought up in a family where she had to prove her worth in order to be loved. Her father also made her feel incompetent and incapable. She tolerated her unhealthy relationship with her boyfriend for a miserably long time until God opened her eyes to see that marrying this guy would have been a huge mistake. Up till this day, as an adult, she longs to have a loving relationship with her parents but she feels misunderstood and rejected so often by them so she finds it difficult to ask them for advice when it comes to boyfriend-girlfriend relationships.

As I listened to her, I was convicted to put extra effort into strengthening my relationship with my kids. They need that security from Edric and I, and they need to be able to trust us with their hearts so we can influence them to make wise choices.

In her book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, author Meg Meeker writes that parent connectedness is the number-one factor in preventing girls from engaging in premarital sex and indulging in drugs and alcohol…Girls with good fathers are less likely to flaunt themselves to seek male attention…76% of teenage girls said that fathers influenced their decision on whether they should become sexually active…

It’s only by God’s grace that my parents met this need for affection and the desire to be valued in my siblings and me. As a result, we weren’t as eager to seek out this need in the opposite sex. Okay, so I floundered the most in this area because I actually had one boyfriend in high school and it wasn’t a very healthy relationship. But my sisters and brothers, wow. My youngest sister’s first kiss was at the altar! She made it very clear to her boyfriend (the only guy she had a serious relationship with) that she had strict boundaries. No kissing before marriage!

Maybe you were more like me and made mistakes. And maybe you are a parent reading this and you know that your child is not staying pure. I hope this bit will give you hope, as you come alongside your child to pray for them and restore them back to the Lord.

If you’ve been a follower of my blog, you know that I had two serious boyfriend relationships before marriage. I didn’t have sexual intercourse with my boyfriends, but I did everything else. So I tell people that I struggled with sexual impurity to call it what it is.

Even if I was raised in a good home, I made the choice to go against God’s standard of purity by going “too close to the edge.” The fact that I was a victim of rape and sexual abuse probably made it easier for me to rationalize my choices but that wasn’t an excuse.

I remember my mom calling me long distance one evening while she was away on a trip, and she gently asked, “How are you and your boyfriend doing? I dreamt about you guys last night and you were doing something you weren’t supposed to.”

I knew what she was alluding to and I must have turned five shades of pale. God had spoken to her through a dream! Can you believe it?! I was so convicted and bothered. I admitted to my mom that my boyfriend and I were indeed doing something inappropriate. This wasn’t the only time I had to make a confession to my mom or my dad.

However, their emphasis was not on lecturing me, embarrassing me, or judging me. Were they hurt? Yes. Were they concerned? Yes. Did they have to set restrictions? Yes. But they did these things in a manner that was redemptive. There was grace and forgiveness in the context of an existing love relationship with me. This inspired me to please God because I knew that my parents wanted what was best for me. They had proven this for many years prior to me ever being in a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship.

Author Jim Burns said that as parents we need to convey to our kids that “God created sexuality, and in the light of marriage, He sees it as very good. Our children need to know that God wants the best for each of them in this area of their lives. He is not the great killjoy but rather the creator and sustainer of life.”

Unless our kids are convinced that we are for them, that we are on their side and want what is best for them, they won’t listen to the values we want them to internalize when it comes to their sexuality. So let’s start investing in our relationship with them from the very beginning so that the truths we pass on to them about safeguarding purity will sink deep and take root in their hearts. They might not make perfect choices (like me) but may their relationship with us and with the Lord, through the power of prayer, hook them back and get them back on track.

Here are some facts that tell us why sex is best reserved for marriage: (Source – Ray Short)

Fact 1 – Premarital sex tends to break up couples.
Fact 2 – Many men do not want to marry a woman who has had intercourse with someone else.
Fact 3 – Those who have premarital sex tend to have less happy marriages.
Fact 4 – Those who have premarital sex are more likely to have their marriage end in divorce.
Fact 5 – Persons and couples who have had premarital sex are more likely to have extramarital affairs as well.
Fact 6 – Having premarital sex may fool you into marrying a person who is not right for you.
Fact 7 – Persons and couples who have premarital sex experience sexual satisfaction sooner after they are married. HOWEVER –
Fact 8 – They are likely to be less satisfied overall with their sex life during marriage.
Fact 9 – Poor premarital sexual habits can be carried over to spoil sex in marriage.

As I end this, I want to propose that committing to purity is a family thing. When Edric and I were a younger couple, we watched a bunch of cool TV series on certain evenings to relax and unwind. These shows had great plots but they also had scenes in them and values that blatantly celebrated unbiblical perspectives on sex. We would close our eyes through those parts or press fast forward to avoid watching the “unholy” stuff. But after awhile we were like, What are we doing? This is a waste of time and it is not honoring to the Lord.

We realized that if we can’t sit through programs like these with our kids because we don’t want their minds polluted, then why do we think our minds are exempted from being corrupted as well?

We are all called to holiness. Furthermore, it’s easier to encourage the entire family to pursue purity if we all use the same filtration standards. Here’s a great passage that gives us guidelines for what we should watch and listen to: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭

There’s nothing inherently wrong with media. But the evil one uses these channels to influence and infiltrate our minds. Therefore we must be discriminating as a family about the kinds of shows, programs, music, and movies we entertain ourselves with. Everything that we take in shapes our values and perspectives. 

Psychology Today tells us that “Today, children are being sexualized earlier and earlier, in part because they are exposed to sexual material in movies, television, music and other media earlier than ever…A 2012 study shows that movies influence teens’ sexual attitudes and behaviors as well. The study, published in Psychological Science, found that the more teens were exposed to sexual content in movies, the earlier they started having sex and the likelier they were to have casual, unprotected sex.” (Psychology Today)

When our oldest son, Elijah, started using an IPad he purchased, he installed restrictions on it to protect himself from going on sites or accessing media that could be pornographic. I praise God that he was convicted to do this on his own, as a child. Now that he is entering the crazy hormonal phase of young adulthood, my prayer for him is that God will continue to keep him pure hearted. I pray that for all my kids.

Even if Edric and I try our best to raise our kids with healthy sexuality, it’s no guarantee that they will stay pure in heart and mind. However, I believe they have a better chance of doing so if we start teaching them young. As the Scriptures say, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” Psalms‬ ‭119:9‬ ‭

I really like what Paul said to his young disciple, Timothy: “But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy‬ ‭3:14-15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I don’t know what your perspective on sexuality has been. Maybe you are a young parent, trying to figure out how to raise your kids right. Or maybe you have older kids who are interested in the opposite sex or already dating someone and you are worried about the choices they have made or will make. Or maybe you are a person who is struggling with gender identity or sexual promiscuity. Or you didn’t grow up in a home where you saw healthy gender roles modeled by a mother or father, or you experienced sexual abuse.

Whatever your life state may be, I want you to know that God has a plan for you, as the man or woman that he designed for you to be. Everything that you have been through He can redeem and make beautiful. If no one has ever valued or treasured you and if you don’t feel like you are not worth much because of your choices, you need to know that God sees you. He knows you. He wants to have a personal relationship with you. He loves you and He died for you because you are so precious to Him! He can purify you and me and restore whatever sexual brokenness we have gone through.  

“Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalms‬ ‭51:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Respect Issues – It’s Not Cute When a Toddler Calls You By Your First Name

Of all my children, Catalina, my youngest, was the one child who exhibited disrespect through her words and actions. Sometimes, I would think, My goodness! Who spawned this child?


During one particular incident I was leaning over the kitchen island when she tried to ask me about eating chocolate. Since I was engaged in a conversation with one of my other children, I couldn’t attend to her immediately. Instead I carried on with my dialogue. So she came up to me, smacked my behind, and voiced out, “Joy! Get me chocolate!”

Standing at about 34 inches tall, this two year old of mine, with her beady black eyes and dark wavy hair has always packed in a lot of fire into her tiny frame. In this particular instance, she probably did not realize that she had done something very disrespectful. To everyone else who saw and heard what happened, it was very tempting not to break out into laughter. But all of us knew that she had “crossed the line.”
Edric also experienced something similar when she addressed him as “Psst, hoy! Edric!” while sitting on the toilet.

Both of us talked to her and explained why her words and actions were not acceptable. We demonstrated how to speak to us in a courteous and honoring way. And we also warned her that if she did this sort of thing again she would be disciplined for it.

It must have been a week later when I instructed her to do a task and she retorted with a “No!” This time her defiance was very clear. So I took her to our bathroom and reminded her that we had a rule about disrespect and she broke it. In this instance, she received a spanking. A big hug followed and a sorry from her.

She now thinks twice about dishonoring us. Still, it hasn’t been easy to train our youngest. She’s like a bull. A cute one. Very strong-willed. Intense. Easily upset. But no child is too tough inside to train or disciple. Some kids may take longer than others. However, God calls us, as parents to train our children in Proverbs 22:6, and we have to believe that He will provide the grace and ability to make it to happen.

Here are some practical tips we have picked up from God’s Word, other parents who have raised their children successfully, and our own experience with being parents to five kids:

  • Start disciplining and training early. The earlier, the easier it is to prevent bad attitudes and behaviors from becoming habits that are difficult to deal with.
  • Establish your authority. Edric and I love our kids and they know this. However, they also know that we are God’s appointed authority in their lives. He has entrusted to us the responsibility of training and teaching them to learn the importance of obedience and submission to the Lord by learning to obey and submit to us.Our kids have a lot of fun with us but they also have a healthy fear of defying us. They understand that we mean business. For example, we don’t ask your kids, “Would you like to go to bed now?” when we want them to go to bed. We tell them. “It’s time to go to bed.” Period. If they stick out their tongue, throw a fit, say no, or delay their obedience, then we follow through with a consequence.
  • A consequence can come in the form of spanking, withdrawal of privileges, confiscation of a toy or gadget, or a “time out.” We stick to spankings during the younger years which has worked very effectively. And no, our kids don’t have psychological issues as a result of this form of discipline. Whatever you decide to use as a form of discipline, be sure to follow through. Consistency is key.
  • As a wife, I also have to model respect to Edric so that my kids see what it looks like and I don’t undermine what we are trying to accomplish. They have to see that I also esteem my authority. Furthermore, Edric builds me up as their authority by reminding them that they are to honor me. He has had to sit our older boys aside one or two times and address the way they communicate with me. Very sternly, he let them know that they are not to use a tone that is impolite when talking to me.
  • Complement the discipline with instruction. For example, we explained to Catalina why it’s not okay to use our first names. We also taught her how to respond when we give her a command. She must reply, “Okay, mommy or okay, daddy,” with a good attitude. I actually wait for her to change her facial expression or her tone so that it’s joyful. I don’t let her run off with a grumpy and angry face. When it comes to the boys, Edric teaches them how to be gentlemen – to show deference for people. Sometimes it’s about holding the door open for ladies, shaking the hand of an adult, acknowledging a person when they ask a question, or minding their own noise pollution in public places or tight spaces.
  • Be on the same page with your spouse and people in the home. As husband and wife, Edric and I need to share the same principles for respect, and disciplining for disrespect. Since we have house help, we also ask our house help to let us know when our kids don’t treat them nicely or kindly. We let our kids know that they aren’t allowed to disrespect the house help. Another thing that has helped is welcoming the reports of friends or family members who tell us when our kids are misbehaving. We are on an all out war against disobedience and disrespect in the hearts of our kids so we need all the help we can get!
  • Enlist the aid of older siblings to be an example of right behaviors and attitudes. The power of older siblings to influence younger siblings is incredible.
  • Commend positive character. When Catalina obeys or responds to us with respect, I call it out and affirm her. She smiles bashfully but she loves to hear the encouragement and is more likely to repeat the right thing she did. I don’t just say, good job honey. I yell out, “Wow! I am so proud of you!”
  • Spend a lot of time with a child who is unruly, acting up, or having issues such as disrespect. This will allow you to find out what’s going on in their hearts and strategize how to train them and minister to them. Disrespect reveals a more serious heart issue. That’s what you want to uncover. For example, when my older son, Elijah starts talking to me with a tone that is condescending or sarcastic, I look at him and gently ask, “Is there something wrong?” and we find time to have a heart to heart conversation about what’s bothering him. Sometimes the problem is I have done something to offend him or hurt him so I need to apologize for this, or he feels stressed and pressured, or perhaps he is struggling with some inner conflict or sin that he needs to repent from. When the root issue is tackled, the right behavior follows.
  • Don’t model disrespect among family members. A child can easily mimic shouting, criticizing, negative talk, and bad attitudes from parents or siblings. If we don’t want our kids to treat us this way, we can’t give ourselves a reason to act that way towards one another either. We need to cultivate a culture of respect for each another in the home, even towards our own kids. This entails being polite when we talk to each other and to them, being appreciative and kind, and using the magic words, please and thank you. Let’s model what it’s like to be a blessing to the people so our kids can copy us.
  • Pray for tenderness in the hearts of our children. The bible says that the hearts of kings are like channels of water in the hands of God and he directs it where he wishes. Similarly, the hearts of our children are like channels of water in his hand. He can orient these little hearts in the direction they should go. I bank on this truth for my kids. Surely, God can take a hard heart and tenderize it!

In conclusion, let’s not lose hope, retaliate, or be intimidated when our children are rude or ill mannered, especially towards us. There’s no quick cure but with patience, gentleness, teamwork, consistency, positive modeling, and God’s help you and I can train our children to be courteous and honorable towards others. This is God’s will for them and it’s a goal that we can achieve by His grace!

It’s Time to Play!

“Many of our greatest thinkers locate their capacity for original and profound thought in their imaginative abilities, first developed through creative play in early childhood.” (Pittsburg Post Gazette, August 2004)

Interestingly, “Kids and animals that do not play when they are young may grow into anxious, socially maladjusted adults.” (Scientific American)

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A lot of times we rob our children of the opportunity to play when we overschedule their lives or cram it full with academics and enrichment activities. A poll by HealthAmerica from 2006 revealed that out of 882 children, 41 percent between the ages of 9 and 13 felt stressed all of the time or most of the time, because they have too much to do. Of those same children surveyed, 78 percent wished they had more free time. (Ahchealthnews )

Although we may mean well as parents, we need to consider whether our children are getting sufficient time to enjoy the wonders of childhood. Do they get to play?

Play can be structured and unstructured. Structured play is defined by set goals and objectives determined by an adult. It is adult-directed. (For example, when I teach my child how to build a tower with blocks and instruct them which piece to put where.) In contrast, unstructured play has no specific goal or objective determined by an adult. It is child-directed. Give your child blocks and see what he or she does with them.

Both types of play are important. Structured play is beneficial when your aim is to teach your child new concepts, skills, and reinforce them (colors, shapes, numbers, letters, phonetic sounds, reading, etc.) But unstructured play is beneficial for the application and manipulation of those concepts and skills – to demonstrate and practice creativity…and, well, just enjoy being a kid!

Another area where we may short-change our children is when we buy them the wrong kinds of toys. Since our children were very little, my husband and I agreed that we would buy our kids “good toys,” and avoid battery-operated toys as much as possible. Some people still gift our kids with these sort of toys but we try not to purchase them ourselves.

“A good toy is 10 percent toy and 90 percent child,” says Joan Almon, director of the U.S. Alliance for Childhood. “Beware of killjoy toys. Give children simple play materials such as logs and stones, cloths and ropes, and they will create worlds.”

“Play starts with a box, with the discovery of pots and pans. If everything has bells and whitles and does everything for them from the time a child is very young (his) own imagination is not going to be very stimulated,” says Stevanne Auerbach, a.k.a Dr. Toy and author of Smart Play, Smart Toys: How to raise a child with high PQ.

Some of examples of good toys include:

  • Empty boxes (shoe boxes, big boxes, etc.)
  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Tissue paper
  • Fabric
  • Rocks
  • Sticks
  • Sand or mud
  • Trees
  • Leaves
  • Puddles or water
  • Bugs
  • Rope or string
  • Dolls for girls
  • Dishes and tea sets
  • Blocks
  • Legos
  • Playdough or clay
  • Marbles
  • Magnets
  • Old clothes for dressing up
  • Paper, drawing materials, paint, etc.

My kids go crazy over things like empty boxes and string! This afternoon my girls were running around with sticks, and my older daughter said, “Look, it’s an airplane!”, as she made the stick fly through the air.

So much learning happens through play. It may not be as quantifiable as results on a test paper, but rest assured, children are picking up something valuable.

“Play is how children begin to understand and process their world. Children’s play unlocks their creativity and imagination and develops reading, thinking, and problem solving skills as well as further develops motor skills. It provides the base foundation for learning.” Angie Rupan, Program Coordinator for Child Development Center in South San Francisco, CA and early childhood educator for over 20 years.

When we play with our kids, or when children play with one another, their language skills are developed. They pick up vocabulary, learn how to express themselves in ways that others can understand, and decode the grammatical structure of the English language without even realizing it!

When children are given unstructured play-time, their creativity sores. They learn how to be imaginative, invent, solve problems, build, and entertain themselves without being dependent on others to tell them what to do or how to think. Even simple toys like building blocks enhances mathematical ability in children.

My kids were trying to figure out how to build a suspension bridge the other day. They had to think through the physics involved to make this bridge.

Activities like drawing, painting, stringing, folding, cutting, squeezing dough or clay and molding it are all beneficial for fine motor skills. And activities that involve running, jumping, climbing, kicking, and the like will build muscular strength and endurance which are necessary for more difficult tasks that require body coordination.

What’s our part in all of this as parents? How do we ensure that learning happens when our children play? The following elements must be present:

  • Children feel free to express themselves
  • Children’s opinions are valued
  • Children believe they are unconditionally loved and accepted
  • Children are allowed to fail and learn from their failures
  • Children are allowed to experiment and try new ideas
  • Children are encouraged to consider more than one solution to a problem
  • Discipline is firm but not punitive
  • Parents accept some mess
  • Parents appreciate what their children accomplish and achieve
  • Parents communicate confidence in their children’s abilities
  • Parents demonstrate their own creativity and flexibility
  • Children are exposed to storybooks and storytelling
  • Make-believe is encouraged
  • Children have regular contact with parents and other children (siblings and cousins count, too!)

I don’t know what your family culture is like, but I hope you will prioritize playtime. It’s a necessary and fundamental part of childhood, and it’s our responsibility as parents, to provide a home environment where play is valued and encouraged. It’s time for our kids to play!

To My Young Adult

My husband, Edric, decided to institute a rite of passage for all our sons when they leave their childhood years and enter young adulthood. Since Eljah was the first to enter this stage, it was very special when we invited the key men in his life for dinner to pray over him and pass on their godly wisdom. 

   

I sat at the other end of the table and watched this ceremony transpire, thankful that God gifted our son with mentors who love Him and love the Lord. 

   

  

 When a publications company asked me to compose a letter to my children about how to help children process obstacles and difficult circumstances positively, I decided to write one for Elijah. I gave him a shorter one to read up on Mt. Apo when he reached the summit. But this one is something I want all my children to have when they become young adults. Plus, Elijah said he liked this one better! 

—-

It is hard to believe that you aren’t the little baby I once held in my arms. Have I prepared you enough, taught you enough to navigate the years ahead of you – years that will be marked by hormonal changes, growth spurts, and emotional tests?

In our family we don’t call these years the teenage years. Your dad and I have explained that thirteen means you are a young adult. But this doesn’t mean that you won’t have to deal with the same challenges that “teenagers” go through. You will meet transitions, upsets, disappointments, failures, wins, highs, and lows, and I want you to understand first and foremost that this is all a part of growing into the person God has planned for you to be.

You may be growing up in a positive home environment where you are treasured and loved unconditionally by your dad, siblings and me. However, not everyone outside of our family is going to applaud your principles, like you as a person, or give you a medal for effort. Sometimes, reality will fall incredibly short of your expectations, too. Worst of all, something precious and important to you may even be taken away.

As you know, something unprecedentedly evil happened to me when I was just a little older than you are now. We have talked about how I was a victim of rape. This tragic experience awakened me to the reality of evil in the world, deep pain, and darkened hope. I think now, more than ever before, it’s necessary for me to remind you that we live in a fallen, sinful world. My tragedy was not unique. There are many people who go through harrowing circumstances, some much more terrible than what I had to endure.

I tell you this not to frighten you or make you afraid of your future. I tell you this because you must understand that there is brokenness in this world because of sin, and someday, this brokenness may pierce your own heart. You may question everything you believe about who God is as you meet a cross road where you must face the question of faith.

It is at this juncture when you must cling to the truth that will anchor you. God loves you. He has a plan for your life. Even if you may not always be able to see this plan with your physical eyes, believe that it is good because God is good. In the book of Hebrews it says, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) My prayer is that you will have the maturity to interpret every circumstance with spiritual eyes – to have faith in God’s character.

Years ago I chose to believe that God never wastes our pain. He is a redeemer. He causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

When I look at my life today, you are a testament to this goodness. God gave me a child like you to love. He gave me your dad and our family. Furthermore, He gave me the privilege of serving Him and telling others about Him by using my life’s story.

God is also writing your life’s story. Let Him continue to do so by trusting Him always. Don’t try to grab the pen when the plot becomes uncomfortable. He’s got everything under control.

In the meantime, walk with Him one day at a time. Love Him and obey Him. If you do so, you don’t need to worry about what lies ahead. As Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

When I think about you growing up, this is what comforts me. If you have Christ in your life, you will be okay. You will have His peace, joy, grace, hope, power, and presence. This means that you will have everything you need to persevere and to overcome the obstacles and challenges you will face. Best of all, you will come out of these life lessons and tests stronger, better and wiser. You will be equipped for the special work that God will entrust you with. You will also be able to maximize your gifts and talents for His glory.

Finally, let me end this letter with the charge and encouragement that God gave to Joshua when he was about to conquer the Promised Land. “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you…Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Like Joshua, God has a purpose for you to fulfill. It stretches out before you just as the Promised Land did before the Israelites. This thought is both intimidating and exciting! Furthermore, your dad, your siblings, and myself may not be physically present everywhere you go (even if we would like to be), but God will ALWAYS be with you. And just like Joshua, He is telling you to be strong and courageous, to let His Word and principles guide you. If you do so, you will be prosperous and successful.

Know that I love you always, through everything. And no matter where you are or where you go, remember that I will be praying for you, entrusting you to the One who is able to uphold you and shield you.

Always here for you,

Mom