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“OK, now apologize to your sister.”  Been there, done that.  Both as a child and as a parent.  I had to apologize to my big sister a lot when I was a kid.  And I had a few times when I had to tell one of our 3 daughters to apologize to a sib.

Apologizing is just a part of life.  You’re human, and you’re going to do things you need to apologize for.  Sometimes even when you don’t think you need to.  How you apologize is as important as that you apologize.  Maybe more important, in fact.  The difference between a good apology and a bad one isn’t rocket science, and it’s not that complex, but if you’ve never been taught it, you can do as much damage (or more) with a bad apology as you did with the original offense.

There are a few simple things that make for a good apology.  First, sincerity.  Remember when you were a little kid and your mom or dad or teacher told you to apologize?  What your classmate or sibling got was often less than genuine.  Most of us gave lots of insincere apologies when we were forced to apologize.  We said we were sorry, but we really weren’t.  We got lots of these disingenuous apologies, too.  So we all know that an insincere apology doesn’t count.  It’s really not an apology.

Confessing your offense and owning the blame for it is a second part of a good apology.  Simply saying you’re sorry won’t do it.  Sorry for what?  Identify the offense.  You don’t need to be subtle or poetic about it.  Being direct is key here.  “I was wrong when I ________________________…”  You fill in the blank with what you did or said.

Then what I think is the last part of a good apology is asking to be forgiven.  You can do this in many ways.  Sometimes it’s right to ask if there’s anything you can do to make up for your offense.  Other times, you know there’s probably nothing you can do, so you just have to seek forgiveness.  “Will you forgive me?” is a good way to do this.  Simple.  Direct.

There are a few things to weed out of your apology vocabulary, too.  For me, the top of this list is turning an apology into an excuse.  This usually happens when you say, “I’m sorry, but…”  Whatever you’re putting after the but is there to justify you or excuse your behavior.  And that always negates an apology.  There may be reasons for what you did, but when you include them in your apology, you’re justifying what you did or said, not apologizing for it.  So leave the but out.

Next on the “don’t do this” list is using “if.”  This is when you say, “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings.”  “If” makes it into an accusation, not an apology.  The underlying message is, “If you’re so weak (or ignorant, or unspiritual) that what I said or did hurt you, then you need to grow up and get over it.  A smarter, or stronger, or more spiritual person wouldn’t have been bothered by it.  This is really your problem, not mine.”  And that’s not an apology.  So if you do the “if” thing, stop it.  In fact, you probably need to apologize to the people you did the “if” thing to.

The last thing on bad apologies is closely related to the first thing on my don’t-to-this list.  Too many words will make a bad apology.  Don’t over-apologize.  Economy of words is your friend.  The more words you use, the more likely you’ll end up explaining, and then excusing yourself.  So don’t use so many words.

You’re teaching your kids how to apologize by how you apologize.  You do apologize to your kids, don’t you?  And to your spouse?  You don’t need to make it a big dramatic production (that would push it out of the sincere zone), but you shouldn’t be afraid to apologize in the hearing of your kids.  And you sure don’t need to shun apologizing to your kids.  You’re going to make a ton of judgment calls as they grow up, and not all of them will be right.  When you discover you’re wrong, apologize.  Don’t push past it to the next thing.  And don’t bring up another offense they’ve committed so you can change the subject and get the spotlight off yourself.  Yes, I’m reading your mail.

Sometimes, you need to teach your kids with direct instruction on what makes a good apology.  Teach them the difference between a good apology and a bad one.  Look for the teachable moments and step into them.  This could be when they need to apologize, or it could be when they should be apologized to.  You won’t lack for opportunity to teach them about apology.  You just need to be ready for the opportunities when they come up.



CBS brought back a new, hip version of Magnum PI this season.  It’s roughly the same premise as the original Magnum.  The setting is in Hawaii, and Magnum still drive’s Robin Master’s Ferrari (and routinely wrecks it).  But Higgins is a former British Intelligence Officer, and a woman.  I guess if you’d never seen the original it would be OK.  But for people in my demographic, this new guy is a step down from Tom Selleck in both stature and coolness.  And Higgins is a woman?  Well, that’s taken a bit of willing suspension of disbelief for me.  I’ve still got John Hillerman in my mind.  Sorry, ladies.  It’s really not about gender.  If she was at least his daughter or grand daughter…

So there’s a new Magnum PI.  What’s that got to do with anything, anyway?  Lot’s actually.  Magnum PI in both iterations is a great picture for one of the most important assignments we’ve been given by God for our lives.

Jesus and Paul both talk a lot about this.  Peter does, too.  It’s all through the Bible, from Genesis through Revelation.  You’ll see it when you know to look for it.  It’s a theme and one of the roles of every believer.

In Colossians 1:24-26, Paul writes about this theme as a bullet point on his job description.  24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, 26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. (NKJV)

The idea I want to chase a little is there in verse 25.  I became a minister according to the stewardship from God The idea is stewardship.

It’s not a word you hear much today outside of church.  There is some leadership literature that has begun to frame effective leadership in terms of stewardship, and that’s a good thing.  But you will probably hear the word used most at church.  And when you do, you know somebody’s wanting to get in your wallet or checkbook.  At church, it’s almost always associated with the offering.  Offering’s about stewardship, but it’s only one of many things in a believer’s life that is about stewardship.

This is where Magnum PI comes in handy.  Both Magnum and Higgins are stewards of Robin Master’s property and goods.  Higgins does a much better job of stewarding it than Magnum.  Magnum pretty much just uses Robin’s stuff.  Higgins actually stewards it.  He takes care of it as if it were his/her own, knowing it’s not his/her own.  And that’s what stewardship is.  It’s managing what belongs to someone else as responsibly as if it were your own.

I believe every Christian has been made a steward, a manager of what God has put in their care.  This stewardship goes in every conceivable direction.  Your career.  You’re only a steward of the opportunities and responsibilities that are there in it.  Your physical possessions.  They’re not really yours.  They’re His.  You’re not the owner, you’re the steward.  Your money.  It’s not yours, either.  It’s His.  You’re supposed to manage it in a way that fits with His design.  The earth itself.  We’re just stewards.  We’re just manages of a magnificent created order.  Your relationships.  You are a steward of every relationship you have.  And at the top of that heap is your marriage, if you’re married, and your kids, if you’ve got any.

The NIV has 1 Corinthians 4:2 as, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” The New King James, “…it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”

Every steward has been given a trust.  No trust, no stewardship.  And with the trust comes responsibility.  This is huge in a world where success is the point, and is measured by outward standards, and where loyalty and faithfulness get crowed out by better opportunities and the best option in a push to the top.

Paul wrote that the requirement for a steward isn’t success, it’s faithfulness.

Faithfulness will not always look successful.  In fact, there are individuals who have climbed the ladder of success by not being faithful to anyone or anything but themselves and their own aspirations.  They’ve climbed over people on the way up, and pushed others off the ladder, with no apparent remorse.  They really didn’t care, because being a nice guy wasn’t going to get them to the top.  Nice guys finish last.  But when they got to the top, in moments of self-awareness, they realized they had the ladder leaning against the wrong wall.

Unfortunately, there are those who get to the top and don’t have this moment of self-awareness.  Not in this life, anyway.  But there will be a moment of reckoning, when the Master will call them into account for their stewardship.  Their corner office and plush furnishings, their outlandish salary and lifestyle, their country club memberships, and the plaques and pictures of famous people on their wall won’t make any difference.  They’ll be, to quote Kansas, dust in the wind.  Don’t be that guy.

If you’re a husband or a wife, here’s where I want to land the plane.  How are you doing with stewarding your marriage?  How are you doing with the trust of this relationship?  This relationship is second in value and importance only to your relationship with Christ, so it merits your best attention.

If you’ve got kids, how are you doing with stewarding your parenting role?  The world (whether it knows it or not) is depending on you doing a good job with this.  There’s a ton at stake.

Whether you feel you’re doing well with this or poorly with it, I have good news.  Nobody wants you to be a good and faithful steward of your life and roles than God does.  In fact, He wants this badly enough to take you on as His partner.  He trusts you with this trust.  Every grace and power you need to be a faithful steward is available to you through Him.  So gratefully put your hand in His and keep walking faithfully with Him.

Mom, You’re A Hero

What kind of a hard-hearted blogger would I be if I didn’t write something to moms on Mother’s Day?  I don’t want to be that guy.

Writing about moms isn’t a chore for me.  I had a great mom.  She was imperfect, and in many ways a broken person, the adult child of two alcoholic parents, married to a preacher.  It could have been more difficult for her, but not by much.  She gave it all she had.  I remember lots of weeks when she had to be supremely creative with what was left in the pantry because Dad’s paycheck hadn’t been written by the church treasurer yet (a problem many a preacher had in the 50’s and 60’s).  Rich Mullins had a line in one of his songs about his mom: She could make a gourmet meal out of cornbread and beans.  That was my mom.

She spent many hours at the kitchen table with me, the ADD boy (before ADD had been invented…), who didn’t want to bother to learn the multiplication tables when there was a hundred other more important things I could be doing.  But she sat there holding up the flash cards and bringing my wandering attention back to the task.  She sewed cowboy shirts for my brothers and me for picture day when I was in 4th grade.  She made an indelible impression on me for kindness and mercy by her kind and merciful treatment of everybody in her world.  Well, everybody but herself.  She never said it, but I think her motto could have been “soldier on.”

When all of us kids were finally grown and in our own adult lives with our own families, when she and my dad could (and planned to) travel and see the world, life made a very sharp turn for them.  She began a dark journey into a world where less and less made sense, and more and more got lost in the mist of dementia, a series of TIA strokes that left her unable to speak, and then, finally, Alzheimer’s Disease.  The last few times I saw her, I think she knew she knew me, but she wasn’t sure how or why.  If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you know the heartache of this.  She died some years ago, the day before Easter.  I wept in sorrow, and mourned my loss.  And yet, I was grateful.  When she closed her eyes for the last time in her nursing home bed, she couldn’t remember where she was or who was with her.  But when she opened her eyes, she awoke in the embrace of Jesus.  She was delivered from the horrible life she had endured for 6 years.  She was fully, completely and perfectly restored in every way.  And this made me grateful and happy.

I could go on and on with a Mother’s Day eulogy for my mom, but I won’t.

There’s another mom I’ll take the remaining keystrokes for.  The mother of my three daughters.  If you know her, you know she’s very nearly omni-competent.

For the 17 years of my Youth Ministry career, she was pretty much a single parent.  I was busy raising everybody else’s kids, trying to make a mark for myself as a Youth Ministry superhero.  I write this with regret.  If I could somehow travel back in time and meet myself back then, I’d probably throttle me.  At the very least, I’d slap me hard enough to get my attention and try to cram some sense into my head.  But here’s one of the things that is most amazing to me about my wife, Debbie, the mother of our three daughters.  She never did to me what I think I would have done to me.  She loved me.  She cheered for me.  She believed in me.  She made me unspeakably better than I would ever have been if left to my own devices.

When the girls were preschool age, I would roll out of bed at the last possible second and dart through the house on my way to my office, and see her in the kitchen with three kids hanging on her, her Bible and notebook open on the table.  When I came home before heading out to a meeting or some other nighttime commitment, the Bible and notebook would be there where it was when I left.  She had her Quiet Time in snatches, sometimes a minute or two at a time when she could afford to not supervise the girls.  Frankly, she was a light year closer to God than I was.  She has passed this along to all three of our daughters.  Each of them now living fantastic lives with their own families, and each of them carrying that wonderful legacy their mom gave them of full devotion to Jesus, His Word and His Church.

She led, equipped, empowered and shepherded a team of 100 volunteers, to make sure 500 preschool kids were more than just babysat in church.  They were introduced to a loving Heavenly Father, His amazing Son, Jesus, and a church they begged to come back to every weekend.  And this in a mission field called Las Vegas.

All this she did without neglecting Becky, Katie, Jenny or me.  I marvel that she could do it.  But she did with grace and beauty.

I’m about to exceed my keystroke limit.  You can probably see that I’ve just scratched the surface, though.

If your mom is alive, do yourself the favor of reflecting on the ways God has used her to shape your life, and thank Him and her for it.  Even if she was far less than you had hoped for, or maybe incredibly and horribly less than you would have hoped for, she delivered you into the world.  Someday I’ll write about mother wounds, because they’re real, and they can be deep.  But on this Mother’s Day, if you can, call your mom and tell her you love her.

If you’re a mom, THANK YOU!  YOU’RE AWESOME!  EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL AWESOME AND DON’T FEEL APPRECIATED.  Especially then.  When you’re feeling like the Mt. Everest of laundry and the pile of dishes in the sink, along with the debris from the front door to the back door will hold you hostage for the rest of your life, it’s hard to feel like you can step out and take a bow for being so awesome.  But today, the entire western world has pushed the pause button to tell you, “Step into the spotlight, girl.  Take a bow.  You’re awesome!”  Breathe deeply of God’s grace, and soldier on.

Who Do You Think You Are

“Who do you think you are?!”  It’s not a fun question to be asked.  Because the real message is you’re not as important as you think you are, or as smart, or good, or adequate, or a dozen (maybe a hundred) more things.  The bottom line is, you’re less than.  “Who do you think you are?” is a not a question at all.  It’s a put-down.  And it’s almost always said with sarcasm or cynicism.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been asked this question by another person.  It hasn’t been that long since I’ve heard it in my head, though.  Like about 5 minutes ago when I started writing this blog.  “Who do you think you are?  Writing about how to make a good family?  Are you kidding?  Come on.”

I know where this all comes from.  You probably do, too.  Author and pastor, Steven Brown, used to say, “It smells like smoke because it’s from hell.”  I have an enemy who never tires of trying to pull me off track with temptation.  He never tempts me to knock off a convenience store or sell secrets to enemies of America (like they’d want to know anything I know…).  The most powerful temptations come at me in the form of this primary accusing question, “Who the heck do you think you are?”

There’s an important reason why this is such a powerful question/accusation.  Who you think you are – who you believe yourself to be – has more power to shape and drive your behavior and choices than anything else in your life.  Your identity, your true identity, is the most important issue in your life.

You serve many roles in your life.  Wife, husband, son, daughter, father, mother, employee, employer, friend.  And these just scratch the surface.  Your roles are not your identity, though.  They’re only the contexts from which you express your identity.

If this sounds like psychobable, I get it.  I’d love to take about 20 pages, single-spaced, to write all I have on this, but I won’t.  Yer welcome.  But I have to unpack it a little because there is nothing that will either hold you back or propel you forward in your personal life, your marriage, your family, and virtually every other area of your life as your understanding of your identity will.

The psychological word for this is self-image.  Its twin-attached-at-the-hip is self esteem.  Your self-image will always determine your self esteem.  What you believe about your identity will always determine the value you place on yourself.  The value you place on yourself is the primary driver for what you do and how you do it.

Lots of people spend their lives believing they’re who the significant people in their lives say they are.  If the message is positive, it’s life-giving, but if it’s negative, it’s deadly.  One of the things that makes this so huge is that kids pick up meaning from messages that aren’t always correct.  They connect dots incorrectly because they don’t have enough experience and background (not to mention not enough neurology) to connect them appropriately, according to reality.  But they’ll connect the dots, whether they’ve got the actual meaning or not.  They have to.  It’s how they organize life.  We never outgrow this.

Can you see why this is so crucial for parents to get?  When you say, “Darlin’, you can be anything you want to be,” to a preschooler, you mean, “I want you to be the most fantastic you you can be.”  But what the kid hears is, “I can be an NBA star, because that’s what I want to be.”  The problem comes if the kid maintains that dream, but doesn’t grow taller than 5’8″, can’t dribble, can’t shoot, and runs slow.  He heard you tell him he could be an NBA player.  Which you didn’t actually tell him, but that’s what he heard.  Realistically, even if he had grown up to be 6’10” and fast on his feet, the odds, even then, are overwhelmingly against him ever being an NBA player, and even more against him being a star.

The opposite is true, too.  When a kid hears, “Don’t get your hopes up.  You’re not going to get that (whatever “that’ is),” they may hear, “You won’t ever get it because you don’t deserve it, and you never will.”  It’s heartbreaking to me, but some kids actually hear that exact message from one or both of their parents, because that’s the exact words they use.  That’s a message that they will carry until someone introduces them to the idea that they’re not defined by what other people tell them they deserve.  Many people carry this broken message with them through their entire lives.  And broken messages make broken people.

So, as the parent, what do you do?

Part of the stewardship of your role in your kids’ lives is to give them a healthy, God-honoring view of themselves.  Other people in their lives help shape their self-image, but the most influential people in their lives is YOU.  Even in a highly connected, technologically advanced age, where there are millions of other voices crowd their world, studies confirm that nobody is as influential in a kid’s life than their parents.

Got it.  That doesn’t answer the question of what you should do, though.

Here’s my best answer: tell them what God believes about them.

To quote Family Feud, “Good answer!”

The source for this is the Bible.  Both the Older Testament and the Newer Testament are laced with what God believes about you and your kids.  This is the bedrock reality.  But for most people, it isn’t what they believe about themselves.  How could they?  They’ve never heard what God says He believes about them.

There are tons of resources on the Internet about this.  Here’s one that will get you started: Click it up and let God whisper His love into your heart.

You can be creative with how you communicate this to your kids.  Take one thing from the list every day or so and put it on a sticky note that you put on the bathroom mirror.  Write one of the things on the list on a note and put in their lunch bag or box.  Send them a quick text message of one thing on the list.  Or an email.  Last thing before bedtime (even for older kids), tell them one thing on the list.  Not every kid gets it the same way, but every one of your kids need to hear from you that they are loved and treasured by you and by God.  They need to hear the truth about who they really are.

This is not the same thing as a Participation Trophy.  Don’t get me started with that.  This is about telling your kids the truth about who they are.  Because they’ll get the same, “Who do you think you are?” question you get, and they need to be able to answer it.  The best answer will always be, “I am who God says I am.”

And, by the way, as you communicate these truths to your kids, make sure you hear them for yourself.


My best friend in the world is a guy named Danny.  I’ve known him since I was in the 9th grade.  He’s 6 years older than me, but that never really mattered.  And now that we’re both old guy, it matters even less.  I’ve played my best golf with Danny, had more fun with him, and been more encouraged by him than just about any other guy in my life.  And then there’s the fact that he literally saved my life when I died of a LAD heart attack in January of 2011.

One of the things that makes our friendship so good is that we’re really quite different in a few significant ways.  One of these differences is that Danny loves change.  He thrives on it.  I hate change.  He’ll rearrange furniture, repaint walls (that haven’t been that color for very long), shift his daily schedule around without giving any of it a second thought.  Me?  Helen Keller could live with us.  I never rearrange the furniture, and in 45 years of marriage, I’ve painted walls a different color 3 times.

A PhD guy by the name of Everett M. Rogers wrote a book decades ago entitled The Diffusion of Innovations. After years of research and scientific investigation, he came up with a theory about how innovations move through a population.  There’s much more to it, but it comes down to what percentages of people are open to change, and what percentage are not.  Here’s a graphic that gives a visual for it, if you like bell curves…

The upshot is that about 2.5% of people are all about innovations.  They pretty much live to create them.  About 13.5% are happy to make changes.  About 16% will only change if they are forced to (and generally they do this resentfully – with what is called malicious compliance).  The rest (about 68% – the vast majority) are OK with change if they believe it is good for them.

So what’s this got to do with you and your marriage and family?  Lots, actually.  Because families and marriages are in constant dynamic change, you have to learn to manage both the changes that this involves and your feelings about change.  If you’re an innovator, you may have to slow your pace and slow down for your spouse and family.  If you’re a “laggard” (nothing personal…  It’s an unfortunate term used in Rogers’ writing), you may have to step into making changes that most everything in you will be screaming out against.

The bottom line is that if you don’t like to change, you have to adapt to the fact that the world and your marriage and family are full of changes that you don’t get to control.  And if you love change, you’re 16% of the the world.  The rest of the world isn’t nearly as much in love with change as you are.  No matter which of the categories of the bell curve you fall in, you have to adjust to the fact that the whole world isn’t just like you.  So don’t be so surprised when they don’t do change the way you do.

There’s an overwhelming amount of material about change and change theory.  Most of it is very academic (and often boring).  But you don’t need much specialized background to work with the idea that everybody has to learn to deal with change.  You can embrace it, hate it, ignore it, deny it, but you can’t change the fact that change is and always will be part of your life.  Adaptation is a skill that brings life and love and even happiness to families and marriages.

1. Where do you see yourself on the bell curve?
2. Where is your spouse on the bell curve?
3. Locate each of your children (even if they’re adults and on their own) on the bell curve?
4. How are you doing with adapting and adjusting not just to change, but to your spouse’s and your kids’ wiring for change?

I don’t have a formula for adapting and adjusting well.  I don’t think there is one.  But I know if I don’t focus on my habits and patterns in this area, I’ll leave a wake of collateral damage behind me.  Sometimes that collateral damage will cascade into succeeding generations.  The stakes are high.  So in partnership with the God Who set this whole dynamic change thing in motion, learn to adapt.  Because that’s one of the things love does.


A Change for Me

Debbie and I are in a change of season.  Neither of us is great with change.  We’ve learned how to adapt and adjust to what God brings or permits in our lives, but we’re not eager to change, usually.  Our life is calling for a change right now, though.

Over the past three and a half years, we’ve have been thankful to be able to contribute to the growth and health of Cornerstone Community Church, in Manchester, Iowa.  We’ve been blessed to be included in loving relationships here, and have been blessed with a place to serve that fits with our gifts and background.  I think we have stewarded this time well.

When Tim Agrimson resigned a little more than 2 years ago, I wanted to do whatever I could to help the church and its leadership be ready to move forward under fresh leadership toward what I believe is a very wonderful and fruitful future for the sake of God’s Kingdom here in Manchester and beyond in the wider world.  I stepped into the Interim Lead Pastor role, at the invitation of the Elders, and I gave my best effort to rethinking our systems and organization, and guiding the Elders toward a different way of thinking about their role, and Cornerstone and its structure.

When we started our search for a new Lead Pastor, part of this prayerful and thoughtful  process was developing an intentional plan for transitioning the leadership of Cornerstone into the hands for the new leader God would provide, and removing as many obstacles for his leadership as possible.  Joe Camp is this leader.

The transition and succession plan that the Elders and I originally had in mind had placed Joe’s full installation as Lead Pastor in April, through a phased process over a six month period.  When Joe arrived and settled in, it became clear he didn’t need a lengthy transition.  By December, when I returned from an Open Door Library overseas trip, it was obvious that our original succession plan was unnecessary.  So we scraped it.

I think I have achieved my goal of getting Cornerstone ready for new leadership.  So I have resigned, and Debbie and I are looking for what God has in mind for our next season.

Debbie’s contract as Children’s Ministry Coordinator, here at Cornerstone, is completed May 31, and my resignation will be effective on May 31, as well.  We will leave for our next Open Door Library trip on June 3 and will return on July 4.  We will be leaving the area sometime in July, and are hopeful about where God will relocate us, but at this point don’t know where this will be.  Your prayers for this would be much appreciated.

We love Cornerstone and are grateful for the friendships we’ve been blessed here.  I wish the Cornerstone church family, Joe and the elders every good blessing from God, and that Cornerstone will continue to reach its potential for influencing and transforming lives here in Delaware County, and into the wider world.

The Thrid R

Daily Responsibilities.  That’s the Third R.  Rules, Routines, and daily Responsibilities.

There’s a lot out there on the Internet and Social Media about Snowflakes.  As an old guy, I find most of it amusing.  But some of it is heartbreaking.  Joking aside, there are many thousands of kids who never had enough daily responsibilities to get a feel for what living an adult life is like.  They were never introduced to basic responsibility, by being expected to take responsibility for even basic things.

If someone always makes your bed and does your laundry and loads and unloads the dishwasher for you, why would you ever learn how to do it for yourself?  If someone else always does the hard homework for you, and puts gas in the car when it runs low, and pays all your fees for your two dozen sports leagues, and pays your way to the movies, why would you ever do these things for yourself?  A smart kid will figure out what they do and do not have to do, and they’ll figure it out quickly.

And more seriously, if somebody will always come and rescue you from the consequences of your poor choices (everything from late homework to get-out-of-jail-free), how will you ever learn the lessons consequences are supposed to teach you?  Beyond that, why would you?!

If your parent or parents hover over you to protect you from every scrape and tumble, how will you ever learn how to recover from them?  And, again, why would you?

My great concern for the next generations isn’t that they won’t get a quality public or private education.  I have definite and strong feelings about our educational system.  Don’t get me wrong on that.  There are some glaring gaps.  But it’s not my great concern.  The childhood obesity problem isn’t even my great concern, although it’s a real problem.  What concerns me most is that so many families are producing kids who don’t know how to take responsibility for themselves and their own lives.  They’ve never been allowed to or required to learn the skills of responsible life.  They never had to.

Yikes!  I just re-read that.  It sounds like an old guy rant.  Sorry.  But, then again, not sorry.

If you’re raising a responsible kid, good on you!  If you’re doing this, I know that one of the things you’re doing is teaching them how to take care of daily responsibilities.  You may not assign the same daily responsibilities Debbie and I assigned our 3 daughters, but you’ve got to be lining them up for growth by assigning responsibilities, and then expecting them to be fulfilled.  Sometimes, beyond that, you enforce them.  With consequences.

There will always be a debate about what’s appropriate and what’s not for daily responsibilities with kids.  It’s a moving target.  Logically, it’s not the same for a 3 year old as it is for a 13 year old.  The bar moves up as kids grow.  I don’t have a chart that gives you all the things that you can reasonably expect/require your kids to do at the various stages of their growth and development.  There are so many variables involved, I don’t think anybody is smart enough to build a chart that will handle all of them.  And if they did, I’d be worn out before I got through it. Instead of a complicated chart, here’s what worked for me as a Dad, as a Youth Minister, as a Pastor and a counselor: DON’T DO FOR THEM WHAT THEY CAN DO FOR THEMSELVES.

How do you know what they can do?  You become a student of your kid(s).  You study them.  You observe them.  And you study what’s out there about kids in the ages and stages of your kid(s)’ development.  Here’s a good article from a trusted source (Focus on the Family) with some good advice on specific things at specific ages:

Let your kids help you decide what they can and can’t do by giving them a chance to fail once in a while.  And when they fail, you don’t punish them, you teach them.  That may mean you teach them a better way to do it, or it may mean you back off and don’t expect that particular task until later.  But don’t back off too quickly.  Sometimes kids are smart enough to know that if they fail at something they don’t really want to do, they’ll get a hall pass on it.  Ask God to give you wisdom (He promises to do this in James 1:5), and discern whether they really can’t do it yet, or if they just don’t want to do it.

Going into this with an experimental attitude will help you.  Both you and your kids will discover what they can and can’t do by experimentation.  So give yourself and them the freedom to experiment with this.

Guide, lead, sometimes herd your kids into patterns of growth and development that will give them the basic tools they need for their life.  One huge one is learning how to take responsibility for their lives.  Daily responsibility is the best way I know of to get the process started.