Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

When Social Media, Politics and Morality Collide–What Do You Say?

June 14, 2011

To use a phrase a friend of mine used all the time in high school (and apologies to cat-lovers), “you can’t swing a dead cat without” hearing about the latest development in the Anthony Weiner Twitter scandal.

“I told you that social media stuff is the bane of our society”

“There isn’t a good politician out there–they are all corrupt”

You may not have heard these exact phrases but there are sentiments of each of them in every news story, blog post or twitter message being sent about this story.  On the DadPad, we typically discuss issues related to being a dad so why address THIS issue.  As I sat and thought about what’s happening and since I’m a social media consultant, there are a number of angles to write and comment about when it comes to these kind of stories.  But what do I do with them as a father?  Seems to me that these are GREAT places to engage in discussions about a lot of things with our kids, using age appropriate terms and detail.

So, is the real evil the social media tool?  Is Twitter to blame?  Church leadership has “banned” Facebook use for some of its leaders to remove the temptation for flirtation or more explicitly deviant uses.  I applaud men with weakness to “run” from the temptation in their lives, no matter the form or vehicle of delivery.  But, is the answer simply to blame the tool and pretend it doesn’t exist without regard to the user?  Here’s the truth..social media is here to stay.  We better learn how to use it for good and not just ignore it like it didn’t exist.

And, we certainly have heard about politicians who’ve abused their status and power for sex, money and position.  So, do we simply blame Anthony Weiner for being a politician as if had he been a plumber or accountant, this wouldn’t have happened?  The issue is much less about his role as a politician than that he is a human being.  This doesn’t excuse his behavior but, instead, lays the problem squarely on his shoulders as someone who made a very poor decision, or series of them.  Isn’t that usually the case with these situations?   The media and public sentiment can do all they can to find out the ramifications of being a politician and the temptations that they or athletes or actors face because of their position, but in the end, it’s all about poor judgement…poor choices.

The truth is that the heart of the problem always lies in one place…the heart of the man (or woman).  This is a great chance to discuss issues of morality with your kids.  We live in a culture that is constantly trying to place blame everywhere but where it belongs…with the person who committed the act of indecency, immorality or illegality.  Certainly access to tools that allow us as sinful men and women to more easily carry out inward thoughts and turn them into external actions have played a part in more widespread distasteful acts by humans at large.  But are the tools to BLAME?  Without going into a longer post about this, I can, with confidence state, “No”.  The problem isn’t the tool.  It’s the tool holder.  If I put a hole in the wrong wall with a hammer, is the hammer to blame?  Maybe I should have held the architectural drawings right-side up.  This is all good fodder for a discussion with your children–especially a generation that is growing up native to the use of texting, Twitter, Facebook and other forms of online networking.  And, they are growing continually wary of politicians, musicians, actors and athletes who abuse their position for personal gain, as if they were above the law.  But, is it their position that is to BLAME?  Again, I don’t think so.  Because of their notoriety, they are more subject to commit these acts than you or I might be.  Yet, if we simply place the blame on their fame, we completely miss the mark.

Ultimately, the discussion needs to rest on the truth that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Only God provides the ability for us to uphold an objective measure of morality.  We can place blame on tools, roles and circumstances, but ultimately decisions to act upon fleshly urges rests within the heart and soul of each one that has the urge…do I act on it or subject my thoughts and feelings to One who can help me overcome them and make wise decisions.

Don’t avoid the news, online technology or pursuit of careers because they are subject to being misused or abused.  Rather, lead discussions in your family about what taking personal ownership of decisions looks like.  Bring up why these kind of stories are thought of as   “newsworthy” (though we could discuss the over reporting of sensational stories for ratings, we won’t here :).  When you hear or see life happening around you and someone chooses poorly, don’t ignore or shut off immediately…engage and use them to point to right choices and right responses so that your children learn that they can live in the world but don’t have to succumb to its temptations.

How do you handle these stories in your home?

The Reverse Hit-n-Run

February 21, 2011

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Here’s a funny little interaction between a father and son:

Dad: Didn’t you promise to behave while I was gone?

Son: Yes, Sir.

Dad: And didn’t I promise to discipline you if you didn’t?

Son: Yes, Sir, but since I broke my promise, I don’t expect you to 
keep yours.

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A Letter to My Daughters

February 8, 2011

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E… and J…

Hopefully, what I’m about to share with you isn’t the first time you recall hearing these things.  And, I know it’s a little weird to see them in the middle of a blog post (you know your weird dad :)).  But, maybe there’s just one dad out there who needs to see a dad express some of these things as  a reminder to share them with his daughter.  Thanks for humoring me, again.

You both know that I thank God daily for giving us (your mom and I) such beautiful girls.  And, you are not simply beautiful externally (which you are) but more importantly, you are becoming more and more beautiful internally.  You’re love for the Lord is becoming more and more evident by the way you serve and love others.  I see a Spirit in you that is helping shape and mold you into the woman God is designing.  It’s what your mother and I have prayed since before you were born, and continue to pray for you each day.

One day there will be a boy, er, young man who sweeps you off your feet.  We’ve watched Father of the Bride so many times that you can almost imagine how I’ll react.  I just pray you don’t have to bail me out of jail for opening bags of hot dog buns in the grocery store.  And, I won’t suggest the Steak Pit for your wedding reception.  Until that day comes, I know that God is continuing to refine you in preparation of that day.  And, He’s refining that young man as well.  I pray that you will let me, as your dad, help you and advise you as you enter into relationships over the coming years.  Not because I don’t think you can make wise choices but because you know that I love you and want the best for you.  And, when it comes to “love”, emotions and feelings often mask reality.  You need someone to help you see how this young man not only treats you in your dating but how he will treat you in marriage.

You are both gifts from God more priceless than anything else He has given your mother and I to raise.  I love you, both, more than you’ll ever know.  Your mom and I are proud of the young women you’re becoming.  We love you and look forward to that day when you announce that you have found the man that you (and we) have been praying for all these years.  Until (and even after) that day, you’re still, my “little” girls.  I love you….Daddy

250 Toys in 260 Weeks…really?

February 2, 2011

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I remember one evening getting up in the middle of the evening to go into another room in our house.  Lighting was scarce.  My steps were short and slow.  With small kids you never know what got left on the floor to inflict pain you can’t describe.  And then it happened…a pain shot up my leg as if I had stepped on a scorpion.  But, it wasn’t live.  It was a toy from our favorite fast food restaurant.  I’m sure I let something slip out that wasn’t Christian or family-rated.  Ahhh…I remember those days.

Toys.  Our kids had toys.  More than they ever needed or played with long term.  I wish I had marked each toy with something that indicated how many times they actually got picked up and used.  This morning during a men’s gathering at our church called, The Battle, Tim Lundy illustrated our love for “stuff” by sharing this statistic…by the time our children enter Kindergarten they’ve had, on average, about 250 toys.  When they are 260 weeks old, they have had nearly a toy a week.  Wow.  The sad thing is that many times those toys were only played with by the children, if they were played with at all.  When you add a Dad to the mix, the toy is no longer the central piece of the story.  When Dad is available to make those toys come alive, memories occur.

So, Dad, what if you went home tonight and took one of those old toys (or made something up) and began to draw near to your child?  Can’t you see the smile now?  Have some fun.  Role play.  Card play.  Yell.  Roar.  But don’t let your children live with the memory years from now that the toys in their life created pain—a representation of a substitute for time with dad and a fathers pain of a late night misstep.  Time…not toys.

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A DadPad Rerun: Nice Hat!

October 21, 2010

originally written by Roger Thompson

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Some of the best memories I have of my Dad are the times when we started something with excitement, got half-way in, and then didn’t know whether we could salvage it from disaster. There was that woefully under-powered go-cart we built, named the “Chug,” assembled from a scavenged motor, a plank stolen from the basement shelves, and wheels bought at the hardware store. We were stumped when it came to rigging up the steering mechanism, and the assembly stopped. I was eleven, and an eager helper, but the engineering was way over my head. One night we were seated at dinner when my Dad jumped to his feet, shouted: “I know how we can do it!” and bolted down the basement stairs. I was on his heals, still swallowing my chicken casserole. There, with shafts, axles, and chunks of steel the basic geometry of our steering dilemma was solved. The next day we went to the welder for a few precision bends of the steel spindles, and progress resumed.

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Chick-fil-A’s Daddy/Daughter Date night

June 23, 2010

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I had a date with my 18 year old daughter last night.  We’ve had a lot of dates during her 18 years.  This one was a little different.  I took her out to a really nice restaurant with table cloths, reservations required and great food.  No, it wasn’t a 5 star-expensive eatery.  It was a local Chick-fil-A restaurant in West Little Rock, AR.  And, it wasn’t my idea.  It was their’s–Chick-fil-A’s.  Using Facebook, the owner/operators sent out a message to all the Facebook Group members that they were having a daddy/daughter date night on Tuesday, June 22.  All you needed to do was to email or call to reserve your seat.  I thought, “what a great idea”.  Hadn’t had a date with my daughter for a while and we both love Chick-fil-A so, why not.   Then, after stopping there for lunch earlier in the week, there was a little bag stuffer that reminded me of the Daddy/Daughter date night.  I asked my daughter if she wanted to go and she was quick to take me up on the offer (probably because it was a free meal 🙂 but maybe because she wanted to spend some time with the old man too).  But, she thought that most of the “couples” might be dads with their young daughters so we went as “uninvited” guests–on the “dl” (down-low for the uncool).

We entered and saw the tables in a section of the restaurant reserved for dads and their dates.  Just before  they entered the restaurant they were given a name tag and checked off the invitation list.  The owners posted reservations in half-hour increments from 5-7 pm.  So, dads and their daughters were streaming in while I enjoyed dinner with my date in another part of the restaurant.  As the couples entered they were greeted by the CFA “Eat Mor Chikin'” cow.  After they ordered and were seated they enjoyed one of the finest chicken sandwiches (or whatever they ordered) on the planet (in my humble opinion).  Then, upon leaving, the young ladies were given a carnation as a reminder of their special evening.  Some of the dads took their young dates to the play area for an after dinner slide or climb.  All the while, my daughter and I shared a nice meal together, connecting about our days–nothing earth shattering–just some good, quality time together, along with many other dads and daughters.

For all of you restaurant owners/managers out there…here’s a great way for you to contribute to the health of your city.  By providing an evening event for dads that was easy for them to act upon, this Chick-fil-A manager provided a win/win scenario.  The popularity of the event meant he had not reserved a portion of his resaurant in vain (I spoke with his wife (they are friends) and she said the 5pm slot was sold out–not sure how the others went but we saw a steady stream of dads and daughters pouring in during and after our time there).  Additionally, there may have been some new dad/daughter date night traditions kicked off in that Chick-fil-A restaurant that night.  Overall, it was a great event for the restaurant and for dads in the Little Rock area.  Way to go, Chick-fil-A!!!  Dads…it’s also a great reminder to start dating your daughters AND your sons on a regular basis.  Chick-fil-A made this one a no-brainer.  But, it’s not hard.  In fact, I’ve heard of dads who have put on their “Sunday best” and come to the front door to pick up their finely dressed date.  Make it special…make it fun…make it simple—-but do “make it”.  And, if they are grown—start now.  Never a better time than the present to spend time with your children, no matter how old they are.

Well, I guess it’s time to start thinking about where I need to take my wife on a date now.  Any other restaurants in Little Rock want to invest in marriage dates?  I’ll be checking on Facebook.

Quotes & Notes: 3 Keys to Aiming Your Child Toward Success

April 25, 2010

Proverbs 22:6Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (ESV,Pr 22:6)

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How many times have you heard this verse used in the context of raising your children?  If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it 100 times.  This is one of the most common recited verses from the bible about child rearing.  However, if you’re a parent that currently has a child that’s rebelling, this verse loses it’s “punch”, and may make you wonder about other bible verses.  Let me take a few minutes to unpack this verse and then share three things that have helped my wife and I in our parenting that I think are important for you as a parent to keep in mind when you look at the totality of raising your children.

>  The word “train” actually has the connotation of “dedicating” as in the dedication of a house.  It also includes the idea of  setting aside or narrowing.  The Egyptian word that is closely aligned to the Hebrew word translated train in this passage carries the meaning of “setting up something for divine purposes”.  So, this word could be read, “Set aside your child by dedicating, preparing and training him in the ways of God”:

  • Key #1:  Remember that children are a gift from God and are really on loan to us as parents.

Our first responsibility is to model for them what it means to “dedicate ones life to God”.  First and foremost that means to pray for them, over them and with them as we dedicate them to God.  Dedication is an offering of something for divine purposes.  As such, our children our divinely meant to be aimed toward a lifetime of loving and knowing God.  It’s hard to give them something we don’t have.  If our lives aren’t characterized by an authentic searching and following after God (don’t read as living perfectly), it will be very challenging to aim them correctly from the start.  It doesn’t mean that all is lost if you are late in parenting from a biblical foundation, it simply means that the chances of having our children wander off course is greater than if they had been instructed in God’s Word from early on in their life.  Yet, even then, there are no guarantees of them following the path that has been laid out for them (see Key #3)

>  The phrase, “In the way he should go”, has been used in many different ways.  Some translate it to mean in the way they are skilled or where they have interest.  But the literal meaning of the word translated “way” seems to carry the notion or meaning of a path or journey.  “Should go” is literally, according to the mouth of, or in accordance with what a superior says.  So, one way to say this is that there is a path or journey a child is meant to take as the son of a father who’s following the Lord (it is written by Solomon).  There are right and wrong ways to turn in this life.  This word also carries the notion of “aiming” or “bending” the bow.

  • Key #2:  Setting an environment to aim your child in the instruction of the Lord.

When our children were young we listened to a lot of people who had children that were older than ours and whose children seemed to be heading the right direction in life (and were fairly normal :)).  We also listened to FamilyLife Today and Focus on the Family to get biblically grounded advice on raising children.  My wife and I are certain we haven’t done it perfectly.  And, we know that we’ve done things that are likely to mean counseling sessions for our kids at some point :).  But, one thing I can say with certainty and by God’s grace, we did raise them to seek after God and point them toward Him.  They are at ages now that require them to own that relationship and not rest on “mom and dads” faith relationship with God.

>  The Proverb shares that if we do the first two things that our children won’t depart from that when they are old.  Yet, I’ve known more couples than I would ever have imagined who raised their children in this way, and their children are not in a close relationship with God.  If this is a biblical principle, how come it doesn’t work all the time?:

  • Key #3:  This is a Proverb of wisdom, not a promise that it will always be the result.

From “The Bible Knowledge Commentary”, A proverb is a literary device whereby a general truth is brought to bear on a specific situation. Many of the proverbs are not absolute guarantees for they express truths that are necessarily conditioned by prevailing circumstances. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (1:953).   When I first heard this, it really helped free me from the pressure of the result to focus on the things that I as a parent could do.  I can do the first things in the Proverb.  First, I looked at my foundation as a follower of Christ.  (remember–you can’t give what you don’t have).  Second, we made time to share God with our kids through memorizing scripture (trying to make it fun) and reading them stories and discussing them with practical applications to their lives.  We were also careful about what we allowed them to watch on TV,  but did spend time explaining things from different perspectives so they weren’t “sheltered” from the world completely.

Bottom Line:  Parenting is a challenging endeavor in the best of circumstances.  Unfortunately, we are almost never given those kinds of circumstances.  There are things we can do as parents and then, most of the rest is out of our hands.  In fact, even what we can do is from God.  Remember, it’s never too early or too late to pray, love and lead your children in an appropriate way according to their age.

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DadPad: When is Enough, Enough? Kids, Video Games and Parenting

April 15, 2010

Are your kids into gaming?  I found some interesting statistics on the effects of Video Game Playing at the National Institute on Media and the Family’s website:  For instance:

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  • 63% of Americans have played a video game in the past 6 months, compared to only 53% of people who have gone out to the movies (NDP Group Inc., 2009).
  • A study of over 2,000 8 to 18 year-olds (3rd through 12th graders) found that 83% of them have at least one video game player in their home, 31% have 3 or more video game players in their home, and 49%  have video game players in their bedrooms (Roberts, Foeher, and Rideout, 2005).
  • In the same study only 21% of kids reported that their parents set rules about which video games they can play, 17% reported their parents check warning labels or ratings on video games, and 12% reported they play video games they know their parents don’t want them playing (Roberts, Foeher, and Rideout, 2005).

Did you read that last bullet?  Only 21% of kids said Mom and Dad set rules about video game playing and 12% play games that they (kids) KNOW their parents don’t want them playing.

The video game industry continues to grow.  In fact, the 2010 Game Developers conference in San Francisco had “an all-time record of 18,250 game industry professionals attending San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center for the March 9th-13th event. Surpassing last year’s total of 17,000 attendees.” (By Ubm Techweb Game Network, PRNE-March 14, 2010)

There are plenty of issues that can be debated and discussed about the pros/cons of video games.  Here are a few potential outcomes of excessive gaming (per the Effects of Video Game Playing post at MediaFamily.org):

  • Adolescents who play more than one hour of console or Internet video games have more or more intense symptoms of ADHD or inattention than those who do not (Chan, 2006).
  • The most likely reasons that people play video games excessively are due to either ineffective time management skills, or as a symptomatic response to other underlying problems that they are escaping from, rather than any inherent addictive properties of the actual games (Wood, 2008).
  • Online Gaming Addictions display core components of addiction such as salience, mood modification, tolerance, conflict, withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and relapse (Chappell, 2006).
  • Both novice and expert online game players are subject to time distortion and have difficulty breaking off from the game without interruption by others in the real world (Rau, 2006).
  • Video game usage may be linked to a lower GPA and SAT score (Vivek, 2007).

Again, though there are pros of controlled video playing, there is almost no denying that it can be an addictive lifestyle that can have a negative long-term impact on our children.

In todays Moments with You daily devotional (at FamilyLife.com), “X-ing the Xbox”, there is an excerpt from the book, Playstation Nation by Kurt and Olivia Bruner, which tells the story of a mom who finally had enough.  Here’s the excerpt,

She had already earned high marks for unpopularity by limiting her boys’ game time to one hour a day. But when she came in one night before bed to tell them, “Time’s up,” they wanted to “finish a level” of their game before saving their progress. So they made a fatal choice: Instead of shutting the game off, they paused it instead . . . and returned to it in the middle of the night.

When Mom woke up at 2 A.M. and noticed the light emanating from downstairs, she went ballistic at first. Then she disappeared into her bedroom and paced the floor in prayer, asking God for wisdom about how and when to strike. Finally resolved, she went in each room and began pulling plugs and boxing up every piece of game system she could find. Then—with her boys watching in horror—she opened an upstairs window in their three-story house and dropped the whole thing to the ground. Ah, the beautiful sound of smashing electronics!

Dennis Rainey (author of the devotional) then concludes:

Drastic? Yes. But one of those boys left soon after for college with seven of his buddies. Before the first semester was completed, four of the seven dropped out and returned home to take part-time jobs so that they could have more time for video gaming. For one young man, however, the addiction was gone, thanks to a parent who cared more about her children’s character than their point totals or her popularity.

If video games have taken control of your house, maybe it’s time for you, too, to bring your kids back to reality.

In the MediaFamily.org study 1/3 of parents actually participate in the games with their children.  So, it can be a time of family interaction and fun.  There are some other positive benefits of video games.  As in most things in life, the issue is one of “balance and intentionality”.  My wife and I regulated the amount of time our children were able to spend in “monitor” time (an age appropriate amount of time daily that our children could spend in front of the TV + Computer).  Nowadays you need to add in cell phone time as well.

These are not easy decisions and I wouldn’t advocate going into your child’s room and tossing their computer and gaming equipment ala Howard Beale (played by the late Peter Finch) in the 1976 movie, Network, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’ Though it may not be clearly evident the exact steps you need to take with your children, what is or should be evident is that steps do need to be taken to ensure your kids don’t get swallowed up by the video game allure.  And, it’s much easier to implement some guidelines and boundaries earlier in their lives than later.  So, what will you do today to help your kids be wiser users of media and video games?  When will you say, “Enough is Enough”?

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DadPad Quotes and Notes: Boomerang Gang

April 7, 2010

Human beings are the only creatures on earth that allow their children to come back home. Bill Cosby

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The countdown is on.  We are theoretically about 133 days to launching our last child to college.  I say theoretically because we have a son who is graduating and we have a strange feeling that he may be coming back.  So, just when you think you have finished a phase of parenting (the college launch), you enter into another one (the return to the nest of the graduated).  And we are just trying to figure out what that looks like.

We want to help our son and, quite honestly, I’m not sure if my wife can handle having me all to herself ;).  But, trying to figure out what is the best for him, for us and the family is easier in theory than reality.

On one hand, I want him to be able to grow up and mature.  On the other, it’s nice having him close.  We actually enjoy him :).  But, it’s good for him to be out on his own.  Currently he isn’t sure what he’s going to do for work (he has a biology degree but doesn’t want to go into medicine so he’s not sure how that will translate to career pursuits).  We know that he’ll need some time to sort through his options.

Besides, is it SO bad to have a college graduate at home for a little while?  I’ve been thinking lately about why we embrace individualism so much in this country when most other cultures try to keep the generations of families close, if not in the same home.  Additionally, I don’t see any biblical reference to moving as far away from family as possible as soon as you graduate from school.  Is this just an American phenomenon?  And, as our culture ages, are we seeing the impact of distance separating families affect how the elderly are cared for?  Ok…waxing way too philosophically.  But, I have thought about some of these things (weird, I know).

So, today, I’m reaching out.  I would LOVE to hear from you who have gone before me on this adventure, have journeyed through this with your kids and made some decisions about rules of returning home.  I want to hear how you decided how long they could stay at home after graduating; did you make them pay rent; what about chores? and things like that.  And, how did you communicate it to them?

Thanks for helping out a mom and dad who will soon need to make these decisions for real!

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Connecting With Your Kids Series: #3- Non-Negotiables

March 25, 2010

I don’t know how many times I heard Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, speak, but I do remember he only had a few messages. Keep Christ as your first love. Help fulfill the Great Commission. Be filled with the Holy Spirit. And as he got older, he also added in prayer and fasting. That’s it.

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Bill Bright knew who he was and what God had called him to do. That allowed him to focus on the non-negotiables. There’s tremendous power in that.

When it comes to connecting with your kids, here are a couple non-negotiables and another that’s working for me. Maybe it’ll work for you, too.

1. Grow in your relationship with God. Make this your #1 priority. Ultimately, you want to not only connect with your kids, but you want to help them connect with God. If you aren’t growing in Him, you can’t do this. You don’t need to be a Bible scholar. You just need to be seeking Him. Are you?

2. Grow in your relationship with your wife. After your relationship with the Lord, your marriage is your highest priority. Not your kids. Not your job. Not golf. Not hunting. It’s your wife. How does this help connect with your kids? Well, take your marriage to the opposite extreme: divorce. Connecting with your kids becomes a lot tougher when you don’t live with their mother. Do your kids know your wife is your highest priority after God? Does your wife know?

3. Spend money to connect. My oldest daughter is visiting us this week from southern California. Her husband is a Marine and she’s taking online courses toward her college degree. They live in a small, but expensive apartment. In other words, money is tight. Of course, my wife and I are both in ministry, so money has always been a little tight for us, too.

And yet, I purchased the plane ticket for Rachel to visit us. Was it in our budget? No. Did it make things a little tighter? Yeah. Could I have used that money to reduce some debt. Sure. But I suspect in twenty years, I won’t regret whatever money I spent that allowed me to connect with my kids. Actually, I don’t even regret it now.

Bottom line: don’t worry so much about how to connect with your kids. Focus instead on being someone they’d actually want to connect with.

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