How Do You Define Forgiveness?

Johnny hits his little brother Tommy.  You tell Johnny it’s wrong and that he needs to apologize.

Understanding his mistake, Johnny says, “I’ m sorry I hit you, Tommy. It was wrong. Will you please forgive me?”

Tommy replies, “I forgive you.”

But what does that mean? What does forgiveness really look like?

Forgiveness means, “I will not talk badly about you.”

Proverbs 10:18 says, “Whoever hides hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool.”

We can teach our kids to pray, “ Lord, thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for speaking life over me and believing the best in me.  Help me to speak life over others, even when I have been hurt. “

Forgiveness means, “I will not think badly about you.”

Second Corinthians 10:5 says, “casting down arguements and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (NKJV)

Let’s face it, when someone hurts us, it’s not easy to think good thoughts about the person. But that’s exactly what God chooses to do with us. Psalm 139 tells us that God’s thoughts toward us are precious, and there are more of them than we can even count.  This is how God wants us to think about other people, even the ones who have hurt us.

We can teach our kids how to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. Teach them to pray whenever a hurt or angry thought comes to mind: “Lord, help me to think good thoughts about this person. Every time a bad thought comes, help me immediately speak out a blessing upon that person.”

Forgiveness means, “I will love you as I love myself.”

Mark 12:31 says, “ ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

We can teach our kids to go to the Lord and pray, “Teach me to love this person as you do.  Show me how to pray for him.  Help me to pray for him just as I would pray for myself.”

Forgiveness means, “I will not bring up the incident again.”

Our Heavenly Father has separated our sin from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). He has blotted out our transgressions and will remember them no more (Hebrews 8:12).

Micah 7:19 says, “He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquites. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (NKJV)

We can teach our kids to pray, “Lord, help me forget this incident,  just as you have forgiven my sins.  Remind me that you cast my sin into the depths of the ocean, and teach me to also cast this memory into the depths of the sea and remember this hurt no more.”

Mark 11:25 reminds us, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”

I have a very dear friend who has a beautiful habit that I have also made a habit in my home.  She lays in bed at night and prays, “Lord, clean out my heart and make it pure.  Cleanse me of any thoughts, words or deeds that have been sinful today.  Bring to remembrance anything I need to repent of at this moment.  Reveal to me any offenses deep in my heart. Make me clean.”

Holding on to an offensive, gives the enemy a foothold in our lives, and as we disciple our kids, we can teach them how to truly forgive and allow the Holy Spirit to flow freely through their cleansed hearts.

 

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 18 to 30 and one precious baby grandchild. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired
tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan
organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy.

As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation.

She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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Connect Powerfully with a Co-Journal

Ready for a fun idea that will deepen the relationships in your family?

The concept came from our longtime friends, Tony and Anita Cupo. Fifteen years ago, when Matt and I were first together, I saw a cute journal on Anita’s coffee table and asked if it was hers. She explained that it was journal she and Tony kept together. In it, they would write each other love notes, share ideas, dreams, pictures, and so on.

I went out right away and got Matt and I our own co-journal, and wrote the first entry explaining how it would work. We added a fun twist by hiding it for each other to find. It was thrilling to be right in the middle of my day and suddenly stumble upon the little book.

In our co-journal, we’d talk about our dreams for the future or the things that scared us most. We’d leave each other sweet love notes, and tape in movie tickets from our date nights.

Over time, it became a kind of record of the early days of our relationship. When kids came along, our journaling habits gave way to dirty diapers and weekly menus and the other to-do list items of young parents.

One day I told Jody about our co-journal, and she thought it would be a great exercise for her to do with her girls.  She bought each of them a journal, wrote a note in the front of each one explaining how it would work, and placed them someplace for the girls to find. Then, it was their turn to write back and hide the journals for Jody to discover.

Recently, I started co-journals with two of my kids, and they LOVE it! On the pages of the journals, they’ve shared their summer goals, told me about dreams, asked questions, and taped in little gifts. It’s opened a new door to their hearts, allowing me to see fresh perspectives and sides of their personalities I haven’t noticed before.

The hiding part is fun…and sometimes comical. Our son Seth’s book is smaller than the average journal and can be tricky to find. One night, I had gotten out of bed to use the bathroom. On my way back in, I thought a nice breeze might cool off the room a bit, so I turned on the ceiling fan. Imagine my surprise when something came flying off! Seth thought it was hilarious.

Watching the kids have so much fun with the co-journal even inspired my Mother’s Day gift. After following a little scavenger hunt, I found a beautiful journal in the mailbox. In it was a note from my sweet husband, inspiring us to begin a new journal together.

Try it in your family, or give a beautiful journal as a gift to a young couple.

Let us know it goes…

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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What Builds Confidence in Kids?

Is confidence the same as self-esteem? Often, they’re used interchangeably, but are they the same? We don’t think so.

In our last post, we defined self-esteem as a person’s sense of value and worth. Self-esteem, based on our definition, can be improved (or damaged) over time, but in the short-run, it’s consistent, regardless of any one situation.

Confidence, on the other hand, is a person’s belief in his or her abilities. I may have a healthy self esteem, but there are many things I’m not confident in. If I had to get on stage to sing for a packed auditorium, I would have no confidence in myself.  Put me on the same stage to talk about finding purpose, and I’m like a fish in water.

Just because I’m not confident to sing in public, doesn’t in any way hinder my sense of value or worth; especially since I know that singing is not my life’s work. Now my daughter, on the other hand, is passionate about singing. She’s confident that she can perform on any stage, in front of any crowd. If she suddenly lost confidence in her ability to do that, it might come as a slight blow to her self-esteem because singing is a part of her purpose.

When it comes to our kids, we hope they’ll be confident in their ability to live and thrive independently, to interact well with people, to serve the body of Christ and their community, and to fulfill their calling in life. It’s entirely possible to deliver our kids into adulthood with a healthy self-esteem but with little to no confidence in a few of these critical areas.

The Hovering Helicopter (the latest fad in Western parenting) is lethal to confidence because Helicopters tend to prevent the very thing that builds it – experience. Confidence is born of doing things and (eventually) doing them well.

Here are some ideas for giving our kids opportunities to build confidence. The key is to let them do it (mistakes and all) again and again so they can improve. We need to talk to them after they’ve tried something and evaluate what went well and how they can improve. Honest feedback nurtures mastery.

Have them plan meals, write a shopping list, go with you to the store and select the best deals on the items they need, pay the cashier, check to make sure the change is correct, unpack the groceries, and cook the meal.

Coach them through household tasks so they can eventually do them with excellence:  laundry, changing bed sheets, vacuuming, dusting, scouring the tub, organizing the pantry, changing the oil in the car – anything we do at home, they should be able to do…with excellence.

Role-play with your kids and have them practice talking to adults in a variety of situations: making dinner reservations, planning a vacation, asking the librarian a question, sending back a meal that’s too cold, and so on. As they successfully problem-solve and plan and question, they’ll become confident communicators.

Role-play different ways to handle sticky situations with self-control and without dishonoring the other person: turning down an invitation, being the recipient of an inappropriate joke, being lied to (or about), and so on.

Get your kids involved in a ministry at church: sound board, lights, music, hospitality, nursery, children’s ministry, etc. Partner your child with a veteran in that ministry willing to mentor her, and insist your child stick it out until she masters it. Do the same thing with a volunteer position in the community.

Mentorship and apprenticeship are also great ways to build confidence in a future career. Let them work with a pro and find out whether or not it’s really what they’re called to do.

With practice and persistence, our kids can become confident in almost anything.

Share your ideas for building confident kids…

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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What Builds Real Self-Esteem in Kids?

How did we get to the place where self-esteem has become such a well-guarded idol?

It’s epidemic in Western parenting.  A child’s self-esteem is considered the fragile power source of his future success as a human being.  Parents (and some educators) have employed themselves as self-esteem’s trusted custodians, carefully guarding against disappointment and potential failure, as though they are the greatest threats to a child’s sense of worth.

Let’s have a look at what “great self-esteem” has accomplished in our kids.  According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 2800 teens get pregnant each day, resulting in nearly one million teen pregnancies nationwide per year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say nearly 3,000 people under the age of 18 become regular smokers each day. And according to Students Against Drunk Driving, 72% of high schoolers report having used alcohol – 37% say they did it by the 8th grade.

Education is bearing similar fruit. “The statistics are staggering: among 30 developed countries, theU.S.is ranked 25th in math and 21st in science. It’s estimated that by the year 2020, there will be 123 million high-paying, high-skill jobs in the United States, but only 50 million Americans will be qualified to fill these positions.”  www.waitingforsuperman.com

So either self-esteem isn’t as important as everyone thought, or the Western parenting model isn’t building real self-esteem. I’d say it’s the latter. People do need to know that they are valuable and their life is worth something, but the question is, how do we help our kids get there?

What makes a person feel worthy? I can tell you one thing that doesn’t – flattery. And isn’t that what we’re doing when we tell our children that every single thing they do is fabulous? Every picture is a masterpiece. Every note played or sung is magnificent. Every performance is stellar. Our kids are smart, and deep down, they know it isn’t true. Now, what does that do self-esteem?

Schools have jumped on the flattery band wagon too. Nearly every child gets an award, and almost every student is “honored” as Student of the Month. A few years ago, I went to my nephew’s baseball game, and I was amazed that the whole “three strikes and you’re out” rule has struck out. Now, kids get to swing as many times as it takes to hit the ball — wouldn’t want to hurt their self-esteem, you know.

Psalms 12:3 says, “The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips.”  And Proverbs20:19warns, “meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.”

Our kid’s want to know that we value them and that they’re worth something, but that’s not the message we send when we play lineman, aggressively fighting off all threats of failure and disappointment.

We tell them we value them by spending time with them and listening to their stories and offering honest, heart-felt answers to their questions. We tell them we value them when we take an interest in discovering who God created them to be, and giving them open and honest feedback so that they can find the lane they were created to run in and then run in it with excellence.

Our daughters (Skyler and Sydney) are best friends (that worked out well, huh?), and recently they choreographed a dance together to perform at the county fair. When they had all the moves down, they performed it for us in Jody’s living room. We couldn’t help but think they were so cute, but we also knew that their dance wasn’t performance worthy.

“Did you guys have fun doing that?” we asked. “You sure looked cute! And we’re so happy that you enjoyed it. We could tell you were having a blast. But we don’t think you should perform it at the fair. You both have so many talents, and perhaps if you had lessons you’d be ready to enter a contest, but for now, you should focus on your strengths.”

If our daughters were passionate about dance (or even just strongly interested), we’d encourage it – scouting out local dance performances, signing them up for classes, and encouraging them to enter dance contests.

We call this “running in your own lane.” And when we care enough to help our kids figure what their lane is, we are sending a message that they are valuable to us.

Once they figure out what they love and what peaks their interest, they have a sense of worth because they can live with purpose. They’ll know God has a plan for them, and they’ll even have a clue about what the plan is. All of that adds up to self-worth.

In case you were concerned about our little dancing queens, they had a happy ending at the county fair.  Between the two of them, they raked in a stack of blue ribbons, won a good amount of prize money, won best of show for two items, sang beautifully before a live audience, and did a stellar demonstration on how to spin art yarn. Their recognition came from hard work and talent. They had earned it, and the reward felt good.

As for dance, they’re both currently enrolled in a ballroom dancing class. So maybe they can try next year…maybe.

We can help boost our kid’s self esteem by encouraging and equipping them to work hard and enjoy true rewards. Few things feed self-esteem like a sense of integrity, and to that end, we can coach them to define their own values and hold them accountable to live by them. As we disciple our kids and help them discover the plans God has for them, and then challenge them be the very best they can be, we can help improve their sense of worth. These are the markers of real self-esteem.

Dare I say flattery has the opposite effect? What are your thoughts…

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Left Out

Sometimes parenting can feel like falling off a raft in the ocean with no life vest; it’s sink or swim.

There are some situations that were left out of the parenting books. I faced one of those recently when my younger daughter (who is a party just waiting to happen), had trouble empathizing with a friend who was left out.

Let’s just say, for argument sake, a group of friends were planning a trip to the mall.  But one, who’s actually more like a sister to my daughter, wasn’t included in the fun.

Now, it may not seem like a big deal on the surface, but the fact is, these friends spend every waking moment together. They’re involved in all the same activities, share the same friends, and spend most weekends together…they can practically finish each other’s sentences.  For one friend to be invited without the other is nothing short of a calamity.

But here’s the rub — Sydney is a party girl who LOVES a trip to the mall.  If there’s a shopping trip on the horizon, she’s the first one to see the sun rise. Sydney dreams of girly stores all lavished in pink with purple sparkles and glitter all over the store walls. The image forms a gravitational pull, and there’s no stopping her.

When she got the call about the day out, she welled up with so much excitement, she could hardly contain herself, but something in my spirit prompted me to ask a fateful question.

“Is your friend going?”

“Um…no.”

“Why not?”

“She wasn’t invited.”

“Hmm . . . well that’s an issue.”

I looked at my middle school daughter with hope, awaiting her response, but then I asked, “Do you think you should go, knowing your friend was not invited?”

Her immediate (and startling) response was, “Yeah! She probably won’t even know we’re going to the mall.”

Check 1.

Appalled that my daughter could be so insensitive, I asked her how she would feel if she’d been left out of a day at the mall.  “If I didn’t know, then it wouldn’t matter,” she replied.

Check 2.

Realizing that we had a serious problem on our hands – and it wasn’t about her friend not being invited – I quietly prayed in my spirit for words that would touch my tender child’s heart.

I sat down and carefully explained that part of my job as a parent is to teach her how to make godly choices about friends.  “Everyone knows that you and your sister and your best friend are always together.  The girls going to the mall are friends with all of you. Do you think it’s right for them to leave someone out? What does that say about the kind of friend they are? Is that the kind of friend you want to be?”

Then came the tears.  You would have thought her whole world caved in.  And quickly I realized that my sweet little party girl just couldn’t imagine why anyone would leave a person out, especially from a fun trip to the mall.  After all, aren’t malls supposed to be for everyone to get together and shop ‘til you drop?  The last thing she wanted was to have to stay home, but it was especially hard knowing that she would miss the fun all because a group of girls decided to leave someone out.

Sometimes parenting takes us and our kids through an emotional jungle. We’re the guides, and we need to warn our kids of dangers and protect them from pitfalls, but in the process, we need to teach them how to begin recognizing these hazards for themselves. Navigating an emotional jungle requires a keen eye for bad choices. We need to teach our kids to be on the lookout for wrong choices and bad behaviors (in themselves and in others).

Although it’s terribly difficult to say no to the girl who loves a trip to the mall, it would be far more difficult to pick her heart up off the floor (or worse, her self esteem) after it’s been crushed by a misguided choice – one that she couldn’t anticipate or avoid – of a so-called friend. That’s not to say that she won’t get her heart broken, but it’s moments like these that help build discernment and wisdom.

Proverbs 22:14-16 says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.”

God intended parents to breathe wisdom into children, not friends whose hearts are also full of foolishness. In correcting our kids, we drive out foolishness and replace it with wisdom.

In order for our kids to understand issues of the heart, we have to teach them how to put themselves in other people’s shoes and treat others the way they want to be treated.

So, now Sydney understands that the situation wasn’t necessarily about deciding whether or not she should to go to the mall; it was about choosing friends that have Christ-centered values.

Have you ever faced a similar situation?  Tell us about it.

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 18 to 30 and one precious baby grandchild. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired
tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan
organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy.

As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation.

She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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Okay…So Now What?

Originally posted in April 2011 at A Gentle Answer Ministries 

Early Intervention specialists flooded our life with eleven therapy appointments a week. Occasionally they’d suggest we meet with a neurologist, but I just thought it was a casual recommendation. As educators and social workers, they were not allowed to offer medical opinions. In other words, they couldn’t come right out say they suspected Griffyn was autistic.  So truly, I had no clue.

When someone first said the word autism, it sounded ridiculous to me. I had never met a 2-year-old autistic child. My only exposure to it was from the movie “Rainman” with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise. Certainly my two-year-old was nothing like that. But as it turns out, the only reason he was nothing like Rainman was because he was a baby and Rainman was an adult. Had the movie shown Rainman at two, the character might have behaved exactly like my son. Now, at 13, he’s very much like Rainman.

As the months of therapy followed, I noticed more and more how profoundly different Griffyn was from other kids his age. One day, I asked one of his therapists, “You don’t think Griffyn is autistic, right?” Silence, and then a slow, hesitating response.  “Well…the thought has crossed my mind.” What? I was stunned!

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day we got the diagnosis. It was March 17, 2000, a cold and rainy day. The doctor spent a good half-hour just observing Griffyn, and then he conducted an extensive interview with me. When he was done, he leaned back in his big leather chair, crossed his legs, and closed the portfolio containing his observations of my precious little boy.

Perhaps he’d said the same words a dozen times a week. I was told he was one of the most sought after experts in the tri-state region. Maybe the repetition of this experience made him forget that all my hopes and dreams were sitting on the floor of his office that morning. It’s not that he was apathetic or even unkind, he just seemed completely unaware of the fear that was squeezing my heart. At that moment, it seemed as if my entire life hinged on the next few words that would come out of this man’s mouth. Perhaps in some ways that turned out to be true; I just didn’t realize then that there was nothing to fear.

The doctor was entirely aloof as he stretched his arms up, crossed his hands behind his head and assumed a position of relaxation. His work was done. “Well,” he said with a certain finality, “the diagnosis is clear. This is autism.”

In a moment I felt as if an avalanche had dumped on me, the weight of it dulling my senses. Had it lasted more than a fraction of a second, I would have been consumed with panic, clawing desperately through the swirling thoughts that filled my mind and clouded my ability to respond.

But in that fraction of a second, something amazing happened. God, the Creator of the universe, the very One who knit my son together in the depths of my womb, reached out with His amazing grace and poured it over me a like gentle waterfall, washing away the fear and the hurt and the desperation. In my own strength, left to my own thoughts, I would have crumbled. That fleeting moment of panic let me know that I was not able to manage this on my own. But in the power of God’s grace, I was suddenly bathed in peace. This is what the book of Philippians is referring to when it describes “the peace that passes all understanding.”

I breathed in His strength and leaned forward, and in that pivotal moment I looked the doctor soberly in the eye. God had pointed me in a new direction, and with great determination and focus, I said, “Okay…so now what?”

When our children are first born, they hold so much promise and mystery, and in our flesh it is tempting to imagine their future. When our son was diagnosed with autism, God showed me that I would need to let go of my ideas of what I thought he should be. Until I fully released my agenda into God’s hands, I would not be able to receive all the blessings that God intended to bring through this special child. And although God had guarded my heart and mind against despair, there was still a process that had to happen, a shifting and refocusing.

One morning a few years ago, as I was writing at my desk, my daughter brought me a 3-D picture to see if I could find the image. I held it close to my nose and let my eyes relax. As I slowly pulled it away, the image became clear. In relaxing, even allowing my eyes to go blurry for a time, my perspective was transformed. Once my focus shifted, the new picture was easy to spot. Instead of seeing the mish-mosh of seemingly random patterns, I could clearly see the crisp outline of a horse emerge from the page.

What a great metaphor! When we relax and allow God to refocus the eyes of our heart, a new image clearly emerges. Things may be confusing at first—blurry—but soon the events and circumstances of our life don’t seem so random, and instead of asking why, we are left asking how. Instead of crying out to God for answers, we cry out to God for wisdom and direction.

During my season of refocusing on Griffyn’s diagnosis, God gave me this verse: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”  (John 12:24) Once I let go of the child I thought I had, the one I’d created in my own imagination, I could open myself to so many new possibilities. God has so many riches in store for those who are willing let their own agendas die and trust Him for the harvest.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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