Goal Setting That Works

Tonight we round the corner into a new year! For our last radio show of the year, we spent many days reading, researching, brainstorming and examining the kind of goal setting that actually works.

In everything we do (from radio to blog posts to seminars to magazine articles), we encourage families to start with the end result in mind. So it’s no surprise that we are big fans of goal setting, but we also know that it has to be done right or it doesn’t work, and in some cases, we found out, it can actually backfire.

In the book “The Circle Maker” Mark Batterson writes, “If dreams are destinations, goals are the GPS to get you there.”

But goals in and of themselves don’t help people get to where they want to go. In fact, some recent research shows that if they’re not done well, they can actually be counterproductive.

Aubrey Daniels, author of Oops! 13 Management Practices That Waste Time and Money, cites a study that showed only 10% of employees actually achieve “stretch goals”.  Those are the big audacious goals — the ones that are going to take massive changes to achieve. So, that means that 90% of employees FAIL to reach their stretch goals. Yikes!

Harvard Business School published a report called Goals Gone Wild, and in it, they identified several negative side effects associated with goal setting, including an overly narrow focus that neglects non-goal areas, a rise in unethical behavior and distorted risk preferences.

Max Bazerman, a Harvard Business School professor and co-author of Goals Gone Wild, suggests that rather than relying on goals, we should create workplaces and schools that foster an interest in and a passion for work because work requires a certain amount of creativity and judgement, whereas merely reducing complex activities to a set of goal numbers can end up rewarding the wrong behaviors.

Process Over Product

In other words, what really works is to focus on creating the mindsets, the spaces and the habits that will produce success. It’s about focusing on the process more than the product.

Let’s talk about that word focus for a second. I once heard it described as an acronym for Follow One Course Until Successful, and I can’t tell you how many times that has helped me complete a hard thing. Whether it’s sticking to a diet or finishing a difficult book, I’ll often remind myself to just follow one course until successful, and when I listen to my own advice, it works!

11 Steps to Goal Setting That Work

Step 1 — Set the goal

Setting the goal gives you permission to focus in the face of all your other responsibilities and obligations.

Make it Fun

Start by asking yourself why you want to reach this goal. Then ask yourself what’s the best way to get there? For example, let’s say you set a goal to run a half marathon this year. Ask yourself why you want achieve that goal. If the answer is that you want to get in shape, ask yourself if you actually LIKE to run. If you do, great! If you don’t, find another way to get in shape.

The goal HAS to be enjoyable on some level or you won’t get there. So, if your goal is to lose weight, you’ve got to be able to eat foods you like. If your goal is to read more this year, you’ve got to figure out how to make reading enjoyable (even when the material is not so exciting) — maybe find a comfy spot on the couch, grab a blanket and make a cup of tea. If the goal is to spend more quality time with your kids, you’ve got find things that you all enjoy doing or it will feel like drudgery.

Be Specific? Maybe Not.

Goal setting gurus say that goals have to be specific, but we think there’s more to it than that. 

Usually what these people are saying is that your goals should be specific in quantity and time (i.e. lose 50 pounds by July 1st). We think this actually causes more failure than success.

Here’s how it often plays out. Let’s say you’ve got 25 weeks to reach your goal, so you figure out that you need to average two pounds a week. But then for a few weeks, you don’t hit the two-pound mark. Instead of focusing on the fact you still LOST weight and didn’t GAIN any, you feel like a failure for not meeting your goal, and you give up.

It happens all the time!

Instead of being specific about the outcome, be specific about the plan to get there, which leads us to the next step.

Step 2 — Create the Plan

Talk to people who have been successful and find out what they did. Look carefully at your schedule and figure out when you can devote time to reaching your goal. Examine things that have caused you to fail in the past and plan ways to either avoid or overcome those things.

Read, research and become a mini-expert on what it takes to reach your goal. Then spell it in detail, on paper!

Step 3 — Create Supportive Spaces

If you’re going to be successful, you’ve got to create an environment that will support you.

If your goal is to read more this year, keep your reading glasses, book and blanket near your reading spot. Or if your plan is read more on the go, make sure your purse is big enough to hold your book and remember to return it there when you’re done reading so it will always be with you.

A great tip we learned at creating supportive spaces from Weight Watchers is to keep good choices at eye level. When you get back from the store, cut veggies and put them in grab and go backs. Divide up the big pretzel bag into serving size snack bags. Precook some veggies to toss into an omelet. Wash and spin lettuce so it’s ready when you want a quick salad.

If you’re going for that half marathon this year, keep everything you need together near the door and ready for your daily run.

Step 4 — Measure Your Progress

The goal should be regular forward motion. Success comes from making changes in your thinking and your habits, so you’ll want to track those changes.

Some goals are easier to track than others. Weight loss is monitored in pounds and inches. Running can be monitored in time and distance. Reading can be tracked in pages completed.

But what if your goal is to be more gentle with your kids this year? For those trickier ones, keep a log. Put it somewhere that will remind you to jot down how you’re doing (on your nightstand or pillow, in the bathroom, on your car dashboard, etc.). Decide how often you need to check in with yourself, and make the commitment to quickly record how it’s going.

Track your progress in a way that shows whether or not you are regularly moving closer becoming the PERSON who is ________ (thin, in shape, an avid reader, more patient, etc.).

Step 5 — Make Yourself Accountable

Groups make people more successful. Look at the success of  AA, Weight Watchers, book clubs, counseling groups, exercise classes…you get the idea.

They keep you accountable and give you new ideas, strategies and encouragement. Human beings were created to connect. And when it comes to achieving our goals, connection can make all the difference.

So join a group to support your goals. Can’t find one? Check out MeetUp.com.

Step 6 — Think Ahead and Plan for Success

Check your calendar before bed and set your coming day up for success. Pack healthy snacks, find blocks of time to read, plan time to train for the marathon, have the workout bag ready to go in your car.

Ask yourself what has caused you to fail in the past and how you can plan ahead to avoid that kind of failure again.

Step 7 — Renew Your Mind

This step is SO, SO important! Read over your goals at least once week, and educate yourself on a regular basis.

Subscribe to magazines to support your goals. Watch documentaries. Do research. Listen to motivational guest speaking on the topic. Put up motivational quotes throughout the house to keep you going.


Visualization is an important part of renewing your mind. In the book The Circle Maker, Batterson writes, “The future is always created twice. The first creation happens in your mind as you envision the future; the second creation happens when you literally flesh it out. Vision starts with visualization.”

He goes on to tell about a very interesting study done in 1995, which validated the importance of visualization. A group of volunteers practiced a five-finger piano exercise while they were hooked up to neurotransmitters that monitored their brain activity. The neuroimaging showed that the motor cortex was active while practicing the exercise. No surprise there; the motor cortex controls movement.

But what happened next was very interesting. Still hooked up to the neurotransmitters, the participants were then told to mentally rehearse the piano exercise in their mind without moving their fingers.

The motor cortex was just as active when they were mentally rehearsing the piece as it was when they were actually playing it! “That study confirmed statistically what athletes already knew instinctually,” Batterson wrote. “Mental rehearsal is just as important or more important as physical practice. It’s mind over matter.”


Meditation is another way to renew your mind. Recent research shows that certain mediation practices can actually change your brain chemistry! Looking for an easy but effective way to meditate, check out this book on Mindfulness.

Step 8 — Identify Triggers for Failure

Recognize those little moments when your goal gets threatened to be hijacked. And become aware that there are two paths you can take in those moments.

If answering the phone derails your time with the kids, decide ahead of time that you’re going to turn it off when you sit down with them. If eating out throws you for a loop, pack food when you have to be out of the house.

If you know that you have to wake up early to reach your goal, turn down the offer to go to a late movie or stay up with your hubby watching TV.

In those moments, remind yourself to FOCUS!

Step 9 — Plan for Flexibility

Sometimes you can’t avoid the trigger. So give yourself opportunities to indulge, but set limitations. Pick one night a week for a late cuddle on the couch in front of the TV. Eat before you go to a party so you’re not hungry, but then allow yourself to fill one small plate with anything you want and enjoy it.

Step 10 — Evaluate Slips

Along the way, you’re going to have slips. Don’t take a bath in the pool of shame. Don’t quit. Just ask yourself these three questions:

  • What went wrong?
  • What did I tell myself just before I slipped?
  • What could I have done differently?

Step 11 — Reset the Course

After you’ve slipped, make a plan to get back on course, and remind yourself that with this mistake also came new wisdom.

Small set backs are learning opportunities. Tell yourself that everyday you are becoming more and more of a person who _______________ (makes healthy choices, handles her kids with patience, is an avid reader, etc.).

Happy New Year! Make 2014 your best year yet!

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Winning the Grocery Store Battle With a Social Story

Question:  My three-year-old pitches a big fit whenever he doesn’t get what he wants in the grocery store. How can I stop these fits?

Everyone talks about the terrible twos, but I have always thought that three is a more difficult age. At two, a child throws tantrums because she’s frustrated about something and can’t communicate her needs effectively. But at three, a child knows what she wants and is just figuring out how to assert her will to get it.

Social Stories – A Powerful Tool For Little Ones

A social story is a homemade book that helps your child navigate a difficult situation. Typically, your child is the main character, and the plot revolves around the situation or behavior you are trying to address.

In the case of our Grocery Store Rascal, a social story can be a fun and creative way to prevent future tantrums.

Start by writing a short story about a successful trip at the store. It could look something like this:

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Johnny. One day, Johnny and his mom went to the grocery store. They had to buy many different things. First they picked out a cart, and Johnny got to sit in it. Then they began their journey through the store. They had to get milk and apples and toilet paper and other things. Mommy had a big list. Johnny had his own list too. Together, they found the things they needed and put them in the cart. In one aisle, Johnny saw a really cool race car, and he wanted his mommy to buy it for him. “Not today, Johnny. A race car is not on my list. Is it on yours?” Johnny looked at his list and answered, “No.” He felt sad. He even felt a little mad. But then he remembered that some days he gets special treats, like on his birthday, and other days he doesn’t. Johnny looked up and saw toilet paper. Toilet paper is on his list! His mommy helped him out of the cart so he could get the toilet paper off the shelf and put it in the cart. Then he checked it off his list. When it was time to check out, Johnny helped his mommy put some of the things in bags. At the car, he helped put the bags in the trunk. When they got home, Johnny’s mom gave him big hugs and kisses for doing such a good job at the grocery store that day. She even gave him a sticker for a job well done, and when all the groceries were put away, Johnny and his mom made a snack and cuddled on the couch to read a story. The End.

Once the story is written, plan a fun photo shoot day. Tell your son you’re making a new book with him as the main character, and you need pictures for your book.

Type or write out the story lines and attach some pictures to go along with it. Then have the book laminated at a local Kinkos or office supply store. Plan a special time to read the book with your child, and then let him look through it on his own. Read the book again and again to help him understand what a successful successful grocery story trip looks like.

Grocery Store Day

When you go shopping, give him a list with a few items (use pictures instead of words) just as he had in the book. As you go through each aisle, ask him if he sees anything on his list in the aisle. When you get to one of his items, have him take it off the shelf and put it in the cart and then cross it off his list, just as he did in the story.

Narrate what you’re doing and create conversation throughout the trip: “Now we need to get bananas? What color are bananas? Can you count them with me? Now we’re going to pay for our food and put it all in bags so we can take it home.” Whenever possible, allow him to help and be a part of the process.

At the end of a successful trip, shower him with affection and praise for a great day at the store, and say, “You are an excellent shopper!” The more you set him up for success and remind him that he is an excellent shopper, the more he will identify with that description and realize that excellent shoppers don’t pitch a fit when they don’t get what they want!

When you get home, have him help put things away, and offer him a special treat for being so well behaved at the store (perhaps a snack and story time with mom, just as he did in the story, or maybe a special playtime at the park).

What other ways can you use social stories to set your child up for success?



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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A Pocket Full of Websites Every Parent Should Know About

I don’t care how computer savvy you are, if you’ve ever had to stick your finger in a dial and spin it around to make a phone call, you are digital immigrant. Our kids, on the other hand, are natives. I never taught my baby how to use a touch screen, but before the age of two, he could open apps, spread his fingers to make pictures larger and swipe from screen to screen.

We immigrants can use all the help we can get. So I thought it might be helpful to compile a list of super useful websites.


The first one might be really obvious to most parents, but on the off chance that someone reading this has been living under a rock for a while, I have to mention Pinterest.

This is the ultimate hub for inspiration and ideas. From design ideas for your house to tips on the best birthday parties ever, you can find inspiration for just about anything here. Once you find something you love, create a virtual bulletin board for it and “pin” similar ideas to that board. You can have bulletin boards for sewing projects, recipes, gardening tips, photography tips…you name it.

Cool Digital Stuff

Have you heard about Adobe’s Creative Cloud? This one seems too good to be true, but we’ve been using it for about a month, and it’s the real deal. Basically, for a monthly fee, you can have access to the full versions of the whole Adobe Creative Suite. We’re talking Photoshop (about $700 if you were to buy it), Illustrator (close to $600), InDesign ($650) — these are all the graphic design tools that the pros use. Plus you get professional video editing software, pro web design tools, animation software, game design software and even an audio editing product.

Now, I’m not talking about paired down trial versions. You are getting the full blown software. It’s $50 a month, BUT if you’re a student or educator, it’s only $20 a month!

You might be thinking, “Yeah, I’d love to be able to use Photoshop, but it’s like the most complicated program on the planet. I wouldn’t even know where to start.” Enter Lynda.com. For about $30 a month, you can have access to video courses on nearly every kind of software and app you can think of. Your kid wants to do a presentation using Prezi? No problem. Lynda.com can show her how.

What’s Prezi, you ask? It’s like the newer, cooler, more innovative PowerPoint. Check it out.

How To’s

Want to learn how make hand-dipped candles or tie a real bow tie or steampunk a Mr.Potato head (we’ve actually done this thing) or make a marshmallow gun out of PVC pipe (we’ve done that one too)? Check out Instructables or Howcast.

Let’s say, you want a cool Facebook cover but you’re not the Photoshop Type. Got $5? Head over to Fiverr, where you can find a whole bunch of cool services for just $5.

Free Education

Are you a TedTalks junky yet? Their slogan is “Ideas Worth Spreading.” If you find yourself with a spare 20 minutes (waiting at the doctor’s office, waiting on the pick up line at your kid’s school, waiting for dinner to cook), grab your smart phone or tablet and download the TedTalks app. Invest that 20 minutes in a talk that could change the way you live and think. Get your kids hooked on it too!

Another potentially addictive site, especially for those families who really dig peeking behind the scenes of everyday life, is HowStuffWorks.com.

While we’re on the education kick, let’s talk about Open Yale Courses. This site gives you access to 35 full-blown downloadable Yale courses in video and audio form — all free for the taking!

Have you heard about Khan Academy? Check out their mission statement: “We’re a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere. All of the site’s resources are available to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology. Khan Academy’s materials and resources are available to you completely free of charge.” And with funding from Google and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, they’ve got the resources to keep this site growing!

Kid’s Educational Sites

Edheads lets kids do virtual knee replacement surgery. Wonderopolis has fabulous articles for kids on cool topics like “How Do Locks Work?” and “Do You Need Water to Make Waves?”.

Do your kids need help with reading? Check out Starfall. Founded by the owner of Blue Mountain Arts (the popular digital greeting card company), a man who struggled with reading for the better part of his early education, this is non-profit, award winning site was created to help kids become successful readers.

Although only slightly educational, I had to mention Poptropica for it’s sheer popularity. With games and puzzles set on 20 themed islands you can guess why 10 million kids hop on this site every month. And with a chat feature that doesn’t allow free-form conversation, parents tend to like it too.

Speaking of sites that parents can feel more comfortable about, try Duck Duck Go for an ad-free alternative to Google.

Fact Checkers

We all know we can’t trust everything we read online, right. If you’re unsure, head over to FactCheck.org. For a kids’ fact hub, try FactMonsScience Sites

If you don’t know Steve Spangler Science, today’s the day to be highly entertained in a science-y kind of way! The Old Farmer’s Almanac For Kids is another great science resource. Got a science fair coming up? Looking for ideas? Check out The Science Fair Project Resource Guide.

Got a Kid Who’s Interested In Design

Graphic design, fashion, animation, interior design, film and theater, architecture, product design…Kids Think Design is an awesome resource for kids interested in any of these creative industries and more.

Fund Their Dreams

Have you heard about the new trend called crowd funding? Kickstarter is an example of how it’s done. So if your design-minded kid invents the next greatest thing, this could be an avenue for funding the project.

Too Cool to Leave Out

Okay, this one doesn’t have much to do with parenting and kids, but it’s so cool, I couldn’t leave it out. Don’t you hate when you have to call a big company and it seems like there’s not a single human to be found? Before making the call, go to Get Human. They’ll help you find just the right combination of numbers to get you to a real live person!

Well, that’s about all I’ve got today. Leave a comment with any great sites that I missed.






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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50 Great Reads for the Emerging Adult

We are HUGE fans of pumping our kids full of good books, especially in the teen years.

Unfortunately, our culture has sold us a bill of goods that says adolescence is a person’s last ditch effort at enjoying life’s bounty and sewing their wild oats. What a lie!

The truth is you reap what you sew. Wild oats produce untamed fruit.

And this mindset robs our kids of an important truth as well. It says, “Enjoy life now because soon the harsh realities of adulthood are going to come, and then you’ll have no fun.” Think about it — it’s a play-now-work-later mindset.

But that’s not how life works. It’s actually the total opposite. Life is really about work-now-play-later. Play is the fruit of work.

And adulthood doesn’t have to be drudgery. When you know your purpose in life, and you live intentionally, your life can get better and better with each passing year.

The teens years are really the final preparation for independence. Instead of focusing on making sure our kids are having maximum fun, we should focus on making sure they’re ready to go out into the world and be wise, resourceful, compassionate, creative and fulfilled adults.

Here are some great reads to help that process along.

1. The 4-Hour Work Week, by Timothy Ferriss

2. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey

3. 9 Steps to Financial Freedom, by Suze Orman

4. The 80/20 Principle, by Richard Koch

5. Awaken the Giant Within, by Anthony Robbins

6. Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott

7. The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel

8. The Christian Atheist, by Craig Groeschel

9. The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson

10. Crazy Love, by Francis Chan

11. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are Highby Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler

12. Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown

13. The Definitive Book of Body Language, by Barbara and Allan Pease

14. Developing the Leader Within You, by John Maxwell

15. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most, by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen, and Roger Fisher

16. Do Hard Things, by Alex and Brett Harris

17. The Elements of Style, by William Strunk and E.B. White

18. The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman

19. Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

20. Getting Things Done, by David Allen

21. Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart, by Kyle Idleman

22. Good to Great, by Jim Collins

23. I Am Second, by Dave Sterrett, Doug Bender and Colt McCoy

24. I Kissed Dating Goodbye, by Joshua Harris

25. The Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham

26. How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, by David Bornstein

27. How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

28. Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone, by Mark Goulston

29. The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch

30. Life Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives, by Christopher Gergen

31. Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankl

32. Never Give In! The Best of Winston Churchill’s Speeches, by Winston S. Churchill

33. On Writing, by Stephen King

34. On Writing Well, by William Zinsser

35. Organizing From the Inside Out, by Julie Morgenstern

36. Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

37. Passion and Purity, by Elisabeth Elliot

38. The Power of Positive Thinking, by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

39. Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business and Influence Othersby Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas

40. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, by David Platt

41. Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki

42. See You at The Top, by Zig Ziglar

43. The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary, by Joseph Michelli

44. Talent is Overrated, by Geoffrey Colvin

45. The Tipping Point, by Malcom Gladwell

46. Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey

47. Tribes, by Seth Godin

48. The Warren Buffet Way, by Robert Hagstrom

49. We Hold These Truths, by Randall Norman DeSoto

50. Who Moved My Cheese, by Spencer Johnson


Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Great Reads for Kids at All Levels

We have all heard that leaders are readers, and in everything we do, leadership is our focus. We want to help families build leaders for the next generation.

We can (and should) start reading to our kids at an early age. Reading out loud to our little ones helps increase their phonemic awareness, which allows them to recognize sounds and blends when they learn to read. Reading out loud is one of the GREATEST steps we take toward building lifelong readers.

But what should we read? Below is a list of suggestions at different age levels. We want to hear your suggestions too. Leave a comment and help expand our list.

Birth to Pre-K

  • Nursery Rhymes are GREAT at this age. Read the same ones over and over and over.
  • Beatrix Potter books
  • Dr. Seuss books
  • Eric Carle books
  • Sandra Boynton Books
  • The Amelia Bedelia Books
  • Berenstain Bear Books
  • The Corduroy Books
  • The Madeline Books
  • Are You My Mother, by P.D. Eastman
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin Jr.
  • Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type, by Doreen Cronin, Betsy Lewin, and Randy Travis crc
  • Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratny
  • Good Night Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown
  • The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson
  • The Hoppameleon, by Paul Geraghty
  • The Little Engine That Could, by Watty Piper
  • I Love You Stinky Face, by Lisa Mccourt and Syd Moore
  • Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch
  • Pat the Bunny, by Dorothy Kunhardt
  • The Pokey Little Puppy, by Janette Sebring Lowrey and Gustaf Tenggren
  • The Rainbow Fish, Marcus Pfister
  • The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown
  • The Saggy Baggy Elephant, by K. Jackson
  • Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

Early Readers

This is a list of books that budding readers can read to you. You may want to consider supplementing reading education with “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”, available at Amazon.

  • Bob Books
  • Little Bear books
  • Step in Reading Series
  • Eric Hill Books
  • Dr. Seuss Books
  • I Can Read Books, by Harper Collins
  • Stephen Cartwright books, from Usborne (these are super fun because on every page, your child is challenge to find a little yellow duck hidden in the picture)
  • Dick and Jane books
  • Whose Mouse are You?, by Robert Kraus
  • Who Took the Farmer’s Hat?, by Joan L. Nodset
  • Nate the Great, by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat

K- 3rd Grade

Many of the books on this list are meant to be read by an adult to a child. We have found that if you put white paper and markers in front of a young listener, the right brain will be occupied enough to allow the left brain to hear the story. Don’t be concerned at first if they do not follow the storyline. The ability to see “a movie” in their mind as they imagine what’s being read comes in time.

  • Beverly Cleary books
  • Shel Silverstein books
  • Magic Tree House books
  • A-Z mysteries
  • A Bear Called Paddington, by Michael Bond
  • Because of Winn Dixie, by  Kate DiCamillo
  • The Borrowers, by Mary Norton
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl
  • Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White
  • Horrible Harry in Room 2B, by Suze Kline
  • How to Tell Time (A Little Golden Book), by Jane Warner Watson
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
  • Little House on the Prairie Series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Matilda, by Roald Dahl
  • The Polar Express, by Chris VanAllsburg
  • Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles, by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
  • The Sisters Grimm, by Michael Buckley
  • Stellaluna, by Janell Cannon
  • Stuart Little, by E. B. White
  • Super Fudge, by Judy Blume
  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, by Judy Blume
  • The Trumpet of the Swan, by E.B. White
  • Verdi, by Janell Cannon
  • Winnie-the-Pooh, by A. A. Milne
  • You Are Special, by Max Lucado

4th – 6th Grade

  • 39 Clues Series
  • A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
  • Baby Island, by Carol Ryrie Brink
  • Bridge to Terebithia, by Katherine Paterson
  • Chomp, by Carl Hiaasen
  • The Devil’s Arithmetic, by Jane Yolen
  • The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau
  • The Chronicles of Narnia Series, by C.S. Lewis
  • Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan
  • Fever 1793, by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Flush, by Carl Hiaasen
  • Guardians of Ga’Hoole, by Kathryn Lasky
  • The Giver, by Lois Lowry
  • Gossamer, by Lois Lowry
  • Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman, by Gladys Aylward with Christine Hunter
  • George Mueller: He Dared to Trust God for the Needs of Countless Orphans, by Faith Coxe Bailey
  • Hinds Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard
  • Holes, by Louis Sachar
  • Hoot, by Carl Hiaasen
  • How to Train Your Dragon, Cressida Cowell
  • The Indian in the Cupboard, by Lynne Reid Banks
  • Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell
  • James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
  • A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket
  • Lyddie, by Katherine Paterson
  • The Midwife’s Apprentice, by Karen Cushman
  • Mrs. Brisby and the Rats of NIHM, by Robert C. O’Brien
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • No Talking, by Andrew Clements
  • Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
  • The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan
  • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms, by Kate Douglas Wiggin
  • Redwall, by Brian Jacques
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor
  • The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Scat, by Carl Hiaasen
  • The Sign of the Beaver, by Elizabeth George Speare
  • The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo
  • Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt
  • The Warriors Series, by Erin Hunt
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare
  • Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls

By 7th grade, you can begin introducing students to the 101 Books for the College Bound Reader list, which we will post tomorrow. The list was originally compiled for and posted by the College Board, creators of the SAT exam.

Students aiming for higher education (college and beyond) need to increase their stamina, vocabulary and thinking skills, and one of the best ways to do that is to begin tackling this list and digesting as many of these books as possible. Aim for 2-4 books per month from 7th through 12 grade, including (and especially) the summers. And keep track of what they read. It might be the one thing that sets them apart in the college application process. If you are purposeful, your child could feasibly conquer great 120 titles.

We’ve added some other titles that are not on the College Board list.

7th – 9th Grade

  • Charles Dickens Books
  • J.R.R. Tolkien books
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
  • Abraham Lincoln: Selected Speeches and Writings, by Abraham Lincoln
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, by Benjamin Franklin
  • Beloved, by Toni Morrison
  • Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
  • Foxes Book of Martyrs, by John Foxe
  • Do Hard Things, by Alex and Brett Harris
  • The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
  • The Hiding Place, by Corri Ten Boom
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
  • The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde
  • The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling
  • Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
  • The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • The Lottery and Other Stories, by Shirley Jackson
  • The Masque of the Red Death, by Edgar Allan Poe
  • Night, by Elie Wiesel
  • Our Town, by Thornton Wilder
  • The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
  • War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells
  • What Smart Students Know, by Adam Robinson

10th – 12th Grade

  • 1984, by George Orwell
  • A Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  • Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Confessions, by Saint Augustine
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, by Mark Haddon
  • Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville
  • Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser
  • The Federalist Papers, by Alexander Hamilton
  • The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls
  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God, by A. W. Tozer
  • Josephus: The Complete Works, by Josephus
  • Mans Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl
  • Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
  • Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Saras’s Key, by Tatiana de. Rosnay
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini
Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Merry Christmas!

A Very Merry Christmas from The Hagamans and The Stahlmanns!

HagamansThe Hagaman Family: (top row) Lexi , (from left to right) Chase, Sydney, Meg, Jody and Tony

photoThe Stahlmann Family: (from left to right) Seth, Matty Jay, Matthew, Jenni, Skyler, Griffyn (bottom row) Samuel, Eden

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Are You Offended? Part 3: From Offense to Hatred — How to Stay Unoffended

Offense can easily turn into hatred, and hatred is murder’s twin. I’ll show you what I mean in a minute, but first, let’s look at a few things the Bible has to say about hatred. They’re pretty startling, and they give us good reason to be diligent about not letting our offense spiral out of control into hatred.

I John 4:20 says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

Continuing to hate someone means you don’t love God, and it also could mean that your very salvation is in question. “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.” (1 John 2:9)

1 John 3:15 goes on to say, “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.”

This is serious stuff, but remember, Satan was once described as the most subtle of all creatures. In Genesis 3:1 we read the account of Eve being tempted by the serpent (see Revelations 12:9, Revelation 20:2 for the connection between the serpent and Satan): “Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the women, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”

Satan is subtle, and he’s been around since people were created, observing them and tempting them. He understands people very well, and just as he tempted Eve through the power of suggestion, he injects thoughts into our minds to keep us offended and to lead us to hatred because he knows it’s an easy way to get us to offend God.

Stage 1 — Unforgiveness

This is the first stage in the downward spiral of offense. This stage is most clearly marked by keeping a record of wrongs. So, whenever you catch yourself rehearsing a conflict and feeling the anger and offense rising up, it’s a red flag.

Once you recognize the red flag, you have a choice:

  • You can admit that you’re being tempted to slip back into unforgiveness and then make the choice once again to walk through the process of forgiving someone that we outlined in yesterday’s post
  • Or you can give your thoughts over to the offense, rehearsing the situation in your mind over and over, thinking of what you could have and should have said and spiraling deeper and deeper into bitterness.

Stage 2 — Resentment

Resentment is the product of meditating on the offense, rolling it around in your mind and chewing on it until the offense takes a firm hold in your spirit.

Obviously, it’s harder to release it in this stage, but it’s not impossible. If you catch yourself here, just go back to forgiveness again.

Stage 3 — Revenge

If you stay in resentment long enough, eventually you will begin to want revenge. Sometimes it’s as basic as wanting to “put the person in their place,” but it can also be more elaborate. Regardless of what it looks like, Stage 3 of offense says, “you need to pay for what you did to me.”

Stage 4 — Hatred

You can be sure that you’re in full blown hatred mode when you can’t be in the same room with the person who offended you. When the very thought of the person repulses you, it’s hatred all right.

Stage 5 — Violence

Matthew 5:21, 22 says, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.”

The Greek word for “angry” in this verse means “enraged with”. It makes sense that being enraged with someone puts you in the same category as murderers because hatred leads to an elimination mindset.

Basically, it goes like this — the hatred takes over and declares, “You WILL feel my pain! You WILL hear my cry! And I WILL eliminate you!”

Stage 6 — Elimination

Elimination doesn’t have to be physical murder. Although in extreme cases, it can go there. But it can also look the kind of verbal abuse that’s aimed at silencing someone. It can be an assassination of a person’s character to other people. It can be an attempt at isolating them from people and things. Elimination can look like dehumanization, demoralization and estrangement.

This list of stages is a tool for discernment. Do a self-check and figure out where you are. Remember that God can work in all of it. So matter where you find yourself on the list, make the choice to go back to forgiveness, and ask God to come in and help.

Hatred might feel temporarily good to the flesh, but the consequences are not worth it.

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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Are You Offended? Part 2: How to Forgive Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

This whole series really started when we posted The 6 A’s Apology. After the follow up post on The 4 Promises of Forgiveness, someone posed a question on our Facebook page. She asked how you forgive someone who isn’t really sorry. It’s a great question, but it assumes that forgiveness is something that the other person somehow earns.

Forgiveness really has nothing to do with the other person. Mark 11:25 says, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” That verse doesn’t say to forgive after the person offers a genuine apology. It says that if you want your prayers heard, you need to forgive anyone that you have anything against.

Matthew 6:14, 15 says that if you don’t, your Father won’t forgive you. That’s a pretty steep admonition right there.

But here’s how you can do it. First of all, recognize that the word forgive is a verb. It’s something you do, not necessary something you feel. It’s an act of will. You decide to forgive. You choose to forgive, regardless of what the other person says or does.

Forgiveness does NOT mean that what the other person did was okay. In fact, that’s why we tell parents not to let their kids say, “It’s okay” when someone apologizes to them. It’s not okay, and forgiving the person does mean the person was right.

Forgiveness means you are choosing to take the other person off your hook and put them on God’s hook. You’re saying that you are not going to seek revenge, you’re going to make them pay or show them how it feels. Instead, you are release the person into God’s hands and letting Him deal with the consequences.

Here’s how it looks. First, out loud, make the CHOICE to forgive the person. Say, “I choose to forgive _______ for _________. I am releasing __________ in Your hands, God, and asking that you handle this in the best way for both of us.”

Then ask God to give you His perspective on the situation and to see the person through His eyes.

Ask God to help you completely and totally forgive this person and to take away the feelings of anger and hurt.

Then speak a blessing over the person. “I bless ________ in the name of Jesus, and I ask God that you give her the desires of her heart, that you protect her and prosper her and her loved ones.”

That’s it. Then just wash, rinse and repeat every time you think of it. Take heart, it can take a long time and many rounds of intentionally releasing the person before you actually feel like forgiving them. But the very choice to do it will be blessed. God will honor your decision, and He will be faithful to give you peace as long as you continue to forgive.

We’ll talk more about that tomorrow and we’ll give you practical steps to staying unoffended, as we walk through the progression from offense to hatred.

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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Are You Offended? Part 1: Steps to a Healthy Conflict

So, we’re a little late with this post, but with good reason. Our kids got called to be extras on the set of Dolphin Tale 2! Sorry, we don’t have any pictures; cameras were strictly forbidden. It was a really cool experience for them, but a bit on the long and boring side for the parents (just keeping it real!).

So today, we want to talk about staying unoffended. Originally, we wanted to cover the steps of a healthy confrontation, along with how to forgive even when the person doesn’t “deserve” it and the progression from offense to hatred. But when we started fleshing it all out, it was clearly too much for one post. Come back tomorrow for a discussion on how to forgive, and then stop by on Tuesday for a post on the progression from offense to hatred. For today, we’re going to focus on the conflict part of being offended.

Here’s the thing… Offense is lethal. Being offended and staying offended is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It causes a root of bitterness to anchor itself into the offended person’s life, destroying their peace, their health and their relationships.

But the truth is, staying unoffended is no small feat. It takes enormous work. Recently, we were teaching this topic to a group of adults, and one man asked why he should bother going to the trouble of working through this stuff. “Just walk away,” he said. But that’s not the answer.

Relationships are worth caring for and preserving, even when that looks like very hard work. In fact, we could safely argue that they are THE single most important thing in life to care for and preserve.

But relationships always involve people, and people are always problematic because we’ve all got that pesky sin nature. Parents know this better than anyone. We don’t have to teach our kids how to misbehave, do we? Nope. That comes naturally. But we do have to work our butts off to teach them how to behave, and it’s stinkin’ hard work!

So that means that in any relationship, given enough time, conflict is inevitable when a sin nature meets another sin nature. Actually, avoiding it can have devastating consequences. So can mishandling it. The end result of the Bust Boosters is a visible firming and enhancing of the size which can also help with sagging by strengthening and lifting the tissues. But when conflict is done well, it has the potential to strengthen a relationship.

Steps to Healthy Conflict

The first step in a healthy conflict seems obvious, but I see people missing it almost everyday. Step 1 is to recognize and openly admit that you’re offended.

If you do not qualify for free dental emergency fort collins co, the charge you pay for dental work will depend on the treatment you need to keep your teeth, gums, and mouth healthy.

I often hear people talking about something that happened, and it’s clear they’re offended. When I try to gently point it out, they say, “I’m not offended. I’m just really hurt. And who can blame me? What that person did to me was so wrong.”

Hurt is just another word for offended. In fact, one of the dictionary definitions for offend is “to hurt or cause pain.” So, why are people so uncomfortable with admitting that they’re offended? Maybe it’s because that would imply that they have a responsibility. But for some reason, when we’re in the midst of an offense, we think only the offender should have responsibility.

Matthew 18: 15-17 says, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

So, according to this plan, when someone sins against you (a.k.a when someone offends you), it’s YOUR responsibility to go to that person! When it comes to raising kids, it’s so important that we don’t just tell them these things but that we model them. Our kids need to see what it looks like to be offended and to confront the person in a biblically sound way.


Now, we have to be careful here. Going to the person and telling him his fault does not mean flying off the handle and telling the person off. Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool gives full vent to his rage.”

Galatians 6:1 tell us, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” When we approach the person who offended us, we have to be gentle, or else we could be in danger of falling into sin.

Actually, I’ve found that it works best if you’ve already forgiven the person before you confront them. I know a lot of people will say, “How can I forgive someone who hasn’t even apologized?” Check back tomorrow. We’re going to do a post on how to forgive, but in the meantime, let’s just agree to go to the person gently.

Notice that that Matthew 18 tells us to go TO the person. If it’s possible, we need to confront the person face to face, but if that’s not possible, at least to do it voice to voice. Don’t email or text the person. Gentleness comes through tone and facial expressions and body language, none of which can be well conveyed in writing.

Counsel v. Gossip

Notice that in the Matthew 18 plan, you’re not talking to anyone else until after you’ve spoken directly to the person who offended you. Gossip can lead to bad habits and can cause other people to pick up offenses. Then, after you’ve already worked it out, the people you’ve told are still offended, and they don’t have the grace to carry the offense.

If you’ve gone to the person gently, following some version of the plan below, and there’s no resolution, then you need to seek wise counsel and gather two or three witnesses. Choose mature people who can be objective and will help you resolve the conflict, not escalate it.

The Goal — Restoration

The goal of conflict should always be complete restoration — restoration of the relationship and restoration of the individuals involved in the conflict. Placing blame or proving that you’re right and the other person is wrong is never the goal of conflict.

When conflict is stewarded well, the outcome should be peace, freedom and a greater intimacy between the people involved.

So when you approach the person, use “I” statements: “I felt hurt by what you said. I was frustrated.” Instead of, “You hurt my feelings. You frustrated me.”

Summary of the Confrontation

  1. Sit down face to face.

  2. Explain that you want to tell them what’s bothering you and that you’d like a chance to explain yourself without being interrupted. Assure them that they’ll have a turn to explain their side, and you will also listen without interrupting. You may even want to offer the other person a chance to go first if they seem eager to talk. You never know; they might already feel convicted and want to own up and apologize.

  3. When you’re talking, use “I” statements.

  4. When you’re done. Ask the person to repeat back what they heard you say. In a conflict, every person needs to feel understood. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with each other, only that you need to try to fully understand what the person is saying.

  5. Continue speaking until you feel the listener has fully understood what you said.

  6. Once you know the other person has understood, switch roles — you listen without interrupting while the other person talks.

  7. When they’re done, repeat back what you heard them say. Like this: “So what I’m hearing you say is that you feel ____________.”

When It Doesn’t Work

If you’ve followed this outline, and there’s no resolution, get two or three witnesses. These people are mediators, not a posse to back you up. The goal is still restoration, not revenge.

If there’s still no resolution, take it to a leader or authority figure: your pastor, a manager if it’s a co-worker, etc. And if, after all of that, you still can’t resolve it, Matthew 18 gives you permission to walk away from the relationship. That doesn’t mean that you walk away angry or offended or full of hatred (we’re going to talk about how to stay unoffended in Tuesday’s post), but that you simply create healthy boundaries.

The Bible says to treat them as heathens or tax collectors. We’re supposed to love all people, but that doesn’t mean that we invite them into our daily lives. We have no problem creating boundaries for people whose morals don’t match ours (heathens and tax collectors). We can still pray for them and even be a blessing to them in their times of need, but we’re not going to the movies with them or inviting them to our kid’s birthday party. That’s how we need to handle the people after a failed Matthew 18 process.

Check back tomorrow. We’re going to share some practical steps to forgiving, regardless of how the other person behaves.

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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Unpacking Anger

Anger, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. It can actually be a helpful tool. Anger can be red flag that lets you know there’s a problem you need to deal with.

The Bible says, “Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26-27)

So it’s possible to be angry and not sin. But this verse also tells us that if it’s not handled properly, anger can give the devil a place in your life.

In the classes and workshops we teach, Jody and I often say that the prison system is full of people who couldn’t get control of their anger for just five more minutes. My mom has been a physician’s assistant in the New York Department of Corrections for more than 30 years, and Jody’s first career was as a corrections officer. Both of them agree that there are countless sad stories of men and women who live in constant regret because they didn’t know how to handle anger.

Anger can escalate when you don’t have a tool. If you find yourself feeling out of control in your anger, ask yourself what tool you are missing. One sign is that you find yourself wanting revenge! Imagine that your child came home from school and walked into the kitchen with his backpack on. As he’s talking, he swings around and knocks a dish from your new set off the counter. You watch the dish smash against the tile and scatter in thousands of tiny pieces. You’re so angry that you want to go into his room and break something of his so he’ll know how it feels. That’s revenge!

When we feel anger rise up, it can be helpful to stop for a moment, recognize it as a red flag and make a decision to not react. Then figure out what’s causing it.

In the case of the broken dish, you sense an injustice. Someone else’s carelessness caused you to lose something valuable. But once you know that this is what’s happening, you can figure out what tool you need to fix it. Your son needs to become more aware of his surroundings and more careful with his things and other people’s things. Your anger was a red flag letting you know that this is something you need to work on.

Five Causes of Anger

There are five basic causes of anger.

Anger Cause #1 — Sensory Issue (physical pain, hunger, dehydration, exhaustion, overstimulation, etc.)

This is a big one for a lot of people. I have one son who can become enraged when he gets hurt, and his initial reaction is to try to find someone to blame. This is the same kid who would come unglued as a toddler if we weren’t careful to keep him hydrated. Some people are extra sensitive to sensory issues. My oldest is autistic, and we was little, he could go into a fit of rage in an overstimulating environment. But even neuro-typical people can get angry if they’re hungry or tired or overstimulated.

Anger Cause #2 — Injustice

Some people are born with an extra measure of diplomacy, and when faced with an apparent injustice, they can stay calm and try to find a solution that benefits everyone. For the rest of us, the mere hint of injustice can send us flying off the handle in outrage and fury.

Anger Cause #3 — Interruption of Process

This one seems to be especially difficult for us multitasking moms. We’re trying to collect all the pieces, tidy up all the loose ends and get out the door on time, and in that very moment an argument breaks out that requires our attention. We’re not mad at the kids for having a problem; we’re enraged that it had to happen when we were clearly busy.

Anger Cause #4 — Unmet Expectations

Newlyweds seem especially prone to this one. They often come into the marriage with preconceived notions about how things should be and can become infuriated when those often unspoken expectations are not met. In most cases, the issue of unmet expectations can be overcome with better communication skills.

Anger Cause #5 — Fear

Ever faced the terrifying notion that your child is lost? I remember one summer day when my oldest was a just a little guy. We had a party in our back yard, and at one point I turned around and Griffyn was gone. We had heard an ice cream truck come down the block, so we thought maybe he slipped out of the yard when no one was looking to follow the truck’s music.

All of the adults scattered, running up and down the block calling his name, but he was nowhere to be found. My heart nearly pounded out of my chest as I ran from room to room and floor to floor in the house trying to find him.

What was about 15 minutes of searching felt like hours. We knocked on doors, looked in bushes, peeked under porches, but there was no sign of Griffyn anywhere. Of course, I’d been praying feverishly throughout our search, but at one point, I decided to just stop, close my eyes and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

The cars! No one had checked the parked cars. Sure enough, Griffyn was playing on the back seat floor of one of the cars in our driveway. Whew! To say I was relieved would be a gross understatement. I felt like I could breathe again. But after a few moments of hugging my baby and kissing him all over, feelings of relief were quickly replace by a rising anger. Once I knew he was alive and safe, I wanted to kill him!

That’s what fear can do. Once the fear is gone, rage takes its place.

Somehow, just knowing what’s causing our anger, just taking the time to recognize it and unpack it, helps us to use it for good instead of being used by it for bad. It’s something that we can model for our kids and something we can talk about when anger rises up in them.

Check back tomorrow. We’re going to talk about how to stay unoffended.

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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