6 Steps to Helping Kids Overcome Lying

This week we’re talking about helping kids overcome lying, and today is the day our readers have been waiting for. It is the nuts and bolts of HOW to help your child overcome the habit of lying.

If you are jumping in today, take a moment to go back and read Confessions of Reformed Liar and 7 Myths About Lying. They lay an important mindset foundation that we have to grasp before we can successfully tackle today’s Six Steps to Helping Kids Overcome Lying.

Are you ready? Here we go!

Step #1 — Be VERY careful not to shame the child.

We can’t emphasize this one enough! Children who struggle with telling the truth will avoid shame at all costs, and if you shame a liar, you will eventually create a better liar. They’ll perfect their “skills” so that they they don’t get caught and have to face shame.

When you are confronting someone who may have been untruthful, be gentle. Remind the child that there are some things that come naturally for her (tell her what those are) and some things she has to work at (like telling the truth). Tell her that a lot of people have to work at telling the truth — she is not alone. Emphasis how much you love her and how much you think she is awesome.

Separate the child from her choices. She is a great person who simply made a mistake, and your job is to help her learn how to become a truth teller.

Be VERY aware of your facial expression and your body language.

Search your child’s face to see how she is reacting to you. If she senses shame, she will react, and if you train yourself to look for it, you will be able to shift gears and let her know that you love her and that you are committed to her success.

But that doesn’t mean ignore it. Which leads me to…

Step #2 — Address every instance of untruth

This week I have been talking about how lying can be habit forming. We have to be diligent and willing to gently address every exaggeration, tall tale, omission of the truth and possible lie.

What if you aren’t sure whether or not your child is lying? Kids who have formed a habit of lying learn to get pretty good at it. But often, you will sense that something isn’t quite right. It’s as if you can smell the lie, even though you’re not sure what it is. If you suspect something is off, address it.

Also, don’t overlook storytelling, especially with a kid who struggles with lying. In yesterday’s post, I explained the kind of storytelling I mean. If you catch your child trying to pass imagination off as truth, tell them him he has a great imagination, and then give him the words to try again. “That’s a great story Johnny. You are so creative. Next time you could say, ‘Mom, I thought of a really cool story. Can I share it with you?’ That way you aren’t pretending that it really happened.”

This is work on our part, but we have to be willing to faithfully (and with great love and gentleness) call them out when we suspect something is up.

The word “lie” carries an element of shame with it. So when you’re confronting this, try not to use it. Instead of saying, “Johnny, I think you’re lying.” Say something like, “Johnny, I think it might have happened differently. Try again, and I’ll help you tell the story the way it really happened.”

Step #3 — Separate the child from the behavior, and communicate love and acceptance for the child.

The goal is for your child to fully understand and believe that you are on her team; you are 100% committed to her success, and you do not think any less of her for struggling with this, just as you wouldn’t think any less of a child who struggles with learning how to read or how to ride a bike.

Let’s say something is broken and you suspect your daughter broke it. You ask her, and she denies it. You can say, “I know it’s hard to explain what really happened. It can be scary to think that mom or dad will be angry with you. But I’m going to help you, and together, we will piece together the real, actual truth and then figure out what to do next. You don’t have to be afraid because I love you all the time, and I think you are awesome when you do great things AND when you make mistakes. I love you because of who you are, not because what you do or don’t do.”

Step #4 — Help the child understand her motives.

Martha Heineman Pieper, Ph.D., author of Smart Love: The Compassionate Alternative  to Discipline that Will Make You a Better Parent and Your Child a Better Person, said, “Children distort reality in an effort to ward off an unwanted turn of events or as a way of feeling in control of themselves and the world…Helping them to understand their motivation makes them realize that they can come to parents and share their struggles.”

Helping our kids understand their own motives can also lead them to develop self-compassion. It’s not about letting them off the hook. It’s about helping them to understand what happened so they become more self aware. Once they understand the need they were trying to meet when they chose to lie, we can help them find a better way of meeting that need.

Step #5 — Praise positive effort along the way

Kids sometimes need help going back and piecing together the truth. You can start by asking, “What happened first?”

As she starts to explain the story, praise every effort of honesty. If you sense that she’s veering away from truth, gently point it out and help direct her back. You can say, “You were running through the living to room to get your brother. But then something happened that made the vase fall and break. Can you remember what it was?”

As she starts to tell what really happened, avoid the temptation to feel offended that she lied to you. Let’s face it, it’s very frustrating when someone lies. You feel like you can never trust them. But remember that for a kid who struggles with truth telling, this is super hard. So when she begins to piece together the real story, let her know that you are aware of the courage she’s showing and that you are proud of her. It will give her the courage to keep going.

Step #6 — Speak a new truth

Once the story comes out, praise your child for her hard work, and then say, “ I am so proud of you because every day you are becoming more and more of a girl who always tells the truth.”

Jody and I believe that this step is critical to the long term success of building a truth teller.

No matter how many times a day you have to confront this issue with the same child, end every single session with those words. It will take time, but eventually, she will build a new identity as a girl who always tells the truth.

Earlier this week, I shared a little about the nine month journey that I took with one of my children to help him tell the truth. During that time, I must have said those words hundreds, if not a thousand times (“Every day you are becoming more and more of a boy who always tells the truth.”). It took nine months to see real victory, but the battle was won because he began to see himself as a truth teller.

In that season of our life, there was a big temptation for our little ones to go into our bedroom, climb up on our headboard and jump on our bed. And this was a huge no, no!

One day, my son came to me with tears in his eyes and a deeply repentant look on his face.  He said, “Mommy, I have to tell you what happened because I am a boy who always tells the truth.” No one had seen him do it. He could have easily gotten away with it, but after nine months of hearing the words “you are becoming a boy who always tells the truth” spoken over him, he accepted his new identity as a truth teller. And so he confessed to climbing on my headboard and jumping on my bed.

Whenever I tell that story, I usually get this question: “Did you discipline him for jumping on the bed?” And the answer is yes. Of course I did. I would have done that boy no service by letting it go. He knew it was a major rule in our house, and he knew he broke the rule. Facing the consequence gave him confidence that he could tell the truth, endure the repercussions with bravery and still be okay.

I told him how very proud of him I was for being courageous and being an excellent truth teller. I was tender and full of love, especially as I helped him face the consequence of jumping on the bed, and afterwards, I told him that I forgive him and said that I love him and that I think he’s a brave boy.

As difficult as this process may be for the child, rest assured that they will always feel a tremendous relief when the truth is told, especially when they see that there is no condemnation in your eyes.

It can be very upsetting when someone lies to you. You feel betrayed and manipulated, and it can make you really angry. Your initial reaction might be, “How could you lie to me like that? How can I ever trust you?” But remember, the person who struggles with this needs to feel freedom from condemnation in this process. They need to know that you are on their side and will help them without judgement.

Be Patient

Be patient in this one. Give this process a year. You may be doing it multiple times a day, everyday, for months on end. Don’t lose heart. Go into it know that it is going to take time. Avoid any form of condemnation, and present yourself as a coach and mentor whose only goal is to help empower your child to become a truth teller, and in time, you will succeed!

We know this is a challenging topic for so many parents. Please feel free to contact us with any questions and to leave comments below.


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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Need Help Getting Your Kid to Sleep?

My oldest child is nearly 16, and the next four came relatively close after the first. So once we nailed bedtime with the biggest kid, the others just followed suit. But our baby, who is 19 months old, came five-and-a-half years after our fifth child. By then, bedtime was a mere after thought.

Bed time stories and teeth brushing songs and tubby time were a thing of the past. Even our youngest could take her own bath, put on her PJs, and climb in bed by the time the baby was born. I had gotten used to just going into the room to tuck her in, pray over her and kiss her goodnight.

So when Matty Jay came along, we were back to square one.

Being in a new season of my parenthood, where my older kids are pretty independent, I’ve been able to work more and focus more on things like the radio show, writing a book, and running a school.

Bedtime has been a breeze for years, and with so many capable hands to help with Matty Jay, I have to confess that I didn’t focus on it one bit. The older kids and I tend to stay up late together, and we didn’t mind if Matty hung around for part of it. I got lax, and my momma muscles got flabby when it came to bedtime.

But a few weeks ago I was reminded that bedtime is just a skill, and like any skill, it can be taught.

I dug back into my early years of parenting, when I had an autistic child, who seemed to need significantly less sleep than the other kids his age, and another baby right behind him. When you want to have the most comfortable beds and mattress, avail the black friday mattress deals for maximum comfort. I knew he got less sleep but I knew for sure that he was sleeping way more comfortable at night because I got him a special pad from the My Mattress Pads website. If you want something better then get a 140 x 200 euro mattress. If you sleep with someone, you should read these couple sleeping positions and what they mean.

When Griffyn was about a year old, we had had enough of the Energizer Bunny living in our house. Autism or no autism, we were determined to get this kid to go to bed at a reasonable hour and without any fuss.

I read everything I could get my hands on, talked to every successful parent I could find, picked the brains of all of my son’s therapists, and even took a workshop on it. And I came up with a plan. My husband and I agreed to do it the exact same way every night…even when we went on vacation or stayed at a relative’s house. We vowed to be totally consistent and 100% committed to making it work. And guess what? It worked.

In fact, it worked so well, that I never had to do it again. All of the other kids just seemed to be born into the process, and they all took to it like a fish to water.

Then came Matty Jay, and it was a whole different story.

So a few weeks ago, I sat my oldest daughter down (she does some of the bedtime hours if I’m out or working), and said, “As of tonight, this is the routine. We can never vary or give in. But when we’re consistent and committed, Matty Jay will soon go to bed like a champion. We’ll just say ‘bedtime’, and he’ll climb in and doze off.”

Want to know the keys to success? Okay, here we go.

#1 — Create a routine, and never, ever, ever vary from it, until your little tyke has been a champion sleeper for many months.

Here’s what our routine looks like (it’s the exact same routine we used 15 years ago).
Take a bath
Apply lotion (all my kids love this for some reason) and put on PJs
Read a story (Matty is still nursing so he had some momma milk during story time)
Climb in bed, and sing the same three goodnight songs in the same order (songs make everything difficult seem easier to little people — they’re like the spoonful of sugar to the medicine)
Pray for the baby
Kiss him goodnight
Lights out

#2 — Mommy sits nearby on the floor (or in a chair) and reads. I LOVE being able to read a book on my phone or iPad — so easy in the dark. Fifteen years ago, I had to wrestle with those stupid reading lights. Technology is nice!

#3 — Use the Super Nanny routine for redirection to bed, which goes like this: the first time the kid tries to escape, you pick him up and softly, but firmly say, “Time for bed.” Then put him back in bed. The next time he flees the scene (and every time thereafter), pick him up without a word and without eye contact and gently put him back in bed. Sit nearby, but NOT on the bed. That way he’s comforted to know you’re there, AND you can police the situation.

#4 — Wash, rinse and repeat until the little bugger is snoring.

Here’s how it went down in the Stahlmann house when we began the process a few weeks ago. First, let me say, I was really bracing myself on this one because Matty Jay might just be my most willful child!

8:00pm We started the tub water and brushed his teeth. The boy LOVES a tubby, so this part of the process was a hit. After the tub, we followed the above routine to the letter.

8:30pm Lights out and momma sitting nearby reading the best potty training book I’ve ever laid eyes on (more about that in future post). Matty tried to escape the bed no less than 10 times, and with many tears. Momma stayed calm and stuck to the plan.

9:00pm Snoring!

Now, this is a big deal. Not only is this an UBER-willful child, but he typically drifts off at about 10:30pm, so 9:00pm is big change to make overnight. But he did it.

So where are we now, after a few weeks. Well…the second night was harder because he knew what was coming and fought back, but he was still asleep before 9pm. Every night thereafter got easier, and the fight lessened. Now, about five weeks into it, there are no tears. In fact, he’s excited for the routine. He loves picking his bedtime story, sings the good night songs with me, and then takes about 5 mins to fall asleep.

My guess (from past experience) is that in a few months, I’ll be able to kiss him goodnight after the songs and leave the room.

Any questions?

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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The Power of Definitions – Bringing Peace and Order to Your Home

To hear our radio show podcast by the same title click here.

From the White House to the school house to your house, a clear definition can prevent a world of trouble. Even the highest office in the land could stand an occasional dictionary review (apparently they don’t teach the meaning of the word “is” in law school).

All joking aside, clear definitions do bring a certain peace and order.

In the Stahlmann house, “obedience” is defined as “immediately, cheerfully, and thoroughly.” I heard the definition nearly a decade ago from a homeschool mom with an army of kids – very well behaved kids, might I add.

When our kids were little, we spent a good amount of time defining each of the three attributes of obedience. Most of them understood “immediately” right off the bat, but “cheerfully” and “thoroughly” took some time.

Over the years, as I’ve shared our definition with other parents, “cheerfully” seems to have inspired the most raised eyebrows. “Kids can’t always be expected to be cheerful, can they?” When it comes to obeying orders, they sure can.

I’d say one of the most valuable lessons our kids can learn is that attitude is a choice. We can’t always control what happens in our life, but we can always choose our response. And although it can be difficult to choose a good attitude, a good attitude bears good fruit. (For a glimpse at how we recently confronted an attitude struggle in our family, check out Without Anger or Excuse.)

“Thoroughly” can be a tricky one. Some kids seem to come pre-wired with a dominant thoroughness gene, and others…well…don’t. I call them 80%ers – they always seem to think they’re finished about 80% through the job.

I have to admit, it does take some effort to teach the “thorough” part of obedience, because it means we parents have to be willing to follow-up (often again and again) until the job is 100% done. But we can’t expect what we’re not willing to inspect. The good news is that over time, our kids will learn to strive for excellence in all they do.

As they’re learning how to be thorough, it’s okay if they miss a few details, as long as they ask for an inspection before assuming they’re done, and they’re willing to make adjustments with a cheerful spirit.

When we catch our kids slipping in one area of obedience, we’ll ask, “What’s the definition of obedience?” and instantly they know what needs to be adjusted. That’s the power of a definition!

Another thing worthy of defining is your family rules. When a child misbehaves, you can point to the family rules and calmly say, “It says here there is no screaming allowed in our house, and you were screaming.”

Which leads to the next thing worthy of defining, and that’s the consequences for disobedience and misbehavior (breaking a family rule). Deciding ahead of time what the results will be creates an atmosphere of justice in your home. Your kids don’t feel wronged by discipline because the expectations of them were clear, as were the results of poor choices. They won’t enjoy it, of course, but they’ll know it’s fair, and fairness is especially important to young souls.

On a side note, a great principle to post in your home is “Good choices equal good results. Bad choices equal bad results.” Imagine the fruit our kids will produce if they arrive at adulthood understanding that they can always make a good choice and that many good choices, over time, will yield good results. It’s the biblical principle of reaping and sowing. Sow good seed and reap a good harvest.

Our oldest son has autism, and because communication is one of his greatest struggles, definitions are particularly important for him. When Griffyn clearly understands what is expected of him, and what the results will be for both good and bad choices, he has an easier time making good choices and accepting the consequences for bad ones.

Definitions create boundaries, and boundaries offer safety. Perhaps no one is more sensitive to that fact than our sweet Griffyn.

Stop by later in the week to read about the Power of the Three Question Correction, and the Power of Routines.

In the meantime, we’d love to love to hear about your family rules.  Here’s a peak at ours.

Stahlmann Family Rules

  1. Obey mommy and daddy immediately, cheerfully and thoroughly!
  2. No spitting, hitting, kicking, pushing, snatching, throwing things, or hurting people or animals.
  3. No screaming in the house and no temper tantrums.
  4. Always treat each other with honor and respect.
  5. No playing with water in the house.
  6. Put things away when you are done using them.
  7. Take snacks only with permission and always eat at a table.
  8. No going outside without shoes or permission.
  9. Don’t interrupt when someone is talking.
  10. Always tell the truth!


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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Raising the Head of A House

Got boys? Then you are raising the future head of a house.

One day, about 20 years ago, I was startled by a crash so loud I thought the wall had come down.  I scrambled to the living room to see what had happened, and to my amazement, there was my three year old in a fit of rage over his Legos.  Yes, his Legos.  Apparently, they weren’t connecting the way he wanted them to.

My mind flashed to scenes from extended family history — rage and anger has plagued previous generations.  Instantly, I thought, “Oh, no!  Not my boy. That’s not going to be his story”.

Gently and calmly, I crouched down, laid my hand upon his and spoke softly, but firmly.  “Chase, that’s not how we play.  Now let’s pick up each Lego you threw, put them in a pile, and reconnect each one.”

His eyes were angry and frustrated, but I could see in his heart the desire to please his mommy.

We were on that floor for hours attaching those bricks together one by one.  All the while, I was speaking to him gently, but firmly.

That day, the Lord revealed to me that I was raising the “Head of A House”, and I had better steward his personality and habits as such.

Moms play a very significant role in their son’s lives. Remember the first miracle that Jesus performed?  Mary told Him they were out of wine. Jesus said, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”  (John 2)

But interestingly, Jesus did perform the miracle. That boy was NOT going to disappoint his mama! And I believe that’s just how God intended it to be. If you think about it moms, that gives us a whole lot of power.

The most amazing part of this is that the Holy Spirit allows us to see behaviors in our kids that can be damaging or empowering to them as adults.  Even as toddlers, we can see behavior patterns that need to be gently corrected or strongly encouraged.

Chivalry was not the norm when I was growing up. But I was bound and determined that my boy was going to be chivalrous — and he is!  I taught him at four years old to hold doors open for all women, no matter their age.  I taught him to always kiss a lady’s hand.

He was taught to give up his seat when a lady/girl entered the room. When we were at gatherings, he made sure all the females ate first.  He shook men’s hands with firmness, looked them straight in the eye and introduced himself.  He had every woman falling all over him (and his big chocolate brown eyes) because he was so gentle and sweet, yet outgoing and bold.

So many parents over the years have come to me and said, “How can I get my boy to be like that?”  I believe the answer is to be constantly looking and examining what behaviors need to be addressed, along with a boatload of prayer!

I knew deep in my heart I was supposed to raise him to be the husband I would want.  After all, I was going to be passing him on to a woman much like myself, wasn’t I?

I began praying daily for God to show me what to pour into him and what to shelter him from.  It was so interesting to see how God led me to pray for him as head of a house

We raised Chase constantly thinking, “We need to root out this behavior/habit; he can’t have that as a husband.” It’s made him aware of other people’s feelings and positions. He seems to always take initiative to “father” others.  He’s always been the captain, the leader, the president.

Well, Chase hasn’t thrown Legos recently, but he has had many tests and trials come his way.  And I believe the tools he was given at a young age have empowered him to make the kind of decisions a head of a household should.

Through it all, he has learned servant leadership, and I now have a 23 year old son who brings his mom flowers often (YAY, me!).  But, more than that, he lives his life and makes decisions with the mindset that he will one day be the head of a house.

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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Without Anger or Excuse

Handling your child’s public misbehavior is where the rubber meets the road in parenting — isn’t it?

So here’s what happened – a big group of us took our kids to Busch Gardens for the day. My almost-9-year-old is right on the borderline for the height requirement of some of the really cool roller coasters.   We have an annual pass, so we go fairly often, and he has been able to ride a few of them in the past, but the threat of being flagged is always looming.

Well, this week one of the dads (who had taken the day off work to enjoy the park with his family) agreed to take 11 kids on coasters while the moms took the little ones to a play area.

On this day, my boy was pulled from the line while the other kids got to ride, and he was devastated.  Not only had he been looking forward to riding the coasters all day, but he was the only one who couldn’t ride, and it was embarrassing to be singled out.

Although he didn’t realize it, he was being set up for a great opportunity.
Our attitude is always a choice, and we have the power to choose a deliberately positive response.

But this was not the choice my son made.  Instead, he allowed each passing moment to intensify his disappointment.  Soon the sadness turned sour, and bitterness took root in his little heart.  Out of that dark place, he became belligerent and defiant, disobeying his friend’s dad and showing disrespect for the dad’s authority.

When I got the report (you know, the one every parent dreads), my heart sank. My first thought was to freak out and beat some sense into the kid (just kidding…well…sort of), but I also felt deeply sorry for him. I knew how badly he wanted to go on those rides, and I understood how deeply disappointing and even humiliating it was for him.

I also knew that this dad was very upset because of the way my son treated him.  This was a matter of justice, and it was a heart issue in my child that had to be dealt with in the best possible way.

Let’s face it, our kids are sinners in need of a savior. They make bad choices sometimes, and they need firm correction that demonstrates a deep love and concern for their character.

Of course I was horrified…even mortified, but I knew my boy’s heart was on the line, and this was one of those moments when I had to remember that I’m training up a leader who will one day impact his generation.

I called him away from the crowd, sat down next to him, took off my sunglasses and looked soberly into his eyes, which were beginning to fill with tears. I reminded him that disobedience and disrespect are not tolerated, and that he made some terrible choices.

We’ve taught our children that good choices bring good results, and bad choices bring bad results, so he knew that there was a serious consequence awaiting this serious offense.

“For the rest of the day,” I explained with deep sadness, “you will have to stay with me and not go on the rides or play games.”  He nodded his head.

He apologized to the dad (and I did too), and he accepted his fate with courage and without complaint, but my heart was heavy all day. As a parent we want desperately to bless our kids, just as our heavenly Father wants to bless us.  But sometimes their behavior forces us to stay the hand of blessing, and it’s painful for us.

We talked about it openly that night, and I was grateful to see the process of repentance happen in my boy.  I told him that I was sad because his choices that day robbed me of the opportunity to pour out blessing on him.

There are few things that we as parents love to reward more than a child who chooses to be cheerful in the face of opposition. Had my son chosen to face his disappointment and embarrassment with a positive response, I would have joyfully showered him with all kinds of rewards.

On the ride home, we talked about the Israelites and how they forfeited the Promised Land because they chose the wrong attitude.  God was able to reward only Joshua and Caleb because they were they only ones who had a right heart in the face of potentially bad news.

I can imagine what God must have felt when He issued that consequence. Parenting can be painful, but the stakes are high, and we have to respond carefully (not react impulsively). We’re raising laborers for the harvest, for heaven’s sake! (pun totally intended)

I was reminded of a few things this week: 1) our kids are sinners in need of a savior, and they will make wrong choices; 2) the right response is not anger, nor excuse; 3) we can always choose our attitude, and a positive attitude attracts blessing.

Please share 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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