Dr. Phil Gets It Wrong: Blended Family Discipline

Missed The Mark

I generally like Dr. Phil. I’ve never watched an episode, but what I have seen appears to be a calm, caring man with a heart for others.

While researching a topic on blended families for our next book, I came across this video. Naturally I had to watch. This is big-time syndicated television after all.

While I completely agree with what Dr. Phil said about pre-marital counseling, I do not agree with his position on discipling children as a non-biological parent.

In this short clip, Dr. Phil explains to each spouse that under no circumstance are they to discipline each other’s children. They should support the decisions made by the biological parent, but have no part or initiation in disciplining.

Law of Possession

The current cultural ethos reflects Dr. Phil’s advice. Only the biological parent has authority over the kids, and the non-biological parent is relegated to the role of babysitter or nanny.

When rules are broken, the stepparent should document and report the infraction once the biological parent returns home. This is absolutely contrary to God’s design for marriage – first, second or third.

Would you enter into a relationship where you are already relegated to a subservient position beneath that of children? Yet this is the standard for managing a home environment. Is there any question why second marriages fail 63% and third tries end 74% of the time?

God is very clear from the beginning that man and woman are to become one. One in all and everything they own, do, possess and desire.

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Genesis 2:24-25

This applies to property, problems, finances, children, hopes, dreams and all realities that each adult brings into a blended family scenario.

Civil Law

I clearly understand that civil law does not support what I just said. Most importantly, what God’s word says about marriage. Where God created marriage to endure through His holy covenant, man’s contractual marital agreement is wrought with escape clauses and protections for “just in case.”

God’s word says each spouse shall give of themselves completely to the other. Neither one shall have authority over the other. They are both equal. Different, but equal.

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.

1 Corinthians 7:3-4

While prenuptials and separate community property rules may apply, they are created for the impending failure of the marriage.

Stage Setting

God’s marriage model requires that you each go all in. There is nothing held separate or sacred from your spouse. Money, kids, and property are not meant to be held away from or over the other spouse.

Going into a new marriage with a “just in case” attitude is setting the stage for yet another failed marriage. Kids are in the top reasons people divorce as first families, and their role as catalysts in second and subsequent divorces become more imposing as they are placed as the priority in a family.

Set God’s hierarchy on display immediately. He is head of all. Parents come next, with the kids a close third. That is the only way remarried couples will succeed.

Trust Or No Trust

You trust your new spouse enough to marry them. You move into a new home, remain in one of the homes you had, open joint bank accounts, share passwords to social media and computers, introduce each other to your circle of friends and maybe even have additional children together.

You got it rock solid, right?

Then why don’t you trust them with your children? The law of possession applies across the board. Anything held back becomes an idol in your life and supersedes the place and importance of your spouse.

We always hear parents proclaim that their children are their life. Well, that’s a noble sentiment, but it’s not biblically sound or practically wise. Children are a temporary assignment. We were meant to raise them up and wish them well as they also entered adulthood as we all did at various years in the past.

God warns against covetousness. Giving the life God gave you to a child is an offense to the One who gave you life. Let’s take a look at Exodus. Seriously consider the role children play in a parent’s life. Loving and mentoring them is expected, but making them demi-gods is a risky situation.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

Exodus 20:3-5

Family As One

Discipline is about love. God is clear about this, and before you marry again and blend a family, you should be just as clear.

Because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

Proverbs 3:12

You must surrender your children over to the authority of your spouse. If you cannot because of fear, suspicion or mistrust, then why are you in the marriage to begin with?

Your children have suffered from the divorce from their biological parents already. Studies show they will continue to be effected. But a healthy, loving blended family environment shows them a healthy relationship model. That model does not include hiding them away from your new spouse.

Sorry Dr. Phil

I’m still very much in favor of his advice for this couple to seek counseling. Since I’ve not followed this show or the couple, I can’t share what they chose to do, but for their 7 combined kids sake, I pray they sought Christian counseling.

Aside from that, Dr. Phil’s popular cultural method of one parent acting as a snitch on the kids, and having to endure bad behavior until the biological parent returns is what continues to support the 63% and 74% failures of second and third attempt at marriage.

Here To Help

Are you in need of pre-marriage counseling? We use the SYMBIS assessment as the most insightful self-survey tool for determining your strengths, challenges and marital readiness to move forward for the first or second or other times.

We are also certified as marriage counselors through MarriageToday‘s Marriage On The Rock ministry, and want to share this resource with you as our free gift to you. It will change your life, change you marriage and change your family.

God saved our marriage, and in that we are led to help other couples save, salvage or strengthen their own marriages.

I Am His,


The Mistake of Putting Children First

Alone At Last

I once had a friend who went away on a long anticipated weekend with her husband. She told me how much her husband looked forward to the weekend because they had neverbeen away alone.

Because she had a child from a previous marriage, everything they’d ever done their entire relationship revolved around family life. Her husband planned this trip, took care of all of the details, made arrangements for caring for their three little dogs, and drove them off on a Friday morning.

Friday night, her 19-year-old daughter called her and told her that her boyfriend had proposed.

That night, this friend packed herself and her husband up and drove the 4 hours home so that she could see the engagement ring and start making wedding plans with her daughter.

We Have A Problem

I think typing this out like this, anyone reading it is able to see the problems in this relationship. This woman put her daughter before her husband, without apologies, their entire marriage.

Just because her daughter had reached that pinnacle of adulthood, that didn’t change. SHE was the most important person in this wife’s life, and her husband fell well second – likely third if we wanted to elevate the status of the dogs into relationship mode.

American Parenting

In researching this phenomenon of putting children before your spouse, I came across the term “American Parenting” – and how that describes this modern way of elevating parenting to a religion complete with children demi-gods who deserve our worship and full focus.

I’ve found article after article — written almost exclusively by women — with the argument that children need to be the center of our world.

I came across one blogger who wrote something that gave evidence to me as to where the disconnect is coming. “My husband can tie his own shoes and make his own dinner. He doesn’t need me right now.”

The parenting that we do that comes with preparing meals for our children or tying their shoes has nothing to do with the placing of children above our husbands.


When my children were little, I prepared meals and tied shoes all day long, and still knew the need to put my husband in my priorities second only to God.

“Putting your husband first” is not in terms of physical actions or needs so much as it is your emotional and spiritual connection. Over and over again, I see children more important in a wife’s emotions than a husband.

One blogger actually said, “In order if importance, I place my children, then my friends, then my husband – but don’t tell him. He doesn’t know!”

The other night, skimming social media, I saw a friend make a reference to her children and complete it with “my children are my life.”

I appreciate the sentimentality that might spur a woman to say such a thing; however, I see mothers say things like that all the time, and if it’s true, then what we have is a society of women with giant holes in their lives.

On Temporary Loan

Our children are given to us to raise and nurture, to train up in the way of God so that when they are old they won’t depart from it.

But once they reach a point of maturity, they become their own adults, responsible to God for their decisions and no longer responsible to us. Our spouses still remain right here by our sides.

God never intended our children to be our life. In John 14:6, Jesus said,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

Taking that even a step further, Christ’s relationship with the church is compared to a relationship between a husband and wife — not a parent and child.

He Needs You

No matter how young or old your children are, despite what that blogger above said, your spouse needs you — needs your love or respect, needs your physical commitment, needs your attention and your focus, needs your intentional loving.

In my article titled The Beauty of Submission, I explained:
Genesis 2:20-24 says,

“I will make him a helper suitable for him…and they will become one flesh.”

The term “one” used here is the same term used in Deuteronomy 6:4 describing the Holy Trinity:

“Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

I think that is a powerful message from God that puts husband and wife as one – one flesh, one in the eyes of God as much as the Trinity of God is one.

In the “American parenting” model, children are treated as equals, part of decision making, catered to when it comes to meals, activities, money, and entertainment.

They tend to operate under blurred lines of expectations and standards. Beyond how unhealthy it is for the child to be the number one priority for a parent, doing so will also generate a feeling of resentment from the neglected spouse.

Over time, all of it will snowball until the marriage itself is at risk.

Blending Well
In mixed/step family, those extremes have a tendency to become even worse. As the mother of a child who was raised with a stepfather, I can understand that at times there may be a knee-jerk reaction to step in try to be a buffer between adult and stepchild, to make sure everyone gets along and is happy — but as many times as I may have felt the impulse, I held it in check.

Doing so would have done nothing than create battlefields that had no business in our home. I am one with my husband – and no matter who our daughter’s biological father is, and no matter what the dynamics are or were in his home, in our home, we parented as a single unit with no separation.

The result of that is a 20-year-old daughter who has a healthy relationship with both of us and considers us a single parenting unit — even though she was five-years-old when we got married.

First Place

Emotionally, spiritually, my husband comes first. I have three children, yet there isn’t another human being on this earth who is more important to me than him.

And I am confident in the knowledge that I come first to him. Whatever that looks like to you. Breastfeeding a baby while pregnant with another and seeing to the wants and needs of my then 10-year-old did not change that.

What’s more, I’m brilliantly designed by my Creator to be able to see to the emotional and physical needs of my children, make them feel loved and secured, and raise them in the way that they should go, while at the same time putting my husband first.

Hallee Bridgeman

Dark Days: When Summer Visitation Ends

Talk about a double-edged sword.

Summer usually means extended visitation for parents and their kids. That’s a great thing, right? Yes, but with extended time comes an extended absence.

Most summer custody arrangements allow one month together, but it also means one month apart.

This can create a stressful environment for everyone, including the child who is on break after the intensity of an academic school year.

The effects of a difficult summer on the child carries over into the school year.

The stress on the parent also creates feelings of regret or guilt for being unable to provide an epic experience for their child. This places parents in a crux where they spend more than they can afford to provide entertainment for their kids.

This may be driven by guilt, competition to outdo the other parent or a genuine desire to provide memorable adventures.

Now add the dynamics of blended family. When there are kids from the spouse’s side as well, the scenario can exponentially increase in difficulties for all involved.

Satisfying multiple kids with varying interests, ages and experiences can seem almost impossible.

But take heart.

Leah and I just enjoyed another incredible month with all of the kids under roof. Unfortunately, they all left July 1st for a month with their other parents.

We make no secret about how hard we work during the other 11 months so we can spend every second focused on them in June. Planning helps us make sure every one of the kids are provided a stress-free experience while they enjoy their summer break.

I guess one of the things we didn’t plan on was the affect their leaving would have on us. Our first year with everyone together, Leah and I took some time off because we didn’t want to be in an empty, quiet house.

The next summer, we made sure to schedule work travel as soon as the kids left because again, we didn’t want to face the quiet.

Now please don’t misunderstand. We love being home and especially when it’s quiet, whether the kids are there or not, but the drastic shift in a home full of family for a month and just us the very next day is extreme.

Oh, and this summer we took off for a cross-country motorcycle trip when? July 1st.

I’m not saying we’ve found the solution, and “running away” is not the answer. But for the sake of honest disclosure, I think there are a few points to help with the dark days of summer.

  1. Accept the fact that there is a high emotion with family time, and a low when they leave.
  2. Commit to not involving the kids in your dread over them leaving.
  3. Prepare positive activities for you and your spouse in and away from the home to help ease into the transition.
  4.  Establish a regular schedule for contact without imposing on the other parent’s time.
  5. Use the time to reconnect with your spouse after an extended period focusing on the kids.


While it’s tempting to fill the emptiness with calls and requests for reports, here’s a few tips to allow the kids to maximize their time at either home.

  • Do avoid drilling the kids about activities with their other parent while talking with them.
  • Do avoid comparing activities or trips they have taken with the other parent.
  • Do avoid going overboard about missing the kids and cause them sadness.
  • Do avoid calling for the kids all of the time and impede on the other parent’s time.
  • Do avoid texting the other parent to give suggestions or instructions for care.
  • Do avoid asking for a daily activity report from the other parent.
  • Do take comfort in knowing that you enjoyed a wonderful time with your child.


Summer is winding down, and we’re looking forward to seeing the kids come August. But we had another summer of making great memories as a family, and we’re ready to tackle a new school year. Don’t wait until next June to start planning.


Child Sacrifice…Confronting the Epidemic

There’s a new type of child sacrifice that’s overwhelming the west. Of course it’s not the real, physical killing of infants and children that occurred in ancient times, however it’s not even the victimization of children through the rampant divorce rates of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Read through to part III to discover the new and influential danger.

I.  Sacrifice to Moloch—Killing Babes in Ancient Times

Can you fathom that humanity once participated in rituals of sacrificing humans, particularly of infants and children, to gods such as one called Moloch? Beyond barbaric!

Details will be spared here, but the point is important for later connection. For those wanting the evidence or dastardly details, please follow the links:



One theme that resonated in the literature is the motive of appeasing gods for preserving or gaining wealth—do we already see a foreshadowing of modern society and its consumerism?

It’s important to note that God’s people were strictly forbidden to participate in this ritual.

Deuteronomy 12:  31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.

Some would say the spirit and practice of worshiping Moloch through killing infants is alive and well today in the astronomical abortion rates, especially since the decision of Roe vs. Wade. I would concur.

II. Sacrificing Children in the 20th and 21st Centuries – Caught In the Middle of Divorce

Despite being a child of divorced parents, and a teacher of elementary students for twenty-four years where many have experienced the same, I don’t claim to have any special training, counselling abilities, or conclusions related to divorce. I just have a lot of observations and anecdotes.

Children from uprooted homes proceed quite well on average, at least outwardly at school. I don’t think our system has ever categorized the instances of aggressive behavior at recesses, or grades in the classroom, for children from broken homes versus intact families.

We preach student perseverance, engagement, and safety as necessary for student success. I am amazed at the level children of divorce cope…and we’re not even talking about children with fetal alcohol syndrome, or fetal drug exposure.

The Three A’s vs. Selfishness and Immaturity

In setting the context of what’s right and wrong for adults, particularly those who choose to become parents, a former pastor of mine and many others teach that abuse, adultery and abandonment (physical or emotional) are sufficient grounds for divorce. It is then apparent that both Christians and non Christians can often be absolved of primary responsibility if a marriage ends.

Other reasons are nearly unforgivable, such as claiming the inconvenience of interdependency, or the feeling of ‘falling out of love’ and being unwilling to work at it.

However, it is vital to note that this site teaches that God can redeem any situation, whether it be divorce due to the 3 A’s or mere selfishness or immaturity. Divorced adults can be forgiven, and learn and become better, more virtuous spouses and parents in the future.

There can be no doubt that, whatever the reason for permanent separation, children from divorced homes experience additional stress, confusion, and emotional and physical upheaval than those from stable homes. It is a real sacrifice they’ve had to deal with at different levels and different durations of time. Some learn from it and become more determined in their marriages and parenthood; others have major baggage and continue the nasty cycle.

III. The Newer Sacrifice of Children

I would present the prevalence of the newer sacrifice of children. It occurs both at the altar of consumerism and the altar of technology. It’s troubling as divorce obviously continues to exist, however, we have compounded issues with parents who are present—present yet absent; parents providing for physical needs, yet negligent.

These are not brand new observations. John Peter Walsh comments on the image we’ve all seen. “Two young children (perhaps 5 and 7 years old) eat their lunches while their parental unit stares at a phone screen for the entire meal without interacting with the kids once.” (Colorado Voices:  Sacrificing kids on altar of technology, (August 7, 2012).

Walsh’s comment: “What I see in these young faces is someone desperate for a parent’s affection and attention. Their eyes plead, “Put down the phone and notice me! Ask about school or my dreams for the future. Tell a funny story, mumble ‘How ’bout those Broncos?’ Just please say something.” (http://www.denverpost.com/2012/08/07/colorado-voices-sacrificing-kids-on-altar-of-technology/)

In Saving Ourselves to Save our Children, Nov. 13, 2014 author Russell Banks laments the dangers of consumerism (https://hds.harvard.edu/news/2014/11/13/saving-ourselves-save-children#),.

According to Banks, an average American child watches an estimated 25,000 to 40,000 television commercials per year. In 2010, around 15 billion dollars was spent by companies advertising strictly to children…

“When a society transforms its children into consumers, making them want, want, want, in order to sell their parents not what the children need but what they have been made to want, it commodifies and monetizes the children. It objectifies them. It dehumanizes them,” Banks explained…

 “We have unknowingly sacrificed our children in order to feed Moloch,” said Banks, describing Moloch—a Levantine god to whom children were sacrificed—as “god of capitalism.”

If we want to save our children from Moloch, he said, “we must first save ourselves.” 

Banks claims the consumerist targeting of young children in America will have a significant impact if we are to have an “afterlife, or immortality.”

Answer for the Epidemic: Rescuing Children and Society

An acquaintance of mine put it into evolutionary terms, saying this is all leading to a significant change in the nature and wiring of children, therefore in humanity, and therefore its impact on society and civilization…all for the worse. (I observe students who are definitely less attentive and far weaker with all categories of memory…however they are still lovable).

As for Banks, it’s interesting to note that he is an atheist yet he talks of immortality. Unfortunately, his idea of immortality is only tied to the continued existence of one’s children, and their children, and so on…so immortality granted only through one’s progeny. However, his work on lost children is very helpful to this discussion.

Obviously, I’m going to differ with both these views. It’s sin that’s changing us and changing our children. One could even emphasize that it’s sin that’s killing us, and killing our children sacrificially. And we are so deluded and deceived by technology and consumerism to recognize it. It has also led to a permissive society with permissive parents (as presented in a previous article here, A Permissive Society Resembled in Permissive Parenting).

Now for the only hope and remedy…and application…

First, from Genesis 22:1-24, some misunderstand God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac (as it almost sounds like the abominable practices of other nations), yet its implications are startling. Yes, this command was given to test Abraham and his faith and obedience, but also so God had the opportunity to stop Abraham before the knife would fall on Isaac, to demonstrate the utter disparity between Himself and the other despicable gods of the nations.

The event was to primarily foreshadow the ultimate and perfect sacrifice of God’s Son Jesus for all humanity…a time where the knife would ultimately and metaphorically fall, and the Son, the God-Man, would not be spared.

John 8:  56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my (Jesus’) day. He saw it and was glad.” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

Jesus couldn’t be spared if God’s plan of salvation for humankind was to proceed. For God knew that humanity would continue to fall into sin, and to worship other gods such as technology and consumerism. He knew we would allow our children to fall into sin and sacrifice them at these pagan altars.

John 3: 16 “For God so loved the world,[i] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Simple application here:  put away the cell phone and other devices. Don’t max out the credit card for stuff for you and your children. Glorify the Lord God in thought, word, and deed. He is the one who saves you from your sins.

Idolatry is ruining a civilization. How much progress have we made from those ancient civilizations? Child sacrifice continues…different methods. We’re setting our children up for a catastrophic downfall…unless there is revival and people choose the Son, and direct their children toward Him.


A Guys Weekend Was That And Much More. But What?

Blended families require work. Lots of work. Sometimes I wonder if the time, communication and arrangements for 5 kids is greater than what it took for 100 employees while I was chief of police. I’ve witnessed police negotiators talk a criminal into surrender quicker than it took to discuss my first weekend outing with the boys.

I’d told Leah earlier in the year that I wanted to do a few overnights with each of the boys. This was something Max and I had always done since he was my biological son, but her boys had never spent time away with me like that. It sounded noble and progressive until reality set in.

I’ll admit, I was a nervous wreck leading up to that moment when I knew she’d not be home to buffer the tight spots. I get along great with the 7 and 9-year-old boys. Of course it required an adjustment period in the beginning, and still some throughout the years, but by and large, we get along pretty good.

Leah continues to play a vital role even in the rough and tumble world of growing boys into men. She’s the balance and always the comforter when play gets too intense or I get too carried away with molding them into men.

But this weekend, Leah and the teen-aged girls left for a women’s conference, leaving us guys on our own. She and I decided a trip would help break the awkwardness of being at home without her or the girls. Me and the two lil’ dudes were heading off to an amazing adventure at Great Wolf Lodge.

But, what would happen once the play was over and bedtime crept around the corner? How about their tuck-in routines, or snack times? I mean, who was going to handle that while Leah was away?

I knew speaking with her was the best way to confront my concerns about being alone in a hotel room with the boys. It’s funny how the seemingly little things can creep into our consciousness to plant seeds of doubt. I’d actually worked myself into a knotted stomach the week prior to leaving.

Yes, my police officers were well-trained, knew their assignments and had a clear policy manual to guide their efforts. Me and the boys were venturing out on uncharted territory. So I knew it would require a constant stream of communications with their mom to ensure a safe, fun and future confidence-building exercise for all.


So just what was this very first guys’ weekend and what did it accomplish?

  • The boys learned they could rely on me for more than just throwing a ball and giving instructions.
  • I learned that in the softer times like sleepiness before bed when their emotions sway from sad to solemn, I could provide the comfort required to get safely to slumber.
  • The boys learned to be independent but that I would be there to make sure they were safe in their adventures throughout the resort.
  • I learned that the boys were actually very self-reliant in their abilities to handle many of the day’s routines and special activities.
  • The boys learned that the same rules at home would apply on the road. Simple tasks like responding verbally when called at home, became helpful once they faded into a fast-moving crowd in an unfamiliar location.
  • I learned that providing more than just rules and discipline helped us all get to know each other on a level deeper than how well they followed instructions.
  • They learned I snore when I sleep.
  • I learned that even a 7-year-old might wet the bed when overtired and not told to use the potty before bed.
  • They learned my concern for their safety was born out of love for them.
  • I learned their love for me was born out of the safety they feel in showing love for me.

Obviously the time together had an impact on all of us. I knew Leah was concerned but not worried. We finished the trip by meeting Leah and the girls at church service before heading home for the rest of the weekend. I knew the time was a successful investment as I listened to their retelling of their times.

Listening for what is not said is as important as what was said. They were silly and happy as they recounted their time at the water park and the quest adventures. They spoke in terms of “we” as opposed to the “doer versus watcher” paradigm often accompanying rigid relationships.

What I ultimately learned was that parenting in a blended environment does require lots of time, communication and arrangements. We’re always going to be dealing with factors unbeknownst to a more traditional nuclear family. By openly communicating these factors and feelings, everyone not only gets to show their humanity, but also their concern for each other.

Will I do another guys’ weekend? Sure, and I’ll make sure Max is in the mix. It’s important that your biological kids get to see you in a scenario with the others to reinforce that your behavior is consistent with not only them but his blended siblings. Of course, I’ll report back after that wild excursion is done.

Lead from the front,



Backseat Blessings From The Eighties

I’ve posted before about the joys and challenges of blended families. Oddly enough one of my biggest hurdles was communicating with our 13 year-old. The thought of time alone scared me to death. I mean really, what do I say to her?

Leah has assured me that the swings from sweet and affectionate to cutting in her comments were completely natural. Having never been around teenaged sisters or daughters, I trusted what my wife said was correct, but didn’t want to test the truths.

Eventually, I realized I couldn’t keep hiding from her. I’d have to face the teen-wrath. Our interactions over the tween year was usually wrought with hurt feelings as she’d say something abrasive, and I’d respond in kind. Of course, I wasn’t juggling youthful emotions, so her reactions to the confrontations weren’t as casual as mine.

I prayed for guidance in relating to her. I really wanted to have a close relationship, but it seemed that avoiding her until the teenaged storm blew over would be my best bet. Of course, that wasn’t a reality, so I continued to pray and stopped trying so hard to “fix it.”

I handed it over to God.

Sunday night, Leah and I were in our prayer time, and I felt God had set on my heart a special meeting would occur this week. We’d be introduced to someone in the course of our spiritual journey. I prayed that we’d be open to this new person, and receive them and their message with an accepting heart.

As life would happen, the 13 year-old became sick. Possibly as a stroke of revenge, I soon fell ill with whatever it was that maligned her. I was stuck in bed until noon most days while I fought the sore throat, aching head and lackluster physical drive. I thought, “So much for that meeting this week.”

Leah and I were able to head out for a meal away from home this week. While I prayed over the meal, God began to show me that I’d had that meeting this week after all. It just wasn’t what and with whom I’d anticipated.

Two nights prior, and because the 13 year-old wasn’t going to school, she joined Leah and I on our ice cream run after the other kids were tucked in for bed. Her mom was staying with us, so she offered to watch over them while we were gone

The 13 year-old wasn’t terrible. She was kind of human and cool. The next night, neither of us were in the mood for ice cream, but were moved to invite the 13 year-old along for another chance at a nice outing.

We had a blast as I handed her my iPhone and she scrolled through my 1980’s era of music. Which by the way, is the greatest era of music in all of music. It clicked. We both sang songs that I’d grown up with and she had recently discovered as cool oldies. I told stories about my younger days as the music brought back wonderful memories.

She was finally able to see that I was once like her. I was finally reminded that she is currently much like I once was. It was the scoops of ice cream and 80’s music that rocked the Jeep as we took our time getting back home. I enjoyed stealing glances of her laughing in the rearview mirror. Her voice in pitch to everything from the Bangles to the Flock of Seagulls.

Then in my prayers today, God replayed the one sentence the 13 year-old shared outside of the musical chorus lines. It was in her words that I understood God had indeed made good on His promise. We had met someone new, who shared a spiritual significance.

God had lifted my burden of anxiety and hesitation in opening myself up to someone who I wasn’t sure how to relate to. He showed me that she needed me in her life, as much as I’ve grown to need her.

From the dimly-lit back seat she shared, “I’m blessed to have parents who understand me.”

Rock On Baby Girl,


5 Tips: Teaching Kids To Do Right


Years ago, I sat in a meeting with a new mayor while interviewing to become the police chief. The interview went great and I knew the position was mine.

Because of the highly political nature of the position, I wanted to make clear that leading the police department was my priority, and not playing an elected official’s surrogate.

“What are your expectations of me as the chief of police.”

His reply sealed the deal, “Do the right thing.”

If I had to ask or he had to explain what the “right thing” was, then this wasn’t the place for me.

But how do we know what is the right thing? God makes it clear that we’re all sinners.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23

We recently addressed an issue with one our kids. We presented the problematic behavior, the offending actions and laid down the consequences. We then built the kid up with encouragement to do good from that point forward, and to do the right thing.

The kid agreed, and left the room with a new lease on the teen-aged years. We high-fived over a problem solved. Or was it?

Doing the right thing is not an intrinsic trait. We’re rebellious by nature. So, in reality, we’d set the kid up for failure.

Here are 5 tips to help our kids to do the right thing.

  1. Engagement – It’s easy to become disconnected from our kids. Our busy schedules, their school and after-school commitments, and the reality that as kids grow older, they seek independence. This results in less time spent with parents. Investing time with them not only allows the kids to witness you doing the right thing, but they get to practice making the decision to do the right thing while seeking approval in your presence.
  2. Boundaries – Doing the right thing requires operating within reasonable limits and expectations. Kids must have a clear understanding of the rules. Too often, the rules are arbitrary and shift based on the parent’s attitude or tolerance. If you expect your kids to do the right thing, you must express it, explain it, and limit it within boundaries that are attainable.
  3. Encouragement – Once you’ve set the rules and boundaries, it’s your duty to help the kid follow them or accomplish the task. It may first require the parent to teach the kid how to do the task, and then integrity checks on their tasks to ensure they’ve chosen to do the right thing. It’s also important for the parents to follow-up on correct actions with supporting words. It takes 30 days to create a life-time habit. Invest 30 days of this process to help mentor the kid’s potential for developing a life pattern for doing the right thing.
  4. Restoration – A great way to teach the child to do the right thing is to have them actively repair or offer restoration for damages done by not doing the right thing. Whether it’s causing emotional hurt or breaking a sibling’s toy, kids must actively participate in fixing the problem they created. Say, “I’m sorry,” is a start but it takes more than words to create an impact of doing the right thing the next time.
  5. Emotional – Kids who have yet to get a grip on their emotions often fail to make the right decision. Help kids to understand and process their emotions. Don’t force kids to suppress feelings. Show them you understand, and that while their emotions are valid, emotions should not control their actions.

These principles apply in both traditional and blended families. First, we must do right, model doing the right thing, teach the right thing, and ensure kids embrace doing what’s right as a lifestyle.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6

Lead from the front,


Raising the Hell Out of Kids



For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. Psalm 51:5 (NLT)

Did you ever ask yourself why you want kids? I know, you’re probably thinking ‘No, but I’m asking myself right now – Why did I think I wanted kids?’ Yeah, people who have children have asked themselves that at least once before their child’s 3rd birthday, right? Those little innocents have the same fallen nature that is in us.  As one version of Psalm 51:5 states it:  “I’ve been out of step with you for a long time,  in the wrong since before I was born.”

But I’m talking about motivation. Did you have the maturity and forethought to ask yourself that question? We do our future offspring and ourselves an injustice when we fail to comprehend how challenging it can be to always be on our game.

To show up

Every day

No matter what

Now, I’m not trying to put you off here.  I have one child. He is 36 years old.If I had to do the children thing again, I absolutely would. But – of course there is a but – I would be better prepared. My son may tell you he too wishes I would have been better prepared but I can’t change the past. What I can do is give you some food for thought.  As we might say here in south Louisiana, ‘So, how ya do dat beb?’

The number one thing I have learned is that kids are tricky. And, that every reasonable adult has the potential to become the crazy, hide the weapons, parent from hell where their kids are concerned.

Including me

We have to know that about ourselves so we can stay out of jail.  And so our precious little devil child does not manipulate us and end up a morally bankrupt adult.

Another thing I’ve learned is that just because kids have been exposed to something does not mean they understand it, know how to do it, or will want to do it.

Take driving for instance…

From the day kids leave a hospital [in America, for the most part] they are exposed to a car or some type of transportation. But when it comes time to drive, they don’t know how. And some places that we have taken them all their lives they are unable to find once they are responsible to get there on their own. We cannot take for granted that they will automatically “get it”. Each child comes with his or her own personality and have to be handled according to their “bend”.


Before I go further with this article, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I should point out the scary and slightly nauseating truth that [you have probably read this somewhere before] we teach what we know but reproduce what we are.

Eek! I know right? Who decided that? So once again, who we are affects more than just ourselves alone. And multiply that times the offspring we are brave enough to bring forth! What are we that we should not be, and what aren’t we that we should be? If we are planning to imprint that on our offspring, do we need to revise ourselves first?

Get on that. Right now.

7-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

25The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. Romans 7:7-25

Wowzers, let me take a minute to process that…maybe you should too.  [Jeopardy! music]

I’m back.

I have watched this happen as well…Parents send their kids to church. Just drop ’em right off. Presto! Change-o! The kids are now God-fearing, law-abiding, movers and shakers of the entire known world, infinity and…

Yeah, about that

It is a mistake to believe that exposure to a church environment alone automatically changes kids. It doesn’t automatically change adults does it?  It only work to the end that we work it. What do I mean by that?

Now this is important. Are you paying attention?

The Spirit does not automatically give people good character. If a person has good character the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of them makes them a good Christian.  That is why as adults we have such struggles after the life altering born again experience. Our character has some aspects that are in direct opposition to God. The same will be with our children if we fail to instill a character in them that is in line with God. We have to do the work of molding their character, from birth. It is our God bequeathed responsibility once we decide to bring them into this world.

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude … I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you … we are in charge of our attitudes.” ~ Charles R Swindoll


Want to know what keeps an attitude in check?

temper-tantrumYep, character does. It’s also a good deterrent to any feelings of entitlement that might cross our minds. We want our children to have so much more than we did, to have it easier, faster, and with zero complications. Because we know life is tough. And we’ve been hurt, knocked around a bit.

But that same struggle is what matures us. When people never have to struggle for what they have and always get results without ever having to do anything, they increasingly lack any depth of character. And are completely unappreciative of what they have. They begin to believe they are owed the best simply because they breath. Their satisfaction is short-lived and their lives are unhappy.

Personal accomplishments build self-confidence and self-efficacy. There is no pouting when there is understanding that in order to move forward one has to put in personal effort. The struggle is what makes us healthy, well-adjusted and happy.

Think about that for a few minutes. I’ll wait.Take your time. Look up all the words in the dictionary. Seriously, I do it all the time. Even though I already know what the words mean. Then tell me it pierced your conscience – you know, just so I don’t feel like I’m the only one.

Okay, let’s move on.

Proverbs 22:6 instructs us to “Train up a child in the way he should go [teaching him to seek God’s wisdom and will for his abilities and talents], Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Whoa! That’s a bold promise. Yes? But have no doubt that the God that issued it, can deliver on it. We have to do the training part, though.

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. 2 Samuel 24:24

Teach Generosity

My niece, who is 8 years old, has been known to give away her shoes [The ones she was currently wearing.], her jewelry [Because someone else wanted it.], her money [She has brought her allowance to school and had to be stopped as she was handing it out $1.00 at a time,  and once gave her brother $10.00 for his birthday because she had two $5.00 bills and that was the same as the one bill she gave him.] and her coloring book [Because another kid asked her for it.]

She is generous. She has to be constantly monitored so no one takes advantage of her.  She has to be protected from herself while at the same time never losing that spirit of generosity. [I also want to say that she rarely goes anywhere that she does not find money in a parking lot. She’s already reaping the reward of that generosity.] That same generosity does not come so easily for her brother. He is a bit more protective of what is his and has to be encouraged to give something that costs him something.

In case you didn’t catch that, we need to teach true generosity. The ultimate giving is the kind that costs us something. Volunteering your time and talents can be the greatest test of true generosity. That kind of giving is a true act of faith and gets the attention of God.

Teach Gratitude

Are you a complainer? Someone who is always dissatisfied or annoyed by e v e r y t h i n g? Do you know the weird thing about perpetually annoyed people? They’re annoying. God let a whole bunch of complainers wander around in a desert until they died. So what if their shoes never wore out, they also never received the best God had for them. They complained it away.


How do you teach gratitude? By being grateful and expressing it. In my very darkest times, I knew that God was with me and that in spite of how bad my situation was, I expressed, out loud, how very good God was to me.

Do that with your children. Ask them what they are thankful for and express what you are thankful for. Everyday. The deeper our gratitude the greater will be our ability to receive. Do you like giving to an ungrateful child?  Neither does God.

Teach Self-Control

Self control, self-discipline, impulse control are slightly different words that travel in the same circle. No matter how we say it this is about the giving over of what we want to do to the demand of what we must do. Feelings are neither right nor wrong, they are just feelings. It’s the action that follows those feelings that determines the course of our lives.


Encourage kids to take on age appropriate activities that build self-discipline: sports, music, outside jobs, pets, scripture memorization, household chores etc.

Teach them to control their anger, to share their toys, to listen when others speak, and to come when you call them [as opposed to hollering “What!” from another room]. These things will also help them to have acceptable social skills. It teaches patience and delayed gratification when you make a child stop what they are doing in order to do something else for someone else.

Proverbs 25:28 likens self-control to a city without walls. In Biblical times, the walls of a city were its protection. What it’s saying here is that no self-control means you are defenseless.

No armor. No buffer. No refuge.

No self-control means we become reactive in situations where we should hold our composure and wait. Impatience is at the root of many bad decisions. Impulse control will always serve our children well throughout their lives. Teach it.

Teach Conflict Resolution

I want to take this space to encourage you to teach your children to overlook an offense.  What is offense? As defined: it is annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult to or disregard for oneself or one’s standards or principles.

Let me point out that it says “perceived insult”. It is true that perception is reality. I see it a lot. People looking to be offended. So many adults struggle in social situations simply because they have never learned how to overlook an offense, how to handle conflict, how to forgive and let something go. Really let it go. Not store it for further use to truly blow something out of proportion down the road.

 A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. ~Proverbs 19:11

A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult. ~Proverbs 12:16

Teach Respect for Authority

Know what I witnessed today? A cool guy in his 30’s walking his mother out to a waiting vehicle. I thought they both were leaving, but no. He opened the passenger door of the vehicle, helped his mother in, shut the door and walked back into the building. And no, she is not elderly. He is respectful. That comes from early training, not some random idea that popped into his head.


I’m freaked out when I witness kids talking smack to their parents. I mean I want to beat ’em and they’re not even talking to me. And let’s be clear, while I don’t tolerate children speaking to me that way, I also treat them with respect – until they give me a reason not to.

Children take their cues from the adults in their lives. If daddy is always belittling momma, junior is going to think he can too. If momma talks trash about the cops or the pastor, guess what, the kids will not have respect for those people either. And before you give me the argument that there are bad cops, teachers,  preachers and every other branch of authority in our lives, let me save you the time.

1 Thessalonians 5:12 says to know them that labor among you. Get to know the good ones, the ones deserving of respect. And for the others, we can respect the office of authority they hold without losing our minds over it. I think we are that mature. And we should teach our children the same.  But let’s put our focus on the good ones and how they got to be the good ones. Better yet, let’s make it our business to become the good ones and to raise the good ones.

Just a little side bar about your pastor – this is legit since I have worked for the clergy since the days of Noah. If you have a difference of opinion with your pastor, [the man God has put over you, the man who has to answer for you to God, yes that man] DO NOT discuss it in front of your children. Because sure as the sun does rise, your little angel darling will get himself in a tough spot and you will go looking for the wise counsel of your pastor to help the LAD. But because you cooked & served the pastor as dining conversation in your child’s hearing, your child will have no respect for anything the pastor can bring to the situation to help your child. This is a by-product of hypocrisy in high form.

Teach them to be polite. Are you polite? Do you realize this is a form of respect? I know it may seem old school. But it’s not. It’s timeless. Politeness is about placing value on others. Value that is not earned. How we treat those who can give us nothing in return says a lot about valuing people simply because.

Set their boundaries early on and decide the consequences that will occur when they put their grubby little toe over the line. And they will test that boundary. It’s human nature. Now here comes the hard part.

Follow through with the consequence.

Every time.

Kids need to feel secure in where the lines are, not confused because the lines keep moving. Any sentence that contains ‘if you’ and ‘I will’ should not be a threat. It should be an absolute. Does this mean that you can never give them mercy? No, but make sure you are giving mercy and not just failing to follow through because you don’t feel like parenting that day.

I get it. I really do. Sometimes we view the chaos with dismay because we realize it needs adult intervention and we look around for an adult-er adult and realize we’re the adultist adult available. And regardless of how adult we feel we still have the parent position so…

Teach a Lifestyle of Following Jesus

You were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense. ~ Rick Warren

The best thing that ever happened to me as an adult was giving my life to Christ. This is good sound advice: Don’t try to navigate this life without God guiding you. It will be the biggest and most costly mistake you ever make. See, God has promises for you and your children. He is a good, good Father. The best.train-up-a-child-in-the-way-he-should-go-but-be-sure-you-go-that-way-yourself-charles-spurgeon1

Can our children take a wrong turn in spite of a good upbringing and all the ‘teaches’ we teach them? Yep.


We all have had or will have some measure of ‘hell’ happen with our children and to our children. Because of this, seek out the One constant you can count on to steady you and guide your parenting. He is the best investment of self you will ever make.

Let me tell you a true story. It’s my story.

I had the traditional two parent home. We never went without food, shelter, or clothing. All the things that should give security, right? But what I also had was a father that was verbally and emotionally abusive. And if he was drunk, he was worse. Was he an alcoholic? No, probably not. We are from south Louisiana. This is part of the culture and lifestyle here. My dad was very smart and was well-respected in our community. He was very strict and expected [and demanded] perfectionism. My sister and I weren’t allowed to cry and if we hurt ourselves playing, as kids do, we were terrified of his reaction.

I had no emotional security, which is far more valuable than a lifetime supply of material security. I know. I have lived it.

Seek to cultivate a healthy parent-child relationship with your children.  You are going to need it if you want them to follow you as you lead them. Speaking from the viewpoint of a rebel I can attest that the following quote is true. Rules without relationships lead to rebellion. ~ Josh McDowell

Do I have any good memories of my childhood? Sure. I also had to overcome a lot of emotional baggage. The thing that saddens me, makes me feel odd, is that I don’t miss him. He died when I was 15 and I don’t miss him. I don’t hate him, I just rarely think of him without prompting.

Now there are many positives to being raised by someone who demands perfection. An extremely good work ethic for one and for another being the kind of person that will do what needs doing, no matter what.

Suppressed emotions, shame, unhealthy boundaries and difficulty receiving criticism OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwithout falling apart are, unfortunately, some of the not so positive aspects of being raised with the demand for perfection.

You know, I had this list in my head of things I was never going to do to my child. And I never did those things. And while I don’t miss my dad, I have forgiven him. Know how I was able to do that? It was because though I never made the mistakes with my child that I think my father made raising me, I made mistakes of my own. Different ones from those my father made with me. It made me see how easy it was to make mistakes raising kids.

So I forgive him. He was human.

Count on God to make the difference with this thing we call parenting. He will not let you down.

There is so much information out there on this subject, it is a bit overwhelming. I like this 7 point checklist by  Thomas Lickona. It can be useful as a marker to instill boundaries of character.

  1. The Golden Rule (reversibility) test: Would I want people to do this to me?
  2. The what-if-everybody-did-this test: Would I like it if everyone else acted this way?
  3. The parents test: How would my parents feel if they found out I did this?
  4. The religion test: Does this go against what my religious faith teaches? [I refer to this one as the God test. More along the lines of Does this go against what the Bible says?]
  5. The conscience test: Will I feel guilty afterwards?
  6. The consequences test: Might this have bad consequences, now or in the future?
  7. The front-page test: How would I feel if my action were reported on the front page of my hometown paper?


I will close this with some questions. What are your thoughts on parenting? If you have kids now, are those thoughts of parenting the same as before you had kids? Do you have a “do this” list? Or how about a “stop doing this” list? 

Cher Stein

Travel Mercies

Our seventeen-year-old son flew to France a week ago. He’s gone for three months on a high school exchange program.

We hosted his wonderful French partner last fall from August to November. We’re surprisingly at peace with our son’s excursion.

It’s partly because it’s obvious that his host family are warm and kind. It’s also due to his older sister’s successful exchange to France three years ago. It’s mostly due to trusting the Lord for his wellbeing.

It’s amazing the travels our children have already enjoyed. When I was a boy, I didn’t step outside the province of Ontario until my early twenties (except for a weekend hockey trip to Michigan…hockey was usually the culprit for keeping me close to home).

Our kids have flown to California, ridden to Florida, traveled to El Salvador on mission trips, and annually conquer a road trip to Boston. As a family, we traveled to Armenia, which included exploring much of France, a guided tour of Italy, and short touchdowns in Germany, Switzerland, and Luxembourg.

The opportunities seem endless. More and better opportunities for youth abound, and global travel is as natural as short local road trips once were.

The snowball or chain effect is heavy. Educational opportunities and choices are enhanced, technological developments are rapid, and economic ties are closer.

We shouldn’t take these advancements for granted. In general, progress has pros and cons. There were also great benefits and drawbacks to simpler times. In the end, progress comes with a price, yet it’s what civilization seeks.

We certainly should be thankful for some of the benefits of progress. Changes in recreation, leisure, transportation, labor, etc. are obvious.

However, as you participate in these great changes and reap some of the rewards, know that you are participating in the fulfillment of prophetic words, spoken in approximately 165 B.C. From the Old Testament, Daniel chapter 12:

“But Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal it up so that it will not be understood until the end times, when travel and education shall be vastly increased!” (The Living Bible)

Being a paraphrase rather than translation, The Living Bible can be somewhat controversial, but we can glean the same prediction in historically reliable translations:

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. (King James Version)

We won’t examine the prophecy itself from verses 1-3. As for the end times reference, all we’ll say here is that it’s not referring to some apocalyptic destruction of the earth. From a Christian perspective, it’s a very positive occurrence, marking the return of the Lord Jesus to restore earth to its perfect state.

For our purposes, the most incredible reference is the prediction of a time of remarkable progress, in travel and knowledge. Can we not see ourselves and our time in it?

The Boston Commons High Tech Network details how R. Buckminster Fuller’s Knowledge Doubling Curve, which he introduced in 1982, shows that knowledge only doubled approximately every century up until 1900, then every twenty-five years by the end of WWII. Now it’s doubling every twelve months, possibly on its way to every twelve hours.[i]

In the world of transportation, advancements were slow for millennia. Not until the advent of the train did we witness much movement in land travel.

The automobile took that to another level. Now we observe the eightfold increase in air passenger flights over the last four decades.[ii]


The fact is we’re living in the rapidly changing world of knowledge and travel increase—to exponential degrees. This was predicted over two thousand years ago.

An important application is to pray for travel mercies and physical safety.[iii] This is something we do as a family before leaving home. Another is to pray for strength to navigate a rapidly changing world. Befriend and be mentored by others who have taken the journey with some success—faithful ones who have taken detours and experienced turbulence, only to be returned to the narrow and safe way by the Master. Luke 8:

22 Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.” And they launched out. 23 But as they sailed He fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy. 24 And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”

Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 But He said to them, “Where is your faith?”

And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!”

[i] http://bostoncommons.net/knowledge-doubling/

[ii] http://www.bitsofscience.org/graph-global-air-travel-increase-6848/

[iii]  “The phrase “traveling mercies” goes back at least as far as the late nineteenth century when travel was far more perilous than today. Letters from missionaries report that the Lord provided traveling mercies as they traveled to their ministry destination. The earliest known use in a context outside of missions appears in the 1956 book They Shall Not March Alone. There, a chaplain prayed for traveling mercies on behalf of a soldier.” (https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B160125/traveling-mercies)