Tag Archive | Family

Man Of God: Seek To Be The Spiritual Leader! 28-9

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7 Tips to Teach Your Children to Love and Use the Bible 28-8

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The One Thing Husbands Need to Know About Their Wives 28-6

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The Recipe For Leadership 28-4

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We Need Each Other – The Need For Brotherly Love


TEXT: JOHN 13:34-35



1. Madolyn Murray O’Hare once said: “The Christian army is the only army in the world that kills its’ wounded .”



2. Romans 8:14 – “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”


a. I Peter 2:9 – “A royal priesthood ” = ROYAL BLOOD FLOWING THROUGH THEIR VEINS.



EXAMPLE: Moses at Rephidim – Aaron and Hur held his hands up for victory.


1. A male person having the same parents, same bloodline, and same sur-name.

1. Mother= The Church

2. Father= God


1. Can be traced back to Calvary (1 PT 2:9)

1. We all have the same name – JESUS!



– Terry, Randy, & Lloyd Kelly

– Angie, me, & Wally James





1. Romans 12:9

2. Colossians 3:14

3. I Thessalonians 4:9

4. I Timothy 1:5

5. Hebrews 13:1

6. I Peter 1:22

7. I John 2:7





1. 6% based on the man in the pulpit & his ministry.

2. 14% based on the building – looks & comfort.


– Make yourself a brother to another and you will find that in so doing you have made that other a brother to you.

– I went out to find a brother, but could not find one there;

I went out to be a brother, and brothers were everywhere.

– He who helps another get his boat to the other side, happily discovers that in so doing he has also made it to the distant shore.





– Obeying their orders, they fought on the front line for our king, capturing the enemies stronghold

– Weakened from battle, Satan in to take their lives – DON’T LET ANOTHER WOUNDED SOLDIER DIE.

– Come let us pour the oil, come let us bind the hurt, let’s cover them with the blanket of His love.

– Come let us break the bread, come let us give them rest – DON’T LET ANOTHER WOUNDED SOLDIER DIE.




1. Very loving

2. Respond to love more than harsh correction

3. Very up-beat; Positive

4. Very loyal – Do anything to please you

1. 100 yard dash – (trained for months)

– As they ran this race, striving to be #1, one of the runners fell on his face.
* One by one they noticed he had fallen.

* One by one they stop & turned to look.

* One by one they went back to the fallen one and helped him up, and together they all crossed the finish line ARM IN ARM!








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10 Ways to Tell Your Kids You Are Proud of Them

10 Ways to Tell Your Kids You Are Proud of Them
Jackie Bledsoe

Each month, my kids and I have breakfast with a group of other dads and their kids. As each dad takes his turn going around the table speaking about their kids and what they’re proud of, I watch their kids. They perk up, their eyes wide open in anticipation, as their dad shares why he’s proud. Their reactions are priceless and my kids have the exact same response.
The “pride exercise” is the highlight of each breakfast, and one of the foundational pieces at each monthly All Pro Dad’s Day Breakfasts. Every single dad and kid at the breakfasts love it. But part of me wonders, as great as this exercise is, how often we do this when we are not at an All Pro Dad’s Day breakfast. Do we let our kids know that we are proud of them enough?
If we only do it once a month, then the answer is no.
We may want to, but sometimes the busyness of life works against us and we don’t realize we could encourage our kids more. How great would it be if we did the pride exercise on a regular basis.
Here are 10 ways to say, “I am proud of you”:
1. “You did a great job cleaning your room!”
2. “That was hard work, but you finished the job!”
3. “You are an amazing brother/sister!”
4. “You’re showing great leadership (at school, on your team.
5. “It makes me proud to say ‘that’s my son/daughter!'”
6. “You must be the fastest kid on your team!”
7. “You’re a really a great reader.”
8. “How did you know that answer? That’s amazing. You are so smart!”
9. “You are very mature for a -year-old kid.”
10. “That was a tough situation, but you handled it like a champ!”
One of the best ways to let your kids know you are proud of them more often is to intentionally catch them doing something good. When they play sports, look for the good.
When they are practicing an instrument, find their improvement. When they interact with their siblings or friends, be on the lookout. The more we search for something, the more likely we’ll find it.
Look for reasons to say, “I am proud of you …” to your kids and follow through on it.
Jackie Bledsoe is an author, blogger and speaker. But first and foremost, he is a husband and father of three who helps men better led and love the ones who matter most.
From: www.allprodad.com web site. September 2015.

The above article, “10 Ways to Tell Your Kids You Are Proud of Them” was written by Jackie Bledsoe. The article was excerpted from www.allprodad.com.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”

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Dollars and Sense: Teaching Children to Handle Money

In the early 1700s, two men developed distinct reputations for themselves–one was Jonathan Edwards, a man of integrity, refinement and Christian character and the other was Max Duke, a well-known criminal. During the last two hundred years, their descendants have been traced. In Jonathan Edward’s line of descendants are 13 college presidents, 200 preachers, 60 prominent leaders, 90 physicians, 32 authors, 6 professors and 300 farmers. On the other hand, Max Duke’s descendants include 90 prostitutes, 100 criminals, 145 confirmed drunkards, 300 delinquents and 285 who contracted various evil social diseases.

The point is this: As parents, we are models for our children and grandchildren, and we have a choice. We can be good models or bad models, and the type of models we are will affect future generations. Dr. Howard Hendricks, of Dallas Theological Seminary, has repeatedly stated that “more is caught than taught.”

Where and how we spend money is largely a function of where and how our parents spent money. The same can be said for our children. We don’t have to say a thing to our children to pass on to the decisions, priorities, commitments and habits.

As a consequence of seeing behavior modeled, children will either model that behavior exactly or react to it and behave in just the opposite way. Their reasons for doing so are many.

For example, perhaps your father always bought a new car every year; chances are you will do the same. Or perhaps your parents paid cash for everything; you, as a consequence, may find it difficult to use credit cards. Perhaps your parents always ate a Sunday meal out; you may do the same. It may even be that you shop at the same stores that they have always shopped at.

It may be that you were always forced to wear second-hand clothes or clothes purchased from a discount store when you were younger; as an adult, you determined that never again would have anything other than new clothes, and that your wardrobe would always represent the latest in fashion. It may be a need for recognition, an improved self-image or even a rebellious reason for reacting in just the opposite way that the example was set.

Because we are models, there are four implications for us: First, we must examine ourselves to see what we model. Second, it is essential to have unity between a husband and a wife regarding goals, priorities, and decisions; disagreements on one or several points can send mixed signals to children. Inconsistency can be confusing to them and can have disastrous consequences. Third, because a husband and a wife have different roles in the marriage relationship and in the decision-making process in a family, it is important that each of us understands and has well-defined roles. On the other hand, single parents will need to play both roles. Fourth, because of the long-term nature of training and its importance, we need to have a training plan in order to pass on to our children what we want to pass on.

The Need to Examine Yourself

The beginning point of developing a training plan for your children is doing a self-inventory. Below are some questions that you need to answer to determine how ready you are to begin passing on to your children principles and practices of personal money management.

1. Do you have financial goals for the next year, five years and beyond?

2. Do you have a spending plan for the next 12 months?

3. Do you have a plan to pay off your debt? Do you know the amount of your debt?

4. What would happen to your family financially if you lost your job or income?

5. Are you tithing?

6. Do you ever spend impulsively?

7. What does your lifestyle communicate regarding your value system?

8. Are you saving and investing for the future?

9. Do you have a will?

10. Is the “breadwinner” of the family adequately insured to provide for his family in the event of his death?

11. Do you and your spouse ever disagree regarding money matters?

12. If someone did not know you and had a copy of your checkbook for the last 10 years, what story could be written about your life?

Obviously, these are very penetrating and perhaps even convicting questions. Even though you may not have been able to answer them all to your satisfaction, you at least know what you must begin to work on. Once you have put your own financial house in order, you are ready to focus your attention on teaching your children to handle money.

The Elements of Your Training Plan

Every day we make plans–some long-term and some short-term. Those plans can be formal or informal. The formal plans tend to focus on the more important activities of life, such as planning for retirement, college or a new home. Less formal plans include planning for a vacation, a garden, a weekend’s activities, redecorating the home and so on.

The more formal plans tend to be more long-term and more significant, and they require you to give a great deal of forethought to them. The training of children in managing money is a very difficult and long-term task; therefore, you need some type of formal plan for that training process. It does not necessarily have to be written, but you certainly need to think it through. A plan is really nothing more than premade decisions. Then when a decision point comes up, you will have a plan from which to operate. This eliminates conflict and anxiety between you and your children. It also eliminates impulsive decisions that could be wrong.

The more formal a plan, such as blueprints for a home, the more likely there is to be clear and effective communication between the parties discussing the plan. Therefore, if you have formalized a training plan, you have a tool for enhancing communication with your children.

Once decisions have been made and communicated effectively to children, most of the reason for conflict has disappeared. Expectations and reality are becoming one in the process. Conflict occurs when reality does not meet expectations. A formal plan for training, communicated to children, gives them the security of knowing where the boundaries are and what their expectations should be.

For example, if the expectation by a child is a new car at age 16, and the parents had never planned that then at age 16 the child is very likely to be disappointed, hurt or angry, regardless of what his parents give him for the birthday. Or it may be that the child expects her parents to buy all her clothes through high school and finds out at age 16 that the parents had no plans to buy her clothes once she was old enough to work. Again, expectations and reality do not agree and, therefore, there is apt to be miscommunication at the very least.

In addition to establishing boundaries, the plan gives parents and children the track they are going to run on for many years. For instance, we have communicated to our children what financial assistance they can expect from us after they are married. This is just a further extension of our money management training, yet it gives us a communication tool and the track that we, as a couple, will run on in our own financial life. Through prayer and planning, we have predetermined what our children can expect of us instead of letting them be the ones to tell us what they expect. That is what a formal training plan is all about.

The Requirement

I am often asked, “How long did it take you to write your book, Master Your Money?” My response is always, “Twenty years.” Even though the actual writing process required no more than six months, it took 20 years to acquire the experience and wisdom to be able to have anything at all to say.

In reflecting on what it took to gain that knowledge, I realize that most of what I learned came from the mistakes I made and my willingness to learn from them. Not only does wisdom take time to acquire, but it costs something in terms of the mistakes that are made. Training children is a similar process in that it requires a long period of time and many mistakes will be made.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go… and when he is old he will not depart from it. ” There are two key words in this verse–train and old.

Children must be taught what they should and shouldn’t do. However, they are not fully trained until they, of their own free will, choose to do what they should do. Children can be taught to make their beds, but they haven’t been trained to make their beds until they make them correctly and voluntarily, with no nagging or demand that they do so. Obviously, training is a long-term process, and parents often wonder if it will ever be accomplished.

Old in this verse refers to the age of puberty. Therefore, the Scripture indicates that children will be trained by the time they reach the early teens. That means that the training process must begin fairly early in each child’s life and it must end fairly early. There are not a lot of parents can do to shape the will of children once they reach the early teen years. Then they have to make their own choices, and sometimes a long, painful battle between them and the Lord occurs as they make use of their ability to choose.

Peter Lord, the pastor of the Park Avenue Baptist Church in Titusville, Fla., has been quoted as saying, “A person is not disciplined until God has control of his pocketbook.” We would agree with this statement. Undoubtedly, this is why our Lord had so much to say about money in His parables and teaching, not because He was concerned about our money management per se, but because money management is a reflection of spirituality.

If we look at how Jesus taught His disciples, we can learn four principles regarding training children in all areas, including money management. The principles are these:

1. They must experience what is being taught.

2. They must have an opportunity to fail.

3. They must have feedback.

4. They must have rewards.

Jesus sent out His disciples on their own to experience what He had been teaching and modeling for them, the preaching of the gospel of repentance.

Because the disciples were on their own, they had the opportunity to fail. It is not recorded that they did fail, but undoubtedly they were not 100 percent successful in their preaching and witnessing.

Immediately upon their return to Jesus, He took them aside to hear what had happened, and undoubtedly to give them instructions as to what could have been done differently? Take a look at Mark 10:28-30. In this passage, Jesus assures the disciples that because they have left all and followed Him they can expect to receive rewards.

From these verses and others (such as the parables found in the books of Matthew and Luke), we see how Jesus used the four principles in training His disciples. These four principles can be applied to training children about money management.


It is easy to tell your children that they should tithe, save and spend wisely. But until they experience the joy of tithing, the rewards of having saved for a major purchase, and the thrill of seeing how much money they have saved by spending wisely, you can tell them all day long and it will mean nothing. The training process, then, must give them an opportunity to experience what you are attempting to teach them. Only by allowing them to experience what you are telling them will it become theirs. It is at this point that training has occurred.

Opportunity to Fail

Failure is a part of life. The issue is not whether children will fail, but how they will respond to failure. The best time for them to fail is while they are young, and parents are available to counsel them. (Notice we said “counsel,” not criticize. “) Probably the biggest mistake that parents make in training children to manage money is not giving them the freedom to fail. Parents either make decisions for them or are so critical of their decisions that children quickly learn not to risk anything on their own.

To be unable to deal with failure in any aspect of life is to be crippled. Christians, of all persons, should be able and willing to deal with failure because, in the very act of becoming Christ’s followers, we have admitted our failure to live up to God’s law. Children must be given an opportunity to fail so that they can learn to cope with failure and not be devastated by it.


While Jesus was training His disciples, it is often said of Him, “and He took them aside.” He gave them explanations about what they did well and what they did wrong. His explanation or feedback was, in most cases, immediate and uncritical. Rarely did the disciples become defensive when they were taught by our Lord, and yet He was clear and direct in offering insight to them.

According to the Nationwide Survey of 1986 conducted by the Rand
Youth Poll, 71 percent of teenagers consider themselves to be “wasteful” shoppers. If they consider themselves wasteful, I would interpret that as a cry for feedback on their decisions and behaviors. If we, as parents, do not give them that help, no one else will.

When giving feedback, parents have the opportunity to point out acceptable options to children. Saying, “This is the only way to do it,” is much less effective than saying, “This is a way to do it.”

Most of the decisions made regarding the spending of money reflect differences in judgments and values. Many of them have nothing to do with absolutes. For example, our three daughters differ from one another in their choice of clothing, and they certainly differ from their mother in that regard. It is OK for her to give her opinion when they are shopping, but she must communicate it as an opinion reflecting her judgment and values, not as an absolute. She may not fall in love with that dress one girl just has to have; she may even think it’s not a flattering choice. But that doesn’t make the selection of the dress morally wrong.

It is imperative for you to know where to draw the line. Knowing where to draw the line comes from having predetermined what you want to teach your children, morally, socially, financially and spiritually. The issue is not an absolute so far as the line is concerned, but you must know what that line is. Once the line has been determined, circumstances should not change the boundaries. Circumstances can, however, change what goes on within the boundaries.

This is especially important when it comes to spending money. In the area of spending money, rarely is that line one of an absolute. So be careful about the feedback that you give your children in terms of something being absolutely right or wrong. Continue to provide feedback, however, because they have no other source that has their best interests at heart.


Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many man signs; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you ” (John 14:2). If we, as Christians, are not motivated by obedience and commitment by that promise, we really don’t understand it.

Jesus used the promise of rewards and the promise of lost rewards as a form of motivation for His disciples and, consequently, for us as believers. Rewards are biblical, they are motivational and they provide a source of feedback.

For these reasons, rewards are necessary in the training process. We have given many types of rewards to our children throughout the years, including money. We are cautious about this, however, because money can easily become a form of bribery. A bribe involves using money, or some other promise, to manipulate behavior for your own benefit. A reward is a promise to be received as a matter of choice by the person to whom it is offered. You may have a desire as to what you would like your children to do, but it is their choice whether they act according to the terms you set in order to receive the reward

Bruce Wilkinson, president of Walk Through the Bible Ministries, has said, “The fear of loss of a reward is a greater motivator than the promise of a receipt of a reward.” One of the training techniques we have used is giving the reward ahead of time, but taking it away if the desired behavior is not followed. For example, we were having trouble with the children being critical of one another, especially at dinnertime. After giving the matter some thought, we gave each of them a jar containing $10 worth of quarters. Then we told them that for the next 30 days, anytime we heard a criticism we would remove a quarter from the jar of the child who made the remark, with no questions asked. We made it clear that they could have the quarters remaining at the end of that period. It did not take more than two days for the criticism to stop.

God Owns It All

The foundation of your training program must rest on one important truth: God owns it all. Haggai 2:8 records God’s words: “The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine. ” Psalm 24:1 declares, “The earth is the Lord ‘s, and all its fullness. . . The world and those who dwell therein.” In the parable of the talents, Jesus said, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them ” (Matthew 25:14). Any reading of the Scriptures will lead you to the inescapable conclusion that all resources come from and belong to God.

This is our definition of stewardship: “The use of God-given resources for the accomplishment of God-given goals.” The implication of this definition is that a steward is a manager, not an owner. An owner has all the rights; a steward has only responsibilities.

If you truly believe that God owns it all, there are three implications of this belief. First of all, He can take whatever He wants. Second, every spending decision is a spiritual decision. Third, stewardship cannot be faked.

God Can Take What He Wants

If God can take whatever He wants whenever He wants, you should hold all resources with an open hand. God puts into your hand whatever He chooses to entrust you with, and He has the right to take out of that hand whatever He desires. When He takes anything out, you, as a steward and manager of His resources should heed the wisdom of these words: ”The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. . . Blessed be the name of the Lord ” (Job 1:21).

Spending Decisions Equal Spiritual Decisions

The second implication of believing that God owns it all is that every spending decision is a spiritual decision. In other words, there is nothing more spiritual about tithing than paying for a vacation. Why? Because tithing is the use of God’s resources to accomplish God’s purposes. We are not saying, “Don’t tithe. ” Just consider what is the real goal of God’s plans and purposes for your life and the lives of your family members. It may be to build family unity, and a vacation is a way to build that unity.

Money is nothing more than one of the resources to be used to accomplish the real goals and objectives of life! For example, one real goal is security. But the only real security is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Money cannot buy this, and any attempt to use money to buy security will ultimately fail. God will cause it to fail, so you must trust Him for your security both now and for all eternity. God wants you to be secure in Him.

Stewardship Cannot Be Faked

The third implication of believing that God owns it all is that stewardship cannot be faked. Your checkbook reveals the spending decisions you have made. It tells how you choose to use God’s resources. Your checkbook reveals the priorities in your life. It reveals facts such as how you manage your life. It also reveals how you manage your time, what size family you have, where you live, how much debt you have, how much you are allocating to savings and investments, how you dress and so on.

Every other area, except the financial one, of the Christian life can be faked if you really want to. A person need only be a Christian for a short time to know how to pray, how to witness, where to go to church or how to study the Bible. These can be done with others not knowing the person’s real motive.

The checkbook, however, reveals the actual commitment to the use of God’s resources to accomplish God’s purposes. I sometimes wonder if, when we get to heaven, all our check registers will have proceeded us so that we can spend time in eternity reviewing how we used or abused His resources.

Modeling Good Stewardship

To train your children that God owns it all, you must begin by modeling that attitude. Model prayerful financial decision making. Model an attitude that says, “I am responsible to handle God’s resources because they do not belong to me, and He has all the rights.” Show your children that you control financial resources instead of being controlled by them. In other words, illustrate your freedom in
the area of money and money management.

Probably the most significant way to model the truth that God owns it all is to model freedom in the area of tithing and giving. Anyone who truly believes that God owns it all will freely give, with the tithe being merely the beginning point of giving.

One way to do this is to have family times when giving decisions are made. Periodically, we sit down with our children and evaluate the requests for funds that we have received. We make decisions about particular needs and how much to give to them. We have found that in most cases our children are much more likely to give, even out of their own resources, than we are.

Do you reflect an attitude of stewardship with all that you possess? The best test is to think about how you treat the financial resources and all the other resources–home, clothes, cars, time and so on–God has entrusted to you. Do you communicate a willingness to give on a regular basis, to give at special times and to give when a need is known?

Here is a challenge we hope you and your family will accept:

1) If you have never done so, commit to the Lord to give up the ownership of His resources. That ownership may be in the area of money, but it also may be your home, time or other resources God has entrusted to you. Prayerfully return those resources to Him just as if He were a “depositor” in your bank, you were the banker, and He asked to see His resources.

2) In obedience to the Scriptures, give regularly as God has prospered you. First Corinthians 16:2 says, “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. ” This will communicate more than words the truth that you believe God owns it all, and your children, in turn, will catch that truth.

3) As you are confronted with the needs of the poor, the homeless, the missionaries, the church and so on, play some part in meeting those needs. Remember that may be the very reason God has entrusted some of His resources to you. You are to be a channel to meet the needs of others.

4) When your children are very young, require them to tithe so that tithing and giving become habitual. If that is done on a weekly basis, 52 times a year, they must, subconsciously at least, recognize that they are returning to God a portion of what He has entrusted to them.

Teaching Children Financial Maturity

Let’s take a look at one final principle that you should teach your family: the principle of financial maturity (or delayed gratification).

There are several ways that this can be done. Judy and I have found that one effective way is to require them to have a savings account. A portion of all money that they receive, from whatever source, goes into a savings account. But here is a critical point:

We allow them to make withdrawals from the account. They may dip into their savings for major purchases such as a dress for a special occasion, a trip, a tennis racquet, a bicycle, a stereo or some other item they desire. They quickly learn the thrill of being able to acquire something they would really like to have by saving for it, not by receiving a handout. In other words, they learn about delayed gratification.

If we require them to make major purchases out of their savings account, they also quickly learn about limited resources. If their funds are depleted, they can’t buy something they may really want. A few disappointments like that go a long way in teaching wisdom in spending.

We have them open a savings account that pays interest, and then on a quarterly, semiannual or annual basis, we sit down with them and show them how much interest has been earned. We explain that they did not work for that interest–they allowed the money to work for them. It is incredible how quickly they begin to understand the magic of compounding when they realize that interest earns interest.

We also attempt to teach our children financial maturity by illustrating other ways to benefit from the magic of compounding. When Cynthia, our oldest, was beginning to babysit to earn money, I pointed out to her that if she earned $20 a week for 26 weeks, over a five-year period she would have earned $2,600. At that time she would have been 17 years old. If she left that $2,600 to accumulate in an account earning 12.5 percent compounded annually, until she retired at age 65, 48 years later, her $20 a week would have grown to $741,812.98. If she chose to earn $40 a week, rather than $20 a week, for the same 26-week period over five years, her babysitting would pay off 48 years later to the tune of $1,483,625.95.

It was merely an illustration, but I remember it was mind-boggling to her to realize the magic of compounding. I was quick to point out, however, that if she spent the $20 a week she earned, her real cost of spending the money was $741,812.98.

This principle of delayed gratification may be the most difficult of all to teach your children because there is no support in our world system for it. However, it is biblical, and it is the truth. It will work if they apply it.

You must teach your children to be financially mature. It is essential not only for their own satisfaction and peace of mind but also for their spiritual well-being. God will not reward those who desire and are motivated by, instant gratification.

Some Final Thoughts

Is it worth it? Should you spend the time and effort to teach your children to handle money properly? The answer, I believe, is found in looking at the rewards.

You can expect to stand before the Lord someday and receive the rewards for what you have done. I believe that if you have trained your children to act as responsible and godly adults, you can expect to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord ” (Matthew 25:21).

I also believe that when you enter into this training process, you will eliminate the conflict with children over money and money matters. That alone is sufficient reward for many parents to make the commitment required.

Lastly, you can expect to see your children, even in their preteen years, begin to make sound financial decisions. Good decisions about what clothes to wear, how to spend their extra money, tithing, saving and planning for the future are reasonable expectations when children have been trained in the way they should go.

Count the costs, but the costs are nothing compared to the rewards. Your challenge is to commit by faith to pay the price to train your children in the way they should go. When they get old, they will not depart from it, and you will rejoice as you see them “walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him ” (Colossians 1:10).

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The Scourge of Sibling Rivalry

If American parents were asked to indicate the most irritating feature of child-rearing, I’m convinced that sibling rivalry would get their unanimous vote. Children are not content just to hate each other in private. They attack one another like miniature warriors, mobilizing their troops and probing for weakness in the defensive line.

I know one child who so deeply resented being sick with a cold while his older sibling was healthy, that he secretly blew his nose on the mouthpiece of his brother’s musical instrument! The biggest loser from such combat is the harassed mother or father who must listen to the noise of the battlefield and then try to patch up the wounded.

Columnist Ann Landers recently asked her readers to respond to the question, “If you had known then what you know now, would you have had children?” Among 10,000 responding women, 70 percent said no! A subsequent survey by Good Housekeeping posed the same question, and 95 percent of the respondents answered yes. It is impossible to explain the contradictory results from these two inquiries, although the accompanying comments were enlightening. One unidentified woman wrote, “Would I have children again? A thousand times, NO! My children have completely destroyed my life, marriage, and identity as a person. There are no joys. Prayers don’t help–nothing stops a screaming kid.”

You Can Keep Peace in Your Home

It is my contention that something will stop a screaming kid or even a dozen of them. It is not necessary (or healthy) to allow children to destroy each other and make life miserable for the adults around them. Sibling rivalry is difficult to “cure” but it can certainly be treated. Toward that objective, let me offer three suggestions that should be helpful in achieving a state of armistice at home:

(1) Don’t inflame the natural jealousy of children. Sibling rivalry is not new. It was responsible for the first murder on record when Cain killed Abel. Since then, it has been represented in virtually every two-child family. The underlying source of this conflict emanates from old-fashioned jealousy and competition between children. Marguerite and Willard Beecher, writing in their book, Parents on the Run, expressed the inevitability of this struggle:

“It was once believed that if parents would explain to a child that he was having a little brother or sister, he would not resent it. He was told that his parents had enjoyed him so much that they wanted to increase their happiness. This was supposed to avoid jealous competition and rivalry. It did not work. Why should it?

“Needless to say, if a man tells his wife he has loved her so much that he now plans to bring another wife into the home to ‘increase his happiness,’ she would not be immune to jealousy. On the contrary, the fight would just begin–in exactly the same fashion as it does with children.”

If jealousy is so common, then, how can parents minimize the natural antagonism that children feel for their siblings? The first step is to avoid circumstances which compare them unfavorably with each other. Lecturer Bill Gothard has stated that the root of all feelings of inferiority in comparison. I agree. The question is not, “How am I doing?” It is, “How am I doing compared with John or Steven or Marion?” The issue is not how fast can I run, but who crosses the finish line first. A boy does not care how tall he is; he is vitally interested in “who is tallest.” Each child systematically measures himself against his peers and is tremendously sensitive to failure within his own family. Accordingly, parents should guard against comparative statements which routinely favor one child over another. This is particularly true in three areas.

First, children are extremely sensitive about their physical characteristics. It is highly inflammatory to commend one child at the expense of the other. Suppose, for example, that Sharon is permitted to hear the casual remark about her sister, “Betty is sure going to be a gorgeous girl.” The very fact that Sharon was not mentioned will probably establish the two girls as rivals. If there is a significant difference in beauty between the two, you can be assured that Sharon has already concluded, “Yeah, I’m the ugly one.” When her fears are then confirmed by her parents, resentment and jealousy are generated.

Beauty is the most significant factor in the self-esteem of Western children, as I attempted to express in my book Hide or Seek. Anything that a parent utters on this subject within the hearing of children should be screened carefully. It has the power to make brothers and sisters hate one another.

Second, the matter of relative intelligence is another sensitive nerve to be handled with care. It is not uncommon to hear parents say in front of their children, “I think the younger boy is actually brighter than his brother.” Adults find it difficult to comprehend how powerful that kind of assessment can be in a child’s mind. Even when the comments are unplanned and are spoken routinely, they convey how a child is “seen” within his family. We are all vulnerable to that bit of evidence.

Third, children (and especially boys) are extremely competitive with regard to athletic abilities. Those who are slower, weaker and less coordinated than their brothers are rarely able to accept “second best” with grace and dignity. Consider, for example, the following note given to me by the mother of two boys. It was written by her 9-year-old son to his 8-year-old brother, who had beaten him that day in a race.

Dear Jim,

I am the greatest and your the badest. And I can beat everybody in a race and you can’t beat anybody in a race. I’m the smartest and your the dumbest. I’m the best sports player and your the badest sports player. And your also a hog. I can beat anybody up. And that’s the truth. And that’s the end of this story.

Yours truly,

This note is humorous to me because Richard’s motive was so poorly disguised. He had been badly stung by his humiliation on the field of honor, so he came home and raised the battle flags. He probably spent the next eight weeks looking for opportunities to fire torpedoes into Jim’s soft underbelly. Such is the nature of mankind.

Am I suggesting that parents eliminate all aspects of individuality within family life or that healthy competition should be discouraged? Definitely not. I am saying that in matters relative to beauty, brains and athletic ability, each child should know that in his parent’s eyes, he is respected and has equal worth with his siblings. Praise and criticism at home should be distributed as evenly as possible, although some children will inevitably be more successful in the outside world.

And finally, we should remember that children do not build fortresses around strengths; they construct them to protect weaknesses. Thus, when a child like Richard begins to brag and attack his siblings, he is revealing threats he feels at that point. Our sensitivity to those signals will help minimize the potential for jealousy within our children.

(2) Establish a workable system of justice.

Sibling rivalry is also at its worst when there is no reasonable system of justice in the home–where the “lawbreakers” do not get caught, or if apprehended, never face a trial. It is important to understand that laws in a society are established and enforced for the purpose of protecting people from each other. Likewise, a family is a mini-society with the same requirement for protection of human rights.

For purposes of illustration, suppose that I live in a community where there is no established law. Policemen do not exist, and there are no courts where disagreements can be appealed.

Under those circumstances, my neighbor and I can abuse each other with impunity. He can take my lawn mower and throw rocks through my windows, while I steal the peaches from his favorite tree and dump my leaves over his fence. This kind of mutual antagonism has a way of escalating day by day.

As indicated, individual families are similar to societies in their need for law and order. In the absence of
justice, “neighboring” siblings begin to assault one another. The older child is bigger and tougher, which allows him to oppress his younger brothers and sisters. The junior member of the family retaliates by breaking prized possessions of the older sibling and by interfering when friends are visiting. Mutual hatred then erupts like an angry volcano, spewing its destructive contents on everyone in its path.

Nevertheless, when children appeal to their parents for intervention, they are often left to fight it out among themselves. In many homes, the parents do not have sufficient disciplinary control to enforce their judgments. In others, they are so exasperated with constant bickering among siblings that they refuse to get involved. In still others, parents require an older child to live with an admitted injustice “because your brother is smaller than you.” Thus, they tie his hands and render him utterly defenseless against the mischief of his bratty little brother or sister. Even more common today, mothers and fathers are both working while their children are at home busily disassembling each other.

I will say it again to parents: One of your most important responsibilities is to establish an equitable system of justice and a balance of power at home. Reasonable “laws” should be enforced fairly for each family member. For purposes of illustration, let me list the boundaries and rules that have evolved through the years in my own home:

Neither child is ever allowed to make fun of the other in a destructive way. Period! This is an inflexible rule with no exceptions.

Each child’s room is his private territory. There are locks on both doors, and permission to enter is a revocable privilege. (Families with more than one child in each bedroom can allocate available living space for each youngster.)

The older child is not permitted to tease the younger child. The younger child is forbidden to harass the older child.

The children are not required to play with each other when they prefer to be alone or with other friends. Any genuine conflict is mediated as quickly as possible, being careful to show impartiality and extreme fairness.

As with any system of justice? This plan requires respect for the leadership of the parent willingness by the parent to mediate, and occasional enforcement or punishment. When this approach is accompanied by love, the emotional tone of the home can be changed from one of hatred to at least tolerance.

(3) Recognize that the hidden “target” of sibling rivalry is you.

It would be naive to miss the true meaning of sibling conflict: It often represents a form of parental manipulation. Quarreling provides an opportunity for both children to “capture” adult attention. It has been written, “Some children would rather be wanted for murder than not wanted at all.” Toward this end, a pair of obnoxious kids can tacitly agree to bug their parents until they get a response–even if it is an angry reaction.

One father told me recently that his son and nephew began to argue and fight with their fists. Both fathers were nearby and decided to let the situation run its natural course. During the first lull, one of the boys glanced sideways toward the passive men and said, “Isn’t anybody going to stop us before we get hurt!” The fight, you see, was something neither boy wanted. Their violent combat was directly related to the presence of the two adults and would have taken a different form if the boys had been alone. Children will often “hook” their parent’s attention and intervention in this way.

Believe it or not, this form of sibling rivalry is easiest to control. The parent must simply render the behavior unprofitable to each participant. Instead of wringing their hands, crying, pleading or screaming (which actually reinforces the disruptive behavior and makes it worse), a mother or father should approach the conflict with dignity and self-control. I would recommend that a modified version of the following “speech” be given to quarreling children, depending on the age and circumstances:

“Tommy and Chuck, I want you to sit in these chairs and give me your complete attention. Now you both know that you have been irritating each other all morning. Tommy, you knocked over the castle that Chuck was building, and, Chuck, you messed up Tommy’s hair. Every few minutes, I’ve found myself telling you to quit quarreling. I’m not angry at you because all brothers fight like that, but I am telling you that I’m tired of hearing it. I have important things to do, and I can’t take the time to be separating a couple of scratching cats every few minutes.

“Now listen carefully. If the two of you want to pick on each other and make yourselves miserable, then be my guests (assuming there is a fairly equal balance of power between them). Go outside and fight until you’re exhausted. But it’s not going to occur under my feet, anymore. It’s over! And you know I mean business when I make that kind of statement. Do we understand each other?”

Would this implied warning end the conflict? Of course not–at least, not the first time. It would be necessary to deliver on the promise of “action.” Having made my intentions clear, I would act decisively the instant either boy returned to his bickering. If I had separate bedrooms, I would confine one child to each room for at least 30 minutes of complete boredom–no radio or television. Or I would assign one to clean the garage and the other to mow the lawn. Or I would make them both take a nap. My avowed purpose would be to make them believe me the next time I offered a suggestion for peace.

It is simply not necessary to permit children to destroy the joy in living, as expressed by the frustrated mother to Good Housekeeping. And most surprisingly, children are happiest when their parents enforce these reasonable limits with love and dignity.

A Final Thought

I was accompanied on a recent speaking trip by my wife, Shirley, which required us to leave our two children with their grandparents for a full week. My wife’s mother and father are wonderful people and dearly love Danae and Ryan. However, two bouncing, jumping, giggling little rascals can wear down the nerves of any adult, especially those who are approaching the age of retirement. When we returned home from the trip, I asked my father-in-law how the children behaved and whether or not they caused him any problems. He replied in his North Dakota (Lawrence Welk) accent, “Oh no! Dere good kids. But the important thing is, you jus’ got to keep ’em out in da open.”

That was probably the best disciplinary advice ever offered. Many behavioral problems can be prevented by simply avoiding the circumstances that create them. And especially for boys and girls growing up in our congested cities, perhaps what we need most is to “yet ’em out in da open.” It’s not a bad idea.

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Questions Parents Ask About Self-Esteem

Human worth in our society is carefully reserved for those who meet certain rigid specifications. The beautiful people are born with it; those who are highly intelligent are likely to find approval; superstar athletes are usually respected. But no one is considered valuable just because he is! Social acceptability is awarded rather carefully, making certain to exclude those who are unqualified.

Believe it or not, a 5-year-old is capable of “feeling” his own lack of worth in this system. Most of our little ones have observed very early that some people are valuable and some aren’t they also know when they are one of the losers! In many ways, we parents inadvertently teach this system to them, beginning in infancy to place a price tag on human worth. The result is widespread inferiority and inadequacy–which has probably included you and me in its toll.

There is a better way! This booklet is intended to help parents and teachers raise self-confident, healthy kids. On the following pages, you’ll find answers to questions parents frequently ask about children and self-esteem.

1) The children in our neighborhood are so brutal to each other. They ridicule and name call and fight from morning to night. Is there anything that we, as parents, can do about this?

There certainly is, and I have some strong opinions on that subject. One of the reasons children are so mean is because they have not been taught to appreciate the feelings of others. How foolish of us to think that little people cannot learn to empathize–to be kind and gentle with one another. They are by nature more soft and tender than we adults, and it is our job to teach them the impact of ridicule. This is accomplished by reminding the child of his own hurt feelings, letting him know that others can be hurt the same way. It can be taught by a warm, accepting attitude of the parent toward a less admirable child in the neighborhood.

This message is particularly relevant for schoolteachers. So much can be done by a skilled teacher to help students learn to respect each other. Young people adopt their teachers’ attitudes very quickly, setting the tone for the entire year. If Mrs. Brown is sarcastic and vindictive with those who don’t understand or those who make honest mistakes, her 34 students will usually follow suit. But if she is patient and kind–complimenting the work of the slower child–“covering” for the student who said something foolish–the atmosphere between children also becomes warmer and more tolerant. I found it useful to tell my students at the start of each year that I would not permit anyone to make fun of another boy or girl in my room. We were going to work together as a team–as a family–in a spirit of cooperation. I then set out to give my respect to the least respectable child in the room. By taking the side of the reject–that friendless little fellow who was the object of scorn–everyone in the class felt more comfortable.

How can parents in a neighborhood bring about a more peaceful atmosphere among their children? They must have the maturity to talk to each other, and that takes some doing! There is no quicker way to anger one mamma than for another woman to criticize her precious cub. It is a delicate subject, indeed. Thus, the typical neighborhood provides little “feedback” to parents in regard to the behavior of their children. The children know there are no lines of communication between adults and they take advantage of the barrier. What each block needs is a mother who has the courage to say, “I want to be told what my child does when he is beyond his own yard. If he is a brat with other children, I would like to know it. If he is disrespectful to adults, please mention it to me. I will not consider it tattling and I won’t resent your coming to me. I hope I can share my insights regarding your children, too. None of our children is perfect, and we’ll know better how to teach them if we can talk openly to each other as adults.”

In summary, children are capable of learning social skills very early in life, and it is our task to make them “feel” for others.

2) What can I say to my 8-year-old when he comes home after being “mauled” emotionally? Should I pity him, or tell him to “take it like a man”?

When your child has been rejected in this manner, he is badly in need of a friend–and you are elected. Let him talk. Don’t try to tell him that it doesn’t hurt or that it’s silly to be so sensitive. Ask him if he knows what it is that his “friends” don’t like. (He may be causing their reaction by dominance, selfishness or dishonesty.) Be understanding and sympathetic without weeping in mutual despair. As soon as appropriate, involve yourself with him in a game or some other activity he will enjoy. And finally, set about resolving the underlying cause.

I would suggest that you ask your child to invite one of his school friends to go to the zoo on Saturday (or offer other attractive “bait”) and then spend the night at your house. Genuine friendship often grows from such beginnings. Even the hostile children on the block may be more kind when only one of them is invited at a time. Not only can you help your child make friends in this way, but you can also observe the social mistakes he is making to drive them away. The information you gain can later be used to help him improve his relationship with others.

3) My 10-year-old daughter hates to have her hair in a pigtail because her friends don’t wear theirs that way. I have always loved pigtails, ever since I was a little girl. Am I wrong to make her please me by wearing her hair the way I want it?

Yes, particularly if your daughter feels unnecessarily different and foolish with her friends. Social pressure on the nonconformist is severe, and you should not place your daughter in this uncomfortable position. Closeness between generations comes from the child’s knowledge that his parent understands and appreciates his feelings. Your inflexibility on this point reveals a lack of empathy and may bring late resentment.

4) My older child is a great student and earns straight A’s year after year. Her younger sister, now in the sixth grade, is completely bored in school and won’t even try. The frustrating thing is that the younger girl is probably brighter than her older sister. Why would she refuse to apply her ability like this?

There could be many reasons for her academic disinterest, but let me suggest the most probable explanation. Children will often refuse to compete when they think they are likely to place second instead of first. Therefore, a younger child may diligently avoid challenging an older sibling in his area of greatest strength. If Son Number One is a great athlete, then Son Number Two may be more interested in collecting butterflies. If Daughter Number One is a disciplined pianist, then Daughter Number Two may be a boy-crazy goof-off.

This rule does not always hold, of course depending on the child’s fear of failure and the way he estimates his chances of successful competition. If his confidence is high, he may blatantly wade into the territory owned by big brother, determined to do even better. However, the more typical response is to seek new areas of compensation which are not yet dominated by a family superstar.

If this explanation fits the behavior of your younger daughter, then it would be wise to accept something less than perfection from her school performance. Every child need not fit the same mold-nor can we force them to do so.

5) What happens when a child is so different from the group that he cannot compete, no matter how hard he tries?

That dead-end street is most often responsible for attempts at self-destruction. I am reminded of a sad little girl named Lily, an eighth-grader who was referred to me for psychological counseling. She opened the door to my office and stood with eyes cast down. Underneath several layers of powder and makeup, her face was completely aglow with infected acne. Lily had done her best to bury the inflammation, but she had not been successful. She weighed about 85 pounds and was a physical wreck from head to toe. She sat down without raising her eyes to mine, lacking the confidence to face me. I didn’t need to ask what was troubling her. Life had dealt her a devastating blow, and she was bitter, angry, broken and deeply hurt. The teenager who reaches this point of despair can see no tomorrow. He has no hope. He can’t think of anything else. He knows he is repulsive and disgusting. He would like to crawl in a hole, but there is no place to hide. Running away won’t help, nor will crying change anything. Too often he chooses suicide as the only way out.

Lily gave me little time to work. The following morning she staggered into the school office and announced that she had swallowed everything in the family medicine cabinet. We labored feverishly to retrieve the medication and finally succeeded on the way to the hospital. Lily survived physically, but her self-esteem and confidence had died years earlier. The scars on her sad face symbolized the wounds on her adolescent heart.

The incidence of suicide is increasing rapidly among American teenagers. Recent statistics show the number of suicides in some cities has doubled annually for the last few years. Among students 19 and younger, suicide is now believed to be the third most common cause of death. Studies of these unfortunate children show that they tend to be friendless loners who have been rejected and isolated by their peers. In other words, they have found it impossible to compete successfully in our highly competitive adolescent society. The following statement was taken from the Los Angeles Times, May 25, 1971, quoting Dr. Paul Popenoe and others:

Lack of friendship, lack of feelings of acceptance, (and) lack of wholesome social life, represent serious problems for high school and college students at all levels. Some studies have Shown that 50 percent of the entire student body has no meaningful social life either inside or outside of the school.

Usually, of course, this results in lack of enjoyment of their school life and such students tend to dislike the college they attend. Not merely may their future be permanently handicapped, but more and more the outcome is suicide–now the most common cause of death on a university campus with the exception of automobile accidents, and competent opinion holds that at least half of these accidents are actually suicide. Reported the National Institute of Mental Health, “Of all the attributes associated with suicidal behavior, human isolation and withdrawal appears to distinguish those who kill themselves from those who will not.”

A scientist who studied the death of schoolchildren in New Jersey found that “in every case of suicide, the child had no close friends with whom he might share confidences or from whom he received psychological support.”

Obviously, the inability to gain social acceptance is not merely an uncomfortable feeling among the young; such lack of self-esteem can actually extinguish the desire to go on living. Parents and teachers must be taught to recognize the early symptoms of personal despair during the tender, pliable years of childhood, and most importantly, what they can do about it.

6) My 15-year-old is a nature-lover through and through. His room is filled with caged snakes, wasp nests, plants and insects. Even the garage is occupied by various animals he has caught and tamed. I hate all this stinky stuff and want him to get interested in something else. What should I do?

If he keeps his zoo clean and well managed, then you should let him follow his interests. Just remember that at 15, “bugs” beat “drugs” as a hobby!

7) My son is an outstanding gymnast. His high school coach says he has more natural ability than anyone he’s ever seen. Yet when he is being judged in a competitive meet, he does terribly! Why does he fall during the most important moments?

If your son thinks of himself as a failure, his performance will probably match his low self-image when the chips are down. In the same way, there are many excellent golfers in the PGA tour who make a satisfactory living in tournament play, but they never win. They consistently place second, third, sixth or 10th. Whenever it looks like they might come in first, they “choke” at the last minute and let someone else win. It is not that they want to fail; rather, they don’t “see” themselves as winners and their performance merely reflects this image.

I talked recently with a concert pianist of outstanding talent who has resolved never to play in public again. She knows she is blessed with remarkable ability, but believes she is a loser:.. every other regard. Consequently, when she plays the piano on stage, her mistakes and errors make her sound like a beginner. Each time the mortifying experience has occurred, she has become more convinced of her own unworthiness in every area. She has now withdrawn into the secluded, quiet talentless world of the have-nots.

There is no question about it; a lack of self-confidence can completely immobilize a talented person, simply through the threat of failure.

8) Is this true of mental ability too? My 12-year old was asked to recite a poem at a school function the other day, and he went completely blank in front of the crowd. I know he knew the poem perfectly because he said it dozens of times at home. He’s a bright child, but he’s had this trouble before. Why does his mind “turn off” when he’s under pressure?

It will be helpful to understand an important characteristic of intellectual functioning. Your son’s self-confidence, or lack of it, actually affects the way his brain operates. All of us have experienced the frustration of mental “blocking,” which you described. This occurs when a name or fact or idea just won’t surface to the conscious mind, even though we know it is recorded in the memory. Or suppose we are about to speak to an antagonistic group and our mind suddenly goes blank. This kind of blocking usually occurs 1) when social pressure is great, and 2) when self-confidence is low. Why? Because emotions affect the efficiency of the human brain. Unlike a computer, our mental apparatus only functions properly when a delicate biochemical balance exists between the neural cells. This substance makes it possible for a cell to “fire” its electrochemical charge across the gap (synapse) to another cell. It is now known that a sudden emotional reaction can instantly change the nature of that biochemistry, blocking the impulse. This blockage prevents the electrical charge from being relayed and the thought is never generated. This mechanism has profound implications for human behavior; for example, a child who feels inferior and intellectually inadequate often does not even make use of the mental power with which he has been endowed. His lack of confidence produces a disrupting mental interference, and the two go around and around in an endless cycle of defeat. This is obviously what happened to your son when he “forgot” the poem.

9) What can I do to help him?

Actually, it is not unusual for a 12-year-old to “choke” in front of a crowd. I once stood before 300 fellow teenagers with-my words stuck in my throat and my mind totally out to lunch. It was a painful experience, but time gradually erased its impact. As your child matures, he will probably overcome the problem, if he can experience a few successes to build his confidence. Anything that raises self-esteem
will reduce the frequency of mental blocking for children and adults alike.

10) My 13-year-old daughter is still built like a boy, but she is insisting that her mother buy her a bra. Believe me, she has no need for it, and the only reason she wants to wear one is because most of her friends do. Should I give in?

Your straight and narrow daughter needs a bra to be like her friends, to compete, to avoid ridicule, and to feel like a woman. Those are excellent reasons. Your wife should meet this request by tomorrow morning, if not sooner.

11) I agree with you that a child’s worth as a human being should not be based on “beauty and brains.” Nevertheless, my daughter lives in a world that values those attributes and she is very sensitive about some of her flaws. Should I encourage her to be as attractive as possible, and to excel in school, or should I minimize the importance of those “false values” at home?

There are no “scientific” answers to those questions. I can only give you my considered opinion in reply. Despite the injustice of this system, my child will not be the one to change it. I am obligated to help him compete in this world as best he can. If his ears protrude, I will have them flattened. If his teeth are crooked, I will see that they are straightened. If he flounders academically, I will seek tutorial assistance to pull him out. He and I are allies in his fight for survival, and I will not turn a deaf ear to his needs. Rick Barry, the great professional basketball star, is a handsome 6’7″ specimen of health and confidence. Yet as a child he was humiliated and self-conscious about his teeth, even causing him to talk with his hand over his mouth. As he described in the book, Confessions of a Basketball Gypsy:

When my second teeth came in, they came in crooked and two of them were missing in front. Maybe my folks could not afford to have them fixed, or maybe having teeth fixed was not then what it is now. I remember talking to Dad about putting in false teeth in front and wearing braces, which might cut my gums when I exerted myself playing ball. Anyway, I did not have my teeth fixed until I was in college. I was very sensitive about my teeth. I was ashamed to look at myself in the mirror. I used to keep my mouth shut and I’d never smile. I used to keep my hand over my mouth, which muffled my voice and made it hard for people to understand me. I developed this habit of keeping my hand over my mouth, just sort of always resting on my chin, and I couldn’t shake it for years afterward.

What similar discomfort is your child experiencing in silence, today? Isn’t it our obligation, within the limits of financial resources, to eradicate the flaws that generate the greatest sensitivity? I believe it is, and the job should be done early. Dr. Edward Podolsky, assistant supervisory psychiatrist, Kings County Hospital, New York City, believes physical deformities should be corrected before the child enters first grade. After that time, his peers will begin to do their “thing” to his personal esteem.

But we parents must walk a tightrope at this point. While I am helping my child to compete in the world as it is, I must also teach him that its values are temporal and unworthy. Explaining the two contradictory sides of that coin requires considerable skill and tact. How can I urge my daughter to fix her hair neatly and then tell her, “Beauty doesn’t matter” 7 The key is to begin very early to instruct the child on the true values of life: love for all mankind, kindness, integrity, trustworthiness, truthfulness, devotion to God, etc. Physical attractiveness is then described as part of a social game we must play. Since the world is our ballpark, we cannot completely ignore the rules of the game. But whether we hit a home run or strike out, we can take comfort in knowing that baseball, itself, is not that important. Herein lies an anchor that can hold a child steady.

Posted in AIS File Library, BSFM - Family and Marriage0 Comments

Teaching Children to Be Kind

I was recently asked to respond to the question “What one feature should be changed in Western culture in order to produce a higher percentage of emotionally healthy children and adults?” It is a stimulating question which would probably draw a unique answer from every professional who attempted a reply. But from my perspective, the most valuable revision would be for adults to begin actively teaching children to love and respect one another (and, of course, for these adults to demonstrate that love in their own lives).

Far from manifesting kindness and sensitivity, however, children are often permitted to be terribly brutal and destructive, especially to the handicapped child, the ugly child, the slow learning child, the uncoordinated child, the foreign child, the minority child, the small or the large child, and the child who is perceived to be different from his peers in even the most insignificant feature. And predictably, the damage inflicted on young victims often reverberates for a lifetime.

In counseling with neurotic patients, it is apparent that emotional problems usually originate in one of two places (or both): either from an unloving or unnourishing relationship with parents, or from an inability to gain acceptance and respect from peers. In other words, most emotional disorders (excepting organic illness) can be traced to destructive relationships with people during the first 20 years of life.

If this assumption is accurate, then adults should devote their creative energies to the teaching of love and dignity. And if necessary, we should insist that children approach one another with kindness. Can boys or girls be taught to respect their peers? They certainly can! Young people are naturally more sensitive and empathetic than adults. Their viciousness is a learned response, resulting from the highly competitive and hostile world which their leaders have allowed to develop. In short, children are destructive to the weak and lowly because we adults haven’t bothered to teach them to “feel” for one another.

Perhaps an example will help explain my concern. A woman told me recently about her experience as a room mother for her daughter’s fourth-grade class. She visited the classroom on Valentine’s Day to assist the teacher with the traditional party. (Valentine’s Day can be the most painful day of the year for an unpopular child. Every student counts the number of valentines he is given as a direct measure of his social worth.) This mother said the teacher announced that the class was going to play a game, which required the formation of boy-girl teams. That was her first mistake, since fourth-graders have not yet experienced the happy hormones which draw the sexes together. The moment the teacher instructed the students to select a partner, all the boys immediately laughed and pointed at the homeliest and least-respected girl in the room. She was overweight, had protruding teeth, and was too withdrawn even to look anyone in the eye.

“Don’t put us with Hazel,” they all said in mock terror. “Anybody but Hazel.” The mother waited for the teacher (a strong disciplinarian) to rush to the aid of the beleaguered little girl. But to her disappointment, nothing was said to the insulting boys. Instead, the teacher left Hazel to cope with that painful situation in solitude.

Ridicule by one’s own sex is distressing, but rejection by the opposite sex is like taking a hatchet to the self-concept. What could this devastated child say in reply? How does an overweight fourth-grade girl defend herself against nine aggressive boys? What response could she make but to blush in mortification and slide foolishly into her chair? This child, whom God loves more than the possessions of the entire world, will never forget that moment (or the teacher who abandoned her in this time of need).

If I had been the teacher of Hazel’s class on that fateful Valentine’s Day, those mocking, joking boys would have had a fight on their hands. Of course, it would have been better to prevent the embarrassment altogether by discussing the feelings of others from the first day of school. But if the conflict occurred as described, with Hazel’s ego suddenly shredded for everyone to see, I would have thrown the full weight of my authority and respect on her side of the battle.

My spontaneous response would have carried this general theme: “Wait just a minute! By what right do any of you boys say such mean, unkind things to Hazel? I want to know which of you is so perfect that the rest of us couldn’t make fun of you in some way? I know you all very well. I know about your homes and your school records and some of your personal secrets. Would you like me to share them with the class, so we can all laugh at you the way you just did at Hazel? I could do it! I could make you want to crawl into a hole and disappear. But listen to me! You need not fear. I will never embarrass you in that way. Why not? Because it hurts to be laughed at by your friends. It hurts even more than a stubbed toe or a cut finger or a bee sting.

“I want to ask those of you who were having such a good time a few minutes ago: Have you ever had a group of children make fun of you in the same way? If you haven’t, then brace yourself. Someday it will happen to you, too. Eventually, you will say something foolish . . . and they’ll point at you and laugh in your face. And when it happens, I want you to remember what happened today.”

(Then addressing the entire class) “Let’s make sure we learn something important from what took place here this afternoon. First, we will not be mean to each other in this class. We will laugh together when things are funny, but we will not do it by making one person feel bad. Second, I will never intentionally embarrass anyone in this class. You can count on that. Each of you is a child of God. He molded you with His loving hands, and He has said that we all have equal worth as human beings. This means that Suzie is neither better nor worse than Charles or Mary or Brent. Sometimes I think maybe you believe a few of you are more important than others. It isn’t true. Every one of you is priceless to God, and each of you will live forever in eternity. That’s how valuable you are. God loves every boy and girl in this room, and because of that, I love every one of you. He wants us to be kind to other people, and we’re going to be practicing that kindness through the rest of this year.”

When a strong, loving teacher comes to the aid of the least respected child in his class, as I’ve described, something dramatic occurs in the emotional climate of the room. Every child seems to utter an audible sigh of relief. The same thought is bouncing around in many little heads: If Hazel is safe from ridicule–even overweight Hazel–then I must be safe, too. You see, by defending the least popular child in the room, a teacher is demonstrating (1) that he has no “pets,” (2) that he respects everyone, and (3) that he will fight for anyone who is being treated unjustly. Those are three virtues which children value highly, and which contribute to mental health.

And may I suggest to parents, defend the underdog in your neighborhood. Let it be known that you have the confidence to speak for the outcast. Explain this philosophy to your neighbors, and try to create an emotional harbor for the little children whose ship has been threatened by a storm of rejection. Don’t be afraid to exercise leadership on behalf of a youngster who is being mauled. There is no more worthy investment of your time and energy.

This message is especially important for the children of Christians, who need to learn empathy and kindness during the early years. After all, Jesus gave the highest priority to the expression of love for God and for our neighbor, yet we often miss the emphasis in Christian education. For example, many Sunday schools diligently teach about Moses and Daniel and Joseph, yet permit a chaotic class situation in which cavorting students busily mutilate one another’s egos. In fact, when a Sunday school lacks strong leadership as I’ve described, it can become the most “dangerous” place in a child’s week. That’s why I like to see church workers spring to the defense of a harassed underdog and in so doing, speak volumes about human worth and the love of Jesus.

But to be honest, I wonder why this suggestion is necessary. I find it difficult to comprehend why adults need to be encouraged to shield a vulnerable child whose defenses have crumbled. What strange inhibition caused a loving teacher to stand immobile, while self-esteem was being assassinated in an overweight fourth-grade girl? Why will carpool drivers patently ignore brutal attacks that are hurled collectively at the least-popular rider? Why do mothers permit siblings to engage in emotional sabotage with little more than a whimpered request for peace and quiet? Somehow, we adults feel we don’t have a right to intervene in the antagonistic world of children. Well, it is my opinion that we do have the right; indeed, we have an obligation to say, “Let it be understood that we will not treat one another with disrespect in this house! Period! And the deliberate violator of that rule will face certain unpleasant consequences!” That is one requirement which children will welcome, even while they are attempting to disobey it.

My views on this subject have been influenced significantly by watching the children of other cultures. Not every society is as competitive and threatening to young egos as ours. This fact was emphasized by a pediatrician friend who recently visited the People’s Republic of China. To his surprise, Chinese children reacted very differently in a group situation than their Western counterparts. They revealed almost none of the shyness, self-consciousness, and reticence which is so characteristic of our own students when facing their peers. Despite the presence of visitors in their classrooms, these children stood and recited their lessons without apparent anxiety. They participated in group demonstrations and dramas with unconcealed enthusiasm.

It appears that Chinese children are more confident because they do, in fact, live in a less threatening environment. They are taught, as a product of the Communist system, to view their peers as “comrades” and “fellow workers.” Furthermore, competition among students is minimized and cooperation is stressed. The net effect is a less aggressive climate in which to grow. If my earlier supposition is accurate (that early peer rejection is damaging to emotional health), then China’s secure social climate should be correlated with a lower incidence of mental disorders in later adulthood. And predictably, that was the finding of Dr. Paul Lowinger, a psychiatrist who journeyed to China in 1975 to inspect that country’s mental hospitals and attitudes toward emotional health. Quoted below are excerpts from his report published in Medical Dimensions, December 1976.

All across China, we dauntlessly questioned citizens about anxieties, marital problems, and family discord. We probed absenteeism from work, alienation, antisocial behavior, and any other subjects we could think of that might cast some light on the general state of mental health in the People’s Republic.

As we spoke with more and more people, it became evident that the Chinese were relatively free from psychoneurotic and personality disorders. In other words, there is very little depression, anxiety, fear, or alienation in China, especially when compared with Western society or with other emerging nations.

During the interviewing process, I was most interested in information concerning absenteeism from work, since I felt this indicated the kind of alienation that is often seen in personality disorders. In talking with people about this, we learned that it is virtually unknown for Chinese workers to be absent from their jobs unless they are physically ill and in treatment at a clinic or hospital. Of course, they told us, they do have vacations and take pregnancy leaves, but they go to work consistently and like their work. When I pressed him, however, one of our guides was finally able to recall someone he knew who had been discontented with his job and changed from hotel employment to factory work.

When we spoke to school administrators and teachers, we wanted to find out about the behavioral problems among young children and adolescents. The consensus was that behavior problems are uncommon, although some children do learn more slowly than others. The teachers said it was rare for a child to be so disruptive that he had to leave the classroom. One teacher did recall a student who had behavior difficulty because of problems in the home.

Other problems they claimed to have eradicated were cases arising from malnutrition, unemployment and . . . thanks in part to an organized movement against it . . . opium addiction. We have no cases of that now, they said. Also, no alcoholism because such great changes have taken place in the spirit, habits, customs, and the world outlook of the people. These physicians also noted that problems with the elderly were minimal, and they saw few cases of senile psychosis. “In our society,” they said, “old people can live useful lives.”

Before I am accused of being a Communist sympathizer, let me hasten to acknowledge the liabilities of that totalitarian system. The Chinese people are denied fundamental freedoms which we in the West take for granted. And I certainly must oppose a government which forbids its citizens to travel freely, join a labor union, select its own leaders, operate a free press, serve the God of their choice, and so forth. Furthermore, it is likely that the glowing report Dr. Lowinger obtained from Chinese doctors was significantly influenced by their patriotism and revolutionary zeal. On the other hand, we can learn from China’s success and I definitely feel that we would do well to teach our children the virtues of cooperation and respect for the human family. That is, after all, the heart and soul of the Christian message. If I may make another suggestion regarding self-esteem in children, it would involve the need for parents to “defuse” the self-worth crisis before it arrives in adolescence, making it appear universal and temporary. I have long recommended a pre-adolescent instructional session that would permit the parent to explain some of the problems and concerns that are likely to develop during the following few years. I now believe that instructional effort should begin at least six years earlier.

In a sense, all of childhood is a preparation for adolescence and beyond. Mothers and fathers are granted a single decade to lay a foundation of values and attitudes that will help their children cope with the future pressures and problems of adulthood. As such, we would all do well to acquaint our young children with the meaning of self-worth and its preservation, since every human being has to deal with that issue at some point in the life cycle.

This teaching process should begin during the kindergarten years, if not before. For example, when your child meets someone who is too shy to speak or even look at him, you might say, “Why do you suppose Billie is too embarrassed to tell you what he is feeling? Do you think he doesn’t have much self-confidence?” (Use the word confidence frequently, referring to a kind of courage and belief in one’s self.) When your child participates in a school or church program, compliment him for having the confidence to stand in front of a group without hanging his head or thrusting his tongue into his cheek.

Then as the elementary years unfold, begin focusing on the negative side of that important ingredient. Talk openly about feelings of inferiority and what they mean. For example, “Did you notice how David acted so silly in class this morning? He was trying hard to make everyone pay attention to him, wasn’t he? Do you have any idea why he needs to be noticed every minute of the day? Maybe it’s because David doesn’t like himself very much. I think he is trying to force people to like him because he thinks he is disrespected. Why don’t you try to make friends with David and help him feel better about himself? Would you like to invite him to spend the night?”

Not only will you help your child “tune in” to the feelings of others through this instruction, but you will also be teaching him to understand his own feelings of inadequacy. Each year that passes should bring more explicit understanding about the crisis in worth which comes to everyone. It would be wise to give him an illustration of people who have overcome great feelings of inferiority (such as Eleanor Roosevelt), and ultimately, the best examples will come from the struggles of your own adolescent experiences. The goal is to send your pubescent son or daughter into the teen years armed with four specific concepts: (1) All adolescents go through a time when they don’t like themselves very much; (2) Most feel ugly and dumb and unliked by their peer group; (3) The worst of this self-doubt will not last very long, although most human beings have to deal with those feelings off and on throughout life; (4) Each of us possesses incredible value because we are children of the Creator, who has a specific plan for our lives.

I suppose this strategy appeals to me, not only for its possible contribution to a healthy adolescence but because it takes us in the direction of human understanding. And how badly that comprehension is needed! I read recently that 80 percent of the people who get fired from their jobs have not failed to perform as required. In other words, they do not lack technical skill or abilities. Their dismissal occurs because they can’t get along with people. They misunderstand the motives of others and respond with belligerence or insubordination. We can minimize that possibility by training our children to “see” others in a truer light, while preserving their own dignity and sense of worth.

A Final Comment

I hope I will not give the reader whiplash by changing direction too quickly, but we must not conclude this discussion without considering the biblical concept of “pride,” and how it relates to self-esteem. It is my opinion that great confusion has prevailed on this matter among followers of Christ. Some people actually believe that Christians should maintain an attitude of inferiority in order to avoid the pitfalls of self-sufficiency and haughtiness. I don’t believe it.

After speaking to a sizable audience in Boston a few years ago, I was approached by an elderly lady who questioned my views. I had discussed the importance of self-confidence in children and my comments had contradicted her theology.

She said, “God wants me to think of myself as being no better than a worm” (referring, I suppose, to David’s analogy in Psalm 22:6).

“I would like to respect myself,” she continued, “but God could not approve of that kind of pride, could He?”

I was touched as this sincere little lady spoke. She told me she had been a missionary for 40 years, even refusing to marry in order to serve God more completely. While on a foreign field, she had become ill with an exotic disease which now reduced her frail body to 95 pounds. As she spoke, I could sense the great love of the Heavenly Father for this faithful servant. She had literally given her life in His work, yet she did not feel entitled even to reflect on a job well done during her closing years on earth.

Unfortunately, this fragile missionary (and thousands of other Christians) had been taught that she was worthless. But that teaching did not come from the Scriptures. Jesus did not leave His throne in heaven to die for the “worms” of the world. His sacrifice was intended for that little woman, and for me and all of His followers, whom He is not embarrassed to call brothers. What a concept! If Jesus is now my brother, then that puts me in the family of God and guarantees that I will outlive the universe itself. And that, friends, is what I call genuine self-esteem!

It’s true that the Bible clearly condemns the concept of human pride. In fact, God apparently holds a special hatred for this particular sin. I have counted 112 references in the Scriptures which specifically warned against an attitude of pride. Proverbs 6:16-19 makes it unmistakably clear:

These six things cloth the Lord hate yea, seven are an abomination unto him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. (KJV)

Isn’t it interesting that a proud look (or haughtiness, as paraphrased in the Living Bible) is listed first among God’s seven most despised sins, apparently outranking adultery, profanity and other acts of disobedience? Anything given that prominence in the Word had better be avoided scrupulously by those wishing to please the Lord. But first, we must interpret the meaning of the word pride.

Language is dynamic and the meaning of words changes with the passage of time. And in this instance, the word pride has many connotations today which are different from the biblical usage of the word. For example, a parent feels “pride” when his son or daughter succeeds in school or wins a race. But I can’t believe the Lord would be displeased by a father glowing with affection when he thinks of the boy or girl entrusted to his care.
We speak also of the “Pride of the Yankees,” or a person taking pride in his work, or the pride of a southern cook. These are very positive emotions that mean the individual is dedicated to his craft, thathe has self-confidence, and that he will deliver what he promises. Certainly, those attitudes could notrepresent the pinnacle of the seven deadliest sins.
I’m equally convinced that the Bible does not condemn an attitude of quiet self-respect and dignity. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves, implying not only that we are permitted a reasonable expression of self-love, but that love for others is impossible–until we experience a measure of self-respect.

Then what is the biblical meaning of pride? I believe sinful pride occurs when our arrogant self-sufficiency leads us to violate the two most basic commandments of Jesus: first, to love God with all our heart, mind and strength; and second, to love our neighbor as ourselves. A proud person is too pompous and haughty to bow humbly before his Maker, confessing his sins and submitting himself to a life of service to God; or he is hateful to his fellow man, disregarding the feelings and needs of others. And as such, most of the ills of the world, including war and crime, can be laid at its door. That’s why the writer of Proverbs put “a proud look” above all other evils, for that, is where it belongs.

May I stress, further, that the quest for self-esteem can take us in the direction of unacceptable pride. In recent years, for example, we’ve seen the rise of the Me generation, nurtured carefully by humanistic psychologists who accept no scriptural dictates. One of the best-selling books of this era is entitled Looking Out for #1, which instructs its readers to grab the best for themselves. Widely quoted mottos reflect the same selfish orientation, including “If it feels good, do it! and “Do your own thing.” This philosophy of “me first” has the power to blow your world to pieces, whether applied to marriage, business or international politics.

For some reason, the Me generation has made its unofficial headquarters in the state of California, where I live. Perhaps that’s why I appreciate the California jokes which are currently in vogue. For instance, “How many Californians does it take to screw in a light bulb? Answer: Five–one to do the work and four to share the experience.” In reality, however, it’s no laughing matter. Followers of the self-seeking philosophy have the highest suicide rate, the highest divorce rate and the highest incidence of neuroticism in the country. Their experience recalls Jesus’ words, “For anyone who keeps his life for himself shall lose it; and anyone who loses his life for me shall find it again” (see Luke 9:24).

In summary, let me state what I hope has been obvious to this point. I am not suggesting that children be taught arrogance and self-sufficiency or that they are lured into selfishness. (That will occur without any encouragement from parents.) My purpose has been to help mothers and fathers preserve an inner physical and mental and spiritual health. And I hope this discussion of self-esteem has taken us a few steps further in that direction.

God loves you and your children. So do I.

Posted in AIS File Library, BSFM - Family and Marriage0 Comments

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