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Help! What Are Your Top Parenting Tips?

By Dustin | Children

Parenting AdviceParenting is hard.

With the arrival of children comes a LOT of new responsibilities, fears and frustrations.

You are almost guaranteed to get less sleep, and your personal time will be cut dramatically.

When I reflect on my least-proud moments over the past five years, many are related to a loss of patience or a moment of great frustration where I didn’t like the way I acted around or reacted to my kids.

I put a lot of pressure on myself to be a perfect parent, and it’s tough sometimes.

So, with all of these issues attached to the stork-drop, why in world do we keep having more children?

Because they are best things in the world and they add a priceless value to our lives.

Kids are awesome!

Parents Need Quality Advice

Parenting is probably both the toughest and most rewarding role that we can fill in the world.  To help navigate the waters of father and motherhood, I think we can all use some wise counsel from others who are in (or have been) in our shoes.

And I’m the first in line to the well of parenting advice.

Trust me, I’m thirsty for knowledge on how to both handle and help my five-year-old son, almost three-year-old princess and the little one that’s about six months from joining the family.  Fortunately, I have a wise and patient wife to help lead me along the right path most of the time.

I would certainly not consider myself a child-rearing expert.  So, you can imagine how shocked, humbled and excited I was when my friend Sherri from Zen Family Habits recently asked me for my own top parenting tips.

When you are done with this post, I suggest you click that link and go read her great article.  There is some excellent advice from the other contributors (Samantha from Mama Notes, Tsh from Simple Mom and Vera from Mom Grind) as well as Sherri herself.  And there is some valuable insight provided in the comments, too.

My Top Three Parenting Tips

I have written previously about How Children Teach Us About God, how Kids Enjoy the Simple Things and even the Questions Engaged Couples Should Ask Each Other About Children.  However, I’ve never dared to offer any parenting advice.

I found it fitting that out of the four contributors to the Zen Family Habits article, I was the only guy and (naturally) I used the least words to share my tips.

I’ll use even fewer here to share them in case you don’t make it over to Sherri’s post.

1. Your kids don’t come first.

2. Be consistent.

3. Have fun.

Ask the Community

Okay, so it’s time for the real reason I wrote this post.  I want your best parenting tips.

I know some of you may not be parents, but I’m betting you were a child once and you may be a cool aunt or uncle now.  I think everyone has something to add to this discussion.  And I’m really anxious to gain your insight.  I need your help! 🙂

Please leave your best tip or three or ten in the comments.  Thanks for being an active part of the Engaged Marriage community!

P.S. – If you haven’t joined us already, I’d encourage you to check out the Engaged Marriage Facebook page.  We have a lot of fun and share a lot of great times there!

Photo by Tony the Misfit (back slowly)

7 Ways Children Teach Us About God

By Dustin | Children

Kids Teach Us About God

If you are a parent, a Godparent or just the cool aunt, you know both the joy and challenges that children bring to life.

If you believe in God, you probably also feel a responsibility to help raise these kids in a healthy way that teaches them about your faith.

This is fantastic, but have you taken a step back to consider what these same children teach us about God everyday?

Give it Some Thought

Really, you don’t have to be a deep thinker or get all dogmatic about it.

Just make a small effort to “zone in” and observe how you interact with the children in your life.

I took this opportunity myself, and I was amazed at all I learned about myself and my relationship with the “Big Guy” upstairs.

I do not intend to share an exhaustive list here.  Instead, I want to get your mind started in the right direction so you can better appreciate the very cool way that God communicates to us through the simplest relationships in our lives.

While this exercise will surely be effective for the parents among us, I really think anyone can see this truth, even if you just reflect upon your own childhood and the joys and tribulations you provided to your poor grateful parents.

7 Ways Children Teach Us About God

1. God feels the same about us as we feel about our children.

2. God is crazy about us and wants the best for us, even when it is not obvious.

3. God wants us to share and be kind to those we encounter.

4. God gives us free will & allows us to fail, but He hopes we learn our own way.

5. God’s love never ceases.

6. God is forgiving beyond our understanding.

7. God strives to give us the best possible direction, but we must choose to follow it.

When compiling this short list, I was tempted to write out some kind of comprehensive explanation behind each point.  However, I really think the beauty of this exercise is its simplicity.

Plus, each of us has our own unique experiences, both with God and with children, that we may contemplate for each idea.

Practice What God Preaches Through Children

So, next time you are enjoying a special moment of closeness with a little child, or (gasp) even a teenager, consider the source of your joy and just how cool it is to love and be loved.

Likewise, when you are at your wits end and ready to snap at the immaturity shown by your kid, take a step back and put your “God hat” on for a moment.  When you realize all of the ways that you act childish and fall short of what God wants for you, I suspect you’ll humble up a bit and see the value of patience and forgiveness.

What has a Child Taught YOU about God?

Photo by ☂CharlotteSpeaks
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Kids Enjoy the Simple Things

By Dustin | Children

Kids Enjoy the Simple Things

Like many families with small children, we spent last weekend walking around our neighborhood collecting enough candy to feed an army of small, hyper sugar addicts.

For my wife and I, trick-or-treating with the kids is fun, but it really seems more-or-less like an obligatory duty that we know comes about at the end of each October.

It’s routine and simple, and I frankly did not see the event as a big deal.

A Lesson from the Little One

Well, my son helped to change my perspective a bit.

As the preschool Halloween crafts and parties started up the preceding week and the “scary” cartoons became the only thing on children’s television channels, his excitement was obvious.

I figured he was excited about getting to dress up and eat his weight in candy.  As it turns out, this was not the basis of his elation.

One evening, my son, in his sweetest four-year-old voice, told me he loved trick-or-treating with me.

As he lay in bed attempting to prolong the time before he finally had to go to sleep, he expressed his feelings and recalled dozens of memories that I had long forgotten or at least pushed to the back of my mind.

What started with his memories of last year’s Halloween night turned in a cascading summary of his favorite moments from his first four years of life.

This was a very cool experience to share with him, and I was frankly surprised at the memories that he has retained and holds closest to his heart.

It Really is the Simple Things

So, did he recall family vacations, great gifts he has received or the new bike he was given this year?  Nope.

His “most favorite times” included picking pumpkins with his little sister, camping out with “just Daddy” this summer, teeball practice with me as his coach, building a snowman and chasing me around the yard last winter, and going to see Thomas the Tank Engine when he was two years old (yes just two, and he remembers all the details).

It was clear that he not only enjoyed these memories, but loved them so dearly that they are as fresh in his little mind as they were the day they happened.

He loves the simple things.  All of these events were free or very close to it.  No mention of material things or all of the “stuff” he has accumulated.

From the mouths of babes…I was given a very powerful lesson about what matters to our children…and what should matter most to us.

So, what simple, super-memorable things have you enjoyed with your spouse and/or children? 

Please post a comment and share your thoughts!

37 Family Things to Do at Home on a Rainy Sunday

By Dustin | Children

It occurred to me recently how dependent our family had become on getting out of the house.

While I love playing outside with the kids or taking bike rides on a sunny day, the majority of this time was spent doing “busy work.”

We spend a lot of time in the car driving from place to place, eating at restaurants or my personal favorite (not so much)…shopping!

Even worse, when we do have the opportunity to spend some time at home with our young children, we all too often find ourselves sitting in front of the TV or at best spread around the house doing our own thing.

The kids color, Daddy’s on Facebook and Mommy is fixing a snack.  We are not engaged in our relationships with each other at these times.

A recent Sunday afternoon afforded the opportunity for some reflection.

It was raining, the kids were bored and Mommy and Daddy were quite miserable with a mild case of “cabin fever.”  Now, we know that God proclaimed Sunday as a day of rest, but this seemed ridiculous!

We had become a family that we would quickly criticize if we were judging their actions.

I decided it was time for some positive action.  So, I made a list!

37 Things to Do at Home as a Family

You will find below 37 things that you can do as a family on the next Sunday (or any day) that you find yourself cooped up with your young children (or just with your spouse).

Not only are these ideas family-friendly, but they are essentially free so you won’t be putting a strain on your budget or hurting your plans to get out of debt!

Better yet, use these fun activities on a sunny day when you could easily be mowing the yard or running errands.  I bet you will not regret it!

  1. Watch an old movie you enjoyed as a kid.
  2. Read stories to each other.
  3. Make up a funny story and take turns adding the next line.
  4. Play a good ole board game.
  5. Let the kids choose an activity.
  6. Invite Grandma/Grandpa over for cookies.
  7. Talk about your favorite times from last week & what you look forward to next week.
  8. Discuss the homily/sermon from the morning’s church service.
  9. Have a real tea party.
  10. Bake some cookies together.
  11. Play hide and seek.
  12. Grab an umbrella  and take a walk in the rain (galoshes optional)!
  13. Let the kids help make dinner.
  14. Have a friendly family wrestling match.
  15. Let the kids play dress up in your clothes.
  16. Make sock puppets and put on a performance.
  17. Draw a family portrait with each person drawing their own picture.
  18. Construct a monster Lego project.
  19. Paint a room together (only for the brave at heart)!
  20. Create a huge tower using blocks or plastic cups.
  21. Gather the whole family (in their PJ’s) into Mom & Dad’s bed and watch a movie.
  22. Go through and check all of the kids’ toys and set aside the old ones for charity.
  23. Have a Nintendo Wii/Switch tournament.
  24. Sing karaoke.
  25. Watch old family videos and share your memories.
  26. Have a dance party!
  27. Build a fort (pillows, blankets and chairs work well) and play Army or Knights/Princesses.
  28. Dress up in your Halloween costumes whatever the time of year.
  29. Play together in the garage or unfinished basement (roller skates, bikes, soccer).
  30. Play a favorite card game.
  31. Make paper airplanes and see who’s can fly the furthest.
  32. Play I Spy.
  33. Act out a favorite story.
  34. Get out some pictures and make a family photo album.
  35. Play Charades.
  36. Build a huge puzzle together.
  37. Go out and play in the rain!

There you have it.  Next time you are faced with bored kids and restless parents, shift your thinking and look at the opportunity you have to spend quality time together.

You can create long-lasting memories for your children, and even better memories for yourself!

What are your favorite things to do together as a family when you are home?  What are some of your best childhood memories from long days spent around your house?

Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Are You Looking for Some “Kid-Free” Ideas to Spend Time with Your Spouse?

Click here to learn how you can refresh your marriage and rock your communication, romance, sex life and finances in just 15 minutes a day…

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Be Consistent with Child Discipline or Be in the Doghouse!

By Dustin | Children , Communication

Good Discipline for Children or Else

Our family enjoyed a (mostly) relaxing Labor Day weekend spent camping, fishing and visiting with lots of family.  However, due to my own shortcomings, the trip ended on a bit of a sour note that reminded me of the importance of good listening (especially to my dear wife…who will likely read this at some point…did I mention she is beautiful?) and consistency when disciplining our children.

It all started innocently enough.  My son was enjoying some morning fishing time with his Grandpa, and he developed an affinity (okay, maybe borderline obsession) with the plastic “fishy” fishing lures in the tackle box he was supposed to be sitting on.  Don’t worry, these were without hooks so they were mostly safe if you discount their apparent addictive properties.

So, we have a four-year-old boy rapidly “collecting” small plastic fish of a truly alluring variety.  Well, at some point a limit was established and the little guy was mostly okay with his three new pets.  A bit later, he decided he needed just one more fish (or so I thought), a small piece of sparkly gold in his eyes.

Listen to your wifeWhile I was enjoying a few moments of semi-peace in a nearby lawn chair, I overheard his (very dear) mother sternly telling the child that no more fish would removed from the tackle box.  No more fish!  I said no more!  If you can’t listen, you’ll just have to be in timeout.  And to timeout he went.  Fair enough, he deserved some discipline and needed to chill out.

Enter Daddy O’ The Doghouse

And here’s where Daddy gets his dog bone.  My son served his time in the penalty box with honor.  Upon discharge, he approached the forbidden box of tackle.  Ah, don’t worry Mama, Daddy’s got this situation under control.  What we need here is a grand solution, a win-win, a use of superior intellect to fool this child into believing he is getting his way while actually advancing the parental motives.  Brilliant!

In my best Daddy-knows-best voice, I tell the young man that he cannot have any additional fishing lures.  However, he may elect, if he so chooses, to trade in his three fish for the single sparkly fish of his heart’s great desire.  At this point, I can see a real role in world politics and peace-building in my future.  And the young, naive boy took the offer with zest!

The Great Negotiator?  Maybe Not.

A few moments later, I get “the look” as Mama has seen the new sparkly fish.  I can tell this is not a good reaction, but I am puzzled.  I have not added a fish to his collection.  No way, I’ve actually reduced the number of outstanding lures by two.  What could be the problem here?

I was sternly informed that the original argument was over the proposition the young boy had made to make a trade for a different fish.  At first, I think, “Wow, this kid is brilliant…a chip off the old block.”  Then I believe the color began to leave my face as I realized what I had done.

Parent skills should be rewardedWith a single act of not listening fully (and not asking later), I had contradicted my wife’s worthy parental discipline.  I had given our son exactly what he wanted after he had been disciplined for not taking no for an answer earlier.  This was clearly a bad move that served as a poor example of consistent parenting.  Ouch.  Bad Dad, Bad.

So, into the Doghouse of shame I was sent for most of the drive home from the campsite that morning.  And rightfully so, as I had made a fairly serious parenting mistake simply by not listening well.  To my wife’s credit, she threw me a bone and let it go pretty quickly.  Did I mention she is a great wife, smart and witty, gorgeous too…

Doghouse photo courtesy of ClicPhoto Studio; Tackle Box photo courtesy of jasonippolito; Dog Bone photo courtesy of ktylerconk
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