Celebrating Flag Day, In A Whole New Light

I joke with people that I bleed red, white, and blue because I love America so much. I was raised in a flag waving, politically active family. My grandfather (my mom’s dad) was an alderman in my city for over 25 years and then elected the first full-time mayor.

I have fabulous childhood memories of not only waving flags, but pushing tiny ones into our front yard to decorate on different holidays, including the oft-ignored Flag Day. That’s today – June 14th.

When we use all 8 of our smarts when thinking and learning, we draw conclusions we wouldn’t have when thinking with just our 1-3 natural strengths. Let me try to prove it.

Think about the flag using all eight smarts. Will you draw conclusions you haven’t in the past? Discover a new curiosity? See a new picture? Remember a long-forgotten memory? Let me know.

  • Body: think with movement and touch
  • Logic: think with questions
  • Music: think with rhythms and melodies
  • Nature: think with patterns
  • People: think with other people
  • Picture: think with your eyes
  • Self: think with personal reflection
  • Word: think with words

“The flag of the United States has not been created by rhetorical sentences in declarations of independence and in bills of rights. It has been created by the experience of a great people, and nothing is written upon it that has not been written by their life. It is the embodiment, not of a sentiment, but of a history.” ~Woodrow Wilson

Honoring Dave Koch, My Brother

My brother, Dave, turns 65 today. That’s hard to believe! When speaking to children and teens, I love telling them that their siblings can be their best friends. Dave and I were. We still are.

I’m blessed with many great memories of growing up with Dave. I’ll share just one. Our Great Aunt Tressie sometimes babysat for us. We enjoyed her. A main reason for liking her as our babysitter was that our bedrooms were on the second floor and she couldn’t climb the stairs. We were on our own.

Dave invited me into his bedroom, pulled the sheets loose on his bed, chose a book to read, grabbed his flashlight, and we went into “the tent” head first so he could read to me. Yes, this is a beautiful way my brother loved me years ago.

Although there’s much more I could say about the love he’s demonstrated toward me in our adult years and how proud of him I am, I’d rather have his three adult children honor him on his birthday. They have recommendations for you, too. I pray you’re blessed as we encourage my brother.

From Betsy:

Our dad is so consistent. He was always there for us every night, we always ate dinner as a family and discussed our day, he helped us with homework, and taught us skills like our instruments, sports, and fishing. He is also a very hard worker. He worked all week at his job and all weekend at home. I cannot remember him ever not working hard all the time, and it seemed the only time he ever relaxed was on our summer vacations.

To other dads: consistency and hard work are things that my dad showed us that left a lasting impact on me.

To kids: Know that even if your dad doesn’t say “I love you” all the time, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t. Sometimes they choose to show love through their actions which are much more powerful than just words.

From Katie:

Our dad was a great leader in every way. He led spiritually by studying his Bible, praying for us, and teaching us by example. He led financially by working so hard at every job he had to provide for us. He taught us to love sports-Go Pack Go! He taught us the value of hard work by giving us chores – thanks, dad. 🙂

One of the more impressive things he did was quit his job because it was taking too much time away from the family. It was such a huge sacrifice and leap of faith, but it really taught us what is most important in life.

His favorite phrase is “I suppose.” That usually meant I don’t want to say no, but I’m not totally excited about what’s about to happen. This cracked me up every time. He loved it when we repeated him as kids. You’ll never hear him laugh harder than when you’ve been doing that for 10 minutes.

To other dads: Be the leader your children need you to be. They will become like you regardless so do what you can to transfer positive traits.

To other kids: Appreciate the effort and the sacrifices your dad makes for you. Find something you like to do together and build in regular time to do it. Those end up being such special memories.

From Andy:

Dad taught me what it meant to be a man. He is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever known. Not only was he committed to his job, but he also constantly kept himself busy around the house – to the point where it is a bit of a family joke that he can’t sit still and watch an entire movie. 🙂

Even though he worked hard, he was still able to balance that with being incredibly present in our lives. We always ate dinner together as a family. He rarely missed sporting events or concerts, of which there were far too many.

He loved mom so well through the years. It might be a small example, but it stood out to me: mom would usually cook dinner, and he would always serve her by doing the dishes.

He led our family spiritually. He had a vision for his life and for our lives, and he made hard choices for the good of the family when needed. He taught me so much, and I am so grateful. I am the man I am today because of my dad.

To other dads: By God’s grace be the man you want your sons to grow up to be and the man you want your daughters to marry.

To kids: Cherish the short time you get to learn from your dad. Take time to appreciate all that he does for you.

Well said, kids. Well said. Happy birthday, Dave!

Lie #4: “I Am My Own Authority”

Last Sunday, it was my great joy to facilitate a small group in my church who has been going through my book Screens and Teens. I was asked to teach about the fourth lie I address in my book: I am my own authority. I thought I would share what we did in hopes that you might find this a valuable way to spend some time with adults or teenagers in your life.

To review and to begin thinking about this lie, I asked what evidence they saw in the past week that each of the first three lies is believed by people. I also asked how that lie is related to the lie that we think we don’t need anyone else’s authority. We had a great discussion and I think you can as well.

  • Lie #1: I am the center of my own

What’s the evidence people believe this?

How is it related to the lie that I can be my own authority?

  • Lie #2: I deserve to be happy all the time.

What’s the evidence people believe this?

How is it related to the lie that I can be my own authority?

  • Lie #3: I must have choices.

What’s the evidence people believe this?

How is it related to the lie that I can be my own authority?

Then, after reviewing information in the chapter from the book about the authority lie, I asked three questions.

  • What are the dangers of no authority?
  • What are the dangers of bad authority?
  • What are the benefits of good authority?

Discussing these questions with your teens could be profitable. Also, ask them to define “bad authority” and “good authority” and see if you agree. Share your definitions.

How would you discuss the benefits of God’s authority? Or maybe you could spend time discussing reasons God is a good authority for us to trust. That’s what I chose to do.

I listed some of the attributes of God to make the point that it’s Who He is that should allow us to trust Him as authority. And isn’t the same thing true of us? It’s who we are that is going to encourage people to view us as an authority and to trust us as authority. It is not the number of policies or rules we set. It is not how we do or do not deal with those who break them. It’s about our character, our identity, and our essence.

You could discuss this idea, too, if you believe it would be worthwhile or simply reflect on this list by yourself. In what ways do you see the quality related to God’s trusted authority?

  • Wisdom (The ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve these ends by the most perfect In other words, God makes no mistakes.)
  • Infinitude (God knows no boundaries.)
  • Sovereign (God is in control of everything that happens.)
  • Holy (God is set apart from all created beings. This refers to His majesty and His perfect moral purity.)
  • Omniscient (God is all-knowing.)
  • Faithful (Everything that God has promised will come to pass.)
  • Loving (God holds the well-being of others as His primary concern.)
  • Omnipotent (God is all-powerful.)
  • Self-sufficient (God has life in Himself. He has no needs and there is no way He can improve.)
  • Just (God does not conform to some outside criteria. Being just brings moral equity to everyone.)
  • Immutable (God never changes.)
  • Merciful (God is actively compassionate and kind toward those who don’t deserve it.)
  • Good (God is kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men.)
  • Gracious (God enjoys acting on His love and giving great gifts to those who love Him, even when they do not deserve it.)
  • Omnipresent (God is always present.)

I’ll end the blog like I ended our group discussion. Here is your homework assignment. If you claim that God is your authority, what is the evidence? In other words, if I spent 24 or 48 hours with you, how would I know that God is your authority? As I thought about this last week in preparation for Sunday’s lesson, I was both encouraged and humbled. I set goals for this week. Perhaps you’ll do the same.

I Want You to Talk to Your Kid about My Kid – Guest Blog Post by Dawn Ratzlaff

Advocate: “a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc.; a person who pleads for or in behalf of another; intercessor.”

I have great respect for moms and dads who are advocates for their children. It’s among their most important roles. My friend, Dawn, is that type of parent.

Dawn blogs about “a look inside life with a child on the spectrum” at “A Fly on the Wall.” I’ve known Dawn, her husband, Jon, and their son Enoch for several years. I was glad to meet their younger sons a few weeks ago.

Dawn recently blogged vulnerably about what she wishes other children knew about autism so they could better relate to their son. In honor of moms and their commitment to their children, I’m posting her blog here. I’m also posting it because I agree that we could all benefit from better understanding autism from a mom’s perspective. I hope her passion and information inspires you to sit down and talk with your children.

I Want You to Talk to Your Kid about My Kid – by Dawn Ratzlaff

A couple of months ago, a little girl at church asked me, “Is Enoch a baby?”

“No… He’s six years old!”

Then why does he wear diapers?”

“Well, Enoch hasn’t learned how to use the potty yet.”

“Why?”

“Enoch has something called autism. Because of that, his brain works a little different from yours. So, he hasn’t learned how to use the potty yet. Or talk. But hopefully he will someday.”

“Ok!”

The interaction was short, and my answer seemed to be all she needed in the moment. But, I thought to myself, “They’re starting to notice that he’s different.” 

I wondered if when she went home if she would ask her parents about Enoch. What would they say? Do they know Enoch has autism? Do they understand what autism is? How can they explain my child’s differences to their typically developing child?

Yesterday, we went to the museum. While we were there, a little boy asked Enoch to play with him in the sandbox.

He said, “Do you want to play with me?”

Enoch said, “Yes!”

“Great! Start getting sand.”

Blank stare. “Otay!” (Okay)

“Okay, now you need to do this….” “Why aren’t you talking?” “Why are you talking like that?” “No, use your REAL voice.” “I don’t understand you….”

Enoch just smiled and continued trying to play with the little boy, and the little boy kind of played with Enoch, but he seemed to lose some interest when he realized Enoch was different.

I wanted to step in. I wanted to talk for him. I wanted to tell the little boy that Enoch didn’t have many words, but that he understood everything. Instead, I decided to sit back and observe. We weren’t going to see this little boy again.

The little boy was with a sister, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother. What would they say when we left? What did the grandparents think? What do they know about autism? Can they tell he has autism? How will they explain my child to their grandchild?

You may be reading this, and you don’t know my child. But, the chances are you know a child (or an adult) with autism.

The current statistics state that 1 in 68 children is on the autism spectrum. For boys, the prevalence is higher with 1 in 42 boys on the autism spectrum.

That many.

That is a LOT of children.

Unfortunately, the statistics on adults on the spectrum are not as clear because many went undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as children.

Yet, despite the prevalence, people who don’t live with it don’t understand it.

Even 2 years after Enoch was diagnosed, a close family member asked me, “But, isn’t autism a psychological problem?”

NO… 

Autism is a NEUROLOGICAL DISORDER.

NOT A PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEM. 

(For the record, I was hurt that after 2 years, this family member had not done any research to educate themselves about my child. Why didn’t they ask questions before? It wasn’t that the question was wrong, it was the perceived notion that they did not care enough to learn.) 

It makes me think: “if a family member of a child with autism cannot learn about the disorder, why would anyone else?”

So, here’s a little bit about autism:

Autism is a neurological disorder. Enoch’s brain works differently. He perceives things differently. Because of this, some situations are overwhelming for him and he may react in a way that does not seem typical.

Autism is a spectrum. I once read, “If you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism.” That statement is very true. Over the past several years, I have been able to build relationships with many families who have kiddos on the spectrum, and they are ALL DIFFERENT. While some children are able to talk well, others like Enoch, have very few words. While some may be perceived as anti-social, Enoch is very friendly. He desires so much to have friends.

However, there are things that pretty much everyone on the spectrum has in common (there do have to be guidelines to diagnose it after all).

If a child has not met developmental milestones at the usual time, this is a big red flag. Typically all skills will be delayed including fine motor, gross motor and oral motor. Enoch did not walk until he was 22 months old. At 6.5, he is starting to approximate words. He struggles greatly with fine motor skills. He is still no where close to being potty trained. (I have been changing diapers/ pull ups for 6.5 years straight with no end in sight.) He did not learn to jump until he was 5.5.

These delays are NOT caused by bad parenting. Please do not think poorly of a parent if their child is on the spectrum. They have been through a lot. They have had feelings of guilt. They have questioned if it is their fault. It isn’t. They love their child and they work SO hard to help their child on a daily basis. They take their children to therapy. They take their children to doctor’s appointments. They do not have much time alone because they are constantly alert in watching after their child. At this point, we don’t know WHAT causes autism. Science points to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In Enoch’s case, I truly believe autism is something he was born with. 

Communication struggles are highly prevalent in autism. While some can talk, they struggle with connecting with others. They may not speak unless prompted to do so. Enoch’s main method of communication is American Sign Language (ASL). He is also learning to use an Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) device in the form of an iPad app. You may see a child on an iPad and think poorly of the parents. But, that may be that child’s means of communicating. And both sign language and AAC do not hinder communication. They enhance it! Enoch is now starting to approximate words, and I attribute much of that to our work with ASL and AAC.

This does not mean that a child on the spectrum is not smart. Enoch is VERY smart. Despite not being able to talk, he is word smart. He can spell. He can read. He enjoys math and science. He is on a typical Kindergarten level in a majority of his subject areas. His biggest delay academically is in writing (because of poor fine motor skills).

Many people on the spectrum struggle with gastrointestinal issues. When Enoch was an infant, he would have a bowel movement once a week. I remember thinking that was so strange. I asked our pediatrician about it, and he said, “It must be Enoch’s normal.” For the past several years now, we have visited a gastroenterologist for both chronic diarrhea and chronic constipation. There aren’t really many answers for this link, but there is a lot of research in the past few years about the connection between the gut and the brain.

Many children on the spectrum are picky eaters. Enoch is one of them. I can quickly make a list of the limited foods he will eat, and it is getting worse. When we visited with a nutritionist about a year a half ago, and I listed what he will eat she said, “Yep! That sounds about like what all the kiddos on the spectrum that see me will eat.” She was however surprised by his love of hummus and bananas.

Social situations and highly stimulating situations can be overwhelming. Again, those on the autism spectrum perceive their surroundings differently from those who are neurotypical. Enoch tends to have what you might consider a meltdown in some of these situations. For him, haircuts are the absolute worst. Because of that, his hair was very long for a long time. This was much more involved than a child who did not want a haircut. As parents, we would tire of the constant comments. “He needs a haircut.” “He looks like a girl.” “Why don’t you cut his hair?”

Many on the spectrum are drawn to water. (And do not understand the danger associated with it.) This includes Enoch. He is extremely drawn to water. Extremely. I will turn down invitations to anything with a pool or close to a body of water or any kind because the thought of it brings me close to a panic attack (this is NOT an exaggeration). We cannot visit certain family members houses because they have a pool. Even if he had swim lessons (which we will do at some point), because of his poor motor skills, he would not be able to swim at this time. He just learned how to blow. Sort of.

Drowning is among the leading cause of death of individuals with autism.” For more information on safety concerns associated with autism please visit: http://nationalautismassociation.org/resources/autism-safety-facts/

Children on the spectrum often experience sleep disturbances. Enoch has been an early riser as long as I can remember. He seems to be able to function on much less sleep than I have ever been able to. Most mornings, he is awake between 4:00 and 5:00. Sometimes, I hear him before that and need to go in his room to turn out his light, tell him to stop playing and try to get more sleep. At the recommendation of our pediatrician, we lock his door from the outside to avoid potential safety issues. However, we can hear him playing in his room, LOUDLY, so the rest of us don’t get much sleep either. Lately, he is reading to himself, which I love. Who would have thought he would become such a bookworm? Not me. 

All this said, maybe your child knows another child on the spectrum. They know this other child is different. They don’t understand why this child is different. YOU may even look at this child and think they are “weird”. You may be concerned by their behavior because you don’t understand it yourself. I think it is important that children understand now, so that when they are older they learn to be compassionate and not mean when they encounter someone who is different from them.

(And I think this point goes along with ALL differences, but that’s a whole different blog post, and something I know less about.)

A few suggestions:

  1. Talk to the parent. Talk to me. Ask questions. There are not wrong questions. Most parents of children on the spectrum are open books. We want to share with you about our children. We want you to understand.
  2. Schedule a playdate. Let your kid spend some time with the child in a different setting. Perhaps they have only seen how they act at school or church. Sometimes those settings can be overwhelming. Be aware that the child’s parents may rather you come to their home (because their child is more comfortable there). Do it. Don’t take offense, it isn’t because we aren’t interested in coming to your home.
  3. Ask your kid questions. They may have more answers than they know. Ask them: “Why do you think _________ is different?” “Is there anything that ___________ likes to do that you like to do?” ” How does it make you feel when _______________ does that?”
  4. Remind your child that we are ALL different. The one thing we all have in common is that we were all made by a loving God IN HIS IMAGE. God made Enoch. When God made Enoch, He did not make a mistake.

I want you to talk to your kid about my kid.

This is written by Dawn Ratzlaff. She and her husband, Jon, live in Dallas, TX, with their 3 sons. Jon is a minister of music at a local church, and Dawn stays home with the kids. Enoch, their oldest, is 6.5, and has moderate- severe autism. Their twins, Malachi and Titus are (almost) 2. The 3 of them are a handful, and Dawn can’t imagine her life any other way. She enjoys cooking, baking, singing, playing the piano, writing, and drinking (lots of) coffee. If you want to follow her blog, you’ll find it here.

The Importance Of Reality And The Dreams That Fuel A Child’s Heart

The gymnasium was full of high school students. They filled both sides of the bleachers from the first row to the last and all the way from one end of the gym to the other. There were also hundreds of students in chairs on the floor in front of me.

I was as ready as I could be with a message to encourage them. As I shared, I included Scripture relevant to God creating us on purpose with purpose for purpose:

“O Lord, You are our Father,
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all of us are the work of Your hand.”

(Isaiah 64:8)

“For You created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

(Psalm 139:13-14)

“For we are God’s handiwork,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

(Ephesians 2:10)

I was impressed from the very beginning with the students’ attention and quick responses. They were eager to be encouraged and challenged.

When sharing elements of my story and how I believe God created me to glorify Him, I kept asking them about their dreams. “What’s your story?”

I wanted students to think about who they were designed to be and what they were created to do. I challenged them to be realistic and to persevere and be diligent to achieve the dreams they could.

I then heard myself say something that until that day I had only said when speaking to parents and teachers:

Grieve what isn’t, accept what is, and work on what you can.

It’s absolutely appropriate and even essential that children dream about their future. It becomes a problem when their dreams aren’t realistic. To keep trying for something that can never be will only lead to frustration, deep depression, and possibly despair.

Although dreams have many positive facets, I believe they’re relevant to suicide in at least three ways. That’s why I’m including the topic in my programs more and more:

  • If teens’ dreams aren’t realistic and they don’t have a “plan B” discouragement defeats them.
  • If teens’ dreams are realistic, but they don’t have the skills and/or character qualities necessary to accomplish them, anger creates danger (As we say at Celebrate Kids, “wishing it so won’t make it so.”)
  • If parents have dreams that teens don’t have for themselves or that teens don’t believe they can reach, pressure persuades them to give up and give in.

Walt Disney was right about a lot of things, but not everything.

  • He said, “Dreams are forever.” I believe, “We should dream forever.”
  • He said, “No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.” I believe, “No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing in yourself, you’ll think of new dreams.”
  • He said, “If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.” I believe, “If you can dream it, you may be able to do it. Many great things start with dreams.”

At the conclusion of my chapel, many students hung out with me. I loved chatting with them and hearing about some of their dreams. After a while, I noticed a girl on my left approach me with a notebook and a pen. She waited and then took advantage of silence: “You said something about grieving our dreams and accepting what’s going on. I needed that. I loved the way you said it. Do you remember?” Before I could give her the three statements, many in the crowd agreed with her that it was valuable to them, too.

Grieve what isn’t, accept what is, and work on what you can.

Our teens need parents and others who dream realistic dreams for them and explain how they can fulfill them. Teens need people to teach them how to make the dreams come true.

Teens need parents and others who help them realize when dreams aren’t realistic. Teens need people to walk with them through the disappointment and to give them permission to grieve the loss of dreams. Teens need people who help them move on.

Our teens need healthy role models – people who adjust their dreams and keep dreaming. People who don’t give up, but alter their course of action.

Who will you be? What will you do?

Friendship And The Adolescent Brain by Jerusha & Jeramy Clark

Today Jerusha Clark and her husband, Jeramy are guest blogging for me for a second time. I met Jerusha when we spoke together at a convention and I instantly loved her and definitely have come to respect her as I got to know her work. I wrote a bit about the adolescent brain in my book, Screens and Teens. Their book, Your Teenager is Not Crazy, is brilliant.  They clearly write about very important applications of significant brain research in ways you can understand. Today’s post is about friendship, which is always a relevant topic. Maybe it’s on your mind more, though, as Valentine’s Day will be soon upon us. Read this and then share it with your friends. You’ll want to!

Do you remember who your best friends in middle school or high school were? Of course you do! Faces either swam into your memory or your stomach tightened as you recalled being alone day after day. Adolescent friendship—or the lack of it—powerfully impacts all of us.

If you’re the parent of a tween or teen, chances are it’s impacting you all over again, this time from the other side. You’re navigating hurt feelings and adolescent drama with your child, and it’s not that much easier (it may, in fact, feel harder) than lo so many years ago when your most pressing concern was the North Star zit that exploded on your forehead right before Homecoming.

Your tween or teen is experiencing radical changes in his or her brain. Neuroscientists liken this to the brain being remodeled. Have you ever remodeled a room in your house? If you have, you know that it always takes more time, costs more money, and requires more of you than you planned to give. Raising a teen is kind of like that! Why? Because adolescent brains are being progressively renovated as a tween or teen moves away from childhood and toward young adulthood.

We described some of the general changes happening in the teen brain in this post for Dr. Kathy and the Celebrate Kids community. For today, we’re going to look at how the amazing adolescent brain deals with friendship. If you’ve wondered why it seems so hard for your teen to make or keep friends, if you’re concerned about the people your tween is hanging out with, if you’re hoping that maybe things will change this school year, we’d like to equip you with some knowledge and some hope.

Knowledge first.

As your adolescent’s brain is remodeled, the neural structures that make up what scientists refer to as “the social brain” are pruned and transformed. During this season, there is a natural and healthy push away from the home and toward peers.

It used to really hurt my feelings when my teenage daughters would ask, “Can I bring a friend?” or “Do we have to have a family night?” Now I understand there’s way more at play in their brains than I initially assumed. Whereas I once assumed these changes meant I had been weighed and found wanting by my adolescent children, I now understand that when adolescents push away from parents and toward friends, it can actually be a really good sign.

God designed for your tween or teen to move toward peers while they are still in your home so that they can learn important social skills like conversation, interdependence, and empathy. Imagine if your son or daughter only stayed in your home and never interacted with peers. That’s a frightening prospect for their adult life!

Adolescents need to practice these new skills and then come home to a safe and stable environment where their brains can “rest” from the (often dramatic) ebbs and flows of teenage friendship. And similar to flabby muscles that need to be worked out for optimum performance, your tween or teen’s social “muscles” need to exercise in the world of their peers.

In other words, don’t take this personally, parents! This is both a physical reality (the social brain is “propelling” adolescents toward one another) and a heart desire (the need for acceptance is common to us all). You can be an ally for your tween or teen by facilitating healthy friendships.

Of course, I’m not saying we should release tweens and teens to limitless peer interaction. Yikes! Scary thought.

Instead, we can remember and put into practice the following truths about friendship during the teen years:

  1. Teen brains learn best by example. If you want your son or daughter to develop healthy relationships, show them how to do it. Love your own friends well. Treat strangers with compassion. Listen patiently and attentively when someone wants to share a story or opinion (even if you don’t agree). You may not think your adolescent is watching, but studies show otherwise. Your tween or teen’s brain is busy—constantly busy—interpreting what’s going on in and around him or her. If you’re “too busy” to be with friends but are perennially on your phone or computer, don’t be surprised if your son or daughter enacts the same pattern. Your example certainly isn’t the whole story, but it does play a significant role. Don’t let your input be an empty set or worse, a negative one.
  1. Surround your teens and their friends with “surrogate prefrontal cortexes.” The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is sometimes called the brain’s CEO. It’s the portion of the brain that coordinates executive-level functions like forethought, judgment, planning, and impulse control. Kinda reads like a laundry list of what teens struggle with, doesn’t it? That’s because the PFC is the “final frontier” of brain remodeling. Because your adolescent’s PFC won’t fully develop until approximately twenty-five years of age and his or her friends’ brains won’t develop until the same time, they benefit from having more mature brains around them. This can’t always be you, so it’s essential to engage “surrogate prefrontal cortexes” in your tween or teen’s life. Coaches, church group leaders, mentors, and teachers are great options. Invest in knowing these people. Facilitate times for them to be with your teen(s). We recently paid for one of our teenage daughters to get coffee with a family friend who offered to talk with her about some concerns she was having. Via text, a youth group volunteer also helped one of our adolescent girls process some friendship drama. Knowing that your adolescent and his/her friends have more mature brains around can give you greater confidence and peace.
  1. Influence whenever possible. Making blanket statements about your tween or teen’s friends usually gets you nowhere and them angry. Don’t make rash judgments about your adolescent’s friends. Instead, ask questions to determine what your son or daughter likes about the people he or she is with. If you can’t get an answer, observe carefully. Yes, this takes time. Yes, it requires some work. Yes, it’s worth every bit of effort. You lose the opportunity to influence when you dismiss your tween or teen’s friends out of hand. You also miss the chance to influence when you just want teens “out of your hair.” If you see your adolescent’s friendship needs as one prolonged hassle, you’re headed in the wrong direction. You have a tremendous potential to influence your teen’s life of friendship. Don’t miss the opportunities!
  1. People first, devices second. This fantastic phrase came from my friend, Arlene. It’s a great way to remind your teen that people always come before electronics. If your son or daughter is having a friend over, consider setting limits on their tech time. It’s amazing what happens when teens don’t have the option to default to screens. They actually talk; they may even Imagine that?! This is also helpful when you’re visiting family, especially older relatives who may not be as initially “exciting” to talk to; if you already have the “people first, devices second” principle in place, you won’t be in a constant battle with your teen. He or she will know that when people are around, relationship is the #1 priority.

Finally,

  1. Don’t be afraid of getting some professional help! Today’s world can feel like a scary place to teenagers. Faced with near-constant media bombardment about issues many adolescents don’t understand (world terror, elections, economic pressures, immigration, sexual and gender tensions, just to name a few), modern teens are finding it more difficult to interact in safe ways with one another. Some adolescents would rather just stay home with their video games and phones; this feels safer. Others are battling mental health issues and isolating themselves is an outgrowth of this struggle. The habits your tween or teen learns by withdrawing from relationships can ultimately be detrimental. If you find that your teen is struggling with friendship, don’t assume “this will pass” or “it’s just a phase.” Go see your pastor and/or consider talking to a counselor to get equipped. Perhaps taking your son or daughter to a counselor is in order. All too often, parents don’t reach out for help because they just want the issues to go away. If you find yourself in this situation, we understand how hard it is! We’ve been there. When you get help, however, you help for more than just right now; you’re setting your adolescent up for relationship success long-term.

There are several chapters in our book, Your Teenager is Not Crazy, that deal with peer dynamics and influence (including peer pressure), why and how teen friendships form and last, and how you can be part of the grand adventure. We just can’t fit it all into a little blog!

For lots more on the teenage brain, how understanding it can make you a better parents, and ways faith impacts it all, check out the resources available at www.jandjclark.com.

Your Teenager is Not Crazy: Understanding Your Teen’s Brain Can Make You a Better Parent is available online and at local retailers from Baker Books.

7-20-16 JeramyClark

Dr. Jeramy Clark received his Masters of Divinity and Doctorate of Ministry from Talbot Theological Seminary.  He served as a youth pastor for 17 years before becoming the Pastor of Discipleship at Emmanuel Faith Community Church.  His role includes overseeing Men’s and Women’s Ministries, Care and Counseling, and Small Groups.  Jeramy roasts, brews, and savors coffee of all varieties, plays pickup basketball, is a drummer, and enjoys surfing.

7-20-16 JerushaClarkJerusha Clark co-authored four books with Jeramy, including three bestsellers, prior to launching her own writing and speaking ministry, focused on helping others glorify and enjoy God, one thought at a time.  On quiet days, you can find Jerusha body-boarding, reading, or singing around a bonfire at the beach, her absolute favorite place.  Jeramy and Jerusha have two amazing teenage daughters and love ministering together at churches, retreats, schools, and conferences.

Unshakable Loyalty, Do Your Kids Experience This From You?

The Green Bay Packers lost yesterday in their championship game with the Atlanta Falcons. As a result, the Falcons will compete against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Packers and their fans will stay home.

If you know me, follow me on Facebook, or have heard me speak especially during football season, you probably know I’m a fan. I grew up in Wisconsin and lived in Green Bay for seven years before moving to Fort Worth in 1991 to begin my ministry, Celebrate Kids, Inc.

I’m still a fan. My loyalty is settled and not dependent upon their win/loss record. Using this as an opportunity to reflect on family dynamics, I hope you’re a fan of your kids and that your loyalty doesn’t depend upon how often they win or lose.

The Packers aren’t losers just because they lost a game. They’re still winners in my book. After all, they made it to their conference playoff game! Now, looking from sports and toward your children, how do you view your kids? Are they losers because they lost (failed a test, lost at sports, behaved badly, etc.)? Or do you think of them as always beloved, and usually victorious with an occasional bad day?

I didn’t take the Packers’ loss personally. I didn’t get angry. I didn’t yell at the TV. I didn’t post anything on social media sites that would make friends who are Falcons’ fans mad. In fact, within minutes of the Falcons victory, I texted my niece’s husband and some friends who are huge Falcons fans. Congratulating them was right.

And I posted on Facebook that I’m still a Packers’ fan. I am. Do your kids know if you’re still their fan? It is never the wrong time to cheer them on!

Dream. Dream BIG. Dream Large. Dream Gigantic!

Change. It’s a word and a concept that results in many strong reactions.

There’s not a person alive who doesn’t have something they could change in order to have a better life.

More productivity. More peace. More joy. More friendships. More hope.

Less fear. Less trouble. Less trauma. Less loneliness. Less despair.

Change will more likely work out well when all five core needs are met in healthy ways. This gives us a lot to count on during the sometimes shaky transitional times surrounding change.

How do we get started? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life and legacy we celebrate in America today, believed a dream was essential. He was right.

You’re Not Alone: The Overwhelm of Mom Guilt (Guest Post by Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory)

How often do you wonder if you could have handled a situation with a child better than you did? Notice, I didn’t ask if you do, I asked how often you do. That’s because if you’re a parent who cares, you have wondered. If we’re not careful, mom guilt or dad guilt can occur and paralyze us as we’re overcome with regrets. It’s just one of the many things that causes parents to be overwhelmed.

Because being overwhelmed is never good and can lead to other negative issues, I was glad to pre-read the new book, Overwhelmed: Quiet the Chaos and Restore Your Sanity, written by Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory. You’ll benefit from the book as they share about many things that can cause us to be overwhelmed and, more importantly, what to do about them.

Please read their guest blog. At the end, you’ll want to get the free gift they offer you and follow through to possibly win a free book. (The chapter related to the free gift is worth the price of the book.) – Dr. Kathy

You’re Not Alone: The Overwhelm of Mom Guilt

“What would you do differently as a mom, Cheri?”

I hesitate, look around the table at the five women gathered for a mom’s night out, and realize I’m among friends.

“Pretty much everything!” I say, only half in jest.

“There are three general types of feedback people can give each other: (1) Affirmation (2) Coaching, and (3) Evaluation.”

Everyone nods; they’ve each read Thanks for the Feedback, too.

I continue. “What I wish I’d done was spent their first ten years giving them very intentional coaching in all key areas of life. Then, by the time they were teens, the foundation would have been well-laid, and I could have focused more on affirmation. Unfortunately, I fell for the self-esteem movement of the 90’s.”

All five women roll their eyes in sympathetic understanding.

“I did it the wrong way around: I affirmed my kids’ every waking moment but failed to coach and, as necessary, correct. As a result, they’re 24 and 26 and still trying to figure out how to launch independent lives.”

As our conversation continues, each mom shares her own regrets.

By dessert time, our list is long indeed.

The Overwhelm of Mom Guilt

I’ve seen plenty of social media memes urging us to “Live with no regrets.”

But I have yet to meet a regret-free mom.

Most conversations I have with mothers, of any age or stage, quickly turn to how overwhelmed they are by Mom Guilt.

A few years ago, I posted this question to my Facebook page:

“I’m working on a project and need some examples of negative self-talk that parents use against themselves. (i.e. “They deserve a better mom than me…”) Give me your best imitation(s) of those inner critic, mom/dad guilt voices!”

In less than an hour, almost one hundred women (no men) had left comments like these:

  • “If I was a better Mom, I wouldn’t have such a hard time breastfeeding – or I’d produce more milk.” Or “This baby deserves a better mom – one that isn’t feeling weepy or crabby every day.”
  • “What will people think if my child keeps _______________?” (Fill in blank with crying, sucking his thumb, whining, talking in church, carrying her blankie, refusing green vegetables, etc., etc.)?
  • “At this rate we’ll be Jerry Springer Show regulars by 2015.”
  • “If I were a good mom, my child would… take school work more seriously, be better organized, have more friends, play outside more, not be failing his class, not be working on his project at 10:00 the night before it’s due.”
  • “Whatever I do it will never be enough.”
  • “They would choose (another mom’s name) over me for a mom if they had a choice.”

My Most Overwhelming Regret

I resonate with every single concern voiced above.

But my most overwhelming regret is that I didn’t take care of my own emotional and spiritual health when my children were little.

I met my husband when I was 18, just six months after being discharged from the eating disorder unit of a neuropsychiatric hospital. We married young (21) and had children right away.

I knew that the eating disorder I’d struggled with for five years wasn’t fully resolved. But I did what so many women do: I believed I could put my own needs high on a shelf for the next twenty years, raise my children, and then pick back up where I’d left myself off.

Of course, it didn’t work that way.

My kids grew up with a mom who was barely surviving. Oh, how I wish they’d had a mom who was intentionally thriving!

Giving Our Guilt to God

Over the holidays, my 26-year-old daughter, Annemarie, and I sat at the kitchen table, drinking tea and chatting about how God is working in our lives.

As I shared some of the self-care and boundary-setting decisions I’d recently made, Annemarie responded, “I’m so proud of the choices you’re making, Mom! This is such incredible growth for you.”

“I just wish I hadn’t waited so long to deal with my issues,” I said, deflecting her praise with guilt. “I wish I’d made these kinds of choices twenty years ago.”

Annemarie reached across the kitchen table, put a hand on mine, and her next words took my breath away:

“Mom, you need to know that the 6-year-old in me is watching you, too.”

For so many years, I thought it was too late. The damage was done. It was too late for me to change, to become a better mom, to be the kind of mom my kids needed and deserved.

But my daughter’s words told a different story. They reminded me that God really can
“restore … the years that the locust hath eaten” (Joel 2:25, KJV).

Today, if you’re a parent who feels overwhelmed by regret, here are four truths you need to know:

1)  You’re not alone.

2)  It’s never too late.

3)  You can change.

4)  Even the smallest change you make makes a difference that matters.

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Instead of making New Year’s resolutions (that will only last for a week), how about creating a Personal manifesto that will carry you through the rest of your life?  Sign up for great ideas and resources about how to get out from Overwhelmed and you will receive “How to Write Your Personal Manifesto” as our gift to you. Get off the overwhelming cycle of making and breaking resolutions and create a gentle plan for lasting life change.

Giveaway

Kathi and Cheri would like to send a copy of Overwhelmed: Quiet the Chaos & Restore Your Sanity to one of our readers!

To qualify for the drawing, you need to do TWO things:

#1. LEAVE A COMMENT below.

#2. SHARE THIS POST on social media.

That’s it! Once you do both, your name will be entered into the random drawing. Be sure to tell your friends so they can sign up too. The drawing will take place on Friday night so don’t delay! {Contest is limited to US & Canadian readers only.}

About Overwhelmed

Feeling overwhelmed? Wondering if it’s possible to move from “out of my mind” to “in control” when you’ve got too many projects on your plate and too much mess in your relationships?

Kathi and Cheri want to show you five surprising reasons why you become stressed, why social media solutions don’t often work, and how you can finally create a plan that works for you. As you identify your underlying hurts, uncover hope, and embrace practical healing, you’ll understand how to…

  • trade the to-do list that controls you for a calendar that allows space in your life
  • decide whose feedback to forget and whose input to invite
  • replace fear of the future with peace in the present

You can simplify and savor your life—guilt free! Clutter, tasks, and relationships may overwhelm you now, but God can help you overcome with grace.

Bios

Kathi Lipp is a busy conference and retreat speaker and the bestselling author of several books, including Clutter Free, The Husband Project, and The Get Yourself Organized Project. She and her husband, Roger, live in California and are the parents of four young adults.

Cheri Gregory spends her weekdays teaching teens and weekends speaking at women’s retreats. She’s been married to her college sweetheart, Daniel, for more than 28 years. The Gregorys and their young adult kids, Annemarie and Jonathon, live in California.

Names Can Be A Positive Source Of Identity

Our names are important to us. They can be a strong positive source of identity. This is certainly true for God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. When we know His names, we know a lot about Him.

The identity link to our names is among the reasons I wish more parents would be as thoughtful and purposeful when naming their children as some of my friends have been.

Especially when children know their name’s heritage, dreams parents had for them are reinforced when they hear their name. If your children’s names are significant, make sure they know the reasons. Tell them the relevant stories.

For my first example, let me share a short paragraph from pages 131-132 in the book Jill Savage and I wrote, No More Perfect Kids. I love the reason Jay and his wife named their son Jamison.

Kids’ names are important because they’re the first labels they’re given. If your kids don’t know why you chose the names you did for them, share your reasons, especially if you named them for a reason or because the name held significance. Kathy’s friend Jay and his wife named their son Jamison. Jamison was present as Jay told Kathy about his name’s origin and how much he had prayed for a son. Although it’s pronounced with a short i sound, his name means “Jay my son.” Although Jamison already knew the story, you should have seen his face while his dad explained it to Kathy. The connection between the father and son was beautiful and obvious.

And, how about the decision my friends, Michael and Meredith made? They’re expecting their second daughter and have named her Moriah Renee. They explain their choice this way: Abraham offered his son Isaac on Mount Moriah, where God provided a ram in the thicket as a substitute and it is near where He would ultimately provide His own Son as the perfect sacrifice to be the Savior of the world. The name means “God is my teacher.” Renee means “reborn.”

And now let me share about Zion Daniel, the son of David and Lindsay Eaton. They’re pictured above. In David’s words:

Let’s start with Daniel. Daniel means “God is my judge” and in ancient times he was quite a man of God. He was full of wisdom, courage, conviction, vision, and faithfulness. He was a shrewd leader and a servant of the people.

The name Daniel also means a lot to Lindsey and I because some of the most important men in our lives have that name! We knew that we HAD to name our first son Daniel just to honor them.

– Daniel Gee … Lindsey’s loving father.

– Conan Daniel Gee … Lindsey’s steadfast brother.

– Daniel Eaton … my annoying brother 😉 … that I deeply respect and admire.

– Jeremiah Daniel Callihan … the other cofounder at Axis who is a dear friend.

– Daniel VanValkenburg … an incredible friend from college and lifelong friend.

… and of course there are a host of other amazing Daniels in our life as well …

And the name Zion. It is a name with many meanings. Some think it means “bald dry place” as in the top of a mountain, but we prefer the meaning “monumental” or “fortress” that other scholars ascribe to the name. It is actually not a Hebrew word … but rather predates Israel. However in the Bible it is a very important geographical place and a concept. It represents Jerusalem, the City of David, and is the place of worship and redemption for Israel. It also embodies the future hope of followers of Jesus, of a restored world and the eventual city of God where God dwells with humanity.

One final thing that we particularly like. Any ancient temple like the temple on Zion or the temple location at Shiloh, our daughter’s name, was considered a dwelling place for God. It was a place where the veil between heaven met earth was thin. We like the idea of our children representing an overlap or intersection between heaven and earth.

I believe Zion Daniel, Moriah Renee, and Jamison are blessed to have thoughtful parents and rich stories and meanings assigned to their names. I’d love to know about your name or names you’ve given your children. Please comment below. Let’s encourage each other.