The heart of a father

“My son, don’t forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commands;” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:1‬


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Since you asked…

I know, I know, this kind of post will probably not score as much as my Profile Update on Facebook recently… and definitely cause some worry to the readers. Thanks for your concern, but allow me to share my worries, knowing that I do not hold the truth. Please forgive me for at least giving you some insight from the guys that do know and do shout it out, the sources that you probably do not visit. Continue reading


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And after all…

Was reflecting my first 10 years in my new homeland Sweden. Besides the fact that the language is still a bit of a struggle for me and the culture in many ways can be quite a struggle or better said a confrontation, it has been some amazing and challenging years.

Coming from a nation of communication, meeting and greeting, I had to except that other nations have other habits and qualities. Digging in the dirt of what confronted me, I found some amazing qualities of the people of this nation. Qualities that I began to like to the level of adapting and excepting. I love the people in many ways that learn to deal with seasons of extreme cold, darkness and lack of the fruits of the field. I understand the still strong effort to prepare the wood in spring and summer in order to be warm in the winter. Continue reading


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Raising kids – Part Three

This is part 3 of a (re)blog by Annwen Stone
I must admit that the teenage years have, in the past, been something that I have worried about. The classic ‘Kevin’ overnight change as they turn 13, the potential rebellion, the secrecy of choices that could be life affecting. A good friend with grown up kids was recently recounting about the joy that these years had been to them. It gave me hope that these years don’t have to be difficult and troubled. With the right strategy and tactics the teenage years can be a time of great joy as the investment you have made in the previous years starts to reap its reward: our children can become healthy, independent, and mature young adults that make good choices.

Just to recap – we have been looking at how Jesus’ model of leadership (the Square) can be a tool we can use in our parenting. In the last post we looked at how the first two seasons of his leadership (L1 and L2) had built the culture and demonstrated the vision. He had given them grace and encouragement when they felt like they were failing in fear. He was very much taking the lead in the last season. But as the disciples matured, his tactics changed. The next stages of the square (L3 and L4), which are relevant to parenting teenagers, involved a transition for the disciples. It’s no longer a directive leader approach. Instead, it has become more relational; more like friendship.

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Now remember – without the first two stages this would have been impossible. Without establishing his vision and his ways as their foundation, it would have been too easy for them to just run off and do their own thing! This season of his leadership is marked by the phase “you do it and I will help”.

As this friendship has grown, they have loved to hang out together. But before long, he drops the bombshell that he will be leaving them. Although they are unsure about this, deep down they have been prepared and grown in confidence. They are ready. It’s still a stretch, but it’s the right time for this challenge to continue to represent him without his physical presence there.

As my own children haven’t yet entered this season, I had the privilege of interviewing some parents who have been through this part of the journey and were happy to share their findings:

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“Firstly we realised early on that we needed to eliminate the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ outcomes from conversations with the children. We realised that this kind of highly directional approach with older children can just breed potential rebellion. If I end up saying ‘do this’, they either comply (but inwardly resent not understanding why you have asked that) or they say ‘no’ and we end up in a conflict situation.

We started with the scenarios where there would be consequences, but not life changing ones. We gave opportunity to learn from the little daily situations that can inform the bigger more serious ones. Bed times were a prime example of this. For example, if we were leaving them with a babysitter we would often be asked the question “what time shall I go to bed tonight?” We would use this as an opportunity to say “well what do you think? What kind of day is it? Do you have school tomorrow?” We enabled them to see that they could make a joint decision. That they could weigh up potential consequences and form a decision based on the potential outcomes.

The questions would change over time and the scenarios would involve more responsibility. There were times where they wanted to attend late night parties. We would engage with them on what circumstances they might face there and process with them how they would respond. It was a lot of discussion and reflection. We had to create time, as they consistently needed us to be highly accessible – not just available every now and again. This stage was crucial to them forming reasoning and independence.

We can’t assume that our kids know how to handle certain situations; we need to discuss out loud and look at scenarios and consequences as part of their formation into adulthood.

It’s also helpful to recognise both your natural tenancies in how you lead and parent, and your child’s natural tendencies in how they follow. Every child is different. One of ours is more naturally independent and wants to rush ahead into life and therefore meets situations where we have to give really clear boundaries. Extended family has been key for this child. Having a place she can process outside of her parents, usually with a cool young adult, saying the same things as us but without the emotion of the parental/child relationship. Another one of our children is more naturally willing to sit back, so we have to push her to help her take steps towards independence.

We have found the teenage years to be a time of teaching them continuous processing through their circumstances, fears, peer pressures, and opportunities. They tend to swing back and forth from feeling increasing confidence and stepping out, back to feeling insecure and unsure. In order to get them to a place of healthy independence (L4) – which should be our greatest desire as parents – we need to maintain a strong connection and keep giving them opportunities to process things well. We need to become a place in their lives that, no matter what choices they have made, they are received with love and given grace.”

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When Jesus ascended he left 12 rough and ready disciples. They were barely adolescents in their faith. But he knew it was time for him to commission them in to their next phase of discipleship. He had created a culture and shown them the pattern to follow. He had released them and enabled them. He had given them all they needed to take the next steps. And his Holy Spirit was poured out for them to know they were never alone.

In the same way that Jesus never stops discipling us, we never stop being parents to our children. It’s just the how that changes. Knowing the ‘season’ of parenting we are in helps us to learn from Jesus and parent like he would.

Annwen is married to Andy and together they lead The King’s Centre, part of Network Church Shefffield (NCS). Andy and Annwen have 3 children, Caleb (11), Toby (9) and Elly (6)

 


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Raising kids – Part Two

This is part 2 of a (re)blog by Annwen Stone

In the last post I talked about how the challenges of parenting can be addressed by reflecting on the way Jesus led his disciples and built a discipleship culture. His leadership has so much that we can learn from and imitate to become more empowered, fruitful parents.

There are varying opinions of different stages of child development, but for argument’s sake we will look at 0-7 as the first stage of parenting (L1), the second 8-13 (L2), the third 13-17 (L3), and the fourth 18+ (L4). If you’re not sure what I’m referring to, click here and pop back to my last post.

When Jesus first called his disciples to follow him (L1) he was highly directive and there was high example. He was clear and consistent. There was a strong level of invitation and he expected the disciples to come into his vision, do it his way and learn. “Come follow me” would be a key scripture in L1.

The aim of the parental role in the L1 season (0-7) is to build an environment and culture that demonstrates consistent boundaries and unconditional love. Expressing love can be done through simple things like responses to physical needs, affection, kind words, warmth of tone, and eye contact.

However, we mustn’t underestimate the importance of predictable patterns, rhythms, and routines in this stage of life.

Jesus built security with his disciples. He ate with them and he prayed with them (I wrote about this a bit more here). He modelled regular patterns of retreat from the world and engagement with community.

Predictable patterns build security.

One in ten families in the UK never have an evening meal together, one in 5 only spend less than 10 minutes together around the dining table. I was blessed to grow up in a family where it all happened around the table. Daily dinner was a normal and precious occurrence, so developing that with our kids felt normal. We have journeyed on this and now we have both breakfast and tea together every day (with at least one of us). We sit down and reflect on the day approaching or the day we have had. We pray for each other and engage with God’s word. It’s noisy, fun and full of opportunities to discipline! It enables our children to know they will get daily quality time that is so necessary in maintaining the relational connection between us as a family.

I shared in the last post how there was a lot of fear at play in the upbringing of my children before I realised I could take the lead in my home. One of the places that fear played out was in the area of discipline. I think under the surface I used to believe that my kids wouldn’t know that I loved them if we were always disciplining them. There was far too much consensus of opinion. Both my husband and I are leaders, so it’s no surprise that we have 3 strong little leaders emerging. The problem with creating an environment of consensus too early, is that it causes a vying for that leadership position in the family that rightfully belongs to the parents. It creates a lot of boundary pushing and stress.

I’ve now discovered that discipline is part of love. Love is best expressed through a balance of both invitation and challenge. It’s how Jesus led his disciples and how He still leads us by His Spirit. Discipline is not purely about punishment as I used to think, but about creating an environment where through consistent and clear boundary setting of what’s expected, children feel safe and can learn how to interact with the world.

“Discipline is an external boundary, designed to develop internal boundaries in our children.”

Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend.

This is the time in their lives to set up rhythms and routines that enable and develop their own growing self-discipline. A simple example of this in L1 (0-7) would be bedtimes. We set bedtimes from 6 weeks old. We are the parents, they are the children. Highly directive. Now, that didn’t always mean that as babies they settled at exactly 7pm! But every night we did the same things so that by 6 months they knew instinctively ‘this is what we do’.

Tea. Bath. Story with milk. Bed.

We did the same things every day and in every house that we stayed in. Sharing our evening time was not up for grabs. Did they try and negotiate on it? Of course they did, let me remind you I have 3 little leaders. But we decided that evening time was ours, and that sleep was what made a happy family.

L1 and L2 is the time to create the culture that you want your children to both thrive in but also to imitate. Your children will follow you, so the culture you create in this season will enable both good and bad imitation!

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We have found that one strong area of imitation in our family is around communication. The more peaceful Andy and I are in our communication as a couple, the better the interaction is between the children in our home.

It really is a direct correlation: If we are dishonouring in the tone and the way we speak to each other as a couple, our children will do the same.

Our children will look to us to find a reference of normality. L1 is the time to set what that ‘normal’ looks like for each family. Personally, we get this wrong a lot (!) but when disagreement occurs in our family, we work it out, say sorry, and forgive each other. We really emphasise the need to make it up. We are trying to bring up people that won’t pretend to be perfect, but rather admit their flaws and know how to deal with them.

As the children get older, approaching L2, they start to face the real world. They start to realise that there are families, lifestyles, and beliefs out there in the world that are very different to how their families live. We need to not be afraid of this. I have had conversations with Christian parents who really struggle with sending their children out in to the big wide world. I felt a hint of this as we sent our eldest to senior school last year. Every other educational environment he had encountered was fairly protective, but this was a whole new challenge. He is definitely at a different stage of life to our younger kids and we have learnt that he needs the time to process all that he is encountering in life. We have chosen to make ourselves more accessible and create opportunities, usually at bed times, when he can have a high amount of discussion with us. We are finding that we are coaching him through life at the moment. This quality time enables him to feel that he is sent out into the world, but our home is the place he can come back to, re-group, feel secure, process, and then go back out.

We certainly don’t have this all nailed down! But reflecting on the way Jesus led has empowered us to really understand and know both what kind of culture we want to build in our home, and the needs our children have and addressing those appropriately.

In our next post I will be looking at how the challenges and joys we face in the teenage years (L3 and L4) can be infused with the wisdom of Jesus’ teaching and leadership.

 

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Annwen is married to Andy and together they lead The King’s Centre, part of Network Church Shefffield (NCS).

Andy and Annwen have 3 children, Caleb (11), Toby (9) and Elly (6)