The Five Powerful Results of Empathy

There is no more important time for kids to know they are loved than when they misbehave. If the love message misses them then, they will grow to believe that love is conditional or earned. People who believe that love is earned tend to rise and fall with their performance, and compromise themselves for approval. Not what we want for our kids.

One way children know they’re loved is if you simply say so, not in a condescending way, but from your heart, right there while your kids are misbehaving. (Sound crazy? Just try it!) But another powerful, perhaps less-well-known way to express love is by expressing understanding, or empathy.

Sore Losers: Why They Melt Down and What You Can Do [Video]

Playing games with our kids can be a fun way to connect. But what happens when one or more of the children struggles with losing gracefully?

Enjoyable playtime can quickly morph into a frustrating outburst.

Kids are upset, other players are uncomfortable, and everyone may begin to tiptoe around the “sore loser” — or even be tempted to let them win all the time to avoid a meltdown! Parents may even begin to worry about their child’s future life as a “sore loser”. If he can’t lose a simple game of checkers, what will happen when he doesn’t make the basketball team? Or when he doesn’t get the promotion he wants?

It can be scary to watch your child spiral out of control — but there’s a better way, a way that can help you reclaim the fun of family game time while also helping your child learn to lose gracefully.

What’s Your Child Really Saying?

How I Created Connection with my Child's Heart

What is Your Child Really Saying-

Sometimes it takes a living, breathing experience to influence how we think about interactions with our children.  The Connected Families model of stop and breathe helped me to understand that, as a father, if I desire obedience from my child, I should resist the urge to control their behavior and instead look for connection with my child’s heart.  Read my story below for insight about how to apply this principle and see how mindful parenting (after I learned the hard way) really works.

It was the first warm day of spring in Minnesota, which usually means MUD.

The ground was still soggy from the snow melt, but the air was clean and fresh and the flowers were just beginning to peek through the soil.  I was outside with two of our three kids and they were enjoying one of the great experiences of childhood: puddle jumping.

Enter our oldest child onto the scene.  Shelbi had a number of qualities attributed to many oldest children: leadership, organization, rule-follower and in Shelbi’s case, generally cooperative — which is what made it all the more surprising when she came outside wearing her nice new pants and shirt. Values in Real Life

Renee and Randy were in a common repeating cycle with their 5-year-old, Peter. “We felt like we were constantly on eggshells because of his daily meltdowns.” We showed them the T.E.A.C.H. framework, and their next report was a great review of how effectively they applied it. Here’s their summary:

T – While Peter was calm they Talked with him about how sometimes our bodies get upset and our energy gets too high. They told him there are a lot of ways to help our bodies feel more calm.

E – They Exemplified self-control by staying calm and by describing their own emotions and energy level. When angry, the parent would say, “I feel angry now, but I want to calm down. I’m going to sit down and take a few deep breaths.” Sometimes they’d play soothing music or take walks, always describing their strategy.

A – They looked for any opportunities to Affirm Peter whenever he avoided a meltdown. Even if he started sucking his thumb they said, “It looks like your body figured out it needs to do something calm itself down.”

C – They Created Opportunities for success when he started sucking his thumb by saying, “Let’s find some bigger, more helpful ways to calm yourself down that won’t be hard on your teeth.” Then they offered some choices of big movement activities.

H – They Helped him get started in the calming activity, making sure it was fun and commenting on how it helped him be so calm and grown up (Affirmation).

In just a few short weeks of using the T.E.A.C.H framework to guide them, Renee, Randy, and Peter were experiencing much more peace in their daily routines.

Parents who T.E.A.C.H. their kids consistently report that their kids are more receptive to their teaching. It takes some thought and prayer!

Frustrated by constant discipline challenges? Take 15 minutes to read our free ebook When Your Child Misbehaves – Four Strategies for Lasting Change.

How to Deal with an Attention Addict


Recently, on a weekend when all our kids were home, we dug out the family videos for a trip down memory lane (or, in the case of our daughter-in-law, a crash-course in Jackson family history).

Our kids’ childhood antics were rather hilarious – particularly their clumsy attempts to steal the spotlight when a younger sibling was in the picture. In one scene, little Noah is being coaxed to try his first steps across the living room floor. When he hesitates, Daniel and Bethany literally plow him over in their attempts to prove to both parents and camera that “I can walk too!”

In hindsight, attention-grabbing toddlers can be amusing. But in the moment, it can be frustrating for parents to deal with the annoyance of a child who demands constant attention.

So how can parents respond lovingly to their attention-guzzling children without “giving in” or creating spoiled children?

Is There Harm in Convincing Kids Santa Is Real?

Note: For some of our readers this post may touch a nerve. Please know we write in a spirit of deeply wanting to see the story of Jesus magnified far above all other stories.

For centuries societies have played out the Santa Claus and Easter Bunny stories. Now there’s even an Elf on the Shelf to add to the Santa story, and it’s helpful to consider…

Is this telling of tall tales really good for our kids?

For many families, these stories are an integral part of the holiday traditions that bring great, connective fun between parents and kids. (And at Connected Families we certainly do love connection between parents and kids!) Although many kids have believed the Santa ruse and then discarded those beliefs without detriment, it’s still helpful to be aware of potential downsides of these fun spoofs and what parents can do to avoid them.  

  1. Materialism in young people is on the rise, and Santa and his elf buddies can be complicit by keeping the focus at Christmas on copious amounts of glitzy, glowing stuff. What a distraction from the joy-filled arrival of a Savior to a spiritually impoverished world! In the same way at Easter, that fluffy, floppy-eared candy dispenser distracts us from the price that Jesus paid for our sin to offer us eternal life.
  2. These stories are usually perpetuated through some fairly clever deception. Unfortunately we live in a day and age where lying and manipulation is popularized and accepted in pop culture, and young people have never had such low levels of social trust.*

Because of these elements, we challenge parents to keep the fun and connection, but be carefully trustworthy as you talk about the most important remembrances of our faith that hold such beautiful, spiritual truths.

This may not be as hard as it seems….Parents can keep Jolly Old St. Nicholas part of Christmas without any hint of deception to do it. You see, St. Nicholas was a real person. He loved Jesus and gave gifts to the poor and needy. There was even a holiday in his honor on December 6th. The details are sketchy, but we tend to think that honoring St. Nick could be a good part of the story – with no need for deception.

If we make the St. Nick story part of the celebration, we err on the side of full honesty. The gift-giving bearded man dressed in red enhances rather than distracts from the Jesus part of the story, with no concern about how kids may one day interpret it all. In addition, St. Nick’s story is a “materialism buster” as we help kids focus on the joy of giving instead of just receiving. There are wonderful opportunities, such as Operation Christmas Child, for kids to be like St. Nicholas.

If your family has loved the Santa story, but you’d like to minimize the downsides and do more to honor the real spiritual value of the holidays, you can explain this to your kids: You’ve played a fun game but have decided to do it differently from now on. Highlight the importance of truth in a day and age when so many people are untruthful about so many things. If you want to keep your tradition of Santa, and Elf or Easter bunny, you can let them know it’s just really fun pretend. Keep making it fun. Then – tell them the Truth! Read Luke 2 with great wonder, or focus on the historical figure of St. Nicholas. For a fun explanation of where the story of Santa Claus came from, consider showing the videos made by Veggie Tales creator Phil Vischer – especially number 4 & 5 in his series “12 Questions of Christmas.”

Then – promote Saint Nick as he really was. Celebrate this generous believer from the past, and make this a Christmas where more than ever you seek and humbly proclaim Truth, and delight in sharing this journey with your kids.

How do you address the story of Santa Claus in your home? Let us know in the comments!


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To Spank or Not to Spank?

To Spank or Not to Spank

We often get asked, “What about spanking?” One parent we talked with explained a conversation she had with her pastor about some behavior from her daughter that was really frustrating and difficult. She told us that the pastor’s advice was brief and to the point. He said, “When she gets that way you need to be consistent and firm in asking her to stop, and spank her immediately and without question whenever she is defiant.”

She wanted to know what we thought of his answer, and this scenario brought several thoughts to mind with regard to corporal punishment as the standard “biblical” answer.

The Gift of Not Giving:

What Kids REALLY Want for Christmas

Have you noticed that Christmas aisles seem to be stocked earlier and earlier these days? Commercials for Black Friday “doorbusters” are rampant, and there is even controversy about some stores beginning their sales on Thanksgiving Day.

The holiday materialism debate is not new: on one side, many families have incorporated Black Friday into their family gatherings. On the other side, many families join with Charlie Brown, who in 1965 first groaned about “Christmas going commercial”.

Don’t get us wrong — Christmas gifts can be a fun way to show love and appreciation for family and friends; in fact, one of the five “love languages” is gift-giving! But we need to be careful: if we feed into the messages of the marketers and give our kids everything they want for Christmas, gifts can become a detriment.

The Joy of Family Chores: A Tale of Two Moms


In a family, we all need each other. We are a team, and we share in the responsibility of the household. “God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be” (1 Cor. 12:18). Each child has a special contribution to make to the body of Christ, and to whatever group she is in, including her family. When everyone contributes, everyone benefits. One child’s service to the family blesses other family members.

In addition, children need to serve in order to grow into healthy, contributing adults. When parents do everything for their children, they can create a sense of entitlement that leaves kids unprepared to care for themselves and others. However, when kids use their talents in ways that bless others, they begin to find their way into the purposes for which God created them.

So what can I do to help my family learn to serve together?

Dealing With Rejection: A Surprising Use for a $20 Bill

Kids are rejected from every side. Sometimes the rejection or criticism comes from a teacher that just doesn’t “get” your kid. Sometimes it comes from an angry family member. Sometimes it’s rejection from peers, gossiping, getting picked last in gym class. These daily rejections can erode our children’s sense of being loved and valuable. Being thoughtful about how to counter rejection will help your kids learn to weather the storm.

The following is an activity you can do with your kids to help them understand.