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The Small Magnet That is Making a BIG Difference

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The Connected Families Framework (offered as a magnet) is the core of how we encourage and equip parents to lead their families with grace. Everything we offer flows through our framework. But…did you ever wonder where or how our small magnet (that is making a BIG difference!) originated?


In 1993 I was working with high-risk teens through a voluntary outreach program. These teens could be quite a challenge, especially when they misbehaved. The parents of these kids were often scared about what the future held and willing to consider new ways of doing things – because the old ways just weren’t working! I started a parent support group to give parents a safe place to share their struggles with other parents. It seemed to be helping because over time the group grew. 

One day I got a phone call from an irate dad. “My kid is out of control and I hear you help parents get their kids in line.” That wasn’t how I would describe what we did, but he was on the phone so I invited him to the group. “I’m not coming to any group,” he said gruffly. I decided to ask him some of the questions I asked parents in the group when they described their challenges:

  • What kind of relationship do you wish you had with your son? 
  • When was the last time you enjoyed being with him?
  • What are some things he does well that you could give some energy to? 
  • What would your son say you’ve done to earn his respect? 
  • How have you helped him learn how his actions affect others? 
  • When was the last time you sensed that God was with you in this challenge?

I didn’t know it at the time but that was the day the Connected Families  Framework and refrigerator magnet were born.

When I would ask these questions in the group parents engaged and encouraged each other to build on the answers toward better relationships. But the dad on the phone grew more impatient, uninterested in my line of questioning. The harder I tried to help the more frustrated he became, and he abruptly ended the conversation. I felt frustrated too – that I hadn’t done a better job of helping him. 

I sat at my desk feeling deflated. I prayed, knowing that I asked some good questions but that I needed a way to better organize or categorize these questions to be easier to remember and apply.  “Lord, help me say this in a way that parents can remember it and be better equipped to help their kids.” I wrote down as many of the questions as I could remember and brought my list of questions home to Lynne. 

I didn’t know it at the time but that was the day the Connected Families Framework and refrigerator magnet were born.  

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When Jim came home with this big list of questions, asking for help to organize and identify key ideas, at first I wasn’t very motivated. But I soon saw how the questions were far less about working exclusively with teens and far more about how to think both relationally and spiritually as a parent. I was immediately challenged with regard to my own parenting, and could see how the questions Jim had asked could be captured in a few key themes. At the time I was serving in a residence for developmentally disabled young adults and I could see how the principles the questions addressed applied to parents of those residents too. 

I also began to realize these principles applied to parenting our own young kids. I worked with the newly formed ideas for a few days with input from Jim, and pretty soon had them narrowed to three key ideas that were like building blocks of a great parent/child relationship. We eventually added a fourth block and the image has since become a guiding framework for thousands of parents around the world. 

That little picture that came together over 25 years ago is now a refrigerator magnet that depicts a framework of four actions and four corresponding messages for effective parenting. We frequently tell people that “the refrigerator magnet says it all.” It helps parents stay on track, or get back on track when they lose their way. Parents frequently tell us, “I keep the magnet where I can see it. Whenever I feel stuck I look at it and get a fresh reminder of how to respond.” 

Since that time back in 1993 we regularly talk with parents who, like that irate dad, want to “get their kids in line.” The framework has proven time and time again to equip parents to be thoughtful about the whole relationship with their child, instead of just looking for a punishment to stop a misbehavior. We are so grateful that Jim’s prayer (offered so long ago) was answered, to effectively equip countless parents over the years.

For the next few weeks we’re going to review the messages represented by the magnet in our, “The Magnet Says It All!” podcast series . The goal is that the key ideas of the framework will be etched into your heart and mind and become a helpful guide as you listen and apply these principles. To learn more listen to the first episode in the series,  “Find Your Parenting Balance”.

If you don’t already have a Connected Families Framework magnet we would encourage you to purchase one or download a printable version of our framework today. Put the framework on your fridge, your bathroom mirror, your car, or wherever you might need a quick reminder as you seek to lead your family with grace throughout your day. 

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Jim and Lynne Jackson
Jim and Lynne Jackson
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