It’s Not Defiance — It’s Science!

Not Defiance- SciencePretty much every kid loves to experiment with chaos: dropping food, smearing things, investigating cupboards or containers, throwing toys — you name it, a toddler has probably gotten into it.

It can be easy to get aggravated when your child gets into yet another mess. But if we expect kids to just stop when we say “stop,” we’re probably not going to get very far.

Why? Because we’re fighting their brains.

Danger, Obedience, and Teaching Kids Traffic Safety

“What does Connected Families teach about obedience?” Hannah, who was exasperated with her defiant preschooler’s flighty behavior in a parking lot, explained the context for her question:

When I was leaving Bible study I asked my 3-year-old to stay with me, or hold my hand, or I could carry him. He said he wanted to walk next to me, but then ran off several times, despite my request to “Stop now, and come to me please.” Each time I would pick him up, remind him to stay with me if he wasn’t going to hold my hand. He bucked his body and threw his hands in my face. When I got him to the car my anxiety escalated into an angry lecture – which he ignored, while his big brother giggled at the whole fiasco. Help! What could I have done differently?

Connected Families believes that learning obedience is a long process rooted in love, trust and a parent’s wise guidance. This follows the biblical model of how we learn obedience to God — not out of fear but out of understanding how much God loves us, combined with experiencing the natural result when we disobey his wise commands (Galatians 6:7). The more we learn, the more we trust that God has really good reasons for what he tells us to do.

So let’s put that theology to the test with a feisty 3-year-old going A.W.O.L.

Feeling Stuck? Move Toward the Struggling Child.


Parents often find themselves at a loss when kids are particularly discouraged or struggling.

It can begin to feel hopeless when everything you’ve tried to motivate them past the challenge has failed. You may start to feel more and more disconnected from the child as you know less and less what to do when they struggle.

This is when we get particularly strong about a principle that almost always helps parents find new hope.

12 Misbehaviors and the God-Given Gifts Behind Them

Seeing Strengths Even in Struggles

12 Misbehaviors

Did you know that one of the most critical times for a parent to affirm a child’s talents is when they misbehave? It’s true. We are all born with giftedness–but even good gifts can get twisted by sin (Romans 7:21 reminds us, “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.”). The challenge for parents is identifying the “gifts” within the misbehavior; what we call “Gifts Gone Awry.”

Gifts That Have Gone Awry

All talents or gifts can be used for God’s purposes, but they can also be distorted by selfishness and sin and used to serve misbehavior. When this happens, the gift is still present, but it’s gone awry. To punish the misbehavior without affirming the talent behind it may both reinforce the child’s identification with the sin (I’m bad!) and stifle or weaken the talent’s use in honorable ways. It is therefore critical when correcting a child’s misbehavior to also affirm and find a positive use of the gift that fueled it.

Need help identifying the gift behind your child’s stubborness or stealing?  It can be tough, but here are some examples of common misbehaviors and some gifts/talents that tend to drive them.

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.

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.