How do you discipline a crying girl?

January 27, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

A quick note before we start, I will use my blog and other public forums to praise my girls not call them out, so if there is any parenting post/story that involves something bad happening, it will be vague, nameless and thus perhaps a little confusing.

Anywho, we have recently had to take something of value away from one of our daughters.  She has been having some self-control issues, bursts of frustration and lashing out against her sister (people who know us–stop trying to figure out who is who).  We told her that she needs to build up a track record of not doing that over a few days and her valuable possession will be returned.  For the next 3 days, we have had at least one outburst. 

After last night’s outburst, she almost immediately starts crying and beating herself up.  “I am so stupid.”  How do you keep going at that point?  Don’t you have to give in?  Well, I will tell you what I did.  I sat down with her on the couch and told her how much I loved her.  I told her that it was my responsibility to help her.  What I want for her more than anything is for her to win. 

“I am on your team.  I love you.  If I let you do anything with no consequences, what would happen?” 

“I wouldn’t get better, Dad.” 

“I am not punishing you.  I just want to help you.”

You want to guess what happened next?  That’s right, she started crying again.  I hugged her, tucked her in bed and told her good night.

Everything in my heart said, “Just give it back, you mean old bear.”  However, I didn’t and it hurt me.  You see, I am compelled by God and driven by my love for both my girls.  I want them to become beautiful young ladies, inside and about.  Sometimes that means I do things that make her (and me) cry, not to hurt her but to help her, not simply to punish, but to love.

How do you discipline a crying girl?  I’m not exactly sure, but it hurts.

Are You Too Cool/Busy/Annoyed to Text Your Daughter?

January 22, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

It is not unusual for members of my family, even extended family to get asked the question, “Is he that funny in real life?”  I suppose what is meant by that question is that over the top personality that comes across sometimes, is that for real?  One thing I would say is that I am typically more reserved and introverted than what people perceive and I am a lot more intense than what people perceive.  However, the insanity of ridiculousness is for real.  That is how the Loftens roll.  It is not just me.  We have often contended that if you put cameras in our home, you could get a pretty funny reality show every week.  Heidi would never agree to it, though.

Here is an example.  This is just a sampling of the texting that my 12 year old daughter, Maylee, and I did this morning (edited for lazy text message spelling):

Maylee: No…..No…….Not the lemons!!!!!!!!!! Why lemons!?!?!?!?!?!?

Dad: Don’t drop the umbrella or I swear the cheetahs will never, ever eat again no matter what number you roll.

M: I can never come back from that!!!!! :-) LOL!!!!!

M: What is that kangaroo doing with that……Aaaaaaaahhhhh!!!! That pickle is going to jump on u unless…..CARROTS!!!!!

M: Gorillas are not safe unless a tiger is wearing a tutu in Austria with peacock singing hymns to an old man playing banjo!!!!

D: So I picked up this ice cube the other day and thought if I see one more watermelon barking like a seal, I will never check the mailbox again.

M: I love you so much!!!! My favorite song is on.  That is sign it’s going 2 b a good day!!!!! ;-)

D: Nice.  I love you 2.

As with most posts, this is the part where you think, “What is the point, Cloften?”  Well, first of all, I think that’s funny.  Second, it got me thinking this morning that as long as she will text me silly stuff, questions, love notes, I will text her back.  I am not too busy, annoyed, cool, whatever.  I have no idea how long she will do this.  My guess is this window will close some day.  I hope not, but teenagerdom is headed our way.  As long as I can, I will text her, call her, do whatever I can for her to know that I love her.

Dads (and Moms), don’t be be too busy.  Don’t be too annoyed.  Take the time.  It’s worth it. (If you need help on ridiculous, random things to text, I’m here for you)

Another Bully Story

January 21, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

As I have mentioned before, we have a unique approach to bullying in our family.  (I almost said very unique to be funny, but many of you wouldn’t have noticed.  The rest would be thinking, “what an idiot.”  Some of you are still thinking, “What’s the deal?”  It will all be explained in a future nerd post: My Top 10 Grammar pet peeves) If you have not read the bully post, check it out here.  After you read you it, you will not be able to help but shout, “Mesopotamia!”

Anyway, there was a time when Lauren didn’t shout “Mesopotamia!”  She handled bullies a different way when she was younger.  This is one of my all-time favorite stories.

We were at the McDonalds in O’Fallon, Missouri where we lived at the time.  Lauren was about 3 years old.  We were in the playplace on Saturday morning with her older sister, Maylee who was 6.  Mom was involved in her Saturday morning ritual of garage sale-ing.  There were two boys that were probably around 9 that were there also.  They were running around, being loud, pretending to shoot guns with their fingers, essentially being boys.  Well at one point they have Lauren backed up against the netting around the equipment and they are “shooting” her with their “guns.”  You don’t mess with Papa Bear’s Baby Bears, so just as I was about to get up, she gives them a glare and shoves both of them at the same time.  They are startled and back away.  Well done.

You might think that is the end of the story, but it is not.  Later, she is playing in this little cubby hole of sorts that has a steering wheel in it.  I can’t see her from where I am.  There is a pole in the way.  Suddenly a hear a whack and some kid bawling.  I get up, fearing the worst and there is one of those 9 year old boys holding his face crying.  My 3 year old daughter is still sitting there “driving” and looking at that kid like, “what?”  “What happened, Son,” says the Mom.  “She hit me,” says the puddin’ boy pointing at my 3 year old daughter.  The mom then shoots me a look.  I’m thinking, “What do you want me to do? You are the one with the puddin’ boy.”  But she is right, I needed to do something.  I grabbed Lauren out of there and bought her ice cream and congratulated her.

Is there a point to this story?  Yes.  As always, don’t mess with the Loften Sisters.  They will take you out.  Tell your sons.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

You probably have noticed that this blog (at least the serious stuff) has taken on a parenting/marriage flavor lately.  There are a couple of reasons for that.  First is that I post mostly on what I am thinking about and doing, and I spend a lot of time being a husband and dad.  I love the three girls in my life and I feel blessed to have them, so I like to talk about them and how cool they are.  Second, I spend a lot of time at my job talking to families that for one reason or another are not doing very well.  They come to me for advice and prayer.  I consider it a privilege to be able to talk to couples and families that need some help, perspective and some wisdom from God’s word.

All that to say, too often I notice that people do not ask for help until it is too late.  Usually one of the two, the husband or wife, is ready to be done and then as a last resort, they ask for help from a friend, pastor or counselor.  If I could give one piece of advice to couples (and the same would apply to parenting and just about anything in life) it would be do not wait to ask for help.  You don’t have to wait until your life is in crisis or things are falling apart.  If something doesn’t feel right, call someone.  If a fight or disagreement seems to be lingering, ask for some advice.  Most problems and disagreements can be easily worked through when they are a 2 on a scale of 1-10.  It is a lot harder when it is a 9 or 10.

There is no shame in asking for help.  Here’s why.  This may be a huge shock to many of you.  You ready?  Marriage, parenting and life in general are hard.  Guess what else?  Everyone knows it.  When you call your pastor or friend and ask for advice, I promise you they will not be thinking, “What a loser.  Marriage is the easiest thing ever.  How did he/she get so bad it?”  No one will think that.

I’ve noticed that 99% of marriage problems are very similar.  Neither spouse feels they are getting what they need from their spouse and they don’t know how to express it or talk about it (More on this in depth at some point).  Sometimes just knowing that your struggle is common and that countless couples have overcome is enough to help you overcome as well.  Anyway, don’t wait.  Consider it like a tune-up.  You are calling to have something checked before something breaks.  In the end, your marriage and family will be much stronger.

(Btw, feel free to shoot me a note at charlie (at) with any questions, comments or if you need help with anything)

Two Things Loftens Cannot Fear Part 2

If you missed Part one, check it out here.  The first thing that a Loften cannot fear is talking to adults–ordering food, asking for refills, introducing themselves, etc.  The second, I’m guessing will shock you and maybe make you smile.

The second thing that Loftens are never afraid of is a little less (or a lot less) intuitive.  We are not scared of rides and roller coasters.  That’s right.  The rule is this:  once you are tall enough to ride it, you ride it, at least once.  My guess is that some of you are looking up the numbers for child endangerment services right now.  How could you do such a thing? Well, just like I said in part 1, I put my girls in situations that can be scary but not dangerous.  We are not cliff-diving or swimming with crocodiles.  These rides are safer than riding in the car.

What can the justification for this be?  Do you like watching kids scream? Are you just looking for someone to ride with when your wife won’t?  Are you just mean?  We do this, because the fear of the unknown is not OK.  How much adventure and fun is lost when we are too scared to try?  How often are we intimidated by something that is uncertain and so we stay safe?  A new job, a new opportunity, a new friendship, a new adventure, an awesome roller coaster that goes upside-down and shakes you around at high speeds.

Once you have tried the ride once, you may then choose to not ride it again.  You can decide that you didn’t enjoy it and you don’t want to do it again.  That’s fine.  You cannot however choose to not do something because of an irrational belief that it is unsafe (That sentence was a triple negative, but it seems grammatically ok).  Their Dad that they trust tells them what is safe.  They trust me, not their fears.  I am with them and we face the rides together, the whole time their dad telling them, you are going to love this.

What have we learned.  We have learned that we all love, I mean LOVE roller coasters.  The faster the better, the more upside down the better, backwards, forwards, sitting, suspension, all kinds.  They cannot get enough of them.

Pre ride: Dad: “You are going to love this.”  Daughter: “No, it’s scary.”  Dad: “No it’s not.  You will love it.”

Post ride: Dad: “I was right again, wasn’t I?”  Daughter: “Yes, Dad.  Can we ride it again?”

We’ve also learned that they are not as big of fans of the freefall rides, the ones that pull you straight up and drop you straight down.  Even with that though, I made Maylee ride Tower of Terror again at Disney Hollywood Studios the next time we went to Walt Disney World, even though she didn’t enjoy it the last trip.  Post trip, favorite ride? Tower of Terror.

Fear of the unknown grips us.  We strive for security.  I want my girls to find it in the relational trust that they have in their Dad.  Somehow I wonder if we are stil talking about parenting.  Wouldn’t we do well to face the world not with fear, but relational trust in a Father that loves us and is always with us?

Watch out World, the Loften girls are not scared of you.

We always know where the cameras are. . . always.

We always know where the cameras are. . . always.

They look absolutely miserable, don't they?

They look absolutely miserable, don't they?

2 Things Loftens Cannot Fear Part 1

At first you may think that this is a joke, but you can ask either of my girls what the two things are that we cannot be afraid of as Loftens and they will both tell you the same thing.

The first is that we cannot be afraid to talk to people.  This includes new people that we meet, it includes waitresses, essentially everyone.  For example, we are at a fast food restaurant and we are sitting down at the table with our food.  One of the girls may ask, “Dad can I have some ranch?’  I tell them, “sure” and then I look toward the counter.  They then go to the counter themselves and ask the people themselves and get their own ranch.  You may wonder when I started doing this.  They started ordering for themselves as soon as they could formulate sentences and they have been going to the counter by themselves way earlier than many of you would think is safe.

You may think that I am (at least was) putting my girls into scary situations, and I should (or at least should have) gotten stuff for them, ordered for them, etc.  First, you are right.  This is a scary situation for a little kid.  However, there is a difference between a scary situation and a dangerous one.  I have never put them in danger, but they have been scared.  Why is it important to me that they do this?  First, our lives/my job thrusts my girls into situations all the time where they are meeting new people.  We’ve told them we never go to stranger’s house, we are meeting new friends.  But even if I weren’t a pastor, what better life skill is there than the ability to confidently talk to people, especially people that you might naturally be intimidated by?  There aren’t many.  I’ve said this before, but I want our girls to be confident and want them to have hearts to love and engage with people.  God has called us to love others like we love ourselves and fear will not be what holds a Loften back.

(Stay tuned for Part 2, the second thing we cannot fear.  You won’t believe it.)

Pre-date Your Wife

I am going on a date with my beautiful wife today. We are going to have a great time. I’m sure that we will end up at some girlie shopping place at some point, because we always end up shopping on our dates. I’m not sure how or why, but we do.

Anyway, what I would like to encourage you guys to do is “pre-date” your wife. The date itself can be great, but the love and romance can start before you get dressed up and go eat. Often it is the little things that romance your wife more than the things that we think are big. For example, she has been very tired and rundown the last couple of days, so I let her sleep in. I got both girls ready and off to school. (We even had a total of 3 clothes/hair crises, with just 2 girls, that I managed to successfully avert) I got all the dishes done and even swept the whole kitchen.

While this might sound like public bragging, what I want you to hear is the power of loving your wife through giving her a break from her routines and helping around the house. At this point, our date later could be Captain D’s and a Wal-Mart run and I promise you she will have had a great day. Men, let’s step up and invest into our relationships with our wives. They are precious gifts that God has given us.

Dealing with Bullies, the Loften Way

So any time one of my girls comes to me with a story that someone at school is acting (verbally) like a bully to them, I tell them the same thing on how to respond. I tell them that they should do one of two things (or both). One, they should shake their hands in the air and shout, “Mesopotamia!!!” Second, they should pretend to fall asleep–close their eyes and start snoring.

Why would any Dad in the world do something like that? First, I want my girls to settle down and laugh. It always makes them laugh when I shout “Mesopotamia.” I also hope that in the moment that someone is being mean to think about that and at least in their heart be able to smile. They also need to learn how to take a verbal assault and not lose their temper. I don’t want them to cower, but I also don’t want them escalating the conflict. (Seriously, has lashing back ever helped anyone? Has it ever helped you? Just walk away)

Here is what I thought would never happen. Lauren tried it at school. A boy came up to her and a friend and started talking mean to them. She looked at him for a little while and shouted “Mesopotamia!!!” at him. So when Lauren told me this I was stunned. I asked her what happened next. He told Lauren she was weird, so she then pretended to fall asleep. The boy then walked away. Turns out the plan works. Who knew?

I love my girls. I want them to be strong and gentle. I want them to be strong and proud women free from fear and free from anger. The world can be a rough place, and I want them to walk in it with their heads held high and a quiet strength, confidence and grace that the world will notice and will be honoring to the God that loves them.

Date Your Daughter

I just got back from a date with my younger daughter Lauren.  We went to go see Alvin and the Chipmunks the Squeakuel (more on this later) and then had lunch at TGIFridays.  However, what we did doesn’t matter near as much as that we did it.  I love spending time with her.  I love spending time with each of the three ladies in my life.  It is amazing how lucky I am that I am the most important person in the world to three different ladies.  Last night when I told her that we would have a date today, her face lit up.  I would do anything to see that look on her face.  How special it is that spending time with me would be enough to make her light up like that.

How do I want her to remember her dad growing up?  My dad was so cool, he had a blog.  My dad was great, no one could watch sports on TV like him.  He was great at playing video games.  I think not.  I want her to know and remember that I would often take time out of my week to spend one on one time with her, talking to her, doing the things that she loves to do.  I want her to remember how much I loved her and how valuable she was.

What I have to remember and all dads need to know is that how I treat her greatly affects three views she has.  How does she view herself?  Is she beautiful? Is she valuable?  How does she view what to expect in a boyfriend/husband?  How will he treat me? What does love mean?  How does she view God?  She will continue to read in the Bible and hear at Church that God is Father.  What image will she have when she hears that?  What is a father like?

I want Lauren to know that she is of immeasurable value, and that a date should treat her with utmost respect.  Most importantly, I want her to think that a father, like her heavenly Father, loves her unconditionally and would sacrifice himself for her the way God did/does through His son, Jesus.  I want her to know that her dad loves her deeply.

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