One Simple Thing You Can Stop Doing That’s Stressing Out Your Kids

September 16, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

So there I was at McDonalds on a Sunday morning, doing what I do every Sunday morning–playing games on my iPad when I should be polishing up my sermon.  No, no, no.  I’m working on my sermon. Then a family comes and sits in the booth next to me.  The mom sets the dad and the kids down at the booth and before she goes and orders, she asks her 2-3 year old son a question.

“What would you like to drink?”


“Do you want milk?”








You might think that I’m exaggerating the number of times of this back and forth went down because I’m a curmudgeon.  However, I assure you that if this is not accurate, it is because that it is under-reported.

Disclaimers: I am not normally an eavesdropper.  I usually keep to myself in these situations and try not listen to other people’s conversations.  This was loud and right next to me. Also, I am not the kind of guy who judges someone’s parenting by their worst moment at Wal-Mart (What is it about Wal-Mart that makes kids throw fits? Something in the air?  Also, something in the air of malls sucks the life out of dads.) I’m sure this is a good family.  I’m simply making an observation about this situation and what it says about a troubling trend in parenting.

So what is the problem here at McDonalds?  The mom asked her son to make a choice when she didn’t really want him to have a choice.  She wanted him to have milk.  She was hoping that somehow her son would naturally choose against the sweet sugary caffeinated drink that energizes and hypes him up and instead would choose the healthy option so that his bones would be strong.  That is not a choice that a lot of kids are going to make, if they legitimately have a choice.

So now they have this altercation in public and the mom is stressed because the kid won’t choose milk.  The kid is stressed because someone asked him what he wanted and he told them.  Then they decided he wasn’t going to get what he wanted.  Not just that, he was being told that what he wanted.  She’s stressed.  He’s stressed.  I’m stressed. (Wait. That’s irrelevant.)

What should the mom have done?  Simple, yet potentially controversial, answer: stop giving your kid choices.  Give the kid milk.  The kid is too young for soda, and it would seem that you know that.  You don’t want him to have soda.  Don’t give the kid soda.  Don’t give him the choice for soda.

“Wait, wait, wait.  It’s important to teach kids how to make choices.  We don’t want to be controlling.  We want to foster healthy self-esteem.”  Fine, I’ll soften it a little bit.  Don’t give a kid a choice when he doesn’t really have a choice.  Only give choices when choices are actually available.  “You are having milk for breakfast.  Would you like to drink it out of the carton directly, do you want a straw or do you want me to put in a cup for you?”  Now you have given your child a choice they can make.

How do you know the difference?

1)       Don’t give them a choice if there is a wrong choice. This stresses kids out big-time.  You are giving them a false sense of control when they have none. You are telling them that they can make their own decision, but they can’t.

Mom works all afternoon making dinner. “We are having chicken for dinner. Would you like some?”  “No.” Gives kid chicken for dinner.

How frustrating is that?  You make the kid think they have a choice.  They don’t.  Better to teach your kids that there are some areas in our life where we don’t really have a choice.  There are boundaries to the decisions that we can make.  Their teachers do not ask them if they are ready for the test.  They place the test on the desk.  Their boss will not ask them if they are ready to come to work.  They tell them when work starts and fire them if they determine they are “not ready.”

You are the parent.  Teach and show them what they are supposed to do.  Teaching your kids right and wrong supersedes their need to make choices.  Show them right.  Point them away from wrong and when they later are in situations where there is a right and wrong choice, they will be equipped to make the right choice.

2)      Don’t give them a choice that they are not ready for. Do not ask your child at bed-time if they are ready for bed.  Do not ask them at dinner time if they are hungry.  Unless, they are rhetorical questions.  Even still, I advise against it.  Tell your child it is bed-time.  Tell them it is time to eat.  Who cares if they are ready? They don’t know how much sleep they need.  They don’t know when or what kind of food they need to eat.  You do, because you are the parent.

This does not end when your kids get older.  They become ready for some choices and are not ready for others.  My girls do not get to decide when they are ready to date or whom they are going to date. (I get a smug satisfaction from using whom correctly.)  My wife and I decide that. They don’t get to decide when they are ready to drive on their own.  Their parents decide that.  We want them to be a part of the process.  They can give input, but they don’t get to choose on their own.  Our oldest is a Senior and is making a decision about college.  Let me say that better.  She is a part of facilitated process where together we will make a decision.

Doesn’t it frustrate your kids that they can’t make their own decisions? Doesn’t it bother them that you don’t trust them?  Simple answer: yes.  However, I don’t believe that it is near the level of frustration that a kid has that has to make choices that they don’t know how to make or to be given false hope that they can make a decision when they can’t.

It is our job to train our girls.  We have to teach them to make good decisions.  We have to help them to get ready for decisions that they will face when they are away from us—school, with friends, etc.  That is hard work and it can be very stressful, but not near as stressful as dealing with a kid who is being asked to make decisions that they shouldn’t or can’t make.

Random Parenting Tips or What I Do While at Chick-Fil-A

October 6, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Wellpst, I’m hanging out in my office away from office (Chick-Fil-A) on Monday morning, and there is a family with a little girl, probably around 3.  She was uber-cute, but let’s say she was active(?), no that’s not it, loud(?), nope that’s not it, hmmm, belligerent, defiant, uh you get the point.


1) I judge no one or their parenting, I mean no one based on an incident in public.  We’ve all been there.

2) I also will not judge based on what your 2 or 3 year old does.  We’ve all been there too.  If you haven’t yet, please don’t ever look at a 2 yr old acting like Taz and say to someone, “My child will never…”  Seriously, it just keeps you from eating one more set of words.

3) There is no verse to go along with this post.  Maybe there is a verse in Proverbs I could use to justify some of this.  More than anything these are just some thoughts I have on parenting.  Since I’m the only one who has the password to post stuff on here, I write the stuff.

Anywho, this little girl, again that is very cute, is not maintaing good public decorum.  Her mom then says, “You are in big trouble, when we get home.”  Not good.  Maybe for a 10 year old.  In an hour, that kid is not going to remember at all the infamous “flinging of the chicken nuggets” or “screaming of the banshee.”  She will have moved on. There will be no connection in her mind.  Punish her then or just don’t.  If you feel like you can’t, because of where you are, then forget it.  The punishment at home will make you feel better, relieve some tension and anger (not good motivators for discipline FYI), but it will not change behavior.

Simyalarly, if the kid is acting out in public, you need to take some action.  You do not want to get into a situation where your child knows that they have the upper hand in public.  They will destroy you with that knowledge.  I know, I know, not your precious angel, but, you know, other kids do that.  Kids that age are trying to determine what the boundaries are, and in their way are trying to figure out who’s in charge.  They want it to be them.  (They are no different than any of us in that way.)  Kids need to know that you are in charge.  They need your help.  They need appropriate boundaries.  Help them by communicating to them in a healthy and firm way that they will hear and get the message.

Right after that, the kid begins running around the table screaming trying to get attention.  Then she starts saying this, “Mommy, I’m talking.”  She said this over and over and over and over with a sarcastic tone that said, “Excuse me, I’m talking.  You are interrupting.  You have to stop and focus only on me.”

Let’s forget for a second the disrespect of a kid interrupting to tell you that you shouldn’t speak when she speaks.  (After you forget, remember and don’t let your kids do that.)  Why is this kid saying that?  Why does a kid lash out like that?  I wonder if she feels like she is ever getting the full attention of her parents.  Many kids that scream, literally or figuratively, “notice me. notice me!” don’t ever feel like they get your full attention.  Ask yourself, does my kid ever get my whole attention, my face, my eyes, my heart?  If she can’t get your attention in healthy ways, expect that your kid will try in unhealthy ways.  “Sweetie, I know you are talking.  Don’t interrupt.  I will talk to you in just a second.”  Then, in just a second, do, in fact, give your undivided attention.

There is kind of a vicious cycle going here.  The kid has no boundaries, so she acts wild.  The parent doesn’t do anything about it and ignores it.  Parents start tuning out the kid.  Now the kid can’t get parents’ attention no matter what she does, and needs to lash out in incredible ways just in the hope of getting some attention.  Sometimes even then, they can’t.  If they do, it’s bad.

Break the cycle.  Give your kids boundaries.  Give them attention.

Give them what they need without giving in.

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.