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Teaching Kids to Love God and Serve Others Well

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
March 1, 2024 2:00 am

Teaching Kids to Love God and Serve Others Well

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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March 1, 2024 2:00 am

Monica Swanson shares a story about taking her son Jonah through “character training” when he was 13 to learn more about the importance of godly character in his life. She also shares why allowing kids to suffer and learn through adversity will help them become stronger and healthier adults.


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I'm so thankful to the Lord for that, that I heard that message that night and it just really gripped my heart. Roxanne worked second shift, which meant getting home late every night. But one evening was different.

Instead of her favorite rock station, she found Focus on the Family on the radio. I didn't find out until sometime later that I actually, you know, got saved or born again or, you know, gave my heart to the Lord that night. I just knew that I prayed the prayer at the end. So I just, you know, was probably by that time almost 1230. It would take me about half of an hour to drive home and just driving in my car, crying and filled with peace and joy and and just feeling the presence of the Lord.

It was wonderful. I'm Jim Daly. Working together, we can save more families like Roxanne's every month. Become a friend to Focus on the Family and invest in this ministry.

Call 800-AFAMILY or donate at slash family. Is there anything more humble or generous than doing the dishes without being asked? Obviously, the point isn't necessarily doing the dishes, but the heart behind them. Our goal is to raise each of our kids into a young man or woman who has a servant's heart and doesn't shrink back from doing hard things.

And ordinary tasks like washing a sink full of dishes is often the training ground to get there. That's the heart of a mom and such great parenting perspective from Monica Swanson. She wants to help you raise amazing kids who have godly character in everything they do. Welcome to another episode of Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller.

We're glad you joined us. John, I believe getting your kids to wash the dishes regularly is a good thing and a great idea. I think for us it was getting the washing done. So Jean was terrific. She got the boys washing their own clothes at about age 10.

That was awesome. And dishes came along, too. So they were pretty good with chores generally. But children need to know the value of hard work and experience, the satisfaction of a job well done.

I think we all need that. And of course that's only one of the many important life lessons that moms and dads should be passing along to their kids. I often think about how busy families are today. The pace of life can be so hectic that you may find yourself sacrificing time for all the so-called important stuff and not spending time with your kids.

And really passing the values on to them, which is what the research shows. You know, spending time at the dinner table is where a lot of that action occurs. Again, Jean was awesome at making sure we had dinner regularly and together. And I don't think we missed it.

It was 6 o'clock, 6.30 every night, and it really worked well. And in my opinion, you think about it, God's given parents that awesome responsibility to parent your children, right? And we're going to talk about that today and how to have not behavioral outcomes, but outcomes from the heart, which are far more important.

Right. And our guest today has a passion, much like you expressed, to lay a godly foundation for children and to help them become the men and women that God intended them to be. Monica Swanson is a homeschooling mom. She's a blogger, author, speaker, and podcast host. And she and her husband Dave have four sons, ranging in age from 24 to 13. She has a really wonderful book we're going to be talking about today called Raising Amazing. Bringing up kids who love God, like their family, and do the dishes without being asked. It's a great title, and you can learn more about the book at our website.

The link is in the program description. Monica, welcome to Focus. So good to be here. Yeah, you're coming in from Hawaii.

That's kind of nice. Sorry to bring you to the Rocky Mountains all the way from Hawaii. Oh, it's beautiful here. It's so great to be here. Just a little different. Yes, a little chilly.

Yeah, it's good to have you. Let's pick up on the washing dishes. So you got four boys and a husband. So five guys. Is this the reason why dishes are so important to you?

It is. You know, I think all parents will agree that chores are tough. And I spent a lot of years trying to just figure out how in the world to come up with a system to do chores. But at some point we nailed it.

We got things going where everybody kind of had their rotation. And I remember it was my son, my son Luke, who one day said, you know, it's hard to imagine anyone just doing the dishes without being asked who doesn't have good character, right? And I was like, you know, you've got a good point.

That is kind of a good litmus test for character. And what age was he when he came to that conclusion? I feel like he was probably 16. Yeah, that's good. No, that's about right. I think we began to see those buy-in signs in the teens. You know, they started to go, OK, yeah, I get it now.

Yeah. You know, the thing for me and for Gene was how many times did you tell your kids, and maybe it's a boy thing, so you've got the girls at the table, John, maybe girls pick up faster, but please and thank you. I mean, you would say that a thousand times and then finally one day you hear them say it. You go, oh, my gosh, it stopped.

I didn't know it. Say thank you. Thank you. Finally, one day they say it on their own. You're going the first step.

It's so true. Yes. Yes. Teaching those basics. Well, you describe yourself as an all in parent. So define what the all in parenting is.

Yes. Well, all in parenting is really, I believe, about the heart because most of us, you know, I share the story in Raising Amazing that my first son had some difficulties at birth and and he was transferred to a neonatal ICU. And we were really worried for his life. And in that moment, I felt something I'd never experienced before. And most new parents probably know that feeling of like, I would do anything for you. I would I would lay down my life for you.

I would fight a bear for you. Just that that emotional all in. But then give me a rainy day with a bunch of toddlers at my feet who won't stop bickering or saying, Mommy, watch me one more time. And suddenly you're like looking for an escape route.

How can I get out of here? You don't feel that all in feeling anymore. So that's where I talk about all in being something I've discovered has to take more than feelings, more than something happening in your life that makes you feel all in. But really, it's a commitment. And much like marriage, it's something that we have to choose intentionally to show up on when they need us desperately. But also on those more mundane days where you're just maybe a little bit bored with parenting.

But can you keep showing up, keeping your vision on the long term goals of raising up amazing kids? You know, so often I think we get blurry eyed about that, what that means, you know, to be all in. But to have that intentionality, because I think we do ride on the fumes of emotions, unfortunately. And so that's true in marriage. That's true in friendships. It's true in parenting. And I want you to hit it again, because I think I want people to clearly hear, you know, you're waking up choosing to say the right thing, choosing to do the right thing. And for most of us, the reality is that can be tough sometimes.

It absolutely can. And I think what I've learned is it really does take giving yourself some reminders. If you're just going through the motions of life, we're all busy. And it's easy to just kind of forget this calling we have to train up our children, this calling we have to raise up kids on the good days, the bad days and everything in between. And sometimes it's a lot easier to to say, you know, go ahead, go to the neighbors, go ahead, sit in front of the iPad a little longer, anything to give us a break. But what if we lean in in those moments and say, you know, we all need breaks.

Yes, of course we do. But to lean in and say, what could I be doing right now to shape their hearts? How can I lean in and really embrace the season of motherhood, fatherhood? Because the years will fly by even though they really do. Yeah.

When you were a mom of younger boys, I mean, you still have a 13 year old. So you're in the groove still. But you confess in the book that it wasn't always easy. You weren't some miraculous saint. You might be today. I don't know. Still not. But I mean, you know, talk about the realness of being that busy mom with all these things going on. You had three kids under. Yes.

In five years. Right. So you were a little hectic. I would imagine.

Yes. And we had moved to Hawaii from my husband's medical residency, which of course, Hawaii is wonderful. But I was pretty lonely over there. We didn't have family.

I didn't have any friends yet. So isolation was also. Oh, absolutely. So there were some really long days, some hard seasons where I found myself at the end of my my patience and really having to reevaluate and say, what is this calling of motherhood and how can I be more intentional and not just be going by emotions? Yeah. The you know, that mom that's listening, that's still in that three year old, five year old, six year old.

You know, and people are the little people are pulling on her and tugging her. Did you ever have that moment of an aha where you went, OK, the intentionality back to that? Were you you kind of got a key to figure out a little bit more oxygen for the day? Was there something that really sparked for you?

Yes. Well, I think probably what happened to me was just recognizing when I was losing my patience and it was becoming a cycle. And I do talk about that in this book that I I did have some times where I was finding myself losing my temper, feeling shame and regret, and then coming to my kids and asking forgiveness. And there was one time that I had a moment with my oldest son where I came to him and asked forgiveness because I had lost my temper. And and he looked at me with his sweet eyes and said, Mom, of course I forgive you, but I don't know why you ask because you're just going to do it again.

Wow. And that is probably the moment that really pierced my heart. And when I went, you know what, it's time to take this seriously. And you need to get some accountability and get some prayer and do things differently so that you can find more meaning and purpose in motherhood and not just be going by emotions. You know, and in that example, what's so good about that and that awareness for you is something else that you mentioned. And it's that living life in such a way that your kids are seeing real.

Yes. You know, we're not perfect. We're going to make mistakes. But also we are professing faith in Christ. And as they get older and they're reading the word in Sunday school and going to church with you and they start putting two and two together. So it is important for us to model Christian behavior.

Yes. To our kids. They're probably the ones in the seat of power in that regard. They see us at our best and at our worst. They do. They do. So let me put a cap on that example you gave. So I mean, this is this is the extra content for everybody. How did you get a hold of that anger issue so your kids saw a change?

Right. Well, it was shortly after within a day or two of that moment that I had heard about a prayer meeting that was going on in Honolulu and my husband got home from work one day and I said, babe, I got to go. This is like I'm ready to really take this serious and bring it to somebody else. So I got prayer and then I started just looking for resources. And thankfully, I have some great mentors who I could reach out to and say, will you give me some advice?

I'm sure you've been through this to some extent. And thank God for mentors in our life because they really walked me through that. And then I think it was just holding myself accountable and really finding greater vision and meaning. And that's really how my parenting then developed into what it is today, where I get to encourage others in the same thing.

No, and that's great. And I think that initiative to make the change was a great decision. And obviously, your kids saw a change. Yes.

And they did. Mommy, you're not angry anymore. That's a good thing.

Yeah, there's still moments. One of the one of the phrases that used in raising amazing is something pretty funny. And I'll go slow so everybody can follow along. But parent more fo sis. Yes. A parent amorphous parent amorphous. Parental morphosis.

So explain the breakdown. I will. I will.

Well, if you look online for a progressive insurance, there's some commercials out there. There's a Dr. Rick. They're pretty funny. They are hilarious.

And my husband and I have gone on and watched many of them. And Dr. Rick calls himself a parental life coach, I believe. But oh, yeah, that's it. Yes.

So his point is, is he can't stop you from becoming like your parents, but they can bundle your home and life insurance or something along those lines. This is a free advertising placement here. Exactly. But it is funny.

It is funny. And you can't help but watch these commercials. And you're like, oh, my goodness, I am already becoming just like my mom or my dad. And I think that we all know deep down that the kids are very likely to become like us.

And so as much as it's important to teach them all the right things, it's even more important that we live a life that we hope that they'll want to model. Yeah, that is so good. I'm thinking of don't talk in the elevator. That's one of his things he coaches.

Yes, he does talk in the elevator. You talk about a lonely season when your boys were teenagers. I think that's probably true for moms raising boys. I'm not sure. I'm going to talk again with the girls because I didn't you didn't have that experience, John, but you can pitch in here. Tell us what was going on in that lonely feeling and then how your family navigated or helped you with that. Sure.

Yes. Well, I suppose depending on where you live in the community you have available, I think that if we're raising kids who are choosing to walk with the Lord as they hit those tween and teenage years, and there's really that narrow path, which when they're little sometimes doesn't seem that complicated. They go to church and you can help choose their friends and and it all seems pretty simple. But then they hit that stage of life where a lot of their friends are starting to make their own choices and maybe turning away from those values that they were raised with.

And each of my boys have hit that point where they're like, wow, my friends are getting narrower and narrower. And pretty soon I some of those kids that I thought I could hang out with, they're not making very good choices. So I have to decide, am I going to go along with them and hang out with them and maybe hope to be a good influence on them, which they came to us and we talked about it and we were like, you know, there's a time to bring them in. Let's invite them to our home.

Let's do some things with them. But really, we didn't want to expose them to a lifestyle that we knew would not be good for them. It was much more likely that they would be influenced by their friends, especially in a group setting than that their friends would be influenced by them.

And so we had to set some boundaries and just say, you know, this for this season, I think that's a hard no. And I look back now and think, wow, it was during those years that our kids really developed not only their relationship with God as their best friend, but they developed hobbies and passions. They started playing music, doing photography. They spent more time at home.

Yes. And maybe it didn't seem very cool at the time, but I think our family was pretty cool to hang out with. And looking back, they might admit it, too, but it was a lonely season. And I think at the time, you can't help but wonder, oh, would it be better off if we just let them hang out with these other kids? But now they've thanked us and they've said, you really saved us from some bad choices.

Yeah. And I think, you know, again, being an engaged parent, I mean, that's what you were demonstrating. I think, you know, again, Jean did a great job with that because when the kids were in elementary school, she noticed she went and did some volunteering at the elementary school, which was good. So she saw what the playground activity was all about. And she was a little concerned, I remember. But she started a Bible study with the families that she felt would be really strong and a good influence with Trent and his friends. And that ended up, those friends are still best friends today. So that worked really well and for the same reasons.

And you can do something like that and have a lot of fun. Well, that's encouraging to hear. And Monica Swanson is our guest today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. We're hearing about her book Raising Amazing, and we'd recommend you get a copy of that.

You can do so when you call 800 the letter A in the word family or stop by the show notes for all the details. You know, picking up on that idea of the friends, you mentioned the book The Rule of Five or, you know, the idea of five that most people have five close relationships. And you challenge your kids, I think, who are the five in your life that fit that description. Describe that if I'm clunky with it, but what you're going after.

You're right. Well, I've just read a few different in a few different places. Research has shown that, you know, you're most likely to become like the five people you surround yourself with. So I think it's good for all of us to consider who are those people. But to broaden it even more, I say today, what are the five influences? So that could be an online influence, somebody you follow on social media.

You're a gamer. What are the five influences that you surround yourself with every day? And are those influences that you want to become like? So I think it's a great challenge for all of us. And we've had many conversations with our kids. And, you know, throughout scripture, the theme is the same, that we do become like the company we keep. King Solomon talked about that, whoever walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.

And then Paul reflects that also in the New Testament. And I think no one can deny it, right? Kids might want to argue with you and say, oh, no, they're my friends. I'm not going to become like them.

But there's no denying we all do. So I think it's really, really important to be on top of those influences and to have some hard conversations with our kids about that. Monica, one of the things that concerns me a lot is, you know, we as Christian parents particularly and Christian moms, I think even more particularly, we really aim at behavior control. And I'm interested in this because in the book you talk about your journey kind of from that orientation, which I think is pretty natural when the kids are younger, you are doing behavior modification.

You want them to say please and thank you. You want them to do the chores. You want them to, you're modeling the character and then requiring them to kind of get in line with that approach. But you do speak to this realization that in the big arc of life, what you're trying to do as a parent is not just behavior modification. You're just not trying to get the outcome there. You've got to speak to their hearts so they want to do the right thing.

That's a far more important, really, eternal consequence. So speak to that journey because I know a lot of Christian parents live in this space of behavior. And we have to move to shaping the heart.

What did that look like for you? Oh goodness, it is a true struggle and I think we all walk through that. And I think that struggle is normal. Because what you get on the other end is a lot of passivity. And that's not good either.

I think generally migrating from higher behavioral control to more heart shaping is like the journey from 3, 4, 5, 6 to 15, 16, 17, 18. You are right. It is very normal.

Yes, it is very normal. And I think that when they're young, there's nothing wrong with focusing on those manners, please and thank you. However, I think the greatest thing we can focus on with our kids is that they would know God's love, that they would understand His desire to have a relationship with them. Because we cannot shape our kids' hearts.

As much as we may want to, only God can do that. And so it's really through a relationship with Him that they're going to find that inspiration. My oldest son will say, Mom, you know, when I've asked him, what was the inspiration? He's a firstborn. He's got really great character.

But I've said, what's the inspiration? You know, was it our great parenting? He's like, honestly, Mom, I just knew that God could see everything I've done and everything that I do.

And I want to please Him. And so that's something you can't force, right? So we need to pray for our kids. And we need to just make sure that they understand that this isn't about religion, but about a relationship with God through Jesus. And I think that once they catch that, then it's really out of our hands and it's more between them and God.

And it's so critical. I just hope people catch that. If you get the book just for that reason, I would encourage you to do that. That'll make parenting so much more pleasurable and different. And I think your outcomes are actually going to be far better. Because when we linger in that behavioral side, we actually can push our kids away from the Lord, ironically.

Yes, we definitely can. Let me ask you to explain why you urge moms and dads to speak plainly to their kids about the value of good character traits. I mean, I love this, again, rather than like, speak at their language level. You know, you need to be good. But to just plainly say, this is it.

Yes. Well, it's kind of something that's been lost, I think, in today's culture is that focus on character. And we want character to grow out of a heart that wants to please God. But there is no denying character is going to benefit them in every way. If they want to have good relationships, character is going to matter. If they want to get a job.

I mean, just showing up for work on time and being fully present at work is going to make them stand out from other people. So character is important for grades, for sports. Pretty much everything our kids want in life is going to be connected to good character. And so I think it's important to just walk them through that. Have those conversations.

Say, what are you hoping to do in the next year? Well, guess what? Good character is going to help with that and then help them connect the dots between their character now and who they want to be. So, Jonah, one of your sons had some, you know, normal difficulties. And it's great that Jonah allowed you to write about it. Thank you, Jonah, for this. And Trent and Troy would be right with Jonah. So this is, you know, Jonah, you're pretty, pretty normal.

But what happened with Jonah? You put him in like a little character training time. I did.

I did. So what did yours look like? Oh, my goodness. Well, I was frustrated because I was like, we've taught him everything. When he was little, like this was so easy.

And now all of a sudden he's a young teenager. And there was just these new issues that came up that were all really came down to character. And so I just had an inspiration. I like to think it was from the Lord.

I had prayed long and hard over this and I was like, maybe he needs somebody outside of mom and dad talking to him about character. So I kind of gathered some podcasts, YouTube channels, TED Talks, anything I could find that was character related. And I gave him a list and I gave him a blank journal. And I said every day, in addition to your, you know, devotional time and whatever else. I want you to spend 30 minutes either reading from a book or watching something. And then I want you to write down the date because I'm going to check this one. This isn't your private journal. This is something I'm going to look at the date, what you watched or read or listen to.

And then one nugget. Write down something you got from that. And initially, of course, the first question you can imagine was, well, are the brothers doing it? I said no, but this isn't about the brothers. This is about you. Good answer.

Yes, we parent individually. And at first he might write one line, but after a couple weeks, amazingly, he was writing full pages. And pretty soon there were note cards posted above his desk with a Bible verse or a quote from someone. And over time, he became a podcast junkie. And to this day, he loves to listen to great preachers and read great books. And I think something clicked there where he started to realize, wow, there's some inspiring people out there. And then it took some time, but pretty soon he'd walk in the room and instead of being ready for him to be critical or complain, I would see. It was almost like you could see the wheels turning and he would think before he spoke.

And you could tell that he was starting to really embrace good character for himself. Yeah, that's good. Maybe we could compile a list of those things.

I think a lot of parents would like of those good podcasts to have your kids listen to. Well, my 13 year old's going through it right now as well, so I'm still in it and still gathering great resources. Character development for all ages. Yes. That's what we need to call that.

Monica, let's end here. Another aspect of this great resource, Raising Amazing, was this idea of adversity and suffering. Most of us as parents, I'm guilty.

I'll put my hand up. I don't want to see my kids suffer, especially where I came from. My goal has been to help them to avoid suffering. I think it has been a mistake at times that I've overprotected.

I'll speak for myself. I don't know if Jean would say that too. But I just feel like, wow, I went through so much. But the irony of ironies is that adversity and that suffering does produce good things, like character.

It does. That's exactly what the scripture says, right? And speak to that importance for parents, moms maybe particularly. But all parents to allow appropriate suffering for your children so that they get it.

Yes. Well, I know there's exceptions. But I would say in general, most of our kids today have a pretty good life.

I mean, if they get three meals, they sleep in a bed at night, they have a home, they are doing better than most people in history and at least across the world. And so I think it's important for us to realize our kids don't have a lot of natural suffering. There's things they go through that are hard. But because of that, we don't want them to grow up soft.

We don't want them to grow up weak and that they're going to wither the first time they face true adversity. So I encourage parents, including myself, to create some challenges for kids because they need to learn to work hard, right? And so for us, that looked like giving them chores when they were young, when they were able to get a job somewhere outside the house. And our boys worked at a restaurant in the dish pit and it was not fun work. Back to washing dishes somehow. Right?

Outdoor work. Yes, it all comes back to washing dishes. There's a theme in your life.

There is. But I think coming up with ways to help them and then not rescuing them when they face something hard. Yes, they need coaching. They need mentoring. But we don't have to be the first one to run to the coach or the teacher and try to do the work for them.

Maybe encourage them to go do that and learn some skills to about how to deal with things that they face in life, because that's going to pay off later on. That's Monica Swanson. She's been our guest today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. And Monica has a lot of great parenting insights in her book Raising Amazing, bringing up kids who love God, like their family and do the dishes without being asked. We certainly recommend you get a copy of that book when you call us. Our number is 800-232-6459. That's 800, the letter A in the word family.

Or check the program notes for the links. That criteria, I feel like Jean and I have actually hit it. And Troy is doing the dishes with not being asked. I love it. John, I'd like to invite our listeners to join our Friends of Focus on the Family community. This month, we're looking for a thousand people or families who will commit to supporting the ministry on a monthly basis. That's what Jean and I do.

I know you and Dina do the same, John. Monthly giving really helps balance our budget and enables us to have resources on hand when parents contact us for help. Like dealing with major transitions, perhaps even deciding whether or not to keep that child. That's a big one.

And then, of course, all the issues that teens are facing today, even teen suicide. We have help in that area as well. So please consider becoming a Friend of Focus on the Family with your monthly pledge.

And if that's more than you can afford right now, a one-time gift will also be very helpful. Yeah, we look forward to hearing from you. And when you donate, making that monthly pledge or that one-time gift of any amount, we'll say thank you by sending a copy of Monica's great book.

Again, our number 800, the letter A in the word family, or check the program notes for all the details. We hope you have a great weekend with your family and your church family as well. And then coming up on Monday, three important roles you play with your spouse. And whenever I think about what it means for me to be a husband, what does Jenny need from me? She needs me to be a friend for her. She needs me to be a friend to her, that walk alongside of her all throughout life. She needs me to be a partner that shares the busyness of life with her. Thanks again for joining us today for Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. For more information, please visit our website at
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-01 08:40:48 / 2024-03-01 08:53:36 / 13

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