Amy was looking for a resource to help her grow closer to God and live out her faith in tangible ways. So whenever I found Focus in the family and started listening to the various episodes, I guess, found that so much of what was being covered were things that I needed in my life. Our podcast inspired Amy to volunteer at a pregnancy resource center, and she realized she could help save even more preborn babies through monthly giving. You are one person, but whenever you donate to Focus in the family like I do, it magnifies your impact. Focus in the family is able to touch millions of people.
I'm Jim Daly. Join Amy and Focus on the family in the ongoing fight to save babies and their moms from abortion. Become a monthly giver today at Focusonthefamily.com slash family. The number one thing is that we try to model these things for our kids because kind mothers and kind fathers raise kind kids, but it's not an overnight thing. That's Courtney DeFeo referring to a common conundrum for parents, how to teach character values to our kids and model those same values in our own lives. And maybe that's been a challenge for you. If so, we have some help on today's episode of Focus on the family.
Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. John, I don't think kindness was a problem for me. Well, most of the time as a dad, but patience certainly was because raising children can bring out the worst in us. And we all need the Lord's help to do that job well. I'm sure many moms and dads listening right now want to establish a good and healthy foundation for their children, helping them to grow up and become responsible adults and integrate their faith into every part of their lives. That's what Christian parents desire.
Yeah, and that's what they tell us when they call. That's one of the main reasons parents contact us. They want help, especially with the spiritual training of their children. A lot of mom and dads, though, don't feel qualified to do that effectively.
They want and need some tools. And that's why Focus is here, to equip and empower you to share your faith with your children. We have so many resources that can help you do that. One of those resources is a conversation that I recorded a while back with Courtney DeFeo. She's an author, speaker, blogger and podcast host, and she wrote a wonderful book that we'd like to tell you more about today. The title is In This House We Will Giggle, Making Virtues, Love, and Laughter a Daily Part of Your Family Life.
What a great resource. Yeah, and we have copies of that book here at the ministry, and details are in the program notes, or you can call 800, the letter A in the word family. And Jim, I was out of the office as you spoke with Courtney, and so we invited... You're missing days, aren't you?
Every now and then. So our colleague Kim Trobe filled in, and here's how the conversation began with Courtney DeFeo on today's Focus on the Family. You talked about what you thought parenting was going to be like, and then the little ones arrived, and it didn't quite fit with your expectations. Most parents experience that.
Talk about that disconnect, what you thought was going to happen and what really happened. Absolutely. The best illustration I can give you is the Pottery Barn Kids catalog, and I don't know of a parent out there that didn't flip through those dreamy pictures and think... Smiling children. Yes, they are so cute, and my nursery is going to be so clean and lavender, and the diapers are going to be stacked up just like that. And my kids are going to have these outfits on, and we are going to sit and do a puzzle quietly.
And they never get dirty. Right, and the shoes are going to look like that, and then this thing happened. Real people came to live with me, and they actually needed real food. And we had to get them to bed, and it just all kind of blew up. And you saw my real sinful self, and anger came out, and frustration with my husband, and the kids needed things, and they cried.
And so my reality became really scary. And so I think for most parents, that reality is a harsh thing to face, and so we can either get bogged down by that or get a new game plan to say, how do we keep going in the midst of chaos and either get depressed or just have a new game plan to go with it and enjoy it or give up? Well, and you've written this book, In This House We Will Giggle. And I think most parents, most level-headed parents, want their home to be full of joy and fun, but there are some things they've got to do, and they've got to have responsibility. Talk about that balance, that tension, because that even shows up in the parents themselves. You know, one is perhaps more fun and wants to forget about the chores, while the other one is all about the chores.
Absolutely. And there's some misconception with my book that it's, you know, this is in the absence of discipline, and I think that's far from the truth, that there are some things, some boundaries in discipline that have to happen in the basis of this book, that we've got to have boundaries and a safe place for our kids. But as we go about life in Deuteronomy 6-7, it says, impress upon your children as you go. You know, as we take them to carpool, we can include really important things like virtues, and that's why the book has 12 virtues that are biblically based, and then we can do it in a fun way.
So there's less lectures and more laughter, and kids can actually enjoy our homes and not feel like they're just getting the beat down 24-7 on who they need to become, these good Christian kids. What about the parent, though, that they started that direction, but, you know, all the load of life, it may even be external, you know, the job, the career is not going the way they wanted. Maybe their marriage is not in a good place. And some of that frustration comes out in the home to where it's not a healthy or joyful environment. Talk to that person today about the realization, this is where I'm at.
How do they become more joyful for their kids' sake? Yeah, I think there was a time when I met with my mentor when I was just beat down, and I was tired, I wasn't enjoying the journey, and it was hard to admit that this is not what I thought it was going to be, and I feel really frustrated about that. And so she had to get honest with me about, you know, is it midweek? Do you need a break?
Do you need a babysitter? Are you being honest with your spouse about the demands of the job? And so I think communication is key with your spouse, or if you're a single mom, communication is key with the people around you.
Do you have enough support? So that communication is key. And then just saying, do I need a break? Do I need a two-hour break just to go to Target by myself and get a little sanity here and there?
And so that would be my advice, is that you get a mentor, a godly mentor in your life to have this open communication, and then you be really honest with your spouse. And then just have some fun. My book has 60 ideas on how to giggle, and some of those just silly things get a little bit of joy sprinkled back into your life. And you remember that, hey, I actually like these people, and I actually like my family. They're pretty fun.
With your permission, we'll post, I think, 10 of those 60, just to whet people's appetites. Absolutely. Well, you know what, Courtney? I think that a lot of moms spend their time looking at other people's highlight reels. Exactly. And they're living their own documentary. Absolutely.
And they're wondering why they're unhappy. And you talked about the 12 virtues. Describe a little bit more of that outline and tell people what you're talking about when you're talking about 12 virtues.
Yeah. When Ron and I were dedicating our children, we were going to a church in Atlanta. The pastor was Andy Stanley.
We've since now moved. But they asked us to say, in a dream scenario, what are five values that you would hope that your kids walk out of the home and they have these values just at the core of who they are? And so when we made that list, it's pretty to write those down and say, I want them to be generous kids. I want them to be kind kids.
But most of these were all biblically based virtues. But then it's tough to say, okay, now how? You know, they don't just wake up and come out patient kids. So that really struck me as how in the midst of feeding my kids, getting them to school, putting them to bed, how do these virtues come to life? How do you bring faith to life in a way that's not a lecture? And so that really became the just passion behind what I was writing about and what I was doing in my own home. And so we started trying to live that out with my young kids. And that became the book.
Well, you know, the obvious question is when you're trying to teach your kids these virtues, these values like patience, and then we come home and we're totally out of patience with them. There is a bit of a disconnect. Correct.
Yeah. And I think the misconception, too, is that it's a one time thing and that I'm going to actually solve it with this book. I'm not so buy it and enjoy the ideas. But I don't want to dupe you into thinking that it's a one time because I'm still impatient.
I just moved to a new city and I want it all to button up quickly now. But I'm actually impatient. I'm going good. I'm ready for my house to sell.
I'm ready. And so my kids are watching. So I think you're right. The number one thing is that we try to model these things for our kids because kind mothers and kind fathers raise kind kids. But it's not an overnight thing.
It's a, you know, a decade maybe or even more of us modeling these things. Well, sure. And in that context, what's really helpful is the honesty as a parent to say to your child. I mean, I think it works at every age, really. Yes.
As long as they can communicate, you know, here's where we're at. This is why mommy's stressed out. Just say it so that they know you're not perfect. And they know that you're asking perhaps even for forgiveness from them, that mommy hasn't been patient. And, you know, those are good things to remember. And I think that really does model for your children how to live a life that isn't perfect, that has some failure. But you're striving to do better each and every day.
Absolutely. And the forgiveness chapter, I talk a lot about asking for forgiveness from your children and doing it in a way that they hear it genuinely from you. Not just saying I'm sorry to get the words out, but genuinely asking their forgiveness. And I'll never forget being in carpool. And carpool guys, I'm telling you, when you're driving your kids anywhere, they don't have to give you eyeballs.
You know, they're looking for. But in the rear view mirror, you can be talking to them. And they often talk more in similar bedtime.
They are stalling you because they don't want to go to bed and they are willing to talk sometimes. So I had to offer a big apology to one of mine for the way I'd acted the night before. And I said, you know what, guys, someone in this car deserves a big apology.
And their eyeballs got huge. Like, who's going to be the lucky one? You know, I said, Ella, it was you. I was so unkind to you last night about your tummy hurting. And so it takes a great sense of humility. It's embarrassing. But I think our kids need to see that over and over and over again that we're not perfect and we're willing to live these virtues out for them. That could be the next title of your book, How to Live in a Carpool with Giggles.
I don't think it's possible. Well, that's where you need most of the giggles. Carpool is pretty stressful. I've never seen anybody giggling in that carpool. Hey, I've picked them up with beach balls and leis and all kinds of craziness in carpools. I'm sorry, Courtney, carpools are pretty serious business.
No phones on. That's right. And we have numbers, I realized. I went to pick my kids up for the first time and Jean said, remember their numbers. What numbers? I don't know. They each have numbers.
I didn't know that. I had to say Trent and Troy and they're going, no, what's his number? Because that proves you're his dad. I don't know his number. I had to get on the phone.
Jean, what's the number for the kids? Yeah, you can embarrass them very quickly. I would love it if you would give us an example of something that a mom could do to encourage gratitude in her kids.
Yeah, absolutely. One of the things that my mom has taught us is, and this goes back to Deuteronomy 6-7, just as you go about life, and my mom loves nature. And her way of showing God's greatness is in nature.
She takes my girls on walks and she says, thank you God for, and she'll just say, the trees. Thank you God for, and they'll just look around. And I think just getting them in the posture of looking around to see that you actually have so much to be grateful for. And it gets our eyes up off of ourselves and onto other people. And it's so simple for the little ones, but they start going, oh, thank you God for the moss and the flowers that make our sky so pretty. They just look around. They start naming things.
And we can do that in the car and everywhere. And then another easy one that's in the book is the give thanks bag. We ask our kids to run around in like a preschool share bag. And they have to run through the house and find five things that they're thankful for. It could be a picture of somebody. It could be a toy.
It could be a piece of food. And they bring it back down and then share it with the family. And then we have them go back out and find five things they're thankful for. And then they have to give those things away. And I'll tell you, the first time you try it, they may bring back like one Lego or a chewed up lollipop. So they know they're going to give these things away.
And they're like, trash. I'm like, try that again with something that you actually care about that another child would actually enjoy. But what a great lesson, though, you can play off of that in terms of the spirit of the heart.
And so the fact that you brought back a half-eaten Tootsie Roll to give away is evidence that maybe your heart's not in a great place. That's terrific. I like that. How does that work at 13 and 15 years old? Yeah, I think it's a similar challenge.
It's the same base idea. And for both games, I think it's, you know, hey, let's just look around because we can get so focused on the things that are not happening. And same with teenagers.
They can get really bogged down with a couple things that are going really badly in high school. So let's get them either to write them down or journal about the things that are going really well in the world. And it kind of plays into this attitude, especially in more affluent countries, the program airs around the world. But in countries where, you know, we have disposable income, we can lavish upon our kids a lot of gifts. And a lot of us do because we like that affirmation as parents. How do we make sure that we're not mishandling that, that we're not overindulging the children so they become spoiled? I think it's a big and it's a challenge for me because I get I get caught in that because I do see them sad and I think I know that those toys and those things do lift their spirits. But I do get afraid that that is going to be tied to their happiness and that they will equate that if I have a lot of things, I am good.
And that is the last thing I want them believing that they are OK if they have a lot of stuff. So I think it's a good caution for all of us just to remember that actually if we're loved and we remember that we're beloved by our parents and we're, you know, loved by our savior, that they're going to be OK. And so I think as parents, we have to remember that's not the ticket to their happiness. And we'll talk about joy hopefully in the program today. But there's a difference between happiness and joy.
Courtney, let's go ahead and hit it then. I mean, that difference between happiness and joy. Some people may not see a distinction.
What is the distinction? Yeah, I think there's a lot of fleeting, very temporary things that make me happy. And I will just be honest.
T.J. Maxx, love it. Makes me very happy. If I'm having a down day, I can just go in there, get a shirt. You know, it makes me temporarily feel good.
I've got a new shirt. And the same things can happen for our kids. They've had a bad day. We can go get them a Gatorade. We can give them a milkshake.
And that's OK. But if that is our way of parenting and making them feel good, it's not going to last for them. And so I've had these conversations with my girls about lasting joy and that if God can fill your heart and you feel loved by your parents and you feel a secure home and you feel loved by a savior that's never going to leave you, that's going to last with you. And so in the joy chapter, we talk about a joy filled journal. You know, scientists go out and they look and study things. They'll start looking at the world around them and studying that. And so for my girls, we started studying joyful people. And what do you see? Happy people out in the world that are just happy or do you see true, joyful people? And I think there's a difference.
And we know different people in our culture. And they started talking about their teachers and their grandparents and people that are just joyful and people that are happy. You know, you mentioned the chapters and I think it would be good for us to help everybody understand that you've laid out this book in a really great way.
It's very easy to follow along. Tell us a little bit about how the chapters work and what moms can expect when they get this book. Yeah, I'm a mom, just like many of you out there. And I think there's people like, how do you even read a book, much less write a book? And I'm with you. You know, it's tough to fit this stuff in. And so I didn't want another book that's on a great topic and that you can't figure out how to actually apply it. So each chapter, half of it is about the importance of that virtue and the other half, I wanted to be as practical as possible. So each, so let's take joy, for example, when you get into the part about applying it and teaching it to your children, there's a definition that makes it really easy for your children. So joy is choosing to praise God in all things. So that's putting a virtue, a big term in a way that kids can understand it. So regardless of your circumstances, hey, Larson, Allah, joy is choosing to praise God in all things. And then there's a verse so that you can tie it back biblically to a verse.
So it's a happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit. And then there's an activity that you don't have to do, because I never want anyone to think this book is a formula. It's like, here's an idea starter for you. And whether you have boys, because I know you have some boys, Jim, and you do too, Kev. I have girls. Here's an idea.
Now, what would that look like for your family? Courtney, let's get practical with some of the great advice you have in the book. The virtue of generosity, you talk about the light them up activity. Now with boys, as Kim and I would know, that can mean a lot of things like firecrackers.
They're all excited about that. Listen, I'm just going to warn you not to search that hashtag, and you'll see a lot of people lighting up some things in the world. So we're not talking about that.
What are you talking about? I'm talking about lighting up your community with kindness. I have always been attracted to just the idea of light, that God asks us to be a light in our community.
And when my girls were little, I thought, what does that look like for little girls? And I think there is not an 18 and up for being a believer. You know, God asked that, God, if you believe in him, he's going to actually start working in your lives as little as four, five, six. And we have to parent that we actually believe that. Let's parent that we believe God is real and he can work in our kids as little as, you know, when they begin believing in him. And so that excited me. And as I went to ministries in Atlanta, I started figuring out that they had rules. They're too little.
You know, they have to be 14 or 15 legally to come serve at this ministry. And I was frustrated. And so out of that, when several years ago, before the book even started, I started a campaign on my blog called Light Em Up and said, I am doing something and you can join me.
And at that time, I had two or three readers, you know, my mom and some friends. And I said, join me, other moms. Let's go do something in our community as we go about life and let's see what difference we can make in the community.
And I cannot tell you what happened. I thought, let's put signs on our trash can. Let's thank people who are not thanked. And so we started saying, thank you for picking up our trash.
The girls made a poster. They left candy. We started going through the Chick-fil-A drive through and thanking the lady that gives me my sweet tea every day. We just went around and thanked people and did things that children can do in a really special way. And it blew up.
And I had people all of a sudden in Dubai and in Ukraine and London putting signs on their trash cans. And God just moved through this movement called Light Em Up. And now there's people all over the world doing simple acts of kindness with their children and showing God's love.
And, you know, they don't even have to say his name. They're just using their kids to say you can be used by him to light up others with his love. In fact, in the book, you talked about the Dollar Tree story, which I loved. I was telling my boys that this morning and they're like, yeah.
You know, I think it's funny as a growing up in a Christian home, there was always a part of me that was looking at the other side like, well, they're having more fun. They're almost on the cusp of doing something illegal. And so I always invite parents into this is where you kind of get on the cusp of illegal nature, like sneak in the dollar store. Let your kids sneak in with dollars and they hide them all through the dollar store. And you put $1.06 or whatever your tax is, and then you leave a note in there.
And I have the free printables on my site. And it says, we just believe it's better to give than receive. Enjoy this free treat from our family.
Merry Christmas. And you can do this all year long. But my girls, they're kind of nervous. Like, are we going to get in trouble? No, this is free. You're leaving money, not taking it. Yeah, we're not stealing anything.
We're leaving money. So we run through the dollar store, we hide them and we tape them. And the coolest thing was once we left there, they were so excited and they always want to do more, which is fun. Their hearts start changing and it's less lectures, more laughter. And they're experiencing who we know and not doing what we know. Because I think that's our culture is that we want to start teaching them all these biblical practices and they miss the whole ballgame. It's like we want their hearts. We don't want this behavior. And so generosity, I don't have to give them another lecture on generosity because my kids have caught the bug. It's contagious. So finish that story up. We're leaving the dollar store in Orlando.
There's a huge population of homeless folks because of the weather. And my girls are getting used to that. And so we were leaving the parking lot and the lady knocked on our window to see if she could clean our window for money. And normally I would have said absolutely. But I had literally not a dime left because we had packed every bag full of money. And I waved at her and said, I'm so sorry, ma'am.
And we kept driving. And my oldest, Ella, said, Mom, go back. Tell her where the money is. And I thought, oh, how awesome that her heart does the right thing. And so I pulled back and said, ma'am, there's a lot of money in the dollar store.
We just hid it through there. And her eyes got so big. So now she had an Easter egg hunt she could go for. Yeah, so she just ran and got all the money.
And, you know, I thought, would I have liked a bunch of people to find our little surprises? But what was more important is that my daughter saw the need of a woman who needed some money for lunch. And, you know, I don't even know what she was going to use the money for. But my daughter's heart is turning to do the right thing and be generous.
That's so much fun. And you can take that in all kinds of directions. But it is it's kind of an attitude, isn't it, Courtney? I mean, we get kind of in the rut and we're thinking, you know, we've got to go to work, we've got to do this. We don't think of how to have fun in life, how to look beyond the boundaries of normal and do some things that really lift up this character that you're talking about, which really is God's heart.
Yeah. And I think I fell in love with Jesus again in a passionate way when I got out of college. And I think what the big aha for me was like, it is a good thing. Like, it feels awesome to love, to give, to serve. And I don't have to do it anymore.
Like, I enjoy opening my own Bible. I enjoy going to do these things. And I want that experience so badly for my children that that gets in to be who they are in so much of a way that it's not new information for them. That they say, oh, Mom, remember when we did that together?
I want to do that again. And I have kids reading the book and they're doing that. They experience light them up and then they want to do it for their birthday. So now I have kids doing 10 acts of kindness and light them up for their birthday because it's becoming who they are.
Right. But talk about, you know, that type of child that maybe their temperament is not quite there. I have one. I do, too. I am one.
But, you know, you're not it's just not the way you're wired or you're not thinking about it that way. How do you as a parent, how would you motivate that child who's like, whatever? Yeah, I invite that one anyways. And my one of these, my other one is precious and she's gotten involved in so many things. But one particular instance, I can remember we were doing light them up at the mall and I invited her anyways. And she's small and she said, I don't want to do this. And I'm like, OK, well, just come with us.
And so we were handing out candy canes and doing all kinds of holding doors for people. And she says she have them in her hand. I said, well, you just let me know if you see somebody you'd like to give it to. But Ella and I are going to do this. And so I don't you don't want to start lecturing and punish them.
They're not doing anything wrong, you know. And so I said, you just hold it. And so then she saw this old man and he had bags and, you know, he probably came there to do his one Christmas shopping of the year. And she goes, that guy. And I'm like, oh, no. Oh, no.
That guy. I'm like, OK, great. So I had to go up to this man and say, hi, my daughter has a present for you. And her attitude was still so poor, but she kind of shoved it his way. And I tried to code it over and shove it, you know, explain it to him. But then 20 minutes later, she was the one finally holding the door. But the thing is, we can't get mad at these kids and just give it time because he might wait till college or he might be like me.
And after college, be the one. But we can't force faith down their throats. OK, now I feel guilty. How many times have I said to my boys? Be nice. Come on.
Do this right. Open that door. I have to.
But it goes back to that point that I believe he's real and he's going to be the one that changes their hearts. But keep inviting him to the game and saying, hey, mom and are going to do this. Do you want to come? We'd love to have you. And we believe in you. We've seen you be so generous and we think you'd be great at this.
Come with us. Well, one that we have not often, but occasionally one of our boys will get the giggles as we're about to pray at dinner. And, you know, it's usually Troy, who's our boy of joy. And he'll just start giggling. And the other night, I couldn't help myself. It was so funny just the way he was giggling. And I started to giggle and she gave me the eye because that's not the time to giggle. I get that. But what were we going to do?
I couldn't control it and he couldn't control it. And that made us laugh even more. And of course, mom and Trent, they're wanting to pray to the Lord.
How do you, where do you go with that? I know we've had a lot of prayers for like frogs and forks and just silliness. And so I think, you know, I think overreacting is there's always an extreme. And I tend to try to land in moderation so we can go over extreme and just freak out every time that they laugh or get silly when we're trying to get them to do something.
You know, or we can just go so, you know, we don't care and laugh at everything. And so I just try to find moderation in most of most of our lives and say, hey, mom really flipped out last night. I'm sorry. Let's try that prayer again.
Sorry. We do a lot of apologizing. We try to be as authentic as we can. And I try and social media because you talked about the highlight reel. I try to show anyone that's reading my stuff that we are real.
My house is a mess. I snap at my kids. You know, we're doing the best we can, just like everybody else is. But our drive is that they get invited to the game. They understand Jesus is real and they're so loved in our family. Well, I really love Courtney's last comment there about being as authentic as we can be because none of us are perfect parents. And I think you'd agree with that, John.
I would. And the sooner we admit that to ourselves, the better our children are going to do because we're being real. God works through our mistakes and imperfections as much as those things we model well. So the bottom line here is that we all need to relax a little bit and trust God for the results. Don't stress yourself out by trying to be the perfect parent.
Be good enough and let God take care of the rest. And along the way, you might want to contact Focus on the Family about resources like Courtney's book. In this house, we will giggle, making virtues, love and laughter a daily part of your family life. We also have a free online parenting survey. It's called Seven Traits of Effective Parenting.
Invest five or 10 minutes and take that survey. You'll have a good overview then of what's working well in your family and maybe an area or two for improvement. Learn about these resources when you call 800 the letter A and the word family 800-232-6459 or stop by the show notes for all the details. And as a reminder, we can send Courtney's book to you when you make a monthly pledge of any amount. And the reason we do that is because we're trying to recruit a monthly sustainer team of friends like you who are committed to strengthening marriages, equipping parents and helping families to grow in their faith. And we need that persistent financial support every month if possible. You literally provide the fuel that we need to produce programs like this one, develop resources, provide counseling, our Web site and so much more. When we work together, families around the world are helped in amazing ways, literally hundreds of thousands every year. So please consider a monthly pledge today. Ten dollars a month makes a huge difference for needy families.
And if a pledge is more than you can do right now, a one time gift will also be really helpful and appreciated. Again, our number 800, the letter A and the word family or stop by the show notes. Coming up next time, we'll continue on the conversation with Courtney and hear how she and her husband parent their children very differently.
Ron's gift that is so beautiful is listening. And I'm the one that's constantly making a teachable moment where they're like running for the hills. Oh, here she comes. What are we going to do now? We're just trying to get ice cream and now there's some sort of lesson coming out of the ice cream scoops here on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team. Thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. The Adventures in Odyssey series already provides your family with trusted entertainment.
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