Do You Listen?

Do you listen? This comment about a podcast-version of our Daily Broadcast reminded me of the power of radio:

I recently discovered the Focus on the Family podcasts and have been greatly blessed by your ministry.  My husband is in the military; he’s currently deployed and we live overseas, so we don’t have the opportunity to hear your radio broadcasts over local Christian stations.  However, since I was introduced to the Focus podcasts I have been listening every day.  I receive helpful insights and encouragement from these programs.  Thank you so much – keep up the great work.

It certainly is gratifying to work on a radio program that touches lives, 24/7, around the world. I’m glad we can help this family, facing the tough challenges of military life!

If you can’t listen to our programming on your local radio station, grab our free smartphone app (iPhone or Android) here. And let me know how YOU listen…and how God uses our broadcasts to help your family.

 

24 Years of Fatherhood

Today I want to shift the spotlight – about parenting, really – to my wife. She is a wonderful woman, and has been an inspiring wife for 27 years. Today, she did something that reminded me about her deep mother’s heart – and the reason I love her so much, and why I like being a dad so much.

Some background: My wife updates her Facebook page a few times a year. A Year! Really. Today, though, she posted something that made me tear up. It’s short yet very poignant…

“24 years ago today I learned several things: the depth of my parents love for me; how possible it is to let go of “self” and think of someone else first; the incredible worth of every human being; and that the God of the universe loves me more than I could ever imagine.

All this from a newborn… with much, much more to come. Happy Birthday Dakota!

I love you,

Mom”

That is quite touching! Let add my own “Happy Birthday!” to our oldest child, who turned 24 today. (What a privilege to be your dad!)

And…thanks, God, for that boy – and his wonderful Mom.  What a terrific journey it has been so far.

 

 

Lessons Learned About Being A Good Dad

As we approach Father’s Day, some reflections about parenting lessons I learned from my own dad:

Time – My dad used to have me work alongside him in the garage or yard. That wasn’t easy, as I was lazy and not particularly interested in doing the job well. But he involved me anyway, just to spend time with me.

Advocacy – I’ll always remember the time in grade school when Dad stood up when a teacher made a hurtful comment about me in front of the class.

Laughter – Our evening meal times were frequently punctuated by a joke or humorous story. Some of my best childhood memories are of funny moments at the dinner table.

Correction – sometimes gently, other times not-so-much, my Dad was a disciplinarian. He gave me boundaries. He taught me how to live well.

Modeling – As I was growing up, my Dad lived out his convictions. He had set moral guidelines, and along with teaching those to us, he modeled them daily.

Sacrifice – My dad had some hobbies as I was growing up, but they didn’t keep him away from home a lot. In fact, his love for model trains was something that kept him at home in the basement, and  we loved being down in the “train room” with him.

Those are just some of the qualities my own father has passed on, primarily through example. I dedicated my book, First Time Dad,  to Thomas L. Fuller,

“for modeling in word and deed how to be a good dad.”

How about you? What lessons did your father teach you about parenting? Leave a comment here or on Facebook. I’ll randomly select one commenter to receive a copy of First Time Dad.

(By the way, I’m pleased to announce that First Time Dad is now available in audiobook form. That’d be a great instant Father’s Day gift! Just download and put it on a flashdrive or CD for a new dad.)

Your Great Father’s Day Gifts?

It’s a fact. In our household, most holidays and “greeting card occasions” are not celebrated with great fanfare. We do observe most of them, but only birthdays, Christmas and Easter warrant much attention. It’s not that we’re party poopers, although my kids my think so at times. Really, it is a pragmatic matter. We have six children, and we’d be broke if we went out to eat or had a big to-do every time it is “National Second Cousin’s Day” or “National We Can’t Believe We Didn’t Think To Honor Zucchini Gardeners Day” or “Middle Children Are Special Sunday.” We’d be broke if we spent a couple of bucks on every special occasion.

On that note…it’ll soon be Father’s Day (have you noticed the sales already?). This isn’t the same kind of sentimental, tear-in-your-eye observation as Mother’s Day. In our culture there is affirmation for fathers, but not the emotional expressions we show moms. I’m good with that.

Reflecting on my past, I’m sure my mom was behind many of the Father’s Day purchases and gifts given to my dad as I was growing up. I do recall making things for my dad as a boy – seems like we sometimes used macaroni noodles, glue, construction paper and spray paint.  Or we’d go find a new key fob for him, or the traditional new wallet. Over the years there were “coupons” fore a car wash, a chore done in his honor, or hand-made cards. As we’ve gotten older, there have been gift cards, tools, a meal out or an audio book.

I’ll admit that as time has passed, finding that special something for my Dad becomes harder. What do you give a guy that seems to have everything he needs, and buys what he wants to have? What in the world can I get him that says, “I love you, Dad, and thanks for everything?”

Can you relate?

As for me, I’ve tried to downplay the whole Father’s Day gift thing, but still they see the day approaching and they want to do something for me. I’m glad for their affection and love. I really don’t desire much to be reminded of the wonderful job I’ve had as their dad. A very meaningful gift for me is a home-made item. Nothing special. And maybe an extra hug. I don’t expect big items, but if there was something I had in mind…I’ve probably already purchased it and have it in the closet waiting to be “gifted” on Father’s Day.

Are you struggling to find YOUR dad something meaningful this year? Is he like many men who, only a few weeks before Father’s Day, come home with a new tool, electronic gizmo or nick-knack that you would’ve been happy to give them as a gift? And if you’re a dad, are you guilty of doing that?

So tell me, what gifts have you’ve given to your father that have made Father’s Day extra special? Was it a surprise, a hand-made item from the heart, or maybe the computer of his dreams?

And if you are a dad, what gifts from the past stand out as most memorable, or (hint hint) would you hope to receive this year?

Can I Earn Some Money?

A common question in our home revolves around finances. With some frequency my children ask, “How can I earn some money?” The occasion prompting such a question is usually something which requires cash for entrance (like a movie, mini golf, or a theme park) or at which they’ll want to buy some treats (junk food). While my children have an allowance, they don’t always manage the monies well, and thus the question. If I were to write out an equation, it’d be (with apologies to real math people, of which I am obviously not one):

Felt Need = (Motivation To Work) + (Instant Cash)

Or something like that.

Anyway, our children have various funds to manage, to spend on clothing and frivolities, for giving, for saving. I’ll admit, though, that beyond real-world teaching opportunities like an invitation to an event that requires money which they don’t have, we’ve been a bit lax on how to practically help them in this.

All this came to mind as I read a Wall Street Journal article about how to approach kids and money. One person offered an “earn everything they get” perspective in which doing chores brings money, while another suggested giving money apart from chores to helps kids better understand finances.

The first view is described as follows:

There are two types of chores in a house: Citizen of the Household, without pay, and Work for Pay.

Citizen of the Household chores are personal things: brushing teeth, keeping your own space clean, putting your toys away, etc.

Work for Pay are all chores in a home—setting tables, doing laundry, etc. Those jobs are paid for with a salary on a weekly schedule.

Citizen of the Household chores are “good behavior,” and if not done, the punishment is behavioral, taking away a privilege, like TV. If Work for Pay jobs are not done, there is no pay.

Here’s the latter approach as expressed by one expert:

Allowances and family chores have different purposes.

Allowances help children learn to manage money and control the need for instant gratification. Family chores help children learn to develop a work ethic.

Paying for extra chores sends a healthy message: Money and hard work go together.

I guess we’re somewhere in between these two views. We’ve given the kids a certain allowance based upon their age, and independent of chores. We also pay extra for extra work – the “above and beyond” kind of help that shows initiative and responsibility. We want to give money because they are part of the family, and eventually they’ll need to take care of their own spending. We also want to reward mature choices.

How about you? How do you handle kids, chores and allowances?

 

Seeing Through The Lens Of Autism

Temple Grandin is one of the most well-known individuals with autism. She has a doctorate in animal science and is a professor at Colorado State University. Additionally, Dr. Grandin is a bestselling author and respected consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior.

From a radio essay on NPR a few years ago, here are some insights from Dr. Grandin about how autism affects the cognitive process:

Because I have autism, I live by concrete rules instead of abstract beliefs. And because I have autism, I think in pictures and sounds. I don’t have the ability to process abstract thought the way that you do.

Here’s how my brain works. It’s like the search engine Google for images. If you say the word love to me, I’ll surf the Internet inside my brain. Then a series of images pops into my head. What I’ll see, for example, is a picture of a mother horse with a foal, or I think of Herbie the Love Bug, scenes from the movie Love Story, or the Beatles’ song, love, love, All You Need is Love…

…I built a library of experiences that I could refer to when I was in a new situation. That way, when I confronted something unfamiliar, I could draw on the information in my homemade library and come up with an appropriate way to behave in a new and strange situation.

These are fascinating perspectives and I’d encourage you to find the full transcript and audio here. With 1 in 88 children being diagnosed with autism, sooner or later you’ll encounter an individual who has autism and thinks “in pictures and sounds” like Dr. Grandin.

 

Dealing With Autism: Starting Points

As Autism Awareness Month wraps up, I’d like to offer some additional  resources and starting points for understanding and embracing ASD (see previous posts for other suggestions).

One of the most helpful approaches we’ve found, widely embraced by the medical and special needs communities, is “ABA Therapy.” Pioneered by Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas, this is an especially effective treatment for autism. Here’s his site and links to a significant number of studies about ABA Therapy.

There are many organizations offering information and networking for the autism community. We’ve found Autism Society of America (a national organization with state chapters) to be especially helpful. Your awareness of autism may have been increased by the effective advocacy work of Autism Speaks.  And my friend Bob West has a wonderful website – dealing with a variety of special needs and offering hope to families, Need Project.

For inspirational encouragement, see www.ChosenFamilies.org. My wife, Dena, appreciates http://childrenofdestiny.org, a site featuring a daily prayer for families with special needs members.

There are many more sources for parents raising a child with autism. I’d welcome your suggestions.

When The Diagnosis Is Autism

When we heard the news from a child neurologist, my wife and I were shell shocked. While relived that we had a name for the behavioral challenges we had experienced with him, we were also confused and distressed. We didn’t know what it meant when the physician said that Zane is clearly on the autistic spectrum. Unfortunately, the doctor didn’t offer much help. So we spent the first few months wondering what to do next.

We soon found ourselves immersed, however, in learning as much as possible about Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We read a number of books. We found a lot of information online – but how could we know what to believe and trust?

I’ve had countless conversations during the past few years with people who are dealing with a recent diagnosis of ASD for their child or grandchild. In the interest of helping other families I’ve compiled a list of resources. Here are just a few which I have found very helpful.

There is a great book that’ll give you an idea of the types of twists and turns you’ll encounter in the journey ahead. Written with compassion and some rich humor along the way. Get a copy of DANCING WITH MAX: A MOTHER AND SON WHO BROKE FREE by Emily Colson Boehme with her father, Chuck Colson. Emily’s (now) adult autistic son, Max, has been an unexpected a pathway to joy for their family, and this is an inspiring account of their experiences.

I’d also recommend THINKING IN PICTURES (and other titles) by Temple Grandin. She is a professor at Colorado State University, bestselling author, and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior. As a person with high-functioning autism, Grandin is noted for her work in autism advocacy.

There’s a wonderfully touching film about Temple Grandin’s life that we loan out to folks – and the overwhelming response is quite positive. This is perhaps one of the best depictions of how individuals with ASD think and relate to the world around them.

Focus on the Family has some helps. Here’s a brief video series (part one and part two) addressing how one family coped with a diagnosis of autism for their young son. Each segment is only a few minutes in length, and you’ll hear some encouraging perspectives.

More resources in the next post. For now, if you are new to the diagnosis of autism, I’ll offer a word of encouragement. Your child is special and deserving of all your love and energy. The road ahead is likely full of disappointments and difficulties. If you’ll hold onto God and His sovereignty, trusting Him each day for the strength and wisdom you’ll need, the steps on the journey will be a little bit easier, and richer.

 

Seeing God In Autism

During National Autism Awareness Month, it is a privilege to have an article about our journey with autism featured in the Washington Post’s blog, Guest Voices. While I recount some of the painful, even disorienting steps we’ve taken along the way, there are some rich moments and lessons:

I’ll admit that while it is with some reluctance that I’ve embraced our status as a special needs family, God has used our precious boy in many profound ways. The lessons have been difficult, but the rewards have been far greater.

I hope you’ll read the full article here.

Also, keep an eye out at for families with special needs…we need some extra grace and patience…as we learn those lessons God has for us. Thanks.

Impact of Fatherlessness

I just spent a delightful weekend away with my family. We were away in the mountains, with no internet, and lots of time together. It was great! We played games, talked, and relaxed as a family. I tried to spend individual time with each of the five who made it (our oldest lives on the East Coast), and was grateful for the meaningful ways we connected. With the warmth of the weekend on my heart and mind, earlier today I was reflecting on some startling stats about kids who don’t have a dad in their lives.

Did you know the United States is the world’s leader in fatherless homes? The impact is breathtaking: 63 percent of youth suicides come from fatherless homes, and 75 percent of all adolescent patients in drug treatment centers come from homes without a dad.

In his book, It’s Better to Build Boys than Mend Men, Truett Cathy offers some other insights about the trouble children from fatherless homes experience. They are:

• 5 times more likely to commit suicide.

• 32 times more likely to run away.

• 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders.

• 14 times more likely to commit rape.

• 9 times more likely to drop out of school.

• 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances.

• 9 times more likely to end up in a state-operated institution.

• 20 times more likely to end up in prison.

Such revelations should drive every wayward father home and cause every dad teetering on divorce to do whatever he can to salvage his marriage.

And if you ARE home, Dad, those statistics should push you to spend time – quality and quantity time – time with your children. You should do that because it is the right thing. Because your child needs you. And because it is wonderfully rewarding!

Have a little boy? Or maybe a teen boy? For a father who really wants to shape his son’s future, let me suggest there is an outstanding set of resources from my friend Robert Lewis. His book, Raising A Modern Day Knight, has been wonderfully helpful to me in bringing up three boys, and I’ve recommended it for years. Additionally, let me suggest a cool – free! – smartphone app to help you be more intentional in training your boy to become a man of integrity with a rock-solid faith. Find a link to some videos, as well – check out these resources and hear an interview with Robert Lewis right here.

I might also add that regardless of your stage of parenting, in my book First Time Dad I tried to capture some of the common challenges – and joys – every father, especially new dads, encounter.  Intended to encourage and inspire, the book reflects my experiences as a Dad for the past 23 years. You might consider it as an early Father’s Day present?

 

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