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?
My friend Zeke Pipher has a new book out, and I found it to be candid, engaging, challenging, and also rather convicting. Its called, Man On The Run: Helping Hyper-Hobbied Men Recognize The Best Things In Life. Here’s a quick excerpt:
I’ve lived the first thirty-nine years of my life by Irishman Laurence Sterne’s creed: “A large volume of adventures may be grasped within this little span of life, by him who interests his heart in everything.”
“Everything” might be a slight overstatement. There are a few pursuits that I haven’t thrown myself into. But then, they involve knitting needles, scrapbooks, and shopping malls, so they don’t really count anyway, right?
I’m a simple case, really. Like many men, I don’t handle inactivity well. My lowest lows—the times when I feel blue or despondent—come to me when I’m sitting on my hands wondering what to do. I keep busy in order to keep sane. On my days off, I fish, exercise, or clean the garage. In the evenings, I write, wrestle with my kids, or play basketball at the fitness center. I even started cooking because it gives me something to do during that restless hour between when I get home from work and when it’s time to sit down for dinner.
Some people enjoy large blocks of time with nothing planned. I don’t understand those people.
I need more than busyness, though. I need to be challenged. An after-dinner stroll around the neighborhood holds little appeal. But I’ll walk for hours if there’s the chance a pheasant might flush or the next swing might be the golf shot of my life. Likewise, I can’t sit for fifteen minutes and do nothing. But I can plant my rear in a tree stand from sunup till sundown, listening for the snap of a twig, the faintest indication that a deer might be walking in my direction. In order to enjoy time, I need something to do, and that something must hold the power to thrill me.
Does that description of a busy, activity-filled life resonate with you?I think most of us have far too many hobbies – many good things – distracting us from the best things.
In my own book, First Time Dad, I wrote about the need for new fathers to put away the golf clubs and instead put their free time and energy into being a good dad. It’s a radical mind-shift for some men. It was for me, as I wrote in the following admission:
About the time of our first child, I took up an extra-curricular activity. I suddenly had a hankering to attend graduate school. It occupied a lot of my time during those first couple of years after Dakota was born. In my defense, this was something my wife and I had discussed for some time, and it was in many ways a labor of love that was intended to position me for a different job. But the timing of this effort was, in hindsight, awful. With a new baby, my wife needed me home more, not less. But there I was for about two years, commuting 250 miles twice a week to work on a graduate degree. Finally, circumstances changed and I had to abandon that pursuit.
Was I actively seeking an escape from the demands of being a new dad? Really, I was not trying to get away from those new responsibilities. However, I wish someone had told me about the importance of being more involved in my child’s life, especially during those early years. Old family photos and videos reveal that I was there for Dena and Dakota – just not as much I now wish I had been.
And, lest you think setting the right priorities is an easy thing to master, despite the strains on our family from that earlier educational effort, I found myself back in grad school a few years later, pursuing that degree one more time. This time, though, we had four children. While the stress of that commitment damaged our marriage, it also took a bit of a toll on our children. I was an absent dad, in many ways. And I worked for a global family ministry!
Ouch. It is somewhat painful to revisit the wounds I caused with my pursuit of an advanced degree.But I hope it catches your attention and causes you to consider once again what is most important in your life. Does your calendar reflect your priorities?
Here’s a suggestion: As a man, you are driven. That’s not a bad thing. God wired men to seek adventure, challenges, victories. Driven men have accomplished much in this world. But as Zeke points out so well in his book, and I addressed this in mine, we have to channel that energy, passion and drive into the right things. Things that matter most. Ultimately, that means pursuing God and others more than a trophy catch, or a season championship, or a personal record. Instead, go after, with your whole heart, your family. Your wife and kids. You’re irreplaceable in their lives, and your investment in time, energy and heart to make them number one won’t be wasted.
Where’ve you been?
In the past month I’ve been to Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Washington DC, and Dallas, Texas. I had a few days at home to recover and prep between several of those trips, although during one particularly busy season I was home for only 12 hours before heading again to the airport. I kept a suitcase at-the-ready for the past several weeks!
I’m grateful for God’s grace while gone so much: For safety and patience in traveling, for keeping me healthy despite all the airplanes and running, productive meetings and conversations, and that my wife and children somehow survived the grueling schedule and my absence.
In the midst of that hectic pace, I did have quiet moments for reflection and prayer. I thought about life, relationships, priorities. I prayed for my family, co-workers, friends and for myself, too. Most of that quieter time took place far, far away from airports and hotels.
Just a week ago Saturday my second son, Seth (that’s him in the picture) enjoyed some peace and refreshment in a spectacular setting. Along with some friends, we had gotten up at 4:30 or so to hike to the top of Bowers Peak, a mountain surrounded by tremendous expanses and scenery. As we watched three moose in a meadow below us, the sun came up and we sat quietly for almost an hour, not really speaking, just drinking in the glorious beauty of God’s creation. It was a special shared moment, one I won’t soon forget.
It is good to be still. I don’t stop long enough, usually, to listen to the sounds of the wind and wildlife. To absorb the sunshine and enjoy its warmth and brightness. To feel my fingers get a bit numb from the cold and to thank God for the way He designed our bodies – and for warm gloves. To be away from electronics and the distractions of calendars and email.
Somehow last week we slowed down enough to be be still and to know that He is God. And it was very, very good to do so.
As we leave autumn behind and head into the busy Thanksgiving and then Christmas seasons, I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I capture some of the same “down time” we experienced in the mountains. I think it makes me a better husband, father and man. In fact, I’ve already penciled in a few days of out-of-office time so I can keep the right perspective on life.
Let me encourage you to do likewise.
We had finally had enough. The “Little Man” was waking up often. Consistently. And it wasn’t pretty.
When he was three years old, Zane finally went up to Denver for an overnight sleep study. We had hit the wall, having his sleep – and ours – interrupted so frequently. Poor guy – he’d wake up at all hours and…play in his room. Or come into ours. Or cry out seemingly in great pain. The reasons were many, the explanations were not satisfactory.
We tried good bedtime routines. We had him on a sleep aid – such a young age for meds like that! Still, he woke up most nights. It was easy to tell that the sleeplessness was catching up to him. Cranky. Irritable.
And the toll on us was pretty significant, too.
Have you been there with a child? Sleepless kids can be a real challenge in many different ways. I was reminded about how common this problem is when I read an observation by one deprived parent, Emily Peck:
Look, I’m no sleep genius. I zombie-walked through much of the past week because my 3-year-old suddenly decided that 2 a.m. was a good time for some one-on-one with mom. Still, this week we’re back on track.
What’s worked: Consistently walking my son back to his room no matter how much he protests. It’s not a quick fix and my sleep definitely suffered. Moreover, I’m sure the problem’s not permanently solved. He’ll probably be waking me up in the middle of the night, well, forever. I imagine that when he’s older, I’ll sleep with one eye open, just waiting for him to come home at night.
I’m glad for Emily and her family that her son did find a good sleep routine. Sometimes a parent can help immensely with getting there. Other times, external help in the form of medications and even a sleep study are the route to go.
And so we scheduled the overnight appointment. We made the drive north, arrived early evening, and he got hooked to dozens of wires. Then we sat around while he tried to sleep in a new environment with the wires, hallway lights, and interruptions.
Insurance covered most of the cost of our little overnight science adventure. Good thing, too…because the final report was,
Zane is not getting enough R.E.M. sleep.
That was it? Well, sorry guys, but I KNEW that. Unfortunately, we were left with the same kind of options that we had been chasing prior to this expensive sleep study.
The good news is that Zane eventually did get into some good sleep patterns. Now eight, he usually is asleep by 8:30 or 9 every night, and doesn’t awaken most mornings until 6:45 or 7 a.m.
Now, however, I’m not sleeping like I need to, and I’m not really sure why.
I AM sure, though, that I’m not going to Denver anytime soon for a sleep study.
If you’ve had a sleepless child, what did you do about it?
In late July 1991, I was pondering a job change. I was happy with managing two Christian radio stations in Texas. Our circumstances were close to ideal. We lived two blocks from my wife’s sister and her family. One set of grandparents—we had one child at the time—lived only twenty minutes away. We belonged to a good church, had some wonderful friends, and loved our neighborhood.
To accept the new job would mean moving to Colorado and leaving all we had known as a young family. There’d be some tears if we took on the challenge of a new job in a new city and state.
That was a lot of upheaval to consider.
As a complicating factor, we were expecting at any time the birth of a second child.
Weighing the opportunity, we sought counsel from trusted friends. After considerable prayer and thought, we decided to go for it.
Within hours of making the decision, Dena went into labor. In fact, Seth was born just eight hours after I called to accept the offer to join the Focus on the Family broadcast team. Six weeks later, I was in Colorado starting the new job.
And today, September 13, marks my 20th anniversary with the organization. The time has flown!
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work at Focus, and haven’t regretted the tumultuous move we made to be here in Colorado. I thank God for the many great things that I’ve experienced these past two decades! Of course, I thank my wife Dena for faithfully supporting and praying for me through these years. I’ll also offer a public thank you to the many who have helped me grow and serve more effectively at Focus. I’ve served under some superb leaders!
Now, let me get a tissue to wipe my eyes…
NOTE: The above thoughts are adapted from the last chapter (“Blink!”) of my book, First Time Dad, The Stuff You Really Need To Know. Download the first chapter, and find additional material, from the links to the right side of this blog. It is available in paperback and e-reader formats, and I’ll have an audio book out soon, as well.
And, as I consider the past 20 years at Focus, five quick reflections:
- There have been lots of hellos and goodbyes. Staff, guests, friends in the business. Transitions are part of life, aren’t they?
- I’m surrounded by truly amazing people. My co-workers have heart, depth, commitment, passion, business savvy, wisdom, talent, and a love for Christ that are really inspiring!
- God has shown Focus on the Family incredible favor, with outstanding open doors, audiences, partnerships and impact. Literally thousands of lives are changed through Focus on the Family every year.
- My favorite times include our in-studio conversations with guests, and meeting friends (and partners) of the ministry. There are so many terrific people who have a desire to help families!
- The most gratifying aspect of my work over the years has been the opportunity to share the Good News with folks, knowing God is reaping an eternal harvest through us. I am humbled to know He sends our radio programming around the world, and that many broadcasts have helped individuals better understand His grace and mercy in Christ. Awesome!
“Why am I here? Because Focus on the Family has been part of my life for the past 20 years. You’ve helped me in my marriage and in raising my kids. I’m grateful for all Focus has done, and it just seemed like I had to be here today!”
It is something we hear frequently. Focus on the Family is indeed a special ministry, and God has enabled us to really connect with people in many deep ways. That comment was from a woman I met while in Vancouver, BC last weekend for the dedication of a new headquarters for Focus on the Family Canada.
The new building – paid for at move-in! – is phenomenal in every way, but as I told FOF Canada president Terence Rolston, what really makes the place special is the staff. Energetic, enthusiastic, dedicated to the mission and obviously appreciative of and affectionate toward each other, the folks who make up Focus Canada are a terrific group.
During Friday’s ribbon cutting ceremony, a private banquet that evening and then during Saturday’s open house, I met some wonderful friends of the ministry. There were some folks who flew across the country to participate in the events. One family we greeted drove 10 hours to the Vancouver area. A woman I met said she made a four hour drive to join the festivities. Along the way there were many similar reminders of the doors God has opened for Focus to speak into the lives of men and women, boys and girls.
Why do folks feel such a connection to Focus? I believe it is God’s doing, a response to our prayers that He use our efforts in significant ways. We ask Him often to touch lives through what we do.
Every day we hear reports and stories about just that – ways in which Focus has been used by God to make a lasting impact on someone.Here’s a particularly poignant account of a life changed:
“I am one of Focus on the Family’s silent supporters. I’m silent in the sense that you don’t know that I’m here, but I am. I first heard your program on the radio when I was an eighteen-year-old runaway. Your broadcast, and others like it, helped me to return to my faith and family. I am now reconciled with my family (which I thank God came about before my father’s sudden death), happily married, and expecting our first child. Your wisdom and guidance have been invaluable to me over the years. As I have struggled to reestablish my faith, you have provided a refreshing guide to ‘practical’ Christianity that I have desperately needed.”
If God has used Focus in YOUR life, would you please let us know? Make a comment below. Visit our Facebook page and leave a story (or at the least, “Like” us). Call us (800-232-6459). Or drop a note to Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, CO 80995. (if you are in Canada, our contact info is here).
Finally, as this is really a spiritual effort, would you please pray with us? We have specific ways you can pray for Focus on the Family here.
Thanks again to the talented, hard-working staff in our Canada office, to the many who participated in the events last week, and most of all, to God for His on-going goodness and work.
I recently had the privilege of being a guest on the Focus on the Family radio program, talking about my book, First Time Dad: The Stuff You Really Need To Know. In the book I’ve tried to offer new fathers an optimistic, and realistic, look at expectations about parenting.
As I’ve reflected on my fatherhood journey, there are many wonderful memories. I was asked to pull together some photographs capturing a few of my favorite moments. Here are just a few…I’ve got so many times with our kids etched upon my mind. And if you stop by, lots of them are posted on my office wall, too!
Looking back over the years, wondering how in the world our two oldest boys are are now adults out in the workforce, I can only say. “Dad, remember the days. Drink them in…because they go by mighty quickly. Maximize the times you spend with those kids God has blessed you with, and make it your goal to become their best friend.”
Now, someone grab a tissue for me?
“Outside of Steve Jobs at Apple, it’s hard to imagine a CEO that is more important to his company than Mark Hurd to Hewlett-Packard. He did a massive turnaround job.”
That’s how Rick Munarriz, a Motley Fool analyst, described the leadership of the now-fallen Hurd, who resigned Friday following a probe into a sexual-harassment claim against him made by a former HP contractor. Those allegations included a charge that Hurd had approved false reimbursement submissions by the woman.
While he evidently didn’t violate the company’s sexual-harassment policy, Hurd “demonstrated a profound lack of judgment that seriously undermined his credibility and damaged his effectiveness in leading HP,” according to General Counsel Michael Holston.
I’m not going to sit in judgment of Mr. Hurd, who is guilty of, at the least, making some poor choices. As a result of the revelations, he has made some sort of settlement with the former contractor. He has lost his job. And stockholders are losing money as HP shares are dropping in value.
I’m sure Hurd regrets what has happened. He’ll remember this indiscretion for the rest of his life. He doesn’t need me to heap any guilt on him. Instead, I’m letting this news story be a reminder that today I’m capable of poor choices. I need to live with wisdom, avoiding impropriety. I have to keep my life in line with my values and words. I need to demonstrate integrity in all things. I can’t have any holes in my life.
“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” That’s a quote attributed to C.S. Lewis, and I think that’s a pretty good thing to keep in mind as I go about my activities. Especially when no one is looking.
Related to this subject: Authenticity. More on that at a later date, but for now, consider this radio interview for a relevant, biblical perspective on living life consistently, in all ways.
I’ve been traveling most of the past three weeks, a combination of business and travel trips. Last week was time away in the mountains with my wife and our four youngest kids. Today, as I re-enter the “normal world” of active children and engaging work, I’m reflecting…
- I always need a few days of “vacation” before I start to relax. So a week away is usually enough to get somewhat rested – but not fully disengaged from all of life’s responsibilities. Maybe I’ll take two or even three weeks off next year, just to really decompress.
- I like my kids. Really, I do! Each one has their own, unique style. I am better at recognizing and enjoying our children when we’re on the road or otherwise away from home. Why is that?
- While I like visiting Texas, I really like living in Colorado. It was great to be in Texas for July 4th. We caught up with some relatives and even touched base with a few old friends. I’m grateful for the years we spent in East Texas prior to moving here to work with Focus on the Family. And wherever I am in Colorado, in the beautiful city of Colorado Springs, or at a family camp out in the middle of the mountains, I’m deeply thankful to God for time in His gorgeous Rocky Mountains. What a creation!
- I’m fortunate to work at Focus on the Family. God continues to use this ministry in life-changing ways, and it is a profound privilege to be part of an organization that has such a wonderful heritage – and with such a bright future!
If you have a minute, read Focus President Jim Daly blog post about his family’s time last week at K-Kauai Family Kamp. And listen in here to a conversation I had with two gentlemen who are deeply committed to helping families through Christian camping (its one of the last segments of the show).
Also, if you’ve been on a family vacation this summer, I’d like to hear about your experiences.
“I’m an infantry officer in the United States Marine Corps and spent eight months in Iraq. I want to express my sincere appreciation to Focus on the Family. The daily prayers and support of millions of Americans kept my Marines and me alive and delivered us home to our loved ones. Having been an avid supporter of your ministry for many years, I continue to applaud your efforts to defend the family and promote the Christian principles that have made this country the greatest nation on earth. May God bless you all – Semper Fidelis.”