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August 25, 2014, 12:34 PM

Helping Students Overcome Struggles

Six Steps to Helping Students Overcome Struggles

Dr. Tim Elmore, (August 20, 2014)

 “The over-functioning parent.” It’s relatively new to our daily language but has been around for a long time. It’s a euphemism for the mom or dad who is overactive during their kid’s childhood… forgetting they’re raising a future adult. We adults have been guilty of over-functioning, even if we’re not parents.

You and I make up a generation of adults who want to provide a safe, happy life with positive self-esteem for today’s young people. The problem is, we think we can do this by removing struggles from their life. In reality, it’s just not true.

When we eliminate challenges and difficulties from their lives,
kids are conditioned to give up easily without trying.

What Happens When We Remove Their Struggles?

When we, as adults, intervene and ease the struggle from our kids’ lives, we actually create struggles for them later.

Research from the University of Mary Washington reveals that when parents intervene too much in their children’s lives, it handicaps them from “getting along with others.” Additionally, the study reports the children are prone to become depressed, feel less competent to manage life, and live less satisfied lives.

photo credit: miguelavg via photopin cc

How could this be? Consider what your child experiences during adolescence. They naturally enter a season where they desire more autonomy. It is normal for them to want to spread their wings, try out their skills and find where they belong. In fact, it would be strange if they didn’t experience this yearning. When we try to help them by removing any struggles, we emasculate them. We unwittingly deem them incompetent. After all, they need our help.

Truth be told, parents must assess their level of intervention and involvement in their child’s life as they age. Maturity doesn’t’ happen automatically — we must let them mature. We can both stunt it and foster it. Because a child’s need for autonomy increases with time, parents must adapt and adjust their level of control and involvement as kids strive to become independent young adults.

When our children were young, my wife and I found ourselves picking up their toys for them, putting their clothes away in the closet and even fetching a ball that rolled away when they were fully capable of retrieving the ball themselves. We weren’t noticing the patterns we were laying. As we became aware, we may have looked uncaring to onlookers at first. But we knew that we had to condition our kids to expect to get the ball for themselves, as well as put their clothes and toys away. In fact, preparing them to do this was a superior method for demonstrating our care and concern for them: We were building an expectation for and an ability in them to do it for themselves. They have since become more self-reliant adults because they are self-sufficient.

When we talked about this change, my wife confessed something I believe many parents fall prey to as they raise their kids. She told me that one reason she did so much for the kids was because it met an emotional need in her own life. This is normal — we all need to feel needed. But when we remove struggles in our kids’ lives, they begin to expect (and need) us to continue doing it. It’s addictive, but deep down, we like that addiction.

Psychologist Debbie Pincus writes, “If a parent’s emotional needs are met through their child, essentially they are tying her shoes for her every step of the way.”

What Must We Do to Change Our Ways?

1. Cultivate a relationship.
Every student panel and focus group we host asks for this. Kids wish their parents, coach or teacher would actually pursue some kind of relationship with them. Often, children/students are reticent to initiate this; they question if adults are too busy.

2. Earn the right to be heard.
I know you’re the leader, but this generation of kids has not been taught to respect the badge or the title. You may have authority, but you must earn your influence. Often, the best way to earn the right to be heard is to listen to them.

3. Communicate belief.
You can’t fake this. Those who win their students over authentically communicate they believe in them, and the same goes for parents. Every young man and woman needs a caring adult to look him or her in the eye and say: “I believe you have it in you; I am convinced you have what it takes to succeed.”

4. Help them see struggles as “Tollbooths,” not “Roadblocks.”
This is one of our Habitudes® for the Journey. Everyone faces tough times in life. To make progress, kids must see difficult situations as tollbooths, where they pay a price to move forward. If they don’t, that struggle will become a roadblock to their growth.

5. Remove the fear of failure.
When kids don’t try, it’s frequently because they’ve been conditioned to think that failure is unacceptable. Many have never failed or struggled; they have trophies in their rooms just for “playing.” We must relay to them that failure isn’t final or fatal.

6. Challenge them with a hard assignment.
I have come to believe that deep down, every kid wants to be involved in a project that’s very important or almost impossible. When we give a tough assignment — at home or at school — one that takes everything they’ve got, it communicates we actually take them seriously.

My friend David has a son named Nick. Years ago, when Nick was in middle school, he told his dad about a new iPod that had just come out. He wanted it badly and convinced his dad that they would sell out quickly. David asked his son if he had enough money to buy it. Nick looked down and mumbled that he didn’t. Then, looking up hopefully, he asked Dad if he’d buy it for him.

David was in a quandary. Like you, he loves his kids. At the same time, he knew that simply buying it for Nick wasn’t the best way to lead him in that moment. He didn’t want to foster “immediate gratification” in his oldest son. So, David responded in a very wise way. Here is what he said to Nick:

“Nick, I’m going to buy that new iPod so we won’t miss out if they sell out. However, because I am buying it, it is mine for now. I am going to allow you to make whatever payments you can each week or each month until you pay it off (at no interest). Once you pay for it, I will give it to you. I know you’ll be able to do this.”

Nick smiled and agreed.

David told me that a few months later, Nick made his final payment and got the iPod from his dad. He also told me now much Nick had learned gratitude, discipline and patience in the process. Hmmm. It was all the result of a thoughtful — not over-functioning — parent.

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May 19, 2014, 3:01 PM

Sticky Faith

I’m looking at the calendar and I cannot believe that we have two weeks left!  I can only imagine what the parents of seniors are feeling right now.  “Are my kids ready for the next phase of their journey? Did I give them the spiritual foundation, the moral compass, the inner resolve to navigate life successfully? Are they grounded in their relationship with Christ and know what is truly important? Do they have the people skills to work well with others?”

These are great questions we all need to be asking ourselves all throughout our parenting life cycle.  Each day is an opportunity to invest, to impart, and to impress our faith and values onto our children.  Faith is not just taught, it is “caught.”  Moses tells all the moms and dads that their role is critical in creating an amazing home, culture, and country.  He tells them not to shirk their responsibility, but be intentional.

Deut. 6:4-9 (NIV) 4 “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Faith that sticks is real, relevant, and relational. We are not to ignore or side-step the questions of life, but seize every day opportunities to communicate truth in a loving way. 

OUR NUMBER 1 PARENTAL PRIORITY:  Create a family environment where God is SUPREME.  

Every day, every place, every opportunity is an altar to encounter God & serve Him (Rom. 12:1).  Whether we are at the store, shuttling kids to games, watching TV, putting them to bed or on our way to church, we are to:


  1. TEACH our kids what a fully-devoted life looks like
    • Not just what, but why


  1. TRAIN them to follow God whole-heartedly
    • Not just why, but how

Sticky faith is stickiest when we involve our kids in our faith journey. 

We must be intentional & consistent (Gal. 4:19, NLT).  

(Gal. 4:19, NLT) Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives." 

Let’s enjoy our kids, savor every moment we have with them, and make this summer memorable.  As you map out your summer

  • Pray—for opportunities to lean into your kids and make a lasting, spiritual impression
  • Plan--be intentional about growing spiritually as a family.  Maybe a new routine (prayer at bed time, serving together as a family, devotions, etc)
  • Persist--the hardest thing is starting.  The second hardest thing is continuing. The third hardest thing is finishing.  Don’t give up—the reward is right around the corner. 

Shaping Hearts & Minds,

Dr. Chris

April 14, 2014, 12:51 PM

Easter Traditions?

Do you have any family traditions that you celebrate this week to help anchor the significance of the final events leading up to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection?  Perhaps you attend special services at church, watch certain Christian movies such as the Passion, or use an Easter egg to capture the truth about the death and resurrection with your small children.  If you do, you’re not alone.  Both the Bible and church history are full of feasts, memorials, and “holy days” to remind us of what really occurred over 2,000 years ago.  Traditions that are grounded in truth help us grasp what God was up to in Christ Jesus and what He was really doing on that cross.    

Have you ever stopped to think how mind-blowing and radical what we Christians believe is?

God became flesh and dwelt among; He invaded our world and set-up shop.  Jesus showed us by His life who God really is and how good He wants to be to us.  God is not against us; He is for us.  Through His death and resurrection Jesus conquered the power of sin that separates us from God and sabotages everything.  Sin, and its offspring death, has been rendered powerless to those who embrace Christ (Romans 6:1-10).  We have been freed to freely worship God and experience Him.

2 Cor. 5:15 (NLT)  “15He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.”

This weekend we get to celebrate with believers all over the world that we can live for Someone bigger than ourselves; we live for the One, who died and was raised for us.  Sunday is what makes Good Friday good. 

Shaping Hearts & Minds,

Dr. Chris

February 17, 2014, 2:05 PM

Ouch! You're Hurting Me--7 Parenting No-No's

All the wisdom and love in the world doesn’t necessarily protect us from parenting in ways that hold our children back from thriving, gaining independence and becoming the leaders they have the potential to be. Sometimes in our efforts to provide and protect, we are actually hindering our kids from becoming the leaders God created them to be.  In the words of Dr. Tim Elmore, “Care enough to train them [our kids], not merely treat them to a good life. Coach them, more than coddle them.” I encourage you to read the short article, by clicking on the link:   


7 Damaging Parenting Behaviors that Keep Kids from Growing Into Leaders

  1. We don’t let our children experience risk.

  2. We rescue too quickly.

  3. We rave too easily.

  4. We let guilt get in the way of leading well.

  5. We don’t share our past mistakes.

  6. We mistake intelligence, giftedness and influence for maturity.

  7. We don’t practice what we preach.

How can parents move away from these negative behaviors (without having to hire a family therapist to help)?

Here’s a start:

  1. Talk over the issues you wish you would’ve known about adulthood.

  2. Allow them to attempt things that stretch them and even let them fail.

  3. Discuss future consequences if they fail to master certain disciplines.

  4. Aid them in matching their strengths to real-world problems.

  5. Furnish projects that require patience, so they learn to delay gratification.

  6. Teach them that life is about choices and trade-offs; they can’t do everything.

  7. Initiate (or simulate) adult tasks like paying bills or making business deals.

  8. Introduce them to potential mentors from your network.

  9. Help them envision a fulfilling future, and then discuss the steps to get there.

  10. Celebrate progress they make toward autonomy and responsibility.

Again, I encourage you to read the brief article.  From my 20 years of experience in Post-Secondary and K-12 education, I can tell you Dr. Elmore’s words are right on.    

Shaping hearts & Minds,

Dr. Chris

February 3, 2014, 11:03 AM

Holes in the Wall


“Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.” PROV. 4:26

The Great Wall of China is one of the great wonders of the world, a true masterpiece of engineering. It's the only man-made structure that can be seen from outer space. Five to six horses could trot side by side on top of it.

The wall was built to protect China from invasion. Watchtowers and various battlements dot its construction at frequent intervals. But in the first hundred years after the wall was completed, enemies managed to invade the country three times, breaching the security of this enormous, rock-solid defense. How?

They didn't go over it. They didn't go through it. They didn't need to knock it down.  All the invaders had to do was bribe the gatekeepers.  While China was building this seemingly impenetrable defense system, they unfortunately neglected the greatest defense system—building a heart devoted to God and filled with integrity into their children's lives.

This is a cautionary tale for EVERY parent.  We all have dreams and want the best for our children.  We are vitally concerned with the education our kids receive and the skills they develop. We spend hours shuttling them to school and to various extracurricular activities, looking forward to the day when they will earn scholarships and enter the working world, establishing themselves in successful careers. But none of these accomplishments are worth anything without the character to back them up.

It's our children's CQ, not their IQ—their "character quotient," not their intelligence—that will secure their futures and enable them to stand strong in battle. 

That’s why we at Faith Academy focus on Shaping Hearts and Minds. 


Shaping hearts & Minds,

Dr. Chris


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