Sunday, September 23, 2018

I Miss Mayberry

There’s a song that Rascal Flatts sang several years ago called “Mayberry”. It’s about the good old days when things were simpler.  It’s also a throwback to The Andy Griffith Show, which is a show I watch regularly on Netflix. I was watching it the other day and it was about a hobo who came to Mayberry and was a bad influence on Sheriff Andy Taylor’s son, Opie. (Season 2, Episode 6: “Opie’s Hobo Friend”).   When Sheriff confronted the hobo about his influence on Opie, here’s how the conversation went: 

Sheriff Andy: “Seems to be something wrong with his (Opie’s) thinking. He’s gotten a little twisted lately – like being able to tell the difference between right and wrong. It’s especially difficult for a youngster because things rub off on them so easily. “ 

Hobo: “I see things differently than most people. I live by my wits, bending the law now and then to keep the clothes on my back and food in my stomach. Who’s to say that the boy (Opie) will be happier living your way than mine? How about letting him decide for himself?”

Sheriff Andy: “It doesn’t work that way. You can’t let a young one decide for himself because he’ll grab at the first flashy thing with shiny ribbons on it. By the time he realizes that there’s a hook in it, it’s too late. Wrong ideas come packaged with so much glitter, that it’s hard to convince them that other things might be better in the long run.  All a parent can do is to say, ‘Wait. Trust me. And try to keep temptation away.’”

This show was aired in the early 1960’s and it’s still very relevant today when it comes to right and wrong. Parents are still responsible for their children’s behavior and need to be careful what their kids are being influenced by.  

One of the phrases that I constantly teach children is “You reap what you sow”. Most kids have no idea what that means. I get out my Bible and show them that it’s in Galatians 6:7 “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” I explain what sowing and reaping is, then talk about my garden. I plant okra seeds every summer and only okra comes up. Corn or bell peppers don’t grow out of okra seeds. Whatever seeds I sow, reaps whatever seeds I plant. 

If children think that lying is acceptable, I tell them that if they continually plant seeds of deception (lying) when they are young, then they will reap deception when they are older. A business partner might steal from them, their children might end up lying to them, or their spouse might have an affair. When that happens, they may be asking, “Why is this happening to me?” I tell them to remember what I said about reaping and sowing and they will have their answer.

So many people today think that the Bible is an antiquated book and that it isn’t relevant anymore. However, “…the grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)  The Bible is as relevant today as it was when it was written.  Read it sometime and you’ll see.

Where Have All The Parents Gone?

   I attended a church event recently as a guest. There were many children in attendance. When their parents did nothing to quiet them or keep them from misbehaving, it left me thinking: “Where have all the parents gone?” 
   When my children were small and attended an event with me, it was my job to make sure they were respectful, quiet, and did not disrupt anyone sitting around them. If I needed to keep them occupied, I would bring a “church bag” with quiet activities like coloring books for them to work on. I did not allow them to bring a book to read or any electronic gadgets that would distract them from hearing what was being said. And if they needed to speak to me, they understood that it was an “inside voice” they were to use.
   This is not the case today. The “parents” that I saw sitting with their children were doing an excellent job of ignoring their child’s behavior and focusing on the program. They never shushed them or asked them to speak in a quiet voice. I felt like I was on a playground and not inside a church building. 
   Unfortunately, this is a common attitude today. Not only do parents not correct their children in public, but they don’t know how to react to their misbehavior in an appropriate way. A parent of a toddler told me recently that she has no idea how to handle her child’s misbehavior without a temper tantrum. She and her husband have allowed the child to have her way, which has basically created a little monster at home. 
   Parenting can be difficult, but it is not impossible. There are a few easy things parents can do to teach their children how to respect authority and how to behave at home and in public.

Never let your child be the boss of you. 
   Children need to learn that they are not in control. This is very easy to teach. You give them choices from a very early age. The choices need to be two things that you approve of. For example, you can tell them to finish their dinner and have dessert, or they can stop eating now and have dessert another day. The point is that they won’t get dessert if they don’t finish their dinner. Whatever choice they make is fine with you. If they choose not to finish dinner, then get angry because they don’t get dessert, simply remind them that they made the choice to not have dessert and maybe tomorrow they can make a better choice. In any case, the child learns that they made the wrong choice — not that you are a mean parent.

Give consequences for bad behavior. 
   If your child behaves badly, there should be a consequence for their behavior. Many parents often ignore the bad behavior and the child learns that they can behave any way they want. However, if you give consequences, the child learns that what they did was wrong. 

Teach your children right and wrong. 
   This is a hot topic in today’s society. Many parents are of the mind, “I want my children to learn on their own and make their own decisions,” but children are egocentric and will only do what they want to do. They don’t know how to share toys or wait patiently for something unless we teach them. If we shirk our responsibility as parents, then our children will grow up to be selfish bullies that have no friends and no self-esteem. Children thrive when given healthy boundaries. 

   If you feel that you need a little guidance in your parenting skills, call a counselor and set up a few appointments. You, your children, and people who sit near you at an event will be glad you did.

Do We Really Love One Another?

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God.” 1 John 4:7

We, as Christians, are called to be a light in a dark world. We are challenged to love our enemies, to “judge not, lest you be judged”, and to follow Christ’s example in our daily lives. Yet even though we strive to live like Christ, we all fall very short in our efforts.  

This year, I’m studying the book of John in my Bible Study Fellowship class ( I’m reminded how Christ used every opportunity in His encounters with people to show unconditional love to them.  As a Christian counselor, I try to use His example with the many clients I work with. And in the 24 years I’ve been in practice, I have come to love those I am privileged to work with. Love originates with God and without Him, we are incapable of loving others. We usually want to love ourselves more. Here’s what I recommend in learning to love others:

Pray often.  The last verse in John 7, talking about the chief priests & Pharisees, says “Everyone went to his own home.” Then the first verse in John  8 says, “But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.” Why did He do that? Because talking to God was like home for Jesus. Prayer was what He did continually. As followers of Christ, that should be our goal. We should feel at home when talking to Jesus. Before starting my day, I spend time in prayer. I’m not a fortune teller and have no idea how my days will go - so it’s imperative that I spend time in prayer before I leave my home. God knows what obstacles will be put into our lives. He wants to help us through them - so make it a habit to go to Him every day in prayer.
Stop judging others. Unless you spend time talking to someone, there’s no way you can understand why people do what they do. Until you’ve “walked a mile in their shoes”, you don’t know them. I love my job because I get to sit down with people and listen to them. Once I hear their back story, I ‘get it’. And the amazing thing for me is that when I pray for them, God gives me love for them. And I can allow His love to work through me. Spend time talking with people and getting to know them really well.
Examine yourself. It’s always a good practice to take stock of your shortcomings and see where you need to improve. If our focus is on improving our own behavior, we won’t be so quick to look for faults in others. For me, I have lots of room for improvement so if I were to compare myself to others, I guarantee that I would come up short. Rather than compare ourselves to others and judging them, keep the focus on being the best you can be in all situations.
Study your Bible. Many people rarely even read their Bibles, much less study it. All the Bible knowledge I have learned has not come from sitting in church listening to sermons, or from reading my Bible (but it helps).  It has come from years and years of being in Bible study classes. There are Bible study classes going on at every church at one time or another. Join one. If your church doesn’t have one, look up Bible Study Fellowship ( for a men or women’s class here in Lafayette. It’s non-denominational and classes are open for new members.

There’s no perfect formula for how to show love and acceptance to others, but left to ourselves, we simply are too selfish to think of others. When we follow the example Jesus set forth for us, we can learn to show love to others by praying more, not judging others, examining ourselves, and participating in Bible studies. The more you learn about the ways of God, the more you will be blessed and in turn, be able to bless others.

How Can I Get My Child To Behave?

I’ve had many requests to help both parents and school personnel when it comes to the misbehavior of young children. The parents want to blame the schools and the schools want to blame the parents. In any case, there is a problem that needs solving. First, you must become the ‘detective.’ What is the problem behavior? When does the behavior happen most frequently? Can you resolve this alone or should you consult with a professional about this?

The first thing to do is rule out any medical issues that could be causing the behavior. Sick children (fever, earaches, headaches, stomach aches, etc.) and tired children will misbehave. Does the child get enough rest? If not, what is causing them to lose precious sleep? I recently counseled a mother and her 3 year old daughter, who was having behavior problems. The child initially didn’t speak at all to me, but mom said she talked all the time at home. After about 4 sessions, the child finally spoke, but I could not understand her at all. I questioned mom about her hearing and mom described countless ear infections and earaches this child had. Mom couldn’t convince her pediatrician to do anything other than prescribe dose after dose of antibiotics. I telephoned the doctor to recommend sending the child to a specialist because I said the child was not able to speak clearly and I suspected the child couldn’t hear. The child ended up getting tubes; hearing improved, along with many of the behavior problems.

I recently had two child clients with severe behavior problems at school. Both were under 5 years old. Both were at different schools and both spent the majority of their day crying loudly and disrupting the class. Both school principals talked with me and said they didn’t want to dismiss the child from school, but their resources were exhausted. I went to one school to observe the child and the environment. I saw the child struggle several times (something didn’t go the way he wanted and he got upset). The child was able to maintain his behavior those few times, but eventually there was a blowup. I observed that no one said anything during those times of struggle to encourage the child. I suggested to the teacher that she work on trying to encourage him, to touch him on the arm or pat him on the back as a way of letting him know she understood. She must have started doing this, because the misbehavior stopped completely and the child is doing well. 

The other child came to my office with his parents, who said that he cried all day every day and they often had to go pick him up from school and bring him home. What we realized was that this was a very bright child and his main goal was to stay home - so he learned that if he cried long enough at school, he would get to come home and have fun with mom. There was never any consequence to his behavior - just time at home with mom. I asked mom to start giving consequences - to let the child know that if she had to get him from school for misbehavior, he would have to stay in his room instead of being near her. No more going out for ice cream or going to the park. This did the trick and the child is now behaving at school and loving his teacher.

Some children are involved in so many after school activities, that they get overwhelmed and exhausted. Sometimes, just one extra activity a week is all a child can handle. Keep the child on a consistent routine: bath time, story reading and prayers before bed, then tucking the child in - should all happen at about the same time every night. And don’t forget the importance of tucking your child into bed and kissing them goodnight every night. Children have admitted to me that when their parents start doing this for them, it helps them sleep better and feel more loved.

Parenting is a tough job, but it shouldn’t overwhelm you. If your child is facing difficulties that you cannot solve, don’t go it alone. Contact a professional for some help and advice to get your child back on track.

Not A Creature Was Stirring

I am an animal lover. I grew up wanting a dog. When I was in middle school, we finally got one. As an adult, I have owned dogs since before my kids were born. My kids grew up loving and caring for dogs and to this day, they are dog lovers (as everyone should be)!

I know families that refuse to have pets of any kind. I know children who beg year after year for a pet. I see cute videos on social media of children who break down crying from happiness when surprised with a pet. I believe it’s important for children to grow up owning and learning the responsibility of having a pet. My choice for the best pet is a dog – after all, it’s God spelled backwards. Many life lessons can be learned from owning an animal; here are a few:

Mess Happens. No matter how hard you try to house break your pet, invariably an accident will happen. It’s not the end of the world, so remember: just clean it up. Life also can hit us with unexpected messes sometimes. As best you can, clean them up.
Don’t Judge. Animals just live for love. They don’t care what you wear, how you look, or if you have morning breath. They just want you to be near them and love them. Some people need this, too. Don’t judge other people. Just be near them and love them.
Take naps – Animals sleep all the time. They do not feel stressed by deadlines. When they are exhausted (or bored), they sleep. Sleep is good for humans, too. Take a nap. Especially on Sunday afternoons.
Play Often – Animals live for play. It makes them happy. But they don’t like to play alone. They want you to play with them. People (especially little people) like to play, too. Play with others (and with your pets).
My kids picking out their puppy when they were young
Trust Others – Animals are very trusting in most cases. They see the good in us and believe in us. If you get upset with an animal, they are quick to forget and love you anyway (this is especially true of dogs). When we get hurt, we stop trusting. This is not a good thing. Learn to trust people again.
Don’t hold grudges – Animals forget all the bad things you do. They don’t pout; instead they run to you for more love. People shouldn’t hold grudges toward others. Learn to forgive and move on. You will feel lighter and happier.
Death is inevitable – All animals die. We learn grief from our animals. We cry when we lose them. But we love again when we find another pet to bring home. People die. It’s not easy to deal with and you can’t replace people. But owning an animal can make the grief a little more bearable.
Love is Best – Animals love us unconditionally. Follow their example.
Adam & Rusty getting acquainted
If you want to teach your children valuable life lessons, consider adopting (or fostering) an animal this Christmas. Your life will be blessed if you do.

The Blessing of Adoption

 If you believe in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, then you understand the concept of adoption. Ephesians 1:5 states: “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself…” What this means is that God has adopted us as His children.  Also, Romans 8:15 says, “but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’”.  God graciously adopts believers in Christ into His spiritual family. We are also granted the privilege of being heirs with Christ. 

   I have worked with parents who have given their children for adoption and also children of various ages who have been adopted. Some children don’t know they are adopted because their families choose to withhold the adoption until they feel it is the appropriate time. The healthiest thing for adopted children is to understand almost immediately that they are adopted. I often tell adopted children that the cool thing about them is that their parents knew them before they were adopted and actually chose them to be part of their family. Usually, this helps the adopted child feel very special.

   Being adopted is a privilege. Someone who is not your birth parent has selected you to be a part of his or her family for the rest of your life.  It is also a blessing because someone who loved that child very much gave that child up for a better life than the birth mother could provide.

   If you are the parent of an adopted child, here are some suggestions for you to do with your child:

   1) Tell your child that though they may not have come from your stomach, they have come from your heart. God put His love in your heart for that child. Remind them that you have prayed for them and God loaned them to you as a blessing. 

   2) If you have not yet completed the legal adoption and are waiting to do so, plan a “birth”day party once the adoption is finalized. Create your own “birth” certificate, announcing the day that your child officially became a member of your family. Frame it for them to hang in their room.

   3) Teach children to journal their feelings, even if it is just a drawing. Help them learn to bring everything to God, especially if their hearts are troubled by missing family members. Work on creating a safe relationship for conversation and prayer.

   4) Pray not only for your adopted child, but also pray for the birth mother. Ask God to give the birth mother peace about her sacrifice and to bless her in her life. Ask God to help your adopted child adjust and feel like a part of your family.

   If you are a birth mother who has given her child up for adoption, you are very brave and unselfish. You have blessed a family with someone they could not have loved without your sacrifice. I have counseled many women over the years that have given up children for adoption. One of the things they constantly worry about is how the child will react to them if they ever meet again. Will the child understand their sacrifice, or will the child be angry? A great movie for these parents to watch is “Like Dandelion Dust”, which is a story of a mother who loved her son so much, that she allowed him to be adopted into a loving home. It shows the struggle these mothers go through. 

   1) My advice to these birth mothers is to keep a journal. They don’t need to write in it every day, just every so often as a memory hits them or if they are wondering what their child is doing. I encourage them to write down their thoughts and keep this journal forever. One day in the future, that child (who is now searching for answers) may contact them. Being able to hand them a journal of the struggles, the sacrifice and the unending love will help the grown child to understand this sacrifice and have their questions answered.

   2) Always keep that child on your prayer list. Pray for them whenever you think of them. And pray for their family. God knows what you are going through and He will watch over your child for you and heal your heart.

   Adoption is a very precious event, for the child being adopted into a new family, for the birth parent who has made the loving decision to give the child a loving home, and for the adoptive parents to be able to love a child they have prayed for. What a beautiful picture of how much God loves us!