Prune the Activity Branches

What makes a “good” parent?  Under the belief that we are “good parents” we seek a plethora of activities and opportunities to get our child involved in.  Unfortunately, instead of making sure our children do not “miss their calling” we inadvertently overload and stress them out.

For some parents, especially moms, there is a fear that we may hurt our children by not allowing them to experience multiple opportunities which creates a drive that pushes parents to over commit their children.  This fear is based on a belief that within each child is a special ability which will distinguish our child from others.  It will enable them to rise above and be superior to other children.  This ability lies deep within them waiting to be tapped through a loving and caring parent who does not stifle or squash this ability.  What is needed for this ability to be exposed is a diligent exploration of different types of sports, clubs and activities.   This belief creates the assumption that an apathetic, selfish parent will limit a child’s exposure thus eliminating any chance that the God given, perhaps God ordained special talent is never discovered.

Ironically, the very parent who is afraid their child might miss something actually creates the very environment that takes away several things that are essential for children: optimum amount and quality of sleep, leisure time, time to unwind and talk, time to use their imagination, time to get to know one other. These beneficial activities are limited when children are over scheduled. Overloaded children are going from school to lessons to sports games or practice to homework and musical instrument practice and finally to bed.

I have several rose bushes in my yard.  I love flowers but have had great difficulty in growing healthy roses.  The reason is due to my poor pruning skills.  Too many branches have produced too few flowers.  I am convinced it should not be this way.  My mind reasons that the more branches that grow, the more flowers I will have.  But it is not so.  From my experience the exact opposite is true.  The rose bushes with the most branches produce the smallest flowers.  The one bush I cut back produced many large beautiful roses.

I believe it is time to prune the activity branches.  OK, maybe your child won’t develop into a world class athlete or Miss America, instead they will grow up with healthy emotions and relationships and an understanding that the world does not revolve around them and their schedule. Is that so bad?  I think that pruning will produce a more beautiful and desirable flower than many will admit!

I Thessalonians 4:11 “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you”

May God’s grace and peace be with you,
Mark and Ellen Strohm

Of Lice and Sin

I was thinking about lice. An e-mail conversation got me thinking. Yes, it is true, we have had some trouble with lice lately. A parent was upset that we were not able to stop the spread of the dreaded pest. I spent some quiet moments thinking about this. I know what you are thinking – the boy is consumed with his job!

The parent had hoped that our school policies would eliminate the lice. How I wish a school could set a policy and make bad things like lice go away. Don’t get me wrong, policies do help! While being a thorn in the flesh to many a parent, our no-nit policy for children returning to school has helped prevent the spread of lice. However, eradicating lice ultimately is a parent’s responsibility. When a parent works hard to rid their child of a lice infestation, they are actually helping safeguard everyone in their community! The infestation of lice is easily tracked and hard to ignore. While there is no shame in a child getting lice, there is shame in not taking the responsibility to rid their child of it.

The parallels to sin are very strong. While we may not be able to prevent our children’s desire toward certain sins, we can safeguard them by limiting their exposure to it or preventing the opportunity to continue in it. Just like the hours it takes to wash and comb hair and clean bedding in the battle against lice, it takes large amounts of time and effort to teach and train our children to do what is right in the battle against sin. Parents who work hard and invest their time in eradicating lice benefit the community in just the same way parents who spend time correcting and protecting their children bless the whole community! Children who are under-parented bring their unchecked sins and exposure to unhealthy activity with them into the rest of the community. I have seen firsthand that many children pay the consequences due to a few families’ neglect.

Ultimately, we cannot make our children godly. It is up to the Holy Spirit to convict them and make them righteous. Yet we need to be intentional to invest our time and effort to teach and train our children in ways of righteousness. If we neglect such training ultimately it will be as obvious as those who ignore the lice.

Remember the time you invest in your children is well worth it. Keep up the good and godly work!

May God’s grace and peace be with you,
Mark Strohm, Jr.

Cyber Safety Seminar

Mark Strohm will give a seminar to parents on how to avoid trouble and help children benefit from technology. You can view details here: Cyber Safety Seminar

Spend Time Now or Later

Today has been a crazy day for me. My wife is heading home from Tennessee after dropping our daughter off at college. After getting to work early I got a call from my two daughters at home. My 14 year old rather suddenly got sick and the 18 year old was not fond of getting stuck cleaning up the mess! I had to run home to bring my 18 year old to school. That was not time I was planning on! The more I thought of this, the more guilt I felt about leaving our 14 year old at home alone feeling very sick. Under the duress of guilt I took advantage of an appointment free day and left shortly after noon, laptop in hand, to work from home. On the way I saw not one, but two fender benders. Impatient drivers who ran into the cars in front of them. I immediately though “What is wrong with those people? Can’t they slow down 2-5 seconds to drive safely?”

Then I had to smile! Here I was all miffed about taking an afternoon “off” to spend with my sick daughter. I was no different from the two people who ran into the back of cars too worried they would loose a few seconds in traffic!

Children do not move at the speed of adults. Oh, their bodies may dart around faster than we can, but they thrive on regular, routine and time together. At the school where I am principal we have had several discussions on how kindergarten children have changed over the last few years. The difference between those who have had quality time with adults and those who have not is growing. Many children now come to kindergarten unable to sit even 5 minutes while a story is read to them.

My daughter and I had a little talk, we watched some TV together and she slept. Then we pulled out a DVD we have not seen in years – School House Rock. Ahh, the memories!

You are not wasting time when you slow down and invest in your children. Those two drivers trying to save a few seconds were now pulled over on the side of the road wasting dozens of minutes waiting for the police to come and write up the accident report. Just as the impatient drivers did not end up saving time, so parents who fail to invest the gift of a simple and slow life often end up paying later. I am guessing you are going to spend time with your child one way or the other. Why not spend some quality time with them now!

May God’s grace and peace be with you,
Mark Strohm, Jr.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! May God bless you and your family in 2006!

Want to make some changes? Want to improve some of your parenting techniques? Now is the time!

Happy New Year

Mark Strohm, Jr.

It Is Time To Examine

Are you happy with how your parenting is going? Are there some things you can improve? Have you been concerned over certain behaviors or activities your children have been involved in?

As we are ready to enter 2006 the beginning of the new year is a good time to examine your relationship with your children. Maybe it is time to make some changes.

Here are some things to think about:
1. Examine your personal interaction with each child. Are you following Biblical principles in the way you speak to him or her? How about the way he or she speaks to you?
2. Examine your schedule. Is your child sitting around playing video games all day? Should you get him or her involved in a physical activity? Does your child have little relaxation time or down time. Do you need to re-examine the number of activities he or she is involved in and trim back?
3. Are you aware of their media exposure? Have certain shows (or music or video games) “slipped in” that you are not comfortable with? Is he or she obeying your restrictions on ratings? Is it time to re-establish the rules as to what and how long media can be used?
4. Have you recently audited their computer, especially internet usage? Is it time to sit down and go through what is going on with the computer? The new year is a great time to take a look and remind your children of your internet expectations and rules.

I am sure there are many other areas you can “examine” such as diet, sleep times, homework schedules, chores, etc. Your job as parent is of vital importance! When you examine your parenting honestly you give honor to your children (remember you are not trying to please them – you can read about that here: We Should Not Be Child Pleasers) and understand the importance of the job God has entrusted you with!

Happy New Year,
Mark Strohm, Jr.

A Sobering Article

Yesterday the New York Times featured an article on a boy, who at 13 was drawn into a sordid online world with the use of a simple webcam. If you have a child into technology who has access to a high-speed internet connection I urge you to monitor his or her activities closely and to protect him or her with a powerful software tool like BSafe Internet Protection Software.

You can read the New York Times article here:

Through His Webcam, a Boy Joins a Sordid Online World

(free registration required)

Let me encourage you to be vigilant! Your efforts are worth it.

May God’s grace and peace be with you,
Mark Strohm, Jr.

You can try the BSafe internet filter here:

P.S. Would you consider forwarding this encouragement to families you know? You can use the e-mail link just under the title above.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!
Parents, with days to go until Christmas, let me encourage you to “step back and take a deep breath!”  I know, there is so much to do.  Things to buy, decorate, bake, wrap, as well as people to write, visit and call.  While you are in hyper drive don’t forget about your little ones!  Make sure you share the miracle and joy of the Christmas story with them.  Set aside some time and slow life down. 
May the Christ who came as a child shine His truth and love on you during this season.
Mark and Ellen Strohm

Merry Christmas

Self Esteem Gone Wrong?

Here is an informative article from Seattle Post Intelligencer
Living Well: Years of boosting kids’ self-esteem may have backfired

Celebrating Christmas or Surviving until School Starts Back Up?

Life with little ones is always exciting! Mix in sugar, parties, presents and what do you get? Usually a headache! Are you the parent of a small person, asking yourself “how am I going make it through Christmas?”

How did Mark and I survive those early years? As I recall it was a team effort requiring lots of planning ahead. But I think the real key to Holiday Survival is simplicity. Remember, the original Christmas was the “simple” birth of a baby. There was no mall full of Christmas themed “stuff” to buy or food to prepare, no lights on indoor evergreens or outdoor ones either. There was just a young family with a new baby in a cold stable.

Let me encourage you to get back to the basics with your family. Have fun playing with your nativity set, marching Mary on the donkey over to the stable to have the baby. Let the baby carry around the sheep, and hide the angel. Tell the story over and over to little ones who can be distracted.

Give simple gifts. The size or cost of a gift is not the measure of your esteem for the recipient. The shepherds and wise men all brought what they had. The wise men brought money, incense (smelly stable, remember) and spices. The shepherds brought simple praise and adoration. All of their gifts were acceptable to God because they were given with hearts intent on blessing.

Take a deep breath and decide what are the truly important things, then let the others go! A simple Christmas will help create a quality Christmas experience. Try letting the color coordinated perfection of your Christmas portrait go. Take the picture but remember that your children will not remember if your tree had the ‘right look’ or you baked picture perfect cookies from scratch. What do you want your children to take away from your Christmas celebration? Make this Christmas about the baby – Jesus Christ, Emmanuel –God with us!

Merry Christmas, Ellen Strohm