How to Create A Family Mission Statement

Not by You but by Them

In my daily video this morning, I talked briefly about our Family Mission Statement, although the message was about Lies Lies Lies (FB Video).  As promised, here is copy of our statement written a few years ago.

DeVriesAre

Now that you see it, feel free to copy it, crib from it, tweak it, or use it as a template.  But, just do something with your family and kids.  Do it this evening. It does not need to be perfect.  It does not need bible verses.  It just needs to be you and your spouse and your kids mapping out the theme for your family.

What Goes On At School Should Not Stay At School

10 Questions to Ask Your Kids About Their Day

This year we placed our six kids into public school after years of homeschooling. We were scared about the transition, but I knew that they would thrive given each of their personalities.

Bully

Imagine my surprise when after two weeks, my first grader, Mia, came home and said that some girl had been taking her stuff every day during the afternoon break. Of course, the litigator in me wanted to track down that spineless grade-schooler and sue her for harassment, intentional infliction of emotional harm, and whatever cause of action I could fathom. But my anger turned to joy when Mia smiled and said in her small meek voice, “But today I stood up to her.

What if she had never told me about her day? What if a month had gone by and I never learned about the incident? That’s not acceptable for me and it should not be acceptable for you and your children.  And so I am inspired to write a list of questions that I can ask my kids every day in order to get to know them (and protect them if necessary). I encourage you to do the same.

  1. How was your day? (That’s an obvious one!)
  2. Were you sleepy when you got to school? (Helps us figure out their sleeping patterns.)
  3. Did you get enough to eat today? (Helps us figure out their nutrition and energy.)
  4. Did you like your outfit or clothes today? I certainly did. (All little girls need to hear this one!)
  5. Tell me one thing you learned today. (Are they expanding, everyday, like you should be?)
  6. Did anyone make you feel uncomfortable today? (Let’s start finding some red flags.)
  7. If today was a race, what place did you get? First place, middle of the pack, or last place? (Need a metric…)
  8. You know daddy is a Warrior. Did you slay any dragons today? Can you tell me about your dragons? (This is to really dig deep and find any red flags!)
  9. What’s the best thing that happened to you today? (Helps them find the good in all things.)
  10. What can I do to help you have a better day tomorrow? Let’s pray real quick. (Here’s a quick one on praying with yours kids!)

Any others that you can recommend?

 

A Private Text to My Thirteen Year Old Son

What Can You Tell Your Child On His First Day of High School?

Do your words matter? Of course, they do. Here are a few words that I sent to my thirteen-year-old son, who started high school yesterday. Maybe they inspire you to reach out to someone…and use your words to encourage.


Dear Son:

Today. Today, I was scared. I don’t like to admit that. But as I dropped you off this morning, I wanted to walk by your side all day long.

But the Warrior in me knew that I had to let you go. And the father in me knew I could trust that you would be okay. And the friend in me knew you’d kill them with kindness. And the attorney in me knew that if anyone hurt you I would sue them and their parents for every cent they had.

And so. Although I was scared to let you go today, I was the proudest parent on that campus this afternoon when I saw you jump in the car with a smile on your face.

Today, my fear turned to pride.

I love you, Warrior Son.

Dad

Local Man Duct Tapes His and His Son’s Mouths

Teaching Your Boys How to Respect Ladies

Nashville, TN — A local man used a roll of duct tape this past weekend to tape his mouth shut, as well as that of his 8-year-old son, to allow the ladies in their home to speak. “I just got so tired of interrupting my wife every time we spoke,” the local man said, “And I figured that I would do something to just SHUT UP.”

shut up bracelet

The local man also used the incident to teach his two sons about respect and encouragement: “You have to treat a lady like a lady, whether its your sister, mom, friend or spouse. And that means allowing them to speak and be a part of your conversation.  And one of these days I am going to get it right with your mom, who (when I stop to listen), has a lot of great things to say.” 

The man and his two sons have now made a line of duct tape “SHUT UP BRACELETS” to sell to other men in the world as a reminder to … JUST SHUT UP!

Okay. So this local man was me.  Not years ago. Not months ago.  This past weekend.  I think you get the picture, but there’s more to the lesson.

A couple will never be able to communicate if one of them is always talking and the other one is always listening.  I understand that we all have talents in our lives, but I have recently  learned that my talent or strength as a construction litigation attorney during the day is setting me up for conflict and failure at home in the evening.  My wife and family are not my clients, they are not a judge or jury, they are not my legal problem to solve.  They are my family.  Many times, my wife just wants me to listen as I walk into the door: listen to her problems, listen to her excitements, listen to her ideas….JUST LISTEN TO HER.

So what’s your challenge in communication with your spouse or children?  Do you need to listen more?

A Good Daddy Would Help His Son

There is nothing better than your own bed, particularly when you have been working late nights all week long.  So when I lay my tired body to rest last night, I was one happy dude. I immediately faded off to sleep. Peace.

At about 3:30 in the morning, I heard the whisper of a six-year-old boy: “Dad. Dad. My blanket won’t work. I can’t fix it.”

What?” I groaned back to him.

“Dad. My blanket doesn’t work. I can’t put it on my bed. I need help.”

Are you kidding me? I looked at the clock across the room. The red digital lights screamed out 3:32. What’s wrong with the blanket? How does a blanket fail to work? I will solve this: “Son, your blanket works fine. Just pull it up. You can do it.”

“But … Dad …”

“Son! Go back to your room. It’s night time.”

Although I couldn’t see his face or body, I knew he walked away rejected. I’ve seen the look before. He won’t remember, I reasoned to myself, because it’s the middle of the night. I rolled over, thinking I could still get a few more hours of good rest.

My wife whispered in my ear. The words pierced my eardrums and went straight to my heart. She was right. I jumped up quickly and ran down the hall.

The rejected son had his door shut, but I could see the light peering from underneath. I quietly opened the door and he stood the end of his bed. I now understood his dilemma. The top blanket was on the floor and the sheets were wrinkled up in a knot at the bottom edge of the bed.

“Need some help?”

His smile was all that I needed to see to reassure me that he was okay. “Yes, sir.

I threw him on the bed, hugged him, and gave a few tickles. “Hold still now.” He spred his body out and I lofted the top sheet up in the air. It landed perfectly over his body. I tucked in the bottom and edges. I took the top blanket and did the same. I saw his homemade quilt from GG lying on the floor. Better add that one, too.

“Is that better?” I asked.

“Yes. Thanks, Dad.”

I gave him a wink. I mouthed the words “I LOVE YOU.” I turned out the light and walked out the door.

Not even the best sleep could replace that feeling of joy I then experienced. And all because of that little whisper in the ear from my wife. Wanna know what she said?

A good daddy would help his son.

Three Practical Ways to Kill Your Child’s Joy and Excitement This Holiday Season

There is nothing like a 45-minute commute on your way home in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a cold Monday evening to stifle your holiday cheer.  As I unpacked my briefcase and pulled off my tie, Jackson (my fourth child) came running into the bedroom wearing a chef’s hat.  He cheerfully said, “Dad, I’m in charge of dinner tonight.  I made a menu and I’m ready to serve you.”

jack

I grumpily walked down the stairs to the kitchen, where I saw that the table had been set (…with various sizes of plates and different cups…). On the counter, Jackson had pulled out all the leftovers from the refrigerator.  Since we have been dealing with a family crisis and I have been playing single parent for the past few weeks, its no surprise that every one of the leftovers was old and moldy.

So, I threw away Jackson’s dinner.

He sat at the table with a crossed-look of horror, sadness and disappointment as I threw out his dinner.  And rather than console him, I legitimized my actions: “Jackson, the food was rotten.  Get over it.”  (Ouch! I actually said that.)

I realized my mistake later.  Not when I was making his favorite sweet potatoes and marshmallows.  Not when we were saying prayers and reading in bed that night.  Not the next morning as I walked out to work with a kiss on his forehead.  But, later, as I was driving home the next evening—stuck in traffic again—and preparing for a better evening.  It dawned on me that on the previous night I had killed my child’s joy and excitement.  Here are three practical ways that you can do the same this holiday season:

  1. Put on your frown and ignore smiles and laughter.  There is no better way to kill joy when you come home from work, with a room of children excited to see you, than to “wear your day” on your face.  If you have had a bad day, and your face shows it, and you ignore the fun and excitement of seeing your family in the evening, then you will surely set the tone.  Your frown can be infectious, and lead to a handful of frowns on your spouse and children.  Try it.
  2. Focus on your day, rather than their day.  Another practical way to kill the joy of your family when you come home from work is by stealing it, tying it to a concrete block and throwing it into a lake.  In other words, you should steal the opportunity from them when you walk into the house and focus on your day (whether good or bad).  Don’t let them tell you about the dragons they slayed, the forts they built, the knock-knock joke they made up.  Keep it all about you.
  3. Don’t ever say sorry. Sometimes you will realize that you are crushing your children’s joy and excitement and you will have the urge to correct yourself.  But don’t.  Instead, rationalize your actions, tell them to “Grow up!” in a stern voice, and bury any desire to apologize.  Kids are smart enough to know when you messed up and they never need to hear those weak words, “I’m sorry.”

If you add family health issues, work demands, financial stresses and everyday family squabbles to the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, you have a recipe for imbalance.  In our household, while we experience all of these pressures right now, our kids need joy and excitement.  And so do yours.  So ignore my words.

Now That You Are Fearful, You Can Let the Courage Take Over

Tired? Restless? Fearful? Can’t sleep? Ready to give up? Overwhelmed? Hurting? Numb? Lost? Betrayed? Angry? Just getting by? What’s your pain? Better yet…What’s your plan?

Fear-Courage

I’ve been there. I understand late nights. I appreciate what if feels like to be alone. And, yet, through it all, my tormented mind always came to the same resolve: What’s your plan? What can you control? What can you not control?

Michael Hyatt believes that “…Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the willingness to act in spite of my fear.” For Hyatt, the particular lesson was about a fear of confronting a demanding client.  His torment was real:

I had to make a choice. I could let it go, hoping he would improve without intervention … or I could speak up. I wrestled with it all night. I tossed and turned. I got sick to my stomach. I played out every scenario. Finally, things came into focus: I could either be brave and call him on it, or I could be a coward and stop growing as a leader.

In the end, Hyatt confronted the fear and learned to press forward.

What about you? I imagine that your torment feels absolutely overwhelming right now. Why else would you be staring at the computer screen or thumbing through your phone, mesmerized by the words on this page.  First, you are drawn to the fact that you are not alone…some one else has been here before.  Second, you find hope that there is a way through it:  Courage is the willingness to act in spite of your fear.

Now that you are fearful (or tired…or restless…or angry…or betrayed…), you can let courage take over.  Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'” So, what does it take to live through this horror?  Here are a few tips:

  1. Recognize you are not alone. Let me say that again, you are not alone.  Money problems? Marital conflict? Jobless? There are thousands and thousands of people who have been through (or going through) the same torment as you.  Seek them. Find them. Walk next to them.
  2. Control that which you can control.  You may not be able to control the manner in which your boss talks negatively towards you, but you can finish that report on time.  You may not be able to change the mortgage payment, but you can sell your baseball card collection.  You may not be able to heal family wounds that have festered for years, but you can love your children unconditionally so as to change their family tree.  Make a list of the things you can control, and focus on them.
  3. Give up control where you have no control. At the same time, make a list of the things you cannot control, and give them up.  I often use the analogy that you cannot push a wet noodle up a wall.  Likewise, you cannot change your spouse.  You cannot make your children sleep.  You cannot force someone to do something to improve your circumstances. 
  4. Pray or meditate on your resolve. Whether you are talking about fear, anger, frustration, or any other emotion that builds inside you, find solace and refuge in a quiet place.  For me, it looks like finding a passage from the Bible that helps sustain my journey: “Do not fear for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:10).  For you, it may be a time of mediation and prayer.  Focus on the result and allow your courage to press forward.

Question: What helps you live through the torment and horror?

Image: Star-Dust

You Bring Your Work to Home, So Why Not Bring Your Home to Work?

My credenza does not normally look like a construction site. (…What am I saying? I am a construction lawyer!…) Let’s say my credenza does not normally this cluttered. However, this is what it looks like after having brought two separate kids to my office recently on two separate days. Joy.

Kids at Work

Since I had to get some work done on the day after Thanksgiving, I brought Jack into the office with me.  He’s our tornado.  I knew I would not be interrupting other people’s work schedule because no one in their right mind works on Black Friday.  The entire professional world is shut down.  It’s one of those freebie three-day weekends.  And I brought Faith to work a couple weeks later because my wife had her hands full and just needed some help.

The point is that so many times we bring our work home to the family…so every now and then we should bring our family to work. The kids love it!  Happy Holidays.

Can You Say “Dude” When Praying with Your Kids? Yes!

I have been praying with my children a lot more recently.  If the kids are sitting down for breakfast and I am running late to work, I stop and pray over them God’s blessings.  When there is a stubbed toe or cat scratch, we pray before finding the Barbie and Superman bandages.  And when we do our evening tuck-ins,  prayer comes before books, songs or tickles.


Sounds like I got it all together, right?  NOT AT ALL!  You see, I am the same as you.  I raise my voice at the kids (…a/k/a/ scream at them…).  I fail to take out the trash.  I don’t give my wife the encouragement she needs everyday.  But, like you, I am a work in progress  learned about praying with your kids: 

  1. Make it about God. Remember the ultimate point of the prayer . . . to communicate with our Creator . . . to praise Him for all things . . . to thank Him for the blessings he bestows . . . to ask Him for wisdom . . . to hand Him your worries . . . to claim His healing.  Your children need to hear these words on a regular basis so they “get it” later in life.
  2. Make it about the child. After giving thanks and praise to God, we then pray about other friends and family.  Then we conclude with our own desires and struggles.  For each of my children, I use age appropriate words and always pray for: (a) their past day; (b) their evening protection; (c) their tomorrow’s blessings; and (d) their future contribution to the Kingdom.
  3. Make it fun and joyful. Last time I checked, there was not an Eleventh Commandment — Thou shalt not have fun. Instead, we are to go to the altar of God with our “exceeding joy” (Ps. 43:4).  To me, this means having a joyful and vibrant voice of excite when I pray with my kids.  Be animated.  Let them experience joyful prayer flowing from your lips.  It’s perfectly okay to say “dude” in your prayer with your six-year-old boy, which sounds something like this:

God, I just thank you for the strong little man that you gave to our family.  I ask that you continue to strengthen Jackson in all that he does.  Build him. Use him. Make him into a great, God-loving, change all nations, people leading, prayer warrior dude!!!

When I see the smile on the little one’s face as we say Amen . . . I know that I reached his heart and mind. There are really two major reasons to pray with your children.  First, to communicate with God as a family.  Second, to teach your little one how to pray.  If you are just trying to check “pray with kid” off your checklist, then your heart is really not there.

Question: Are your praying with your children?  Why not?

Top Signs You Know Your Work-Life Balance is Out of Whack

One evening after I returned from an extended out-of-town work trip, I overhead my eldest daughter Alex tell my wife that she (my wife) would make a great single mom.  Ouch!  That’s not something you want to hear when you are married to this supposed single mom.

mia

While my daughter meant no harm by the statement, it’s the underlying meaning behind the statement that was important.  Here are some of the top signs you know you work-life balance is out of whack:

  1. Your family jokes about your absence.  Alex is quite the comedienne. But underneath the laughter there is a grain (or sandbox…) of truth.  You see, in my daughter’s eyes, my wife has carried the brunt of the family workload over the past few weeks.  In my daughter’s eyes, my wife has been living like a single mom and doing a great job at keeping the household together.  In my daughter’s eyes, I have been absent from the family.  That’s a sign!
  2. You see disappointment in little faces.  Just last week as I was heading out the front door at about 6:00am for an early morning of work, my second daughter Addy ran downstairs to give me a hug.  I filled up with joy as I heard those first few words, “I love you! Have a good day!”  Then, as a took a step away from my home life and towards my work life, I saw and heard her disappointment, “See you tonight…maybe…”  That precious 8-year-old voice crushed me with a boulder of truth.  By saying “maybe” she knew that I was not going to be home another night.  And that’s a sign!
  3. You miss details of family life.   You certainly may be busy with work obligations that keep you from home activities during the week.  But when you get home,  you have to check-in to your surroundings  If you find that you missed a soccer practice, or a birthday party, or a family outing to the park, DESPITE THE FACT THAT YOUR SPOUSE TOLD YOU MULTIPLE TIMES, then that’s a sign.

You and I can make all the excuses we want about how much work has to be completed during the week, but if we miss the signs and details of what is happening at home, we cannot find balance.

Question: What signs tell you that your work-life balance is out of whack?