"Patzer sees check, Patzer makes check."

- Bobby Fischer
How To Raise Great Kids

My wife and I have six children: five outside the womb, and one coming in September.

I kid you not, we always get compliments from waitresses, strangers, and friends about how well behaved our children are. It never gets old, despite how often we hear it.

I take zero credit for that. Seriously. My wife, Brandi, gets all the kudos for our kids' behavior. She's with them all day, every day. She instills the fear of the Lord in them every day. She is in the trenches, doing mommy stuff that involves correction, discipline, and teaching. Sure, I help some, but she's the one who has made all the difference in their lives.

So occasionally we get the questions, "How are your kids so good?" I'll offer a few practicals here, so take them for what they're worth! (These are in no particular order.)

- So point number one here is that our kids aren't perfect. Not even close. They're flesh-filled sinners just like anyone else. They have to be disciplined. They have to be corrected. They have to be taught to die to their sinful desires. It's a daily thing, really.

- Point number two is that Brandi and I aren't simply about behavior modification. We don't want good kids who have no heart for God. We want kids who love God with everything, and whose good behavior comes from a heart attitude, not from external force or fear. We have a long way to go here, but we're on our way.

- We have kept them, by and large, from TV. We don't have cable. If we want to watch something on our TV I have to go outside, grab the cable that goes to the antenna on our house, open the window by our TV, and then plug it into the TV. We purposefully make it a cumbersome task. (Only did it, I think, about 3 or 4 times last year in order to watch some Baylor football.) Our house is filled with the sweet silence of zero TV noise. It's a great feeling. Very peaceful. We also have not allowed them access to violent games, handheld Internet devices, or questionable books.

- We have been very intentional about who our friends are and who their friends are. There is no going over to Billy Bob's house unless we know exactly who Billy Bob is and who is parents are -- even then, it is not guaranteed. Do not be deceived, evil company corrupts good habits. <-- Paul said that.

- For the most part we eat dinner together every night, around the table.

- We go to church every weekend, have home group every week too, and try to do ministry as a family whenever we can. All of those things build a strong family identity, based around Jesus.

- My wife and I are in the Word every morning. We pray, read scripture, and try to obey what He's saying. Our kids see that. We have also required them to spend time with God and to memorize scripture passages. I think Brandi has recently had them completely memorize the first two chapters of James.

- We recognize that we are in Babylon. That's a good first step in understanding what to do about the fact that we live in that kind of culture.

- We homeschool them. I realize this is not for everyone, but for us it's worth the sacrifice.

- We live in the country and have a number of chores that they are responsible for. At last count we had 90-something chickens on our farm, and they are by and large responsible for them. My two oldest boys get up at 6:30 a.m. every day to weed the garden.

- We have kept them well stocked with books, and they know how to request books from the library for us to pick up. Brandi and I both read like crazy, so they are always seeing us read.

I'm sure I'm missing some major points. There is no magic bullet, but if I could just do a couple of things I'd say: 1) Love Jesus (through his church), and 2) minimize media consumption. Those two things will at least give any kid a chance.

I'm sure some parents would see our methods as, perhaps, over the top? I'm not saying we are doing everything right. I know we're not. But in my mind our children are like plants in a garden: they're growing; they're vulnerable. It's up to us to pull the weeds, provide them access to sunshine & water, and to build a fence to keep out the animals.



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Comments on "How To Raise Great Kids":
1. Neo - 06/02/2014 3:56 pm CDT

You're doing it right, bro. The rest of evangelical Christianity calls it quits with 2 and opts for the mandatory surgery, sadly.

I'm curious why homeschooling "is not for everyone"? Is there ever a justifiable reason for Christians to send their children to the non-Christian state to be unequally yoked with the world?

2. Brandi - 06/02/2014 5:27 pm CDT

Awe, shucks, Honey! :-) One thing that I wanted to add is that we are willing to repent to our kids when we have sinned against them. Which is regularly. Not fun, but among other things, it shows them that we need God's grace as much as they do.

3. Bird - 06/03/2014 10:29 am CDT

Is there ever a justifiable reason for Christians to send their children to the non-Christian state to be unequally yoked with the world?

I do think public schools typically do more harm than good, but would leave something like this up to a Christian parent's ability to make discerning choices.

4. Andrew - 06/03/2014 4:57 pm CDT

I'm curious why homeschooling "is not for everyone"? Is there ever a justifiable reason for Christians to send their children to the non-Christian state to be unequally yoked with the world?

As someone who works in a public school, I can assure you that the vast majority of those who work in public schools have the best interests of the children in mind. Whatever the propoganda, the problems with society are not the fault of the public schools.

5. Bird - 06/04/2014 7:34 am CDT

To Andrew's point. My mom is a teacher. My sister is a teacher. My brother is a teacher. My wife is a certified teacher (stay at home mom now). We've got a lot of education professionals in our family. I thank God for people like them -- and like Andrew & his wife -- who are willing to work in the schools for the sake of our collective kids.

I'll also say that for Brandi and I the decision to homeschool is more about discipleship and less about education.

6. Molly - 06/04/2014 9:30 am CDT

Thank you for this! As one with a growing family early on the in the process, it's encouraging to read this from a family further down the road that exhibits fruit. This parenting thing is rough but with God's grace hopefully our children will come out on the other side unscathed and faithful to The Lord!

7. Bird - 06/04/2014 3:41 pm CDT

Thanks, Molly. Your parents are undoubtedly a better resource than me! :-)

8. David - 06/05/2014 12:56 pm CDT

Your story sounds like ours. God Bless Now! We care for the soil (environment), we plant the seeds, We make sure water is enough and sun can get to it. the only thing we can not do is breath life into it. That is God's role, we pray the fruit that it bears is good.

9. Flyaway - 06/05/2014 9:32 pm CDT

Bird--What were Brandi and you like when you were kids? I think that genetics has something to do with kids doing what is right. When my daughter was 2 she was so strong willed that she drove me to my knees before the Lord. I cried out to the Lord and asked for His help. Soon a woman at my church organized a MOPS group. We studied "Help I'm a Parent" by Bruce Narramore. My mom said that I was the perfect child and my husband's mom said that he was the perfect child. We decided that our daughter took after the 2 grandmothers! Today she is a great wife, mother, and Sunday school teacher, and she is a manager at Microsoft. I give God all the glory!

10. NHE - 06/10/2014 6:38 pm CDT

Hi Bird,

First let me say, I'm guessing I would love you and your family if I met you all personally.

I have to say though, that I struggle greatly with your inferred premise - that WE (you and I as fathers) could possibly have anything to do with raising "great" (define the term?) kids.

Any good our children do is in spite of us. Sure, God can and does give us the privilege of the stewardship of parenting, but He is the only one who is great. Our kids are little sinners who grow up to be big sinners (older and/or younger brothers) in need of God's grace, even if they've embraced the Gospel in their youth.

Perhaps a better title is "How to Give your Kid a Chance in a World in which a Roaring Lion Seeks to Devour them". That's really all we're called to do, impart a fighting chance (in the way God has led each of us uniquely, individually, and sovereignly to).

I don't think there is such thing as "great" kids - the whole idea creates pride in both parent and child. I do think we can raise low maintenance kids who are open to the Gospel, as opposed to high maintenance kids who are closed to the Gospel. I think mine (26, 22, and 20) in all their tragic older and younger brotherness, are soft-hearted, low maintenance, and open to the Gospel - I think that was my charge. (Let me add that even if I fail miserably as a parent, God can and will bring His children to himself - and that gives me great freedom to be the best parent I can be, by His grace).

Only God is great.

11. Brian - 06/10/2014 10:34 pm CDT

Flyaway - what a lot of Christians don't realize is that genetics play a huge role in behavior. Most well-behaved kids end up being that way whether they have really bad parents or really good parents. Years and years in public school helped me realize that good kids can still come from bad parents, and bad kids from good parents. But I can usually ask kids about 2-3 questions and find out if they are well-behaved because they were born well-behaved or not. Your daughter wasn't that way because of a failure on your part - she was that way because God made her that way. A lot of the problem also stems from the current version of "well-behaved" that we have in the Church. We expect to drive all passion out of our kids at age 10 and then expect them to have passion for Jesus at 25 or beyond? Doesn't work that way. If you look at society 100 years ago, kids were much more... "free-spirited" than they are today, and grew up to be responsible adults. But then the world got influenced by the industrial system, where kids should sit quietly in classes and not speak out loud or "act out" - just be good worker drones that followed their programming. Incredibly different from the educational systems promoted in the Bible (but then again, most home school set ups are even farther from the teaching methods of Jesus and others - sorry, but its true). and the Church by-and-large has gone along with this worldly industrialized view of how children should act, despite hundreds of studies showing the damage it is causing them. So, please Flyaway, realize that your daughter was more an outlier from a weird system that the Church has set in place that just doesn't know how to deal with anything outside of its "box."

And Neo, just to point out - you really should look more at the Greek underlying the term "unequally yoked." Education is not a system of yoking - you greatly misunderstand public school if you think so.

12. Bill - 06/10/2014 10:49 pm CDT

Brian, interesting points. And, of course, well behaved kids can come from less than ideal homes and visa versa. But I'm uncomfortable with deterministic thinking when it comes to parenting.

I've known multitudes of young people in my time. The biggest determining factor as to how much they struggle, from what i've seen, is the stability of a loving mom and dad (or lack thereof) at home. Of course this isnt 100%, but its a hufe factor. Fatherlessness looms large. It is a huge problem in our society.

13. Bird - 06/11/2014 4:22 pm CDT

Perhaps a better title is "How to Give your Kid a Chance in a World in which a Roaring Lion Seeks to Devour them"

Maybe so. ;-)

14. NHE - 06/14/2014 2:08 pm CDT

Respectfully Bird, I apologize (on this Father's Day weekend) about my unnecessary "only God is great".......I know you believe that too, and that was unfair of me (I went back to edit, but too late).

15. Milly - 06/27/2014 11:00 pm CDT

As someone who works in a public school with special needs teens I can tell you that the people I have encountered, teachers and administration, they do a lot of good! No homeschool is not for everyone. My children have been blessed by some of the teachers that they have had. One young woman left teaching to work with human trafficking victims. She was a wonderful mentor to my child. I'm so happy that you and your wife can homeschool because many can't like us single moms who have to work. I am raising my children knowing God's heart, just as you are.

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